Officials released the first $9,840 of what promises to be a stream of public money supporting the busiest mayoral campaign season in decades.
Justin Elicker’s mayoral campaign received the check Friday afternoon from Patricia Kane, chair of the Democracy Fund, the city’s clean elections program. The money goes towards a Sept. 10 Democratic Party mayoral primary, when Elicker will face state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, former economic development director Henry Fernandez, and Newhallville plumber Sundiata Keitazulu. Hillhouse Principal Kermit Carolina and Probate Judge Jack Keyes are also expected to enter the race.
Elicker, currently an East Rock alderman, is one of three candidates who have signed contracts to participate in the program, which awards public grants to candidates who raise small donations from local voters and vow to swear off contributions from corporations and political action committees. Carolina has vowed to make use of the program as well. Only Fernandez has so far said he will not participate in the program; read about that here and here.
In short, this is the year that will test the potential and viability of New Haven’s fledgling, first-in-the-state municipal public-financing system.
Democracy Fund Administrator Ken Krayeske announced Monday morning that he has formally approved Keitazulu’s contract to participate in the program. He has already approved Holder-Winfield’s.
The Democracy Fund which offers matching public dollars in return for a promise to limit individual contributions to $370 and swear off donations from outside committees. Candidates who collect at least 200 donations of at least $10 can quality for a $19,000 grant from the fund plus matching dollars. The fund matches the first $25 of donations at a rate of two to one. The goal of the fund is to enable a wider range of candidates to run for office with enough money to compete; to keep down the overall cost of campaigning; and to limit the influence of outside special interests like large corporations. (Click here to read more about the Democracy Fund in a series by Diana Li of the Yale Daily News.)
Elicker received $9,840 Friday. That represents matching funds for donations from 238 New Haven voters, according to Elicker’s campaign treasurer, Melanie Quigley. Donors had to keep their contributions between $10 and $370. The fund matches the first $25 of each donation by a 2-1 ratio.
The check represents the first dose of thousands of dollars Elicker’s campaign expects to receive. Elicker said he plans to apply for more matching funds next week; the cap is $125,000.
Elicker said he’s using the money in part to pay rent and office supplies at a new headquarters on Whalley, and to pay his campaign manager.
Holder-Winfield and Keitazulu have not received any public money from the clean elections fund so far. To qualify for the matching funds, each must submit proof that he has received small contributions from 200 New Haven voters. Holder-Winfield said he plans to do so next week.
Once they qualify for the Democracy Fund, candidates can also receive a $19,000 public grant. That money becomes available once the election is officially “contested,” which means another candidate has spent $5,500.