POLITICS
04/25/2012 02:00 pm ET Updated Apr 25, 2012

Mike Connolly, Independent Massachusetts Candidate, Declines Campaign Contributions

An independent candidate running an uphill campaign for the Massachusetts House of Representatives has vowed not to accept campaign contributions in his race for a spot on Beacon Hill.

Mike Connolly, who is planning to face off against a long-term Democratic incumbent, said that he does not believe candidates need to raise funds for campaigns and is declining all funds for his race against state Rep. Timothy Toomey (D-Cambridge). Connolly is trying to highlight his opposition to the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, which blocked restrictions on corporate and union contributions to political campaigns, he said.

"This is the only way I'd want to do it," Connolly told HuffPost. "It is a small district; given the size of the district, I could not do it any other way. It is not necessary for politicians on the state level to raise money."

The district encompasses parts of Cambridge and Somerville in the Boston suburbs, and has a strong Democratic leaning. Toomey, 58, has held the seat for 20 years and has not faced an opponent in the last several elections. While Connolly, 31, has not officially announced his candidacy, he has circulated petitions to get his name on the ballot and has a campaign website.

Connolly, who also has discussed a desire to focus on mass transit issues in the Boston suburbs and to bring new ideas to state government, has made campaign finance the main focus on his website.

Connolly said he does not believe he needs to spend much on the race, noting his website is costing him $25 a month and he plans to use "very modest" literature to explain his positions. He also plans to concentrate mainly on talking to voters and said he has gotten a good reception so far.

Many candidates nationally have limited contributions to their campaigns to encourage campaign finance reform, but they rarely call for no contributions at all. Connolly is not alone, though, among younger politicians in seeking creative approaches to campaigning and fundraising as a way to stand out in races.

Former Oregon State Rep. Ben Cannon (D-Portland) refused corporate and PAC contributions in three races, including carrying a cup with him door-to-door to accept funds. In Westfield, N.J., councilman Keith Loughlin (R) turned his fundraising events into a summer camp, holding kickball games and chicken wing eating contests in his 2009 campaign.

Connolly said that he hopes to create "a new model" for politics at the state level in Massachusetts, including reducing the amount of money spent. One possibility is moving back to the clean elections approach, allowing government funding of state candidates, which he said would benefit residents by cutting back on televisions ads and campaign literature.

Connolly hinted that part of his goal is to educate voters on campaign finance issues, regardless of the outcome of the race. "The main idea we have is we'll educate lots of people," he said. "We'll explain the problem."

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