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May the Springfield Mayoral Campaign Finance Reports Be with You…

Springfield City Hall

Is the Springfield campaign finance picture getting clearer or no? (WMP&I)

Patterns that began to emerge in April campaign finance reports for the Springfield mayoral race came into clearer focus in May. Incumbent Domenic Sarno took back the top fundraiser spot and held on to his overwhelming cash-on-hand advantage. Still, his monster spending put him into a deficit for the month while two of his challengers kept building their reserves.

With nearly $220,000 in the bank on May 31, Sarno has orders of magnitude cash than any challenger. Yet, that is about $43,000 less than he had in April. In May, he spent nearly 20% of the cash he had when the month began. He raised less than half that. Meanwhile both at-large Councilor Justin Hurst and Council President Jesse Lederman showed net gains in their campaign bank accounts. State Rep Orlando Ramos spent more than he raised, but he still has the most in the bank among challengers.

As familiar as the admonition is, money is not everything, even in elections. The mayor’s bulging bank account alongside his power to pull the levers of government remains daunting, however. But the more important lesson is not how much Sarno has but how he has spent it and how quickly.

In May, Sarno raised $19,878 and spent $42,972. Preliminary June figures show he has recouped his net $23,000 decline in May. Yet, spending last month was high, at least for this early in the campaign season.

Domenic Sarno

Sarno’s campaign finances taking a turn? (WMP&I)

The report confirms earlier reporting from WMP&I that Sarno spent heavily on “media purchases.” At least $12,000 went to Sarno’s videographer and media consultant Dave Horgan. Horgan’s firm received nearly $11,000 for other purposes, at least $5,000 went to “social media filming.” The rest was not legible to whoever filled out the forms. Sarno paid his pollster DAPA Research $7,500 for polling conducted at month’s end.

Preparations for the mayor’s kickoff consumed another $3800. Of that, $3114 went to an East Windsor, Connecticut video and audio production business and $725 for cupcakes. The campaign also spent $2500 for invitations and postage and $1330 for balloons. Another $850 was spent at Staples. Most of the balance was for various charities ranging from a few dollars to $500 for the South End Community Center. Another $771 went to food and refreshments at Bulkley, Richardson & Gelinas.

Unless the law firm, one of the city’s largest, opened a catering division, the timing suggests this was to cover expenses for a mid-May fundraiser there. Among those who gave at the time were affiliates of the firm. Over $5,000 came from Baystate Health luminaries. Among them were CEO Mark Keroack, who maxed out to the mayor, and Andrew Artenstein, whose harrowing efforts to secure personal protective equipment during the pandemic appeared in The New York Times Magazine.

Two other businesspeople, Clement Deliso of Springfield and Anthony Carnevale of Wilbraham maxed out to Sarno last month with $1000 checks. Among those giving less than $1000 but more than $500 were Kevin Conway of Monroeville, Pennsylvania; Michael Crowley of Hampden, who owns a real estate consultancy; Nancy Lees of East Longmeadow, ostensibly a relation of former Senator Brian Lees who himself gave $200; Kristen Lemiexu of Brimfield; and Samuel Skura of Framingham. The latter two appear to be Baystate affiliates.

Council President Lederman raised $14,200 in May. However, he spent $10,800 and began the month with not quite $16,000 in the bank. That left him with $19,249 on May 31. Still, it was the second month he led fundraising among challengers.

Jesse Lederman

Lederman raised less than Sarno but more than the competition. His cash stash remains modest among the top tier, though. (WMP&I)

About $7,000 of Lederman’s May expenses were on campaign materials such as signs, palm cards, stickers and postage or mailing. The vendor was Connolly Printing of Woburn, a favorite of labor-friendly candidates as its materials have a union label. The campaign sent another $550 on campaign T-shirts from a vendor in Brookfield, Connecticut. Other expenses included online organizing tools, online advertising and sponsorships including for Springfield’s LGBTQ Pride parade.

Lederman’s top contributors last month included consultant Demetrios Pantelakis of West Springfield, therapist Megan Lederman of Springfield (the candidate’s sister), and Elizabeth Johnson of Springfield. All three maxed out donations last month. Surgeon Edward Kelly and retirees Adele Franks and Stephen Jones, all of Northampton, gave $500 each.

Councilor Hurst began May with $36,646, raised $12,679 and spent $9,303. He had the second largest bank at the end of May among the challenger but raised less than Lederman.

Justin Hurst

Hurst was a couple thousand behind Lederman in fundraising, but had more cash on hand. (WMP&I)

As with April, Hurst spent just under $5,000 on staff and consulting. Much of the rest of his spending was for campaign materials or services. A little over a thousand dollars in spending went to Get Set Marketing, which produces campaign materials. One notable expenditure was $325 for the Afro-American Point of View, the newspaper his parents Frederick and Marjorie own and operate. (Like Lederman, Hurst had sponsored the Pride parade, but the recording was in April).

Among notable campaign contributors were each of Hurst’s parents. Both gave the maximum of $1,000. Other maximum Hurst donors in May were Talal Mhanna of East Longmeadow, realtors Maher and Migdalia Khatib, both of Springfield, and Lisa Kitteredge of Amherst. Donors who gave more than $500 in May were Schools employee Jamar Hawker of Springfield; Kenneth Burroughs of Springfield who works in HR; John Sampson of Wilbraham who runs Sampson Family Chapels; and Lisa and Frederick Hurst of Springfield. (This Fred Hurst is the councilor’s brother).

Representative Ramos entered May with $51,163. He raised $4,587 and spent $8,115. He closed out the month with $47,635.

Orlando Ramos

Rep Ramos (pictured at a 2021 fundraiser) has the most cash-on-hand among top-tier challengers but raised the least.(WMP&I)

Ramos spent nearly $5,000 on D3, a firm that provides campaign services. He spent another $2,500 on consulting services from MaPoli Strategies of Somerville. The rep had no contributions over $1,000 in May. General Contractor Zachary Kushner of East Longmeadow and Natalie Mercado of Springfield were the only contributors who gave $500 or more. Each gave $500.

Since June began, there have been no new audit letters from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign Finance and Political Finance. Only one issue remains outstanding. As of posting time, Sarno has still not clarified a Dave Horgan expense OCPF that requested—at least not to the agency’s satisfaction. Sarno’s campaign resolved the other issues in that letter, including a too-large PAC contribution, last month.

David Ciampi, a therapist who is also running for mayor, raised nearly $3,250 and spent $3,382. His report does not disclose where his funds came from—he has mostly self-funded—but $2400 of his spending went to a Jay Townsend Marketing. Ciampi ended May with $87 in the bank.