New Jersey Democrats were victorious Tuesday in one of the state's most competitive districts where big spending from an outside group buoyed the party.
Voters across New Jersey elected Assembly members for the new session of the Legislature after a day of balloting in a contest with low turnout and big spending from an outside group.
The Democrats, who have controlled the chamber for more than a decade, increased their hold on power, helped along from an outside political organization supported by allies of the state's biggest teacher's union.
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All 80 seats in the Assembly were up for grabs Tuesday. It was the first time in 16 years the Assembly was alone atop the ticket.
For New Jersey the likely results mean state government won't change much: Democrats control the state Senate and Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, remains chief executive.
A closer look at Tuesday's campaign:
In the 1st District, Democratic incumbent Bob Andrzejczak and running mate Bruce Land defeated Republican incumbent Sam Fiocchi and running mate Jim Sauro.
In the 2nd District, incumbents Vince Mazzeo, a Democrat, and Chris Brown, a Republican, held on to their seats. Democratic challenger Colin Bell and Republican challenger Will Pauls were defeated.
In the 38th District, Democratic incumbents Tim Eustace and Joe Lagana won in a race that saw perhaps the most unexpected turn this election in a competitive Assembly race when a raunchy book written by Republican candidate Anthony Cappola came to light.
In the book, written about a decade ago, Cappola rants against gays, Asians and breast-feeding moms, among others. He described the book as Howard Stern meets Rush Limbaugh. The GOP and Cappola's running mate, Mark DiPisa, immediately criticized his candidacy.
Cappola dropped out of the race, but it was too late to change the ballot. The party tried to replace him but abandoned the effort when the legal costs topped six figures. After that, Cappola resumed campaigning for the seat.
Nearly $2 million has flowed into the suburban New York district, which includes parts of Bergen and Passaic counties. That makes it the third most expensive race this election season.
THE INVISIBLE ELECTION?
The contest had a low profile for most voters.
A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll showed 75 percent of those questioned were unaware of the election, and just 6 percent could correctly identify that the Assembly was on the ballot. The poll surveyed 935 adults and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Without the governor's race or a presidential contest to heighten awareness, voters tend to stay home, history shows.
In 1999, the last election with the Assembly at the top of the ticket, turnout was 31 percent. In 2013, when Gov. Chris Christie sought re-election, turnout was 40 percent. In the presidential election year of 2012, 67 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.
This year's primary election saw turnout at 5.1 percent, the lowest it's been in at least 90 years.
CASH CAME IN
Despite the low-wattage race, millions of dollars — mostly to help Democrats and with the support of the state's biggest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association — poured into the race.
An analysis released Tuesday by the Center for Public Integrity shows General Majority PAC has $3.1 million on broadcast TV ads that aired through Monday. That's up from the $2.6 million total reported last week.
The airwaves mostly reached voters in southern New Jersey's 1st and 2nd districts, where Democrats and Republicans each control one Assembly seat. Democrats were victorious in the 1st District.
The analysis looked at advertising on TV from 210 media markets around the country based on data from Kantar Media/CMAG.
The latest state data available show nearly $8.5 million from so-called independent expenditure groups, accounting for 42 percent of spending. The Election Law Enforcement Commission says that's the biggest share ever in a statewide race.
The 1st and 2nd districts have had the most spending, with expenditures topping $6.2 million. Democrats and Republicans split control of each district's two seats.