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IUPolitique: Critz campaign’s fundraising expectations shift as Lt. Gov. bid continues

04/11/2014
Jake Williams
Columnist

As 2014’s first quarter ends, the first fundraising numbers of the election year for Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor race are trickling in, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania alumnus and former Rep. Mark Critz finished second-to-last in the pack.

Critz’s campaign raised $37,000 in the first quarter of 2014, according to reports from the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette.

In fundraising, Critz finished behind state Sen. Mike Stack, Mark Smith and state Rep. Brandon Neuman.

Stack brought in $700,000 during the first quarter. Smith, a Bradford County commissioner, raised $144,319 and Neuman clocked in just above Critz with $45,000.

The only candidate who trailed Critz in fundraising was Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski, who has raised $28,474 so far in 2014.

The numbers contrast starkly with Critz’s statements to The Penn just after announcing his candidacy in September.

“In a race of this magnitude, lieutenant governor is not high profile or expensive,” Critz said at a Sept. 11 event in Indiana.

“But I can raise – my budget’s going to be about $1.5 million. I think those people that are running think that if they hit a quarter million, then they’ve done a good job.”

However, according to Critz’s campaign manager, Nick Bonesso, the expectations have shifted. Bonesso, who wasn’t on Critz’s campaign when the candidate said he expected to raise more than $1 million, said in a Wednesday phone interview that fundraising “is always a challenge for a low-profile race like this one.”

“It’s a lot harder to raise money for lieutenant governor than Congress,” Bonesso said.

H. Scott Conklin won the 2010 Democratic lieutenant governor nomination with $20,000, according to Bonesso, who believes that name recognition plays a larger role in the lieutenant governor sphere.

Due to Critz’s time in Congress, in addition to his 2010 special-election victory that won him a seat in Congress, Bonesso believes that the candidate’s name recognition is high enough to deliver the race to Critz.

A late-February Harper Polling survey called the lieutenant governor race “wide open” but said former candidate Jay Paterno held a lead over Critz and the rest of the candidates. Paterno dropped out of the race a few weeks later.

The poll did find that second to Paterno, Critz came in with 16 percent of the vote, almost 10 percent more than any other candidate in the running.

If elected, Bonesso said Critz would bring balance to the ticket, especially due to a more eastern-based governor pick. Critz lives in Johnstown.

Critz’s opponent and Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski will visit IUP in an event co-sponsored by the Environmentally Conscious Organization and Indiana Voter Initiative and Education.

The event, which will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, April 21, in the Hadley Union Building Allegheny Room, will coincide with a voter registration drive also taking place in the HUB.

Bonesso said no plans are currently in place to have Critz return to his alma mater and campaign, but the campaign does hope to hold some sort of event in the area.

For now, the campaign is focused on trying to get their candidate in front of as many people as possible through rallies in Western Pennsylvania and a to-be-executed media campaign that involves television advertising.

Although the candidate hasn’t conceded the East, the campaign’s main strategy, Bonesso said, is to secure western Pennsylvanian support.

“We’re working to our base and trying to get to our people out here in western Pennsylvania,” Bonesso said.

“We feel pretty good about this race. We’re doing what we can to spread the word and get Mark’s name out there and bring home a victory May 20.”

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