Metro, News

Mayor Elorza’s campaign funds exceed competitor’s by half million

Democratic candidate Kobi Dennis hopeful despite budget disparity for 2018 mayoral race

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 16, 2018

Mayor Jorge Elorza’s has raised $698,449.96 for his re-election campaign, with $664,229.67 accounting for expenses and liabilities.

As of the final fiscal quarter of FY ’17 the difference in campaign funds between Providence Democratic mayoral candidates Mayor Jorge Elorza and Kobi Dennis is over half a million dollars.

Challenger Dennis raised $18,690 and has $2,641.33 remaining after expenses, while Elorza raised $698,449.96, with $664,229.67 after expenses and liabilities. Well-represented among Elorza’s donors are employees of local law firms; about 12 of his contributions for the last fiscal quarter have come from employees of Locke Lord LLP alone. Elorza has more than 10 individual donations of $1,000 dollars, which is the most an individual or political action committee can contribute to a candidate in a calendar year. Dennis, one the other hand, has received three one-time donations of $1,000 in the same time period.

Dennis, a community activist who worked on Elorza’s first campaign, said this difference “doesn’t worry (him) at all.”

“I have yet to reach out to any PACs. I have yet to reach out to any unions, because I literally want this race — my portion of the race — to be about the people,” Dennis said. His campaign fundraising is structured around smaller grassroots events tailored to families and youth instead of high-budget campaign events, he added. “All these huge, elaborate campaign fundraisers, all this money in the bank — and what is that doing for the person that doesn’t even have money to pay their rent? What is that doing for the young person that is struggling with college bills?” he said.

Dennis, as reported in a previous Herald article, sometimes frequents nightclubs to campaign, given his interest in reaching out to the 18- to 24-year-old demographic, he said. He stressed the importance of being proactive in convincing youth to engage with politics. “Night clubs, basketball games, arcades, skating rinks — I go everywhere,” he said. So far, he is pleased with having registered “dozens” of voters, including several first-time voters, he said.

Many “politicians spend a disproportionate amount of their time raising money, and they end up talking to a very narrow segment of society trying to raise that money — and so they hear about certain concerns of the donor class that might not be the concerns of wider society,” said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, an organization that advocates “to limit the role of money in politics.”

Dennis said that rather than the “physical” amount of money a candidate has raised, the “perception of money” plays an important role in Providence politics. Money gives an impression of political legitimacy, he added.

“I don’t think that not having enough money can ever make a candidate not legitimate,” said Rose Lang-Maso, membership director of the Brown Democrats.

In terms of money for the day-to-day operations of the campaign, Dennis said that “according to the statistics, you would need at least $100 to $200,000 to be a formidable opponent in a mayoral race for a city of our size.” Dennis’ goal is to raise $100,000 to $150,000, first and foremost to just “cover the costs” of the campaign, he said. He has yet to secure campaign headquarters and a campaign manager, Dennis added.

“Money is necessary to run an effective political campaign where the candidate can get their message out,” Marion said, emphasizing the importance of sufficient funding for advertising for a campaign.

Dennis remains undeterred. “I want to get those voters that have never been interested in the process, that have never been interested in politics,” Dennis said. “So I’m going about it the old-fashioned way; I believe in the Democratic process. I’m going to trust it. I’m going to trust that every vote counts.”