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The Money Race in the Mayoral Primary: January Filing Sets the Stage for 2021


Gotham Gazette:

l-r: (top) Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Carlos Menchaca, Zach Iscol (bottom) Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Loree Sutton, Maya Wiley, Ray McGuire


With under six months until the 2021 primary elections, candidates running for mayor filed their January campaign finance disclosures. The disclosures were due on Friday, covering the last six months of fundraising and spending activity. For a number of candidates, it was their first filing.

There are well over a dozen candidates running in the Democratic primary, the winner of which will likely be the next mayor because of the overwhelming number of registered Democratic voters in the city. The January deadline was crucial, as candidates attempt to show the support they’ve garnered among voters and campaign donors, and particularly because it will help determine the next round of public matching funds payments made to candidates by the city’s Campaign Finance Board on February 16. Only two candidates -- Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams -- have qualified for matching funds prior to this upcoming assessment by the Board based on the new filing.

The Democratic candidates include Stringer, Adams, City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, former counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley, former city veterans services commissioner Loree Sutton, former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan, veteran-turned-entrepreneur Zach Iscol, entrepreneur Joycelyn Taylor, former Campaign Finance Board member Art Chang, attorney Isaac Wright, Jr., and several others.

Former presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang also jumped into the race last week, just one day before the campaign finance deadline, and has just begun raising funds, though he is expected to be able to raise them quickly given his base of support and the fundraising he showed in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Stringer and Adams received public matching funds in December through the city’s program, putting both candidates well ahead of most others and nearing the money to hit the original spending threshold for the primary, though that ceiling is set to be lifted based on the fundraising by McGuire, who is not participating in the matching system and can therefore accept larger individual contributions. 

The matching funds program’s rules have been amended in recent years, setting a maximum individual contribution limit of $2,000 and matching the first $250 of every donation from city residents with public funds at an 8-to-1 ratio. Candidates must meet a dual threshold of raising a minimum of $250,000 from at least 1,000 donors who are New York City residents. Before any adjustments based on the fundraising of non-participating candidates, mayoral candidates who participate in the program can spend up to $7.3 million in the primary, as well as another $7.3 million in the general election. They can receive a maximum public funds payment of about $6.47 million for each leg of the race.

To even the playing field with participating candidates, CFB rules mandate that if a non-participant (here, McGuire) raises or spends more than $3.6 million in the primary, 50% of the $7.3 million spending limit for participating candidates, then that limit will increase by 50% to just under $11 million. If a non-participant raises or spends three times the limit, almost $22 million, then the limit will be eliminated entirely for all candidates.

Wiley is the only other candidate besides Adams and Stringer who has apparently qualified for public matching funds and expects a major windfall when payments are made in February.

Adams has raised more than $3 million in total and has spent about $746,000 as of the filing. He received nearly $4.4 million in public funds last month, giving him a hefty campaign balance of more than $6.6 million. In the last six months, he raised more than $426,000, and spent about $334,000. His latest disclosure also includes more than $122,000 in matching claims, which could mean roughly another $980,000 in public funds. Those claims are estimates from the campaign and are likely to change after they are audited by the Campaign Finance Board.

In total, $1.9 million of Adams’ fundraising came from New York City residents and about $750,000 from outside the city. He has 6,261 contributors, with an average donation size of $424.

Stringer is in second place in campaign funds. He has raised more than $3.25 million and spent about $820,000 overall. He got $3.37 million in public funds in December and another $38,000 payment on Friday. He has about $5.8 million in cash on hand as of the filing. In the last six months, he raised about $458,000, and spent a little more than $400,000. His campaign estimates that about $194,000 of that fundraising qualifies for matching funds, which could bring in almost $1.6 million for Stringer next month.

In total, Stringer raised about $1.4 million from city residents and $445,000 from outside. He has 5,517 contributors for an average contribution size of $329.

McGuire is the only major Democratic candidate not participating in the public funds program, which means he faces no limits on his spending and can raise $5,100 from individual contributors. He has already raised nearly $4.9 million and has spent about $1.1 million, all in the last six months, leaving him with about $3.75 million in cash on hand.

McGuire has raised most of his funds, $3.3 million, from city residents and about $1.5 million from outside sources. He has 3,709 donors and an average contribution size of $1,317.

Donovan, a former housing commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a top official in the Obama administration as housing secretary and budget director, has raised more than $1.6 million for his campaign and has spent about $690,000, for a remaining balance of about $913,000 as of the filing. He has $152,000 in matching claims, which falls well below the $250,000 threshold for public funds.

Donovan raised $938,000 from city residents and $664,000 from outside the city. He has 2,044 donors for an average contribution size of $784.

Iscol is a relatively unknown first-time candidate but he has connections that have apparently helped him out-raise a number of other Democrats. His mother, Jill Iscol, is a major Democratic Party donor with ties to Hillary Clinton, and his father is a mobile technology entrepreneur. He has raised more than $746,000 and has spent just over $261,000, leaving him with about $485,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. His campaign estimates it has more than $229,000 in matching claims, just short of qualifying for public funds.

City residents donated $409,000 to Iscol’s campaign while $336,000 came from people outside the city. He has 1,943 contributors and an average donation size of $384.

Wiley has some name recognition from her time as a contributor on MSNBC, her previous role in the de Blasio administration, and her work as a civil rights attorney. She has raised more than $720,000, spent about $404,000, and has $316,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. Her campaign has made more than $287,000 in matching claims, which crossed the public funds threshold and will likely net her a major windfall of $2.3 million in mid-February, a major achievement.

Wiley raised $451,000 from city residents and $269,000 from noncity sources. She also has 6,976 contributors, the most of any candidate so far, with an average donation size of $103.

Morales has raised more than $336,000, spent more than $208,000, and has $127,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. Her campaign’s matching claims of nearly $180,000 are about $70,000 short of the public funds threshold. Morales raised $235,000 from city residents and about $100,000 from outside sources. Her campaign has 4,423 donors and an average contribution size of $76.

Garcia, who is running on management and having been Mayor de Blasio’s go-to fixer for several crises while also heading the sanitation department, has raised about $304,000 and spent only $27,000, leaving her with more than $277,000 in campaign cash as of the filing. Her campaign claims only $151,000 in qualifying contributions, which means she will not receive public funds next month

Garcia raised $224,000 from city residents and about $80,000 from outside. She has 1,572 donors with contributions averaging $194. 

Sutton is the only candidate who opted into the public funds program but chose to follow its older rules, which are still an option till the end of this election cycle. That means she can raise a maximum of $5,100 from individual contributors but will only receive a 6-to-1 match on the first $175 of every contribution. She has raised about $192,000 overall and has spent nearly all of it. She only has about $398 in cash on hand as of the filing. She has just $14,228 in matching claims. She raised $117,000 from city residents and $73,000 from outside sources. She has 448 donors and an average donation size of $425. 

Menchaca has raised about $62,000, spent $48,000, and has about $14,500 left as of the filing. Taylor has raised $60,000, spent $51,000, and has about $8,400 left. Chang has raised $57,000, spent $39,000, and has $18,011 left. Wright has raised $50,000, spent about $8,800, and has roughly $41,000 left. None of the other Democrats have raised $50,000.

There are few Republican candidates in the race and none have shown any significant fundraising.

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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