The June 22nd Democratic primary is just a few months away, and all eyes are on the mayor’s race. But there are also several highly competitive races for City Council, Borough President and judicial seats happening in Brooklyn.
In the absence of formal polling, contribution numbers can give us some insight into which candidates have momentum, and who may be faltering. Yesterday, candidates shared their latest financial disclosure statements with the New York City Campaign Finance Board. The disclosures contain detailed information about how much money they’ve taken in, and where it’s coming from.
They also help determine how much candidates receive from the city in public matching funds program, which matches small, in-district donations 8-to-1, and can give candidates significant funding to work with even if they don’t get big-dollar donations.
Here are some top-line takeaways from the latest disclosures for Brooklyn’s City Council races.
District 33 (Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Greenpoint, South Williamsburg): Restler’s race to lose
Lincoln Restler, a former Democratic District Leader and de Blasio administration staffer, has a healthy lead in private contributions: he’s pulled in over $80,000 so far.
Right now, the race to replace term-limited Council Member Stephen Levin appears to be Restler’s to lose: he has endorsements from high-profile progressives like State Senators Jabari Brisport and Julia Salazar, as well as the Working Families Party and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.
Activist and audio engineer Toba Potosky has pulled in about $61,000 in private donations, while Elizabeth Adams, another progressive with the backing of State Senators Alessandra Biaggi and Jessica Ramos, has collected about $50,300.
When it comes to total cash on hand, however, a fourth candidate, April Somboun, is holding her own. Thanks to the city’s matching funds program, which matches small donations 8-to-1, she’s got about $139,000 in cash on hand, more than Adams (who has $128,270) or Potosky ($136,463), and behind only Restler ($166,610).
District 34 (Williamsburg, Bushwick, Ridgewood): Gutierrez stands alone
The race to replace term-limited Council Member Antonio Reynoso in this north Brooklyn seat has been dominated by his chief of staff, Jennifer Gutierrez.
She’s collected about $37,500 in private contributions so far, three times more than any other candidate, and she’s locked in basically every major endorsement in the race, ranging from progressive groups like the Working Families Party and New Kings Democrats, to elected officials including Reynoso, Velazquez, Salazar and Assemblywoman Maritza Davila.
Competition isn’t completely absent: arts administrator Terrell Finner has raised about $7,600, and a new candidate, Scott Murphy, has raised just under $10,000 since he entered the race late last month.
But Murphy has also already spent that money, reporting a campaign balance of -$276, while Finner has about $5,900 on hand. Meanwhile, after qualifying for matching funds, Gutierrez is sitting on a cool $183,030. That’s a very steep hill for any competitor to climb.
District 35 (Fort Greene, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant): Hudson pulls ahead, but Hollingsworth is far from finished
Crystal Hudson, who is seeking to replace her former boss, term-limited Council Member Laurie Cumbo, has pulled ahead of the pack, raising over $101,000 in contributions. Her closest competitor, the DSA-backed organizer Michael Hollingsworth, garnered only about $68,000.
But Hudson has also spent about twice as much as Hollingsworth, and with matching funds, the two are neck and neck in total cash on hand; both hover around $180,000.
Trailing far behind in private fundraising are former District Leader Renee Collymore, who’s raised about $22,000 in private donations, and Green Earth Poets Cafe founder Curtis Harris, who’s pulled in just under $16,500. Of the two, only Harris has received matching funds, so while he’s sitting on about $52,000 in cash, Collymore has only $2,362 in the bank.
District 36 (Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights): A young activist leads a crowded field in private contributions, but trails slightly in cash on hand
The crowded field seeking to replace term-limited Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. has several viable candidates. 22-year-old Chi Osse, who co-founded the activist collective Warriors in the Garden, leads the pack in private contributions, having pulled in over $55,000 so far.
Close behind him is Democratic party stalwart Henry Butler ($43,131), a District Leader and Community Board 3 District Manager who has the backing of heavyweight unions like 32BJ SEIU and the Hotel Trades Council. He also has the likely support of local party boss Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, who donated $175 to his campaign in January.
But although both have maxed out on matching funds, Osse has also spent more than twice what Butler has. So Butler actually leads the field in cash on hand with about $179,000, while Osse has closer to $152,000.
