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Central Mass Dems Outspend GOP Candidates 8 to 1

Thursday, November 01, 2012

 

Local Democratic candidates for State Representative and State Senate together outspent their Republican counterparts by a margin of more than 8 to 1 between August 20th and October 19th, according to pre-election reports filed with the state's Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

The Democratic candidates for State Representative in the 14th, 15th and 17th Worcester Districts and State Senator in the 2nd Worcester District spent a total of $100,521 during the 60-day period, compared to just $11,814 by their Republican counterparts.

Who Spent the Most?

Democratic Rep. John Binienda in Worcester's 17th District outspent his Republican opponent Bill LeBeau by the widest margin of the four contests, $45,073 to $1,380.

Binienda has held the office for over two decades and has not faced a challenger in a dozen years, allowing him to build up an impressive war chest. According to the OCPF pre-election report, Binienda still has $380,247 in his campaign coffers.

Other Democratic candidates spent more modestly during the two months between the state primary election in September and next week's general election, but they still far outpaced their GOP opponents.

State Rep. Jim O'Day, in a three-way contest to hang onto his seat in the 14th Worcester District, spent $24,031 during the pre-election reporting period. Republican challenger Bill McCarthy, who has previously made runs for Worcester City Council and Worcester County Sheriff, spent $8,115 during the same period, the most of the four members of his party competing in the local races. West Boylston Independent Winthrop Handy, who is also competing for the 14th District seat, spent $471.

State Senator Mike Moore, a Millbury Democrat, spent $24,215 from August to October in his campaign for a third term representing the 2nd Worcester District on Beacon Hill. Republican Steve Simonian, an Auburn Selectman, spent $1,779 during the same period in his efforts to unseat Moore.

After emerging victorious from a competitive five-way primary in the 15th Worcester District, Democrat Mary Keefe has spent the least of her party's local candidates with just $7,200 of expenditures recorded. In comparison, Brian O'Malley, her Republican opponent in the heavily-Democratic district, spent $539.

Money Matters

"All those other candiates who haven't been spending money are at a clear disadvantage," said Democratic City Councilor and former Mayor Konnie Lukes.

"Not only are they the opposing party in a one party state, but that opposing party has very few resources in comparison."

Lukes noted that beyond financing campaign operations, contributions also serve as a barometer for a candidate's voter support, and a large pool of contributions likely means access to an organized group of people that can secure votes.

"It's an uphll battle for anybody that wants to challenge that well-established party system."

Democratic State Committee member Paul Giorgio said the numbers were noteworthy less for how much the Democrats spent than for how little the Republicans were able to muster.

"The Republicans are not going to gain a foothold in some of these Worcester wards," he said. "There's just no base."

Stressing the importance of campaign contributions, one Republican operative said that several local party members questioned why first-time candidates LeBeau and O'Malley were not conducting fundraising events and making an effort to build that type of base.

According to the GOP insider, a candidate needs to raise several thousand dollars from family and friends before he or she will be taken seriously enough to gain access to known party donors and make a serious run for office.

McCarthy, the veteran in this year's class of local Republicans, benefited from building up such a base in previous campaigns, but his fundraising abilities are somewhat restricted because he is a state employee, working as a Criminal Justice professor at Quinsigamond Community College.

More Sunshine Needed

"Democracy should be about which candidate has the best ideas and the most support not which has the biggest rolodex or the most donors," said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, a non-profit, non-partisan citizen's lobbying organization promoting open, honest and accountable government.

Wilmot said that for a municipal race, there typically is not much money involved, but that amount increases based on location and on whether the race is at the State Rep. or State Senate level.

"We do see more upsets in the House than we see in the Senate because of the size of the district and the possiblitiy of still talking to voters individually as opposed to in aggregate through direct mail and television," she said.

"Certainly as you move up the political ladder it becomes increasingly problematic, because the amounts are so much bigger."

Common Cause is working to promote legislation in the state to place limits on outside spending in campaigns, which it sees as an increasingly problematic means for stealth money to enter state politics, and a ballot question to institute a constitutional amendment to get rid of corporate spending in elections and set limits on independent expenditures will be on the ballot in half of the communities in the Commonwealth this Election Day.

 

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