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Late Spending Flurry Likely in 3rd District Race

August 25, 2018

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As the already-expensive 3rd Congressional District race enters its final stretch, candidates are poised to make a spending blitz in one last push to secure the Democratic nomination on Sept. 4.

The 10 Democrats on the ballot collectively had more than $3 million in cash on hand as of Aug. 15, the end of the most recent financial reporting cycle. Six of them each had $100,000 or more left to spend on the campaign, setting them up an inevitable spree of late advertisements and canvassing efforts.

That figure is boosted by last-minute self-funding: Rufus Gifford took out a loan for $700,000 and pumped the money into his campaign over two installments in July and August, while Lori Trahan contributed another $200,000 of her personal funds to her efforts on Friday, financial reports show.

Underlying the massive numbers is a simple fact: several candidates still think they can win this race.

A UMass Lowell-Boston Globe poll of likely primary voters released Thursday put Dan Koh in the lead with 19 percent support, followed by Gifford and Barbara L’Italien at 13 percent each. With almost 30 percent of respondents still undecided, though, Koh’s lead is by no means insurmountable.

Through this point, Koh has by far outraised his opponents. Through the end of June, he brought in $3 million, more than twice as much as anyone else in the field, but his numbers have slowed somewhat. Between July 1 and Aug. 15, he only raised $66,234, less than Gifford, L’Italien, Trahan and Juana Matias each raised in the same period.

And given that Koh has also outspent the field, opponents who feel they are within striking distance decided to inject additional resources.

Gifford took out $700,000 in a bank loan against his assets, and the campaign intends to funnel most of that money into on-the-ground field organization. He had previously given his campaign about $83,000.

“I chose to make a personal loan as well because I believe in what this campaign is all about with all of my heart and soul. I’m all-in on this campaign,” Gifford said in a Friday press release. “Our campaign will have the resources, the ground game, and the positive, optimistic message to come out on top, and I feel very confident in our ability to win.”

Trahan’s $200,000 came from her earnings and a checking account, according to her campaign. She made about $400,000 last year as the head of the Concire Leadership Institute, a consulting firm she helped found, and the contribution brings her total self-funding -- a common trend in this race -- up to $300,000.

The Democratic race has already been one of the most expensive primaries in the country and possibly the most expensive for a House seat in the state’s history. Candidates have spent a combined $5.8 million so far, with Koh, Gifford and Trahan each spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads. (L’Italien recently became the fourth candidate to get on the airwaves, but financial details of how much she has spent are not yet available.)

The five candidates who top the field in total spent on their campaigns are also the five candidates who topped the recent public poll, albeit in a slightly different order.

How late spending from the other five -- Alexandra Chandler, Jeff Ballinger, Beej Das, Leonard Golder and Bopha Malone -- will play out is unclear. Chandler had less than $20,000 on hand as of Aug. 15, while Malone had $25,000. Das has raised more than $590,000, more than half of it from himself, but has only spent $41,000 of that. Pre-primary financial reports for Ballinger and Golder were not available Friday.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski

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