BOSTON -- While Republican Charlie Baker boasted the strongest fundraising effort to close out 2013, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Treasurer Steven Grossman starts the election year with the most robust campaign account of any contender for the Corner Office.
The nine candidates running to succeed Gov. Deval Patrick spent the better part of December making final fundraising pushes to reach donors before the calendar turned to a new year when contributors who reached their donation limits under campaign finance law can open their checkbooks again.
Baker and his running mate, former Rep. Karyn Polito, announced on Monday that they had raised a combined $582,177 in December, more than the top two fundraising Democrats combined for the month. Baker, who has consistently outraised his Democratic opponents in recent months, took in $427,546 in contributions, while Polito raised $154,631, according to the Baker campaign.
"As we head into the New Year, Charlie and Karyn's campaign for job creation, better schools and safer, stronger communities is gaining momentum and resonating with voters across the state," said Mark Fuller, finance director for the Baker campaign, in a statement. "That so many support this campaign is truly humbling and every dollar contributed will help us tell voters about Charlie's proven, hands-on leadership creating jobs, lowering taxes and solving big problems."
Attorney General Martha Coakley led the way among Democrats for December fundraising after a slow start since her September entrance to the race. The Medford Democrat raised $280,422 in December, boosting her campaign account to $455,771 to start the year.
However, Coakley still trails Grossman in the money race after the Newton Democrat raised $212,455 in December, bringing his account total to $984,371, according to Office of Campaign and Political Finance records.
Baker's campaign finance report showed $547,116 in cash on hand after December.
Despite registered Republicans being outnumbered by Democrats three-to-one in Massachusetts, Baker raised more than half as much as all the Democrats in the race combined.
Donald Berwick, a pediatrician and former Obama Medicare and Medicaid chief, posted his strongest fundraising month to date, raising $174,229 in December, the third highest total among Democratic contenders for the governor's office. He finished the year with $182,186 on hand.
Joseph Avellone, the former Wellesley selectman and biotechnology executive, posted $60,470 in December receipts, including a $50,000 personal loan to his campaign, giving him $132,573 in cash on hand to start the year.
The fifth Democrat in the race -- former Patrick and Obama administration homeland security advisor Juliette Kayyem -- raised $58,724 last month, leaving her campaign account with a balance $142,308.
Though Baker is the frontrunner to win the Republican nomination for governor next summer, the entrance of Shrewsbury manufacturer Mark Fisher to the primary could force the Baker campaign to expend more funds than previously anticipated in order to hold off the challenger.
Fisher took in $57,248 in December, including personal loans to his campaign of $25,000 on Dec. 6 and $30,000 on Dec. 18.
"We were going to mount an aggressive fundraising strategy whether or not we had a primary opponent," Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said. "It's all about looking toward November and executing on Charlie's vision for Massachusetts."
Independent venture capitalist Jeffrey McCormick, who has yet to formally announce his campaign but has been gearing up to run, reported $73,964 in contributions, including a $50,000 personal loan which could be just a down payment as McCormick has publicly suggested he may be willing to spend upwards of $1 million of his own cash on a bid for the Corner Office.
Among those contributing to McCormick's effort was Gabriel Gomez, the former Republican U.S. Senate nominee from Cohasset who comes from the venture capital world. Gomez has been mentioned as a possible contender for statewide office, or for a potential rematch in 2014 against U.S. Sen. Edward Markey. Gomez has yet to announce any political plans, and he made a maximum contribution of $500 to McCormick in late December.
ProgressMass, a left-leaning political organizing group, highlighted the contribution both as a signal of McCormick's political leanings as well as a potential problem for Baker, who in his second run for governor has tried to moderate some positions and appeal to more centrist independent and Democrat voters. Former Republican Treasurer Joe Malone and GOP strategist Todd Domke are also working with McCormick.
"With the Massachusetts Republican Party having a very short bench of widely known figures around the state, the support for McCormick by well-known Republicans and conservatives like Gomez and Malone could be a harbinger that some Republicans and independent conservatives could choose to support venture capitalist McCormick over likely Republican nominee Charlie Baker," ProgressMass communications director Matthew Helman wrote in an email.
Evan Falchuk, the other independent in the race who is seeking to establish his own United Independent Party, added $110,023 to his campaign account in December, including $100,000 from Falchuk who called the contribution an investment and not a loan he expects to be repaid.
While many candidates focused on fundraising to close the year, Falchuk said he spent his month purposefully focused on building a field organization. He closed the year with $42,239 in cash on hand.
"From my perspective, we've been working according to the plan we set out from the beginning and the way I'm looking at it this is going very, very well," Falchuk said.
While Baker has already teamed up with Polito to form a ticket and consolidated much of the campaign apparatus for both candidates, former Sen. Edward Kennedy and Attorney General Tom Reilly staffer Stephen Kerrigan and Leading Cities president Mike Lake are the leading contenders for Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
Kerrigan reported raising $39,028 in December, leaving his campaign with $150,256 in cash on hand, while Lake took in $18,206 in donations in December and has a balance of $36,019.
Also running as Democrats for lieutenant governor, Whately Selectman Jonathan Edwards took in $8,675 in December, including $1,000 from the candidate, while Holliston resident James Arena-DeRosa started his campaign with a $25,000 loan and $3,720 in itemized contributions.