Out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson faces an uphill battle in his quest to fundraise against his — to date — deeper pocketed rivals in the race for mayor in 2021, but his grassroots, people-powered approach appears to be paying off.
Johnson, who is capping donations at $250 and has vowed to reject donations from lobbyists, corporate PACs, and real estate developers, has outraised City Comptroller Scott Stringer and, apparently, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., in the most recent filing period encompassing January through July of this year. The speaker pulled in $375,628 in net contributions from 2,616 donors during that period, according to campaign finance data.
Stringer hauled in slightly less than Johnson — $313,087 — in net contributions from 1,447 donors, while Adams raked in an impressive $511,533 in the period, far outpacing any other candidates who have released financial disclosures for the period.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who has yet to post his numbers for the period, yielded slightly less than $250,000, according to published reports.
In total, the New York City Campaign Finance Board estimates that Johnson has $431,549 on hand, including $88,780 transferred from his previous City Council account, while Stringer has $2.58 million, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams has $2.28 million, and reports say Diaz has just over $1.4 million, though that figure is not documented in official campaign finance reporting, either.
Diaz, Adams, and Stringer have amassed far more robust war chests — and have been raising money for longer than Johnson — but the speaker has shaped a campaign that maximizes his ability to leverage his fundraising through public matching because he is not accepting any donations exceeding the $250 limit that is eligible for matching dollars.
Johnson’s fundraising prowess was on display this period when, under that model, he built up $315,386 in “matching claims” — private donations eligible to be matched — this period, compared to $91,971 for Adams and $193,879 for Stringer. Full data for Diaz is not yet available.
In another positive sign for the speaker, he has received donations from nearly twice as many donors as Stringer — 2,616 versus 1,347 — at an average contribution of $144 compared to $215 for the comptroller. He also drew more donors to his campaign than Adams, who yielded 1,234 contributions at an average of $415 per donation.
While the 2021 Democratic primary remains far away, tensions in the race have already flared. Johnson was embroiled in controversy last month when the Council passed a campaign finance bill that at least one rival said would aid his bid for mayor while negatively impacting those of others. Last year, voters opted to implement changes after the 2021 election cycle that would lower the cap on maximum donations from $5,100 to $2,000 and bolster public matching of donations to an 8:1 ratio for the first $250.
But the bill passed by the Council implements the changes now — in the midst of the 2021 races — but would require amounts previously donated above the new $2,000 limit to be refunded in order for a candidate to receive the higher 8:1 match. The measure also increases the percentage of public matching funds to total funds from 75 to 89 percent — which represents the exact 8:1 match on donations of $250 or less. Stringer complained he would need to give back many thousands of dollars he’s already raised for his war chest in order to participate in the new program. He and other candidates who have not voluntarily capped the size of individual donations may yet decide, however, that their ability to raise up to $5,100 from donors under the old system outweighs the incremental advantage of gaining an 8:1 match.
The next filing period is slated for early January of next year.