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Monday, April 22, 2013

Fundraising goal met, Zandri hires political consulting firm

As published in the Record Journal on Sunday April 21, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORD — After exceeding fundraising goals for the first quarter of the year, mayoral candidate Jason Zandri has hired a political consulting firm to assist his campaign.

Zandri, a Democrat who currently serves on the Town Council, said his campaign raised “more money than planned” between Jan. 1 and March 31.

According to fundraising records available to the public at the Town Clerk’s office, Zandri collected $10,138.57 from 118 individuals. Zandri also received $134.85 from Wallingford Empowered, a local organization started by concerned citizens. He used $450 of his own money. Another $500 worth of in-kind donations came from Zandri’s uncle, James Zandri.

Having exceeded his goal of $10,000 for the first quarter, Zandri has hired the Connecticut political consulting firm “What’s Next.”

“They know how to do it better than we might,” Zandri said of the company’s ability to assist in campaign tasks such as mailings, organizing fundraisers and developing targeted walking routes so that Zandri can meet voters in person. “They’re basically going to get and organize all tasks I have to do.”

Zandri said some of the company’s past work “really made it seem they were the types to hit the groundrunning and reach our goals.”

The company consists of Jason Paul, Jim Sargent and Matt Zagaja. All three have been involved in various state Democratic campaigns in recent years.

The amount of money raised by Zandri in the first quarter of the year is encouraging to Democratic Town Committee Chairman Vincent Avallone.

“I think it’s an indication of how well Jason is campaigning,” Avallone said. “People don’t usually generate money like that in the first quarter.”

Though he couldn’t get into details, Avallone said recent issues in town have helped Zandri’s cause.

“There are some issues that will be emphasized in the upcoming campaign,” he said.

Avallone said that Zandri’s campaign is “on course,” adding that “the enthusiasm just seems to be growing.

It’s still unknown who Zandri will be run against. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., a Republican, could not be reached for comment for this story. Dickinson, the town’s mayor since 1984, has not announced if he will run again. Republican Town Committee Chairman Bob Prentice said Dickinson normally doesn’t make that announcement until June or sometimes July.

“Normally he lets me know or he keeps it secret,” Prentice said.

But if Dickinson were to step down, Prentice expects he would let people know early on.

“I would assume he wouldn’t wait until the last minute to let people know if he weren’t running,” Prentice said. “He’s a businessman. He doesn’t conduct business like that.”

Regarding Zandri’s decision to hire an outside political consulting firm, Prentice said the practice is unusual.

“We don’t normally do it on the Republican side,” said Prentice, who has been on the town committee board for the last 20 years. If campaign aid is necessary, members of the town committee usually step up to help, he said. Locally, he said, it’s “not that often” that you see someone seek outside political aid. Prentice said “it’s a new world” and that “politics is turning into a different game.”

Campaigning for Dickinson doesn’t require outside political help, Prentice said.

“The mayor runs on what he’s done and what the town has done,” he said. “We don’t normally do much other than that.”

Zandri’s goal is to match his first quarter fundraising effort in the second quarter, from April 1 through June 30. But he understands it won’t be easy.

“It’s going to be a harder quarter to do,” he said, adding that his campaign fundraising effort may be hurt by his effort to raise money for Independence Day fireworks in Wallingford.
But even with the tough task at hand, Zandri is confident.

“I go into everything with the same mindset,” he said. “I see a way to get things accomplished, and I do that. I’m totally confident in the people behind me.”

Zandri’s goal going forward is to reach older residents in town.

“I would be foolish to say I don’t need to target the elder demographic,” Zandri said.

It’s a task he’ll try to accomplish with help from the political consulting firm he has hired. Even without the firm around in the opening months of his campaign, Zandri said he has been getting good feedback.

“I like to believe I’m reaching the people that are not normally local voters,” he said.

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