Crown Heights

Here’s the city’s plan to make it easier to run for office

June 21, 2019 Jeffery Harrell
Voter turnout was light at noontime at the Urban Assembly School at 283 Adams St. in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo by Mary Frost
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New Yorkers will face a massive election season in 2021, with races expected for offices including the mayor, comptroller, public advocate (yes, again), borough president, and 35 open seats on the City Council — including 12 in Brooklyn.

To fill those seats and give voters diverse choices, the city’s Campaign Finance Board is making running for office easier for everyday people.

The agency is welcoming first-time candidates to a training session in Crown Heights on Saturday, part of a five-borough tour the CFB has begun in anticipation of the 2021 elections. Potential candidates will learn how to set up their campaign and, importantly, how to get an essential fundraising boost.

(The training will take place on Saturday, June 22, at the Eastern Parkway Library in Crown Heights. Those interested in attending can RSVP here.)

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Matt Sollars, a spokesperson for the CFB, sees this as a perfect opportunity to bring new voices into the political process.

“Allowing ordinary people to get involved in political races is about providing more choice for voters at the ballot box,” Sollars said. The CFB’s goal, he added, is to “encourage and empower voters so they feel their voices are heard.”

Sollars explained that the CFB has beefed up its matching funds program to achieve this goal. Candidates who follow campaign finance laws will be eligible for a matching rate of as much as eight-to-one, recently increased from six-to-one.

This means that a $10 donation could be worth as much as $90 after a candidate receives the public dollars set aside for funding campaigns.

“This is the most generous matching funds have ever been,” said Sollars. “Candidates who want to run for office see the amount of money they need to raise as an impossibility.”

But with public dollars supporting them, grassroots candidates have a better shot. Sollars explained that winning a congressional election requires a candidate to raise around $1 million to stay competitive. The matching funds make a smaller citywide race seem doable.

“We hope this will further increase the diversity of candidates running for office and provide better representation for all communities in New York City’s elections,” said Amy Loprest, executive director of the CFB.

Candidates at the training will be instructed on how to properly staff a campaign, keep their campaigns financially transparent, follow campaign finance laws and balance campaigning with the demands of day-to-day life.

Sollars cited the crowded special election for public advocate as an example of the success of the newly increased matching funds. It was the first election in which candidates could take advantage of the eight-to-one rate.

However, most candidates in that race were already elected officials or within the mainstream of New York politics. Sollars expects the pool of first-time candidates will expand in 2021.

“There is no question that the matching funds program does help people into the race,” Sollars said.

The training will take place on Saturday, June 22, at the Eastern Parkway Library in Crown Heights. Those interested in attending can RSVP here.

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