In a not particularly surprising development, the Springfield Republican yesterday endorsed Domenic Sarno in tomorrow’s mayoral election.
Two years ago, the newspaper endorsed Sarno’s opponent, then-incumbent Mayor Charlie Ryan, as the candidate with the skills and experience to lead the city through tough times. Sarno (then a city councilor) “is a nice man, and we like him,” the paper’s editorial board wrote at the time, but lacks the “managerial or leadership skills” exhibited by Ryan.
Sarno, the 2007 editorial added, “hasn't given voters any good reasons to vote for him. He's merely looked at Ryan's position, and taken the opposite position.”
Two years later, the Republican credits Sarno with significant growth during his first term in office, saying the mayor “prove[d] to be a good student” of the Finance Control Board, which oversaw the city’s budget from 2004 until last summer.
“Since the board disbanded on June 30, Sarno has been on his own and his invaluable on-the-job training under the control board is evident. During his term, the city’s Wall Street bond ratings have improved,” the endorsement read. “Sarno has demonstrated the fiscal know-how to lead the city in the post-control board era. He has balanced two consecutive city budgets and has shown the courage to make some unpopular, but financially prudent decisions. On the economic development front, the city awarded $44 million in construction permits during the first three months of the new fiscal year.”
As for Sarno’s opponent, veteran City Councilor Bud Williams, the Republican dismissed him summarily, noting that the challenger “has mounted a negative campaign” in his bid to unseat Sarno.
“As we see it, Williams’ City Council record is marked more by pontification than productivity,” the Republican added. (Too bad that never stopped the Republican from endorsing Williams for the City Council, election after election.)
Along with the endorsement was an article by reporter Pete Goonan that noted that Sarno’s campaign had exceeded Williams’ in both fundraising ($141,676 versus $73,588 over the course of the year) and in spending ($108,000 versus $41,000). Williams’ $73,588 includes $10,000 of his own money that he loaned to the campaign, according to his campaign finance reports.
That disparity makes it clear why Williams had suggested a campaign spending cap of $99,000 back in August—and why Sarno ignored that suggestion.
In the article, Williams insisted that he wasn’t fazed by the difference; “I am very comfortable,” he told Goonan. “My message is out. When you have a lot of money, you tend to waste it. You spend for the sake of spending.”
Raising, or spending, the most money doesn’t guarantee a victory at the polls, of course; in 2007, Sarno was outspent by Ryan and won nonetheless, although the difference there was significantly less dramatic (Ryan spent about $135,000 to Sarno’s $127,000).
Perhaps more interesting is where those contributions come from. Sarno’s campaign finance reports are thick with the names of downtown business owners, lawyers, bankers, realtors and highly placed people from some of the city’s major employers, such as Peter Pan Bus Lines, Big Y and Western New England College, to name a few—signaling that a large degree of Sarno’s support comes from the city’s establishment (many of whom, Williams pointed out in the article, don't actually live in Springfield).
While Williams’ contribution list also includes some prominent business people, it’s heavier on small-business owners, union representatives and attorneys. Williams has also received donations from state Rep. Ben Swan and (ominously) former Springfield Mayor Mike Albano.