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Garten raises most campaign money in latest report, but trails Marpe overall

Updated 4:47 pm, Thursday, October 24, 2013
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The Democratic candidate for first selectman raised the most money in the latest campaign finance reporting period, but the Republican standard-bearer holds the overall funding lead in the race for the town's top job.

Campaign finance records show that Democrat Helen Garten raised $52,705 during the period from July to Sept. 30 -- the most recent complete filing period -- while Republican Jim Marpe raised $43,262 from individuals and other contributors.

Garten spent $10,684 during that time on campaign expenses, while Marpe reported spending $29,467 over the same period.

However, the Marpe campaign reports that since he announced his candidacy last November he has collected an overall amount of $80,847 through Sept. 30.

The financial filings also found that, while the Marpe campaign had nearly 120 contributions from Westport supporters in the latest reporting period, the bulk of Garten's funds -- more than $40,000 raised during that time frame -- came only from several dozen individuals associated with her husband's New York law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell LLP.

Garten's husband, Michael Wiseman, is a managing partner of the firm's financial group.

Garten, who worked at the firm for five years, said she had a late start in launching her campaign for the town's top job and needed to raise money quickly.

"When we launched in August and the Republicans already had a jump-start in raising campaign funds ... They had already been raising money for many months," said Garten, vice chairwoman of the Board of Finance and former Representative Town Meeting member. "We were behind."

So, she said, she approached friends at Sullivan and Cromwell to help get her campaign launched. "It was just a matter of simply getting money in quickly," she said.

"These are my friends -- people who have stood by us," she said of the law firm contributors, many of them from New York state and others from New Jersey, Massachusetts and one from Beverly Hills, Calif.

Garten said many of those from the law firm who contributed are women she's known for many years, who have followed her career. "I am proud of the support they have given me," she said.

But Robert Zappi, Marpe's campaign manager, said he is "surprised by the concentration of contributors from one law firm" to Garten's campaign.

In contrast, he said, "Jim's support is clearly very deep in Westport. It's evidenced by the number of Westport contributors."

Zappi said that Marpe's background and leadership in community organizations and serving in public office "has earned him the respect of a lot of people and they want to see him lead the town."

Marpe served on the Board of Education. Elected in 2005, he served as vice chairman, and briefly, as interim chairman from 2007-12.

Zappi said Marpe's supporters "extend beyond his own party and include many Democrats and unaffiliated voters."