Sunday, August 05, 2007

Elections - Ledger - Edison primary cost $500K

Published in the Star-Ledger, Sunday, July 1, 2007

In Edison, primary a $500,000 scrimmage
Democrats shell out 'unheard of amounts'

Star-Ledger Staff

The three rival Democratic slates in last month's Edison council primary spent nearly $500,000 to win four spots on the ballot in the general election for council seats that pay $6,000 a year.

The post-election campaign finance reports made available last week show that the four incumbents, who lost to a ticket of political newcomers backed by Mayor Jun Choi, had the biggest tab at $225,525. Choi's candidates, who face a challenge against four Republicans in the fall, spent $188,341, though Choi said the final expenditures for the primary will likely be close to $235,000. The third slate spent about $72,000 on their bid.

"Those are unheard-of amounts for a suburban New Jersey town," said David Rebovich, a political analyst and professor at Rider University. "You wonder if the good citizens of Edison will cringe when they see it."

Two years ago, when incumbent George Spadoro was ousted by Choi in a bitter mayoral primary, Choi was outspent 2-to-1 by the Democratic organization. This time around, the ticket backed by Choi had equal financial footing with the incumbents.

"It shows you it's not about money," Choi said. "It's about the credibility of the candidates, a winning message and focusing on what the residents really want."

Choi said he was not surprised by the money that poured into the race.

"It was a spirited election about the future of Edison. As the fifth largest municipality it's not surprising that this level was spent," he said.

Township Democratic Chairman Thomas Paterniti said the high cost of cable television and direct mail drives up the spending.

"If you have to compete you have to raise the money and spend it," Paterniti said.

The township Democratic organization donated more than $62,000 to the incumbents' unsuccessful campaign. One of the biggest contributors was state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), who gave $29,000 from her election fund. But the highest vote-getter among the incumbents, Council President Charles Tomaro, only came within 472 votes of Choi's ticket.

Paterniti did not agree with Choi's assessment of the election results. The longtime chairman argued that Choi's candidates won because there was a third ticket that split the vote. The third slate was led by William Stephens, a former council president.

If it was not for the third slate, "we would have won, hands down," Paterniti said"

Link to online story.

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.