As the 2018 gubernatorial contest crawls to a start, it is not just the polls showing Governor Charlie Baker hugely popular with voters but also the fund-raising numbers that paint a bleak picture for Democrats.
The three gubernatorial candidates — former Deval Patrick administration budget chief Jay Gonzalez, former Newton mayor Setti Warren, and environmental activist Robert K. Massie — are entering the election year with a combined total in campaign funds just shy of $173,000.
According to latest reports filed this week, Gonzalez has $96,000 in the bank, Warren has $68,000, and Massie (who loaned $45,000 to his campaign committee) has $9,000.
At the same point in the 2006 gubernatorial election, Patrick had $510,000 in his campaign account. Charlie Baker, preparing his bid to unseat Patrick in 2010, started that election year with $1.628 million — and lost the race.
The major problem for the Democratic candidates is the perception that Baker, with his consistently high standing in the surveys and a never-before-seen fund-raising juggernaut, is hugely favored for reelection. Between Baker and his No. 2, Karyn Polito, the yet-to-be-formally-announced campaign has already raised more than $10.5 million.
For those counting along at home, that means the incumbent has 61 times the combined war chests of his Democratic opponents.
One major Democratic fund-raiser — who did not want to be quoted slamming his own party’s prospects — claims the usual deep-pocketed donors are either going to support Baker or hold back from his challengers in order not to cross Baker.
“I’ve given up fund-raising for them,’’ one longtime party finance veteran said. “The business guys who can write the big checks don’t want to get on Charlie’s wrong side.”
Among the three Democrats, only Massie came swinging back at the notion that anemic fund-raising is a sign that the party’s gubernatorial prospects are dim. He says it is counter to the feeling among Democratic activists he is meeting across the state.
“I have found enormous energy for change all over the state from the people who do not have money,’’ Massie said. “They are showing up at my events and volunteering for my campaign . . . We are doing [the] most important thing in Democratic elections, winning over people who are willing to work and to vote.”
The other two Democratic campaigns declined to comment.Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.