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

Campaign magnets at approximately 50 cents each, monochrome 14 by 22 inch signs at $1 each and buttons at 35 cents a piece can add up to thousands of dollars alone; candidates, however, are ready and willing to make the investment.

"A good piece of campaign literature is probably the best investment a candidate can make," Duehay said.

"Candidates want to get their names recognized... and it may be expensive," said Barbara R. Lourie, owner of Allied marketing, a Wellesley firm specializing in election paraphernalia.

Vellucci has managed to escape the exorbitant cost of becoming a house-hold name by running a "homemade" city-wide campaign. Designing his own artwork, using his own copy machine, making his own signs and gearing the information his circulars advertise to specific neighborhoods have all trimmed the costs of his campaign by thousands of dollars, Vellucci said.

"I've put out more circulars, more printing and more communication than all the other candidates put together...I'm using my 40 years of experience and not a lot of money," the successful 20-time candidate said. Vellucci has never lost an election in four decades of municipal politics.


Vellucci's no-frills attitude toward politics is shared by fellow candidates, including the big spenders, who believe that the Cambridge electorate cannot be bought by gimmicks and slogans.

"The amount of money you spend is not proportional to winning a council seat," Bamberger said.

"You can't buy votes. That went out with Tammany Hall," Graham said, referring to the powerful 19th-century New York City Democratic political machine.

But, despite the firm belief in an issues platform, candidates and campaign managers alike admit that finances do influence elections and most of them labeled the cost of a campaign with with a price tag of about $25,000. The cost of the coveted council seat, however, is one number no one is willing to guess at.

"That we'll find out on Tuesday," Duehay quipped.