School board president Christopher Irving spent a record setting $20,317 in the seven-person November school board race, according to his 20-day post-election campaign finance report filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
Irving spent much of his funds on television advertising, campaign literature, mailers, and phone banking, according to the report. He said he needed to raise and spend more than other candidates to fend off a defeat.
“Let me be frank with you. I was dead last in an election that was in November during a presidential cycle. I absolutely felt threatened,” said Irving on Monday morning. “I worked my butt off to get re-elected.” He said he spent great amount of time and energy not only in raising funds to get his message out voters, but also to knock on doors.
Irving’s opponents have criticized him for raising and spending large sums of money for a volunteer seat on the Board of Education.
“Nobody spends that kind of money on a school board seat. Who are the investors and what do they want in return?” asked Corey Teague, who was among the seven candidates to vie for the three available, three-year term seats.
Irving received contributions from local companies like Excel Hobby Blades Corporation of Getty Avenue, but also secured significant contributions from elsewhere. He received $2,000 from Excellent Limo of Wayne and $1,000 from Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign.
Teague was surprised to learn Murphy’s campaign donated to Irving. He said Al Alvarez of the Murphy campaign promised Murphy would be neutral in the school board race. Alvarez did not immediately respond to a call for comment.
Irving, who finished second place, said he is being criticized by those who lost. Teague finished fourth place in the race.
“Tell them to raise what I raised and we won’t have a problem,” said Irving. He said spending more than $20,000 on a school board seat is not unusual in big cities. He pointed to Newark and Jersey City.
Some candidates in Jersey City spent $10,000 to $12,000 in last year’s November election, but none came close to spending as much as Irving. Newark continues to hold its school board election in April. One candidate in Newark spent $31,640 in that city’s school board race, according to state records.
Other candidates in Paterson spent less than $4,500 in their respective campaigns. Teague said he did not exceed the $4,500 threshold. Emmanuel Capers also said he did not spend above that amount.
Joseph Atallo and Kenneth Simmons filed sworn statements stating neither spent more than $4,500. Stacy Coleman reported to spending under $4,500 in her timely filed campaign finance reports.
Flavio Rivera and Manny Martinez ran a joint campaign. Both combined spent under $8,500, according to their filing.
Martinez ran for the two-year unexpired seat against Errol Kerr. Kerr spent $2,633, according to his filings.
Not all candidates were critical of Irving for spending record amount of money to retain his seat on the school board.
“He did a great job fund raising,” said Capers speaking of Irving. “I wish I raised $20,000.”