[Editor's note: This article has been updated to correctly reflect the number of candidates in the at-large council race.]
SALEM — George McCabe, in his bid to return to the City Council after more than two decades out of office, is the clear front-runner when it comes to finances.
He raised a total of $14,055 and spent $9,886 in this election season, according to campaign finance reports. But he also loaned himself $6,433, those reports show. McCabe is one of eight candidates vying for one of four at-large seats on the council.
The other top two fundraisers — who are also in the at-large race — are Conrad Prosniewski, who reported $9,335 in total, and Alice Merkl, who reported $9,178. They finished 1st and 4th, respectively, in the Sept. 17 preliminary. But the person who raised the most since then is Councilor-at-Large Arthur Sargent, with $5,460. He did not report any donations leading up to the preliminary, in which he finished 5th, and also loaned himself $2,500 on Sept. 24, according to his report.
Ty Hapworth (3rd in the at-large preliminary) raised a total of $6,387, incumbent Domingo Dominguez (2nd), $4,664, Jeff Cohen (6th), $4,243, and incumbent Elaine Milo (7th), $3,060. Hapworth and Merkl also made significant loans to their campaign accounts.
Campaign finance reports, which are on file with the City Clerk’s office, were due on Oct. 28. As of Monday morning, the clerk’s office said it was still missing reports from Ward 7 council candidate Andrew Varela, and School Committee candidates Jennifer Brown (for the post-preliminary election period) and incumbent Mary Manning (for all of 2019).
The late write-in campaign by Stacia Kraft in Ward 2, to challenge incumbent Christine Madore, has also seen an influx of $4,790 for Kraft, which far outpaces Madore’s campaign funds. Madore, who initially was unopposed, had raised just $1,894 leading up to the preliminary, and then $450 afterward. She spent only $604 to Kraft’s $1,753.
In other contested races, Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy raised a total of $4,060 and spent $2,296, compared to challenger James Willis, raising $2,812 and spending $2,724.
In Ward 3, Patricia Morsillo, who finished 1st in the preliminary, raised $3,524 in total and spent $2,682, compared to Robert Camire’s $440 in receipts and $1,926 in expenses. Morsillo also loaned herself $1,500.
In Ward 4, challenger Michael Cusick has both outraised and outspent incumbent Tim Flynn. Cusick reported $1,096 in receipts and $980 in expenses, compared to Flynn’s $600 in receipts and $536 in expenses.
And in Ward 6, Megan Riccardi reported a total of $3,905 in receipts and $1,590 in expenses, compared to former councilor Jerry Ryan’s $3,157 in receipts and $2,602 in expenses. Riccardi finished just four votes ahead of Ryan in the preliminary.
Steve Dibble, who is running for a new term in Ward 7 against challenger Varela, reported raising no money and spending $870, between Jan. 1 and Oct. 18.
After McCabe in the at-large race, the second heaviest spender in the last leg of the election was School Committee member Jim Fleming, who spent $3,268 and raised $3,255 in the same period. Fleming, who finished 3rd in the preliminary, is running against five other candidates for three seats on the committee. He also loaned himself $3,000 and reported a total of $6,305 in receipts for this election.
Based on the available reports Monday from the other candidates in the race, Bethanne Cornell (4th) reported a total of $5,305 in receipts, followed by Kristin Pangallo (2nd) at $3,725, Brown (6th) at $1,885, and Donna Fritz (5th) at $1,592.
Salem City Clerk Ilene Simons wasn’t available for comment on Monday, as a staff member explained that she was busy preparing for Tuesday’s election.
Jason Tait, a spokesman for the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, explained that candidates who miss or ignore filing deadlines face fines of up to $25 per day up to $5,000 total. This is generally the system that state or federal candidates face, he said, but noted that municipal candidates file through their town or city clerk instead of directly with OCPF (with the exception of mayoral candidates).
In these local cases, if a candidate is behind on reporting, the clerk’s office can send a letter “informing them they failed to file the report on time,” Tait said. “If it isn’t filed within 10 days, the matter could be sent to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Once it reaches us, we institute the fines.”