Donations to tighten mayoral race

When mayoral candidate Justin Elicker releases his next campaign finance filings, he is likely to shift this year’s fundraising race.
When mayoral candidate Justin Elicker releases his next campaign finance filings, he is likely to shift this year’s fundraising race. Photo by Isaac Stanley-Becker.

When mayoral candidate Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 releases his next campaign finance filings, he is likely to shift this year’s fundraising race.

Elicker’s filings will include donations brought in from Sept. 4 through midnight Thursday, whereas the filing deadline for Toni Harp ARC ’78 is a week later. During the democratic primary, Elicker trailed Harp significantly in donations. But in less than two weeks following the Sept. 10 primary, Elicker raised over $50,000, two times his goal of $25,000.

Neither Elicker nor his campaign staff will reveal how much they expect to have raised, but regardless of the exact number the sum will vastly exceed the $29,254 the campaign brought in during July and August. To raise these funds, which could potentially even the candidates’ chances in the race, Elicker’s campaign has relied heavily on previous donors.

“Now that it’s just two candidates, people who were holding off are all giving right now,” Elicker fundraising consultant Rafi Bildner ’16 said. “We’ve seen a massive flood of donations coming in the past two weeks because people are paying attention now.”

The general election is a clean slate in terms of fundraising. Those who gave to the campaigns can give again. Elicker’s primary donation limit, $370, was lower than Harp’sbecause of his participation in the Democracy Fund, a public matching system that limits donations and prevents contributions from political action committees and business entities. Harp contributors could, and still can, give up to $1,000.

Elicker has vowed to continue to abide by the Democracy Fund regulations in the general election. The Harp campaign, which has long criticized the fund as a waste of public resources, disparaged Elicker’s continued participation.

“He’s not entitled to any more of the taxpayer’s money, what is referred to as the sore losers’ club, the Democracy Fund,” Harp communications director Patrick Scully said.

Scully said that Harp’s campaign has continued similar fundraising strategies from the primary, adding that the campaign has a large number of repeat donors in addition to a number of new contributors. Scully did not say, however, if the campaign planned to match its total from the last filing period, which came to $176,082.

According to Elicker, the campaign has relied primarily on those who gave during the primary. Bildner said that the relatively low contribution limit ensures that donors will be able to give a second time without making significant financial sacrifices, making it easier for campaign staff and volunteers to approach donors. The city’s approximately 18,000 independent voters will also increasingly play a role in funding the campaign, according to Bildner.

Bildner added that the proportion of donations for Elicker from New Haven, long a source of contention in the race, went up. Scully said he was uncertain if the proportion has changed for Harp since the primary, during which Elicker raised 79 percent of his funds from New Haven compared to Harp’s 41 percent.

Despite the campaign’s efforts, not all of Elicker’s donors — of who 18 gave the maximum — plan to give again. Hamden resident Anthony Cuomo, whose wife Maryanne gave $370 during the primary, said the couple has no intention of donating more to Elicker.

“I think he was qualified to be mayor. I happen to know him, so I donated,” Cuomo said. “I donated once and I didn’t think that obligated me to donate again.”

Another Elicker donor who gave $370, Yale Professor Harvey Weiss, did not confirm that he would donate again, but he said that the “corruption now personified in New Haven by Ms. Harp’s candidacy” motivated his support of Elicker.

According to Elicker, the spike in fundraising will allow the campaign to avoid going into debt in the weeks immediately before the Nov. 5 general election. This phase, commonly referred to as the “get out the vote” period, generally involves the highest expenditures of the entire campaign.

“From literally day one of me hiring my campaign manager, I made it clear that we would absolutely not go in debt,” Elicker said. “That’s bad financial policy and it’s a bad way to run a city.”

The average donation to Elicker’s campaign during the July and August reporting period stood at $80, as opposed to $217 for Harp.

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