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March of the Springfield Mayoral Campaign Finance Reports…

Springfield City Hall

Cash dash to City Hall in the race for Springfield Mayor. (WMP&I)

As the mayoral race in Springfield inches closer to the September preliminary, much of the campaign still has something of an unreality. There are four major declared candidates, each holding office. But for most residents, the most tangible events thus far remains the kickoffs, save the incumbent who is holding off.

However, there are moves worth watching in the money race. In March, for the first time since he had opposition, Mayor Domenic Sarno spent an order of magnitude more than he raised. (Though he technically raised nothing in February while spending twelve grand). By comparison, owing to their more modest war chests, challengers at-large Councilor Justin Hurst, Council President Jesse Lederman and State Rep Orlando Ramos spent quite a bit less.

For the first time since at least 2011, Mayor Sarno is facing a real race. His mayoral campaign has lurched toward a message of stability in disquieted times. Nevertheless, the largest field of sitting electeds to challenge him since he took office nearly 16 years ago has appeared. For critics, it suggests something is rotten in the state of the commonwealth’s third largest city.

As evidence that could either disprove or prove this, Sarno has amassed a kingly six figures for his reelection bid. In December, he raised nearly $150k, which gave him over $300,000 to sit on. It fell below that threshold in February, but in March it dropped even more. By the end of last month, he had $265,036 after raising $6950 and spending $37,168. Without accounting for inflation, it was the most Sarno’s campaign has spent in any month since October 2007.

As of posting time, the report did not include details about the receipts for Sarno’s campaign account. That may not change until the Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Financing requests a clarification from the campaign.

Outside campaign season, he usually maintains a baseline of monthly expenses that rarely exceed a few thousand dollars. That began to change after Councilor Hurst announced in November. The next month Sarno spent over $15,000.

Sarno at his 2020 inauguration. He’s ratcheted up campaign spending to ensure he’s there in 2024. (Still via Focus Springfield)

In March Sarno began ratcheting up campaign expenses. His campaign spent $25,000 at DAPA Research. DAPA is the polling firm of Dave Paleologos, who is also the director of Suffolk University’s political research center. Sarno’s campaign also spent another $3000 on social media monitoring and $4678 on filming for ads. These went to Horgan Associates, the firm of David Horgan, who has provided Sarno with Internet and recording services for years. The balance of Sarno’s March expenses were either charitable expenses or small-ball campaign items like Internet access and newspaper subscriptions.

Also last month, at the behest of OCPF, Sarno clarified two February expenses for Horgan Associates. Confirming earlier WMP&I reporting, revised reports show $8,000 of those funds went to Colure Media of New York. Another $3000 had been spent on social media advertising.

By contrast, Hurst’s cash-on-hand had barely changed in March. He ended the month with $37,218 in the bank after raising $8971 and spending $8427. Hurst had few standout contributions or expenditures. Among notables who gave were School Committee member Barbara Gresham, Gloria Williams—the wife of State Rep Bud Williams—and the campaign account of former State Rep Jose Tosado.

Among Hurst’s spending was $5750 for staff and consultants. The balance appears to be charitable or materials like campaign signs and literature.

Council President Lederman, who announced early in February ended the March reporting period with $16,962, the least of the top-tier challengers to Sarno. He raised $3969 and spent $6642 last month. Among the notable contributors were former City Councilor John Lysak, Chicopee City Councilor Derek Debosz and the Springfield firefighter union. Lederman spent $4589 at Max’s Tavern at the Hall of Fame for his kickoff event. The remainder of his spending were items in the hundreds of dollars, including for food at other events, online services, and photography.

Rep Ramos, who announced about a week after Lederman in February, closed out March with $50,803. Of the challengers, as a sitting state rep in Boston, Ramos had the deepest well to draw from before announcing. Last month, he spent $8682 while raising $5813. Among his notable contributors last month were the local carpenters union, Tosado’s campaign, and Lawrence Rep Frank Moran. Ramos spent $2500 on a videographer and another $2500 on consulting. He also spent nearly $2300 on services at a vender called D3 for printing.

According to the ad library for Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Lederman, Sarno and Ramos all paid for advertising on both platforms last month.

The only other candidate in the race, therapist David Ciampi, had $59 at the end of March. He had raised $6000 and spent $6166. Like Sarno, Ciampi’s report does not say the receipts’ source. However, he has self-funded before. Of his spending in March, $5000 went to social media and video production.

On first blush, Sarno does appear to be blowing his opponents out of the water. This would be a surprise to no one, however. Indeed, Sarno has already started spending down his haul. The premium he is paying for polling and filming—of which his opponents can live without or obtain for less—should raise eyebrows. Incumbency may be less determinative than it seems, at least in terms of the money race.