The three candidates running for state representative in the 26th Middlesex District, which represents much of East Cambridge and East Somerville, spent significant time Tuesday night debating campaign finances.
In particular, State Rep. Timothy Toomey, a Democrat, and Thomas Vasconcelos, a Republican, challenged Progressive Independent Mike Connolly on his "no money" campaign.
The debate was held at Cambridge Community Television in Central Square, and it will eventually be broadcast on the Cambridge station and Somerville Community Access Television, in addition to being posted to websites such as Somerville Patch. It was the second debate between the three candidates.
A discussion about campaign finances led Toomey and Vasconcelos to challenge Connolly on his "no money" campaign, in which the Progressive Independent candidate pledged not to accept financial contributions (his website, nomoneyconnolly.org, accepts donations of $0.00).
Connolly said his campaign represented an effort to take money out of politics and said, "It's very important to set examples."
His opponents questioned Connolly on his "no money" commitment.
Vasconcelos said, "I think it's a little bit of a gimmick."
The Republican said that according to a recent campaign finance report, two people donated a total of $632.19 to Connolly's campaign. He noted they were "in-kind" contributions, but said there wasn't much of a difference between donations of cash and donations of assets.
The idea is there's little distinction between raising money to print campaign signs and accepting in-kind donations of campaign signs that someone else paid to have printed.
Toomey said it was "disingenuous" for Connolly to say he was running a "no money" campaign. "But you are spending money," the state representative said, adding, "it's the latest gimmicky type thing."
According to a recent campaign finance report covering Aug. 20 to Oct. 19, Connolly had received $2,776.72 worth of in-kind contributions, most of it—$2,144.53 worth—from himself to pay for printing signs and pamphlets. The $632.19 were in-kind contributions to pay for campaign signs.
"He's generated a lot of attention. He's been in a lot of newspapers," Vasconcelos said. He added to Connolly, "When you dig deep, you've received more money than me."
As for Vasconcelos, the Republican raised $888.73 between Aug. 20 and Oct. 19 ($514.86 from himself), and he received $1,415,02 worth of in-kind contributions (all of it from himself), according to campaign finance reports. Taking into account expenditures and in-kind contributions, Vasconcelos' campaign spent $2,436.73 in that two-month period.
During that period, Toomey raised $10,328.75 and spent $16,969.93. He had no in-kind contributions listed. Toomey said 88 percent of his contributions came from within the 26th Middlesex District.
Connolly defended his "no money" status, saying his campaign accepted no financial contributions and was true to the spirit of the slogan.
"Take Rosa Parks, for instance," the Progressive Independent said. "When she refused to get out of her seat, in some ways that was a gimmick … she was trying to make a point."
"People are hungry for the kind of change I'm trying to provide," he said.
In addition to campaign finances, the candidates discussed a number of other issues, including immigration laws, political corruption on Beacon Hill, Somerville's McGrath Highway, sex change operations for prisoners, and abortion.
Somerville Patch will post a link to the debate video when it becomes available.