UPDATED: FEBRUARY 15, 2012, at 8:03 p.m.
Massachusetts Congressional candidate Joseph P. Kennedy III raised $1.3 million in the first quarter of 2012, his campaign announced Friday. The total is more than six times the amount raised by his chief Republican opponent Sean Bielat and puts Kennedy firmly atop the Fourth Congressional District cash race.
"For any candidate to raise that money in a Congressional campaign...is really extraordinary," Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman said. "You have incumbent Congressman that can't come close to matching those numbers."
The 31-year-old Kennedy announced in January that he would seek the Fourth District seat being vacated by retiring Congressman Barney Frank ‘61-’62. Kennedy immediately became the Democratic frontrunner in the race, and polls have shown him to have as much as a two-to-one lead over Republican frontrunner Bielat.
Bielat’s campaign announced last week that he had raised approximately $175,000 in the first three months of 2012. Both Kennedy and Bielat hold Harvard degrees.
Kennedy’s campaign has focused its efforts on grass-roots fundraising in recent weeks. In anticipation of on the first quarter fundraising deadline, the camp launched “Raise the Roots” fundraising initiative and honored grassroots donors in an effort to drum up widespread, on-the-ground support.
In an email to supporters Friday, the campaign said the first-quarter funds came from roughly 1,500 donors, nearly half of whom gave $100 or less.
“Not only will this money go a long way in ensuring we have the resources we need in the fall, but it is a fantastic show of the kind of on-the-ground support this campaign is built on,” Kennedy campaign manager Nick Clemons wrote in the email.
However, Bielat’s campaign has been critical of Kennedy’s campaigns emphasis on their grassroots base.
“They’re already desperate to play the number game,” said Bielat’s campaign communications director Sarah Rumpf. “We don’t have to carve out the segments of our numbers to show that we’re a grassroots campaign.”
Kennedy’s Republican opponents have also been critical of the support he has drawn because of his family’s name and connections. Kennedy held fundraising events in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles last month. Though the campaign has not released any indication of the amount of money raised outside the district or the Commonwealth, political experts have speculated that much of Kennedy’s financial backing is likely farther afield than the Fourth District.
Bielat, who ran unsuccessfully against Frank two years ago, is thought to have a wide donor network outside of the district as well. But his totals thus far are considerably more modest than Kennedy’s— Bielat’s campaign donations averaged $90 each and have come from roughly 1,900 individuals.
“It will be a challenge to compete dollar-for-dollar with the big money checks that oil the Kennedy/Democratic machine,” Bielat said in statement last week. “But this strong start gives us the resources we need to get our message out to the voters of the Fourth District.”
The race’s other serious Republican contender, Elizabeth Childs, announced last week that she had raised just under $100,000 in total. Childs is the former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School.
The official first quarter filing date for campaign transactions is not until April 15. Full itemized records will not be made public until shortly thereafter.
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at email@example.com.