Race for Campaign Cash Heats Up

Written by Megan Finnegan Bungeroth on . Posted in News Our Town, Our Town.


The 2013 City Council race may seem like a far-off event to average residents, but in the political sphere, the competition is already heated. The Upper East Side will see candidates vie for two wide-open seats next fall, as both Council Members Dan Garodnick, representing the 4th District that borders Central Park and stretches down to Mid- town East, and Jessica Lappin, in the 5th District that covers the East Side’s waterfront and Roosevelt Island, are running for higher office. Garodnick officially announced his campaign for comptroller a few months ago, and Lappin is expected to declare her run for borough president as soon as current Borough President Scott Stringer declares his run for mayor.

All those declarations leave the neighborhood ready for fresh political blood, and recent campaign filings give residents a sneak peek at who might be a serious contender come next September.

In the 5th District, Mark Thompson has showed his fundraising chops by raising $60,785 from 292 contributions in the past six months. So far, Thompson doesn’t face any other serious candidates, but insiders say Steve Newmark, who currently works for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and hasn’t started campaigning, could raise significant money and support when he officially jumps into the race.

In the 4th District race, two candidates, Domenico Minerva and Benjamin Kallos, are practically neck and neck when it comes to fundraising as of the latest filing deadline, which was July 16.

Kallos raised a total of $28,453 in the last six months, bringing his campaign chest to $33,456, he said. “Our campaign is very excited about the 348 contributions that demonstrate more community support than we ever expected, and we hope to continue that trend, expanding the number of small contributions from residents all over the district and the city,” Kallos said, noting that his average contribution was $95.42 and that 22 percent of the contributions were $10, a threshold many candidates point to in showing their grassroots support.

Minerva comes a close second in fundraising for the filing period, bringing in $24,793 from 104 contributions, which he raised almost exclusively in the past two months. The other contender, Hill Krishnan, raised only $1,085 from 22 contributions. The only other candidate, David Menegon, confirmed that he’ll drop out of the race due to the possibility of being redeployed to the Army by the end of this year.

But insiders say that at this point in the race, having the least—or the most— money in a campaign account is no indication of where a candidate will fall on the ballot.

“Because of New York City’s extraordinarily generous and almost universally participated-in campaign finance program, everybody will have the same amount of money, so the money has less meaning,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.

The matching program gives candidates $6 for every $1 raised from New York City residents, for up to $175 per person. The program was intended to level the playing field and give candidates without access to big money a chance to compete, a point Krishnan raised in defending his fundraising position.

“Running for City Council in New York should be about more than just raising money,” Krishnan said in an email. “I don’t work in a lucrative career to meet and raise money from high donors; I am a professor.”

Sheinkopf said that it’s way too early to rule anyone out, regardless of how paltry their total seems in comparison to other candidates.

“Unlike most people in my business, I got rid of my crystal ball a long time ago—it didn’t fit in my wallet,” Sheinkopf said. “Early money helps define the race for people in the media business and for local community activists. But the general public, they don’t care.”

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