On Tuesday, rival congressional candidates State Sen. Leonard Lance and Assemblywoman Linda Stender ran into each other, fresh from tense budget proceedings in the legislature.
The two caught the same 7:00 a.m. train to Washington, where each was meeting with party leaders to plot strategy for the months ahead. The two commiserated on the long night in Trenton, but they didn’t sit next to each other.
Stender was headed to an event hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for about five top tier female congressional candidates. Lance was on his way to meet with National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole and other party bigwigs.
Stender has been attending events like this for months, as has Democrat John Adler in the 3rd district. Unchallenged in primaries, the two have not only gone to Washington but brought their party’s leadership marquee to their own districts.
Making campaign and fundraising stops for one or both candidates have been Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz(D-Fla.), and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“This election is really going to turn on do you want more of the same or do you want a new direction. So the support I’m getting nationally reflects that,” said Stender, whose race, along with Adler’s, is at the very top of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) priority list.
But now that they’re through with bruising primaries, Lance and 3rd district Republican candidate Chris Myers are preparing to host their own heavy hitters here in New Jersey, even if the DCCC has about seven times as much cash-on-hand as its Republican counterpart (The Republican National Committee, however, is picking up the slack, raising more than the Democratic National Committee).
Republicans say their national support is picking up. Myers touts donations from several prominent out-of-state congressmen like John Boehner (R-Ohio), Terry Everett (R-Ala.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Minn.), Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who had the loyal support of outgoing Rep. Jim Saxton, Myers’s mentor, for his presidential bid.
On Tuesday, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt hosted a fundraiser in Washington for Myers, and plans a trip to New Jersey to stump for both Myers and Lance sometime late next month.
“Certainly I think that (Adler’s) had activity and we haven’t is true, but the circumstances were different,” said Myers Campaign Manager Chris Russell, who also noted that presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s visit to New Jersey this month happened in the 3rd district.
Lance wouldn’t go into detail about his donors, but said that the NRCC acknowledges the importance of keeping the 7th district seat, currently occupied by outgoing Republican Rep. Mike Ferguson, in the party’s column.
“They’re very much aware of our race and we do anticipate receiving money from them.”
Lance, however, recognizes that he faces more of the fundraising burden than Stender, since he can’t count on a flush national party. He’s moving forward with his own fundraising, this time with former primary rival Kate Whitman serving on his finance committee. The two, he noted, raised a large combined total during their primary campaigns.
“Together we raised $1 million and now we’re happy to have her on our team, united,” he said.
Republican National Congressional Committee spokeswoman Julie Shutley said that her organization hasn’t made any decisions about financial support (the DCCC publicizes its fundraising priorities), but said of the 3rd and 7th districts, “were definitely watching those races.”