Gotham Gazette

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The Money Race for NYC Mayor: Adams Continues to Eclipse Sliwa as General Election Approaches


Gotham Gazette:

The road to City Hall (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)

Note (September 3, 2021): This article has been updated to reflect public matching funds payments to Eric Adams and Curtis Sliwa of roughly $2 million and $2.6 million respectively. Those payments were announced by the city's Campaign Finance Board on September 2.

Eric Adams has continued a robust fundraising operation since receiving the Democratic nomination for mayor, bolstering his chances of sailing smoothly to victory in the November general election against his long-shot opponent, Republican Curtis Sliwa, and allowing him to build a formidable warchest for future political campaigns.

According to his latest campaign finance filing, Adams has raised a total of roughly $17.4 million in private donations and public matching funds since January 2018. To date, his campaign has spent close to $11.5 million leaving him with $5.9 million on hand. 

By contrast, Sliwa has raised $3.5 million and spent $850,000. He had close to $2.7 million in his coffers as of September 3, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB).

Even with a smaller funding advantage, Adams would likely win the general election, given the city's sizable population of registered Democrats who outnumber Republicans close to seven to one. The latest figures suggest he will have more than enough to go around, which he can use to support candidates for City Council – whom he will likely have to govern with beginning in January – and his own potential reelection campaign in 2025.

In the latest round of filings, which were due Friday and covered campaign activity between July 12 through August 23, Adams's private fundraising – including big-dollar events in Long Island and as far afield as Martha's Vineyard – garnered roughly $2.2 million. They include events hosted by stalwart Republican donors and politicians, including billionaire John Catsimatidis and Council Member Eric Ulrich. During that period about 40% of Adams’ donations came from outside New York City, according to the filings. The average donation size was $705 from 3,099 contributors – much larger than the $563 average donation his campaign has received overall from a total of 12,391 donors.

In the last round of public matching funds payments, announced September 2, Adam's received close to $2 million, bringing Adams's total public and private fundraising in the latest filing period to $4.1 million.

The next disclosure deadline is October 1, with public funds going out shortly after. Under the city's campaign finance law, candidates for mayor may receive a total of nearly $6.5 million in public funds for each of the primary and general elections. If they are participating in the public match program, the maximum candidates can spend in the general election is roughly $7.3 million.

“I am grateful to the nearly 10,000 New Yorkers who have given our campaign the broad, diverse support it needs to get our message out about a safer, fairer, more prosperous New York for working people and those who are struggling in our city,” Adams said in a statement on August 27, after the close of the latest filing period.

“Today we also are making history for candidates of color who too often do not have access to the resources needed to fight our fights – and I am so proud of the precedent we have set for future candidates,” said Adams, the current Brooklyn Borough President and a former NYPD captain, who has fashioned himself as the "blue-collar" candidate in the race.

According to the CFB filings, Sliwa's campaign has pulled in just $350,000 in private donations during the latest filing period, including $150,000 in loans from Anthony Mauriello, an accountant who serves as the campaign’s treasurer. Sliwa received contributions from 2,647 contributors of an average size of $75 between July 12 and August 23 (overall Sliwa's average contribution size was $109 from 7,217 donors). About a quarter of his $200,000 in contributions have come from donors outside the five boroughs. On September 2, the CFB announced Sliwa would receive $2.6 million in public funds, the first time his campaign qualified for a public match, bringing his total public and private fundraising for the period to about $3 million.

Because both candidates have now qualified for public funds, Sliwa and Adams will be required under the city's campaign finance rules to participate in two televised debates sponsored by the CFB and local news outlets. Previously, only one official debate is guaranteed because both candidates had raised and spent the requisite amount.

"We are very pleased with our campaign fundraising," wrote Maria Sliwa, his sister and spokesperson for the campaign, in an email to Gotham Gazette on August 30. "We have raised almost $1 million from the beginning of the campaign, and we expect to have $2.5 Million of matchable funds from the Campaign Finance Board on Thursday. We will be competitive with Eric Adams dollar-for-dollar today and on Election Day." 

The candidate himself also took a jab at Adams' fundraising activity outside New York City. "If the NYC mayoral election were held today, Eric Adams would win the Hamptons vote in a landslide," Sliwa wrote on Twitter.

"I’m sorry, but I’m a realist," he added. "I just can’t compete with the amount of time Adams has spent out in the Hamptons catering to their interests."

Under the city's campaign finance system, candidates are eligible to receive public matching funds if they raise at least $250,000 in qualifying contributions from 1,000 city residents. Under the public financing option that both Adams and Sliwa have opted into, individual contributions are capped at $2,000 per donor with the first $250 of each qualifying contribution matched 8-to-1.

A third candidate, Fernando Mateo, who lost to Sliwa in the Republican primary in June and is now running on the Save Our City Party line, has raised a total of about $2.6 million including $2 million in public funds. But in the latest filing period, he only raised $250, raising doubts about the viability of his campaign. Mateo has close to $97,000 left to spend, according to his filings. 

There are also several other independent candidates in the race but none seem to be running serious campaigns. 

Note (August 31, 2021): This article has been corrected to reflect that the maximum public funds payment Adams, Sliwa, and Mateo can receive is about $6.5 million, not $7.7 million as originally stated.

Note (September 3, 2021): This article has been updated to reflect public matching funds payments to Eric Adams and Curtis Sliwa of roughly $2 million and $2.6 million respectively. Those payments were announced by the city's Campaign Finance Board on September 2.

by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette

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