New Jersey Herald

Oroho First To Reach Max

New Jersey Herald — Sunday, September 16, 2007


The general election might be more than a month and a half away, but Republican and Democratic candidates in the 24th Legislative District have about two more weeks to qualify for public campaign dollars.

The only one past the finish line so far is Republican Senate candidate Steve Oroho, who has gained the required 800 $10 contributions to receive the maximum amount of matching public dollars for a total campaign fund of $100,000. The district, which -includes all of Sussex County and parts of Morris and Hunterdon counties, is one of three districts participating in the "New Jersey Fair and Clean Elections -Pilot -Project."

"We -couldn't get started in the spring like the Democrats did, because we were in the middle of our primary," Oroho said in a statement. "What we've -achieved -since July 6th is a real testament to the kind of grassroots support we have in the 24th -Legislative District."

Although Democratic Senate candidate Edwin Selby and his Assembly running mates Toni Zimmer and Pat Walsh started collecting donations nearly two months before their opponents, they are trailing Oroho and Republican Assembly candidates Alison Littell McHose and Gary Chiusano. McHose is seeking reelection to her Assembly seat and Oroho and Chiusano are Sussex County freeholders.

As of Wednesday, the donations were as follows: Oroho, $8,200; McHose, $6,000; Chiusano, $6,790; Selby, $5,130; Zimmer, $4,940; and Walsh, $4,730. By the same time, the state had provided about $3.7 million to 15 "Clean Elections" candidates, including $393,990 to the six candidates in the 24th Legislative District.

Under the program, candidates must receive at least 400 contributions of $10 each, or $4,000, to get $46,000 in public dollars for a total campaign fund of $50,000.

At the maximum 800 $10 contributions, or $8,000, matching public funds bring each candidate to $100,000. Contributions must come from registered voters in the legislative district, and candidates cannot use any other funds for their campaign.

All candidates reached the minimum qualification by Aug. 17 – allowing them to be listed on the ballot each as a "Clean Election Candidate" – but they must receive the maximum amount of contributions by the last week of September.

"We're urging people to get serious and get to it," Selby said. "We're hoping we'll be at $100,000 each, but whatever we have, that's what we'll use."

Collecting donations becomes more difficult as time goes on, Selby said, but as the candidates move from fund-raising to campaigning, they plan on making "clean elections" one of their primary issues.

The Democratic candidates recently released an anti-corruption plan, which included a ban on dual office holding on all levels of government throughout the state.

"We've shifted to clean elections as now one of our issues," Selby said. "If we go to Trenton, we're going to try to make sure it goes statewide."

By the 2009 election season, New Jersey Citizen Action, the state's largest citizen watchdog coalition, would like to see a statewide clean elections program in both the general and primary elections as well as equal funding for third party candidates, spokeswoman Mar-ilyn Carpinteyro said.

The coalition must still do a final cost analysis, but implementing such a program could cost in the area of $100 million, she said.

A clean elections program creates an even playing field for candidates and avoids the potential abuses of using special interest money to fund campaigns, while also getting the voters more involved in the process, Carpinteyro said.

"Expanding the program after 2007 will enable a lot more qualified candidates to run campaigns," she said. "It increases voter participation."

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