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The Boston Globe

Opinion

farah stockman

The money behind the messages in Boston mayor’s race

Money’s not everything in politics, but it can give us a glimpse into the health of a campaign and where a candidate’s financial support lies. Most importantly, it gives us a clue about who may walk into the next Boston mayor’s office feeling like the new mayor owes them.

Sift through the finances and the first pattern you will find is who has raised the most money. I hate to sound tribal. Boston is lucky to have great candidates from across the racial spectrum. But in descending order of money raised, the list looks like this: white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, black woman, Latino man, black man, black man, black man, black man.

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That’s why there has been a push to unify black and Latino people behind one campaign. But even if all six candidates of color pooled their money and did a Vulcan mind meld to become one person, that supernatural being would still rank fifth in fundraising, behind Marty Walsh, John Connolly, Dan Conley, and Mike Ross.

We may be ready to elect a black or Latino mayor, but our pocketbooks don’t seem to be.

So where are the front-runners getting their money?

Marty Walsh, a state lawmaker who recently headed an umbrella group of building trade unions, has raised the most: $1.2 million, a fact made more impressive since he started with only $99,000. Walsh, who speaks eloquently about education and gay rights, doesn’t want to be typecast as “the union guy.” But since unions can give $15,000 — compared to $500 for individuals — this is where he gets his edge. In the last two weeks of August, more than 30 percent of his funds came from unions, not counting donations from individual union members. He’s gotten $14,999 each from the Bridge and Structural Ironworkers Union Local 7 and the Teamsters Local Union #25. Boston firefighters gave him $15,000. It’s hard not to wonder how this will translate at the bargaining table if Walsh becomes mayor.

John Connolly, a Harvard-educated city councilor, is the second-most prolific fundraiser, with $1,087,768. Connolly, who advocates lifting the charter-school cap and overhauling education, says his support comes mainly from parents with school-age kids. A quick look at his finances supports that. In the last two weeks of August, he got 22 checks from women his campaign described as working “at home” — presumably mothers of young children. (By contrast, Dan Conley only got six checks during that period from women listed as “housewives.”) But Connolly also has support from business interests: Twenty-one people working for commercial real estate-developer Cushman and Wakefield gave him a total of $10,500.

Dan Conley, the prosecutor, is in third place for fundraising, with $819,031. But add that to the $868,000 he already had from years of running unopposed, and you have got the biggest war chest of the race. Conley has exceeded his goal of $1.5 million. He seems to have raised twice as much money and collected twice as many checks from people in the suburbs as folks who live in Boston. Press secretary Michael Sherry says “the vast majority” of donors work in Boston, if they don’t live there. His donor list is full of lawyers. It’s tough to find a check under $100.

A final insight from the financial data: When Rob Consalvo says he is “all in for Boston,” he isn’t kidding. Consalvo, who raised $568,340, only has $24,343 left. Spokesman Kevin Franck says the Consalvo campaign made a decision to hire an army of 50 door-knockers, rather than hoard money for last-minute ads. Indeed, he spent more than $50,000 last month on payroll, three times as much as Conley.

It feels a like a “Hail Mary” pass for a guy who has fallen behind in fundraising. Time will tell what money is worth in this race.

Farah Stockman can be reached at fstockman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fstockman.
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