By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
Essex County voters will head to the polls in just over a week to whittle the field of 13 candidates for Essex County Sheriff down to less than a handful, but the early betting, as in many elected races, is on the candidates with the biggest campaign war chests as they head into the Primary Election.
Of the 13 candidates for office, six Democrats, five Republicans and two unenrolled or independent candidates, two Democrats and one Republican lead all of the others in fiundraising.
However, the ability of top candidates to raise the money needed to carry out a county wide campaign and have their names seen and message heard is often a deciding factor in elections.
If current reporting to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) is taken as a measure of’ strength, then Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, Middleton Jail Superintendent Michael Marks and Methuen Police Lieutenant James Jajuga Jr. have to be considered the favorites.
Coppinger and Marks are neck and neck in the financing race on the Democratic side and Jajuga has a solid lead over his Republican rivals.
Among the two Independents Lynn Native and Bedford attorney Mark Archer possesses a slight lead over Kevin Leach a former county commissioner who lives in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Leach and Archer will both appear on the November ballot, potentially complicating the race for the major party candidates.
After 20 years of having a Republican Sheriff, the Democratic candidates to succeed retiring Sheriff Frank Cousins Jr. are leading the fundraising.
As of the August 16, filing deadline with the OCPF, Chief Coppinger led all candidates with $29,548 in his campaign account, while Essex County Sheriff’s employee Marks had $24,496 in his campaign account.
Behind them were: Edward J. O’Reilly, a Wenham defense attorney with $11,941, former Essex County Sheriff’s supervisor Gerald “Jerry” Robito of Lawrence who had $9,193 in his campaign account, Essex County Sergeant William Castro with $528 and former DEA agent Paul Russell Jr. of Andover who had just $32 in his campaign account.
As we said above, Jajuga led all Republicans with had $13,998 in his campaign account, with Peabody’s Anne Manning-Martin, who is a deputy superintendent at the Essex County Lemuel Shattuck Hospital a distant second with $6,269 in her account.
Rounding out the Republican field are Jeffrey Gallo of Haverhill, a lieutenant in the Essex Sheriff’s department with $1,767, Danvers law enforcement officer Kenneth Berg who had $403 and Newburyport’s Craig Lane who had $237.
Independent Archer had $1,812, followed by Leach who had $703.