SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The cost of the Syracuse mayoral race neared $700,000 last week.
According to post-primary finance reports filed with the New York State Board of Elections Friday, seven candidates have spent a total of $693,852. Three of those candidates are no longer running. The general election will be a four-way race in November.
Ben Walsh, who is running on three down-ticket party lines, enters the general election with a huge financial advantage over his opponents. He has nearly $144,000 left in his campaign account. His three competitors combined have just more than $21,000 remaining.
Walsh jumped out to a huge financial head start in January, thanks to a flurry of contributions from downtown real estate developers and businesses late last year. So far, the majority of his money has come from addresses in the city — more than any other candidate.
His opponents have criticized him for his connections to developers. He worked with many of them during his time as head of business development at City Hall. In that role, he was executive director of the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency.
Republican Laura Lavine last month called on Walsh to return donations from anyone who received a tax break from SIDA. She described the relationship as “pay-to-play.”
Walsh called Lavine’s comments a distraction from the issues. He said the people supporting him all have a vested interest in the well-being of the city and he doesn’t receive money from political parties.
As SIDA executive director, Walsh was not a voting member. Tax breaks are approved by the SIDA board and the Common Council.
“My job at SIDA was to do the due diligence and often times to say ‘no’ [to developers],” he said. “I did not hold elected office at the time, so I’m confused by” the pay-to-play accusation.
Lavine said if elected she would pursue legislation banning political donations from anyone doing business with the city. The city’s corporation counsel, Joseph Fahey, said such legislation likely wouldn’t hold up since it seemed to conflict with state and federal campaign finance law.
Lavine didn’t say whether she would refuse donations from developers. She did promise, however, not to allow anyone who donated to her campaign to do business with the city if elected. Records show she’s received no contributions from notable developers, though she received money from contractors and the owner of a large apartment building on James Street.
Loans, ads and primary spending
Following the primary, Juanita Perez Williams is the lone Democratic candidate in the race. She heads into the general election with a little more than $11,000.
Her fundraising will likely see a boost as party money starts to flow her way. Many Democrats remained on the sidelines throughout the primary or supported Joe Nicoletti or Marty Masterpole.
Perez Williams defeated Nicoletti in the Sept. 12 primary despite being outspent by more than $50,000. In the waning days of the primary, she personally loaned her campaign $30,000. Nicoletti had previously loaned himself $20,000.
In the final stretch of the primary race, Nicoletti spent $66,225 on television ads. Perez Williams spent $34,400. Walsh spent $22,480.
Lavine ran a primary race for the Independence Party. She lost to Walsh, who took the line with a write-in campaign. She heads into the general election with about $10,000. She has personally donated $22,000 to her campaign.
Lavine is receiving support from the local and state GOP. The Onondaga County Republican Committee gave her $3,000.
Her new campaign strategist, Michael Lawler, who was hired in August, was not paid from her campaign committee. He was paid $4,000 from the New York State Republican Committee on Sept. 15, three days after the primary.
Howie Hawkins, running on the Green Party line, had about $600 as of July, and has not filed a finance report since then. Candidates are only required to file if they raise more than $1,000. Hawkins, who has run for office more than 20 times, said at a recent event that he’s fighting against a narrative that says he has “big ideas and small money.”
Fundraising as of Sept. 22, 2017
|Ben Walsh (unaffiliated)||$320,099.76||$176,265.22||$143,834.54|
|Joe Nicoletti (D)||$204,318.37||$194,042.85||$10,275.52|
|Juanita Perez Williams (D)||$149,109.73||$137,778.66||$11,331.07|
|Laura Lavine (R)||$105,166.00||$95,408.09||$9,757.91|
|Marty Masterpole (D)||$78,439||$83,034.09||($518.92)*|
|Howie Hawkins** (G)||$1,079.75||$506.49||$573.26|
|Alfonso Davis (D)||$8,247.49||$6,816.61||$1,970.88***|
*Masterpole rolled over some money from a previous campaign account earlier in the year
**Hawkins has not filed a report with the elections board since July 15, meaning he has not raised more than $1,000
***Davis rolled over some money from a prior campaign as well