Out of the more than 30 mayoral candidates who have launched formal fundraising committees, only two--Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and city Comptroller Scott Stringer--raised enough money to be eligible for public matching funds on Tuesday from the New York City Campaign Finance Board.
Stringer received $3.3 million in matching funds and Adams received $4.4 million. The payments provide an early glimpse into how well -- and how early -- candidates are organizing for their respective races. To qualify for the funds, Mayoral candidates had to raise at least $250,000 from at least 1,000 contributors.
Only the first $250 from each contributor to mayoral, comptroller and public advocate candidates is eligible for the $8-to-1 match from public funds. (It’s the first $175 for each for City Council and Borough President candidates.)
The CFB issued a total of $17.3 million in its first payment of matching money for all candidates running for city office next year. One comptroller, two borough presidents and 56 City Council candidates also qualified for funds.
More than 96% of candidates running for office next year have opted into the matching funds program, according to the CFB. The program is designed to give a boost to candidates who may not have access to the funds needed to run for office on their own by encouraging them to seek small-dollar support from voters in their district. But by taking public funds, participants are also agreeing to specific fundraising and expenditure rules.
While fundraising is only one measure of a campaign’s effectiveness, candidates in 2021 are under added pressure to build and maintain momentum quickly with an accelerated primary calendar that moves the municipal contests to June from September, with as many open seats as the city’s seen in a generation, not to mention the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adams issued a statement praising small dollar donors for supporting his campaign. “We have received nearly 7,000 contributions from New Yorkers from every walk of life who live in every corner of our city—and low-dollar donations from working people make up the vast majority of what we have raised,” Adams said.
Stringer’s campaign spokesperson, Cameron Hellerman, tried to spin his second place finish in matching funds as a testament to his "fight for the people of New York, not the wealthy elite and powerful special interests.”
While these payments show that both candidates have strong foundations to continue building their campaigns with, it only gives a partial picture of how much mayoral candidates have raised so far. Several candidates did not officially launch their campaigns and begin fundraising until this fall, long after the July deadline.
At least one candidate, Ray McGuire, a former investment banker and Citigroup executive, has said he does not plan to participate in the public matching funds program, although all candidates will still need to file their latest financial statements showing how much they’ve raised and spent by next month. Matching funds for that fundraising period, from July 11th, 2020 - January 11th, 2021, will be paid out in February.
With nearly two-thirds of the seats for City Council open with no incumbent seeking re-election, Tuesday’s CFB payments highlighted the neighborhoods where those races are likely to be most competitive. City Council candidates needed to raise $5,000 in eligible contributions including from 75 contributors in their district in order to qualify for public matching funds.
(Note: Candidate fundraising totals in the map above may take 10-20 seconds to load.)
Across the city, 14 city council candidates have already received the maximum payment of $160,444 in matching funds that they are eligible for in this primary.
In district 10, the Upper Manhattan seat currently held by Ydanis Rodriguez, four candidates received matching funds totaling more than $480,000, an early signal of how competitive the race will be. Two candidates, Johanna Garcia and Carmen de La Rosa received more than $160,000, with Angela Fernadez receiving nearly $108,000 and Josue Perez securing more than $54,000.
Candidates running for Brooklyn Council district 33, the seat currently held by Stephen Levin, covering neighborhoods including Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Williamsburg and Greenpoint, received more than $330,000 in public funds, with Elizabeth Adams maxing out at more than $160,000, followed by April Somboun with $72,000, Stuart Sherman with $50,000 and Benjamin Soltaire with $48,000.
In district 49 on the north shore of Staten Island, the race to replace Debi Rose, who is term-limited, has already drawn more than $329,000 in public fundraising dollars, including $160,444 to Amoy Barnes, who maxed out, $83,000 to Kamillah Hanks, $46,000 to Kelvin Richards and $39,000 to Ranti Ogunleye.
The only comptroller candidate to receive matching funds was Brooklyn City Council member Brad Lander, who received $2.3 million. Candidate for Manhattan Borough president, Ben Kallos, currently a Council member, received $460,000, while Council Minority Leader Steve Matteo received $382,000 in his bid for Staten Island Borough president.
The next filing deadline for all candidates is January 15th.