Herbst campaign rakes in cash

First Selectman Tim Herbst delivers the 2017 State of the Town address Tuesday at Tashua Knolls. — Roger Salls photos
First Selectman Tim Herbst delivers the 2017 State of the Town address Tuesday at Tashua Knolls. — Roger Salls photos

First Selectman Tim Herbst’s exploratory committee got off to a fast start, raising $83,444 in the first three months of 2017. Herbst received donations from 935 individuals, an average of just over $89 per donation.The fund-raising efforts put his campaign more than one-third of the way toward the $250,000 threshold for small donations needed to qualify for state funding of a campaign for governor under the Citizens’ Election Program. Herbst has not declared his candidacy for any statewide office, but is widely believed to be planning a gubernatorial run. Herbst lost a close race for state treasurer in 2014.

“To be one-third of the way there, on track to reach our goal more than a year before the Republican convention, shows that we have very strong momentum,” Herbst said. “We have already raised more than in the entire 2014 election cycle.”

Herbst said his fund raising has consisted of numerous events and hours of campaign calls from himself and campaign staff and volunteers.

“We’re calling people I went to school with at Trumbull High, people I went to college with, people I played football with, and the response has been great,” he said. “I have been overwhelmed by the support I find in all corners of the state. Struggling Connecticut voters understand that to tackle our state’s mounting challenges we need a new generation of leadership, committed to reform.”

Of the total raised last quarter, 873 of the 935 donations were from in-state residents. Also, the nature of the donations showed grassroots support for his campaign, Herbst said.

‘Posting an impressive number of qualifying contributions, I think, is especially impressive during a quarter where I, like so many other Connecticut municipal executives, had the difficult job of successfully navigating my town through an uncertain and troubling budget season courtesy of our irresponsible leaders in Hartford,” Herbst said. “Our first quarter haul puts us in a strong position to finish fund raising and focus entirely on bringing our message direct to Connecticut voters by the end of this year. That will place us at a big advantage over many of our competitors who are raising more raw dollars for their exploratory committees but are struggling to make progress on qualifying funds.”

Herbst specifically contrasted his campaign with those of two other GOP candidates, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Fairfield attorney Peter Lumaj. Boughton was a candidate for lieutenant governor on Republican Tom Foley’s ticket in 2010, and ran a campaign for governor in 2014 but withdrew from the race when he and lieutenant governor candidate Mark Lauretti of Shelton failed to qualify for state election funding. Lumaj, who immigrated to the United States from Albania, lost a close race for secretary of the state in 2014. He also sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012, but the party backed Linda McMahon.

Herbst pointed out that his first-quarter fund raising was more than triple what Boughton raised in the first three months after he announced his exploratory committee. He also said his focus on qualifying donations gave him the advantage over Lumaj, whom he deemed a “perpetual failed candidate for statewide office.”