If rival falls short, Patrick may lose funds
Governor Deval Patrick could lose as much as $750,000 in public campaign finance money if his underfunded and longshot Democratic rival, Grace Ross, fails to make the party’s primary ballot, a development that hangs in the balance as the deadline for filing the necessary signatures arrives late this afternoon.
A community organizer and left-leaning activist, Ross appears to be struggling to get the required 10,000 certified voter signatures that would allow her name to appear on the Sept. 14 primary ballot.
Ross, Patrick’s only potential primary opponent, acknowledged yesterday that her campaign had been short of what it needs, saying it was not clear whether her volunteers had collected the names of enough registered voters, which would then have to be certified.
“I am not sure; we will see,’’ Ross said yesterday after dropping off what she said were 1,000 signatures to election officials at Boston City Hall. “We are certainly within reach. It depends on how we can get people to get them turned in and finish up the process.’’
Ross said that she had to launch a big push in the final hours before today’s 5 p.m. deadline, when Republican and Democratic candidates for statewide office have to file their nomination papers with city and town clerks, who then have a week to review and certify them.
If she gets on the ballot, she and Patrick, if they meet certain fund-raising benchmarks and agree to spending caps, would qualify to divide $750,000 set aside by law for public financing in the primary. If Ross is not on the primary ballot, Patrick, who could use the funds on television ads and mailings to build momentum toward the general election, would not have access to the money.
Patrick advisers say it is not clear that they would take the money anyway, because it would mean restricting their spending in a three-way race in which his two general election opponents are on pace to spend millions.
“Our campaign is driven by thousands of volunteer grass-roots organizers, and we continue to have the resources we need to engage with voters in every corner of the Commonwealth,’’ Patrick campaign spokesman Alex Goldstein said in a statement.
Even with enough signatures, Ross has to clear other hurdles before qualifying for the funds. She must win the support of 15 percent of the delegates at the June 5 Democratic convention and raise $75,000 in amounts of $250 or less by June 1.
By April 15, her campaign had only $5,895; Patrick and his lieutenant governor, Timothy P. Murray, have about $2.2 million on hand.
If Ross is out of the governor’s race, the public funds would then be distributed to other statewide primary races, such as treasurer and auditor. The potential payout to a candidate is $187,500 for those offices.
Even as Ross conceded yesterday that she is struggling to get the signatures, one adviser, George Friday, said the campaign will dump an “avalanche’’ of signed nomination papers at city and town halls in the final hours before today’s deadline.
Ross’s push includes even going on WRKO’s drive-time talk radio show hosted by Howie Carr, who loves to ridicule liberals and activists such as Ross.
“I have heard it all, over the years,’’ she said of Carr’s on-air comments. “But when you are governor, you are governor of all the people in the state. You don’t get to pick and choose the airwaves, or the reporters.’’