Tsongas breaks $1 million

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BOSTON (AP) – Having raised more than $1 million in her bid for the 5th Congressional District seat, Niki Tsongas is outpacing her fellow Democratic challengers, but they say their campaigns are about more than money.

Tsongas, widow of Rep. Paul Tsongas, who once held the same seat, said her contributions have ranged from one dollar from a Methuen High School student to $80,000 raised during a single fundraising event last month.

Going into the final eight weeks of the primary race, Tsongas has $565,000 left to finance her campaign. She’s donated $4,600 to her campaign.

“We’re very pleased with the outpouring of support that Niki has enjoyed,” said campaign spokeswoman Katie Elbert. “We think it shows broad support behind her campaign.”

Only about $30,000, or 3 percent, of the total was generated by the endorsement of Emily’s List, a national fundraising organization dedicated to helping elect more women to Congress, according to Elbert.

The group is trying to raise $1.5 million for Tsongas’ candidacy.

Among those who live outside Massachusetts contributing to Tsongas was musician Don Henley of the band The Eagles, who gave $4,600. Henley lives in California.

Other Democrats in the race say they are holding their own in the fundraising arena, but are also focused on meeting with voters one to one to build support.

State Rep. Barry Finegold has raised about $725,000 to date, including $414,000 in the past quarter, leaving him with $450,000 cash on hand for the final primary stretch.

Veteran Lowell City Councilor Eileen Donoghue has raised $572,000, including a $325,000 loan she made to the campaign early on, and has $275,000 left in the bank.

Calls to the two other Democratic candidates in the race, state Rep. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, and Rep. James Miceli, D-Wilmington, were not returned Sunday.

The lone Republican in the race, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Ogonowski of Dracut – the brother of an American Airlines pilot killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack – has raised $170,000 so far, and has $115,000 on hand, spokesman Barney Keller said.

The Democratic primary is scheduled for Sept. 4. The general election is Oct. 16.

Tsongas has tried to build her fundraising base in part by appealing to women. She raised $80,000 last month at a “Women for Niki” event.

And in a recent press release the campaign said that a majority of her donations came from women “who have stepped forward to support Tsongas because they believe it’s time to send the first woman from Massachusetts to Congress in 25 years.”

During the 2006 election cycle, Emily’s List endorsed 44 candidates for House, Senate and gubernatorial seats and generated $11 million for them in contributions averaging under $100.

The group opted to endorse Tsongas over Donoghue because they thought Tsongas had better name recognition, a larger base of supporters and a better chance of winning.

Massachusetts has not had a woman in its congressional delegation since 1983, when Republican Margaret Heckler left office.

Whoever wins will fill the seat left vacant by the departure of former Rep. Martin Meehan, who stepped down to become chancellor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

AP-ES-07-15-07 2043EDT

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