Campaign 2001 Feature

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The Nod of the Bosses... Scramble for the City Council... Basic Training for Council Recruits... How They Stack up on Term Limit... Dynasties... The Speech that Saved Term Limits...


What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


WANTED: $10. REWARD:$30,000

By David Schwartz

Alan Jennings, a candidate for City Council in Jamaica, Queens, survived a challenge in court from Anthony Andrews, the Democratic organization candidate. "He had a whole laundry list of objections," Jennings said. "But I brought a case against him, so we called a truce. I just wanted a shot to be on the ballot."

Just when Jennings was securely on the ballot, he found himself pleading in front of five officials from the Campaign Finance Board.

Jennings is a single donation short of qualifying for public money--ten dollars short of getting about $30,000--money he needs, he says, to challenge the better-financed Democratic organization candidate.

"I'm being penalized because I didn't dot the i's and cross the t's." Jennings said at the Campaign Finance Board's weekly public meeting. "It's like I'm at the Board of Elections."

The Campaign Finance Board decides who gets the money and who does not based, in part, on requirements candidates have to meet. Council candidates need to raise at least %5,000 from city residents and receive 50 donations of $10 or more from residents in their district. The Campaign Finance Board counts 49 donations for Jennings. He says he has more than enough donations from local residents, and has asked them to review the donations again. Jennings, though, is not waiting on it and does not expect to receive public money until a few days before the election day. "We're still going forward," Jennings says.

After the tangle at the Board of Elections, it is time to worry about the money. For the citywide races, the money is for television ads and high-priced consultants. Council candidates do not usually have the budgets to buy air-time. They still need to print fliers, brochures and buttons; advertise in the local papers; and, of course, pay for the election lawyers that kept them on the ballot and lobby for them in front of the Campaign Finance Board.

The new rules for the campaign finance program are supposed to help grassroots candidates against big-money backers, and also prevent candidates from being beholden to a few big contributors.

To some, it has worked. "It has been essential in helping many council candidates to mount meaningful campaigns, and have competitive races," says Nicole Gordon, executive director of the Campaign Finance Board.

Under the new campaign finance law passed in 1998, there has been an unprecedented flow of public money given to candidates this year. More than $27 million has gone to candidates this year. The next highest amount was in 1997, when candidates received less than $7 million for the entire election.

Critics charge that this is costing the taxpayers too much money, but Gordon says that the amount spent is on target with the Campaign Finance Board's estimate that it would cost the city $63 million to make payments.

It is not just the packed mayoral field that is getting all the money. City Council candidates have received about $8 million as of August 28, more than four times the amount City Council candidates received in 1997.

Some of this increase is because more candidates are running, more than twice as many as in 1997. But more money is flowing to each individual candidate. Among the council candidates that have received public money, candidates have gotten $40,000 more than in 1997.

More City Council candidates though, have not qualified for public money than in years past. Compared to 1997, 15% fewer candidates who have enrolled in the program have received public money.

Undoubtedly, more candidates will qualify for public funds as the election progresses. But it also could be a sign of the often crowded contests.

"Council candidates have to demonstrate significant local support to justify large amounts of public funds. Either they are not that serious in their community’§|or another candidates has already gotten their donation and used up the goodwill in the community," Gordon says.

So what makes this year different from years past? Under the old laws, the city matched candidates' donations at a rate of one dollar for every dollar donated, up to $1,000. The city now gives four dollars for every dollar donated from city residents, up to $250. For instance, four donations of $250 means $5000 for a candidate, while one donation of $1,000 means $2000.

Payments come at different times, and there is only one payment left before the September 11 primary, on September 7. For the candidates who have not met the threshold yet, that is precious little time before primary day.

Louisa Chan , a candidate in District 25 , is one such candidate. Even though she had raised $5,000 and 50 residents in her district donated money to her, she found herself pleading with the Campaign Finance Board to bend the rules and send her money.

"I live in a poor neighborhood and I only asked people for $5," she said. Those donations do not qualify towards the 50 she needs for matching funds.

When Chan started crying and brought up how her husband had been taken to the hospital after campaigning so hard for her, the board offered their sympathy-and then denied her funds. Chan will only get public money a few days before the election, if at all.

"It's going to be hard without that money," Chan says.

Candidates are not only denied funds because they have not met the requirements. When there is an appearance of fraud, payments to a candidate stop.

Elizabeth Crowley's lawyer, Laurence Laufer, was in front of the Campaign Finance Board during their weekly meeting. While Crowley met the threshold requirements and is running opposed, there was a problem.

Gerry Kilgus, a shop worker at an electrical shop, had been a supporter of the politically prominent Crowley family.

"I told the guys in the shop, if you want to give $20, that's fine, I'd collect it," Kilgus told Board.

About a dozen guys gave Kilgus $20 in cash, he said. Kilgus said he then purchased money orders (cash is not accepted by the board) and signed his employees' names to the money orders. "I figured it'd be easier," he said.

The money orders were numbered sequentially, sending up red flags at the Campaign Finance Board. They asked for affidavits from the donors testifying that they gave the money. The signatures on the affidavits did not match those on the money orders. The Crowley campaign denies knowing about any wrongdoing and quickly returned the money.

The board had withheld funds, and the Crowley campaign was lobbying to get that money.

"It's my fault, but I didn't try to do anything wrong. Believe me, they donated the money. I thought I'd make things easier," Kilgus said.

Nine of the guys from Kilgus' shop attended the Campaign Finance Board meeting. At one point, they each stood up, said their names, and declared that they willingly donated $20 to Crowley's campaign.

"You signed the money orders?" Nicole Gordon, executive director of the Campaign Finance Board, asked Kilgus.

"Yes," Kilgus answered.

"But it looks like you were trying to make the signatures look different."

"Well I wanted them to."

The room stirred and Kilgus was sweating. He realized he had said something significant.

"Mr. Laufer," Father Joseph O'Hare, chairman of the Campaign Finance Board, addressed Crowley's lawyer. "You should warn Mr. Kilgus that what he says can be very damaging to him and he might want representation." Legal representation, he meant.

The board did not make a decision on whether Crowley's campaign would get public money, effectively delaying the payments. A few days later, though, Laufer was confident that the campaign would get public money by the end of August.

After the hearing, Kilgus looked embarrassed and confused. "Believe me, I'm not up to no good. If I thought it was a big deal, I wouldn't have done it." (As for O'Hare's ominous premonition that he might be in trouble, Laufer said, "I'm willing to bet Kilgus will go on leading a full and happy life, outside jail.")

But to the Board, the rules are a big deal. Some politicians who opposed the bill thought the four-to-one matching funds were overly generous. So, to assure everybody that the Campaign Finance Board is, as its chairman puts it, "protecting the public funds," candidates will simply not get any money, if they have 49 donors instead of 50 or $5 donations instead of $10, or if there is even the appearance that something is not quite right.


My Street Address:

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Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.

What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).

Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

Register To Vote or Be A Poll Worker

Voter Registration Forms
After printing and filling out the voter registration form, please send them by mail to:

Board of Elections
32 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY

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Poll Worker Applications

After completing the forms, please send them to the address on the form.

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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