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The money primary: looking at fundraising in the 33rd, 35th, 36th, 39th, and 41st District Council races

A round of financial reports to the New York City Campaign Finance Board [corrected*] arrived Friday, and help provide perspective on which candidates proceed from a position of strength.

I look at the three districts that touch on Atlantic Yards (33, 35, 39), as well as two nearby districts (36, 41) where the incumbents have supported the project.

Fundraising is only one indication; institutional support, such as endorsements from unions, political clubs, and other organizations that can supply volunteers, can be key. A candidate's policies, doggedness, and media savvy surely play significant roles, as can a newspaper endorsement.

But the candidates with the most money can afford advertising to get the word out, as well as staff and consultants. And, with multi-candidate Democratic primary races--the election is September 15--a candidate with a mere plurality can win.

Who’s ahead?

The fundraising race is fiercest in the two districts where there are open seats and crowded fields. In the 33rd, Jo Anne Simon, lawyer and 52nd AD District Leader, and Steve Levin, chief of staff to Assemblyman (and county Democratic Leader) Vito Lopez, are neck and neck, well ahead of the rest of the field.

(The third debate of the season, and the first in which Levin will appear, will be held Tuesday at 7pm at Harry Van Arsdale High School, 257 North 6th Street in Williamsburg, sponsored by New Kings Democrats. Look for dynamics to be different than in previous debates, when Simon has been challenged by rivals who see her as the frontrunner.)

In the 39th, Brad Lander leads the field, with Josh Skaller the closest behind. (A debate also will be held Tuesday at 7 pm, at the Church of the Gethsemane, 1012 8th Avenue at 10th Street in Park Slope, sponsored by CBID, IND, and Park Slope Neighbors.)

Interestingly enough, in the 35th, incumbent Letitia James faces a challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, who is in fighting distance--though challengers usually have to outspend an incumbent who has the advantage of name recogntion.

In the 41st, incumbent Darlene Mealy faces a challenger, former Councilwoman Tracy Boyland, in fighting distance. And in the 36th, incumbent Al Vann has been outraised so far by no fewer than three challengers.

Because the open seats are so competitive, some of the candidates lagging in the 33rd and 39th would be in the lead in the 35th, where total fundraising is much lower. And I haven't seen any debates yet in the districts with incumbents.

The AY vote

And what of the “Atlantic Yards vote”? Based on contributors prominent in the Atlantic Yards opposition, it would clearly go to James in the 35th, especially since Hunley-Adossa is a prominent Atlantic Yards supporter.

I didn’t see evidence of pro-AY backing for Hunley-Adossa, beyond two contributions from construction unions that likely have some connection to AY. Then again, as I've reported, Hunley-Adossa and her treasurer Charlene Nimmons are being paid--via contributions that likely come from Forest City Ratner, but they won't say--salaries to run organizations that don't do all that much.

In the 39th, the vote would seem to go to Skaller, a longtime AY foe; Lander, a critic of the project closer to the “mend it don’t end it” BrooklynSpeaks position, says "we should use the [current] opportunity to either fix the flaws or reconsider the project."

The race in the 33rd is more complicated. Though candidates Ken Baer and Ken Diamondstone, longtime project foes, have support from prominent AY opponents, Simon has some support, even as her role in BrooklynSpeaks has been slammed most prominently by Diamondstone.

Then again, many people are not single-issue voters; Simon was endorsed by the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, whose officers include some prominent AY opponents, and Lander was endorsed by his predecessor at the Pratt Center for Community Development, AY opponent Ron Shiffman.

A few caveats

Some caveats should be applied to the summaries below. While the Campaign Finance Review Board reports the number of contributions, that does not necessarily reflect the number of contributors, because in many cases candidates get multiple contributions from the same person.

I’ve also tried to track the amount of contributions from the candidates themselves and assume that people with the same last name are family members. That means I miss some relatives with different last names--and may misidentify some people as relatives.

Also, I highlight only a small number of contributions that struck me as interesting, so it shouldn’t be considered a full analysis of a candidate's public support.

Note that the contribution limit is $2750 per person, with candidates seeking matching funds limited to three times the contribution limit ($8250). The spending limit is $161,000 in the primary election and then the general election for those seeking matching funds. To qualify for public financing, Council candiates need contributions from a minimum of 75 district residents and a minimum total of $5000. Council candidates may receive matching funds up to $88,550; each dollar a NYC resident gives, up to $175, is matched with six dollars in public funds, for a maximum of $1,050 in public funds per contributor.

