Burlington County Times - By David Levinsky
Democrat Shelley Adler has gotten off to a fast start in raising money for her campaign to unseat Republican Jon Runyan as the 3rd Congressional District’s representative.
Adler, a Harvard-educated attorney who is trying to win the seat her late husband, John Adler, held for two years, raised $310,927 between January and March, a sum that is higher than the $270,514 amassed by Runyan during the same quarter as well as all his previous fundraising quarters since he entered politics, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings.
Runyan, of Mount Laurel, still has a sizable lead on Adler in campaign dollars. His war chest totals $735,220, more than twice Adler’s $290,674 in cash on hand.
Adler’s campaign was undeterred by Runyan’s financial lead and said her impressive first-quarter numbers reflect the growing belief that her race will be among the most competitive in the nation.
“Shelley Adler is a tremendous candidate, and national experts have noticed that her race is one to watch,” said Michael Muller, Adler’s campaign spokesman and adviser, in a statement. “In just two months, she has raised more resources than the incumbent has in any previous quarter, because people are responding to her call for a new direction in Washington.”
Adler’s donors include numerous attorneys, business leaders and residents from New Jersey, Washington, New York and other parts of the country, as well as several prominent South Jersey Democratic officials and leaders, including U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, former Cherry Hill Mayor Susan Bass Levin, and Democratic powerbroker and Cooper Health System Chairman George Norcross III.
Other donors include Tom Sacks-Wilner, a Medford doctor who was rumored to have been mulling entering the race before Adler announced her candidacy; Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer; New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver; and several national political action committees: the New Democratic Coalition, Victory Now, and AmeriPAC: The Fund for a Greater America.
Most of Adler’s $20,252 in spending during the first quarter was for staffers’ salaries, fundraising expenses and database work.
Her first-quarter fundraising tally will impress Democrats nationwide, Muller said, particularly the leaders of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is looking for challengers to support in its effort to win back majority control of the House of Representatives.
“We’re very optimistic this will send a message to Washington,” Muller said. “Both the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report list this race as competitive, and for the Democrats to have any chance to win back the House, it’s one they need to win.”
Josh Schwerin, regional press secretary for the Democratic committee, agreed that Adler’s fundraising tally was impressive.
“Shelley Adler’s priorities are in line with New Jersey’s 3rd District voters, while Congressman Runyan has spent his entire congressional career proving just how out of touch he is with the needs of middle-class families and senior citizens. Adler’s impressive start is getting her national attention in the process,” Schwerin said.
Runyan’s contributors include many business leaders, residents, corporate PACs, and GOP leaders such as former Congressman Jim Saxton, former Burlington County Republican Committee Chairman Glenn Paulsen, and Col. Michael Warner, retired commander of Fort Dix.
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s employee PAC also contributed to Runyan’s campaign, as did cable giant Comcast Corp., Woodland cranberry grower Stephen Lee, Moorestown doctor Scott Dorfner, Exxon Mobil Corp., Medco Health PAC, International Association of Firefighters, and Republican Main Street PAC.
“Our fundraising has been very strong, and that speaks to the broad and enthusiastic support people have for Congressman Runyan. We feel very good about the fact that we have more than 2½ times the amount of money in the bank than Shelley Adler does,” Runyan campaign spokesman Chris Russell said Monday, noting that Runyan also has more than six times the Burlington County donors (107) than Adler (15), who resides in Cherry Hill, Camden County.
“People realize that in just one short year in Congress, Jon is making good on his promise to shake up Washington by fighting to restore fiscal responsibility, grow our economy, and put America back on the right track,” Russell said.
Runyan’s $67,128 in spending during the quarter was mostly for consulting, fundraising, and political events and meetings.
Fundraising is typically crucial for most congressional campaigns, but the finances are considered particularly important in the 3rd District because it spans the Philadelphia and New York television markets. Both are among the most expensive in the country for purchasing advertising time.
John Adler raised and spent about $3 million in 2008, when he defeated Medford Republican Chris Myers to become the first Democrat to represent the district in more than a century. Two years later, he raised and spent close to $3.3 million but was defeated by Runyan, whose campaign spent about $1.5 million.
In 2008 and 2010, the 3rd District was made up of large parts of Burlington and Ocean counties plus Cherry Hill, where Shelley Adler once served as a councilwoman. But the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission redrew the boundaries in December, removing Cherry Hill and some southern Ocean County towns while adding more of northern Burlington County and Ocean County, including Bordentown Township and Brick.
Adler can legally run in the 3rd District despite the changes, but most New Jersey political pundits believe the new map favors the GOP.
Adler and her supporters contend that the district still can swing to an outspoken Democrat whose positions on issues such as taxes, jobs, the environment, and preserving Medicare better reflect voters’ views.
“We feel Congressman Runyan is out of sync with the district on many issues,” Muller said. “As long as we can raise the resources needed to deliver our message, then at the end of the day we know we’ll be successful.”
Russell countered that Runyan stands for “cutting taxes, restoring fiscal discipline to Washington, and taking steps to help the nation’s economic recovery.
“All we know about Shelley Adler is that she raised taxes as a Cherry Hill councilwoman, refuses to take a position on Obamacare, and can’t even vote for herself in November because she doesn’t live in the district.”