Dems vying for Kennedy seat take in over $2.6 million for campaigns

SE Mass

SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss remains the fundraising leader in the Democratic primary to replace Congressman Joe Kennedy III, while progressive Ihssane Leckey has jumped to the financial front ranks, according to numbers disclosed by the campaigns.

In response to a survey by WPRI 12, six of the nine Democratic candidates reported raising a combined $2.66 million during the second quarter, suggesting the total amount raised for the Sept. 1 primary is now approaching $7 million since the campaign began last year.

“It’s essentially now a race to see which pile of Boston/Brookline/Newton money can win over the most votes in the southern end of the district,” said David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington.

To the surprise of the other campaigns, the biggest fundraising haul so far was reported by Leckey, a former financial regulator and Bernie Sanders supporter who had already been planning to challenge Kennedy before he moved on to run for U.S. Senate.

Leckey had raised only $191,000 as of March 31, but her campaign reported a blowout second-quarter number: $710,000, the largest amount taken in by any of the candidates who’ve reported so far. Her campaign did not immediately respond to a question about whether some of that represented self-funding. (Leckey already loaned her campaign $100,000 last August.)

Leckey’s campaign said she has $714,000 cash on hand to spend during the two months left before voters cast their ballots in the 4th District, which stretches from northern Fall River through the Attleboros and Taunton into the suburbs just outside Boston.

“As we enter the final two months of this campaign, we are in an excellent position to win and send a bold, diverse voice to Congress,” spokesperson Josh Miller-Lewis said in a statement. “The money we have raised and the volunteer network we have built over the last several months, put Ihssane in the top tier of this race.”

The survey shows Leckey now ranks third in cash on hand, behind Auchincloss and City Year co-founder Alan Khazei.

Auchincloss pulled in $288,000 during the second quarter, significantly less than his totals for the autumn and winter quarters. But his campaign reported nearly $1.2 million on hand to spend for the primary as of Tuesday, putting him on top by that metric once again.

“With two months to go in the race, we’ve got the momentum,” Auchincloss campaign manager Megan Hondl said in a statement. “With endorsements from Reps. Pat Haddad and Carole Fiola, we’ve built the strongest team in the South Coast, including elected officials, labor leaders, and community leaders.”

Khazei continued to rank second for cash on hand, though a significant portion of his $1.16 million is earmarked for the general election, with only $809,000 of it allowed to be spent on the primary.

“We just had our best quarter of fundraising of the campaign,” Khazei campaign manager Joe Garvey said. “We are raising the resources we need to be successful in the primary. Given the late primary date, we believe we are also in the best position to immediately defend this historic Democratic seat from the Republican opponent. Our coalition is building across the MA-04 district.”

Ranking after Leckey was a relative newcomer to the race, tech entrepreneur Chris Zannetos, who reported raising $637,816 during the second quarter, giving him $500,376 in cash on hand available for the primary. Asked how he was feeling about the final stretch of the race, Zannetos spokesperson Christen Baglaneas said simply, “Excited!”

Placing fifth in cash on hand was Jesse Mermell, a former Brookline Select Board member who worked in Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration. Her campaign raised $269,000 during the second quarter, giving her $422,000 in cash on hand heading into the summer. Mermell spokesperson Karissa Hand said the campaign is “surpassing all fundraising goals” it has set.

“Jesse has the right experience on the front lines, the right message, team and resources to win on September 1st,” Hand said, ticking off endorsements from unions, progressive groups and other leaders. “Our grassroots movement is fired up and we will win this election voter by voter.”

Ranking sixth among the six candidates who responded was Dr. Natalia Linos, an epidemiologist who jumped into the race in May. Her campaign manager, Erin Gregor, said Linos has raised $202,000 so far, giving her about $171,500 for the primary.

“I am confident that I will have the resources needed to get my name out,” Linos said in a statement. “There is tremendous momentum and energy around my campaign: District 4 is excited to have a public health expert on the ballot in the midst of a global pandemic.”

One of the leading candidates still has not reported numbers: Newton City Councilor Becky Grossman, whose $638,000 in campaign fundraising back on March 31 put her in third place. Her campaign said it was still working out the final numbers. (All the campaigns noted that the figures they provided are preliminary.)

Two other candidates who have struggled with fundraising, Dave Cavell and Ben Sigel, both declined to share their campaigns’ totals yet. (Sigel also declined to do so after the last quarter’s deadline.)

“We are thrilled with the support this campaign has garnered from voters across the 4th and by the momentum we have going into July,” Cavell campaign manager Sarah Thomas said in a statement. “We have met every fundraising goal and we are running this campaign the way we intend to lead in Congress, which includes paying staffers a minimum of $15 per hour.”

The eventual Democratic nominee in the 4th District will face the winner of the GOP primary between Republicans Julie Hall and David Rosa.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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