Farmington Democrats, Responsible Farmington PAC Top Municipal Race Funding

With a contentious battle brewing ahead of next Tuesday’s municipal election, the latest campaign finance filings show that both the Democrats and a group supporting Republican candidates for town council have raised over $20,000 each.

Records filed on Oct. 10 with the State Elections Enforcement Commission show that the Democratic Town Committee has raised $28,640 to support their endorsed ticket of 19 candidates, headed by Jayhon Ghassem-Zadeh for town council chair.

Responsible Farmington, the PAC supporting the four Republicans for town council who successfully challenged the Republican Town Committee’s endorsed slate, has raised $22,099 as of Oct. 10, according to documents on file at the town clerk’s office.

The RTC, which is backing 17 candidates including town council chair candidate Nancy Nickerson, recorded $10,153 in its coffers, according to the Oct. 10 records from the SEEC.

DTC Chairman Brian Noe said to his knowledge, the Farmington DTC has never previously raised that much money, which he attributed to the support of the community.

“Our money is organic,” Noe said. “Our funding comes from our candidates [fundraising] and the supporters of our candidates.”

The heated race for the town council follows a contentious summer in Farmington, which saw both controversy and record voter turnout in the high school referendum, as well as rivalry among town Republicans.

The Democrats recorded contributions from more than 200 donors since earlier this summer, when the campaign was launched. In total, 89 donors listed out-of-town addresses, with 28 of those from out-of-state, whose contributions totaled $5,905, comprising approximately 20.6 percent of the DTC’s contributions.

Noe explained that the committee screens each contribution that is collected to make sure donors have some sort of connection to town or each candidate.

“It’s an unwritten rule that we won’t take it if we don’t know where the money’s coming from,” Noe said. “Everything is tied to our candidates.”

The smallest individual donation to the DTC was $10 and the largest was $750.

The Democrats have spent $20,209 on materials for fundraising events, rent at their Main Street headquarters, postal supplies and payment for a social media consultant.

SEEC spokesman Joshua Foley said because this is the first year the SEEC has been receiving any municipal data — via a pilot program 20 towns are participating in — the commission does not have any information regarding average contribution amounts for municipal elections.

Foley added that there are no prohibitions for out-of-state donors contributing to a municipal race.

More than 100 donors contributed to Responsible Farmington since its inception in July, according to the reports on file at town hall. The smallest individual donations include $10 contributions. The largest donations were 10 separate contributions of $1,000, three of those coming from out-of-state donors.

One $1,000 donation came from Brian Rubino, who is at the center of a complaint filed with the SEEC regarding a series of unattributed radio advertisements ahead of the Republican primary last month.

“Mr. Rubino made the donation back in August,” said Jon Landry, a 1st district candidate for town council supported by Responsible Farmington. “That money was spent on the Sept. 12 primary.”

At least 13 of the PAC’s donors listed out-of-town addresses, with half of those from outside of Connecticut, and contributed $4,575 to the group, comprising 20.7 percent of Responsible Farmington’s contribution total.

Justin Bernier, who Responsible Farmington is supporting for a 1st district council seat, described the PAC as a “grass-roots organization” that has gained support from residents, as well as candidates’ friends and family.

“Every [donor] from outside of town is the type of person we’d spend Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas Eve with,” Bernier said.

The recent documents indicate that Responsible Farmington has spent $20,625 on items including signs, postage and phone calls.

The RTC has not received many contributions since earlier this year, when it recorded $4,050 in donations during the period documented in its April 10 filing.

During that time, two out-of-town donations totaling $600 were recorded from donors in West Hartford and in Burlington. One additional $82 contribution was received in May, from the Plainville Republican Town Committee, according to the July 10 filing.

According to the Oct. 10 filing, the committee spent $2,429 on items including palm cards, candidate signs and website hosting.

Election Day is Nov. 7. Residents can cast ballots at their regular polling places.

Editor’s Note: The number of donations Responsible Farmington has received has been clarified and the amount of the group’s smallest donations have been corrected from a previous version of this story.

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