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Maura Sullivan leads NH Congress race fundraising
Portsmouth Herald - 4/17/2018
It was an eye-popping figure.
Democrat Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth raised $480,000 during the first three months of this year for her campaign for the open congressional seat in New Hampshire'sFirst District.
The numbers, first reported earlier this month by Seacoastonline, far surpassed those of any of the other nine candidates running to succeed retiring four-term Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.
The campaign highlighted that Sullivan's hauled in $910,000 since she announced her candidacy in late October. And the U.S. Marine veteran who served in the Iraq War and later worked at the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration had a large campaign war chest, with nearly $700,000 cash on hand.
But Sullivan, who moved to Portsmouth from out of state last July, also acknowledged that only 20 percent of the first quarter contributions were from the Granite State. And that brought criticism from some rival campaigns, fueling a "carpetbagger" label that she's been dealing with since jumping into the race.
Cash figures are considered an important early barometer of a candidate's clout and popularity, and of a campaign's strength.
"As for cash as an indicator, it does indeed matter," Saint Anselm College professor of politics Christopher Galdieri said.
"Candidates who can't raise money are almost always going to be at a disadvantage compared to those who can."
For the second straight quarter, Chris Pappas came in a strong second in the battle for campaign cash.
The Democratic executive councilor who runs the family owned Puritan Backroom restaurant and conference center in Manchester raised just over $205,000 in the first quarter, with nearly $340,000 in the bank. Pappas' campaign highlighted that more than 80 percent of the contributions came from within New Hampshire.
The biggest first quarter surprise in the race for the Democratic nomination came from Deaglan McEachern. The technology executive and community activist from Portsmouth brought in more than $135,000 since announcing his candidacy Jan. 10. McEachern reported $95,000 cash on hand.
McEachern said he was "humbled by the outpouring of support."
Another surprise was Levi Sanders. The legal services analyst from Claremont raised less than $12,000 in month following the Feb. 27 launch of his campaign. Sanders reported just over $10,000 cash on hand.
Sanders is the son of independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who trounced Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire's 2016 Democratic presidential primary and battled the eventual nominee through the end of the primary calendar. Because of his famous father, some political pundits had expected the younger Sanders to bring in a much larger haul in the weeks following his campaign launch.
State Rep. Mark MacKenzie reported raising $27,000. But the campaign of the longtime Manchester firefighter who served 25 years as president of the New Hampshire chapter of the AFL-CIO highlighted that MacKenzie had more than $115,000 cash on hand.
Retired Portsmouth trial lawyer Lincoln Soldati, a former Somersworth mayor who also spent 17 years as Strafford County attorney, raised nearly $63,000 in the first quarter, with a similar amount of cash in the bank.
State Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye, an environmental scientist who's a leader in the crusade to clean up the Coakley landfill Superfund site, brought in just over $17,000 in the first quarter, with about an equal amount of campaign cash in the bank.
Messmer argued that "money isn't everything. The voters will decide who will best represent them in Washington." But she pointed out that "we are well ahead of where Carol Shea-Porter was at the same time in 2006."
Shea-Porter ran a grassroots campaign in her 2006 run for Congress, defeating the Democratic establishment favorite in the primary and thanks in part to a national wave, ousted Republican incumbent Rep. Jeb Bradley in the general election.
Army and Iraq War veteran and current Rochester city attorney Terence O'Rourke, who's also fighting for the grassroots and progressive mantle, raised $5,000 and reported $8,000 cash on hand.
Add it all together, and University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala said "the volume of money pouring in on the Democratic side confirms the conventional wisdom that the energy is on the side of the party out of power."
The other news was the return of the Republicans. After a lackluster fourth quarter of 2017 campaign cash reports, the two GOP candidates in the First District race rebounded.
Dover's Eddie Edwards raised nearly $104,000 in the first three months of the year. The Navy veteran and former South Hampton police chief who also served as top law enforcement officer for the state's liquor commission has now brought in $334,000 since launching his campaign a year ago. But Edwards has spent a portion of that money, reporting some $160,000 cash on hand as of April 1.
Businessman and conservative state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford brought in nearly $107,000 in the first quarter. At the end of March he also loaned his campaign a whopping $250,000. Sanborn had nearly $500,000 cash on hand.
"On the GOP side, those are improvements over the low amounts raised last quarter. But whichever candidate wins the primary is probably going to need to raise more than that to compete with the Democratic candidates," Galdieri said. "The First CD is one of the few Republican pickup targets this cycle but getting outspent is not a great place to be for a Republican in a swing district in 2018."
Galdieri also questioned whether some poor campaign cash reports may eventually force a narrowing of the wide Democratic field.
"Candidates raising less money might start to feel pressured to drop out of the race and clear the field a bit," he predicted.
Fundraising dollars can be used to pay for staff, voter outreach, and ads.
Scala said, "Don't be surprised to see ads on behalf of Sullivan all summer long. It's really all about the September primary. Whoever wins the primary will surely have the financial backing of the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and allied interest groups and super PACs."