Election Night - Matt Murphy

Matt Murphy shakes hands at an Election Night party.

VALPARAISO — Republican Valparaiso Mayor-elect Matt Murphy is expected to report that he took in about $300,000 in campaign contributions for his recent victory over Democratic challenger Bill Durnell.

The overflowing war chest is record-breaking among local races in Porter County, but it is unlikely to set a new benchmark among municipal or even larger countywide races, according to Murphy's campaign treasurer and Porter County Republican Party Executive Director Kenard Taylor.

Campaigns are made up of several key elements, of which money is only a part, said Taylor, who has spent a few decades honing the unpopular task of preparing campaign finance reports on behalf of grateful candidates.

Durnell, who expects to post contributions just short of $70,000 for his campaign, said he believes Murphy benefited most by the endorsement of popular incumbent Mayor Jon Costas.

"I think his endorsement was a bigger factor than the money spent," he said.

Murphy, who defeated Durnell by 6% in this month's general election, said his team set out to raise this large sum of money considering it was the first truly contested mayoral race in Valparaiso since 2003.

"We threw the kitchen sink at it," he said.

When asked what role the money played in his victory, Murphy said, "It certainly helped us get our message out."

Murphy said he began receiving contributions two years ago when he first announced his candidacy. But his campaign finance report shows he took in $186,527 this year through Oct. 11.

"I was blown away by the support I received from the community," he said.

All but about $12,000 of his contributions are itemized on his campaign finance report, which means most came in as $100 or more. The largest single cash contribution of $15,000 came from (state Sen. Ed) Charbonneau for Senate, followed by $7,500 from Northern Indiana Operators PAC, and $5,000 contributions from Friends of (state Rep.) Ed Soliday, Valparaiso Firefighters Local 1124, Rhys Mussman of Michigan City, Shelby Reirden of Virginia and DPBG PAC of Indianapolis.

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Indiana State Republicans made a $15,368 in-kind contribution in the form of mailings, according to the report.

Durnell, who said he never expected to raise as much as Murphy, received $10,000 from the Ironworkers Local Union 395 and another $5,000 from the Indiana State Ironworkers PAC, in addition to many much smaller contributions, according his report.

While Taylor believes Murphy received a large amount of contributions because he was seen as the right person to lead the city, he said Republicans also were concerned about recent inroads made by local Democrats in Valparaiso.

"That was kind of a call to action," he said.

Durnell said he believes everyone is better off with a true two-party system.

"We (Democrats) were made out to be something to be fearful of," he said.

A key element of Murphy's successful bid was a door-to-door voter identification effort that was used both to target undecided voters with mailers and get supporters out to the polls, Taylor said. This labor-intensive effort was expensive, in addition to the cost of multiple mailers that wound up costing about $12 per household.

"It's becoming more sophisticated but more expensive," Taylor said of campaigns.

There was also a big spread this year in the amount of money raised by the mayoral candidates in Portage.

Democratic Mayor-elect Sue Lynch reported contributions of $146,127 ahead of the recent election, topping Republican incumbent Mayor John Cannon who posted $30,348, according to online reports.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.