Candidates for state office hit a critical milestone this week–the end of the second quarter reporting period for campaign contributions–and many face an even more important deadline for public financing in two weeks.

By July 10, candidates will have to report their fundraising through the end of June, and that will say  lot about who will make the July 16 deadline to qualify for public funding of their campaigns.

“We get to see their hands,” said Jonathan Pelto, a Mansfield political consultant and former strategist for the Connecticut Democratic Party. “It will tell us how close certain candidates are to raising the qualifying funds.”

Merrill files SEEC paperwork 7-2-10

Denise Merrill, Democratic candidate for secretary of the state, and supporter Bob Godfrey go over campaign finance paperwork Thursday (Nicolas Kemper)

So far, 31 General Assembly candidates have been certified eligible for public financing, along with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy and his running mate Nancy Wyman. Two more statewide candidates–Republican Michael Fedele, running for governor, and Democrat Denise Merrill, running for secretary of the state–filed papers Thursday saying they’ve raised enough money to qualify.

They will get their first checks for their campaigns —  $375,00 for Merrill and $1.25 million for Fedele to cover primary expenses– on July 7 if the State Elections Enforcement Commission certifies their applications . They will receive more for the general election if they win the primaries, and supplemental funds if their opponents spend over certain thresholds.

Fedele and Merrill admit it was a difficult task to raise the money, and they even have some name recognition with Fedele currently serving as the lieutenant governor and Merrill the current House majority leader.

“It took a little bit longer than expected,” Fedele said, who took six months to raise the $250,000 in contributions less than $100.

Merrill, who had to raise $75,000 in small contributions, said, “It wasn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be easy, but this speaks to how much support I have.”

Merrill’s Democratic opponent, Jerry Garcia of New Haven, has said he intends to go after public financing, as has Mary Glassman of Simsbury, who is challenging Wyman for the lieutenant governor nomination.Glassman is running with Ned Lamont, who opted out of public financing.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said it’s just a tough year for the candidates to raise the needed money.

“We are seeing this because of these financial times. People are not able to give as much as they have in the past,” she said.

Republican Party Chairman Christopher Healy said for some cases, this report will determine how successful a candidate’s future fundraising efforts will be.

“It can be critical for whether others donate,” he said. “This is a very important quarter.”

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