A Strange Buy in CD3

There’s some intriguing inside baseball taking place in CD3. As the Republican candidates, Steve Lonegan and Tom MacArthur, pound the hell out of each other, all of a sudden a Democratic-leaning PAC has crept onto the field.

Patriot Majority has been around since 2006, backing Democrats like Harry Reid and Ron Kind, and with its Republican sounding name and stars and stripes look, the PAC focuses on states and districts friendly to Republicans.

So in a year that’s expected to be positive for Republicans and a seat that’s occupied by a Republican – albeit a retiring one in Jon Runyan — it’s interesting that the PAC has gone on the air in CD3. Perhaps Patriot Majority has concluded that the damage Lonegan and MacArthur have wreaked on each other provides an opening for whoever emerges on the Democratic side, where the frontrunner, Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, faces Ocean County lawyer Howard Kleinhendler and Lyndon LaRouche acolyte Bruce Todd.

Patriot Majority is running 2 television spots. The first attacks MacArthur, saying the former Morris County mayor increased spending in Randolph and raised property taxes every year. The second attacks Lonegan, taking him to task for opposing federal disaster relief, and advising New Jerseyans to “suck it up.” The spot concludes by telling Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, to “suck it up.”

Patriot Majority is running the MacArthur spot far more than the Lonegan spot, suggesting that they think MacArthur is winning and also that they fear he’d be harder to defeat in a general than movement conservative Lonegan. But the buy itself is structured so strangely that the political class is wondering if Patriot Majority simply doesn’t quite know what it’s doing.

The PAC bought a run from May 23 to June 2, basically buying every cable system that touches NJ 3. The budget is about $43,000, with just over half going to Ocean County. The strange part is that only $22,000 of that $43,000 was spent on the main cable systems in the district.

In Burlington, the PAC is spending $13,474 on the main Burlington system but dumped the remaining $6,080 on a Mercer County system that only has a few households in Burlington. The pattern is even stranger in Ocean County. Of the $23,264 spent there, only $8,497 is going to the main 3 cable systems. The remaining $14,767 is being showered on two cable systems that are mostly in Monmouth County — Cablevision Jackson, which reaches less than a thousand households on the Ocean County shore, and Comcast Verizon, which is 80% in Monmouth County.

And while the Ocean County buy is limited to Fox News – the go-to network for influencing Republican primary voters — the Burlington buy has FoxNews, but also CNN, Lifetime, and MSNBC. It’s hard to picture fans of Rachel Maddow on MSNBC or viewers of “27 Dresses” and “Devious Maids” on Lifetime really caring about the outcome between Steve Lonegan and Tom MacArthur.

One experienced GOP consultant says the buy “has folks scratching their heads.” With the great majority of the spending directed against MacArthur and hitting him with a spending/taxing message that won’t sit well with GOP primary voters, the beneficiary of Patriot Majority’s oddball buy might just be Steve Lonegan.

"I’m an undertaker by trade, so when I bury somebody, they don’t come back."
—Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato