As candidates reported their latest fundraising and spending figures to the Campaign Finance Board on Friday, Anthony Weiner’s campaign announced that it had opened a bank account to finance a runoff. The congressman apparently was emboldened by the recent New York Times poll that has him in second place (but statistically tied with Virginia Fields and Gifford Miller).
If a citywide September 13 primary ends with no candidate breaking 40 percent, the top two finishers head to a runoff two weeks later, as happened in 2001 in both the mayoral and public advocate races. Since a runoff means those candidates are contesting an extra election, they get to raise money for the do-over that’s separate from the normal limits on personal contributions and campaign spending. If the CFB decides a runoff is “reasonably anticipated”—as the board so ruled way back in July—campaigns can start raising runoff money before the primary.
Miller has already opened such an account, and it held $88,000 as of August 22nd. It being filing day, a CFB spokeswoman advises that “everything could change” by day’s end, meaning Fernando Ferrer could open one as well. (UPDATE: A Fields spokesperson says they opened an account in June, but the CFB site doesn’t reflect that.)
Why wouldn’t everyone open a runoff account as soon as CFB gave the green light? For Ferrer the frontrunner, it could have been read as conceding that he wasn’t going to hit the magic 40. And for all the candidates, it makes no sense to raise dough for a runoff until you know you’ll have enough to spend on the primary. Spending limits cap primary expenditures for mayoral candidates at just over $5.7 million. According to today’s filings, Miller is nearing that ceiling with $5.5 million in costs.
Should he make a runoff, Miller (or whoever made it instead) would be able spend another $2.8 million and receive another round of matching funds, equal to 25 percent of the matching funds already received. Being self-financed and unopposed for the Republican slot, Mike Bloomberg faces neither spending limits nor any election to worry about until November. The rich are indeed different from us; they have no worries.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 2, 2005