New Jersey's congressional races attracting millions

Listen 5:32
(Big Stock photo)

(Big Stock photo)

New Jersey’s Congressional primary candidates have already raised $40.4 million, with 40 percent of that brought in by the men expected to be facing off in November for the U.S. Senate seat on the ballot this year.

The rest of the money, about $24.2 million, was raised by 37 incumbents and challengers for their parties’ nominations for the state’s dozen seats in the House of Representatives. Another 12 candidates either have not filed campaign reports with the Federal Election Commission or indicated they have not raised any money. Significant fundraising is not surprising this year, with two open House seats, as many as three seats possibly in play and the largest field of primary candidates in decades.

So far, the richest district is the 5th, where three candidates have raised nearly $6.1 million through May 16. The lion’s share of that belongs to freshman Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat representing the formerly red district in the state’s extreme northwest corner. Gottheimer, who has no primary opponent, has taken in $4.4 million, 75 percent of it from individuals. Of the two Republicans running, frequent candidate Steven Lonegan, has a significant money lead over John McCann. Lonegan had raised $1.4 million, including $1 million in loans that he kicked in, compared to McCann’s $187,000.

Most expensive race so far

The most expensive race to date — meaning the race in which the most money has been spent, not raised — is for the open seat in North Jersey’s 11th District, where Republican Rodney P. Frelinghuysen is retiring. Five Democrats and five Republicans are vying in the primaries and have spent a collective $2.2 million. Leading all candidates is Democrat Mikie Sherrill of Montclair; she has spent more than $1 million to date in hopes of winning the primary and eventually flipping this longtime GOP district blue. Morris County Republicans Peter de Neufville and Jay Webber, a state assemblyman, are close in their spending, with de Neufville outspending Webber by about $8,000. De Neufville, of Mendham, is largely self-financed, while 97 percent of Webber’s money comes from individuals.

Follow this link for a searchable database of contributions to candidates in 2018 congressional primaries.

There are two other expensive House races. One is in the 3rd District in South Jersey, where neither Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur, nor Democrat Andy Kim has a primary challenger. Political pundits rate this as MacArthur’s race to lose, and the incumbent is taking no chances, having raised nearly $2 million and spent about half that, including on television ads. Kim has promised a strong challenge and has raised $1.3 million. The other is Central Jersey’s 7th District, rated a tossup by the Cook Political Report. Republican incumbent Leonard Lance and likely challenger Democrat Tom Malinowski have each raised more than $1.2 million; Lance has a slight cash edge, $900,000 in the bank to Malinowski’s $782,000.

In the Senate race, Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez has spent slightly more than his likely Republican opponent Robert Hugin, the former Celgene executive, through May 16 and raised slightly less, though three-quarters of Menendez’s funds came from individuals while only 8 percent of Hugin’s did. Hugin has raised $8.1 million and spent $3.7 million; he has loaned his campaign $7.5 million so far but has said he is prepared to spend $20 million of his own money on the race. Menendez raised almost $8 million and spent close to $3.8 million. Both men have token challengers: Republican Brian Goldberg reported $4,066 in income through the first quarter of the year, while the FEC has no reports for Democrat Lisa McCormick.

Menendez spent more than 15 percent of his funds prior to this year on maintaining his campaign apparatus, while Hugin didn’t begin his campaign until February. The Republican has been spending heavily on campaign ads throughout the state, although an exact amount is not yet available as the FEC has not yet updated its site with detailed spending data for the Senate race. Hugin has been running mostly ads attacking Menendez’s ethics, preparing for the fall campaign, and these attacks have largely gone unanswered by the Hudson County Democrat, whose net worth pales in comparison to Hugin’s.

Menendez ‘isn’t able to self-fund like Hugin’

“Because he isn’t able to self-fund his race like Hugin will, Menendez has to wait until September or so before responding and launching his own attack ads focused on Hugin’s record as CEO of a pharmaceutical company during a time when it was accused of several different shady business practices,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship at Rowan University.

“The fall campaign will be very negative, and we’ve already started seeing that with the anti-Menendez ads from Hugin,” he continued. “The Republican’s goal is to presumably reinforce the negative narrative that voters have about Menendez in the aftermath of a corruption trial, even though the jury didn’t vote to convict and the judge threw out any chance of a re-trial. The thinking is that if Hugin can make Menendez so toxic today, the Democrat won’t be able to come back in the fall.”

That strategy may be working so far; the latest Public Mind poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University, issued last week, found Menendez’s former double-digit lead over Hugin has shrunk to just 4 points, essentially the poll’s margin of error. Menendez had the support of 28 percent of registered voters, compared with 24 percent for Hugin; almost half of those surveyed were undecided.

