It's not out of the ordinary to see a New Hampshire politician skip across the state's southern border to raise money in Boston. What is unusual — really, unheard of until this year — is to see that from someone running for Secretary of State.
Colin Van Ostern did just that last week — taking his campaign to unseat Secretary of State Bill Gardner to Boston for a fundraiser with another like-minded candidate seeking out the same position in Massachusetts. It's the latest example of how Van Ostern is deploying traditional political campaign strategies in a campaign where such tactics have never been used before.
Like Van Ostern, Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim is trying to unseat a longtime incumbent by pitching himself as an advocate for modernization and expanded voting rights. Zakim’s opponent, Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin, has held the post since 1995. (Van Ostern's opponent, Gardner, has been New Hampshire's Secretary of State since 1976, making him the longest-serving one in the nation.)
Unlike Van Ostern, Zakim's race will be decided by the popular vote. In New Hampshire, legislators select the Secretary of State — and that won't happen until after November's elections. Another candidate, former Manchester alderman and Rep. Peter Sullivan, is also seeking that job.
The Van Ostern campaign said a mutual friend organized the Aug. 6 event in Boston, and about 15 to 20 people attended. They said the largest donation was $250, though the event's invitation listed sponsorships for as much as $1,000.
Fundraising records show that Van Ostern’s political committee, Free and Fair New Hampshire, raised more than $127,000 between its launch in March and the first reporting deadline in June. The bulk of that — about $115,000 — came from New Hampshire donors. Another $3,335 came from Massachusetts, $1,905 from New York, and $7,330 from other states.
And the campaign Van Ostern is running hasn’t exactly been cheap. The committee spent about $70,000 in its first months — mostly on payroll, administrative expenses and political consulting services.
Free and Fair New Hampshire has two paid campaign staffers, and Van Ostern has reimbursed himself about $1,900 for rent, phone and internet. The committee also spent about $27,000 on various digital and voter outreach services, with $19,750 going to a Nebraska-based consulting firm called BCom Solutions for "online organizing."
Donations from Van Ostern’s recent event with Zakim in Boston will likely show up in the next round of campaign finance reports, which are due to Gardner’s office Aug. 22.