This month, the NYC Campaign Finance Board (CFB) approved public matching funds for 2023 city council candidates. In predominantly Black and brown districts, candidates got some pretty big payouts.
Public matching funds are a voluntary campaign finance program that matches small contributions from residents to help more candidates get on the ballot. Overall, CFB said they dispensed a total of $1,051,696 to 15 candidates.
Two candidates gearing up for an interesting showdown are incumbent Councilmember Charles Barron and community activist Christopher Banks in East New York’s District 42 in Brooklyn. This isn’t the first time Banks has tried to unseat a Barron in a political race: He ran against both Barron and his wife, former Assemblymember Inez Barron in 2012 and 2014, and lost out to their years-long stronghold on the districts.
“Usually, even as an incumbent, I run against the Democratic Party machine,” said Barron. “And my opponents raise more money than me. I still support campaign financing because that’s the only way we’ll bring equity to elections.”
Barron believes that most incumbents have “too much power” in their districts, and admittedly, recognizes the irony in the current situation since he is an incumbent many times over. Still, he firmly supports the public matching funds program as a vehicle for more up-and-coming “insurgents” to get in office and shake things up. He characterizes himself as an “independent Black radical candidate.”
Barron said his focus is solely on getting his message and his track record across to constituents. His opponents are irrelevant to him. “There’s nobody in the race that comes near matching my leadership abilities and accomplishments,” said Barron.
Barron has received $61,940 in public funds and $21,422 in private funds, which does leave him trailing slightly behind Banks in finances.
Banks seems positive that this time around, there is a hunger for change. He fervently believes in the need for new leadership in the community, specifically when it comes to the oversaturation of shelters in the district. He scored $70,490 in public funds and has received $15,810 in private funds.
“There’s Barron fatigue that exists,” said Banks.
Banks confirmed that he expects an endorsement from Assemblymember Nikki Lucas and is united in their efforts to unseat Barron.
The North Shore’s District 49 on Staten Island is the only district to have elected a Black councilmember on the island. Incumbent Councilmember Kamillah Hanks replaced former Councilmember Debi Rose in 2021. Hanks received $173,350 in public funds and has $112,822 in private funds so far in her bid for reelection.
Her campaign submitted a “statement of need” about the effects of City Council redistricting on the community. “Due to redistricting, we have to run again in two years, and have a short timeframe in which to engage new voters,” said Hanks’s team.
Harlem’s District 9 in Manhattan is the only remaining district in Manhattan with a Black councilmember. Candidates Assemblymember Inez Dickens and Assemblymember Al Taylor are neck and neck in terms of public fund payouts, while candidate Yusef Salaam has raised $23,975 in private funds.
Dickens received $82,901 in public funds and has $38,673 in private funds. “Qualifying for matching funds requires a candidate that has deep knowledge and connection to the community. Actions speak louder than words and in this case, in-district donations demonstrate that the proof really is in the pudding,” said Dickens’s team.
Taylor received $69,958 in public funds and has $17,345 in private funds.
“The matching funds program is such an important tool for making our elections more open and equitable by cutting down the influence of wealthy outsiders,” said Taylor. “I’m proud to say that more than 90 percent of all of my donations are small-dollar donations from everyday people and that virtually all of my donations are from inside NYC.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.