In between are pastor Robert Waterman, who’s raised about $42,500 in private money and has just over $158,000 on hand, and former Cornegy staffer Tahirah Moore, who’s collected around $32,600 but has more than $160,000 on hand.
District 37 (Cypress Hills, Bushwick, Brownsville, East New York): A progressive upstart surges in a rematch, but spends heavily
Council Member Darma Diaz first took office late last year, after winning a special election to fill the seat vacated by Rafael Espinal. In that race, Diaz ran virtually unopposed after four challengers were kicked off the ballot on technicalities.
But now, those challengers are back with a vengeance, particularly BK ROT founder Sandy Nurse, who’s raised over $66,000 in private contributions, nearly double Diaz’s $37,000. Nurse also has the backing of progressive groups like the Working Families Party and New York Communities for Change, along with a slew of progressive politicians, including State Senator Julia Salazar and activist Zephyr Teachout.
But Nurse has also spent about four times as much as Diaz, so with matching funds, the two are in a dead heat in terms of cash on hand: both have about $150,000.
Also spending heavily is Misba Abdin, founder of the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services organization. Abdin, who stands out in the field for his more conservative views on policing and public safety, has raised about $27,000 and qualified for $160,444 in matching funds. Of that, he’s spent about $77,000, more than any other candidate in the race, and currently has about $110,500 on hand.
District 38 (Red Hook, Sunset Park): DSA-backed Aviles takes the lead, but Camarena poses a financial threat
Community Board 7 chair Cesar Zuniga is a distant second in private donations, with just under $38,000 in private money. But unlike Aviles, Zuniga hasn’t qualified for matching funds, so while Aviles has a sizeable $183,663 on hand, Zuniga only has $35,632.
In terms of cash in the bank, Aviles faces a bigger challenge from Rodrigo Camarena, who leads the Immigration Advocates Network. Like Aviles, Camarena maxed out on matching funds, and has just under $180,000 to work with.
Adult day-care operator Yu Lin is also holding his own, having raised over $36,000 in private contributions, and has about $76,500 in total. In a field mostly dominated by Latino candidates, Lin, who was born in Fujian, China, may try to find a voter base in the district’s large Asian community.
District 39 (Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington): Progressives, Union Organizers and Lawyers, Oh My
The fight to replace term-limited Council Member Brad Lander is jam-packed and, if fundraising numbers are any indication, very competitive.
Hanif has picked up progressive endorsements from groups like the Working Families Party and Sunrise NYC, while Rein is backed by a phalanx of unions like the United Federation of Teachers and the New York City Central Labor Council.
But Rein has also spent the most money, while receiving less in matching funds. As a result, she’s got less cash on hand than the major candidates.
So while other candidates raised less in private funds—DSA-backed organizer Brandon West, took in approximately $66,000; MoveOn staffer Justin Krebs took in around $59,000; attorney and district leader Doug Schneider pulled in about $48,000; and community health worker Mamnun Haq got about $32,800—all have more in the bank than Rein.
Rein currently has just under $130,000 in her account; West has just under $140,000, while the other major candidates all have over $160,000.
District 40 (Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Lefferts Gardens): NYPD whistleblower leads in fundraising, with many donors outside NYC
Four candidates in the race to replace long-time Council Member Mathieu Eugene have raised over $50,000. At the top of the pack is NYPD Lieutenant and whistleblower Edwin Raymond, who has collected an impressive $95,499 in private donations.
Nearly half of that money has come from outside New York City, but Raymond nevertheless raised enough in-district money to max out on matching funds. He also spent heavily, which means that while he has a healthy $142,695 on hand, that’s still less than Kenya Handy-Hilliard, a former staffer for Congressmember Yvette Clarke, who’s pulled in just under $60,000 in private gives but has almost $179,000 in the bank.
Also running close behind are educator Rita Joseph, with about $61,000 in private contributions and $111,678 in cash on hand; and district leader Josue Pierre, who’s collected just over $52,000 and now has $140,704.
District 42 (East New York): A Jeffries protege seeks to oust the Barron dynasty
Assemblymember Charles Barron is looking to reclaim his old City Council seat, which is currently held by his term-limited wife, Inez Barron.
But he’s facing very still competition from Nikki Lucas, who has the backing of Barron’s political foe, the powerful Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries. Lucas has raised $60,179 in private contributions to Barron’s $56,994, signaling a tight race. With matching funds, both have over $130,000 in cash on hand.
