GOP struggles to raise money for Assembly races

New Jersey Republicans admit that there is little possibility they'll turn over control of the Assembly this year, but they have hyped their chances in some sleeper districts where they don't typically compete.

Fundraising reports released today show that some money is being raised in those purported sleeper districts, but not much.

In the 4th District, Republicans Domenick DiCicco and Eugene Lawrence have raised $69,887 – most of which comes from attorneys all over the country. That's about half of the $134,473 incumbent Paul Moriarty (D-Washington Twp.) and newcomer Democratic running mate Bill Collins have raised.

"Obviously District 4 is a place where we expect to do well," said Republican State Chairman Jay Webber.

Republicans haven't talked much about District 7, which is considered a Democratic district even though GOP Sen. Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park) has won there five times. But their Assembly candidates there – Leah Arter and Harry Adams – have raised almost $90,000 and have spent $77,263 (The Assembly Republican Victory committee took enough notice to donate almost $5,000). The two Republican candidates have $12,250 on hand.

Chris Russell, a political consultant for Arter and Adams, said the campaign against incumbents Herbert Conaway (D-Delanco) and Jack Conners (D-Pennsauken) is "under the rader."

"We know the district is difficult, but we figure the only way to put them is position is the old fashioned way," said Russell, who cited the candidates' aggressive ground game. "If they're in position, we'll strike, and I think right now, they're definitely outworking Conaway and Connors on the ground."

Conners and Conaway have raised a combined $196,603 and have about $53,000 on hand.

District 14 was supposed to be one of the Republicans' top races this year, but their recruitment efforts fell through after Hamilton Councilwoman Kelly Yaede dropped out at the last minute.

Although typically split between a Mercer County and Middlesex County candidate, Mercer Republicans ran and prevailed in the primary with two of their own candidates – Rob Calabro and Bill Harvey – after Middlesex Republicans chose 21-year-old Brian Hackett for their county line at their March convention.

Calabro and Harvey have been vastly outraised and outspent by incumbents Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) and Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton), who have raised $602,638 and spent almost all of it. Calabro and Harvey have raised $27,050 and have $18,198 on hand.

"We're getting a lot of support from the state, and we have two fundraisers coming up," said the Republicans' campaign manager, Rick Rosenberg. ""Quite frankly, they can spend as much money as they want, and they'll still have the same record fall record to fall back on."

Greenstein and DeAngelo spokeswoman Elizabeth Meyers said that the Republicans have been actively campaigning.

"We clearly have opponents. They're clearly out there every week pushing a negative agenda attacking Linda and Wayne," she said, adding that the amount of money Greenstein, a ten-year incumbent and DeAngelo, a freshman, shows their broad base of support.

In District 19, Republicans hope Democrats are vulnerable after the multiple state and federal indictments of Assemblyman Joseph Vas (D-Perth Amboy), the former Perth Amboy mayor, and the subsequent rumors about the ethics of his former replacement, South Amboy Jack O'Leary. But Republican Peter Kothari has only raised $15,881 and spent $7,115, while the district's other Republican candidate, Richard Piatkowski, reported raising $2,220.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski has raised (D-Sayreville) $244,444 and has $99,545 on hand, while the recently selected Democrat Craig Coughlin has raised $33,311 and has $31,639 on hand.

In District 22, which leans Democratic, Republicans have made some noise about taking out Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Fanwood), who was bloodied by a congressional loss to U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton) last year, and Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Plainfield. Former Scotch Plains Mayor Marty Marks volunteered himself to the cause.

Although reports were not available for Marks, he said he and running mate Bo Vastine raised "somewhere near" $85,000 and have spent about half of it.

Marks said that an ARV-commissioned a poll from last month – when Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie was still well ahead of Governor Corzine showed him and Vastine in a statistical dead heat with Stender and Green.

"Obviously we have gotten the attention of our opponents. I think they're a little more concerned than any other year," said Marks. "We're starting to get some attention from the powers that be — people like [Assembly Minority Leader] Alex DeCroce and Jay Webber."

Stender has raised $98,627 and spent $47,421 while Green has raised $137,807 and spent $52,501. They have $51,206 and $85,305 on hand, respectively.

In District 38, Republicans Judith Fisher and Nicholas Lonzisero, a councilman in Ridgefield, have raised $11,831 and have $7,186 on hand. Incumbents Joan Voss (D-Fort Lee) and Connie Wagner (D-Paramus) have raised $171,274 and spent $139,675.

"38 is more of a challenge," said Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin. "A lot of it depends on how the top of the ticket does and whether there is a way or not."

Democrats dropped plans to commit serious resources to going on the offensive in any districts early in the election cycle. They initially hoped to run competitive campaigns in Districts 2 and 12, but dropped those plans facing an uncertain electoral landscape.

In District 2, Democrats Reginald Floyd and Jimmy Martinez raised $26,954 and have $4,385 on hand. Incumbents John Amodeo and Vince Polistina have raised $158,394 and have $150,601 on hand.

District 12 was the scene of the state's most expensive and competitive race two years ago, when then-Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) took out Democratic state Sen. Ellen Karcher and brought two Republican Assembly running mates with her: Declan O'Scanlon (R-Little Silver) and Caroline Casagrande (R-Colts Neck).

Neither side appears to be gearing up for a repeat. Democrats Michelle Roth and John Amberg have raised $38,212 and have $19,779 on hand. O'Scanlon and Casagrande have raised about $116,091 and have $67,277 on hand. GOP struggles to raise money for Assembly races