Big bucks cloud the mayor’s race

Alderman-at-Large and mayoral candidate Jim Donchess issued a press release last week trumpeting the news his campaign had raised more than $100,000, one of two campaigns to do so this year. While that level of fundraising may speak well of the level of support Donchess and fellow six-figure man Chris Williams enjoy, we can’t help but think that amount of money in a local mayoral election isn’t something to boast about.

That kind of money – and we’re not even at the run-off stage – is unheard of in a race for Nashua’s top elected position. To be sure, previous candidates had to raise and spend what most would consider a lot of money, but this year is different.

In 2007, the last time there was a contested race for the mayor’s office, James Tollner raised $43,000 and the eventual winner of the election, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, brought in even less, a little more than $36,000 in the primary.

Williams, the former CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, has already raised $116,000 in cash donations plus an additional $25,000 in in-kind donations. Donchess topped six figures with $100,981. Neither has spent even half that, according to the campaign finance reports filed Aug. 19.

The drop-off after Donchess and Williams is precipitous – and more in keeping with what one would expect in a local election. Two other aldermen-at-large, David Deane and Dan Moriarty, reported donations of about $26,000 and $20,000, respectively.

That’s more like it.

While candidates have every right to solicit money from their supporters and those supporters can give whatever they’d like, things really would be just a little better, a little lower-key, if we managed to keep bigger and bigger money out of city politics.

Nashua may be a big city by New Hampshire standards, but it’s a pretty small place in the grand scheme of things; small enough that it’s still possible for candidates to get their message out to the masses without dipping quite so deep into donor’s pockets. There are plenty of neighborhoods to canvass and yards to put signs in. Slickly produced commercials, telephone polls and $100,000 war chests? That’s best left to those with their eyes on higher office.