Larry Farnese ran up debts of nearly $500,000 in his surprise Democratic primary win to succeed state Sen. Vince Fumo, according to campaign-finance reports to be submitted today.
Spokesman Ken Snyder said that Farnese must repay loans of more than $200,000 from various state senators who endorsed him before the April 22 primary, and another $100,000 borrowed from a political-action committee controlled by South Philadelphia ward leader Rosanne Pauciello, a longtime Fumo aide.
Farnese also owes nearly $70,000 to the Pittsburgh law firm that defended his spot on the Democratic ballot, in the face of hundreds of apparently forged voter signatures on his nominating petitions.
Snyder put Farnese's total campaign debt at $476,000 - more than half the cost of his primary campaign, estimated at $750,000 to $780,000.
Had Farnese lost the Senate race, he'd likely face a bigger challenge repaying the loans. He has never held elective office, and his annual income as a lawyer topped out last year at $161,000.
But Farnese beat his closest challenger, electricians union leader John Dougherty, by 3,595 votes, with community activist Anne Dicker trailing a distant third, according to unofficial returns. The rough percentages were 43 percent for Farnese, 38 percent for Dougherty and 19 percent for Dicker.
Snyder, who first joined the campaign as Fumo's media adviser, said Farnese has lined up contributors and fundraisers since the election and "intends to be square on his debt by the fall."
Most of Fumo's political allies jumped to Farnese as soon as Fumo withdrew from the race in March.
The Republican candidate, Jack Morley, has jumped on the Fumo links, referring to his opponent as "Fumo Farnese" and calling on Farnese to return any campaign money that Fumo helped raise.
Snyder said that Fumo had never offered financial support to Farnese and that Farnese had never asked for it.
"Neither wanted contributions from Senator Fumo to be a distracting issue," Snyder said.
Dicker said yesterday that her campaign will report total spending around $130,000 - "pretty typical for a state Senate race, but not one like this, that turned into a congressional-level race."
She said she had lent her campaign around $10,000, "which I'll be working off by getting a paying job . . . Like any American, I'm putting my resumes out."
Snyder estimated that Dougherty had spent close to $2 million on his race through various committees and his union. But Frank Keel, a spokesman for the union leader, said the total was lower. *