The Springfield Mayoral Money Race near the Home Stretch…
Counting down the weeks…and the money… (WMP&I)
As the Springfield mayoral race lumbered into October, the campaign cash dash was barely at a trot. Piles of money and late heat in the campaign propelled at-large Councilor Justin Hurst and Mayor Domenic Sarno past the September 12 preliminary. Yet, neither showed a surge of activity many had expected ahead of the final confrontation on November 7.
Having spent nearly two hundred large in August, Sarno entered September with $86,832, a fraction of his cash on hand earlier in the year. He spent another $31,505 while raising only $14.966, ending the month with $70,293. Hurst started September with only a grand after spending over $42,000 in August. He raised $19,232, but he banked little as he spent $16,260. Hurst ended September with $3,982.
By any measure, the mayoral election in Springfield is the most hotly contested since 2011 and possibly since Sarno first seized the office in 2007. Hurst and Sarno advanced after overcoming therapist David Ciampi, Council President Jesse Lederman and State Rep Orlando Ramos.
Yet, several factors—including a dearth of media coverage, the city’s creaking civic virtue and political exhaustion nationally—have robbed the race of the verve it deserves.
This is somewhat expressed in relatively low fundraising values that both Hurst and Sarno posted in September filings with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Politics Finance. Although, this may have shifted somewhat in October. The sloppiness of Sarno campaign finance records continues, though. It again failed to post deposit records with his monthly report per state law.
Because the Sarno campaign failed to file its monthly contributions, it is not clear how much, if any, of his nearly $15,000 came after the preliminary. The mayor’s largest expenses in September were of the same kind that drove his August spending.
He dropped $4,250 on his videographer/ad buyer/social media manager Horgan Associates. There is no clarity as to its purpose. He spent over $4,100 on rent for his campaign office and $1,600 in pay for the office’s manager. Another $5,196 was spent on direct mail, notably after the preliminary.
The Sarno campaign also spent over $7,500 on food and/or catering for various events. The remainder of his large expenses were for charities.
Of the $19,732 Hurst raised in September, $11,305 came after he secured a place in the general election. There are few massive contributions. As is likely the case with Sarno, Hurst has maxed out from many loyal supporters already. Still, a Longmeadow couple maxed out to him—the mayor has raised far more from outside of the city.
Hurst also received $1,000 from a longtime friend, Jonathan Crane, and from Ivey Malcolm, a project manager in New Jersey. A teacher and a contractor in the city gave $600 and $500 respectively. Individuals in education, human resources and business each gave $500.
There were a few notably lower-dollar contributions, including $250 from Boston NAACP and 2022 Secretary of State candidate Tanisha Sullivan. Northampton Attorney Michael Aleo, one of the lawyers who represented the City Council in the Police Commission lawsuit also gave that much. Former Springfield City Councilor Amaad Rivera, now a local government chief of staff in Wisconsin, gave $100.
On the expense side, most of Hurst’s expenses were to personnel, including the usual $3,750 for his campaign manager and another $1,100 in communication. He also spent over $1,100 on texting services and over $3,600 on television ads. There was also a $1,600 expense for ads in the Afro-American Point of View, the Black-audience publication his parents own.
Outside the official September reports, there are other notable data. Both Hurst and Sarno have been raising money in October, some of which they have filed with OCPF. In addition, the incumbent is already up on TV for the general.
Station filings with the feds show Sarno’s campaign has bought ad time on cable and broadcast. He has already purchased $12,025 in ads on WWLP before agency commissions. Currently, the ad buy only runs from October 10 through October 17. As in the preliminary, the ads are scheduled to air during local news the Wheel of Fortune/Jeopardy hour.
The campaign has filed its intent to air ads on WGGB and cable, too. Paperwork WGGB filed show Sarno is airing three ads. At least two appear to be rehashes from the preliminary: those featuring Sarno’s “success” and Sister Mary Caritas. A third is a testimonial ad.
Both candidates have spent a few hundred dollars on Facebooks ads running in October. The data comes from the ad library for Facebook’s parent company, Meta.
Preliminary OCPF data show Hurst has raised $17,403 since October began. Meanwhile, Sarno raised $58,292, although he may not be keeping all of that.
Hurst has received a few $1,000 contributions including one from a Springfield school principal and two from out of state. He received $750 from a Baystate Health dietician and another $714 from a Northampton resident. Hurst five $500 contributions, including one from Ciampi, who has endorsed Hurst. He also received $500 from the Service Employees International Union State Council.
Since the month began, Sarno has received 24 contributions of $1,000 or more. Some his campaign may need to return. For example, he received $1,000, the annual maximum allowed under law, from Peter B. Picknelly, ostensibly the son of motorcoach mogul Peter A. Picknelly. Yet, this younger Picknelly also gave Sarno $1,000 in July. The address listed for both donations is the same. Only one registered voter with that name is listed there. The campaign will likely reimburse the second donation.
The Picknellys’ contributions have received attention in the campaign. The Peter Pan bus CEO has tried to plug land he acquired between I-91 and the Connecticut River as a new site for the Hampden County courthouse. The state is no fan of this proposal and graded it accordingly. Sarno has trumpeted it with abandon. His opponents have critiqued this support as a big wet kiss to a wealthy contributor.
Peter the elder has already given Sarno $1,000 as has his wife. A daughter of Picknelly’s, who lives in Hampden, maxed out to Sarno in October. Mary Jean Picknelly, his sister, gave $500. She gave $500 last year, too. Peter and brother Paul each gave a grand last year.
Sarno may need to return another $1,000 donation from Glanee Patel, too. She appears to be connected to the Dinesh Patel that co-owns Towersquare. An East Longmeadow address appears with this donation. However, a Glanee Patel also gave $1,000 in July listing Towersquare as an address. Only one Glanee Patel is registered to vote in Massachusetts—in Longmeadow. A Glanee Patel is a co-owner of both the East Longmeadow and Longmeadow residences.
Other notable $1,000 donations in October were from a trio of MassMutual executives. The executives, including CEO Roger Crandall, have not given to Sarno in years, if ever. The storied company has reputedly had an iffy relationship with City Hall in recent years.
However, Sarno did attend MassMutual’s office opening in Boston two years ago, despite fears the company is eyeing an HQ relocation there. (MassMutual has usually denied such rumors).
The campaign also received another 38 donations of $500 or more in October. This spans a range from the anonymous to longtime backers like former mayor Mary Hurley, for whom Sarno once worked.
As of this posting, OCPF has yet to send new audit letters to either candidate. The agency will almost certainly send one to Sarno demanding he list his September donors.
Among those defeated on September 12, Council President Lederman began September with $4,167, raised $4,125 and spent $5,380. He had $2,912 at the end of the month. Ciampi started the month with $261, raised $3,520 and spent all of it to close his account.
State Rep Ramos was the only candidate who did not have to give up his current office to run for mayor. Thus, he faces reelection next year. However, he only had $2,596 after this campaign. He began September with $17,601. Ramos raised $1,788 during the month and his expenditures totaled $16,794.