Checking into the Money Race in 2020’s Local Dem Primaries…
by Michael Lachenmeyer
In June and July, candidates competing in three races spanning Hampden County fought to win over voters while also doing their best to boost their fundraising numbers. While the novel coronavirus has upended many normal aspects of campaigning, the money race has gone on unabated.
In the Hampden State Senate District, which covers parts of Springfield, West Springfield, and Chicopee, the incumbent State Senator James Welch is facing a dogged primary challenge from Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez.
In June and July, Welch raised more than $9,000 from donors across Massachusetts. Most of these contributions came from small donors who sent him $250 or less. However, Welch raised more than a third of his cash from big donors and political action committees (PACs). Among them are the MA Credit Union League Political Action Committee, NiSource Inc. PAC of MA, the MA Nurse Anesthetists Pol Action Comm. and the American Federation of Teachers MA PAC. Welch also received large donations from corporate executives, like a Mass Mutuals Vice President and the CEO of Baystate Health.
During that period Welch spent approximately $15,600. Welch’s campaign spent most of that money on mailers, digital ads, and rent. However, in July Welch also spent $600 on an independent campaign consultant named Caroline Morrissey who serves as his campaign manager.
Meanwhile, Gomez raised approximately $9,000 during the same period. The vast majority of this money came from small donors. However, Gomez’s largest donation came from the CEO of the Renaissance Medical Group, which recently opened a new location in Springfield. During June and July, Gomez’s campaign spent $3,399.29. Nearly all of that money was used to print yard signs and campaign literature.
The expenditures of these two campaigns illustrate a significant difference in their respective campaign strategies. Senator Welch appears to be basing his reelection campaign on digital advertisements and mailers while Gomez is focused on canvassing.
At the end of July, Welch’s campaign had a significant cash advantage with $24,746.75 on hand compared to $8,046.56 in Gomez’s account.
In the Hampden 5th District, which covers the city of Holyoke, three candidates are competing in the Democratic primary for the seat Representative Vega is vacating. These candidates are Ward 3 Councilor David Bartley, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission Staffer Patrick Beaudry and Vega’s aide, Patricia Duffy.
Throughout June and July, Bartley’s campaign raised the most money, wracking in just under $9,000 by July 31. Most of that money came from small donors, though, around one-third of it came from executives working for Edaron Inc., a game and puzzle company based in Holyoke. During that period, Bartley’s campaign spent less than $3,000. The campaign mostly used that money to buy campaign cards, yard signs, and other literature. At the end of July, Bartley had $8,516.16 on hand.
Beaudry, who is also a former legislative aide, raised slightly less than Bartley over the same period. Between the beginning of June and the end of July, Beaudry raised $7,297.18. Nearly all of that money came from small donors. However, among the notable contributors was Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign manager. At least one max donation was received and then returned. Beaudry also received a $500 donation from the MA & NO. NE Laborers’ District Union.
During June and July, Beaudry’s campaign spent just over $4,000. Most of that money was spent on printing campaign signs and literature. During June, Beaudry also spent several hundred dollars on his website and campaign phone calls. At the end of July, Beaudry had $11,858.36 in his campaign account.
Duffy has worked as a Legislative Aide for Rep. Vega since 2014. When he announced he would not seek reelection, Vega swiftly endorsed Duffy. In June and July, her campaign raised $5,475.69. All of this money came from small donors who contributed $200 or less.
Duffy also spent $4,068.10 during this period. Most of that money was spent on buying and mailing postcards. Duffy also spent $300 to sponsor the Young Democrats of Massachusetts convention. At the end of June Duffy’s campaign had $5,878.12 on hand.
These expense reports show that all three candidates are running remarkably similar campaigns. None of them have invested robustly in digital advertising campaigns (although Duffy has started placing Facebook ads) or other expensive electioneering tactics. Each campaign has been relying on traditional campaigning techniques such as canvassing, phone banking, and postcard writing.
Finally, there is the 9th Hampden District, which covers several parts of Springfield and one ward in Chicopee. Representative Jose Tosado is retiring after three terms. Springfield City Councilor Orlando Ramos, Springfield School Committee member Denise Hurst and Springfield’s Ward 2 Democratic Committee chair Sean Mullan are facing off for the seat.
During June and July, Mullan raised the most money taking in $12,829.43 compared to Ramos’ $8,024.72 and Hurst’s $7,151.75 raised. Mullan raised just more than half of that money from small donors, while the rest came from individuals who contributed more than $250 to his campaign. These large-donors included doctors, business executives, and retirees.
Ramos raised most of his money from political action committees and big donors. All of his PAC money came from labor unions such as the AFL-CIO and the Carpenter’s Union in which Ramos has had membership. His big individual donors include the CEOs of Sunrise Behavioral Health and the First Resource Companies.
Hurst, in contrast with both of her opponents, raised a clear majority of her money from small donors. Hurst only raised about $2,100 from larger donors, none of whom contributed more than $500. These donors included a probation officer, a Verizon technician, and several local business people among others.
During June and July, Ramos spent the most money, some $9,030.16 compared to Mullan’s $8,974.38 campaign and Hurst’s $7,958.55 spent.
Ramos used this money to send out mailers and to purchase lawn signs. His campaign also purchased services from RMC Strategies, a firm that consultant Ryan McCollum operates (though McCollum says he is neutral in the race). Ramos’ campaign also made a $50 contribution to the Indian Orchard Citizen’s Council, a neighborhood association whose members have been supportive throughout his electoral career.
Hurst’s expenses were much more diverse than her competitors. Hurst spent hundreds of dollars on car magnets and bumper stickers, and more than $2,000 on lawn signs. Although she is no longer alone, Hurst appears to have been the first to spend on digital advertising.
Most of Mullan’s campaign expenditures went to mailers. Not included in the reports are Facebook ads Mullan has purchased according to the social media giant’s ad library. Ramos has also started buying Facebook ads after the reporting period ended.
At the end of July, Mullan had the most cash on hand with $7,965.38 sitting in the bank. Ramos was not far behind with $7,132.25 on hand. Hurst came in third with $3,450.13 in her account.
The primary is September 1.