Albany Agenda

First $3.6 million in New York campaign matching funds headed out the door

Three dozen candidates were part of the first disbursement of public campaign cash approved last week

It has begun to rain on New York political candidates.

It has begun to rain on New York political candidates. REB Images/Getty Images

The fledgling New York Public Campaign Finance Board approved nearly $3.6 million in matching funds to 37 candidates last week in the first round of disbursements. Although more payments are expected to get approved next week, the money has already started flowing to competitive primaries throughout the state. 

Over 300 candidates have signed up for the $100 million program, with the board approving the first tranche at a meeting last week. Of the 37 approved, two candidates needed to finish setting up program-eligible campaign accounts before they can receive the cash. The rest should be getting the money in the coming days. The Board will meet again on May 22 to approve the next round of matching funds. 

Legislative candidates who make the ballot and are competing in competitive races must first raise enough money and record enough small, in-district donations to qualify for the public campaign finance program. Once they’ve qualified, in-district donations of between $5 and $250 are eligible to get matched by public money at rates as high as 12-to-1.

These candidates received the most public campaign funding from the state as of May. / New York Public Campaign Finance Board/Datawrapper

The biggest payout from the first batch went to Democrat Siela Bynoe, who got a whopping $352,218 to help with her race to replace state Sen. Kevin Thomas in the 6th state Senate District on Long Island. He was redistricted out of his seat, leaving it open this year. Assembly Member Taylor Darling is also vying for the seat in the Democratic primary, and she received $136,731 in public campaign cash. The two are the only ones running for the seat in June.

One of two Democrats running for state Sen. John Mannion’s seat in the Finger Lakes 50th District has gotten approved for matching funds in this first round: Onondaga County Legislature Minority Leader Chris Ryan will get $111,037 from the state to help his campaign. Former Oswego County Legislature Minority Leader Tom Drumm has also signed up for the program, but has not yet been approved to receive funds. The winner of the Democratic primary will still face a tough general election race in November though.

Three Democrats running to replace the retiring Assembly Inez Dickens in the 70th District in Harlem have also gotten matching funds approved to assist their campaign. The most has gone to Maria Ordoñez, a state Committee member from the district, who is set to receive $88,399 in this first round of payments. Jordan Wright, the son of Manhattan Democratic Party Chair Keith Wright who is considered the front-runner, will get $73,880. And Shana Harmongoff, a former staffer of former state Sen. and former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, will receive $51,780. A fourth candidate in the primary, Joshua Clennon, has signed up for the program but did not get matching funds in the first round.

Two Democrats running for the seat of retiring Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell on Manhattan’s Upper West Side got matching funds. Micah Lasher, a former top legislative staffer for Gov. Kathy Hochul, leads the matching funds field in the primary for the 69th Assembly District with an impressive $175,000, the second highest payout in the first round. The Working Families Party-endorsed public defender Eli Northrup was approved for $63,523. The crowded race includes three other candidates, two of whom have also signed up for the matching funds program but have not yet received any cash.

The board also approved funds for three of the six Democrats running to replace Albany Assembly Member Pat Fahy, who is running for the state Senate this year. The WFP-Albany Common Council Member Gabriella Romero leads the field with $173,570. Albany County Legislator Dustin Reidy isn’t terribly far behind with $131,030. Fellow Common Council Member Ginnie Farrell trails comparatively with $81,485 so far approved.

In addition to open seats, a number of incumbents and their challengers are bringing in public matching hauls. In the Democratic primary for the 37th Assembly District in Western Queens, both of embattled Assembly Member Juan Ardila’s challengers are getting matching funds in the first round – though he is not. Claire Valdez, the pick of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America, was approved for $142,333 in public campaign dollars. Meanwhile, fellow challenger Johanna Carmona will be getting $68,042.

Hudson Valley Assembly Member Saharana Shrestha, one of a handful of socialists in office, is facing a primary challenge from the right from Gabi Madden. Shrestha qualified for $161,231 in the first round of payments to hold onto the 103rd Assembly District. Madden, the former chief of staff to former Assembly Member Kevin Cahill, whom Shrestha ousted in 2022, is set to get about $104,618.

Upper Manhattan Assembly Member Eddie Gibbs and his fellow Democratic challenger Xavier Santiago are also neck-and-neck when it comes to public funds. Gibbs, who represents the 68th Assembly District, will get $84,994 in matching funds from the first round. Santiago is not far behind with $82,035.

Queens Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas and her Democratic challenger from the right also got approved for modest payouts last week. González-Rojas will get $54,547, while Ricardo Pacheco, a former police officer who previously ran for City Council, will get $39,916.

In some competitive incumbent races, just one candidate has gotten approved for payments so far. Assembly Member Ron Kim will be getting $112,112 as he ramps up his efforts to protect his seat from Yi Andy Chen. Although Chen has not yet gotten any matching funds, he has far outpaced Kim – and most other candidates throughout the state – in fundraising. On the challengers’ side, housing activist and WFP-backed candidate Claire Cousin is getting $140,173 to assist her primary challenge in the Hudson valley to Assembly Member Didi Barrett, who has not signed up for the matching funds program. In Brooklyn, DSA candidate Eon Huntely is getting about $118,792 for his challenge to Democratic Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman, who has signed up for the program but has not received any public dollars yet. And fellow DSA-er Jonathon Soto will be getting $43,049 in matching funds in his primary against Assembly Member Michael Benedetto in the Bronx, who has similarly signed up for the program but has not yet received money.