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With Less Than a Month to Election, Incumbents Hold Fundraising Advantage

Cambridge City Hall
Cambridge City Hall By Jacqueline S. Chea
By Declan J. Knieriem, Crimson Staff Writer

City Council incumbents continue to hold an edge in fundraising over their challengers less than a month out from Cambridge’s biannual municipal election, according to the recent campaign finance data available from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Since the race officially began Aug. 1, incumbents have raised on average roughly $18,900, while the challengers have received average contributions of around $5,700, as of an Oct. 15 financial reporting deadline.

Councilor E. Denise Simmons leads the pool in fundraising for this period, having collected $32,710 total. The second highest fundraiser was Mayor Marc C. McGovern, bringing in $25,429.

Simmons wrote in an emailed statement that though the “hectic” council schedule has kept her busy, she has made a “concerted” fundraising effort in recent months.

“I’ve just been as aggressive as possible in making my case to my supporters,” she wrote. “In terms of how that fundraising momentum is used in the closing weeks of the campaign, it’s the same methods I’ve long used: sending out mail pieces, spending money on digital ads, and figuring out how to best get my message in front of as many people as possible.”

While incumbents have generally had more fundraising success in the past several months, some challengers have made a strong showing as well. Patricia “Patty” M. Nolan ’80 and Charles J. Franklin, both raised more than at least one incumbent since Aug. 1, reporting sums of $15,278 and $10,885, respectively.

Several candidates have much deeper pockets than this, but a large portion of those sums were raised before the candidacy filing deadline and are not included in the most recent disclosures, especially among incumbents who have been collecting contributions throughout their current terms.

David E. Sullivan, a Cambridge resident and former city councilor, said incumbents historically have had an advantage when it comes to fundraising, partially due to increased name recognition.

“They've had more opportunities to interact with people about issues or concerns that people have had over their time as an incumbent,” he said.

McGovern also acknowledged name recognition plays a large role in fundraising, though he said it can “cut both ways” when voters have to consider an incumbent’s voting record.

“The flip side of that is you actually have to take votes on things, and some people don't like the votes you've taken,” McGovern said.

With the exception of Nolan and Franklin, no challenger has managed to raise more than $10,000. Derek A. Kopon — who has raised less than $3,000 according to filing data — said that low fundraising has posed an issue for his campaign, but that a recent surge in contributions shows his message is “resonating” with voters.

Kopon has previously called for campaign finance reform, and has criticized other candidates — including McGovern — for accepting campaign contributions from those with ties to real estate developers.

“I do not want any contributions that come with a conflict of interest, and that means that the interests of those people who are giving me the money are not aligned with the interests of the people who I will be representing if I were elected to the council,” Kopon said.

He also suggested several ways to enact this policy, including a “voluntary pledge” or legislation.

McGovern defended his campaign and said he values contributions and support from several groups, including endorsements from the National Association of Social of Workers and several unions. He also said development in Cambridge has helped advance the city’s progress.

“Some people have decided that development is evil and anyone associated with development is evil,” he said. “We wouldn't be talking about how do we invest more money in bike lanes and public art. So somebody has to connect these dots.”

McGovern also rejected the idea that campaign contributions would influence his voting decisions on the council.

“I have never, and would never, take a vote I didn't agree with over a campaign contribution,” he said. “Basically, what these folks are saying is that anyone who takes developer money is unethical, dishonest and is paid off. I have to live with every vote I take.”

— Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimsom.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

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