With Gov. Christie at the helm, the New Jersey Republican Party is loaded with optimism and, according to campaign-finance reports released Thursday, flush with cash.
The GOP has nearly $1 million on hand for the 2011 elections, in which the entire 120-member state Legislature is up for grabs. The Democrats have about a third that amount, according to reports filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.
But by the time election season arrives, analysts cautioned, those totals could be very different.
What already has changed is that the major parties are bringing in less money, said Jeff Brindle, the commission's executive director. Fund-raising for the parties' biggest campaign committees declined between 2006 and 2010 - a sign of a tough economy and tightened contribution regulations, he said.
The rules "are making it harder for all candidates and fund-raising committees," Brindle said in a statement.
Democrats aren't raking it in as they once did, because former Gov. Jon S. Corzine has gone from the political scene, according to Ben Dworkin, a Rider University political scientist. A multimillionaire, Corzine donated millions to his own campaigns and those of other Democrats and their causes.
The legislative elections are expected to be particularly expensive this year because incumbents must introduce themselves to new voters. The state redraws the boundaries of all 40 of its districts after each decennial U.S. Census. Every district has one Senate seat and two Assembly seats.
Even longtime incumbents are likely to face electorates unfamiliar with their achievements.
Legislators "will all need money - even those in relatively safe seats - to present their cases," Dworkin said.
The commission added up funds from each of the party's major fund-raising arms to get its totals.
The Republican State Committee and its fund-raising arms for the state Senate and Assembly raised a total of $2.9 million last year and spent $2.6 million.
Remaining is $961,000, which includes funds that carried over from previous years.
Democrats raised $3.2 million and spent $3.3 million. Thanks to the cushion from prior years, they are left with $345,000.