It what will end up as the most cash-suffused legislative contest in state history, the clash between Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) leads the way this statewide election year with a huge special interest spending spike.
Garden State Forward, the NJEA’s PAC, has spent $5 million this year: $4,450,187 of it in the general election, as it blitzes Sweeney with ads on behalf of Republican challenger Fran Grenier. ELEC estimates that the PAC has focused $4 million of its total spending this year on LD3. The PAC formed by Sweeney’s allies, New Jerseyans for a Better Tomorrow, has backed Sweeney with $3.4 million, $2,629,562 trained on the general election.
ELEC reports that Sweeney’s attempt to stay in office against the fusillade by the NJEA is on pace to surpass Senator Fred Madden’s 2003 election, which in current dollars cost $8.2 million.
The candidates themselves have spent $1.5 million. The General Majority PAC has spent $895,000. Better Education for Kids: $198,100; Stronger Foundations Inc.: $121,900. The candidates have a little over a million cash on hand, according to ELEC.
ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle noted that 2017 marks the second biggest year on record for financial participation by independent committees in New Jersey legislative elections. Total spending this year by independent committees is $12,291,875. Ten years ago, in the 2007 elections, independent groups spent $165,000. 2013 still holds the record as of right now with $16,078,071.