Locked in what insiders say will almost certainly be a tight race for control of Brick Township’s municipal government, candidates’ tickets from both parties have raised about an even amount of money for their campaigns and spent about the same amount as well.
Between the two sides, as of Oct. 27, when pre-election accounting reports were due to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), the two parties have spent a total of about $300,000 on campaigning. The reports were properly filed, on time, by both campaigns. With less than a week to go before Election Day, the spending is expected to pick up even more, which will require candidates to file special notices of last-minute fund-raising and expenditures with the commission to comply with state election laws.
A look into the latest filings by the two campaigns show a similar approach to advertising and campaigning taken by both sides. The stakes, for a municipal election, could not be higher, with the township council’s majority up for grabs as well as the final year of former mayor John Ducey’s unexpired term. Lisa Crate, a two-term councilwoman who was appointed mayor until the election, is facing off against state Assemblyman John Catalano, who has served two terms in the state legislature and previously filled an unexpired term on the township council for several months. Each mayoral candidate has a slate of four council candidates. If three Republicans win their races, the council will fall under GOP control for the first time in over a decade – likewise with the mayor’s office.
Data from the state’s ELEC system indicates the major sources of revenue funding each campaign. In the cases of both parties, existing funds from primary elections and previous races were rolled over to the current general election cycle, and the vast majority of donations have been small and not subject to disclosure laws. Still, a few donors have helped fund the campaigns with larger donations. In both cases, and as is customary in partisan elections, the mayoral and council campaigns have chosen to commingle their finances by running together as a ticket.
Some of the reported contributions are “in kind” contributions – rather than cash, services or goods were donated.
According to the state data, Crate’s largest donors have been the Democratic Club of Brick, which donated $10,000; the Greater NJ Carpenters’ PAC, which donated $5,000; a fund-raising organization linked to former Councilwoman Kathy Russell known as Brick Progress that has raised $3,354; and the Seahorse restaurant in Asbury Park, which donated $1,188.
The Catalano ticket’s largest donors include the Ocean County Republican Finance Committee, which contributed $33,316; Remington and Vernick Engineering, which contributed $6,000; Jesal Amin, a former GOP mayoral candidate in East Brunswick, who donated $3,000; Bacchione for Mayor, a mayoral campaign from Berkeley Township, which contributed $3,000; and Rehabco, a planning and housing rehabilitation firm, which donated $1,400.
With all of their fund-raising efforts combined, the Crate campaign has raised $158,913, out of which $118,528 had been spent by the Oct. 27 reporting deadline. The Catalano campaign raised $150,776, out of which $145,309 had been spent.
The bulk of the expenditures so far, according to the filings, has been for advertising. (For disclosure purposes, both campaigns have advertised on Shorebeat’s platform this election cycle.) The glossy election flyers flooding mailboxes throughout town have been the primary expenditure of both campaigns.
Crate’s campaign reported nine expenditures for mailers, ranging from a $3,626 purchase from a mailing service in Toms River to a massive $10,203 postage bill recorded Oct. 24. Other major expenditures included $8,320 for printing services at a shop in Maspeth, N.Y., and $4,555 to Gangi Graphics in Brick for design and printing services. The Crate team’s campaign has, thus far, spent $400 on Facebook advertising.
The Catalano campaign, for its part, reported having spent $4,500 on polling and research conducted by a Washington, D.C. pollster, and $4,922 to a Toms River printing and mailing firm known as Trec. Additional mailers sent by the Republican campaign were covered by in-kind contributions, ranging from a few hundred dollars to another round of mailers from Trec that cost $4,982. The Republican campaign also purchased cable television advertising for $24,295, produced by Strategic Media Services, of Arlington, Va. Another $11,510 in media productions costs went to a Toms River firm known as Go Big Media.
There is almost no doubt that both campaigns will spend the final week before the election in a major push to accumulate votes and publicity, meaning more mailers, digital advertising and television/streaming service ads are on the way. According to ELEC, there are no more “deadline” based reporting periods. Over the last two weeks of the campaign, both tickets must file what is known as a “72 hour notice” for reportable fund-raising and spending between Oct. 25 and Oct. 30, and a “24 hour notice” filing for the same between Oct. 31 and Nov. 7.
By the time this article was published, the Crate ticket had not filed any of the time-sensitive reports. The Catalano campaign filed one notice reporting a $12,038 contribution from the Holzapfel for Senate campaign and a $910 media ad and a $2,283 in-kind contribution paid by the county GOP organization to a campaign consultant.
The two campaigns have, so far, spent a combined $309,689 on the municipal election.