Lawless pulls in more money, endorsements but still trails Langevin

Vice Chancellor Langlois '64, actor Ben Savage among contributors

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A year into her campaign to unseat Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy Jennifer Lawless has gained momentum in fund raising, but she still trails the incumbent in polls and the overall money race.

Lawless raised more money in the first quarter of 2006 than in any previous quarter, bringing in $44,000 between Jan. 1 and March 30, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Since she first announced her campaign in April 2005, she has raised just over $124,000. Her campaign has spent $34,000 so far this year and has $86,000 in cash on hand, a boost from the $76,000 on hand at the end of 2005.

“We are optimistic about our financial numbers,” said Adam Deitch ’05, Lawless’s campaign manager. “Jen had a strong quarter to start off 2006.”

But Lawless’s fund raising continues to trail that of Langevin, who she is challenging in the Democratic primary for the 2nd congressional district on Sept. 12.

Langevin’s campaign brought in $84,000 in the first quarter, bringing his total haul for the campaign to over $509,000. His campaign spent over $57,000 this quarter.

Langevin has a three-to-one advantage in cash on hand, with almost $269,000 to Lawless’s $86,000. Langevin also led Lawless – 58 to 14 percent – in a February poll of likely Democratic primary voters conducted by Darrell West, professor of political science and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy. The poll question had a margin of error of 7 percent.

“We’re right on target and things are right where we’d like them to be,” said Joy Fox, Langevin’s press secretary.

But the Lawless campaign is hoping to close the fund-raising gap this spring and summer, bringing in help from a Washington, D.C.-based consultant, Ken Christensen. The campaign paid Christensen’s consulting firm a total of $13,500 in February for his services.

“He spent almost a week with us over a month ago, going over a lot of issues pertaining to fund raising,” Deitch said, adding that he believes the consultation will help fund raising take off in the run-up to the September primary and, if she defeats Langevin, the November general election.

“Jennifer Lawless will have the funds she needs to win in September and November,” Deitch said.

Lawless got a boost in the first quarter with an endorsement from the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee, which contributed $500 to her campaign. She was previously endorsed by three other organizations – the Women Under Forty PAC, the Women’s Campaign Fund and the National Women’s Political Caucus – and earlier this month was endorsed by the Business and Professional Women PAC.

Lawless also garnered donations from Vice Chancellor Marie Langlois ’64, who contributed $500 to her campaign, and “Boy Meets World” star Ben Savage, who has given a total of $500 this cycle.

“Like many individuals across the state and country, Ben Savage believes Jen Lawless is the best candidate for this district,” said Deitch, who added that Lawless met Savage while she was a graduate student at Stanford University.

The Lawless campaign also received $2,100 from the now-inactive 2004 Senate campaign of Blair Hull P’95 P’06, who gave Lawless the same amount last year. Hull’s previous donation was one of several that sparked ethical questions last fall after The Herald reported Hull’s daughter, Courtney Hull ’06, was having her senior honors thesis graded by Lawless and had also contributed to her campaign.

Lawless returned the donations made by Courtney Hull and another thesis student, Nick Hartigan ’06, in October 2005. Earlier this year, she agreed not to accept contributions from her students or their parents. But Hull is no longer writing a thesis and “therefore, nothing is being graded or advised by Jennifer Lawless,” Hull wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

Deitch said the Lawless campaign has experienced an influx of volunteers and interns from local colleges, though Brown students have made up “a relatively small percentage of volunteers and interns.” He said the full-time campaign staff will increase from its current number of four to about 20 this summer.

“The campaign is moving into a phase where Jen and volunteers will be on the phone with voters and knocking on doors pretty constantly,” he said. “Jen’s campaign is going to be about individual conversations with voters.”

Fox said the Langevin campaign is “humming along” and is considering ad buys and direct mailings in the near future.

“We will continue to treat this race like any race and keep working to win the support of the voters in the 2nd congressional district,” Fox said.

Lawless will campaign for the primary and, if she wins, the general election while teaching a full course load, Deitch said.

“Jen will be fulfilling all of her duties as a professor at Brown, up through the primary in September and the general in November,” Deitch said.

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