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Newton Mayor Setti Warren far outpaces opponents in fund-raising before preliminary election

Posted by Evan Allen  September 10, 2013 02:23 PM

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Newton Mayor Setti Warren has raised far more money than his opponents leading up to the preliminary election next week, according to the latest campaign finance reports, bringing in more than triple what his nearest opponent, longtime Alderman Ted Hess-Mahan, has collected.

Warren began the year with $21,914 in his mayoral campaign fund and raised $17,329 between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31. After spending $26,862, he ended the period with $12,380, according to a report filed Monday with the state.

His supporters included several aldermen – Ruthanne Fuller, John Rice, and Marc Laredo – and School Committee Chairwoman Claire Sokoloff.

"We are running a grassroots campaign,” said Warren in an email. “I am confident that we will have the resources to reach out to residents across the city and ensure they know the extraordinary work we've done in the last four years and how we will build on our success in the years ahead."

Hess-Mahan raised $5,340 during the same period and spent $2,132. His finance report also shows $4,142 in outstanding liabilities for loans he has made to past aldermanic campaigns beginning in 2003, as well as one loan for $450 he made to his mayoral campaign last month.

“Obviously, I’m an underdog,” said Hess-Mahan. “I’m trying to get my vote out there. If I get through the preliminary and do better than expected, I’m fairly confident that people will start listening to my message, and the fundraising will come with that.”

Candidate Tom Sheff, who has unsuccessfully run for many political offices in Newton, has just $175 in his account, after raising $250, and political newcomer Jacqueline Gauvreau Sequeira has raised no money at all.

A four-way preliminary debate is scheduled for Thursday, and the preliminary, which will narrow the field to two candidates, will be held Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Warren’s itemized expenses include $11,000 in consulting fees as well as $5,092.69 for airfare, train fare and lodging. His travel ranged from mayors’ conferences in Las Vegas, Nevada and Fort Worth, Texas, to a Council on Foreign Relations meeting in Washington D.C.

Warren said he made a commitment when he was asked to serve in a leadership position on the U.S. Conference of Mayors that he would not use taxpayer money to travel to meetings, which is why he used campaign funds. The Council on Foreign Relations meeting, he said, was a political trip during which he raised money for his mayoral campaign.

“I’m proud to have a voice at the national level for Newton,” said Warren.

Other expenses include printing, database and credit card processing fees.

According to federal filings, as of July Warren still owed $84,113 from his run for Senate in 2011. Warren said he has been working and will continue to work to eliminate that debt, but that it would not distract him from his mayoral campaign.

“I’m very confident that we have the resources we need, and that we will have what we will need, over the next two months to win,” he said.

Hess-Mahan, who began the year with a zero balance, listed expenditures of $2,132 – the bulk of which came from a $1,607 political advertisement in local media. He spent $400 on lawn signs, $100 on a website, and $31 on a bank fee for new checks.

Though Hess-Mahan has been a Newton alderman for 10 years, his donor list includes no other current aldermen. Of his 38 listed donors, all but six are from Newton. Of the 81 donors listed who gave to Warren, only 10 hail from outside Newton. All three of Sheff’s donors have Newton addresses.

Sheff, who listed one $75 expense for gas, said he feels uncomfortable asking people for money because taxes are too high already.

“The funny thing is, I think I could win at this level,” said Sheff. “This election’s going to be an opinion on Setti. They either like him or they don’t like him. Most of the time, it won’t matter what I say.”

Gauvreau Sequeira said she will not try to raise money unless she makes it through the preliminary.

“I’m going to make some signs out of cardboard boxes and plant them where people allow me,” she said. “I bought the paint.”

The spending this year is a far cry from flurry of activity going on at this time four years ago, when five mayoral candidates were competing for the open seat vacated by Mayor David Cohen. Preliminary finance reports filed in September 2009 showed Warren going through $85,000 between January and August; Ruth Balser, who Warren would go on to beat in the general election, had spent more $165,000 in the same time period. The other three candidates, who were eliminated at the preliminary, had spent between $4,000 and $40,000.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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