New Balance chairman turns to City Council races after spending big in mayoral contest

A super PAC has taken out ads in the Boston Herald. (Screenshot)

Jim Davis, the New Balance chairman who sent more than $1 million toward an outside group seeking to defeat then-Councillor Michelle Wu in the 2021 mayoral contest, is now hotfooting into City Council races. The candidates say they aren’t interested in the help.

Davis, a Republican donor at the federal level, this week donated $150,000 to an outside group, or super PAC, calling itself “Forward Boston,” according to publicly available campaign finance records. The super PAC has also received a donation, totaling $10,000, from Charles M. Talanian, the owner of C. Talanian Realty Co. who also was listed as an event chair for a Trump fundraiser on Cape Cod in 2016.

The super PAC has spent some of the money on ads in the Boston Herald, texts and follow-up calls to voters for door-knocking, per campaign finance records.

Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, but they are prohibited from coordinating their actions with the candidates, who cannot control what the groups do. In Massachusetts, the groups are primarily funded by two types: Wealthy individuals and unions.

In this year’s municipal election cycle, which just has city councillors on the ballot, the super PAC is supporting John FitzGerald, a Boston Planning and Development official running for District 3 (Dorchester and the South End); former Boston Police officer Jose Ruiz in District 5 (Hyde Park, Mattapan and Roslindale); and two candidates in District 6, attorney Ben Weber and William King, who works for a nonprofit.

FitzGerald is running in a seven-way race for an open seat (District 3), while Ruiz is among the challengers hoping to defeat incumbent Councillor Ricardo Arroyo (District 5), and Weber and King are both seeking to knock out incumbent Councillor Kendra Lara (District 6).

FitzGerald, Ruiz, King and Weber all said in separate statements on Wednesday night they were not interested in the super PAC’s support. All are Democrats.

“We did not ask for support from this PAC nor do we need support from this PAC,” FitzGerald said. “We believe that our campaign is more than capable of running our own race without any outside assistance, as is evident when you look at the coalition of support we have earned from dozens of labor unions, local leaders, and hundreds of District 3 residents.”

Ruiz said that “in no way did our campaign solicit the support of this PAC nor do we want or need it,” while King said he is focused on a “grassroots campaign.” King added, “I am not looking for and do not welcome outside support from this or any other PAC.”

In an emailed statement, Weber also knocked the super PAC. “Dark money should have no place in any elections, and not here in Boston,” he said. “I didn't ask for this support and I don't want it. I am focused on knocking doors and speaking with voters across the district, as are our volunteers in every D6 neighborhood.”

When Davis pumped money into the 2021 mayoral race, funding efforts to boost then-Councillor Annissa Essaibi George and defeat Wu, Essaibi George asked the multiple super PACs to stay out of the race. For her part, Wu asked that the super PACs stay positive. The anti-Wu super PACs ignored both requests, while the pro-Wu super PACs, funded by environmental advocacy groups and attorneys, did not go negative.

Earlier that year, Davis privately met behind closed doors with several mayoral candidates, including Essaibi George. Wu, who went on to win the mayoralty in November, was not among the candidates who met with him. Former police commissioner Willie Gross and public relations magnate George Regan also participated in the closed-door meetings.

Regan’s firm did not respond to an email seeking comment on Davis’s latest move. Earlier this year, the firm sent out a pitch that said a Cape Cod fundraiser for City Council President Ed Flynn and a birthday party for his father, former mayor Ray Flynn, would also serve as a launchpad for a group called “Save Our City.” Regan later disavowed the emailed pitch and blamed his secretary, while Flynn said the event was only a birthday party and a fundraiser. The other candidates and councillors whose names were listed on the pitch expressed bewilderment about the entire affair.

This year’s preliminary election is set for Sept. 12 in Districts 3, 5, 6 and 7. Early in-person voting is already underway and ends Friday. The top two vote-getters in each race move on to the Nov. 7 final, joining on the ballot the eight candidates for the four at-large slots.

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