Republican challenger Michael Testa Jr. is outraising and outspending Democrat incumbent state Sen. Bob Andrzejczak in New Jersey’s 1st Legislative District by a wide margin, at least so far, according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Testa has raised $133,500 and spent $71,093, while Andrzejczak and his incumbent team have raised $23,130 and spent $9,414, the reports show.
That’s unusual in a state where incumbents and Democrats greatly outraise challengers and Republicans.
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But New Jersey’s 1st District, which covers Cape May County and parts of Cumberland and Atlantic counties, is unusual. It is one of just 12 of the state’s 40 districts in which registered Republicans outnumber Democrats. (However, unaffiliated voters outnumber each.)
Legislative candidates have raised more than $11 million toward this year’s June 4 primary election and have spent $5.4 million of it, ELEC reports show.
There appear to be no hotly contested primary races this year, said ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle, so there is probably little incentive for independent groups to participate this year. So far they have not reported spending a penny.
All 80 Assembly seats are up for election this year, and Testa’s and Andrzejczak’s race is the only Senate race in the state this year.
The race is to fill the unexpired portion of U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s term as state senator. Van Drew left to join Congress in January, and Andrzejczak was appointed to his seat until the special election.
Van Drew said he, too, often raised money later in the campaign season because he was focused on legislative work.
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“Believe me, they will raise money and they will win,” Van Drew said of the Democrat team.
Andrzejczak said his work on the budget committee and constituent services has been his focus.
“I assure you further down the road we will be campaigning,” Andrzejczak said. “Right now, my focus is just doing the job I was elected to do.”
Testa, the Cumberland County Republican chairman, said he is building momentum needed to try to unseat an incumbent.
“The way to gain momentum is to be very active. Our strategy is to carry this momentum into November.”
He stressed the Republican lean of the district, which voted for the GOP’s Kim Guadagno in the last gubernatorial election and for Bob Hugin in last year’s U.S. Senate race against Democrat U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
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Incumbents have raised almost all of the money raised statewide — $10.5 million compared with almost $600,000 raised by challengers.
Democrats account for $8.3 million of the funds raised, compared with $2.8 million for Republicans. Democrats control the Assembly by a 54-26 margin and have led both legislative houses since 2001, said Brindle.
More incumbents (76) are seeking re-election than in any year since at least 2001, said Brindle.
“Keep in mind, it is still early in the election year. So far, we’ve seen no involvement with the legislative primary by independent special interest groups,” said Brindle. “In 2015 they spent more than $900,000 just in the primary. In 2017 when both houses were running, they spent $2.2 million.”
ELEC said the totals reflect cumulative campaign finance activity since the previous legislative election in November 2017 through May 3.
The 2017 gubernatorial race was the second most expensive race for governor in New Jersey history.
“While the numbers may not be eye-popping, they are comparable to those from 2015, the last year when the entire Assembly was facing re-election,” said Brindle.
There are no contested primaries in the 1st or 2nd legislative districts, where Democrats dominate as incumbents.
In the 1st District, the Republicans are backing the team of Testa for Senate and Antwan McClellan and Erik Simonsen for Assembly.
McClellan and Simonsen have not raised any money yet, according to ELEC.
Democratic incumbents in the 1st District are Andrzejczak and Assemblymen Bruce Land and Matt Milam, who was appointed to fill Andrzejczak’s seat when he moved to the Senate.
In the 2nd District, Democrat Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato are running, while the Republicans have nominated former Brigantine Mayor Phil Guenther and Freeholder John Risley.
So far, Mazzeo has reported raising $63,247 and spending $42,279; and Armato has reported raising $26,431 and spending $16,104. The two together also reported raising $2,400 and spending $1,375, according to ELEC.
Risley has reported raising $960 and spending nothing, and Guenther and Risley together have reported raising an additional $100 and spending nothing.