Aspiring city politicians raised money at a slow place in the first half of 2020, reflecting the impact of the coronavirus and new campaign finance rules.
Wednesday was the deadline for candidates in the city’s 2021 elections to report what they had raised and spent from mid-January through early July on their campaigns for City Council, borough president, public advocate, comptroller or mayor.
The 2021 primary, which for the first time in recent* history will be held in June rather than September, is barely 11 months away. With the mayor, comptroller, four borough presidents and the vast majority of the City Council hitting term limits, next year’s municipal races will see more open seats than at any time since 2001.
The last race with any significant turnover was in 2013. Comparing that cycle to the current one, fundraising is down by about half. In the first six months of 2012, city candidates raised $7.2 million. In the parallel period of early 2020, candidates raised $3.7 million, pending the addition of a few straggler campaigns who had not submitted their results by Thursday morning.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leads the mayoral pack in terms of overall fundraising, with $2.2 million hauled in so far. Comptroller Scott Stringer, however, has the biggest war chest, thanks to a transfer of $1.4 million in surplus money from earlier campaigns, and a slight advantage over Adams in cash on hand.
Latest fundraising period
|Fundraising 1/12/2020-7/11/2020||Spending 1/12/2020-7/11/2020|
However, it was former federal housing secretary and city housing commissioner Shaun Donovan—a more recent entry to the race—who posted the best 2020 numbers, with $671,000 raised in the first six months of the year.
In fundraising to date, Donovan has by far the highest average contribution at $1,171, compared with $423 for Adams, $367 for Stringer and $159 for Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
Johnson is voluntarily limiting donations to $250 or less. Other mayoral candidates can choose between a $5,100 maximum contribution with a six-to-one matching ratio when public funds are dispersed, or a $2,000 maximum with an eight-to-one ratio.
The lower limits likely depressed fundraising in the first half of the year, but the pandemic probably took a toll as well.
Like Stringer, both Adams and Johnson have transferred extra cash from earlier campaigns into their mayoral efforts, $365,000 and $89,000 respectively.
Overall, $16.8 million has been raised so far for the 2021 races, and $4.6 million has been spent. Nearly 40 percent of the funds raised came from outside the city. Among the mayoral candidates, the campaign with the largest share of outside-NYC fundraising was Donovan’s: 43 percent of his money came from beyond the boroughs.
Overall mayoral fundraising breakdown
|Total private donations (includes transfers from past campaigns)||Total spending to date||Cash on hand||Outside NYC as a share of total fundraising||Average donation|
Technically, Adams, Donovan, Johnson and Stringer are “undeclared” candidates. Among those who have formally declared their mayoral candidacies, Ruben Diaz Jr. still has the biggest bank account, with more than $800,000 in hand, despite dropping out months ago. Nonprofit executive Dianne Morales has $107,000 in her coffers. Former veterans-affairs official Loree Sutton is nearly $5,000 in the red. Jocelyn Taylor, Aaron Foldenauer, Cleopatra Fitzgerald, William Pepitone and Max Caplan are also raising money for a run for mayor.
Other than current or former mayoral candidates, the top 10 best-funded campaigns at this point include two comptroller candidates, State Senator Brian Benjamin and Councilmember Brad Lander, who both have more than $350,000 in hand, and Councilmember Rafael Salamanca, who could seek re-election to the Council or run for Bronx borough president and has $320,000 in the bank. Melinda Katz (the former Queens borough president who is now district attorney) and Councilmember Ritchie Torres, currently leading a Democratic primary for a Congressional seat, round out the list, with a combined half million dollars that will likely not be spent on a municipal campaign.
As is customary, much of the money that powers this municipal campaigns has come from a narrow set of neighborhoods. The top 10 ZIP codes for donations to 2021 candidates encompass about a quarter of the money raised in the city so far.
Top 10 ZIP codes for donations so far to 2021 campaigns
|10024||Upper West Side||$306,585|
|10021||Upper East Side||$217,700|
*This story originally incorrectly reported that the June 2021 primary would be the first June mayoral primary in city history. The primary has been in September since 1977.