While the race for state representative in Charlestown and Chelsea this summer has had a good deal of interest and debate – at a social distance of course – it has also generated a lot of fundraising and spending compared to other nearby races for state representative.
State records from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) have been revamped during this election cycle to require candidates to submit campaign reports every month – giving those on the outside a clearer look at how campaigns are running from month to month.
It, of course, has been a brave new world trying to campaign and raise money within the confines of COVID-19 restrictions, which means there are no in-person fundraising events or rallies or numerous house parties bent on raising money for campaigns. In all, incumbents have led the way due to their network of established donors from the past, but in the 2nd Suffolk race there has been a wealth of wealth dropped on both campaigns.
For incumbent State Rep. Dan Ryan, much of the donations have been local or from previous sources.
For challenger Damali Vidot, a Chelsea city councillor, there have been some local sources of funding, but the vast majority has come from outside the district and even outside the state. Some of her many donations have come from as far away as California.
Both candidates – bucking the trend of other races nearby in Revere and Everett – have raised substantial money through July 31, and according to their campaigns that has continued through August. The finances for August, however, will not be reported until after the Sept. 1 Democratic Primary.
At the moment, Ryan has $45,253 on hand, bolstered by three months of strong fund-raising and having started in May with $420 on hand.
Ryan raised $23,481 in May, then $22,488 in June and in July raised $30,012.
Meanwhile, Vidot has $37,054 on hand and started in May with $191.
She started off in May raising $5,774, then had a big month in June with $18,141 raised, and finished July raising $21,804.
The story of their fundraising – though both have shown the ability to raise funds well – is quite different.
Ryan had not posted his detailed donors for July by press time, as it isn’t due until Aug. 24. However, for June, 58 of his 127 donors were from Charlestown (53) or Chelsea (5). That’s 46 percent of that month’s donations coming locally and mostly from Charlestown. For May, 28 of his 73 donations were local, making for 38 percent coming locally. He told the newspaper he is having some fundraising events this week, and believed his contributions in total would work out to be about 50 percent local, and 75 percent being those who have donated in previous campaigns.
“When it is all said and done most of my contributors, all of my endorsements and the vast majority of my support will be from my district, with ties to my district or are people I’ve worked with on issues impacting my district,” he said. “There is no national or statewide movement behind me. I’m homegrown.”
For Vidot, there does seem to be more of a national and statewide voice when it comes to monetary donations, and that’s likely because of the endorsements from statewide groups.
In July, Vidot had 214 donors, and 28 of them were from Chelsea (20) or Charlestown (8), which equals out to 13 percent of local money. For June, the campaign had 161 donors and 33 were from Chelsea (28) or Charlestown (5), which equals out to be 20 percent local money.
“I’ve run for City Council three times in Chelsea, and now once for State Representative of Charlestown and Chelsea, and each of my campaigns have been grassroots and people-powered,” said Vidot. “I am so grateful for the donations that have come in from across the state, and even a few from different corners of the country. This campaign, because it’s all occurring in the midst of a pandemic, has certainly made us be more dynamic with how we engage donors. The number of young people, first timers, and longtime supporters donating tells me our movement is strong, and it is growing. It’s a clear sign that people want to see their voices amplified.”
She said the issues of environmental justice, housing justice, and government transparency aren’t exclusive to the 2nd Suffolk, and these issues have long been ignored by those in power.
“My campaign, in coalition with community leaders, local elected officials, and organizations that have endorsed me, is presenting an opportunity for us not just to ask for a seat – but to build our own table made up of leaders who will center the needs of working families and the most marginalized,” she said. “We are building a bridge to empowerment and prosperity for all.”
The candidates also differ in monetary terms regarding which side of the Mystic/Tobin Bridge their local money comes from. For Vidot, her local donations are mostly from Chelsea, and for Ryan, his local donations are mostly from Charlestown.
When it comes to spending, both have had brisk expenditures, with Rep. Ryan leading in spending and Vidot holding her money at least through the end of July.
Ryan spent $4,228 in May, then $7,878 in June, but then spent $19,041 in July. That came mostly on campaign strategists and printing costs.
In June, Vidot spent $590 and in July, her campaign spent $8,241. Like Ryan, the bulk of those expenditures were on campaign strategists and on printing costs.
In all, the race for the 2nd Suffolk district has distinguished itself with large amounts of local, state and national money rolling in, and campaigns that are using that money to further their strategy in an unprecedented, COVID-19 campaign season.