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The Other Number That Matters In NYC's Mayoral Race

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AP Photo / Jason DeCrow

New York City has a public campaign financing program that provides matching funds to each of the candidates provided they agree to a maximum spending limit of $6,426,000 million in a given election cycle. All four of the leading mayoral candidates, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Weiner have opted in to this program.

Under this system, qualified candidates get six dollars for each dollar given by a New York City resident as part of a donations under $175. Each campaign will have a different combination of matching funds and private donations on their way to raising the $6.426 million maximum. The Quinn, De Blasio, and Weiner campaigns all claim to have already amassed the donations necessary to max out. Thompson's campaign told TPM they expect to max out as well.

Assuming the campaigns will all amass enough to spend $6.426 million, Weiner has the most money left in his war chest heading into the end of the race. According to records provided by the New York City Campaign Finance Board, Weiner has spent $1,160,959 since July 11. That would leave him with $5,265,041 left to spend. Based on these numbers, Weiner has a more than $400,000 edge on all of his opponents. Quinn Thompson and De Blasio all have about the same amount left to spend. Thompson is leading the way with $4,826,646, compared to Quinn's $4,803,081, and De Blasio's $4,528,302.

On the surface, this financial breakdown seems to signal Weiner could have a faint glimmer of hope as he tries to improve upon his fourth place standing in the polls. However, with the clock ticking on this race, candidates need money in their war chest primarily for two sets of expenses -- ad campaigns and boots on the ground for get-out-the-vote efforts. So far, Weiner has operated with a far smaller staff than his opponents. He has also lagged behind his rivals in terms of endorsements from the elected officials and unions who can help provide campaigns with volunteers in the field. This means that, though he has more money, Weiner will likely need to spend far more than his rivals on field operations.

While the other candidates all seem to be on relatively even footing, Quinn has already launched an ad blitz while Thompson and De Blasio have yet to spend on television campaigns. Just after the most recent campaign finance reports were filed, Quinn began a cable commercial campaign. That means her war chest is probably at least a few hundred thousand dollars lighter than her opponents'. Quinn also has been targeted by an independent PAC that spent millions on an anti-Quinn ad blitz, which means she may have more ground to cover than her opponents to win the airwaves war.

De Blasio is already about $300,000 behind Thompson and Quinn and he has also lagged behind them both in terms of major union support. This means that, like Weiner, he will likely need to spend more for on-the-ground operations in the campaign's waning weeks. Both of these factors combined make him at least slightly disadvantaged when it comes to spending.

Wth a combination of relatively low spending and strong establishment backing, Thompson would seem to be the candidate best positioned in this mayoral money game. This is crucial for Thompson as, despite a recent surge he remains slightly behind both Quinn and De Blasio. There are also indicators in multiple polls that Weiner's ongoing implosion is shifting more votes to Quinn and De Blasio than to Thompson.

Faced with this somewhat discouraging poll data, Thompson and his team point to the fact polls show his rivals outperforming him among minorities though he is the only African American candidate in the race. Polls underestimated Thompson in past campaigns and his backers believe the city's African American community will eventually break for him in spite of the current numbers.

Having extra money to spend on last minute ads could be key to fueling the turnaround Thompson needs. Of course, that's assuming he is indeed able to max out as his campaign claims.

As of now, the battle on the financial front of this race seems quite close. The only thing that's certain is that, in the next few weeks, New York City voters are about to be hit with a barrage of TV and radio ads.

About The Author

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Hunter Walker is a national affairs reporter for TPM. He came to the site in 2013 from the New York Observer. He has also written for New York Magazine, Gawker, the Village Voice, Forbes, The Daily, and Deadspin. He can be reached at hunter@talkingpointsmemo.com