35th District

Letitia James: 142 contributions for $14,230, including $500 from herself, contributions from Deborah Schwartz of the Brooklyn Historical Society, fellow candidate Jo Anne Simon, St. Joseph’s College President Elizabeth Hill, Rev. Mark Taylor of the Church of the Open Door, John Dew of CB 2, Laurie Cumbo of MOCADA, and SEIU Local 32B-J ($500). Donors among those active in the Atlantic Yards fight are Candace Carponter, Daniel Goldstein, Christabel Gough, Patti Hagan, Eric McClure, and Eric Reschke.

Delia Hunley Adossa: 141 contributions for $12,123, including $700 from relatives, plus contributions from several police officers (she’s president of the 88th Precinct Council), and several neighbors and two employees in the two buildings of the First Atlantic Terminal Housing Corp. (where she’s president of the board; a resident told me a volunteer was soliciting contributions door to door). She also received $1000 from the Carpenters union and $500 from the Plumbers union.

There was no report from the third candidate, Medhanie Estiphanos. It's possible that he hasn't raised the $2000 minimum (see p. 88 of this PDF).

39th District

Brad Lander: 560 contributions for $109,499, including $8500 from family members, numerous contributions from people in affordable housing and academia, and $2500 from Jonathan Rosen and Valerie Berlin of Berlin Rosen Public Relations, who represent progressive organizations, including housing groups like ACORN, the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Pratt Area Community Council, and also count Lander as a client. Here’s a dust-up on whether Lander has “developer” support, as well as Lander's clarification about nonprofit developers

Josh Skaller: 658 contributions for $82,730, including $8250 from himself and $14,000 from relatives. Among progressives supporting him are Kevin Powell, Chris Owens, and John Keefe, an aide to Assemblyman Jim Brennan. Among those in the Atlantic Yards fight contributing are Tom Angotti, Candace Carponter, 33rd District candidate Ken Diamondstone, Daniel Goldstein, [added 5/20] Lucy Koteen, Eric Reschke, Lumi Rolley, and Eric McClure.

Bob Zuckerman: 379 contributions for $68,872, including $8000 from himself and $10,175 from relatives. Also contributing are the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund ($1000), Assemblwoman Deborah Glick, Lester Petracca of Triangle Equities ($1000), and Rep. Anthony Weiner.

John Heyer: 419 contributions for $51,470, including a number of priests, Council Member Vincent Gentile’s campaign committee, Assemblywoman Joan Millman (his former boss), and three staffers (and one former staffer) in the Borough President’s office where Heyer works: Carlo Scissura, Carolyn Greer, Yvonne Graham, and Greg Atkins. He got $750 total from two Carpenters unions.

Gary Reilly: 152 contributions for $24,505, including $5010 from himself and $3295 from relatives.

Green Party Candidate David Pechefsky: 88 contributions for $10,690, including $2750 from himself.

33rd District

Jo Anne Simon: 694 contributions for $82,751, including $2750* from her husband, Bill Harris, $1000 from Assemblyman Joan Millman, and $250 from Rep. Nydia Velazquez. Some participants in BrooklynSpeaks--Gib Veconi of PHNDC, Stuart Pertz of the MAS, and Judy Stanton of the BHA--contributed, as did Terry Urban of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. Simon got contributions from Aaron Naparstek of Streetsblog, Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives, and two former activists turned Department of Transportation officials: Jon Orcutt and Andy Wiley-Schwartz.
[*corrected 5/20; the $4250 originally stated was a misreading of documents]

Steve Levin: 349 contributions for $82,348, including $3300 from family members (including Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI), $2000 each from David Peng of Windstar Construction and Douglas Steiner of Steiner Studios, $1000 from the New York State Court Officers and from Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union Committee on Political Education; $1000 from his boss, Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez and from Benjamin Geyerhahn of the lobbying group Hudson TG. There are contributions from Council Members Dominic Recchia, Lew Fidler, Vincent Gentile, and (Comptroller candidate) David Weprin, as well as Assemblymen Joe Lentol and Michael Gianaris. Also, there are 13 contributions from people connected to Lopez’s power base, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC). There's also $2500 from a clothing executive in the Kings Highway area, Raymond Salem, and $2000 from a textile executive in the same area, Jeffrey Beyda.

