Following the release of two campaign advertisements from the General Majority Political Action Committee, Republicans in the first and second districts are crying foul. The television ads themselves attribute the tabled referendum to build casinos in North Jersey to “special interests” in Trenton, but some have noted that the spots’ accompanying Web copy places the blame on “Trenton Republicans who are trying to bankrupt our economy and take thousands of jobs to North Jersey.” The referendum was in fact originally drafted under Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3).
Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis says that the ads, which are running in districts one and two, amount to little more than a nuisance for the Republican incumbents. The videos target the campaigns of assemblymen Sam Fiocchi (R-1) and Chris Brown (R-2).
“They’re going to spend money, they’re going to try and rehabilitate Mazzeo,” said Davis, referring to Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-2). Davis doubted that the PAC ad buy would counteract what he and other Republican operatives have portrayed as defeatist comments from Mazzeo on the possibility of a referendum to build new casinos throughout the state.
Referring to the stalled payment in lieu of taxes agreement with struggling casinos, Davis said that the perceived sluggishness of district Democrats’ response will be a deciding factor in November.
“He’s been lying on every issue that has come to his attention, whether it be the PILOT legislation where he shows up in mayor’s meetings and says we ought to fix the county’s share at 13.5%, and he later changes his mind and says ‘no i think it ought to be kept silent because you don’t know who the parties are going to be 15 years from now,” said Davis. “They know he’s good at selling grapefruit but he’s not very good at being a legislator. And I don’t care how much money they spend, they’re not going to be able to change his image.”
Democrats Assembly Campaign Committee communications director Derek Roseman said that the PAC’s advertisements were not created with the input of Democratic staff, per federal campaign finance regulations.
“Our candidates are working hard in their own neighborhoods, knocking on doors and talking with voters,” said Roseman. “We’re concerning ourselves with running our campaigns.”
While the pro-Democratic General Majority PAC and similar committees have made waves this cycle, political scientist Brigid Harrison said that Republican PACs with broader agendas do have considerable clout of their own. Citing ads funded by the Committee for Our Children’s Future for Governor Chris Christie in 2011, Harrison believes that such right-leaning PACs focus their attention elsewhere during legislative elections.
“Some of those contributors may not want to give because they don’t want to provoke the ire of the incumbents,” said Harrison. “Some of those funders are being tapped into his presidential race, and are perhaps not contributing to legislative candidates when there’s little hope that Republicans will win a majority in the state legislature.”
Pointing to the 2011 spots, which ran across the Northeast, Harrison said “[they] looked like they were being used to promote Governor Christie’s name as a potential presidential nominee.”