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Two Weeks Before Elections, Incumbent Cambridge Councilors Lead Fundraising Race

Cambridge's municipal elections will take place on the first Tuesday of November.
Cambridge's municipal elections will take place on the first Tuesday of November. By Julian J. Giordano
By Julian J. Giordano, Crimson Staff Writer

Less than two weeks before Cambridge’s municipal elections, City Council incumbents continue to lead the fundraising race over challengers, according to campaign finance data from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Since February 2022, the six incumbents — Paul F. Toner, Marc C. McGovern, Patricia M. Nolan ’80, E. Denise Simmons, Burhan Azeem, and mayor Sumbul Siddiqui — have raised an average of around $42,000 each, while 18 challengers have raised an average of roughly $9,000 each as of the Sept. 30 reporting deadline.

One-term incumbent Toner leads the pack in fundraising, with more than $116,000 in receipts since the start of the campaign cycle — nearly twice as much as the $43,000 collected by the second-highest fundraiser, McGovern.

Toner and McGovern also lead the field in terms of funds received from non-Cambridge residents, raking in around $55,000 and $25,000, respectively.

‘Magazine Beach Lady’ Catherine Zusy leads the challengers with a total of around $29,000 raised. Dan J. Totten — who has served as an aide to outgoing Councilor Quinton Y. Zondervan for the past six years — follows with more than $23,000 in donations.

Zusy is also the candidate who has donated the most to her own campaign, loaning herself more than $10,000. Challenger Federico Muchnik reported $4,500 in personal contributions to his campaign, just ahead of the $4,000 that fellow challenger Joan F. Pickett donated to her own campaign.

Fifteen candidates — including all incumbents except McGovern and E. Denise Simmons — have reported contributions from donors who disclosed a Harvard affiliation, with Toner having received the most, followed by former Councilor Jivan G. Sobrinho-Wheeler, Nolan, and Azeem.

In addition to raising the most, Toner has also been the highest spender of the campaign season, with $59,000 in expenses since February 2022 — $28,000 more than McGovern in the same period. Eighteen candidates have spent less than $10,000 each.

Frantz Pierre — the only candidate running simultaneously for Cambridge City Council and School Committee — is also the only candidate not to have raised any money.

At a campaign event hosted by the Cambridge Citizens Coalition at the start of October, outgoing Councilor Dennis J. Carlone, who served 10 years on the council, said it takes around $30,000 for a candidate to win election.

“First time I ran, I had to loan myself $10,000,” he said. “My wife, who’s not here, wasn’t very happy about that.”

The Cambridge Citizens Coalition is connected to a fundraising organization in the same name that is one of three Independent Expenditure Political Action Committees — known as IEPACs or “superpacs” — in Cambridge. They have spent around $1,000 in postcards, business cards, yard signs, and stakes to benefit each of their 11 endorsed candidates.

The CCC has raised $19,000 since January, second only to the Cambridge Bicycle Safety superpac, which has raised nearly $23,000, though it hasn’t made any expenditures.

The third superpac, A Better Cambridge, has raised more than $15,000 and spent more than $1,300 in palm cards for their nine endorsed candidates.

Two other political action committees — Cambridge Voters for Good Government and the Democracy for Cambridge Political Action Committee — have raised smaller sums, though their corresponding civic organizations have only released candidate endorsements and not spent money to benefit any candidates.

Cantabrigians will head to the polls to elect Cambridge City Council and School Committee members on Nov. 7.

Correction: October 27, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that IEPACs have “donated” or “distributed” funds to candidates. In fact, IEPACs can only make their expenditures independently of campaigns, and candidates have no input into how IEPACs support them.

Clarification: October 30, 2023

This article has been updated to include data going back to the start of the campaign finance cycle, in February 2022. It had previously only included data from this calendar year.

—Staff writer Julian J. Giordano can be reached at Follow him on X @jjgiordano1 or on Threads @julianjgiordano.

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