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N.J. Democrats Spent Twice as Much as Republicans on Elections

New Jersey Democrats raised and spent more than twice as much as Republicans for last month’s legislative elections, even with Governor Chris Christie attracting record out-of-state donations for his party.

Democratic candidates collected $31.8 million, 70 percent of the total, and spent $27.8 million, according to a report today from the Election Law Enforcement Commission. Republicans raised $13.3 million and spent $10.5 million.

Christie, 49, who took office last year as the first Republican elected New Jersey governor since 1997, traveled across the U.S. attracting money for home-state candidates ahead of this year’s election. Democrats kept their 24-16 edge in the Senate and added one Assembly seat for a 48-32 majority.

“It emphasizes, given his stature, how much of a hole Republicans are in,” said Peter Woolley, director of the PublicMind poll at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “It’s like having a basketball team with one 7-foot center and everybody else is 5 feet -- unless you give him the ball, you’re not going to score.”

Christie, who faces re-election in 2013, made a September fundraising swing through western states that generated more than $620,000 from non-New Jersey sources, out of almost $1.5 million raised by the state Republican Party from July 1 to Sept. 30, according to an election filing.

Party Fundraising

The New Jersey Republican State Committee this year collected $3.2 million through Sept. 30, while the Democratic State Committee raised $889,450, according to a summary of campaign-finance reports from the election commission. In individual fundraising, though, Democrats outpaced Republicans.

In two Senate districts where Christie campaigned and raised money, Republicans were unable to oust incumbent Democrats. Those races were among the most expensive in state history, according to the election commission report.

Near Atlantic City, Democrat James Whalen survived a challenge from Assemblyman James Polistina in a race that cost $5.2 million and is the third-most expensive, Jeff Brindle, executive director of the commission, said in a statement. In Bergen County, Republicans failed to oust Senator Robert Gordon in a $4.6 million race that is the fifth-priciest.

Overall fundraising by legislative candidates was $45.2 million, down 10 percent from 2007, the last year in which all 120 legislative seats were up for re-election, Brindle said. Total spending was $38.4 million, down 12 percent.

‘Partial Picture’

New Jersey’s largest teachers’ union posted record spending of $566,000 on legislative races in the quarter ended Sept. 30, reports released in October show, as it criticized Christie’s changes to public-employee benefits and proposals to overhaul education policies.

Patrick Murray, director of polling at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, said he had expected to see the gap between the parties narrow as Democrat Jon Corzine, Christie’s predecessor in the Capitol, directed less of his personal wealth to politics and as Christie rose in prominence.

The latest report is a “partial picture” that doesn’t detail how much of the money raised by Christie was saved to finance his re-election bid, Murray said.

“It seems to be the same old story,” he said. “Talk of the Democratic fundraising machine’s demise wasn’t true.”

Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the Republican State Committee, said his party flipped control of freeholder boards in Cumberland and Salem counties during the election and won mayoral and council seats across the state. Republicans hold 51 percent of the state’s freeholder seats, the county-level governing bodies, up from 40 percent in 2007, Gorka said.

“New Jersey Republicans and Governor Christie raised unprecedented money for candidates across New Jersey,” Gorka said in an interview. “Republicans continued to make electoral gains despite being outspent by Democrats and their public employee allies.”

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