- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2016

BOSTON (AP) - Top Massachusetts politicians are sitting on mountains of campaign cash as they head into the 2018 election cycle, making the task of potential challengers even more daunting.

One of the biggest belongs to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who had $4.6 million in his campaign account as of mid-December.

That’s a far more aggressive pace than that of former governors Deval Patrick, a Democrat who had just $460,000 midway through his first term, or Republican Mitt Romney, who had $1.1 million in his account after two years.

A big reason for Baker’s surge is a campaign finance law signed by Patrick in 2014 that doubled the maximum annual donation from $500 to $1,000. The change took effect in 2015, as Baker was taking office.

Since then, Baker has received nearly $2.8 million in individual donations of $1,000 each. That’s about 48 percent of all the money he raised during the past two years.

Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also has been a fundraising powerhouse, with $2 million in her campaign account, much of it from single $1,000 donations.

Baker and Polito aren’t the only politicians stockpiling campaign cash.

As of mid-December, Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey had $650,000 in her account. That’s well ahead of the $199,000 her predecessor, Democratic Martha Coakley, had midway through her first term.

About 34 percent of the money Healey has raised came in single $1,000 donations.

The change in law is only one reason for the fundraising spike. Baker and Healey also have tailored their fundraising pitches to appeal directly to their most loyal supporters.

Baker on Wednesday touted his fiscal chops in a fundraising email, pointing to a new Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority contract he said will save taxpayers $81 million.

“If you agree we need to cut waste and save resources, I hope you’ll stand with us as we implement our reform agenda in 2017,” Baker said.

Healey picked an even larger target - Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

“As we usher in a new President and the most dangerous Cabinet ever assembled, I’ll be on the front lines defending our progress for the next two years and, with your support, beyond 2018,” Healey wrote in a fundraising email this week.

Another Massachusetts politician facing re-election in 2018 - Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren - has also used Trump to appeal to supporters.

“We’re going to keep fighting - and the best way we can keep fighting right now is to make our voices heard,” Warren said in a recent email.

As of the end of September, Warren had more than $4.1 million in her campaign account.

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