How Much Does It Cost to Win a City Council Seat?

"The amount a candidate spends really depends on if the candidate is running a city-wide campaign or a campaign that focuses on certain wards," Walsh said. He explained that candidates like incumbents Edward N. Cyr and Reeves can funnel the bulk of their campaign funds into specific areas while he and candidates like Councillor Walter J. Sullivan, run a broader-based city campaign.

"For me, I try to involve many different people, neighborhood by neighborhood, constituency by constituency," Duehay said.

Jane Sullivan is also running a city-wide campaign but on a considerably smaller budget--one-fourth the size of Walsh's Sullivan, out of necessity, targeted a specific group, young to upper middle-aged women, to maximize the efficacy of costly campaign mailings.

"We are definitely under-funded," said challenger Sullivan. "One letter costs 20 cents each, plus postage... We couldn't afford to send it to everyone."

No matter how well a candidate may be able to pinpoint his base of support, however, the basic costs of a campaign still remain and the need for effective and lucrative fundraising is just as important.


For many candidates, fundraising is a year-round affair, a continuous process that begins as early as the day after the last election and intensifies in the spring of the current election year. And although the methods of fundraising vary, the goal is the same--to raise as much money as possible.

"There really isn't a 'target' amount we shoot for...You just try to raise as much as you can in the time you have," Cyr said. Cyr, the eighth biggest spender at $14,532.54 in this year's election, raised money by hosting small fundraising events and dances.

Walsh managed to raise approximately $28,000 through donations and some slightly more posh revenue generators, such as a June boat cruise, which cost $3000, and a pre-election gala at the Sheraton Commander on Friday. But in spite of the pomp that surrounds many of the bigger-spending candidates' fundraising events, most candidates and campaign managers, despite their large budgets, still say they belive in a grassroots approach to building financial and political support.

"Nothing can replace a grassroots approach to campaigning," Walsh said. Despite the comfortable operating budgets of candidates like him and Duehay, or the considerably stricter financial restraints of candidates like Alfred E. Vellucci, most candidates devote much of their energy to good, old-fashioned door knocking and time-proven letter writing.

"I write letters and call personal contacts, prior donors and friends," Jane Sullivan said.

Walsh, according to manager Graham, takes a personal approach to campaigning and spends 20 to 24 hours each weekend campaigning. Duehay also makes an effort to meet the electorate, frequently visiting Harvard dorms and houses.

"I've spent 15 years working here, building credibility and integrity...That's what I base campaign on," said Cry, who can sometimes be found campaigning at T-stops.

Myers shares a similar campaign philosophy and said, "Going door-to-door is the cornerstone of my campaign... I really wanted to take the grassroots perspective, meeting people one by one, door to door."

Although the spending trend is off compared to spending during the intense 28-candidate election in 1989, the amounts many candidates are spending still approach the costs of a new car or a year's college tuition. And the reason, according to Jane sullivan, is that "it's expensive to run."

Getting a candidates's name publicly known and remembered is perhaps the biggest expenditure a candidate can make, and, across the board, campaign managers attribute the largest portion of their spending to publicity.