- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

HADDONFIELD, N.J. (AP) - A national Democratic group has been spending money on direct mail in a southern New Jersey congressional race thought to be safe for the Democratic candidate even though a neighboring district is considered competitive - the sort of place where the party’s candidate can use all the help she can get.

Sometimes, spending decisions like that can signal the shifting priorities of political groups - that they view the race as competitive or another one as out of reach.

But House Majority PAC, the political action committee that is advertising is advertising on behalf of Democrat Donald Norcross in his 1st Congressional District race again Republican Garry Cobb, says that’s not the case here.

“House Majority PAC has received a number of donations to be spent in support of Donald Norcross to make sure this seat stays in Democratic hands,” said the Washington-based committee’s spokesman, Matt Thornton. He would not say which donors earmarked money to be used on Norcross’ behalf.

The group has spent $238,000 this month supporting Norcross with spending that by law cannot be coordinated with the campaign.

Last month, the committee received a total of $270,000 in donations from six New Jersey groups that could have reason to be interested in the race in a swath of Philadelphia suburbs where Democrats generally have an advantage.

Brown and Connery, a Westmont law firm that does election work for Democrats, gave $50,000. The Carpenters Fund for Growth and Progress in Bellmawr, a community in the district, gave $50,000. And four New Jersey-based locals of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, where Norcross is an administrator, made contributions ranging from $20,000 to $50,000.

Those groups all either declined to comment, did not return calls or could not be reached on Tuesday afternoon.

Independent expenditures for - or often, against - candidates have become a big part of politics in the last several years.

In New Jersey this year, three of the 12 House races have attracted such spending.

Three groups have spent a total of $156,000 promoting Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Republican facing a challenge from Democrat William Hughes Jr., in the 2nd District.

But most of the independent spending in the state has come in the 3rd District, which borders the 1st District. In that race, Republican Tom MacArthur and Democrat Aimee Belgard are competing to replace Republican Jon Runyan, who is not seeking re-election.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been running cable TV ads attacking MacArthur since August. The conservative Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies filed a report this week showing that it has spent more than $500,000 on anti-Belgard ads.

Since a poll last week showed MacArthur with a lead, Republicans have been pushing the notion that MacArthur has a decisive advantage.

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Follow Mulvihill at https://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill

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