DeStefano Paid 7 Times More Per Vote

Thomas MacMillan File PhotosThe going price for a Democratic primary vote in New Haven was $86 for an incumbent, and $11 if you were a publicly financed challenger.

That was one takeaway from the latest mayoral campaign finance reports filed with the City/Town Clerk this week. The reports give the first tally of the money spent on the Sept. 13 election, where Mayor DeStefano faced three challengers in the most competitive primary since 2001.

Jeffrey Kerekes, who’s running as an independent after losing the Democratic primary, faces DeStefano a second time in a Nov. 8 general election.

Kerekes spent $33,585.86 on the primary, or $11.60 for each of his 2,895 votes.

DeStefano spent over seven times more: He spent $494,017.33 on his primary campaign, according to campaign manager Danny Kedem. That computes to $86.43 each for the 5,716 votes he received.

Kerekes said the comparison shows that an underdog challenger can do well in a “David versus Goliath situation.”

He said the numbers show that “a grassroots campaign, where we can get votes for far less expenditure, is a viable thing.”

Kedem said with the money raised, “We were able to put together an organization to broadcast a message” and beat Kerekes by a margin of 2 to 1. “We’re proud of that.”

If anything, the price comparison might understate the gap between the candidates: Kedem’s figure included expenses paid only on or before Sept. 13. Kedem said the figure is reflective of the money spent on the primary. Kerekes, however, included expenses that were paid weeks after the election but that he said were incurred during the primary. According to the rules of the Democracy Fund clean elections program, he can use his public grant money only on primary costs.

DeStefano’s financial advantage helped him blitz TV stations with ads, inundate mailboxes with glossy flyers, and pay for a ground team on Election Day. DeStefano won the election with 44 percent of the vote, to Kerekes’ 22 percent, Clifton Graves’ 18 percent and Anthony Dawson’s 16 percent.

DeStefano gained a large fundraising lead over his competition in part by ditching the Democracy Fund, a public finance program he helped set up to limit the influence of big-money special interests and to level the playing field for non-incumbent candidates. DeStefano chose not to participate this year in the program after his appointees who run the fund criticized his campaign for violations in reporting requirements.

Kerekes, who does not have a formidable fundraising operation, gained roughly two-thirds of his money through participating in the fund.

As both candidates look ahead to the next election, the gap in cash remains wide.

DeStefano continued to raise money after the primary, collecting $19,225.00 in the last two weeks of September alone. He had $25,290.92 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, according to his filing.

“We plan to mount a vigorous campaign and we intend to fight for every vote possible,” Kedem said.

By contrast, Kerekes had $4,772.03 in cash on hand as of Oct. 6. Kerekes said he is not aggressively raising money for the general election, though he is accepting donations as they come in. That leaves him to rely on a free-media campaign and on help from volunteers.

Kerekes banked his primary campaign on the Democracy Fund, which gave him $23,952 in public money.

Democracy Fund Chairman Caleb Kleppner said the program did well to get Kerekes’ message out.

“It really gives a multiplier effect for candidates who don’t have a lot of resources,” he said.

The Democracy Fund offers a $17,000 grant plus matching money to candidates who raise a minimum of donations—at least $10 each from 200 local voters. A candidate who raises just $2,000 can obtain up to $21,000 if her opponent has raised at least $5,000.

Participating candidates must cap their spending at $338,000.

DeStefano, who isn’t participating, has no spending cap. He also has a higher cap on donations: Democracy Fund candidates can receive up to $340 per donor, while DeStefano is accepting donations of up to $1,000, the limit set by state law.

Records show DeStefano blew through the Democracy Fund’s spending cap and reached the spending levels of 2001, when he faced state Sen. Martin Looney in what was then the costliest municipal race in state history. DeStefano spent $549,416.48 by Oct. 4 of 2001. He spent just a couple of thousand dollars less, $547,297.89, by Sept. 30 of this year.

The latest reports for Graves and Dawson, who dropped out of the race after losing the primary, were not available.

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posted by: Fairhaven Dave on October 13, 2011  11:51am

WOW, Candidate Kerekes is getting mayoral votes at $11?!

You have to be pretty good with money AND have some great ideas to pull that off. 

