Comerford easily tops rivals in fundraising

  • State Senate candidates Ryan O'Donnell, from left, Chelsea Kline, Steve Connor and Jo Comerford prepare for their debate Monday, Aug. 13, 2018 at Deerfield Academy.

  • State Senate candidate Steve Connor speaks during a candidates forum organized by the League of Women Voters, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018 at Deerfield Academy.

  • State Senate candidate Ryan O'Donnell speaks during a candidates forum organized by the League of Women Voters, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018 at Deerfield Academy.

  • State Senate candidate Chelsea Kline speaks during a candidates forum organized by the League of Women Voters, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018 at Deerfield Academy.

Staff Writer
Published: 8/28/2018 11:39:15 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Write-in candidate Jo Comerford has raised tens of thousands of dollars more than her rivals in the race for the Democratic nomination for the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District in the state Senate.

Comerford raised $121,971.01 from Jan. 1 to Aug. 17, the fundraising period that was broken down in campaign finance reports released by all campaigns for state office on Tuesday.

Chelsea Kline, the only candidate on the ballot, raised the next highest amount of money with $43,803.59, followed by Ryan O’Donnell with $18,808.04, and Steven Connor with $14,196.90, although much of Connor’s fundraising comes from a loan he made to his own campaign.

The four, all of Northampton, are campaigning to replace Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst, who resigned earlier this year after his husband became embroiled in a sex scandal.

Tim Vercellotti, a professor of political science at Western New England University and a director of the college’s Polling Institute, said that raising six figures is much more common in the Boston metro area, although it’s not unheard of west of Worcester.

“Jo Comerford’s totals are very impressive,” Vercellotti said.

Not surprisingly, Comerford also leads in expenditures for this period, with $53,032.26, while Kline has spent $36,704.69, Connor has spent $11,522.74 and O’Donnell has spent $9,395.

Because all candidates running for the seat are running in the Democratic primary, the winner of the primary has a very high likelihood of taking over the seat. As such, Vercellotti expressed curiosity as to the contents of the next campaign finance reports, which will show the expenditures right before the primary, as he said it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a lot of cash banked for after the primary in a race like this.

He also said that most of the donations in the race are coming from within the district.

“It’s pretty homegrown,” he said.

While the vast majority of Comerford’s donations are in-state, she has also received donations from other parts of the country, including Illinois, California, New York City, Florida, Delaware and Washington, D.C. Some of her donors work for MoveOn.Org, including Chief Communications Officer Nick Berning, who donated $1,000 to her campaign. Comerford worked for MoveOn until she stepped down to run for Senate full time.

Like Comerford, O’Donnell’s donations are overwhelmingly from inside the state. However, there are a number from Maryland and Virginia, including $250 from U.S. Rep. Jaime Raskin, who represents some of Maryland’s Washington suburbs, and $200 from Maryland House of Delegates member David Moon, who also represents the state’s D.C. suburbs, connections that may have been made during his tenure as director of Common Cause in Maryland.

A striking out-of-state donation to Kline is $1,000 from Carrie Barratt, a deputy director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Only four of Connor’s donations have come from out of state.

Comerford has 518 itemized donations, while Kline has 270, O’Donnell has 157 and Connor has 96.

In terms of $1,000 donations, Comerford has recieved 29, Kline 17, and O’Donnell one.

None of Connor’s donations are $1,000, although he has loaned his his own campaign $10,000.

“It’s not unusual,” said Vercellotti, on Connor’s decision to loan money to his own campaign.

In terms of whether Comerford’s money edge makes her the favorite in the race, Vercelloti said that how one spends money is the key factor.

“The person with the best organization is the favorite,” he said.

Nevertheless, he did note that the funds have allowed Comerford to do things like hire staff and buy radio ad space. Of the four candidates, Comerford is the only one with paid staff.

Another notable expenditure is from Kline’s campaign, which has spent more than $12,000 on research from the out-of-state firm EMC Research Inc. This translates to about one-third of Kline’s expenditures so far.

Vercelloti also noted the write-in factor in the race, as Comerford, O’Donnell and Connor are all running as write-in candidates, with Kline the only candidate on the ballot.

Bera Dunau can be reached at


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