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In last lap of Third District primary, Gifford loans campaign a whopping $700,000

Third Congressional District candidates (from left) Alexandra Chandler, Rufus Gifford, Daniel Koh, Barbara L'Italien, Juana Matias, and Lori Trahan.
Third Congressional District candidates (from left) Alexandra Chandler, Rufus Gifford, Daniel Koh, Barbara L'Italien, Juana Matias, and Lori Trahan.(Keith Bedford/Globe Staff)

Rufus Gifford, a former top Obama fund-raiser running in the Third Congressional District’s crowded Democratic primary, poured $700,000 more of his own money into the campaign in recent weeks, punctuating the crush of cash fueling the 10 candidates’ final sprint.

Gifford took out a bank loan to make the six-figure infusion into his campaign, which is vying to keep pace in a field that has already produced the most fund-raising for a Massachusetts congressional seat this century. It’s in addition to a separate $70,000 Gifford had earlier loaned his campaign.

And he wasn’t alone. Newly released campaign finance records show Lori Trahan, a consulting firm executive, loaned her campaign another $200,000 less than two weeks before Sept. 4 primary.

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Many of the candidates running to replace retiring US Representative Niki Tsongas have long showed a willingness to self-finance their campaigns. But the timing and escalation of the new loans underscore the intensity of the costly 10-Democrat primary, where nearly 30 percent of voters say they’re still undecided.

Gifford took out his loan from Bank of America, where his father, Charles “Chad” Gifford, served as chairman. Trahan, who had earlier put $100,000 of her own money in the race, plucked the most recent $200,000 from her consulting business and a checking account, according to her campaign.

And they did so as most campaigns reported some of their heaviest spending.

Dan Koh, the former chief of staff to Mayor Martin J. Walsh, has paced the field in fund-raising by collecting more than $3 million. In the last six weeks, the Andover native spent nearly $920,000, with more than half of that — $466,240 — going toward advertising. It was by far the most of any candidate, but it appeared to have an effect. In a recent Boston Globe/UMass Lowell poll, Koh drew 19 percent of support from likely Democratic primary voters. Gifford and state Senator Barbara L’Italien polled in second, at 13 percent apiece.

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Gifford dropped nearly $400,000 on television, digital, and radio advertising in the same six-week span, and spent $685,000 overall. Trahan funneled $260,000 of the $400,000 she’s spent since July 1 toward advertising.

And L’Italien, too, spent $34,000 on “media production” costs, though her spending reports don’t reflect how much she’s committed to getting a new television ad on the airwaves.

The new campaign finance reports, which candidates were required to file by Thursday, show a growing divide among those able to broadcast their message more broadly.

State Representative Juana B. Matias, while spending close to $150,000 in six weeks, committed about half that to direct mailers and didn’t report any advertising costs. No other candidate reported spending more than $41,000 since July 1. That amounts to less than 5 percent of what Koh was able to invest in the same time frame.

Alexandra Chandler, a former US military intelligence analyst from Haverhill; hotel executive Abhijit “Beej” Das; former labor activist Jeffrey Ballinger; Stow attorney Leonard Golder; and bank vice president Bopha Malone are also running in the Democratic primary.

Rick Green, a Pepperell businessman, is the lone Republican in the race. With no primary opponent, he reported having roughly $435,000 in his account as of last week.


Reach Matt Stout at matt.stout@globe.com.