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The Money Race in the Republican Mayoral Primary: March Filing Shows First Fundraising


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(l-r) GOP mayoral candidates Fernando Mateo, Curtis Sliwa, Sara Tirschwell, Bill Pepitone


With just three months to go till the June 22 primary, a small field of Republicans have declared their campaigns for mayor. They are trying to succeed outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, a two-term Democrat, and return the city to the type of Republican leadership it had for 20 years before de Blasio took office in 2014. While it’s a steep climb given the city’s overwhelming Democratic voter enrollment advantage, several Republicans are eager to become the party’s general election nominee against whichever of many Democrats comes out of that side of the primary field.

Last week, candidates of both parties filed their campaign fundraising and expenditures reports with the Campaign Finance Board. There are roughly eight Democrats considered to be in the ‘top tier’ based on their fundraising, as well as other metrics. The Republican field is much small er and the candidates are just starting to show their fundraising.

The city offers a voluntary program that allows campaigns to receive matching public funds for small dollar contributions from city residents. This year, as new rules are being phased in, mayoral campaigns can choose two options: the old system, which matches the first $175 of every qualifying contribution from a city resident at a 6-to-1 ratio and comes with a $5,100 maximum individual contribution limit; and the new system, which matches the first $250 of every qualifying contribution at an 8-to-1 ratio, with an individual contribution limit of $2,000. Under both systems, candidates have to meet a dual threshold of raising and spending at least $250,000 from a minimum of 1,000 city residents in order to receive well over $1 million in public funds.

None of the Republican candidates have come close.

There are four main Republican candidates running for mayor including former Wall Street executive Sara Tirschwell; Fernando Mateo, a businessperson and head of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers and the United Bodegas of America; Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, and former NYPD officer Bill Pepitone.

All the candidates are participating in the public funds program but Tirschwell is the only one who opted in to the old rules. She has a strong fundraising lead as of this filing, having raised nearly $320,000. A large part of that, nearly $204,000, came from donors outside the city. She also loaned her campaign another $300,000 in personal funds. She has already spent $187,000 and has about $432,000 in cash on hand as of the mid-March filing. She has 237 contributors, with an average donation size of $1,347.

Mateo, who has the backing of the Republican Party county organizations in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx, has raised just over $200,000 for his campaign and spent nearly $20,000, leaving him with about $180,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. He had 866 donors who gave an average of $231. About $140,000 of his funds came from city residents.

Though Sliwa has spent months talking up his mayoral campaign, has the support of the Staten Island and Brooklyn Republican Party organizations, and just held an official kick-off event, he has raised only $10,244 in total and has spent none of it, per the filing. He has 64 donors who made an average contribution of $160. His fundraising was split almost 50-50 between city residents and nonresidents.

Pepitone, who has received the backing of the Conservative Party, has similarly made little progress at fundraising. He has raised $14,498, spent $3,054, and has $11,444 in cash on hand as of the filing. He has 207 contributors for an average contribution size of $70. Of his total funds, $10,675 came from within the city.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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