ELIZABETH – In a fierce District 20 Democratic Primary in which the core of the Elizabeth Board of Education is challenging state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), Elizabeth, and his incumbents, fundraising questions continue to circulate around the challengers’ mail campaign.
At issue is how they paid for a hail of pieces engulfing Lesniak and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan, (D-20), considering the timeline in which they prepared and issued their attacks and the dearth of corresponding campaign finance information on the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) website.
The anti-Lesniak team backing Assistant Schools Super Jerome Dunn, businessman Tony Monteiro and City Councilman Carlos Cedeno released a newspaper this past winter detailing Lesniak’s alleged transgressions as a fat cat rep. At least six glossy mailers are on the streets now as part of a highly organized district-wide political operation, and sources say more are on the way.
But ELEC reports show the challengers, running on a slogan called Democrats for Change 20th, listing just $175 in their account.
In addition, no record exists for two events, one paid for by Victory 2010 and a second paid for by Change the Progress Team, both pots affiliated with the core members of the Elizabeth School Board Alliance.
A $150-per-head testimonial dinner honoring Rafael Fajardo on Sept. 24th of last year drew a crowd of 800, according to Politifax. A committee called Victory 2010 paid for the event and invites bade guests to make their checks payable to the same entity.
There is no accounting of that money on the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) website. The last ELEC form filed on Victory 2010 was in June of last year.
The same is true for Continue the Progress’s Holiday Cocktail Cheer event on Monday, Dec. 20th of last year, a $50-per-head celebration at the Solar Manor. ELEC records show that Continue the Progress made its last filings in 2006.
The anti-incumbent alliance’s freeholder slate running on the slogan Victory 2011 conversely appears transparent.
A Feb. 4th gala evening in honor of Elizabeth Board of Education President Carlos Trujillo and paid for by Victory 2011 – the slogan of the Fajardo-affiliated Union County freeholder slate – was a $250 and $150 affair at the Solar Manor. In their ELEC filing this month, Victory 2011 reported collecting just over $54,000.
“I don’t control the money,” said Rafael Fajardo, the head of the organization backing the challengers. “There has to be some technicality. I don’t know anything about that. All I know is Mr. Lesniak is making wild allegations that we are being funded by the governor. We are not being funded by the governor. I wish we had the money Ray Lesniak has, we don’t.”
Monteiro said he trusts the group’s ELEC financial disclosure will be in order by the time of the next filing date, the 11-day pre-election report, and pinned questions about their reports on Lesniak being jittery in the face of a legitimate challenge.
“We’re raising money as we speak,” said Monteiro. “I’ll take responsibility for it, but everything is fine. We will be vindicated there.”
Democrats for Change 20th had a fundraiser Tuesday night, and have scheduled a second one for Saturday night.
“We’re on the back nine, the support is strong,” Monteiro said. “Everything will show in our 11-day filing report. All the reports are filed on time and according to NJ ELEC.” In another week, you will see.
“They’re desperate,” the Assembly candidate added. “They’re clearly scared. They’ve never seen a campaign like this. We don’t have their Wall Street money. They have a mailer they put out this week that shows they’re going for the gutter politics, filled with accusations and insinuations. We’re going door to door; which we did this week in the pouring rain, while they’re trying to throw a wrench into this.”