Finance reports show local legislative incumbents far ahead in campaign fundraising

Finance reports show local legislative incumbents far ahead in campaign fundraising

By The Sun staff

The leading fundraiser among local legislative candidates two years ago was the Democratic challenger in Rhode Island’s 34th District state Senate race.

The prospect of that happening again in the next three weeks appears highly unlikely. As the Republican incumbent, Elaine Morgan, goes for a third term, her opponent, Jennifer Douglas, of Charlestown, missed the deadline for filing a required pre-election campaign finance report with the state Board of Elections.

Charlestown’s corner of the rural district was the only one to vote Democratic, for Catherine Cool Rumsey, in the previous two elections. Hopkinton, Richmond, and parts of Exeter and West Greenwich were all part of Rhode Island’s mini Red Wave.

Meanwhile, Morgan, of Ashaway, reported $5,455 in campaign donations for the period of July 1 to Oct. 8, and campaign expenses of $1,414. Her biggest expense was $322.90 for food at a fundraiser in August at Boneyard BBQ in Ashaway. Her ending cash balance was $5,811.69.

The biggest share of her donations came from aggregated individual contributions, plus $1,400 from named individuals, and $450 from the RI 2nd Amendment Political Action Committee. Morgan reinforced her standing with gun control opponents by casting the only no vote when the Senate passed “red flag” and bump-stock regulations in May.

Douglas did not respond to a message regarding her filing, which was due Oct. 9.

In the 39th District House contest (Hopkinton, Richmond and Exeter), Rep. Justin Price, R-Richmond, had an ending cash balance of $3,199.06. He reported $796 in donations, including $300 from the RI House Minority Leadership PAC, and expenses of $1,108.04. Much of the money, $738.45, went to Super Cheap Signs of Austin, Texas.

Price’s opponent, William Degnan, of Richmond, reported $260 in individual donations, $500 from the Richmond Democratic Town Committee, and $310 in loan proceeds. He also reported an in-kind contribution of $237.54 from former House member Larry Valencia, of South Easton, Mass., for the printing of fundraising tickets. Degnan’s cash balance as of Oct. 8 was $120.

The area’s only other contested race is a rematch between an independent, Michael Geary, of Bradford, and the Democratic incumbent, Brian Patrick Kennedy, of Westerly, in House District 38. In an amended return filed on Monday, Geary reported $300 in individual contributions for the July1-Oct. 9 period, and campaign expenses of $468, mostly for lawn signs from Eramian Sign Corp. of Johnston. He had an ending cash balance of $881.40.

Geary captured 46.2 percent of the vote on a similar shoestring budget in 2016, exceeding expectations against Kennedy, who was first elected to the House in 1988. Kennedy’s ending cash balance was $61,157.93.

In the previous election cycle Kennedy was chairman of the House Committee on Corporations and attracted a large number of contributions from business organizations and other interests . He is currently the speaker pro tempore. In the latest period he reported $500 in individual donations and campaign expenses of $8,613.91. Of that amount, $4,035.51 went for 5,500 potholders and an equal number of postcards used in a door-to-door effort.  

Most of the remaining costs were for travel and lodging in connection with committee meetings of National Conference of State Legislatures, and as vice chairman of the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board. The latter group, based in Westby, Wis., is dedicated to assisting states “as they administer a simpler and more uniform sales and use tax system.”

Three incumbents are running unopposed: Sen. Dennis Algiere in District 38, which takes in Westerly and parts of Charlestown and South Kingstown; Rep. Samuel Azzinaro in District 37, Westerly; and Rep. Blake Filippi, District 36, Block Island, Charlestown, and parts of Westerly and South Kingstown.

Algiere, of Westerly, the Senate minority leader, finished the reporting period with a cash balance of $4,350.71. He donated $1,000 each to the campaigns of fellow Republican Senate candidates: Morgan; Tom Paolino of Lincoln; Gordon Rogers of Foster, who is seeking to fill the vacancy created by the resignation Nicholas Kettle; Dana Gee of East Greenwich, who is running for the seat formerly held by her husband; and Jessica de la Cruz, of Forestdale, a village in North Smithfield.

Azzinaro reported a cash balance of $13,815.05 and expenses of $1,573.56, including eight checks totaling $500 for other candidates. His sole individual contribution was $250, from Thomas J. McAndrew, a Providence lawyer.

Filippi, of Block Island, had a cash balance of $34,352.34, nearly all of it from a loan, payable to his own campaign, of $77,508.08. His sole expense was $238.88, for printed materials, and he received one individual donation, for $150.

Filippi was asked to shed some light on the rationale behind the handling of his campaign war chest. Here was his answer: “I don’t generally solicit donations. I’m my own man, and don’t owe anyone anything. Ultimately, we need public financing of elections to end the annual parade of lobbyist donations.”

There is no restriction in state election laws on the amount of money that a candidate can borrow in his or her own name, and subsequently contribute or loan to his or her own campaign


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