Over two months after he qualified for the Democracy Fund — New Haven’s public financing system for mayoral candidates — Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 collected his first check on Friday.
Elicker received a check for $9,840 in matching funds for 238 donations, as the Democracy Fund matches up to the first $25 of eligible donations twice. Though Elicker collected the requisite number of donations to receive these funds when he qualified at the end of January, a provision in the Democracy Fund ordinance stipulates that candidates cannot receive funds until April 1. Elicker is the first mayoral candidate to receive a check from the Democracy Fund during this election cycle.
When he qualified for public financing, Elicker also became eligible for a $19,000 grant in addition to the matching funds, but he will only receive this grant once the election becomes a “contested” election. An election will become “contested” when one of Elicker’s opponents in this fall’s race — which currently consists of former city Economic Development Administrator Henry Fernandez LAW ’94, State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield and plumber Sundiata Keitazulu — has officially spent $5,500 on the race.
Keitazulu and Holder-Winfield have both pledged to use the Democracy Fund, while Fernandez has chosen to opt out because he thinks his late entry into the campaign will prevent him from effectively participating in the Fund. Keitazulu signed onto the Democracy Fund Monday.
With official public finance filings due tomorrow night by state election law, Elicker may be getting another check soon.
“We’ve raised more than $50,000 in direct contributions,” Elicker said. “I’m expecting that [Holder-Winfield has] raised $5,000 dollars, so once it becomes official on [April 10] on the filing date, then we’re likely to get that other check [for $19,000] shortly afterwards.”
Elicker campaign manager Kyle Buda said that the campaign has not spent a significant amount of money yet and that the grant is not immediately necessary to execute their campaign strategy. The primary expenditures so far have been on the office, the website, food for volunteers and campaign literature, he added.
“As far as dealing with the Democracy Fund or working with them, it’s been easy to work with them thus far,” Buda said. “At this stage, we’re not having to make decisions based on when we get the grant money — we have plenty of resources.”
The campaign has been a “pioneer” in some respects, Elicker campaign treasurer Melanie Quigley said, because it is forcing the Fund to work out some logistics as the earliest campaign to qualify this year. She described participating in the Democracy Fund as adding an “extra layer of work on top of bureaucracy already mandated by the state,” but added that the Fund has seemed interested in making the process easier and encouraging candidates to use the Fund.
Krayeske said that as soon as he finds out that the election is “contested,” he will file the request for the $19,000 grant for Elicker. He added that campaigns now “need money early,” and that he understands the need for campaigns to receive their funding from the Democracy Fund shortly after they turn in their paperwork of additional qualifying donations.
“I’m hoping that now [that] we’re past April 1, any time we have a candidate who puts forward qualifying donations, we can turn the check around in five to 10 days,” Krayeske said. “The machinations of bureaucracy take a little while, but I’ve found the [city’s] finance department to be extremely cooperative.”
Other individuals who have expressed interest in running are Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina and probate Judge Jack Keyes. Carolina has said he will opt into the Fund if he runs for mayor, while Keyes has said he must see if other candidates are opting in and whether the Fund is actually “effective” before making a decision.
Participants in the Democracy Fund may not receive donations exceeding $370.