It happens every two years: eager, optimistic Boston city council candidates find it surprisingly difficult to raise money in the quantities they desire.
It’s really hard to raise money for a municipal campaign — and really hard to compete without it. And it turns out that those personal pledges don’t all turn into actual contributions; your networks of professional contacts don’t support you quite as much as you imagined; and those call lists of Democratic donors get tedious real fast.
But this year’s crop of candidates has more of a Midas touch, particularly the impressive group running at-large. The eleven challengers raised close to a combined $150,000 in April, and have well over $400,000 banked.
A strong field has been tempted by two openings among the four seats, caused by Annissa Essaibi-George and Michelle Wu running for mayor.
And who knows, rumors might pan out that Rachael Rollins gets nominated as US Attorney for Massachusetts, and Governor Charlie Baker appoints Michael Flaherty to replace her as District Attorney, creating a third at-large hole. Plus, the fourth at-large councilor, Julia Mejia, could be vulnerable with just one term under her belt after winning that final city-wide seat by a single vote in 2019.
But we’ve had impressive candidates and open seats before. Of the challengers in 2019, 2013, and 2009 — including Felix G. Arroyo, Annissa Essaibi-George, Tito Jackson, Julia Mejia, and Ayanna Pressley — only Wu in 2013 would crack the 2021 top 5 cash-on-hand with their end-of-April numbers.
The top money-makers:
Ruthzee Louijeune You’re gonna want to learn this name. She is beloved by the Elizabeth Warren political team, where she served as general counsel; one of Louijeune’s early maximum donors was Bruce Mann, aka Warren’s husband. She raised close to $50,000 in April, coming in amounts large and small from all over the country, and ended the month with more than $125,000 in the bank.
David Halbert Two years ago, in a solid first at-large campaign, Halbert was struggling to keep $15,000 in his account. Today he has $65,000 banked; his April haul of under $10,000 was a decline, but his head start has him in good position.
Kelly Bates Bates and her impressive networks have been outshined by Louijeune, but she raised $26,000 in April and has more than $60,000 in the bank — similar numbers to Wu’s at this stage in her winning 2013 campaign.
Alex Gray Gray picked up some press coverage, largely focused on his legal blindness, but he’s been steadily building his stash. Raised a little over $10,000 in April, and has nearly $45,000 banked.
Said Abdikarim Abdikarim, who resettled to Boston from African refugee camps as a teenager, has tapped into the city’s underrepresented African Muslim population. Nurses, teachers, ride-share drivers and engineers are giving generously to his campaign, which raised $25,000 in April and has well over $40,000 in the bank.
Erin Murphy In her solid 2019 campaign, Murphy hadn’t even started raising money at this point; she raised less than $50,000 by the September preliminary and still finished sixth. This year she’s stepped up the pace, although she’s still running behind some others: she took in nearly $15,000 in April and has close to $35,000 in her account.
Jon Spillane Spillane raised just $5,000 in April, and has a little less than $25,000 in the bank. That’s disappointing compared to his competitors, given his credentials — but it’s about on pace with successful candidates Mejia in 2019, or Arroyo in 2009. It just shows how different this year’s at-large race is shaping up to be.
[Added May 7]
Carla Monteiro A little late coming in with the bank report on her first month in the race, Monteiro reported an impressive $23,000 raised, much of it in small-dollar gifts from Boston Cape Verdeans.