State Assembly candidates reveal war chests — and personal loans — in latest filings
Upper East Side With less than 50 days before the Democratic primary, candidates in the 76th Assembly District race have revealed how much their campaigns have raised so far this year — and some would appear to be more invested than others.
Three of the Democratic candidates have put a combined $400,000 into their own campaigns in the form of loans, according to filings with the state Board of Elections.
The recent July filing reveals that Ed Hartzog, a lawyer and Community Board 8 member, loaned his campaign $70,000 of his own money, while David Menegon, a Xerox executive and Army veteran, put up $85,000. The majority of the loan money in the campaign comes from ex-Wall Streeter Gus Christensen, who, according to a filing earlier this year, cut his campaign a $250,000 check.
The other two candidates include Democrat Rebecca Seawright and Republican David Garland, neither of whom put any significant amount of their own money in the race.
As for his $85,000 loan, Menegon said voters in the district want to support a candidate who actually has a shot of getting elected, and the efficacy of his candidacy is tied in part to the amount of money he has to spend on his campaign. “I loaned the campaign to get over that first hurdle,” said Menegon. “People know that, ‘wow, Dave’s serious. He has the money to run a successful campaign.’ If you don’t have that, people will make other choices.”
Menegon currently has $124,000 on hand, and said he’s the “one candidate who has a proven track record of results.” Those results, according to Menegon, include the successful management of a $1 billion economic development and infrastructure budget while serving on reconstruction projects in Iraq.
“I’m able to roll my sleeves up and get people to work together who are not predisposed to do so and solve problems in the community,” he said.
Christensen, a former executive at JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, said he’s just playing it safe with his loan.
“There’s a finite amount of money that makes sense for anyone to spend on this race,” said Christensen. “I’m not going to put a lot more money into this race, and I hope I don’t have to spend any of my own money.”
Candidates typically loan their campaigns money against future fundraising efforts. But with seven weeks left in the race, it’s not yet known how big a hit any of the self-financed candidates will take.
“I think all of the candidates have put more or less of their own money into the race,” said Christensen. Regardless of the money factor, he said, his resume and experience is the best in the field. He graduated from the prestigious Wharton School and Yale University, is a “very successful businessman,” and sits on the board of directors of two cultural institutions: the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Bronx’s Historic Woodlawn Cemetery.
He is also an organizer with Pledge 2 Protect, the main organization that opposes the marine transfer station at East 91st Street. In May, he was arrested with seven other P2P members in an act of civil disobedience aimed at preventing construction of the facility.
“A key aspect of what I do every day of my life is fight [the marine transfer station],” said Christensen, who despite being a registered Republican until 2007, nevertheless publicly supports progressive causes like the $15/hour minimum wage and taxing the rich to pay for programs for the poor.
Christensen has $376,000 on hand for the assembly race, according to the July filing.
Despite having the smallest war chest of any candidate, Hartzog doesn’t see himself as an underdog. He also doesn’t see any dissonance between loaning his campaign $70,000 and promising to push for campaign finance reform if elected.
“I think we’re as competitive as anyone else in terms of what we’ve raised so far, which is $125,000, which is as much as the other candidates if not more,” said Hartzog. “I find this race to be extremely competitive…I don’t think of it as overcoming any kind of a gap.”
Hartzog has about $50,000 on hand according to the July filing, and said one indicator of his support in the district is the number of people who voted for him in his bid last year for City Council.
“I received over 2,400 votes in that race, over 1,600 of which came from this Assembly district,” he said. “And I’ve been given no indication by anyone that those voters are going anywhere but continuing to agree with the message that I have.”
Hartzog is serving his second term, fourth year, with Community Board 8. In last year’s city council bid, he received 15 percent of Democratic votes in the district. “People are responding and will continue to vote for me. Folks have continued to say, ‘we remember you and support your message and we want you to win,’” said Hartzog.
Despite being a relative newcomer to New York politics, Seawright is in some ways the front-runner in this race. She’s a woman in politics in a female-heavy electorate, and has the endorsements of almost the entire Manhattan Democratic establishment.
And while she’s raised $108,000 in the race so far, and currently has $85,000 on hand, she’s the only Democratic candidate who hasn’t put up a significant chunk of her own money. She doesn’t have to, as big names like Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer endorsed her candidacy early.
“I’m very proud of the money we raised,” Seawright said. “If you look at what was raised for this filing period, not including loans, we raised more money than the other candidates. I think that says a lot for the type of people that are supporting me.”
Seawright was not a candidate in January and did not make the required filing that period.
Among the issues close to her heart, she said, is the protection of affordable housing, opposing the MTS, increased funding for public schools, and the Women’s Equality bill.
For David Garland – the only Republican in the race – his candidacy is about the dangers of one party controlling the conversation, the same platform he touted in a State Senate bid against Liz Krueger in 2012 and a city council bid last year.
“Obviously there’s common issues that every candidate is going to come out strongly against, like the marine transfer station, but I also think that there’s the politics and then there’s the reality,” said Garland. “The fact is that when every single office at every level is held by the same party in Manhattan, it’s not good for democracy and it’s not good for good governance. There’s no dissenting voices or alternative viewpoints.”
If he wins, said Garland, as a Republican his voice will be “inordinately louder.”
“Standing on your own I think will make a big difference. I’d also have to work harder than the other candidates because I’d be under more scrutiny,” he said.
Garland also has the benefit of experience to draw on in what will be his third campaign as a longshot Republican in a Democratic town.
“I’ve run twice already, so I have pretty good name recognition in the district. We also have run two campaigns, so we know how to spend our money effectively and wisely to maximize our voter contacts,” said Garland. “I think those are two huge advantages for us. Everyone else is a neophyte in terms of running a campaign.”
Primary Day is Sept. 9. For voter info visit www.elections.ny.gov.