In the past two months, Mayor David Cicilline '83 has amassed almost three-quarters of a million dollars to fund his bid for Rhode Island's first congressional seat.
According to a statement on his campaign Web site, Cicilline has raised roughly $725,000 since entering the race to succeed Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., on Feb. 13, two days after Kennedy announced he would not be seeking re-election.
"We exceeded all our expectations," Cicilline wrote in the statement. "You have sent a message that you want a representative with a proven record of delivering results for hard-working Rhode Islanders."
The announcement came on April 5, 10 days before the filing deadline for first-quarter congressional fundraising results for 2010. Cicilline's main primary opponent, former state party chairman William Lynch, announced he has raised $230,000, including $100,000 of his own money, according to Lynch campaign spokesman Bill Fischer.
Fischer said that, as a non-elected official, Lynch's smaller haul was due in part to lower name recognition among first district voters, as well as Cicilline's ability to tap donors who had contributed to his mayoral run.
"We anticipated this," he said in regard to Cicilline's fundraising numbers. "We're not worried. People don't know Bill as well as they know David."
Fischer said that over the next several months the campaign will unveil a strategy to introduce Lynch to voters who are not aware of him.
Because Cicilline cannot transfer funds from his mayoral re-election account to his congressional account, he has returned contributions from donors to his mayoral campaign and then asked them to donate those refunds to his congressional race, according to Wendy Schiller, associate professor of political science and public policy.
Schiller said that at this point in the election cycle, fundraising is important as a way for candidates to show voters that they are serious about winning.
"It's a signal about how well-connected candidates are," she said. "People invest in someone they think will win."
The Cicilline campaign could not be reached for comment by The Herald.
In recent weeks, Cicilline was endorsed by a number of prominent statewide Democratic organizations, including the Association of Democratic City and Town Chairs and the Smithfield Democratic Town Committee.
Meanwhile, the Lynch campaign has been touting its recent endorsement from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 328.
Schiller said that many in the state party are gravitating toward Cicilline because of his higher national profile and contact network, and because of his greater name recognition. Actions Lynch may have taken as chairman might also be a factor, she said.
"When you're chairman, you sometimes have to piss people off," Schiller said.
John Loughlin, the state House minority whip and likely Republican contender for Kennedy's seat, has not yet officially released his fundraising totals, but his campaign manager said that he will report around $100,000 in first-quarter fundraising, with approximately $135,000 cash on hand.
"We're thrilled to be in six figures," Cara Cromwell, Loughlin's campaign manager, said.
Before Kennedy dropped out of the race, his low approval numbers fueled speculation that Loughlin could unseat him. Loughlin was able to attract conservative donors from across the country motivated by a desire to take down a member of the legendary political dynasty.
Kennedy's departure from the race was a major blow to Loughlin, Schiller said, because it made it impossible for him to tap into the anti-Kennedy sentiment felt by many Republicans nationwide.
Cromwell said that Kennedy's retirement, however, has not impeded Loughlin's fundraising efforts. She said it has allowed donors who had been reluctant to oppose a Kennedy to contribute to his campaign.
She also said that the conditions of the race — an open-seat battle to succeed a Kennedy in office — now more resemble those of the Massachusetts Senate race earlier this year in which Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., defeated Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley to replace Patrick Kennedy's father, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
"This race is about John, not Patrick Kennedy" Cromwell said.