OP-ED | Fundraising Race Gives Us Our First Glimpse of 2018 Field
Politics right now is so grim that looking ahead to an election that won’t happen for 15 months is oddly soothing and hopeful — for the most part. So let’s take a look at the still-forming field for 2018’s wide open race for governor, and dream of the possibility of change.
Quarterly campaign finance reports were due at the beginning of July, and gave us our first real look at fundraising totals. This is both important and trivial. While money certainly doesn’t translate into votes, and early money can certainly fizzle and vice-versa, how candidates are doing with fundraising does give us a vague idea of who might break out of what has become a very large pack.
A quick word of explanation: the money that’s being raised is mostly going toward qualifying for a Citizens’ Election Program grant. Candidates need to raise $250,000, of which $225,000 must come from Connecticut residents.
On to the numbers! Several candidates who I’d expect to do well are, in fact, pulling in decent chunks of change and are well on their way toward qualifying for public financing.
On the Republican side, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton each had strong quarters, raising $145,090 and $70,992. Boughton added his haul to the $84,299 he raised in the first quarter for a total of $162,151.
Boughton and Lauretti both ran in 2014, but both withdrew before the Republican primary in which businessman and cardboard standee Thomas C. Foley of Greenwich defeated state Sen. John McKinney. At this point, Boughton is the closest thing the Republicans have to a front-runner, though this far out that’s not all that meaningful.
First Selectman Tim Herbst of Trumbull and former U.S. Comptroller Dave Walker also had decent quarters, raising $92,972 and $72,156 respectively.
Herbst ran a very tight race against embattled State Treasurer Denise Nappier in 2014, coming within a hair’s breadth of a Republican winning a constitutional office other than governor for the first time since the 1990s. Walker ran an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor in 2014, but a lot of Republicans like him, so he may have a better shot this time around.
On the Democratic side, Comptroller Kevin Lembo led the pack, raising $143,701. His candidacy was much-anticipated, especially by the Democratic Party’s left wing, and a strong first fundraising quarter reflects that. If the Democrats have a frontrunner, it’s probably Lembo. That said, I thought there would be more excitement around his candidacy than there is, so I wonder if that perception is actually hurting him somewhat. Still, no one else is near Lembo right now in name recognition or money raised, and he’s the only one in the entire field who has won a statewide race.
There were also a couple of fundraising surprises which could make the race a lot more uncertain. The biggest one was on the Republican side, where Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, raised $66,397 this past quarter for a very impressive total of $205,311. Srinivasan isn’t very well known outside of his district, but he received donations from all over the state and is rapidly approaching having enough cash to qualify for a public financing grant. He is someone to watch.
On the Democratic side, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew hauled in $71,006 for a total of $177,133 raised since he announced the formation of his exploratory committee. Drew, though, is burning money fast — he has only $26,396 of that total as cash on hand. Most of the money has been spent on pricey consultants; I hope they’re worth it for him.
Former U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei raised $118,343 in his first quarter, which is very respectable indeed for a political newcomer. Mattei is fast becoming a serious challenger to Lembo for the support of the party’s progressive wing.
One notable fundraising report deserves mention. Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who cannot qualify for public financing because he is a felon, raised only $36,165 since the end of April. However, 103 of the roughly 380 donations he has received — 27 percent — were from people who listed their employer as “City of Bridgeport.”
Compare that with Mayor Mark Boughton of Danbury, whose three reports to date only list 58 donations — or 3 percent of the total — from persons with “City of Danbury” as their employer. Boughton has been in the race much longer, and has received 1,760 donations. The share of Ganim’s donations from his employees seems unusual, to say the least.
So that’s the field so far. I do give these men — and they are all men — credit for chasing so hard after one of the most thankless jobs in the state. Whoever wins may regret it.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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