Also in the mix is army veteran Wilfredo Florentino, who has snagged endorsements from the United Auto Workers union and the political club Lambda Independent Democrats. He’s collected about $24,000 in private donations, but thanks to matching funds, has about $121,000 on hand to get himself on the electoral map.
District 46 (Canarsie, Flatlands, Marine Park, Mill Basin): Leading Caribbean candidates signal a changing of the guard
Caribbean candidates are dominating the fundraising game in this southeast Brooklyn district, and their ascendance may signal a changing of the guard as they seek to replace term-limited Council Member Alan Maisel, who is white.
Registered nurse Mercedes Narcisse, who was born in Haiti, is leading the pack is in private donations, having collected just under $70,000. But she’s also spent an extravagant $148,990 on staffing and consultants, more than double that of her closest competitor, Community Board 18 Chair Gardy Brazela, also a Haitian immigrant.
So while Narcisse has only about $81,000 on hand, Brazela, who collected about $60,000 in private donations, has a much larger $148,294 on hand.
But even those totals are both topped by Canarsie attorney Shirley Paul, herself a first-generation Haitian-American, who pulled in only $47,238 in private contributions but has a hefty $181,137 in the bank thanks to matching funds.
Also in the running is former State Senate and School Construction Authority staffer Donald Cranston, who’s collected just under $44,000 and has $137,759 in the bank, and Guyana-born Dimple Willabus, whose collected $34,500 in private money but has over $148,749 to work with.
Former police officer Judy Newton collected a notable $48,189 in private donations, but despite her strong fundraising numbers, has not yet qualified for matching funds, leaving her with only $46,410 currently in the bank.
District 47 (Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend): A Treyger staffer leads the way in private contributions, but trails in total cash
Ari Kagan, a Belarussian-born radio host and staffer of term-limited Council Member Mark Treyger, leads the field in private fundraising, reporting a haul of just under $54,000 so far.
That’s more than young community advocate Steven Patzer, who’s collected about $35,000, and former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny, who was once accused of Medicare fraud, who gathered about $28,000.
But Kagan has also spent more and received slightly less in matching funds, meaning that the $110,000 he currently has in cash on hand is less than Patzer ($152,739) or Brook Krasny ($176,237).
A fourth candidate, Joe Packer, has collected about $14,000 in private contributions, and has not qualified for matching funds.
District 48 (Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Midwood): Saperstein leads, and a surprise surge from an Orthodox provocateur
Shorefront Coalition founder and special education teacher Steven Saperstein leads in private fundraising, having pulled in about $53,500 so far. Much of that money has come from real estate, the industry in which several of Saperstein’s family members work.
Saperstein’s also maxed out on matching funds, and he now has over $138,000 currently in the bank, far more than the rest of the field.
Saperstein’s been backed by the United Federation of Teachers, but otherwise, his endorsements are slim; many of the area’s elected officials have instead backed long-time Councilmember Chaim Deutsch staffer Mariya Markh, who’s raised about $24,000 in private donations but and has nevertheless qualified for fewer matching funds, leaving her with a still-small $54,315.
Markh’s total cash on hand is also less than that of Boris Noble, a staffer for former Borough President Marty Markowitz who has the backing of unions like 32BJ SEIU and DC37. Noble has raised $22,613 and, with matching funds, has about $66,477 in the bank.
There are other surprises in this race to succeed term-limited Council Member Chaim Deutsch. Orthodox provocateur Heshy Tischler, who led violent protests in Borough Park this summer in response to coronavirus restrictions, has collected nearly $36,000 in private donations, the most of anyone besides Saperstein.
Over 60% of that money has come from outside the city, but the biggest donations are from closer to home: B&H Photo Video staffer Aron Goldberger, Queens’ construction magnate Jonathan Rocchio, and real estate investor Israel Weisberger each gave Tischler $2,800.
That said, Tischler hasn’t qualified for matching funds and has spent all but about $8,800 of what he’s raised, so it remains unclear how viable his candidacy will be.
Other competitive candidates include litigation attorney Binyomin Bendet, who’s collected about $28,000 in private contributions, and Inna Vernikov, a Republican attorney and former aide to Assemblymember Dov Hikind, who has raised about $20,000. Neither has qualified for matching funds thus far.