In a mayoral race based more on personalities than policies, one issue has come to define how the four candidates would alter the dynamics of city politics: where their campaigns’ money originates.
Through filings released last week, the candidates detailed the names, addresses and amounts given for each of their donors. In doing so, they made calculable several data points that reveal their campaigns’ strategies over the past several months as they sought to sell Elm City residents on their candidacies.
“It’s very exemplary of the different approaches to campaigns,” Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 said of the filings recently. “I question why so many people from outside New Haven would want to donate so much money to influence New Haven’s elections.”
The data most significant to the outcome of Tuesday’s vote is the total raised by each candidate — $173,982 for State Sen. Toni Harp ARC ’78, $86,304 for Henry Fernandez LAW ’94, $29,254 for Elicker and $5,260 for Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina. With all but Harp vowing to fight on through potential primary defeats to the general election in November, the funds raised over the summer will shape the candidates’ efforts through at least the early fall.
Although Harp far outraised her opponents in the latest filing period, she enters the next stage of the race with comparatively little money on hand. She spent $216,253 during the reporting period, which spokesman Patrick Scully attributed to her late entry into the race.
Beyond the simple totals, though, the candidates’ reliance on funding from outside New Haven has engendered the most discussion in the days since the filings’ releases. Harp raised 21.64 percent of her funds from inside New Haven while Fernandez brought in 22.81 percent of his funds from the Elm City. A significantly greater proportion, 79.11 percent, of Elicker’s contributions came from New Haven. Only a slightly smaller percentage of Carolina’s funds – 74.33 percent – originated in the Elm City.
Also included in the filings are the locations within New Haven of donors, providing rough maps of where in the city the candidates draw the most support. Of the four, Harp posted the most widespread contributions, with a relatively consistent number of donors in most of the city’s neighborhoods. Fernandez, whose contributions in the city are sparse, found most of his donors in East Rock. Only one individual donated from Fernandez’s Fair Haven neighborhood.
Elicker, meanwhile, drew substantial support from East Rock and Westville, two of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods. The East Rock alderman found few donors in other parts of the city. Carolina, on the other hand, received most of his contributions from Newhallville and Dixwell.
Among the filings, further differences abide. Fernandez had the highest average donation — $321 – followed by Harp at $217 and Elicker and Carolina with $85 and $35, respectively. Within New Haven, Fernandez’s average was $298, while it was $328 outside of the city. Harp’s in and out-of-city averages stood at $131 and $330, respectively. Those averages, though, included some contributions made by political action committees and businesses, both inside and outside of the Elm City.
Elicker’s average donations within and beyond the city stayed relatively consistent at $83 and $95. The difference in Carolina’s donations, however, was stark. Carolina’s 144 in-city donations averaged $27, while the five from beyond New Haven were for $270, on average.
While all four have sought to turn the sources of their contributions to their advantage, Elicker and Carolina have been far more aggressive in discussing the locations of their donors. Both claim that their reliance on New Haven contributors reflects their commitments to acting in the interests of Elm City residents.
Elicker and Carolina have attempted to make issue of Harp’s and Fernandez’s acceptance of contributions from political action committees, business entities, lobbyists and contractors. Thirteen percent of Harp’s contributions in July and August came from PACs and business entities, which included New Haven unions Local 34 and Local 35, Realtor’s PAC and Prosperity for Connecticut, among others.
Neither Elicker nor Carolina is allowed to take money from PACs or businesses because of their participation in the Democracy Fund, New Haven’s public campaign financing system. Fernandez, who did not participate in the program, received all of his contributions from individuals during the last filing period. Before July 10, however, when the latest period began, Fernandez made extensive use of PACs and businesses to fund his campaign.
In addition to organizational contributions, significant attention has been brought to individuals affiliated with groups or businesses that stand to benefit from an ally in City Hall. In a Sunday evening press release, the Elicker campaign criticized Harp’s acceptance of over $31,000 in contributions from individuals affiliated with five area businesses.
“A comparison of the two campaigns’ finance reports underscores exactly why public financing is important,” Elicker said in the release. “My campaign has received nearly 80 percent of our contributions from New Haven residents, most of them small donations, while Harp’s major contributors are out-of-town executives from corporations that can directly benefit from decisions by the mayor.”
On Saturday, New Haven blogger Ben Berkowitz posted on his blog the number of lobbyists and their spouses and dependents, city contractors and state contractors found to have donated to each campaign — information made available through the filings.
Harp took donations from 70 lobbyists and contractors, while Fernandez took funds from 19, according to Berkowitz’s post. Lobbyists and contractors were absent from both Elicker and Carolina’s donor rolls.
Harp campaign manager Jason Bartlett said that the number of lobbyists donating to Harp’s campaign was no surprise. After spending 10 years as chair of the Appropriations Committee in the State Senate, Barlett said, Harp has developed extensive relationships with lobbyists and contractors. Bartlett also added that the other candidates’ attacks on Harp’s fundraising were a desperate push from challengers unable to raise as much as the state senator.
“We don’t buy into the argument that Toni is somehow going to lose her moral compass because she accepted a lobbyist’s check,” Barlett said. “It’s pretty fool-hardy. It’s a typical challenger statement.”
In the previous filing period, which ended on July 10, Fernandez led the pack with $179,056 raised, compared to $111,341 for Harp, $127,939 for Elicker and $33,435 for Carolina.