Thursday, July 18, 2024

Election signs on display Sunday in North Cambridge. (Photo: Marc Levy)

City Council candidates who spent more money generally fared better in Tuesday’s election in Cambridge, data from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance shows.

Of the eight candidates who spent the most money, seven won seats on the council. Councillor Paul Toner, who won reelection, spent the most of any candidate. Since the start of the year, he spent more than $87,000 on election matters, more than double Cathie Zusy’s expenditure of $34,000, the second most. Rounding out the top eight spenders, in order of their expenditures, were Burhan Azeem, Marc McGovern, Patty Nolan, Sumbul Siddiqui, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, and Joan Pickett, all of whom were elected. Each of these candidates spent at least $20,000.

None of the eight candidates who spent the least money were elected. Ayah Al-Zubi, who spent under $4,000, was the closest of these candidates to earning a seat on the council – she finished 10th in the race for No. 1 votes in the city’s ranked form of balloting. None of the other candidates in this group, who spent at most $7,000, finished in the top 15 vote-getters.


Of the eight candidates who spent the most money per first-place vote, only two won a seat on the council: Toner, who spent $44 per first-place vote, and Pickett, who spent $22. Hao Wang topped the list by spending more than $67 for each of his first-place votes.

Four of the candidates who ran the most efficient campaigns won a seat. Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, Tuesday’s top No. 1 vote-getter, spent about $6.50 for each of her 3,350 first-place votes. Sobrinho-Wheeler, E. Denise Simmons and Ayesha Wilson also ran frugal campaigns. Robert Winters, who expended the least of any candidate, spent $0.03 per vote.

In general, candidates on A Better Cambridge’s slate ran more efficient campaigns than candidates of the Cambridge Citizen Coalition’s slate. ABC candidates, on average, spent $13.32 per first-place vote, while CCC candidates spent $23.85. Though the groups’ candidates spent about the same amount, ABC candidates on average earned double the first-place votes of CCC candidates.


Campaign contributions were also an important part of the election. Toner earned more than $80,000 in contributions, the most of any candidate. McGovern, Zusy, Simmons and Azeem, in that order, rounded out the top five.

Earning a lot of money predicted candidates’ success better than spending a lot of money. Candidate spending and first-place votes shared a correlation coefficient of 0.59, meaning that how much a candidate spent was a reasonably strong predictor of how well that candidate performed on election night. Campaign contributions and first-place votes, however, shared a correlation coefficient of 0.71, meaning that how much a candidate earned predicted their electoral success better than how much they spent.

This post was updated Nov. 11, 2023, because the original version used an outdated list. The article refers to data accurate as of Nov. 8.