Democrats far outspent GOP as races loomed

By Brian C. Mooney
Globe Staff / November 23, 2010

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In the final days of the fall campaign, the Democratic State Committee overwhelmed its Republican counterpart with a massive amount of spending that helped the dominant party snuff out any GOP hopes of gaining statewide or congressional offices, despite the hospitable political climate for challengers and outsiders in much of the country.

New reports filed with the state show that from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15, the state Democratic Party outspent the Massachusetts Republican Party, $475,641 to $21,147. In the prior month, the Democrats had outspent the GOP by more than 2 to 1, $2.4 million to $1.1 million, as both parties invested heavily in advertising to support their gubernatorial candidates. Since January 2009, the Democratic Party outspent Republicans by $5.9 million to $2.6 million.

The late money surge no doubt helped widen Democratic margins in what were expected to be close races or prevented potential Republican breakthroughs for statewide offices such as governor, treasurer, and auditor. It also helped Democrats sweep every congressional contest, including the open seat in the 10th Congressional District, which attracted heavy national money from both parties and was considered a possible GOP pickup.

The state Democratic Party report itemizes about $60,000 in last-minute printing costs, part of Democrats’ massive get-out-the-vote effort on Election Day that included hanging reminders to vote on doors in targeted areas. About $65,000 was spent on last-minute advertising, much of it targeted to niches of ethnic voters through newspapers, radio, and cable television. The party gave another $35,000 directly to the campaign committees of about two dozen Democratic candidates for the Legislature, some of whom lost.

By contrast, the state GOP in the campaign’s last two days reported giving a total of $5,500 to three legislative candidates, all of whom were defeated.

John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said the late spending was the final piece of a seven-month effort to identify Democratic voters and get them to the polls and avoid a repeat of the special US Senate election last January, when Republican Scott Brown was elected.

He said that the party’s strategy included reaching ethnic communities and about 300,000 so-called sporadic Democratic voters and that the state committee spent heavily on field organizers, about 40 campaign offices around the state, polling to track specific races, and assessing candidates for lesser office who would need additional help.

“We did our best to spend wisely,’’ Walsh said.

Jennifer Nassour, Republican state chairwoman, said the minority party traditionally suffers from a resource disadvantage in the Bay State.

Democrats “have more people than we do, they have more money than we do, and they were paying a lot of people to help get out the vote,’’ Nassour said. Brown’s election was a wake-up call for the Democrats, and they responded, she said.

“They brought their machine back; they refueled it, retooled it, and put it to work,’’ she said.

While Republicans were blanked in races at the top of the ballot, the party picked up a net 16 seats in the state House of Representatives, pending the outcome of two recounts, two seats on the eight-member Executive Council, and the sheriff’s office in Worcester County. The GOP lost one of its five seats in the 40-member Senate.

While the Democrats had a big advantage in spending from state accounts, the parties spent roughly similar amounts from their federal accounts, which are used to promote the full ticket, including candidates for Congress. Through Oct. 13, the Democrats spent about $2.3 million to $2.1 million for Republicans in 2010, Federal Election Commission records show.

Among the leading gubernatorial tickets, spending was fairly even dating back to 2009.

Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, reported spending $5.4 million and Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray spent $3 million, according to a Globe review of reports filed with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Republican gubernatorial challenger Charles D. Baker led all candidates in fund-raising, and his campaign had spent more than $6.9 million by Oct. 31. (By late yesterday, his report for the Nov. 1-15 period had not been filed.)

Baker’s running mate, state Senator Richard R. Tisei, spent more than $1.7 million through Nov. 15.

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, the independent candidate for governor, reported spending $4.9 million. His running mate — former state representative Paul Loscocco, who abandoned Cahill late in the race and endorsed Baker — reported spending $99,401, according to the Globe’s tally.

Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein reported spending $182,291, and her running mate, Richard Purcell, listed expenditures of $14,935.

Spending by outside groups to influence the election was relatively even.

The Republican Governors Association spent about $6.6 million, mostly in negative ads targeting Patrick and Cahill.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association spent more than $2.7 million on ads critical of Baker or boosting Patrick, and a front organization called Bay State Future, funded by the Democratic Governors Association, the teachers union, and Service Employees International Union Local 1199, spent about $3.2 million on ads attacking Baker.

Brian C. Mooney can be reached at