Doug Hardy photo
Merrick Alpert holds young Finn Nelson and talks to a potential voter at one of his ‘Chats for Change’ in June (Doug Hardy photo)

Since announcing his candidacy 43 days ago, U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s Democratic challenger has raised $44,000 to Dodd’s $1.2 million.

Merrick Alpert, who is running for office for the first time, said Tuesday that he received 180 total donations, averaging $246.19. Of those, 129 – or 71 percent – came from Connecticut citizens. About 40 percent of all the donations were made through his Web site.

The amount pales in comparison to the campaign war chests of Dodd and two of his Republican challengers – Rob Simmons and Tom Foley – who have raised roughly $753,000 and $530,000. But Alpert’s fundraising efforts are consistent with his campaign’s message that he’s not a career politician.

“One hundred percent of our campaign contributions came from individuals; not one penny came from a political action committee,” Alpert said in a press release Tuesday. “I am honored that the people of Connecticut are funding a grass roots campaign to take back the U.S. Senate seat from the special interest money in Washington.”

Hosting a series of meetings dubbed “Chats for Change,” Alpert says he’s running a grassroots campaign trying to influence one voter at a time.

Doug Hardy photo
Merrick Alpert talks about why he’s running (Doug Hardy photo)

At one of his chats in West Hartford in June, Alpert said that when people ask why he’s running for a U.S. Senate seat now, instead of a lower elected-office, he recalled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In that letter, King was responding to the criticism that his 1963 demonstration was “unwise and untimely.”

“If not now, when,” Alpert said.

He said for some people there may never be a right time, which is why the right time for him is now.

While Alpert’s fundraising is less than half of the $125,000 raised by Republican state Sen. Sam Caligiuri, early polling data released May 27 showed Alpert getting 24 percent of the Democratic primary vote to Dodd’s 44 percent. Alpert said that the numbers were encouraging.

“Nobody knows Merrick Alpert, the new challenger to Dodd, and it should be troubling to Dodd that this political nobody is still getting a quarter of the Democratic primary vote,” Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said.

However, the May 27 poll also found 93 percent of the voters don’t know enough about Alpert to have an opinion.