Sen. Tran Leads North Central Legislative Hopefuls in Fundraising

September 19, 2018

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By Peter Jasinski

pjasinski@sentinel andenterprise.com

The latest reports filed with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign Finance reveal varying degrees of fundraising, support, and spending among the six Leominster and Fitchburg residents running for the state Legislature in November.

According to pre-primary reports submitted by candidates last month, incumbent Republican state Sen. Dean Tran led the way in fundraising from January to August leading up to the Sept. 6 primary. Tran, who represents the Worcester and Middlesex District, reports receiving $59,355 from a total 466 donors compared to his Democratic opponent, Leominster City Councilor Sue Chalifoux Zephir, who collected $41,405 from only 78 donors.

There is also a great disparity between where got their donations.

Chalifoux Zephir’s donors primarily live in the district, with the majority being Leominster residents. Apart from the money contributed by herself and her husband, which amounts to about half her total funding this period, most donations range from about $100 to $1,000.

By comparison, Tran contributed much less of his own money, with only about $1,400 going to his campaign. However, unlike Chalifoux Zephir, the majority of his contributions are coming from outside the district. Less than one quarter of donations, about 115 in all, were given by the people Tran currently represents. The remainder of these donations came from communities throughout Massachusetts and a small number from other states.

While not all of them live in the district, many of Tran’s financial backers are city and state officials. Leominster City Councilor Thomas “Frank” Ardinger, Fitchburg City Councilors Sam Squailia and Marisa Fleming, Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, Lancaster Selectman Stan Starr, Governor’s Councilor Jen Caissie, and Fitchburg State University President Richard Lapidus were all listed as campaign donors. There are also members of the local business community like North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce President Roy Nascimento, Wachusett Brewing Company owner Ned Lafortune, and Wachusett Mountain Ski Area President James Crowley.

Both candidates have spent money on fairly similar expenses like campaign and promotional materials, advertising, and events, but Chalifoux Zephir has spent the most of the two, with $41,363 paid out compared to Tran’s $26,654.

Among Chalifoux Zephir’s largest expenses so far are the roughly $20,000 in payments she’s made to Crawford Strategies, a Boston-based campaign consultant.

Leominster’s state representative race is more of an inverse by comparison.

Incumbent Democrat Natalie Higgins leads her challenger, Republican Rich Palmieri, in fundraising, but has so far spent less money on her campaign, according to each candidate’s pre-primary filing.

Higgins has raised $15,062 from 138 total donations, about half of which came from Leominster. Donors included Leominster School Committee members like Cody Caisse, Nona Ojala, and Ronnie Houle, City Councilors David Cormier and Chalifoux Zephir, and also fellow state representatives like Pat Haddad and Ann-Margaret Ferrante.

Palmieri has raised $11,230 from 75 donations, about 35 percent of which came from Leominster. However, Palmieri has spent $7,175, which is about $2,000 more than Higgins so far. His financial support has included several area business owners, Leominster GOP members and Sen. Tran’s campaign, which donated $100 to Palmieri.

Of all three elections, the race between incumbent Democratic state Rep. Stephan Hay of Fitchburg and Republican Elmer Eubanks-Archbold has the lowest amount of funds raised or spent by either candidate with Hay leading in both areas.

Hay has collected $15,570 from 75 separate donations, about 30 of which came from his district. Listed among his more notable donors are Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale, Fitchburg City Councilor Amy Green, and the Fitchburg Firefighters Association. He has spent $4,698 so far.

Of all six candidates, Eubanks-Archbold has raised and spent the least amount of money thus far. His 37 collected donations only add up to $2,690, all but $522 he has already spent. Though he has the fewest number of contributions, he has received money from Leominster City Councilor Thomas “Frank” Ardinger and fellow Republican candidates Tran and Palmieri.

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53

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