Khazei leads potential Brown challengers in fund-raising

By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / July 7, 2011

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US Senate candidate Alan Khazei far outpaced his Democratic rivals in fund-raising over the past three months, making a case for front-runner status in a field that is still trying to show it can mount a serious challenge to Republican Scott Brown.

Khazei, the cofounder of City Year and the third-place finisher among Democrats in the 2009 special-election primary for the Senate seat, said he raised $920,000 in April, May, and June. He is well behind Brown, whose campaign says he will report collecting $1.98 million over the same period, giving him a war chest of $9.6 million.

But Khazei’s fund-raising success so far will distinguish him within the early crop of Democratic candidates, which could still see the addition of big names like Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor and aide to President Obama, and US Representative Michael E. Capuano of Somerville, both of whom are said to be considering a run.

Khazei said his campaign did an analysis that showed only two other Democrats challenging incumbent Republican senators have ever raised as much in their first quarter of fund-raising: former New Hampshire governor Jeanne Shaheen and onetime “Saturday Night Live’’ star Al Franken of Minnesota, in their successful 2008 Senate campaigns.

Candidates are required to file complete reports for the quarter by July 15.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren, who has highlighted his ties with Senator John F. Kerry and President Clinton, has raised $122,000 since entering the race May 9. Bob Massie, a former candidate for lieutenant governor, said he collected $82,000. State Representative Thomas P. Conroy, a Wayland Democrat who announced his candidacy last month, said he raised about $60,000.

“Everything in this campaign is going to be more important than money,’’ Khazei said yesterday. “But it all costs money.’’

Massie said his campaign is focused on recruiting volunteers and building an organization. He compared his strategy to that of Governor Deval Patrick, who had raised far less than former attorney general Thomas Reilly in the 2006 Democratic primary. Massie said he has raised almost $170,000 since January, of which he has about $85,000 left.

“If it were about money, Tom Reilly would be the governor and Meg Whitman would be governor of California and Martha Coakley would be senator of Massachusetts,’’ Massie said.

Setti Warren declined a request for an interview. A spokesman, Chuck Gilboy, said Warren’s fund-raising haul was strong for a candidate making his first run for statewide office. The campaign would not yet say how much cash Warren has remaining in his account.

Conroy also said Khazei’s early fund-raising success would not guarantee victory. He noted that Khazei raised $1.2 million in September 2009, the first month he entered the special-election primary campaign.

This past weekend, Conroy began a walking tour of the state to meet with voters.

“Nobody’s doing what I’m doing in terms of getting out with the people, talking to folks and really trying to be a true representative of what people want down in Washington,’’ he said.

Khazei said he did not yet know how much cash he has left in the bank after covering campaign expenses. But he said he spent $75,000 to retire debt from his 2009 campaign. His campaign said about 40 percent of his donations came from out-of-state contributors. Khazei has extensive ties to deep-pocketed national fund-raisers.

In 2009, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, threw a fund-raiser for Khazei that drew Caroline Kennedy. J.J. Abrams, a Hollywood producer whose films include “Super 8’’ and the 2009 “Star Trek’’ movie, held another fund-raiser in Los Angeles prior to the special election.

“Pundits can decide who the front-runner is or not,’’ Khazei said. “I think all that’s irrelevant.’’

Still Khazei’s campaign was clearly excited, sending out a lengthy press release.

“I wouldn’t run if I didn’t think I was the best candidate to beat Scott Brown and, more importantly, to be the best senator,’’ Khazei said.

Brown declined to comment. His campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, said Brown’s showing is a reflection of his connection with voters. He said a fourth of the senator’s donations came from out-of-state contributors.

“Scott Brown is a different kind of political figure, and he’s viewed as a hard-working regular guy who calls them as he sees them,’’ Fehrnstrom said.

Among other declared Democratic candidates, North Shore attorney Marisa DeFranco said she raised $4,000 in cash, and also had a YouTube video worth $2,000 donated to her. Herb Robinson, a Newton engineer, said he had yet to raise any money.

“Fiscally conservative and kind of frugal too, I guess is the best way to put that,’’ Robinson said. “But I will be getting going on fund-raising soon.’’

Glen Johnson of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Noah Bierman can be reached at