1st District candidates separated by finances

April 7, 2008 3:57:01 PM PDT
The race to succeed Vince Fumo is starting to take shape. And by more than one measure, the contest in Pennsylvania's 1st Senate District seems to have a front runner. It was a big day for Johnny Doc. Despite the shadow of a federal investigation, he picked up the official endorsement of the Democratic Party today. Our research shows he has a huge spending advantage over his two opponents. But they say it's way too early to count them out.

John Dougherty worked the room at the Democratic City Committee after Democratic ward leaders gave him their coveted endorsement. One of his opponents, Larry Farnese joined him behind closed doors seeking the endorsement, but his efforts fell short. Political activist, Anne Dicker, didn't even bother. Earlier, she and Farnese participated in a debate on public radio, with Dougherty joining in by phone.

Campaign finance documents show Dougherty has about $3-million at his disposal from two of his union's political action committees. His campaign predicts he will spend about $1.3-million on the Primary race.

Farnese's last filing showed a balance of $51,000. But, he says he's raising money fast, expecting to spend about $600,000 on the primary.

Dicker's last filing showed a balance of just $6,500. She says she will eventually spend tens of thousands of dollars, but will rely heavily on volunteers and a well organized grassroots effort.

Farnese dismisses Dougherty's huge advantage, saying, "It's not about money anymore. It's about a candidate who is talking about the issues, who's talking about change, and has the background and the experience to go to Harrisburg and get things done."

Dougherty will be using his spending power to polish his image. He's caught up in an ongoing federal investigation. It's not clear if investigators are looking at his personal finances, union activities or both.

Action News has obtained copies of the candidates' tax returns for the past five years, and again Dougherty leads the way, reporting income of $187,000 on his last return. Farnese, a lawyer, followed with earnings of $161,000 last year. Dicker brought up the rear with a household income of $69,000. She says she's the only one in the race who owes nothing to party insiders.

Dicker tells Action News, "The choice is with the past. The status quo. They can choose the two machine candidates or they can choose an independent progressive like me."

Dougherty says if he's elected he has no intention of giving up his good paying union job. He says he'll be able to balance the interests of his union with those of his constituents.

He may have the money and the party endorsement, but Dougherty's opponents say that didn't mean much in the last mayoral election. They point to Tom Knox who tried to spend his way into City Hall, and party boss Bob Brady who had the party's endorsement for mayor. And of course we know how they made out.