TRENTON, New Jersey — A super political action committee focused on electing Democratic lawmakers has spent more than $1 million in three contested New Jersey Assembly districts ahead of Election Day.
The spending, which state officials believe will represent the largest share of independent expenditures this year, comes as the Assembly is at the top of the ticket for the first time since 1999 and as Democrats hope to expand their majority in the state's lower legislative chamber. They currently control the Assembly by a margin of 48 to 32 over Republicans.
The party and the super PAC are barred from cooperating or coordinating efforts.
Election Law Enforcement Commission records show General Majority PAC has spent $1.014 million in southern New Jersey's 1st and 2nd districts and in northern New Jersey's 38th District. Experts think these three districts will be the most competitive in what is otherwise a sleepy election cycle, without the state Senate, governor or other officeholders that attract attention on the ticket.
Most of the spending has come in the south where Democrats and Republicans each control one of the two Assembly seats in the 1st and 2nd districts. Democrats control both seats in the 38th District, which includes parts of Bergen and Passaic counties. Republicans are trying to get another candidate on the ballot in the 38th District after one of their two dropped out.
The PAC has spent the most in the 2nd District, dropping $449,000, including for web, radio and mail ads in a region that includes Atlantic City. It has spent $405,000 this cycle in the rural 1st District, which includes Cape May County, and $160,000 in the 38th District.
In the 1st District, Republican incumbent Sam Fiocchi and running mate Jim Sauro are taking on Democratic incumbent Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land. In the 2nd District, Republican incumbent Chris Brown and Will Pauls are facing Democratic incumbent Vince Mazzeo and Colin Bell. In the 38th District, Democratic incumbents Tim Eustace and Joseph Lagana are running against Republican Mark DiPisa. The top two vote-getters in each district will get the Assembly seats regardless of how their running mates fare.
Republicans decry the super PAC spending. It shows the party is "completely beholden" to special interests, says Republican Assembly candidate spokesman Chris Russell. Democrats point out they cannot coordinate with the group.
"I don't know what they're doing or what their plans are," said Kevin Stamps, the Democratic campaign manager for the 2nd District.
Messages seeking comment from the PAC have not been returned. Election Day is Nov. 3.