BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — PEABODY — Leah Cole has seen support for her state representative bid flood in from Republicans outside the city over the past month.
Campaign finance reports filed this week with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance indicate that from Feb. 15 to March 15, Cole, with $18,700, out-raised both unenrolled candidate Dave Gravel and Democratic candidate Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne combined.
Gravel, a city councilor-at-large and technology consultant, came in as the next-highest fundraiser at $16,100, with much of his support coming from within the city and his own wallet, according to reports. Gravel said he refuses to take any “outside money” and has raised the most out of all three candidates, according to year-to-date totals.
Griffin Dunne, 55, lagged behind both Gravel, 56, and Cole, 24, in fundraising, with $2,090 recorded raised from Feb. 15 to March 15, in the form of small donations from residents. But yesterday afternoon, she said an early draft was mistakenly sent electronically instead of the final report.
“It’s not accurate because it’s a clerical error,” Griffin Dunne said, saying a fundraiser and contributions totaled approximately $4,050 for the month. Her report also failed to carry over nearly $6,700 she had in her campaign coffers from the month prior. Griffin Dunne said she was planning to file an amended report with the state as soon as last night.
Candidates continued to file so-called “late reports” with the state, with Gravel’s campaign reporting a $500 contribution yesterday and Cole’s campaign reporting $1,000 in two $500 contributions on March 20.
Cole’s campaign spent $16,500, more than Gravel raised in the past month and nearly twice as much as Gravel’s campaign spent, leaving her with just over $6,000 in her account. Her campaign also counts a $1,900 loan from Cole for a mailer.
“I’m working hard,” Cole, a licensed practical nurse and political newcomer, said in a statement. “I’m out-raising my opponents, and outworking them, too.” Cole said she is hearing from voters as she goes door to door and that the race is being watched on the state level.
“They know that if I’m elected, it will send a message to Beacon Hill that supporting the governor’s tax hikes comes with political consequences,” Cole said.
About 15 percent of Cole’s contributions came from Tanner City donors, according to a chart with her state campaign finance report. Cole garnered a total of 16 contributions for $2,920 from Peabody residents, including the $1,900 loan Cole gave to her bid.
Notable donors to Cole include $500 from the Citizens for Limited Taxation 21/2 PAC; $100 from the campaign of state Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, R-Taunton, who has been outspoken on EBT debit card system abuses; $500 from the Massachusetts Republican Municipal Coalition PAC; and $500 from Republican state Rep. Dan Winslow, a former judge from Norfolk who is running for U.S. Senate.
Yesterday, Cole’s campaign announced that Charlie Baker, a Swampscott businessman and 2010 Republican challenger for governor, endorsed Cole. Baker also cut a check for $500.
Unlike either Gravel’s or Griffin Dunne’s campaigns, Cole’s committee lists $9,600 in-kind contributions, mainly from the Marlborough Republican City Committee for things such as canvassing, “voter ID phone calls” and a $1,350 stipend for Cole’s campaign manager.
“The Marlborough Republican City Committee has long endeavored to support quality, hardworking Republican Party candidates, regardless of geography,” Chairman Paul Ferro said in an email, “especially in special elections like the one in Peabody.”
“I’m delighted her message is resonating not only in the city of Peabody, but throughout the state of Massachusetts,” said her campaign manager, Ryan Chamberland.
Most of the money that Griffin Dunne and Gravel’s respective campaigns have received in the last month has come from Peabody voters.
“My campaign has a lot of heart and a lot of sweat equity,” Griffin Dunne said. “Buying an election is not the way we do things in Peabody.”
She added, “Leah Cole is getting money from outside Peabody, but I’m getting support from people who actually vote.”
“I haven’t taken any PAC money, any outside money,” Gravel said, “because I believe I don’t need to do that.”
In the prior reporting period, Gravel’s campaign raised about $15,500, with approximately $4,500 of that coming from Gravel. Of the $16,100 he raised this past month, Gravel loaned his campaign $10,000. He also gave it $1,237. Gravel is the president and CEO of GraVoc Associates, a Peabody technology consulting firm.
His campaign’s latest report lists an ending balance of $12,800, double what Cole has on hand, and liabilities of $18,400, which includes $10,978 in loans from Gravel over the past two months and $7,456 in loans from prior campaigns.
During this time, Gravel won the endorsement of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Reports show that 86 percent of his support comes from Peabody, including his loans.
Some notable Gravel donors include City Council President Tom Gould, the owner of Treadwell’s Ice Cream, who gave $60, on top of $200 in the prior reporting period, and Councilor-at-large Anne Manning-Martin, who gave $100, in addition to the $100 she gave at the end of January.
Most of Griffin Dunne’s contributions, 83 percent, are from Peabody residents. The reports list $20 from Mayor Ted Bettencourt, $20 from Gould and $20 from Beverly Democrat Arthur Powell, the price of tickets to a St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser, Griffin Dunne said.
The 12th Essex District includes Wards 1-4, plus Ward 5, precincts 1 and 3. The special election is Tuesday.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.
MONEY RAISED SO FAR
Candidate Jan. 1-Feb. 15 Feb. 16-March 15 Year-to-date total
Leah Cole Republican $8,368 $18,694 $27,062
David Gravel unenrolled $15,545 $16,068 $31,613
Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne Democrat $7,889 $4,050* $11,939
* Griffin Dunne’s fundraising report was incomplete as of press time, and this figure is an estimate from the candidate.
Source: State campaign finance reports
The special election to fill the seat formerly held by the late state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis will be held Tuesday.
Tonight at 7 in the Wiggin Auditorium in Peabody City Hall, The Salem News and the Peabody Chamber of Commerce are sponsoring a debate between the three candidates. The event will be broadcast by Peabody Access TV and moderated by Salem News Editor David Olson.
The three candidates are Republican Leah Cole, a nurse; Democrat Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne, a School Committee member; and City Councilor Dave Gravel, an unenrolled candidate. Salem News readers can send questions for the candidates to Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include your contact information.