Tight money race for CT GOP gubernatorial field

Three of the four major Republican gubernatorial contenders filed reports Thursday showing they each raised about $30,000 in the period ending Sept. 30, with Tom Foley hitting the mark in 20 days, compared to 34 days for Toni Boucher and two months for John McKinney.

Mark Boughton, who created an exploratory committee Aug. 14, raised $14,545, but he is dividing his time and fundraising efforts between two campaigns: He also is seeking re-election as the mayor of Danbury, for which he raised an identical amount.

Direct comparisons of early fundraising strength are difficult because of varying times each had as active fundraisers, and McKinney is following more restrictive rules as a declared candidate seeking public financing, which limits him to maximum donations of $100.

As exploratory candidates, Boucher, Boughton and Foley can accept maximum donations of $375. Foley, the 2010 GOP nominee, reported raising $30,566. Boucher, a state senator from Wilton, raised $29,662.

McKinney, the Senate minority leader from Fairfield, said he actually raised $90,000 since declaring his candidacy in late July, but only $33,087 was collected by Sept. 30, when McKinney says his fundraising was just hitting stride. In the 10 days since, he said, his campaign has raised another $57,000.

“We had our first official fundraising event on Sept. 21,” McKinney said.

A function in Wilton was the only event prior to the Sept. 30 deadline, meaning that McKinney took two months since declaring his candidacy on July 23 to establish a campaign and fundraising infrastructure.

“I spent a lot of time since my announcement putting together an organization of people who have been wiling to help and who are supportive of me and reaching out across the state,” said McKinney, who was interviewed by phone Thursday evening on the way to a fundraiser.

McKinney had spent $11,241 as of the 30th, with $5,000 going to Tusk Productions of New Jersey, a fundraising consultant, and $2,000 to Catch Digital Strategy of California to design and manage his web site. 

Foley reported spending no money as of Sept. 30, but he incurred debts of $16,701. He owes $10,555 to Cricket Press of West Hartford for direct mail solicitations and $2,500 to CTCapitolReport for web ads.

The filing deadline was midnight Thursday.

McKinney is the only major contender for the GOP nomination to declare his candidacy. Foley, Boughton and Boucher created exploratory committees in August and September. Foley didn’t create his committee until Sept. 10, while Boughton formed his on Aug. 14 and Boucher followed suit on Aug. 26.

All three have said they intend to qualify for public financing. If they formally declare as candidates, they can use donations of $100 from their exploratory campaigns to help qualify for public financing. To qualify for public financing, a candidate needs to raise $250,000 in contributions of no more than $100. Qualifying candidates are eligible for grants of at least $1.25 million for a primary and $6 million for the general election.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the first-term Democrat who won election in 2010 as a publicly financed candidate, has yet to create a candidate committee, a legal step required before he can begin raising money. But he is playing a role in GOP fundraising appeals.

In a solicitation, Boughton attacked everything from Malloy’s tax and economic policies to what he described as the governor’s efforts to undermine the state’s watchdog agencies.

“This is what you would expect from a tinhorn dictator, not Connecticut’s governor,” Boughton wrote.

Democrats took offense to the language — and the fact that a similar email appeal by Boughton was not quite as inflammatory.

“Mayor Boughton is using the same type of bizarre, over the top, undisciplined and incendiary rhetoric Washington Tea Party Republicans employ in their reckless endeavors like forcing the government shutdown,” said James Hallinan, a spokesman for Connecticut Democrats. “Mark Boughton says he’s all about straight talk, but if that’s true, why is he using different incendiary language in the same message to voters?” 

Boughton said there was no strategic reason for the difference in the appeals.

It’s unclear if the appeal was effective. While it was dated Sept. 24, Boughton said his direct mail house did not send it until after Sept. 30.

Boughton, who briefly ran for governor in 2010 under the limits of the public financing rules, said it will take months to determine who has the fundraising base to qualify for public financing.

“It’s not the first hundred thousand,” Boughton said. “It’s really the last 50 that’ll break your back.”

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