Kevin R. Wexler/ via USA TODAY NETWORK

Democratic super PAC spending $3M for Menendez in NJ

October 16, 2018 - 5:36 pm

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A Democratic super PAC said Tuesday it's pouring $3 million into TV ads to help New Jersey incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez in a race where the party hoped to avoid sinking resources.

Senate Majority PAC said Tuesday it will spend the millions on statewide ads to help Menendez against Republican former biopharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin.

The Democratic group's expenditure is its first in this cycle in New Jersey, where the party has thought it would win relatively easily and where Democrats have more than 900,000 registered voters than Republicans.

It comes as Democrats face at least eight other close races in their uphill fight to capture Senate control _ battles where their candidates would welcome the extra spending.

Democrats and the two independents allied with them are defending 26 seats Nov. 6.

That includes 10 Democratic incumbents running in states that President Donald Trump won in 2016, including five by landslide margins of 18 percentage points or more.

Republicans are fighting to retain just nine. To take away the GOP's 51-49 Senate majority, Democrats would have to hold onto all their seats and win two Republican-held seats.

Senate Majority PAC, the Democrats' biggest spending outside group this cycle, has reported spending $68 million from January 2017 through this past August. The money has largely been spent in states where races were long expected to be competitive, including Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, Missouri and Indiana.

Asked if Democrats were worried about Menendez, PAC spokesman Chris Hayden said the group is ``confident he will win'' as soon as New Jersey voters understand who Hugin is.

Hayden said his group was spending money to define Hugin as a pharmaceutical CEO ``who got rich raising the price on cancer drugs'' and is a ``Trump sycophant'' now trying to "buy a Senate race.''

Hugin was the top executive at drugmaker Celgene until this year.

 "It means Democrats are worried that Bob Menendez is in trouble,'' countered Chris Pack, spokesman for the Senate Leadership Fund, the GOP's giant outside political committee for Senate candidates. ``If I'm a red state Democrat fighting for my political life, I'd be very very upset with Bob Menendez'' for syphoning money from them.

The new spending comes as Federal Election Commission begins making the latest fundraising data available

Hugin has so far loaned his campaign $24 million, making him the the fourth-biggest self-funder in the state's history, according to a tally kept by the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission. He's surpassed Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who had been in that spot.

Overall, Hugin hauled in over $26 million, according to the FEC, and has $3.5 million cash on hand. Menendez brought in just over $11 million so far, and has $5.6 million cash on hand as the campaign enters its final weeks before Election Day is Nov. 6.

So far, Hugin has spent nearly $23 million in the campaign, according to the FEC. Menendez, meanwhile, spent about $7 million through Sept. 30, according to the most recent figures available.

The campaign's first and only debate is set for Oct. 24 on NJTV.