The citizens of this city seem truly unhappy with the current state of affairs, if they continue voting for positive change to the degree they did at the primary, this bodes well for Mr. Kerekes.

posted by: Mister Jones on October 13, 2011  12:04pm

Irresponsible, misleading, tabloid-style headline.  We expect better from you.  Complain all you like about our campaign finance system, including the sorry state of public financing, but it’s neither accurate nor fair to either candidate to accuse them both of literally buying votes. 

The headline and lead get attention but detract from what is otherwise a serious analysis of election spending. 

When the headline screams that the incumbent “paid” for votes, and the lead says that the “price” for a vote for the challenger was much less, you are saying that both candidates committed election fraud by paying voters.  That’s irresponsible tabloid journalism, sliming both men. 

[I know it’s not libel.  Both men are public figures, so you are bulletproof on this, and the law says you read the article as a whole, so the correct eventually becomes clear.  But just because you can’t be successfully sued over it does not remove the sleaze factor.]

Connecticut has a long an sordid history of political corruption.  Headlines like this unfortunately further the impression that New Haven’s politicos are comparable to some former mayors in cities like Bridgeport, Naugatuck, Hartford and Waterbury.  This does not further the legitimate discussion of the influence of money in politics.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on October 13, 2011  1:05pm

I encourage the entire black community to align themselves with Mr. Kerekes.  Stop being led off the cliff by DeStefano cronies with black suits and white collars.

$86. to $11. we can clearly see who does a better job with money.

I ask the tax payers of the City of New Haven a very important question, is your family better off with DeStefano?

This Mayor can stand on his soap box and talk about a “Promise,” that has never come into fruition as of yet, if at all.  However, he refuses to talk about the violence that is destroying his city. 

I find ironic that this paper hasn’t gone into the Paul Bass archives and pulled up the plethora of Hit and Run articles on John DeStefano. Hmmm!  I wonder who is truly the campaign manager of DeStefano.

Readers are looking for fair and balanced reporting.  Not fair and balanced protection.

posted by: NewHavenerToo on October 13, 2011  1:28pm

Just goes to show what a wasteful spender DeStefano is….

Time to VOTE HIM OUT!!!!

posted by: Cedarhillresident on October 13, 2011  2:17pm

I wonder how many of us are just looking at the article thinking….what the heck is there to say. I know I did.

@ Mr. jones…Mr. jones ...Mr Jones…We both know that it’s wrong (cheezy song reference)

Why is it wrong? Because the truth leave a bad taste in your mouth?  Jeffrey on the other hand has done it 100% right!

I really do not believe that this democratic system was meant to have a mayor….MAYOR raise funds that are in the 1/2 mill range! I dont care who you are that is a SHADY amount. It screams I am bought and paid for!

Bigger is not always better.

Well said Brian.

posted by: Joe Hill on October 13, 2011  6:47pm

I just read Kerekes platform. It was more platitude than platform. It could fit on an index card.

Did you know he’s for education that works, an end to crime, jobs, and no new taxes? Specifics are non-existent. I’ll bet he’s for apple pie and motherhood, too.

Where’s the beef?

posted by: Noteworthy on October 14, 2011  9:34am

Joe Hill:

I’ll take Kerekes’ platform over two more years of the pathetic. Citizens have an opportunity to choose hope and optimism, even apple pie over another two years of misery, mischief and monster spending with nothing to show for it under DeStefano.

Let’s see - what could the next two years give us? Another police scandal, maybe some invasion of privacy charges? Or, maybe some more multi-million dollar discrimination settlements from abusing our employees? Or more citizens beaten by cops on the edge? More dead bodies stacking up while DeStefano holds hands with the teachers union and pretends the school reform he spent years despising, and now is better known as reform-LITE, is actually working?

... Platitudes is the last word that would either describe Kerekes, his platform or his history of standing up for the real people in this city.

posted by: fairhaven on October 16, 2011  8:43am

People now is the time to make a change,,,,don’t know KEREKES but hope to meet him soon…he has my vote as well as my family…he has new ideas not the same old ones Destefano is throwing down our throats.don’t you all read about the things Destefano has done costing the city millions in law suites and some still going on…..don’t you think we pay enough tax..he has yet to get rid of the tax man….

posted by: r a on October 22, 2011  10:20pm

Mr. Jones,

I suggest you check out Mr. Kerekes website, there you will enough information to fill a library of index cards. ...