56 DAYS UNTIL THE 2023 PRIMARY ELECTION
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'WE'RE LITERALLY TALKING ABOUT SHIFTING THE ENTIRE CAMPAIGN UNIVERSE'
|By Jeff Coltin|
New York City elections play out in a steady rhythm. State and federal in even years, city in odd years. Now the New York City Campaign Finance Board has an official suggestion: Let’s do it all at once.
The goal would be to increase voter turnout – more New Yorkers vote, generally, in the presidential and gubernatorial years than the city years. But like many of us in this world, political consultants’ lives are tied to the existing calendar. And they mostly don’t like the pitch.
“Keeping council races in the off year gives them the attention they deserve,” said Camille Rivera, partner at New Deal Strategies. Voters want consistency, she said, and “as a consultant, it’s an important business opportunity to service council and city candidates in the off cycle.”
Others think it would be good for business – but bad for democracy. “More campaigns mean less staff to go around, which positions us to provide the support campaigns need,” said Justin Chae, CEO of Meridian Strategies. But voters already get confused with crowded ballots now. Double that up? Chae said the impact would probably be “less care given to anything after the top of the ticket, so more ethnic surname bias, picking whoever is first, and random (ranked-choice voting) picks.”
They’re just two of the half-dozen consultants City & State reached out to for feedback, after the board published its annual voter analysis report Monday. It’s a huge document full of fascinating analysis. (Average age of primary election voters? 57. Highest turnout in the general election? Upper East Side.) But the headline is that the board recommended aligning city elections with presidential elections. That hasn’t been done since 1892, when Grover Cleveland carried New York.
“We’ve always given policy and legislative recommendations,” said Tim Hunter, press secretary at the Campaign Finance Board. “(But) this is the biggest recommendation we’ve made, ever. … We’re literally talking about shifting the entire campaign universe.”
Read more here about whether this will even happen.
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How much the newly passed state budget includes for public matching funds for state candidates in 2024, according to state Sen. Zellnor Myrie. That’s a relief for public campaign finance backers, since rumor had it there was debate to delay the program. But now, state-level public funding is on track, just 35 years behind the city. The allocation is only a quarter of the $100 million the state Board of Elections asked for, but more money could come next year, since most of the payments would come next fiscal year anyway, for the 2024 primary and general election. The BOE is also getting a $14.5 million boost for staffing and admin costs.
Rep. Jerry Nadler and former New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer got dinner with their wives, Joyce Miller and Elyse Buxbaum, earlier this year at Dagon on the Upper West Side. And a source tells Campaign Confidential that Nadler made it clear that he is planning to run for reelection in 2024. Stringer is fully supportive of the decision, and expects to run for another office in the future, after the resolution of his ongoing lawsuit.
So the wannabes may need to stand down this election cycle. Stringer has been close with Nadler for decades and has always been considered a possible heir to the seat, but gaming out who wants the seat when the 75-year-old Nadler’s time in Congress is done is a popular political parlor game between 14th Street and and 96th Street. But for now? The story is the same as always: “He’s running,” said Nadler consigliere Rob Gottheim. “He wouldn’t have run a race where we spent more than $2 million and not run for reelection again.”
No big shocks after weeks of petition challenges. Every City Council incumbent successfully made the ballot. That is, nobody accidentally pulled a Rebecca Seawright. However, disgraced former Council Members Hiram Monserrate and Andy King both failed to make the primary ballot. Reminder, Monserrate was barred from running again by a law specifically tailored to keep politicians convicted on corruption charges off the ballot. And King is barred for another two years by term limits. But both are keeping up the fight, and taking their cases to court. Monserrate, who wants to take on Francisco Moya in Queens’ District 21 yet again, is arguing the law barring him is unfair. And King is arguing that while he was “expelled” from office he was not legally “removed” and should be able to run against Kevin Riley in the Bronx’s District 12.
But for now, they’re both off the ballot, just like Nickie Kane, who is trying to challenge Council Member Shahana Hanif. Kane tried to argue her way on the ballot last week at the Board of Elections meeting while holding a small white dog. Ruff going – it didn’t work.
