At Over $50,000, Old Lyme Spending Higher than Comparable Towns for Election

in Elections/In the Region

OLD LYME — Democrats and Republicans together spent more than $50,000 on mailers, digital advertising, consultants, and other campaign expenses leading up to the November 5 election in Old Lyme. That sum is significantly more than comparable elections for several larger towns across the southeast Connecticut.

Old Lyme also had the highest turnout for any town in the state, at about 56 percent.

According to campaign finance statements filed by each of the parties at the end of October, the Old Lyme Democratic Town Committee spent more than $26,500 and the Old Lyme Republican Town Committee spent just over $25,000. These committees financed every candidate on the November 5 ballot.

By comparison, the East Lyme Democratic Town Committee and East Lyme Republican Town Committee spent about $24,370 combined for the same election, in a town with more than twice the population of Old Lyme. In that election, the local Republicans spent about $10,400 and the local Democrats spent just under $13,950.

These numbers are based on disclosures that campaign committees are required to file with either the State Elections Enforcement Commission or local town clerk multiple times throughout the year. The most recently filed forms for most committees were for seven days before the election, in this case October 28.

Individual candidates can also form independent campaign committees. In Waterford, for example, Democratic candidate Beth Sabilia was chair of the Waterford Democratic Town Committee, but also formed Sabilia – Kelly 2019 with her running mate Joshua Steele Kelly.

In Stonington, political committees spent a combined total of just under $15,000 as of October 27. The two committees supporting Democratic candidates spent $8,550 and the two committees supporting Republicans spent $6,436.

In Waterford, political committees spent a combined $27,100 as of October 27. The committees supporting Democrats spent $3,268, and those supporting Republicans spent $23,832.

Campaign expenses after October 27 are included in January filings.

A comparison with 2017

The 2019 election in Old Lyme was significantly more expensive than the town’s 2017 election, when Democrat Bonnie Reemsnyder fended off a challenge from Republican Judith Read. 

In 2017, Reemsnyder and running mate Mary Jo Nosal spent about $20,000 by the October filing deadline, funded by an independent committee and by the Old Lyme Democratic Town Committee. That’s likely about $6,500 less than in 2019.

In 2017, the Republican Town Committee spent about $18,770 by the October filing deadline.

Where does that money go?

This year, the greatest expense for both committees in Old Lyme was for political consulting firms. Such firms can bill for a wide variety of services, from administrative support on budgets and calendars, to flyers, mailers, digital ads, web designs, and targeted ads on social media and other internet services.

The Old Lyme Republicans paid over $12,650 to Majority Strategies of Jacksonville, Florida, over three payments between October 2 and October 27, and another $6,062 to Provider Strategies of Madison on October 6.

The Old Lyme Democrats paid about $17,619 to DNA Campaigns LLC of Guilford in four payments between August 21 and October 22 for expenses that included postcards, yard signs, digital ad buys, at least three different mailers, a photo shoot, a video shoot, and a retainer fee.

Each of the parties also purchased advertising on LymeLine. The Republicans paid $850 on August 28 to the digital newspaper and Democrats paid $500 on October 1.

Other itemized expenses covered standard operating costs such as rent, ink, and postage. The Old Lyme Democrats paid $2,100 to rent their campaign headquarters in the Old Lyme Shopping Center on Halls Road from September 18 to November 7.

The Old Lyme Democrats also bought 32 T-shirts for $403.

Almost all of the money that Old Lyme Republicans raised this year came from one event — the party’s annual barbecue on September 8. For that event, the party spent about $2,275 for food, drinks, beer, wine, and supplies, as well as $500 for music by String of Pearls.

Who donates?

The Old Lyme Republicans began this year with significantly more money than their Democratic counterparts. On January 1, 2019, the Democrats had $5,426 on hand, compared to $15,782 for the Republicans.

From January 1 to October 27, the Republicans raised about $16,960, and the Democrats raised about $26,680.

Most of the individual donations to the campaigns in Old Lyme were from local residents, but the largest donor for the Democrats, and the second-largest donor for the Republicans, both listed addresses outside of Old Lyme on campaign finance disclosures.

The largest individual donation to the Old Lyme Democrats came from Norman Needleman, the Democratic state senator and Essex First Selectman. Needleman gave at least $2,000 over the course of the year, most of that on September 20. The second-highest donation to the Republicans was $710 from Darlene Jones, a resident of Westbrook and auditor for the state Department of Labor, on September 8.

Democratic Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, who was re-elected on November 5, and Democratic party treasurer Joseph “Gil” Soucie tied for second highest individual donor to their party at $1,190 each over the course of the year.

The largest individual monetary donation to the Old Lyme Republicans was $1,950 from the party’s chair David Kelsey on June 5. Kelsey is also the primary funder of CT Examiner.

The Republican’s campaign finance sheets also credit Griswold with giving an in-kind (or nonmonetary) donation of $3,000 for use of his property for the party’s barbecue.