By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — Campaign finance reports show this year’s mayoral race is off to a fast start, on track to be the most expensive election that Amesbury has seen in years.
The four candidates for mayor were required by law this week to file reports on how much they had raised and spent. Entering the month of September, Ken Gray led all candidates with $4,051 raised since the start of the campaign, greatly outpacing his fellow challengers and dwarfing the fundraising totals of opposing candidates in the past few elections.
Gray’s totals also nearly doubled the amount raised by incumbent Mayor Thatcher Kezer at the time of the filing deadline, although Kezer has since retaken the fundraising lead following his campaign kickoff fundraiser on Monday.
Jim Thivierge was third in the fundraising race, reporting receipts of $130. Jeffrey Hoover’s totals are unknown at this time because he did not return his campaign finance papers by the deadline. The City Clerk’s office is currently following up on the matter.
The campaign finance reports filed this week cover the period between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30 and disclose the money raised and spent by candidates during that time. State law also requires candidates to disclose donors who give more than $50.
The report states Kezer had raised $2,150 as of Aug. 30. Kezer said at his Monday fundraiser, he raised an addition $3,500. Gray said he has not raised any money since the report was filed.
Among Kezer’s donors was Planning Board member David Frick ($150); four SPS New England executives, including CEO Wayne Capolupo ($250), president Philip Capolupo and his wife Nicole ($250 each) and treasurer Karen Chandler of Salisbury ($250); and Northern Essex Community College administrator David Tibbetts ($250).
Gray’s donors included District 3 City Councilor Donna McClure ($250), City Council candidates Erin Butt and Dave Haraske ($100 each), campaign manager Mike Buetow ($100), Greenery Designs owner Terrance Gleason ($100), and former Republican U.S. Congress candidate Richard Tisei and his real estate partner Bernard Starr III ($500 each).
“I helped him with his campaign; that was actually my first foray into politics was helping hold signs for him,” Gray said of Tisei. “So I went to him and he was great.”
The expenditures for each candidate varied widely as well, with Gray’s funds going primarily toward campaign-related activities while Kezer’s were mainly used for campaign infrastructure and advertising.
Specifically, Kezer’s campaign spent $250 to help put on a St. Patrick’s Day lunch fundraiser at the Link House in Salisbury, $275 to sponsor the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce’s golf tournament and boat cruise, $125 for membership and advertising from Whittier Home Association, and $220 for website design and Internet service hosting.
Gray, conversely, has spent $904.97 on yard signs, $604.99 on palm cards and $62 on a post office box. He also has a $771.32 liability for a loan he took out from himself.
Even with a week to go before the preliminary election, the funds raised and spent in this year’s election have already eclipsed the totals of each of the past three mayoral races.
In 2011, Kezer spent $1,836 on his campaign, compared to the $1,626 spent by his challenger, Planning Board member Ted Semesnyei. Kezer also outraised former City Councilor Allison Lindstrom $3,225 to $595 in the 2009 mayoral election, and $2,870 to $994 in 2007.
The candidates still have a long way to go before they can approach the totals raised in the 2005 mayoral election, when Kezer was first elected to office. That year, Kezer spent $10,120, and his opponent, Tom Iacobucci, spent $16,368.