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Christenson raises and spends more than Fallon in Malden race

Posted by Matt Byrne  September 21, 2011 10:04 AM

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Since he declared his candidacy for mayor last November, Gary Christenson has raised more than three times as much money as his opponent, Deborah Fallon, according to financial disclosure documents filed last month with the state.

From the start of his fund-raising efforts Christenson has pulled in $74,392.14, including $5,940 from public employees, $1,440 from the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office where he works, and from companies that do business with the city.

Fallon drew $21,740.18, including $5,000 from the International Association of Fire Fighters, according to finance records that campaigns must file with the state


In an analysis of donations, Fallon has struggled to attract donors willing to contribute the maximum allowable $500, while Christenson's roll of high-spending donors have flourished. In all, 18 maxed out for the candidate who is currently the City Councilor for Ward 1. Each donated $500, the maximum allowable contribution from an individual.

Fallon's cash flow, meanwhile, bottomed out momentarily Aug. 9, when her campaign was $602.63 in debt, according to her receipts and expenditures listed in the public record. She was quickly buoyed, though, by a timely infusion of $5,000 from the International Association of Fire Fighters, a union group based in Washington, D.C. She also receive $500 from the Boston-based Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts.

"As for the IAFF donation, which I am very humbled by and grateful for, it is indicative of how serious our firefighters are about this race," Fallon said in an e-mail. "It is a powerful message that the IAFF is supporting our local firefighters in their fight to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect. That is the way I have and always will treat our heroes who put their lives on the line to help our citizens."

In the latest campaign filings, Fallon had $3,336.93 on hand Aug. 31, and Christenson tallied $8,615.36 of free cash on Aug. 26.

Fallon was unavailable for an interview this week, but offered a statement in which she denied ever being in debt, and said her fund-raising was appropriate for the race.

"My original goal was to raise $25,000," Fallon wrote. "I feel it is wasteful to spend much more."

"Keep in mind, I ran a highly successful campaign in 2009 [for councilor at large] on little more than $5,000. We raised the least, spent the least, and the voters sent a loud message with me - that we want change in the way our government does business."

"I am very happy and thankful for the support I have, and we will continue to get our message out to people who want to weigh-in on the Mayoral election," Fallon wrote.

Indeed, the expenditures of both camps paint starkly different portraits. Christenson's bankroll has meant more expenditures for printing campaign literature and postage for direct mail to voters ($13,544.81 for both), more campaign-branded merchandise (buttons, Frisbees, signs, magnet tote bags, and T-shirts), and more spent on food and accomodation for a greater number of campaign events.

The average Fallon donor, without considering the $5,000 contribution, gave a little more than $85. Christenson's average donor gave about $107.

"We just do as many events as we can," said Christenson. "We mail as much as we can, and use social media as much as we can." 

While Fallon continues to campaign on her staunch support of the city's fire department, which endured a round of layoffs last summer that forced the closure of the Overlook Ridge station, Christenson has counted more public employee donors overall, including a greater number of current or former police personnel.

In all, Christenson has received $5,940 from public employees, including $1,440 from workers at the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office, where Christenson is budget director.

His largest donor base remains in Malden, however, where 200 residents gave $18,490.55, records show.

Contributions from outside Malden came to $15,140.55, which Christenson attributed to people who are "just supporting a candidate they believe in who will make a good mayor of Malden," he said.

"Although some donations may have come from outside the city, [the donors are] involved in some capacity," he said. "At most of the events that we've sponsored, they've all been suggested donations. There hasn't been any concerted strategy to obtain the greatest amount possible," he said.

Christenson aims to raise $100,000 by Nov. 8, he said.

Business owners and developers also have played a role in the Christenson campaign's financial rise. Donors who were listed as the owner, president, or chief executive officer of  a business gave $5,810, and ranged from local shop owners to regional companies and contractors.

John Pereira, president of Combined Properties, the Malden developer responsible for the apartments at 160 Pleasant St. who now seeks to redevelop the derelict fitness complex on Jackson Street, gave Christenson $500.

The Jackson Street proposal for more than 200 studio, one, two, and three-bedroom apartments, has been tabled by the Planning Commission until Oct. 12, when the findings of a city-ordered traffic study will be released. That traffic report will inform the commission's decision whether to enact a new zoning district encompassing the Jackson Street parcel and others properties downtown -- called a Residential Incentive Overlay -- that would facilitate Combined Property's plans.

Reached by phone, Christenson said that the donations were within the letter of the law  that govern who can give, and how much.

"As long as you're abiding by the rules and regulations [set out by the state], everyone has a right to participate in the political process," he said.

Another donor that does business with the city is from JRM Hauling and Recycling, whose president, James Motzkin, gave Christenson $200. The Peabody-based company, which also runs a recycling facility at 1130 Eastern Ave. in Malden, inked a multimillion-dollar 20-year contract to handle the city's waste and recyclables in June.

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