TRENTON – Newark and Jersey City have been the state’s top political battlegrounds among municipalities and counties during the past 40 years, according to a new analysis by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
Among the most costly 25 municipal or county elections since 1974, Newark hosted seven, while Jersey City had nine, according to “White Paper No. 25- Top Local Elections in New Jersey-A Tale of Two Cities and More.”
While Jersey City had more marquee races, elections in Newark, the state’s largest city by population, have been drawn the biggest bucks.
Four of the top five most expensive elections took place in Newark. The 2006 election, when adjusted for inflation, ranks highest.
Top 10 Most Expensive Local Races in New Jersey
Newark 2006 Municipal $11,437,051 $13,439,543 Cory Booker defeats Ronald Rice for mayor.
Newark 2014 Municipal $12,562,933 $12,562,933 Ras Baraka defeats Shavar Jeffries for mayor.
Newark 2002 Municipal $ 8,692,816 $11,437,916 Mayor Sharpe James defeats Cory Booker.
Newark 2010 Municipal $ 9,827,153 $10,670,090 Mayor Cory Booker defeats Clifford Minor.
Bergen County 2002 General $ 7,667,682 $10,089,055 Dennis McNerney defeats Henry McNamara for Executive.
Jersey City 2001 Municipal $ 5,655,735 $ 7,561,143 Glenn Cunningham defeats Tom DeGise to become mayor.
Jersey City 2009 Municipal $ 5,889,743 $ 6,500,820 Mayor Jerramiah Healy defeats Louis Manzo.
Jersey City 1989 Municipal $ 3,041,000 $ 5,803,435 Gerald McCann defeats Glenn Cunningham to become mayor.
Essex County 1978 General $ 1,514,107 $ 5,505,844 Peter Shapiro defeats Robert Notte to Become Executive.
Jersey City 2013 Municipal $ 5,269,015 $ 5,354,690 Steven Fulop defeats Jerramiah Healy for mayor.
Disregarding inflation, the 2014 election in Newark, which cost $12.6 million, had the biggest price tag.
It featured a fairly new phenomena in local New Jersey politics- $5.5 million in spending by independent special interest groups not directly controlled by parties or candidates.
The massive wave of so-called “outside” spending that has washed across politics nationally and in the state has now poured into local campaigns in New Jersey. If this trend continues, it represents a fundamental shift in how campaigns are financed in the state.”
Six of the other top 25 local elections took place in counties. The most expensive county election occurred in Bergen County in 2002, when Dennis McNerney defeated state Sen. Henry McNamara. The race cost $10.1 million in inflation adjusted dollars and ranks 5th among all elections.
Among other highlights from the report:
The involvement of independent groups has led to a sharp change in the pattern of spending, notably a major increase in mass media spending. Eighty-two percent of all independent spending in the 2014 Newark campaign went to media, primarily for either TV or radio. By contrast, candidates spent just 31 percent of their budgets on media.
No candidate individually spent more than Jerramiah Healy, who sank $3.5 million into a 2009 election in which he won reelection as Jersey City’s mayor.
Even so, Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who mostly raised funds jointly with other local candidates, appears to be the most prolific local fundraiser of all time. His committees raised and spent more than $20 million on five Newark elections.
The most spent on a local ballot question was the $1.2 million outlay by supporters and opponents of a 2010 proposal to allow private operation of Trenton’s water supply.
A total of $763 million has been spent on municipal and county elections during the past three decades.
This report shows that local elections no longer are just sideshows to state campaigns. Some are becoming major political events. As a result, local campaigns are increasingly relying on similar strategies as national and state races. The public, the media, academics and the political community now can use these rankings to compare future campaigns to see if trends continue. Hopefully, this report puts local elections in a clearer context.”
The 25 most expensive local races in New Jersey history:
1 Newark 2006 Municipal $11,437,051 $13,439,543 Cory Booker defeats Ronald Rice for mayor.
2 Newark 2014 Municipal $12,562,933 $12,562,933 Ras Baraka defeats Shavar Jeffries for mayor.
3 Newark 2002 Municipal $ 8,692,816 $11,437,916 Mayor Sharpe James defeats Cory Booker.
4 Newark 2010 Municipal $ 9,827,153 $10,670,090 Mayor Cory Booker defeats Clifford Minor.
5 Bergen County 2002 County $ 7,667,682 $10,089,055 Dennis McNerney defeats Henry McNamara for executive.
6 Jersey City 2001 Municipal $ 5,655,735 $ 7,561,143 Glenn Cunningham defeats Tom DeGise to become mayor.
7 Jersey City 2009 Municipal $ 5,889,743 $ 6,500,820 Mayor Jerramiah Healy defeats Louis Manzo.
8 Jersey City 1989 Municipal $ 3,041,000 $ 5,803,435 Gerald McCann defeats Glenn Cunningham for mayor.
9 Essex County 1978 County $ 1,514,107 $ 5,505,844 Peter Shapiro defeats Robert Notte for Executive.
10 Jersey City 2013 Municipal $ 5,269,015 $ 5,354,690 Steven Fulop defeats Jerramiah Healy for mayor.
11 Bergen County 1986 County $ 2,374,662 $ 5,128,860 William McDowell defeats Matthew Feldman for executive.
12 Newark 1998 Municipal $ 3,265,789 $ 4,746,786 Mayor Sharpe James defeats Ronald Rice And Mildred Crump.
13 Essex County 2002 County $ 3,203,840 $ 4,215,579 Joseph DiVincenzo defeats Thomas Giblin for executive.
14 Newark 1990 Municipal $ 2,117,287 $ 3,835,665 Mayor Sharpe James, Unopposed, Reelected.
15 Jersey City 1997 Municipal $ 2,554,639 $ 3,767,904 Bret Schundler defeats Jerramiah Healy for mayor.
16 Jersey City 1985 Municipal $ 1,658,324 $ 3,652,696 Anthony Cucci defeats Gerald McCann for mayor.
17 Jersey City 1981 Municipal $ 1,347,568 $ 3,509,292 Gerald McCann defeats Walter Sheil for mayor.
18 Newark 1986 Municipal $ 1,598,783 $ 3,453,095 Sharpe James defeats Mayor Kenneth Gibson.
19 Essex County 1986 County $ 1,558,418 $ 3,365,914 Nicholas Amato defeats Executive Peter Shapiro.
20 Bergen County 2010 County $ 3,092,145 $ 3,357,378 Kathleen Donovan defeats Executive Dennis McNerney
21 Jersey City 1977 Municipal $ 855,638 $ 3,342,336 Thomas FX Smith defeats William Macci for mayor.
22 Jersey City 2005 Municipal $ 2,720,386 $ 3,297,438 Mayor Jerramiah Healy defeats Melissa Holloway.
23 Camden County 1994 County $ 1,981,926 $ 3,166,016 Michael McLaughlin defeats Sheriff William Simon.
24 Essex County 1994 County $ 1,972,253 $ 3,150,564 James Treffinger defeats Cardell Cooper for executive.
25 Hoboken 2009 Municipal $ 2,845,551 $ 3,140,785 Peter Cammarano defeats Dawn Zimmer for mayor.
Joseph Donohue is the deputy executive director of the state Election Law Enforcement Commission