“Senator Menendez’s recent federal trial and bipartisan admonishment by his Senate colleagues are clearly taking their toll. It’s not uncommon for incumbents to cruise to reelection, but these numbers suggest he’s going to have to woo voters like he hasn’t had to in a long time,” said Krista Jenkins, director of the poll and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

At the moment, Menendez has more money in the bank than Hugin, $5.6 million versus $4.5 million, respectively. But Hugin has and will spend more. His federal financial disclosure form listed his total income for 2017 through March 31, 2018 at $48.4 million and he valued his stock in Celgene alone at more than $50 million. Menendez, meanwhile, lives on his Senate salary of $174,000.

SEAT
PARTY
CANDIDATE
RAISED
PCT FROM INDIV
CONTRIBS
SPENT
CASH ON
HAND
Loans
Senate
D
Robert Menendez *
$7,980,631
76
$3,767,359
$5,640,169
Senate
R
Brian Goldberg **
$4,066
30
$3,075
$1,140
$2,831
Senate
R
Robert Hugin
$8,147,851
8
$3,693,864
$4,453,988
$7,500,000
1st District
D
Scot John Tomaszewski
$17,545
0
$17,545
1st District
D
Donald W. Norcross *
$1,461,132
57
$840,152
$720,542
1st District
R
Paul Dilks
$700
64
$100
$600
2nd District
D
William Cunningham
$68,184
92
$37,512
$30,672
2nd District
D
Jeff Van Drew
$631,540
77
$219,384
$412,156
2nd District
D
Tanzira “Tanzie” Youngblood
$97,662
71
$94,529
$3,133
$23,000
2nd District
R
Samuel Fiocchi
$57,641
13
$2,967
$54,674
$50,000
2nd District
R
Seth Grossman
$22,329
84
$11,519
$10,810
$3,600
2nd District
R
Hirsh Singh
$126,604
49
$94,493
$34,111
$45,000
2nd District
R
Robert Turkavage
$6,695
99
$2,450
$4,244
3rd District
D
Andy Kim
$1,384,967
90
$413,308
$971,659
3rd District
R
Tom MacArthur *
$1,958,591
36
$957,497
$1,008,425
4th District
D
Jim Keady
$269,094
99
$235,718
$34,515
4th District
D
Joshua Welle
$364,263
94
$215,900
$148,364
4th District
R
Christopher H. Smith *
$678,952
70
$275,574
$675,767
5th District
D
Josh Gottheimer *
$4,444,661
75
$640,750
$3,882,996
5th District
R
Steven M. Lonegan
$1,422,336
28
$899,026
$523,310
$1,001,572
5th District
R
John J. McCann
$186,655
33
$140,447
$46,208
$125,000
6th District
D
Frank Pallone Jr. *
$1,531,832
36
$922,419
$1,648,632
7th District
D
Peter Jacob
$134,241
88
$120,582
$28,539
$10,000
7th District
D
Tom Malinowski
$1,227,183
95
$445,589
$781,594
7th District
D
Goutam Jois
$390,293
74
$105,215
$285,079
$100,000
7th District
R
Lindsay C. Brown **
$3,705
100
$1,738
$1,967
7th District
R
Leonard Lance *
$1,239,651
50
$499,743
$900,150
7th District
R
Raafat Barsoom **
$-
0
$2,000
$1,100
$3,100
8th District
D
Albio Sires *
$211,174
32
$275,846
$225,616
9th District
D
Bill Pascrell Jr. *
$988,227
40
$753,833
$1,569,429
10th District
D
Donald Payne Jr. *
$363,991
24
$349,088
$89,875
11th District
D
Mitchell Cobert
$128,146
60
$114,781
$13,365
$50,100
11th District
D
Tamara Harris
$709,614
40
$694,791
$14,823
$200,000
11th District
D
Mikie Sherrill
$2,857,838
85
$1,025,726
$1,832,112
11th District
R
Patrick Allocco
$12,000
53
$13,314
-1,314
$5,600
11th District
R
Peter De Neufville
$201,972
6
$183,912
$18,060
$188,165
11th District
R
Antony Ghee
$87,295
84
$20,351
$66,944
$2,700
11th District
R
Martin Hewitt
$12,602
81
$12,096
$506
11th District
R
Jay Webber
$401,642
97
$175,871
$225,771
$2,002
12th District
D
Bonnie Watson Coleman *
$542,680
53
$426,776
$194,916

* indicates an incumbent; ** indicates recent report was not available so data is from a prior report.
Source: Federal Election Commission.

_____________________________

NJ Spotlight, an independent online news service on issues critical to New Jersey, makes its in-depth reporting available to WHYY. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.