The Second Quarter Was Tough for Massachusetts Democrats
Thanks to the frequency of Massachusetts reporting requirements for statewide candidates—legislators, of course, give themselves very different rules—observers like me tend to look at short-term fundraising numbers. Who won the second half of May? Did they raise more this 15 days than the last 15?
So here I back up and look at the campaign finance numbers for Massachusetts Democrats running in the primary elections over the most recent quarter: April through June. That should reflect a little more the way the campaigns have raised and spent their money as their campaigns picked up steam—or failed to—leading up to and following the party’s mid-June convention.
Overall, the numbers are dishearteningly low for Democrats as donors remain tight with their wallets. And as a result, spending has been relatively low. That helps explain why most people still haven’t really become very aware of the candidates and the races, with less than eight weeks remaining until the September 9 primary. Here’s a breakdown by office:
Steve Grossman, who had been far-and-away outraising the competition, has raised the least over the past three months. That has kept him from increasing his war chest. He needs more to run the full-assault ad campaign he needs to close his polling gap with Martha Coakley, but Coakley’s large lead is a big part of what’s deterring people from giving to Grossman. To get him out of that Catch-22, expect Grossman to start spending soon in hopes that he’ll jump in the polls, and in turn spur more contributions.
It’s important to note that since the end of the quarter, Coakley and Don Berwick have each received a little over $300,000 through the state’s public-financing system, which Grossman opted out of. That’s cut way down on his cash-on-hand lead over them. Also note that Berwick, who had previously been running a relative shoestring campaign, has been spending just as much as Grossman lately.
Attorney General Candidates
Maura Healey’s campaign has boasted of closing the fundraising gap with political veteran Warren Tolman, but in fact, Tolman has continued to out-raise her over the quarter. Her strong showing at the state convention—losing the delegate vote to Tolman by a very small margin—did not immediately produce the kind of windfall that political observers believe she needs to withstand Tolman’s late spending Neither has spent very heavily so far, hoping to save up for an ad campaign in late summer.
Since the end of June, the two candidates have signed a People’s Pledge, deterring outside advertising and direct mail marketing. The Healey campaign is happy, because this cuts down the extent that Tolman’s labor union support can influence the race. Tolman’s campaign is happy, because this shuts out EMILY’s List and LGBT groups that were ready to spend for Healey—and because they have the dollar advantage in a straight head-to-head spending battle.
Raising $300,000+ in the quarter might seem insufficient for Healey, but looks like a mountain of money for Barry Finegold as his competitors continue to struggle for funds. Finegold has pushed his balance well over a half-million dollars, which is not a gold mine but is well ahead of the frontrunning gubernatorial candidate.
Deb Goldberg, despite winning the delegate vote at the convention, has barely been covering her campaign costs; the big question observers keep asking is whether she will dip into her personal wealth to fund an ad campaign. Meanwhile, Tom Conroy desperately needs his strong second-place finish at the convention to translate quickly into funds. He, like other down-ballot candidates, is hurt by the underfunded public-finance system, which had nothing to give candidates other than Berwick and Coakley this year.
Lieutenant Governor Candidates
What is there to say but, “Yeesh.” One of the traditional strengths the party looks for in this nominee is fundraising, and so far none of the three remaining candidates is showing any rainmaking ability. At the same point in 2006, Tim Murray had close to $400,000 banked—more than triple Steve Kerrigan, who is well ahead of Mike Lake and Leland Cheung.