GOP outraises Dems in 1st Quarter, holds edge in cash on hand

With just over six months to go until the all-important mid-term elections, state fundraising totals show Republicans have outraised Democrats through the first three months of 2011 and have more than double the cash on hand.

Through March 31, the big three Republican committees – the state committee and the senate and assembly election committees – raised $1,081,588 versus $656,651 for the Democratic Committees.   Republicans maintain more than $1.7 million on hand in the three committees, while the Democratic committees hold $770,000.

The big winner in the fundraising sweepstakes was the Republican State Committee, which raked in more than $739,000 for the quarter, nearly four times what the Democratic state committee was able to raise.  The Republican State Committee is steered by new Chairman Sam Raia, who was reportedly appointed to the job based on his prowess at bringing in cash.

Fundraising through the first quarter is about on par with 2007, the last time all 120 seats were up in the legislature, but in that election cycle Democrats had a decided financial edge.  Through the first quarter of that year, Democrats had raised more than $1.3 million, versus just $300,000 for the GOP.

Election Law Enforcement Commission Executive Director Jeff Brindle attributes the GOP edge to the rise of Gov. Chris Christie and the fall of former Gov. Jon Corzine.

In all cases, Brindle said, finding money is harder than it once was.

“While combined fundraising is up slightly from four years ago, it is clear from previous analyses that fundraising for state campaigns has gotten more difficult,’’ said Brindle. “If contractors still could contribute without restrictions, and the recession hadn’t forced some donors out of business or made them curtail their political giving, both parties probably would be raising more funds these days.”

Corzine’s departure from state politics has clearly hurt Democrats as the millionaire Wall Streeter once accounted for a huge portion of the overall fundraising totals for the party. 

The November mid-terms will be the first general election held under the new legislative map, which was adopted by the 11-member reapportionment committee earlier this month.  That map favors a Democratic controlled legislature, but Republicans say they still feel they can wrest control given their fundraising edge and Christie’s popularity.

“By fielding high-caliber candidates and matching them with significant dollars we can compete for majorities in both houses,” said Republican state Sen. Kevin O’Toole, who was a member of the redistricting commission.  “In the last nine years the GOP was outspent four to one in competitive districts.  While the new map isn’t terrific, we have reason to believe that the majorities are within reach.”

Here is a PolitickerNJ analysis of Corzine’s donations throughout his years in office.

GOP outraises Dems in 1st Quarter, holds edge in cash on hand