By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — If money is the mother’s milk of politics, then novice state representative candidate Leah Cole is getting plenty of nourishment.
As of Feb. 25, Cole’s financial report, filed in anticipation of today’s Republican primary versus Greg Bunn, shows her having raised more money than Bunn and more money than the Democratic candidate, Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne.
Cole, who has never been involved in a political race before, has raised $8,368. She’s already spent $4,521 of it.
Bunn, who has the endorsement of the GOP city committee chairman, Jarrod Hochman, and who worked in two statewide campaigns — Charlie Baker for governor and Richard Tisei for Congress — has raised $5,201 and spent $3,012.
Griffin Dunne is unopposed on today’s Democratic primary ballot. She and David Gravel, who is unenrolled but said he would caucus with the Democrats if elected, will face the winner of the Republican primary in the April 2 special election, a three-way race to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Joyce Spiliotis in November.
Griffin Dunne has raised $7,888, while spending $1,214.
Gravel is far and away the champion money raiser, having collected $15,545 and spent $10,307.
While Cole had garnered several contributions from family members in Peabody, a lot of her money has come from beyond the city. It was amassed in relatively small amounts, with 91 individual donations listed. Only a dozen of those are from Peabody.
“Some comes from Peabody, and some comes from out of Peabody,” campaign manager Ryan Chamberland said.
A selectman in Blackstone, near the Rhode Island border, Chamberland notes that he won a seat on his town’s Board of Selectmen at age 23, a year younger than Cole is now.
For that matter, Chamberland is a paid campaign manager, earning money listed as “in-kind” contributions totaling $2,700 and coming from the Marlborough Republican City Committee. He explains the outside interest in Cole and the Peabody special election simply: “A lot of citizens across the community are worried about the direction of the Statehouse as a whole.”
Peabody, which has supported statewide GOP candidates like Scott Brown, is seen as having potential for the embattled party.
Bunn lists 23 individual donations, 10 from Peabody. Bunn’s campaign manager, Joe Walsh of Peabody, has earned $500.
Walsh credits Cole’s out-of-town fundraising success to her ties to groups that supported Libertarian Republican congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas.
Chamberland dismisses this as unwarranted speculation. Cole’s donors, he said, can be found across the political spectrum, and her ability to attract support from outside the city is a credit to her.
Still, Cole is listed as a $250 donor to Paul’s presidential campaign last year, and her campaign is touted on several Paul-inspired websites.
“We have a terrific candidate running in the Republican primary,” Chamberland said. “I know she’s a conservative, and she’s running on sending a conservative message to the voters.”
Despite raising less money, Walsh said, Bunn is making personal contacts with voters through phone calls and door-to-door campaigning.
“Greg is very focused on the grass roots,” Walsh said. “And we feel very confident.”
Gravel credits a January fundraiser drawing 300 people with giving momentum to his effort.
“I was pleased with what we raised,” he said.
At the same time, he hopes early spending is going to give him an edge in a very short race. Mostly, the money has gone for new signs and mailings.
“I wanted the stuff prepped in advance,” he said.
Much of the campaign consists of going door to door. “I’ve never had this many workers in all the elections I’ve been in,” he said.
With a month to go, Griffin Dunne points out that she’s got another fundraiser coming up March 15 at the AOH. But she downplays the significance of financial ups and downs.
“We still have a lot of race to go, and I’m not worried,” she said. She indicates that there are some things money can’t buy.
“The people that support me have a lot of heart,” she said. “We’re putting a lot of sweat equity into this campaign.”
Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at email@example.com.
Greg Bunn, Republican $5,201
Leah Cole, Republican $8,368
Beverley Griffin Dunne, Democrat $7,888
David Gravel, unenrolled $15,545
Source: Campaign finance reports, as of Feb. 25
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today in Peabody.
Greg Bunn and Leah Cole appear on the Republican primary ballot; Beverly Griffin Dunne is the only candidate on the Democratic ballot. David Gravel, who is unenrolled, will not be on a primary ballot.
The 12th Essex District includes Wards 1-4, plus Ward 5, precincts 1 and 3.
For more details, call 978-538-5900.