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Bernie Sanders dominates western Massachusetts presidential campaign fundraising



By Shannon Young | syoung@repub.com
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on April 10, 2016 at 7:00 AM, updated April 10, 2016 at 7:05 AM

SPRINGFIELD — Despite trailing Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton in overall campaign contributions in Massachusetts, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., out-raised the former first lady and all other White House hopefuls in the western part of the state.

According to Federal Election Commission data, Sanders pulled-in nearly $336,000 in pre-primary campaign donations from Western Massachusetts residents through the end of February 2016 — $84,000 more than Clinton, the next-closest candidate.

The Vermont senator, who more than tripled the total amount collected by all Republican candidates in the western part of the state, also out-raised the total Massachusetts contribution amounts reported by remaining GOP candidates U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and businessman Donald Trump, as well as several others who have since dropped out of the race, according to FEC data.

Sanders, who has largely built his campaign on small individual contributions and refused Super PAC dollars, collected a total of $335,802 in western Massachusetts between April 2015 and the end of February 2016 — one day before the state’s primary election.

Supporters living in zip codes beginning with 010, including Amherst, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Holyoke, Northampton and West Springfield, largely fueled Sanders’ western Massachusetts fundraising success, accounting for more than half of the contributions — $194,000 — raised there.

The Vermont senator, meanwhile, collected more than $63,000 in campaign contributions from supporters living in zip codes beginning with 012 — primarily Berkshire County — and more than $62,000 from those living in 013 zip codes, including Deerfield, Greenfield, Sunderland and Wendell.

Supporters living in Longmeadow and Springfield, however, gave Sanders’ campaign just $15,294 over the 10-month period, according to FEC data.

Although Clinton nearly doubled Sanders’ in total Massachusetts fundraising, with $4.8 million to his $2.7 million, she trailed the Vermont senator in the western part of the state, where she collected just $251,760 in campaign contributions.

The former first lady failed to out-raise her Democratic rival in four of five of the zip code groups tracked by the FEC, including in those beginning with 012, where she pulled-in $58,569; 013 zip codes, where she collected $19,068; and 010 zip codes, where she raised $132,326.

Clinton, however, nearly tripled Sanders in fundraising from supporters in Springfield and Longmeadow, pulling in just under $42,000 in campaign contributions — with over $30,000 coming from Longmeadow alone.

Despite losing Massachusetts’ March 1 primary to Clinton, Sanders’ claimed victories in three out of the four westernmost counties: Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire, according to results posted by Secretary of Commonwealth William Galvin’s office.

Springfield-based political strategist Tony Cignoli said Sanders’ ability to draw on thousands of small contributions in western Massachusetts and get those donors out to the polls reflected what his campaign has seen nationally.

While he acknowledged Sanders’ strong base of support in the western part of the state, Cignoli said he was somewhat surprised by how well the Vermont senator did as most elected officials worked to raise money for his opponent.

“Clinton had the majordomos, she had the support of heavyweight elected officials who have to raise money for themselves. … There’s enough people to do that for Clinton in western Mass.; it’s amazing so many more people who weren’t toeing the Democratic insider line and on their own saying ‘I’m with Sanders,'” he said in an interview.

Cignoli attributed Sanders’ success in western Massachusetts, in part, to the senator’s ability to tap into the same base of support as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

“In the same way they worked so hard for her and contributed to her, they did the same for Sanders,” he said. “If you check her (fundraising) numbers and names against his, it’s a lot of the same people.”

State Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, a co-chair of Sanders’ statewide campaign, said he believes the senator’s ability to out-raise Clinton in the western counties “makes perfect sense” given his electoral success there.

“If someone is going to give money to a political campaign, especially someone who doesn’t normally donate, they look at it as making an investment in the campaign and make sure they’re out there talking to their neighbors,” he said in an interview.

Republican outcomes

While Sanders’ ability to fundraise in western Massachusetts translated into success at the polls, the same was not seen on the Republican side of the race.

Trump, for example, won the state’s primary election with 49 percent of the vote and claimed victories in Berkshire, Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin Counties, despite having one of the lowest fundraising totals in western Massachusetts, with just over $3,000, according to FEC data.

The businessman, who has largely self-funded his campaign and rejected contributions, raised a total of $68,576 in Massachusetts — less than what Sanders and Clinton received in some counties alone.

Cignoli noted the significance of Trump’s dominance at the ballot box despite low fundraising numbers, saying it shows his campaign’s ability to organize.

“We saw, especially in western Massachusetts, that his campaign took time to put someone in charge to oversee cities and towns — even late — and did the old fashion stuff. … Trump is an anomaly,” he said. “He didn’t need to raise the dollars, but his supporters understood that they needed to expend the elbow grease.”

Paul Santaniello, the western Massachusetts Coordinator for Trump’s presidential campaign, compared the billionaire businessman’s fundraising strategy to Sanders’, saying the GOP front-runner focused more on engaging supporters than asking for their money.

“A lot of times people want to help out a campaign. From years of campaigning and fundraising for different candidates, I know that a lot of people get put off by (expensive) fundraisers and feel like they can’t be a part of it,” he said in an interview. “Sanders and Trump’s strategies allow people to be part of the campaigns.”

Santaniello added that Trump’s ability to earn free airtime suggests he doesn’t need to raise the same kind of money other candidates do.

“I don’t think it’s a negative he only raised $3,000 in western Massachusetts; I think it goes to show his personality, there’s a value to that,” he said.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, meanwhile, led GOP candidates in western Massachusetts fundraising with more than $21,000 despite placing fifth in the Republican primary contest and receiving just over 2,000 votes in the four state’s westernmost counties, according to Galvin’s office.

Carson abandoned his presidential dreams after the March 1 “Super Tuesday” primaries and has since endorsed Trump.

Cruz, who placed fourth in the state’s primary, trailed with over $17,000 in western Massachusetts campaign contributions — the bulk of which came from zip codes beginning with 010, according to FEC data.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who left the GOP race weeks after placing third in the Massachusetts primary, and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, who exited the contest after New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, collected a respective $16,372 and $10,191 in the western part of the state.

Kasich, who spent much of the days leading up to Massachusetts’ primary fundraising and campaigning in the state, meanwhile, raised over $8,000 in the western-most counties. The Ohio governor placed second in the March 1 primary and claimed second-place finishes in Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties, despite the low fundraising amount.