If a wealthy, self-funded shoreline businessman does not become Connecticut’s next governor, it won’t be for lack of spending money.
Party-endorsed Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican outsiders David Stemerman and Bob Stefanowski have each topped $1 million in campaign bills, with Stefanowski and Stemerman topping $2 million and $3 million respectively, newly released campaign finance reports show.
The spending spree has technically put Lamont, and possibly Stefanowski, in the red, at least temporarily, with the reports showing unpaid bills exceeding cash on hand – although Stefanowski’s report may have counted large loans by the candidate as unpaid expenditures. Stemerman, meanwhile, has no potential cash-flow problem, having loaned his campaign an astounding $10 million two weeks ago.
And the spending may accelerate with the Republican and Democratic primaries a little more than a month away.
Lamont faces a Democratic primary battle against Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim, who failed to win the party endorsement but petitioned his way onto the ballot. On the Republican side, Stemerman and Stefanowski are also petitioning candidates, having sidestepped party delegates, who endorsed Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. Two more Republicans, Steve Obsitnik and Tim Herbst, collected enough delegate support to win spots on the crowded primary ballot.
Boughton and Herbst, the former Trumbull first selectman, are participating in the state’s public campaign financing program, which provides grants of $1.35 million for the primary – but limits their spending to $1.6 million. (Obsitnik, a tech entrepreneur from Westport, has also applied for the grant, but has yet to be approved.)
With no such spending cap, Stemerman and Stefanowski have poured money into TV ads and consultants.
Stemerman, a Greenwich hedge fund manager who closed his 10-year-old fund, Conatus Capital, to run for governor, paid more than $770,000 in the last quarter to FlexPoint Media, an Ohio company that bills itself as an “omnichannel media strategy firm dedicated to helping organizations shape public opinion.” Another $250,000 went to Lincoln Strategies Group of Tempe, Ariz., which provided “consulting for ballot access work,” according to Stemerman’s report.
Stefanowski, who lives in Madison and was a top executive at UBS Investment Bank and General Electric, paid at least $766,000 to McLaughlin & Associates for television ads and polling during the quarter, and more than $175,000 to TLS Consulting of Clifton Park, N.Y., for political consulting, the report shows. McLaughlin & Associates was Donald Trump’s polling firm during the 2016 presidential election.
Boughton had only one big-ticket spend: $200,000 paid to Medium Buying of Columbus, Ohio, for a television ad. That one payment accounted for more than half the campaign’s spending during the quarter.
Herbst’s biggest expenses for the quarter were $40,500 paid to FP1 Strategies, a Washington, D.C. consultant; and $24,000 to GS Strategy in Boise, Idaho for polling. Obsitnik has spent far less than his opponents, as he awaits word on his application for public funding.
For Democrats, A Two-Man Race
Lamont, a Greenwich multimillionaire who made his fortune in cable television and has run twice before for statewide office — U.S. Senate in 2006 and governor in 2010 — faces just a single opponent in the Aug. 14 primary – and one with no plans to tap millions in personal finances. Although he donated $605,000 of his own money in the last quarter, Lamont has not found it necessary to match the level of spending of his fellow millionaires on the Republican side.
But he has a bill for $104,111 from Putnam Partners in Washington, D.C., for a television ad. And he did write sizable checks during the quarter for political polling (more than $82,000 to Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in Washington, D.C.); consulting ($77,500 to Aisle 518 Strategies in Arlington, Va.); and website work (about $34,000 to Trilogy Interactive of Mountain View, Calif., with another $33,000 billed but not yet paid).
Ganim was deemed ineligible for public financing because he is a convicted felon, but has outpaced all other candidates in individual contributions, with nearly half a million dollars donated. During the quarter, Ganim raised $227,000 in individual donations – about 7 percent of which came from city of Bridgeport employees. Ganim has spent about $360,000 on the campaign and has more than $300,000 in cash remaining.
Among a large number of independent and minor party candidates, Oz Griebel has the most active campaign, having raised nearly $140,000 in individual donations, on top of $67,500 he has loaned his campaign. Griebel’s campaign has spent more than $200,000 on the race.
The general election for governor is nearly four months away, but there have already been big in-state winners: the venues that hosted the Republican and Democratic primaries. Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Ledyard and the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, as well as nearby hotels, collected more than $100,000 from the campaigns in mid-May, for lodging, conference rooms and food.