April 11, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
Mayor Eddie A. Perez has amassed a $150,000 war chest for his 2007 re-election campaign, out-raising his closest opponent by three to one, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.
The Perez campaign issued a press release Tuesday saying he is on a pace to exceed the $225,000 he raised for the 2003 election. The incumbent has collected more than 300 individual contributions to date, his campaign said.
The filings are for the campaign's first reporting period, Jan. 1 to March 31.
"I am grateful for this broad spectrum of support I have received from Hartford's business community and Hartford's working families," Perez said in a prepared statement. "I am pleased by this strong display of confidence in my performance as mayor and in the direction of our city."
Of the mayor's six Democratic challengers, former Deputy Mayor I. Charles Mathews is the closest, having brought in about $45,000. His finance report, however, shows more than 80 percent of that - $37,000 - is his own money.
State Rep. Art Feltman raised the third-highest total, $32,000, almost all of which was raised through individual contributions, many of them from out of state.
Trailing the pack is state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, who raised $3,700; former state Sen. Frank Barrows, who raised $3,000; and Raul De Jesus, who raised $2,718, most of it a loan from himself.
The Rev. Patrice Smith, also a Democratic candidate, had not filed her campaign report with the Hartford city clerk's office by 5 p.m. Monday. Republican candidate J. Stan McCauley did not raise any money, according to his report.
Some of Perez's challengers said they were not particularly impressed by the amount Perez raised, saying healthy finances are to be expected for an incumbent who has had six years to build relationships with the likes of bankers, developers, architects, contractors, lawyers and lobbyists. Perez's list of contributors is heavy with people who do business in Hartford.
Feltman said many people are hesitant to publicly support anyone other than Perez, and that he was impressed by how many people pledged support to other candidates with a "fresh approach" and a commitment to "good government."
"People had the courage and determination to invest about $80,000 in new leadership for Hartford," he said. "This is not the easiest environment in which to raise money, when you have someone with so many hands on levers of power. People are afraid."
Mathews said Perez has had six years to "put key people in key positions throughout the city and to cut deals to gain political support. Mathews referred specifically to one such deal given to Abraham L. Giles, a North End political powerbroker who got a no-bid contract from Perez to run a downtown parking lot.
"I fully expected the mayor to raise twice as much as we raised, no question about that," Mathews said. "There is nobody on that list that wants to ruin their golden goose."
A large chunk of Perez's money came before Jan. 1, when the recent filing period started. Perez received a $60,000 donation from a political action committee he controls called Forward Hartford. The treasurer of the PAC is Barbara Hennessy, the wife of Perez's chief of staff, Matt Hennessy.
According to campaign finance reports, the $60,000 donation was given on Dec. 28, three days before election laws changed to prohibit unlimited contributions from PACs, such as Forward Hartford, to individual candidates. The new law allows a maximum contribution from PACs of $1,500, state officials said, and Forward Hartford gave a second donation of that amount after Jan. 1.
All three of Perez's challengers showed signs in their finance reports of trying to fight Perez's advantage by tapping bases close to home.
Mathews said that as people still ask themselves, "Can Perez be beat?" it was important that he contribute his own money to his campaign to get his "message out early." He expects to raise more as his campaign goes on.
Feltman looked, in part, to his family. Many of his contributions came from two fundraisers he held in Florida, where his parents live, and from those in the medical profession, connections he made through his partner, who is a doctor.
And Gonzalez, whose $3,700 is made up of many small cash donations - some as low as $5 - said she reached out to people in her community to make them feel part of her campaign.
"I want people to feel part of this, if we are truly going to make changes," Gonzalez said. "That is why you see so many small donations - $5, $10, $20. I'm looking to the people. This is a grass-roots campaign."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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