SALEM — Federal campaign finance reports show incumbent Salem Congressman Seth Moulton with a commanding lead over potential Democratic and Republican primary challengers when it comes to how much cash they have on hand.
So far, four Democrats and two Republicans have signaled their intention to challenge the Marine Corps veteran in the Sept. 1 primary by pulling nomination papers, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Elections Division.
Nomination papers were released Feb. 11 with May 5 the deadline for party candidates for Congress to submit nomination papers with at least 2,000 signatures so that local Registrars of Voters can certify them. Non-party candidates for Congress have a little longer to gather signatures, until July 28.
On the Democratic side, three-term incumbent Moulton, Jamie Zahlaway Belsito of Topsfield, Angus McQuilken, also of Topsfield, and D. Nathaniel Mulcahy of Rockport have pulled nomination papers.
Two Republicans who plan to run are: Carlos Armando Hernandez of Saugus, who ran as a write-in candidate for Congress in 2018, and John Paul Moran of Billerica.
As of Dec. 31, Moulton had $407,735 cash on hand in his congressional account, FEC records show, far outpacing potential challengers.
The campaign for Moulton, who served four tours in the Iraq War as an infantry officer, had total receipts of $734,739 and $311,148 in contributions last year.
His contributions included $278,148 in individual contributions and $18,616 in unitemized contributions and $33,000 in other committee contributions from the likes of ActBlue, and various political action committees.
During his run for president last year, Moulton raised $2.28 million, including nearly $1.5 million in individual contributions. Moulton announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination in April 2019 and he dropped out in August.
FEC reports show his presidential campaign received $692,616 from "authorized committees," the bulk of which came from Moulton for Congress — $676,000 — with the balance coming from the Moulton Leadership Fund
Moulton's presidential campaign also received a $40,000 loan from Moulton.
Moulton's presidential campaign ended the year with $13,257 in cash and $210,300 in debts/loans.
In September, Seth Moulton for America transferred $295,188 to the Moulton for Congress campaign.
In addition, last year, the Moulton Leadership Fund transferred another $124,053 to Moulton's congressional account. The Leadership Fund is a joint fundraising committee that raises money for three of Moulton's fundraising entities, the Service America PAC, which raises money for service-oriented Democrats running for Congress, plus Moulton's congressional and presidential fundraising accounts.
Marie Harf, the executive director of Moulton's Serve America PAC and a political adviser to Moulton, said the top line is Moulton's political fundraising entities have approximately $681,000 on hand, including the Serve America PAC and his congressional account. Harf said the goal is for Moulton to get reelected and get more Democrats elected to Congress.
Serve America was relaunched mid-January and there was a major fundraising push that coincided with that effort, Harf said.
"We feel good about that war chest," Harf said of how much Moulton has on hand for his reelection bid to Congress.
One of the major developments in the race happened late last year when Salem City Councilor Lisa Peterson decided to end her bid, after announcing a Democratic primary challenge in July 2019. Peterson raised $38,103 between July and December, FEC records show.
On Jan. 2, Belsito, a native of Reading, took to Twitter to lament the cost of having to run for office: "This country HAS to address #CampaignFinanceReform I simply cannot accept that it takes MILLIONS of $ to elect anyone in our Democratic government- one that was created to represent the people of this country..."
Belsito, an advocate for better mental health services for women and families, is the second-highest fundraiser in the race so far, having raised $42,979 last year, according to the FEC. She raised $25,740 in itemized individual contributions, and $17,039 in contributions that were not itemized. She spent $17,591, and her campaign had $25,387 cash on hand.
"I'm thrilled about it because this is a people-driven campaign not a PAC-driven campaign," said Belsito, who said she has received hundreds of small dollar donations from donors most of whom live in the district. She said this a contrast to Moulton who has raised money through PACs.
"I am of the people for the people," said Belsito, who said she is a regular person who happens to have the skill set for the job.
McQuilken, an advocate for gun violence prevention, raised $25,070 for his bid during the last quarter of 2019, including $22,500 in itemized contributions. His campaign spent $6,147, and he had $18,922 in cash on hand at the end of the year. McQuilken entered the race in November.
One of those contributors to McQuilken's campaign was former state Sen. Cheryl Jacques, who McQuilken worked for more than a decade.
"We're very please for the early groundswell of support for this campaign for change," said McQuilken. He said he has lofty goals for his campaign and he was confident they would be able to raise enough to carry those forward. He plans a campaign kickoff in March.
Mulcahy's campaign raised $8,740 last year, according to his FEC campaign finance report, with $7,000 of that a loan from the candidate. Total contributions to Mulcahy were $1,737, with $1,450 of that itemized contributions. Mulcahy spent $706.25, and he had $8,037 on hand as of Dec. 31.
During the Hernandez's campaign in 2018, the Salem native raised $2,927 and had $50 on hand. FEC records do not show a filing for the latest congressional campaign cycle. The Stand with John Paul Moran Committee has a statement of organization on the FEC's website, but a campaign finance report was not readily available.
A Rockport carpenter, Christopher Fisher, has said he has wanted to run as an independent, but there was no campaign committee listed for him on the FEC's website.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2534, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.