Is fundraising a key indicator of a successful political campaign?

by Ricky Rillera

Fil Am candidates Deirdre Levy (2nd from left) and Marni Halasa (3rd from left) with their friends during the Anti-Asian Hate Rally in NYC | Photo via Marni’s Facebook Page

NEW YORK – There are many reasons why people are motivated to run for public office. It could be their belief systems — advocacies or political idealogy. In New York City, with the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) passage, many joined the fray believing perhaps that the RCV has given them the opportunity at this time.

One of the arguments given by pro-RCV is that it would increase the number of women and minority candidates running for office. Another is that RCV promotes “collaborative campaigning” instead of the past tactics such as negative campaigning, compromises, and pressure to avoid ‘wasting’ votes.”

Perhaps relying on the new electoral system, more than 300 candidates registered when the gateway opened to apply and get listed. In addition, a landmark campaign finance program was offered “as an incentive to their campaigns by engaging average New Yorkers instead of seeking large contributions from special interests. The program empowers more candidates to run for office, even without access to wealth. ones who join can build viable, competitive campaigns for office by relying on support from their neighbors.”

Fil Am candidates on the ballot

But every candidate must abide by specific rules or requirements. Several of them did not make it for the first cut. That is, to have their names on the ballot by the cut-off date. Many made it at that stage, including the three Fil Am candidates, Marni Halasa (District 3), Steve Raga (District 26), and Deirdre Levy (District 35). It is Halasa’s second attempt at it; Raga and Levy are first-timers. With Raga, he has name recognition in the Fil Am community and, to some extent, to non-Filipinos because of his association with New York State Assemblymember Brian Barnwell as a staff member. Levy, a special education teacher, also has somewhat an advantage as a resident of Prospect Heights in District 35.

“It’s inspiring to see so many different kinds of candidates, women, people of color and from different ethnic groups and life experiences. Ranked choice voting allows someone like me, a political outsider, as well as a Filipino American, to get the chance to fight for Filipinos to have more representation in local government,” Halasa told the Philippine Daily Mirror. “It is a way for us to have a voice, an influence and it’s extremely important for us to have these kinds of opportunities where Fil Ams can share policy, and be seen as leaders.”

         Read:  3 FilAm city council hopefuls are on the ballot for June 22

         Read:  Will Ranked Choice Voting favor FilAm Candidates?

Halasa learned from her experience when she ran in 2017 and gained knowledge on how to run her campaign this time. Raga worked with Assemblymember Barnwell and may have learned the strategy and tactics of a political campaign. However, he entered the race when District 26 had more than 20 candidates and had not built financial leverage to back his campaign. On the other hand, while she filed her candidacy on time, Levy started with meager funds in her campaign kitty.

Elements of a political campaign

Like clockwork, a political campaign has several elements to help a candidate. Foremost among which is a team to create a plan and ways to implement it based on the candidate’s vision. On top of its goals is fundraising that is essential to finance the campaign. While anyone believes that voters select candidates based on merit, everyone knows it takes money to win an election.

So a candidate has a vision, a team, a plan, and name recognition. Hard work is also a part of it – making time for everything essential to succeed.

Let’s look at the fundraising efforts of the three Fil Am candidates according to the latest NYC Campaign Finance Board latest report.

Fundraising performance

Among the three Fil Am candidates, Raga tops the list with an estimated balance of $107,895 going into the primary. However, that does not necessarily mean actual cash on hand. As you will recall, he probably was the last person to enter the race in his District. He had donors contribute $35,358, which public funds matched at $94,921 for a total receipt of $130,279. His campaign spent $22,384.

The number of contributors to his campaign is 363, at an average contribution amount of $97. Total contribution from NYC amount to $20,173 and $13,185 outside of NYC.

Halasa came in second with a balance of $87,193 in her account. She raised $25,506 from 232 contributors at an average of $106, which public funds matched at $86,960 for a total receipt of $112,466. NYC donors gave $18,302 compared to $6,607 from outside of NYC.

On the other hand, Levy had a net contribution of $7,916 with no matched public funds. One hundred eighty-eight donors contributed to her campaign with $6,796 or an average of $42. Donors from NYC pitched in $6,796 against $1,120 from outside of NYC, leaving an estimated balance of $7,483.

Top 5 Fund Raisers in the District of Fil Am Candidates

District 3 (Manhattan) with six candidates Est. Balance Campaign Fund*

Erik Bottcher – $161,195
Aleta LaFarque – $149,578
MARNI HALASA – $87,193
Arthur Schwarz – $75,159
Leslie BoghosianMurphy – 66,094

District 3 | Source: NYC Campaign Finance Board

District 26 (Queens) with 16 candidates Est. Balance Campaign Fund*

Amit Bagga – $111,439
STEVE RAGA – $107,895
Jonathan Bailey – $106,596
Julie Won – $92,268
Julia Forman – $91,873

District 26 | Source via NYC Campaign Finance Board

District 35 (Brooklyn) with eight candidates Est. Balance Campaign Fund*

Michael Hollingsworth – $113,266
Crystal Hudson – $89,773
Regina Kinsey – $56,333
Hector Robertson – $49,541
Renee Collymore – $40,276

*Est. Balance Campaign Fund does not mean actual cash on hand

District 35 | Source: NYC Campaign Finance Board

Based on the campaign fundraising results, the charts show how the Fil Am candidates performed. However, much can be desired from the Filipino community and non-Filipinos for financial backing, considering that the Filipino communities in the tri-State area are large enough.

When asked how her campaign was going, Halasa said she was feeling great. “We are in three neighborhoods a day, knocking on doors, greeting people at the subways, making phone calls, text banking, and we are doing everything we can with the resources we have,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. And we are getting a great response from voters in the District.”

Fil Am representation in local government

With five days going into the primary election on June 22, all the three Fil Am hopefuls are pretty confident they will make it. Money does not always equal victory — but it usually does. Sometimes contributions flow to the candidate already viewed as being much more robust than his or her opponent. Sometimes the money goes to the less well-known candidate and results in a surge in popularity. Political pundits also say that the candidate who spends the most usually wins.

Halasa said it best when she talked about her campaign in District 3 and New York City in general. Filipino Americans have the chance to fight for more representation in local government. “The voters that we speak to want a different kind of leader. They want someone who is a regular person, who is outside the political establishment and takes the job because they truly believe in public service, not opportunities to enrich themselves,” she told the Philippine Daily Mirror. “They have seen the gentrification and over-development in our neighborhoods and understand that the folks in the council have prioritized luxury development over affordable housing that we desperately need.”

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