Republican Joe Lhota raised more than $729,000 in his first two months in the race, the most of any Democrat or Republican in the field during this filing period. But fundraising totals are just one barometer of a candidate’s formidability, given the city’s complicated public campaign financing system.
(For more on Lhota's filings -- where show big-check hauls from former colleagues at Cablevision and in the Giuliani administration, click here.)
Other key factors are how much they raise in small donations from New Yorkers, because only the first $175 of a New Yorker’s donation is eligible for the 6-to-1 match from the city’s Campaign Finance Board. The other factor to watch is how quickly they spend their money, because publicly financed candidates have a cap on how much they can spend.
That is, for candidates expected to take public matching funds. In the Democratic field, all of the major candidates are planning to participate. They can’t exceed $6,426,000 for the primary, but those who started early could spend an extra $303,000 in 2012.
Even before this fundraising period, Christine Quinn had raised all the money she needs to reach the spending cap in the primary and in a potential run-off election. Democrat Bill de Blasio has raised the second-largest amount in the race, but John Liu is positioned to receive much more in matching funds because more of his support came in smaller checks. With the matching money included, Liu now has enough to spend up to the primary limit.
That could change however, depending on the outcome of a trial of a former Liu campaign aide and fundraiser next month. They are charged with using straw donors to drum up the number of donations and evade contribution limits. Their trial is scheduled for next month, and Liu plans to formally announce his candidacy Sunday.
Spending could much higher than the cap in the Republican field, with MTA Chairman Joe Lhota hoping for matching funds, billionaire John Catsimatidis loaning his campaign $1 million to start, Doe Fund founder George McDonald mounting a legal challenge to contribution limits as he runs. Under the city’s public financing rules, if a candidate with matching funds is running has an opponent who spends more than the cap, the matched candidate is allowed to spend more — but he’s got to raise it.
Finally, Adolfo Carrion, who is running on the Independence Party line in November, is raising money and will not seek public matching funds.