Assembly Member Al Taylor is one of the sharpest dressed guys in Albany – and campaign funds helped keep it that way. Over his first year running for office, back in 2017 and 2018, Taylor reported spending nearly $400 cleaning his clothes, including four trips to the dry cleaners and two to the laundromat. State campaign law is notoriously permissible, but this is a gray area. Candidates can’t spend funds on personal use, but there’s an exception for clothing items “used in the campaign.” Does that extend to laundering them? There doesn’t seem to be any case law. It may depend on whether Taylor cleaned just campaign suits, or threw in some personal shirts too. Another 2018 Taylor filing included a bit of a brag – a $120 payment to a shoe shop to “Replace Sole On Shoe (Canvassing).” A campaign spokesperson said Taylor doesn’t remember any specific expenditures from years ago, and never received any indication from the Board of Elections that there was a problem. But he seemed to have wisened up – Taylor hasn’t filed any laundry or dry cleaning expenses since 2018. Why is this coming out now? Taylor hasn’t had a competitive election in years, but his race now in the City Council District 9 primary against Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan, Assembly Member Inez Dickens and activist Yusef Salaam means somebody is looking through his dirty laundry – er, clean clothes.
Lee Zeldin’s running mate last year for lieutenant governor, Republican Alison Esposito, teased another campaign on Twitter last week. Asked about it, she sent Campaign Confidential a statement saying, in part, she’s “humbled by the so many people who have reached out encouraging me to run for office, including challenging Senator (Kirsten) Gillibrand. If I decide to run, she would have a real fight on her hands. Gillibrand is a failed Senator and out of touch with the true struggles of everyday New Yorkers.” The state Republican Party said it’s in discussions with a number of potential candidates. Gillibrand is breathing a sigh of relief this week though, after Politico reported that none of the potential big names – not Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ritchie Torres, Jamaal Bowman or former Rep. Mondaire Jones – are planning to challenge her, and the Working Families Party doesn’t have any appetite for it either. Jones and Bowman, by the way, were hanging together at a rally for U.S. Supreme Court reform last weekend, as talk heats up about the 17th Congressional District run Jones has been teasing.
The New York City Central Labor Council endorsed a slate of City Council Democratic incumbents, including Justin Brannan over Ari Kagan in District 47… And District Council 37 also decided to back Brannan … Eleanor's Legacy endorsed both Susan Lee and Ursila Jung in District 1 and Amber Adler in District 48… The Jefferson Democratic Club and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Democratic Association endorsed Tony Avella for Council District 19 … The NYPD Lieutenants Benevolent Association endorsed Melinda Katz for Queens district attorney – over opponent George Grasso, a former cop … Emily’s List already endorsed U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for reelection in 2024 … ICYMI, City Council Member James Gennaro endorsed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for president – and there’s some history behind that decision.
Who are you working for? Who are other people working for? And who’s fundraising for which candidates? Let us know we’ll include it in a future Campaign Confidential.
Email JColtin@CityandStateNY.com or send a DM to @JCColtin on Twitter
City Council District 1 in lower Manhattan, including the neighborhoods of Chinatown, Soho and Tribeca
Incumbent: Christopher Marte
2020 census demographics: 45% white, 32% Asian, 13% Hispanic, 5% Black
2021 Democratic primary election results (first round): Marte: 39.4%, Jenny Low: 17.7%, Gigi Li: 15.9%, Maud Maron: 8.7%, Susan Lee: 7.8%, Sean Hayes: 4%, Tiffany Johnson-Winbush: 3.5%, Susan Damplo: 1.6%, Denny Salas: 1.3%
2021 general election results: Marte (Democratic): 72.1%, Maron (Independent NY): 14.1%, Jacqueline Toboroff (Republican): 13.6%
Who’s running: Marte (D), Lee (D), Ursila Jung (D), Pooi Stewart (D), Helen Qiu (R, Conservative)
After barely losing to City Council Member Margaret Chin in 2017, Christopher Marte won the open seat in 2021 by defeating a diverse primary field, including three Asian candidates. Marte is Dominican, but he had solid support in Chinatown in the last race and has worked to grow more support during his term. But bad blood remains in some parts of the community, and some local power players are backing grant writer and local activist Susan Lee, who is Chinese. Lee ran in 2021 and got fifth place, but she is leading the field in fundraising so far this year. Also running are angel investor Ursila Jung and Pooi Stewart, a Malaysian immigrant whose campaign is already in debt. She is apparently new to the district, having just lost an Assembly Democratic primary in the West Bronx in 2022.
This Manhattan district is solidly Democratic, so while the one Republican, Helen Qiu, may find supporters in more conservative parts of the district, she doesn’t have much of a chance in the general election.
Thanks for reading City & State New York’s Campaign Confidential newsletter, where City Hall Bureau Chief Jeff Coltin is covering the biggest races in New York, from the City Council to district attorneys, and looking ahead to the 2024 elections.
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