After Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley last month, local politicians began turning their focus to the Democratic and Republican legislators eyeing his state Senate seat. But a little known Needham physician, Peter Smulowitz, has quietly raised more money than his opponents.
According to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Smulowitz had $27,386 on hand at the end of 2009. That trumps his Democratic rival, long-time State Representative Lida Harkins, who ended the year with $7,192 on hand.
“People have contributed to this campaign for a reason,” said Smulowitz. “People are passionate about this campaign and have contributed with enthusiasm.”
About 60 fellow physicians have contributed to Smulowitz' campaign, records show. According to Andrea Wheeler, Smulowitz’s campaign manager, he has continued to raise money. She said total contributions at press time were almost $40,000.
"Anytime you start off a campaign, you go to the people who know you first,” Smulowitz said. “You must be able to get the enthusiasm of those who know you best.”
Harkins’ campaign, which stands at the back in terms of campaign fundraising, isn’t worried about her opponent's fundraising.
“Harkins has never relied on fundraising to win a campaign,” said Dan Matthews, an advisor to Harkins. “She’s always relied on grassroots campaigning. That said, [the cash on hand] is not enough to win a state Senate seat, and she’s working hard to raise funds.”
Smulowitz has used his position in the medical community to establish a lead in fundraising, and said if elected he would use his medical knowledge to tackle healthcare in Massachusetts.
"In order to allow businesses to survive, much less grow, we must do something meaningful about the soaring cost of healthcare," Smulowitz said. "With my experience in healthcare policy, I have some concrete ideas for bringing down the cost of healthcare and families and businesses that are struggling."
Healthcare is a top priority for the campaign, which Smulowiz said will also focus on green energy economics, and "the people's number one concern, the economy."
Republican Richard Ross said last week that while he is prepared to face any candidate in the election, he presumes he will face Harkins, an established Democrat in Massachusetts politics.
“I am clearly a newcomer to this race,” Smulowitz said. “I’m clearly somebody that in order to win must get my message out and meet as many people as I can; I’m committed to doing that. I think people want someone who comes at things. The fundraising number shows what I’m willing to do in this race, as I’ve been across this district and meeting people. People are hearing my commitment they are so enthusiastic and motivated to support this campaign.”
Ross’s end of the year campaign balance stood at $14,205. According to Ross, he is nearing what Smulowitz had on hand at the end of last year, though “not quite $30,000.” Ross said that he has three large fundraisers coming up this month, which he expects will contribute greatly to his campaign coffers.
Brown’s Senate seat covers the Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex district, representing 12 towns and communities. With Brown’s swearing in today and resignation from his state Senate seat, State Senate President Therese Murray has 14 days to set a special election to fill the seat.