In the final four weeks before Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 and Toni Harp ARC ’78 square off for the title of mayor of New Haven, every dollar will count — covering the costs of advertisements, mailings and food to nourish volunteers.
The latest indication of where the candidates stand in the money race surfaced Monday evening, when the Elicker campaign released the details of its most recent campaign finance filing for the fundraising period ending Oct. 4. In the month following the Democratic primary — when he lost to Harp but pledged to stay in the election as an Independent — Elicker raised roughly $85,000, making this period the campaign’s strongest fundraising quarter to date, despite the fact that he is no longer receiving matching funds from the city through participation in the Democracy Fund.
Though Harp’s filing deadline does not fall until Oct. 10, the campaign released a preliminary estimate of its sum total for the past month: $104,000, dwarfing Elicker’s by $19,000.
Elicker said the numbers show his campaign has gained in strength since his loss in the primary. Westville resident Michael Pinto said in the campaign’s press statement that the slimming down of the choices to two candidates has led to significant gains for Elicker, primarily among people who “see Justin as the independent voice.”
“The numbers are an indication that my campaign is gaining momentum, and part of that is because it’s now a two-way race,” Elicker said. “But it’s also because there is just in general greater excitement about my campaign in recent days, based on our strong position in the primary and the fact that Kermit Carolina endorsed me.”
An erstwhile candidate for mayor, Carolina threw his weight behind Elicker at the end of September, asking voters to look beyond race when choosing between Elicker, who is white, and Harp, who is black.
Though many of his donors are repeat givers — taking advantage of the clean slate for donations afforded by the general election — Elicker said he has also received donations from a fair number of former supporters of Carolina and Henry Fernandez LAW ’94, another former candidate who dropped out after a loss in the primary.
Harp Campaign Spokesman Patrick Scully said the Elicker campaign is “obsessed with fundraising” and added that Harp is instead focused on “policy” and “speaking to New Haven voters.”
Elicker said the most important takeaway from his report is the breadth of local support for his campaign. Of the 405 donations he received from Sept. 4 to Oct. 4, 89 percent came from New Haven residents. More than half of the donors to his campaign gave $100 or less.
Elicker was an early advocate of the New Haven Democracy Fund, the city’s public campaign finance system that limits individual contributions to $370 and prevents candidates from taking special interest or PAC money in return for public matching funds. As a petitioning candidate, Elicker is no longer eligible for the fund — nor bound by its rules. However, Elicker said he is still swearing off special interest money and only taking donations of $370 or less. Abstaining from the Democracy Fund throughout the campaign, Harp said the program is a drain on the city’s resources and a burden on taxpayers.
During the primary, Harp led Elicker considerably in fundraising, but also vastly outspent him. At the close of the primary, the Harp campaign had a negative balance of $23,000, which Scully said they are in the process of paying back.
Scully said Harp’s donations come from a range of supporters — both within and outside of the city — and added that the recent round of donations also indicate strong support from former Fernandez and Carolina supporters.
“We have definitely seen a number of supporters of other candidates come to our side,” he said. “We don’t break it down by who they used to support. That’s just not a good use of our time. We break it down how we’re required to by law, and then we focus on policy.”
The election is on Nov. 5.