Records detail campaign spending in Holyoke election

  • Holyoke City Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/6/2021 7:01:12 AM

HOLYOKE — Campaign cash played a big role in many, though not all, of the City Council and School Committee races in Holyoke on Tuesday.

Unlike mayoral candidates in cities like Holyoke, candidates for City Council and School Committee do not have to file campaign finance documents to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Instead, they file a record of their campaign cash and spending with the city clerk’s office eight days before the election. Unlike the searchable state system that allows for a more comprehensive data analysis, the clerk’s office currently only has them in physical form.

Those documents detail a candidate’s fundraising and how they spent that money from the beginning of 2021 until Oct. 15. The records show the candidate who raised and spent far more than any other candidate was at-large City Council hopeful Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, who received $15,043 and spent $12,480 during that period. Murphy-Romboletti finished fifth in the race, earning her one of the council’s six at-large seats.

Murphy-Romboletti’s filing included 28 pages of donors. Some of those giving the most included $500 each from Michelle Lydon, funeral director at Quincy’s Hamel-Lydon Chapel and Cremation Services, retiree JoAnn Murphy, Philadelphia housing attorney William Newcomb and insurance agent Maureen O’Connell. Previous mayor Alex Morse gave $382, and Roberta Black, the manager of Hamel Lydon, gave $300. Other donors included $250 from International Brotherhood of Police Officers attorney Karen Betournay and $200 from Homework House Executive Director Virginia Dillon. Much of that money was spent on campaign advertising and literature.

Kevin Jourdain, who finished first in at-large City Council voting, raised $5,470 in total and spent $5,621 before Oct. 15. Jourdain already had $5,692 in his campaign account from previous cycles.

Some of Jourdain’s biggest donors included: $350 from Everett Sexton, the president of the company Sexton Roofing; $250 from mayoral candidate and At-large City Councilor Michael Sullivan; $250 from Jeffrey Chesky, the president of the insurance firm Insuritas; and $250 from David Conti, the manager of Holyoke Water Works.

Israel Rivera, who finished second in at-large City Council voting, raised $4,550 and spent $3,085. Some of his biggest receipts were from: retiree Sandra Ward, who gave $500; $150 from Pioneer Valley Planning Commission manager of public affairs Patrick Beaudry, as well as $100 from Beaudry’s election committee from his unsuccessful bid for state representative last year; $250 from Keyfood Marketplace business owner Tony Diaz; and Ward 5 candidate Guy O’Donnell, who gave $200.

Jose Luis Maldonado Velez, the sixth-place finisher in the at-large City Council race, raised $4,825 and spent $3,486. His biggest donors included: $425 from Jose Maldonado, a driver in Florida; $400 from Mount Holyoke College staffer Alexandra Puffer; $300 from Sadie Kurzban, founder of a Florida fitness studio; $250 from O’Donnell; and $200 from Smith College instructor Joyce Palmer Fortune.

Incumbent Joseph McGiverin, meanwhile, raised $4,065 and spent $2,319 on his successful at-large reelection bid. Most of those receipts — $2,865 — were in amounts of $50 and under.

Jennifer Keitt, whose at-large City Council bid was unsuccessful, raised $4,890 and spent $3,178. Big donors included $500 from city retiree Edward Fisette and from Michelle Charpentier, an executive at BioMarin Pharmaceutical, and $200 from O’Donnell.

It wasn’t just the at-large City Council races where thousands of dollars were spent. O’Donnell raised $4,395 and spent $3,893 in his unsuccessful bid to unseat incumbent Ward 5 Councilor Linda Vacon, who defeated him by just 18 votes. Vacon raised $1,155 during the period and spent $1,201. Her largest donation was from city developer Glenn Shealey of Quantum Properties, who donated $500.

On the School Committee level, Eleanor “Ellie” Wilson raised $3,759 and spent $792 during the period — the most money raised of any School Committee candidate. That included $250 from Betournay, the police union lawyer, and $250 from Kathleen Dunn, a nurse at Baystate Medical Center.

Not every successful candidate raised and spent much money. Some incumbents raised and spent little. Tallman, for example, raised only $225 and spent only $281, and Anderson-Burgos raised $225 and spent $279.

Several candidates who lost races on Tuesday had yet to file their campaign finance filing, which was due eight days before the election. Those include Ward 6 hopeful Preston Macy and at-large incumbent James Leahy.

There were also independent expenditures during the city’s election, including from two political action committees, or PACs.

The PAC known as A Better Holyoke for All, for example, spent nearly $3,400 on postcards supporting its slate of candidates, which included unsuccessful mayoral candidate Michael Sullivan at the top of the ticket and more conservative candidates running for other seats. The rival Holyoke Forward PAC, or Holyoke Pa’lante in Spanish, spent $2,919 on direct mail supporting its more liberal slate of candidates, led by now mayor-elect Joshua Garcia.

Finally, the racial and environmental justice organization Neighbor to Neighbor spent $1,056 on canvassing efforts, knocking on thousands of doors for Maldonado Velez, successful Ward 4 candidate Kocayne Givner, unsuccessful Ward 3 candidate Anne Thalheimer and candidate Will Puello, who ran unopposed in Ward 2. That’s in addition to $1,004 the organization said it spent on canvassing in support of Garcia, according to state Office of Campaign and Political Finance records.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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