Councilor at large John R. Connolly raised almost $68,000 in December, more than double the haul of any other city official, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
Connolly’s fund-raising tear is continuing this month, and his campaign has already deposited $40,000 more in his account, he said. The councilor’s aggressive pace picked up as most candidates raced to bolster their campaign accounts heading into an election year. Individual donors may give up to $500 per year, which makes Dec. 31 an important fund-raising deadline.
Connolly’s expanding bank account has stirred speculation that he has his eyes set on a higher office, a suggestion he rejected in an interview Wednesday.
“I don’t have any plan to run for mayor; I assume I’m running for reelection,” Connolly said. “Fund-raising is part of what I have to do to be politically viable. I’m fortunate to have built a lot of my support for my work on schools.”
Connolly ended 2012 with roughly $252,000 in campaign cash, a balance approached by only one other City Council member. Still, his account is substantially eclipsed by Menino’s.
The five-term mayor has not said publicly whether he will seek another term. Menino had $650,000 at the end of December, according to data from the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, and he deposited roughly $3,000 more in January.
But the mayor’s campaign account was even more bountiful four years ago, as he geared up for a reelection battle against Michael F. Flaherty Jr. Then, Menino started the 2009 election year with a war chest of $1.4 million.
Menino has not attended a fund-raiser since leaving for Italy in mid-October, a trip cut short by illness. He returned to Boston and spent eight weeks in the hospital for an acute respiratory infection and a fractured vertebra and has only recently returned to work.
“He remains focused on being mayor and getting things accomplished,” said his spokeswoman, Dot Joyce. “We have many items on the agenda.”
Eight years ago, Menino had $590,000 heading into an election year, a contest with Maura Hennigan, then a city councilor. Menino won that race handily.
Councilor Michael P. Ross of District 8 ended 2012 with $237,000. In an interview, Ross said he had been gradually adding to his campaign account during his 12 years in office and that he could use the money to run for council or a state office.
There may be vacancies on Beacon Hill in 2014 if current statewide officeholders seek to replace Governor Deval Patrick, who is not running for reelection.
“We have a good team,” Ross said. “We continue to have strong support, which I’m very proud of.”
The robust fund-raising circuit is not a surprise to political watchers such as Paul Watanabe, chairman of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
“It’s a matter of attempting to get your financial ducks in order. Money in the bank increases your options,” said Watanabe. “If the decision is made that the mayor is not going to run, there is going to be a scramble.”
A handful of other Boston politicians also posted notable fund-raising figures to close out 2012. City Council president Stephen J. Murphy held his seat two years ago by just 925 votes, less than 1 percentage point. Murphy deposited $26,000 in his political account in the last two weeks of December 2012, bringing his balance to $84,000.
In District 2, Councilor Bill Linehan of South Boston may face another serious challenge from Suzanne Lee, a candidate from Chinatown whom he defeated by just 97 votes in 2011. Lee ended 2012 with $21,470, almost double Linehan’s $11,966.
“All the issues I care about are still issues,” Lee said. “I haven’t formally announced [my candidacy], but I am still exploring.”
Perhaps the most surprising fund-raising figure came from Michelle Wu, a first-time candidate from the South End who amassed $36,000 in December as she pursues an at-large seat on the City Council. First-time candidates often struggle to raise money, and Wu’s early prowess suggests she could be a legitimate force.
An attorney, Wu moved from Greater Chicago in 2003 to attend Harvard University, worked on a fellowship in the Menino administration in 2010 and 2011, and was a student of Elizabeth Warren at Harvard Law School. Last fall, the 28-year-old worked for Warren’s successful US Senate campaign, running statewide outreach to communities of color, and later announced her bid for the City Council in December.
“I love Boston, and I think city government is where you can make a difference,” Wu said Wednesday. “I think my early fund-raising numbers show I have citywide appeal.”