Financing a mayoral race

Funding

Of the two mayoral candidates participating in the New Haven Democracy Fund, only one has raked in the requisite donations to start receiving public financing from the city.

That candidate is Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, who will be receiving a $9,840 check in matching funds this week, said Democracy Fund Administrator Ken Krayeske. That’s because he was able to raise $17,666 by the Feb. 19 filing deadline.

Two days later, on Feb. 21, Connecticut State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, who is also vying for the mayor’s office, signed a participation affidavit with the Democracy Fund, which limits individual campaign donations to $370 or less in return for a $19,000 grant and matching funds of up to $125,000. Though Krayeske belatedly announced Monday that Holder-Winfield would officially be participating in the Fund, he added that the candidate has not yet qualified for matching funds, as he has not collected the requisite 200 contributions of $10 or more from registered voters. Only after this hurdle do candidates receive 2-to-1 matching funds on the first $25 of each donation.

Henry Fernandez LAW ’94, CEO of the consulting firm Fernandez Advisors and the third of four official candidates, will not participate in the Democracy Fund, saying he entered the race too late to meet what he called the Fund’s “time-consuming” procedure. Fernandez declined to comment Sunday on the state of his fundraising, information that will become public for all candidates on April 10 when State Elections Enforcement Commission filings are due. Krayeske said that date will also reveal which candidates have raised $5,500 or more, a threshold that entitles those participating in the Democracy Fund to the $19,000 grant.

“Gary’s definitely taking longer to get the 200 contributions,” Krayeske said in the wake of his Monday afternoon announcement that Holder-Winfield is taking part in the Democracy Fund. “It’s hard to do. Two-hundred contributions — that’s a fair number.”

Holder-Winfield said he is on track to reach 200 contributions by the April 10 filing deadline. He estimated that his campaign has raised “thousands of dollars,” but said he did not know the exact figure. Elicker declined to comment on the exact amount he has raised so far, but did say his campaign has surpassed its goal of $50,000 in donations.

Both Elicker and Holder-Winfield have been adamant about the importance of public financing, emphasizing that candidates receiving special-interest money will be beholden to those interests as mayor. Holder-Winfield went as far as to lay out a “Clean Campaign Pledge” promising to participate in the Fund, a move that Fernandez criticized as a distraction from the substantive questions of the campaign.

Defending his decision to rely exclusively on private funding, Fernandez said he might have signed onto the Democracy Fund if he had more time until election day.

“We only have five months before election day, and I’ve just gotten into the race,” he said. “It takes a long time to raise money under the rules of the Fund. If I had a year, I’d probably use it. It’s just not set up for candidates who get in late.”

By Jan. 31, when Elicker qualified for matching funds, he had already raised $15,285. At that time, Fernandez would still not enter the race for nearly two whole months, a move he finally made public in the last week of March.

In response to Fernandez’s statement about the time it takes to meet Democracy Fund thresholds for public financing, Elicker said Sunday he met the requirement in five days.

Though he is taking longer to bring in the requisite 200 donations, Holder-Winfield said the time excuse is not a good one.

“We’ve known about this race for a while. You don’t just wake up one day and decide you want to run for mayor,” he said. “It’s not easy for any of us to get the 200 contributions. I don’t have a ton of time on my hands either. It was his decision to wait.”

Sundiata Keitazulu, a plumber and the fourth candidate for mayor, told the News Monday that he plans on signing onto the Democracy Fund at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Democracy Fund’s current balance is $270,000.

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