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CAMPAIGN CA$H

While the economy may be on the decline, political fundraising is soaring in Queens.
A Courier analysis of City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) filings found that 45 candidates from Queens filed with the CFB for a Queens Council seat or citywide office raising more than $3.9 million during the past six months and whopping total of $16.47 million to date, all for a primary that is still more than a year away.
“There’s no question everything started earlier, and there’s a competition for funds,” said Queens City Councilmember David Weprin, who is running in a crowded field of established candidates for City Comptroller. Weprin raised more than $334,000 during the last filing period and nearly $1.9 million overall.
Although Weprin’s $1.9 million total is impressive, Melinda Katz, another Queens Councilmember also vying for the Comptroller’s seat, has raised more than $2.1 million, but she has also spent more than $400,000 more than Weprin thus far.
While those two Queens representatives are in the top five in raising money overall as well as during the last six months, Congressmember Anthony Weiner, who is likely gearing up for a mayoral run, tops the Queens list with more than $5 million overall and roughly $1.4 million between the January and July filings.
In addition, City Councilmember John Liu took in nearly $825,000 from more than 1,000 donors during the past six months and has raised more than $3 million overall for a yet-to-be-determined citywide run in 2009. However, he termed his fundraising efforts thus far only a warm-up of what is likely to come during the next year.
“Once this year’s elections are finished and people start to focus on the 2009 elections, I will make an announcement and then the fundraising will really begin,” Liu said.
However, some candidates mentioned the struggling economy as well as the immediacy of the 2008 presidential and statewide elections as deterrents to raising money now.
“I think the presidential campaigns had a lot to do with it,” said Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer, who is running for Queens Borough President. “Some people had said, ‘I can’t now - call me in six months.’”
Pheffer, who raised roughly $110,000 during the last six months and $338,000 overall, said that since she returned to Queens after this year’s legislative session, her fundraising has picked up, but adjusting to the different city CFB rules that apply to the campaign has been challenging.
“The last time I campaigned for a new office was eight years ago,” Pheffer said. “It’s a completely different ballgame.”
Frank Gulluscio, District Manager for Community Board 6, has declared his candidacy for the 32nd City Council District - a seat currently held by Councilmember Joseph Addabbo. Gulluscio reported raising roughly $28,000 during the last filing period, which was nearly seven times the amount he raised during the previous filing.
“It’s important for me at least to raise funds early, because if Addabbo wins his Senate race, there will be an election for his seat almost immediately,” Gulluscio said. “You have to be prepared.”
Others like Dale Nussbaum, who currently works at Queens College’s Office of Institutional Advancement, reported to the CFB for the first time in July, and she had raised more than $60,000. However, Nussbaum said she is still just exploring the possibility of running and does not have a date where she would make a decision one way or another.
Although 19 of the 45 Queens people who filed in July reported raising more than $20,000 during the last six months, five candidates who had filed previously with the CFB reported raising no additional money during the most recent period.
With more than a year before 2009 primaries, some candidates may decide not to run, while other candidates who have not signed up with the CFB are likely to do so before the next filing deadline in January.
“I don’t know if this year or this election cycle has distinguished itself,” said Liu, who referenced the 2001 city elections, as a comparison for the last time this many open seats were up for grabs.

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