Herbst holds early campaign cash lead in Trumbull first selectman race

In the fundraising race among Trumbull first selectman candidates, it is challenger Michael Herbst, a Republican, who holds a solid lead over incumbent Democratic First Selectman Vicki Tesoro heading into the summer. Candidates are required to disclose their fundraising activities and available cash balance each quarter.

Herbst, the former Trumbull High School athletic director and father of former First Selectman Timothy Herbst, raised $30,394 for the quarter ending June 30. His campaign reported having a $28,695 bank balance as of June 30.

Those numbers exceeded Tesoro’s totals of $10,300 raised and $8,227 cash on hand over the same period.

According to Herbst Campaign Treasurer Lori Rocasco Schwartz, Herbst did his fundraising through 167 individual donations that averaged about $182. The campaign also held a fundraising dinner June 27 at the Circolo Sportivo Italian Club in Bridgeport, but the numbers from that event were not part of the quarterly report.

Most Herbst donors were Trumbull residents and many others hail from other towns throughout Connecticut. There also were a handful from Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. John McGrath of The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, donated $500. Albert Chaper, of Conyers, Ga., kicked in $300.

Herbst reeled in seven $1,000 contributions, the maximum individual donation allowed under state law. Those donations came from contractor Vincent Fuimara, real estate investor J. David Kelsey of Old Lyme, Anthony Vinci of Trumbull, Easton attorney Robert Nicola, Rhode Island arborist Michael Sepe, North Haven developer Anthony DiGioia, and New York physician Apoorva Ramaswamy.

Nonmonetary contributions included $200 worth of food from Vazzy’s, $100 worth of drinks from Elaine Hammers and Rocasco Schwartz, and $125 worth of desserts from The Cannoli Company of Bridgeport.

The Herbst campaign reported $1,698 in expenditures. These included $837 to Baton Rouge-based online fundraising firm Anedot Inc., a $201 purchase at Costco June 25, a $650 payment to Circolo Sportivo for the June 27 dinner, and $8.89 to Deborah Herbst for a beverage purchase, also on June 27.

On the Democratic side, Treasurer Dawn Cantafio reported that the $10,300 the Tesoro campaign raised had come from 54 individual donations, an average of just over $190. The campaign held a house party fundraiser June 23, but those numbers did not make it into the June 30 filing.

All of Tesoro’s donors are Connecticut residents. Most live in Trumbull, with a few residing in Bridgeport, Stratford, Fairfield, and Monroe. Big donors to the Tesoro campaign include $1,000 donations from Cantafio, ad saleswoman Regina Haley, Fairfield attorney Raymond Rizio, engineer Timothy Cantafio, and homecare provider Cathy Howard. The single nonmonetary contribution listed was $43.30 worth of postage expenses from Lisa Labella.

The Tesoro campaign’s $2,072 in expenses include a $900 food bill from Tashua Knolls on May 3, a $496 reimbursement check to Ashley Gaudiano for money she had spent on advertising materials and online subscriptions, and $224 to Timothy Cantafio as reimbursement for office software and a deposit payment at Tashua Knolls May 1. The campaign also paid $274 in transaction processing fees to Anedot and $86.96 to Namecheap Inc. to register the campaign’s domain name.

Herbst’s fundraising totals are well above the recent norm for a Trumbull first selectman race. In 2017, GOP candidate Paul Lavoie reported $20,297 in donations and $12,806 cash on-hand in his July report. Tesoro had raised $21,380 and had $17,710 on hand. Petition candidate Michael Redgate had $2,226 on hand after raising $2,564.

In a written statement, Herbst said he was overwhelmed by the level of support his campaign had received.

“It is particularly humbling and motivating to receive so much support and encouragement from many of the former students and families I had the honor of working with as a teacher, coach and athletic director over my 38 years in the Trumbull school system,” he said.

Tesoro, reached for comment Wednesday morning, replied with a prepared statement of her own. She downplayed the cash disparity, saying her priority would be on running the town, not fundraising. She also pointed out the difference in the two campaign’s donors.

“Unlike my opponent who raised nearly 60% of his dollars from out of town donors, my fundraising numbers reflect my continued commitment to Trumbull with 90% of my funds raised coming from residents of our community,” she said.