Evan Thies: 233 contributions for $51,020, including $6450 from relatives, $500 from Jordan Barowitz of the Durst Organization, $2500 from developer Dean Palin, and $500 each from Jonathan Rosen and Valerie Berlin of Berlin Rosen, where Thies used to work.

Ken Diamondstone: [updated 5/20] 181 contributions for $40,339, including $8250 from himself, $3000 from relatives, and $2650 from his partner Joe Kopitz. He also got contributions from Atlantic Yards activist Jezra Kaye, [updated: former Rep. Major Owens, and 39th District candidate Bob Zuckerman.
[Based on info available 5/15, I reported 118 for $33,988.]

Isaac Abraham: 126 contributions for $24,127, mainly from the Hasidic community.

Ken Baer, 272 contributions for $22,029, including $5250 from himself. Those in the Atlantic Yards fight contributing include Daniel Goldstein, Christabel Gough, and Eric McClure.

Doug Biviano: 92 contributions for $11,832.

The 36th District

The 36th District race looks like a donnybrook, with eight announced candidates, including incumbent Al Vann. Veteran journalist Ron Howell, in his BrooklynRon blog, has been covering the race, and a dozen years ago assessed Vann’s work as a state legislator. There’s been no all-candidates debate yet, and clearly the size of the field helps the incumbent.

Mark Winston Griffith: 204 contributions for $35,589, including nearly $6000 from relatives and support from progressive activists nationally.

David Grinage: 523 contributions for $33,815, including some $5600 from relatives plus support from those in education and law enforcement.

Robert Waterman: 416 contributions for $22,073, including $2500 from himself.

Robert Cornegy Jr.: 152 contributions for $14,417, including $5000 in in-kind contributions.

Incumbent Al Vann: 120 contributions for $12,895, including $500 from himself, support from the United Federation of Teachers and several people heading organizations in the district.

Saquan Jones: 493 contributions for $10,249, including $570 from himself.

William Carrington: 59 contributions for $4825, including $2300 from himself.

Tremaine Wright: 99 contributions for $4797, including $1000+ from herself.

Aaron Fraser: 12 contributions for $1024.

41st District

Incumbent Darlene Mealy: 244 contributions for $30,876, including $1000 from developers Ben and Roya Shavolian, $1250 from DC 37, $500 from developers Jed and David Walentas, $1000 from lobbyists Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman, and $2750 from consultant Melvin Lowe (who may or may not be the same Melvin Lowe who served as a consultant for Forest City Ratner in Yonkers).

Mealy also received $75 from James Caldwell and $50 from Marie Louis, both officers in the Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), which Mealy has supported.

Tracy Boyland: 205 contributions for $21,360, including $175 from Rep. Ed Towns and a contributions from a number of people whose employers aren’t listed. (When in 2006 Boyland ran against State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, she was not so good at documentation, either.)

Tulani Kinard: 119 contributions for $8835, including $580 from family members. She’s been endorsed by Charles Barron and Al Sharpton)

Janelle Hobson: 81 contributions for $3159.

More from City Hall News on the race in this district.
*I originally called it the Campaign Finance Review Board.


  1. Thank you for your thorough review of the Council contests from the perspective of campaign contributions.

    There may also be value in examining how the candidates have handled expenditures. Cash-On-Hand matters more than "total cash." If a candidate has not met the matching fund threshholds ($ collected AND number of contributors from within the district), the candidate will not receive the $89,000 or so that makes them REALLY viable.

    Furthermore, some candidates have raised money ... and spent it all or more.

    Yes, I am biased in favor of JOSH SKALLER -- whose campaign I am managing -- but it is absolute fact that JOSH SKALLER is the strongest ally in the Atlantic Yards fight (next to Tish, of course) and JOSH will win this election for DeBlasio's seat.

    Only 640 contributions of $25 or more will help Josh max out his contributions (he's already raised enough for matching funds). Josh has already knocked on more than 3,000 doors himself and has earned endorsements from Major Owens, Eric Adams and Norman Siegel, as well as CBID.

    Thank you for all of your previous support! Let's win a real victory against Ratner.


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