With just three weeks remaining until the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, 40th City Council District challenger Pia Raymond has slid into the financial forefront, making what appeared like a cakewalk for incumbent City Council Member Mathieu Eugene to suddenly looks like a contentious battle.
The district includes Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, East Flatbush and Ditmas Park.
According to last Friday’s second round of public campaign financing, Raymond secured $74,533 in taxpayer funding for smaller donations raised giving her a total of $70,050 on hand to spend in the race. Eugene didn’t qualify for any public financing and now trails Raymond with $56,752 on hand to spend to do messaging and rally workers to get out the vote as the race moves to the home stretch.
Public funds are provided if city council candidates can gather a minimum of 75 contribution of $10-$175 from residents within their district. They also must raise $5,000 in citywide contributions. If a candidate can meet these thresholds, the city will match his or her contributions at a $6-to-$1 rate.
Raymond, a lifelong resident of the district, cited the “people-powered” nature of her campaign as the reason for the new development. She said that her goal was to connect with as many community members as possible, and argued that the matched contributions were evidence of that.
“Having the funds will bring more awareness to the campaign but also the capacity to truly document and record what the issues and concerns are, so we can have a strategic plan to address them,” said Raymond. “The ability to affect that change comes because you’re able to reach more people, and you have platforms to do so, and those take money.”
A look into Eugene’s fundraising on the Campaign Finance Board website, reveals that about $28,000 of his $84,612 total raised comes from public and private sector unions or Political Action Committee (PAC) donations. Eugene did put in for $20,212 in matching money claims, but the CFB audit of these claims did not show worthiness of getting matching public funds.
Eugene did not return a number of phone calls and emails for this story.
On Eugene’s side is he recently received the endorsement of Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a double press announcement last week where he also endorsed de Blasio.
“Mathieu Eugene is a trailblazer for this City. As the first Haitian-born Council Member, he embodies the kind of can-do spirit so many who call New York City home have. It has been a pleasure to work with him on our Summer Youth Employment Program to provide opportunity for many of our City’s young people, and I look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come. That’s why I’m endorsing him for re-election here today,” said Mayor de Blasio in the statement.
On Raymond’s side is she has deep civic, family and small business ties to the community, and is currently the vice president of the Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association. She is also a mother and wife, and her husband is reportedly Haitian-American, which could cut into some of Eugene’s voting base.
Raymond says it is the small donations from people who want to see change that are fueling her campaign.
“People express their commitment to vote, express their support of a vision and mission, but simply don’t have the money to give. And those are the people that I look to represent, and that is my community,” said Raymond. “[Residents] come to me with crumpled singles and fill out a contribution card. And to me that’s the most amazing blessing because that’s really a sacrifice.”