NEWTON — With less than two weeks before the city’s mayoral election, the two city councilors competing for Newton’s top job are making their final push to win over undecided voters.
Scott F. Lennon, the City Council president and a councilor-at-large for Ward 1, and Ruthanne Schwartz Fuller, a Ward 7 councilor-at-large, were the top finishers in a seven-way vote in September. Whoever wins the city’s Nov. 7 municipal election will replace outgoing Mayor Setti Warren, who is stepping aside after two terms to run for governor.
Voters will have one last chance to see Lennon and Fuller spar before the election, as the Newton Republican City Committee hosts the final mayoral debate on Thursday, Nov. 2, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m at American Legion Post 440, 295 California St.
Fuller came in first place in the city’s Sept. 12 preliminary election, and has led in overall fund-raising in the race, collecting more than $270,000 in campaign contributions through Oct. 15, according to filings with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
Lennon has seen a recent surge in campaign donations, bringing his total to more than $238,000. He collected nearly $37,000 in September, according to campaign finance reports, and nearly $24,000 in the first half of October.
Fuller brought in about $22,000 in September, and nearly $12,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, according to state records.
Both candidates said they are focusing on meeting voters and swaying undecided residents in the days before the election.
Lennon said his campaign is pleased with the level of fundraising. “People are paying more attention to the race, looking at [my] management experience, budget experience,” he said.
Fuller said she is focusing on offering a “positive message” for voters. “I certainly talk about my vision for Newton that is more livable, more affordable, more inclusive,” she said.
While Lennon reported more individual donors than Fuller — 779 people gave to Lennon, versus 695 people to Fuller — they are close when it comes to donations from Newton residents. Lennon reported 521 people donated from Newton, while Fuller reported 524 people gave from the city, according to state records.
The fund-raising also illustrates a political divide in Newton: Lennon’s financial supporters are concentrated heavily in the neighborhoods north of the Massachusetts Turnpike, including Lennon’s home village of Nonantum, a review of campaign contributions shows.
Fuller’s contributors are more spread out, but are largely located in the neighborhoods south of the turnpike to Route 9, including Chestnut Hill, where Fuller lives.
Lennon has spent more than $184,000 on the mayoral race, with his single biggest total expense to Feargal O’Toole, a Democratic political consultant from Somerville. O’Toole was paid nearly $51,000 for designing mailers, posters, campaign advertisements, and “digital communications,” according to state records.
The campaign also spent about $25,000 to conduct 300 telephone interviews provided by EMC Research, an Oakland, Calif.-based firm. The campaign also paid more than $27,000 to Jean Weinberg for consulting services, and $14,000 to Greg Maynard, Lennon’s campaign manager. The campaign also paid about $17,000 to Woburn-based Connolly Printing for signs and other materials.
Lennon said fund-raising is important, but the priority is getting his message out to voters.
“I’ll sum it up in three words: tested, trusted, committed,” said Lennon, pointing to his years in City Hall as a ward councilor, councilor-at-large, and council president, and his work managing the budget of the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office.
Fuller has spent more than $232,000 in the race, with the largest expense of nearly $53,000 going to Gumbinner & Davies Communications, a firm offering production and mailing services, according to state records.
Fuller’s paid campaign staff spending included nearly $21,000 on more than 40 paid “field organizers;” Amaury Dujardin, Fuller’s campaign manager, was paid about $24,000; and Nathaniel Fixx, a campaign consultant, was paid nearly $17,000.
Myers Research, a Washington D.C.-based polling firm, was paid $13,000 for a telephone survey, records show. The Grenier Print Shop in Jamaica Plain was paid about $10,600 for campaign promotional materials, according to state records.
Fuller said she is focusing on how her experience working in business and nonprofits, including at WGBH as a strategic planner, would be put to use as mayor.
“I truly believe that this race will not be won by whose ever [receives] the most money... I’m grateful to those who have believed in this campaign,” she said.
The pair sparred on Oct. 20 during a debate at Mount Ida College, where both argued that stronger ties with businesses and developers would help the city achieve its goals of more affordable housing and more vibrant village centers.
The next mayor will have to address contract negotiations with unions representing city and school department employees.
Fuller said the city needs to attract good employees, and pledged to “reach across the table to our unions” as mayor, but said she would adhere to a principal of matching revenue growth with compensation growth.
“We also have to have a mayor who understands financial sustainability and is strong and independent,” Fuller said.
Lennon said he is proud to have the endorsement of many of the city’s unions, but would adhere to financial management policies during contract talks.
“We will not negotiate compensation packages that outpace the growth rate of revenue,” said Lennon, who said union support stemmed from confidence in his management experience.
When pressed by debate moderator Greg Reibman, neither Fuller nor Lennon would declare that a Proposition 2 1/2 override would be needed to help support the city’s finances. During the preliminary race, mayoral candidate Amy Mah Sangiolo, a councilor-at-large for Ward 4, said an override would be needed.John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.