First round of filings reported in council race

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Rafael Salamanca outraises competition by wide margin

By relying on large contributions from elected officials and businesses, Rafael Salamanca has raised nearly twice as much money as his nearest rival in the race to succeed Maria del Carmen Arroyo on the New York City Council.

Salamanca reported a war chest of $48,515 to the city’s Campaign Finance Board in the first round of filings on Jan. 15, followed by Amanda Septimo with $27,580, George Alvarez with $26,610 and Joann Otero with $8,382.

James L. Russell reported $5,943 and Julio Pabon $5,110, but a larger number of contributors than Septimo and Otero.

The other four candidates reported few or no contributors.

Salamanca’s fund-raising lead demonstrates the clout of the Bronx Democratic machine. The campaign funds of the party and local elected officials contributed $9,750, including $1,375 from party powerhouses Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, Carl Heastie, the Speaker of the Assembly and Assemblymen Marcos Crespo and Jeffrey Dinowitz the Bronx Democratic County Committee’s leader and its chair.

He also benefited from large contributions from executives in real estate, medical facilities and the waste industry. They include Nudpanath Nadanapathan, the owner of 405 Hunts Point Avenue, the site of a new medical marijuana dispensary and formerly of the strip club Club Heat, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, now vice president of a development firm and Kathy Zamechansky, a commercial real estate broker whose deep roots in the Bronx Democratic party extend back to the scandal-scarred 1980s.

Although he holds a commanding lead in early fund-raising, the fact that Salamanca relied heavily on big contributors means that his opponents can narrow the gap by taking advantage of the city’s public financing of elections, which provides matching funds of up to $6 for every dollar raised for candidates whose funds come from contributions of less than $87.

As he did in his insurgent campaign against Arroyo in 2013, Pabon amassed most of his $5,110 from grassroots contributors. Sixty-eight of his 92 contributions were of $50 or less, and 31 came from people who donated $10. Pabon himself gave $500, as did Hostos College professor Hector Soto, who is well-known in the Puerto Rican community and who served as executive director of the city’s Civilian Review Board during the Dinkins administration.

Similarly, 61 of Russell’s 92 contributions were below the $87 ceiling for matching funds. His list of contributors reflects his background as a minister. His largest contribution came from retiree Ann Marie Wyche, who lists her occupation on Facebook as “Reads the Bible.”

The bulk of Alvarez’s funds, too, came from small donors; 138 contributions are potentially eligible for a match. Executives at two daycare centers, one in the Bronx and one in Manhattan, gave Alvarez $1,000 each, as did the manager of a company that installs scaffolding to protect construction sites and a real estate executive.

Septimo relied more heavily on large donations, including $4,125 from the candidate herself. She also raised money from a more geographically diverse base, including four-figure contributions from Berkeley and San Francisco, California; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Houston, Texas; and Knoxville, Tennessee.

She also received contributions of $1,375 each from three Riverdale residents who are major contributors to Orthodox Jewish philanthropies, Abraham Eisenstat of the hedge fund Eisenstat capital and his wife Tamar and Jack Bendheim, chairman and CEO of Phibro Animal Health Corporation.

Reflecting her background as a young activist at The Point CDC, she included among her donors, Paul Lipson, one of the community center’s founders—who also contributed to Salamanca–Adam Liebowitz, who ran The Point’s ACTION program, Jill Roche, executive director of the Hunts Point Alliance for Children and Elena Conte, formerly of Sustainable South Bronx.

Otero’s account includes money raised before Arroyo announced her early retirement, aimed at running to succeed the term-limited councilwoman in the 2017 general election. It includes contributions from administrators at the Ghetto Film School and Arthur Aviles and Charles Gonzalez of the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance.

Her top contributors were Susan Fox, a teacher in Oceanside and Michael Benzi, proprietor of Federated Title Services, which specializes in low-income housing and has worked on several multi-million dollar projects in the Bronx. Benzi is also a major contributor to Borough President Diaz and to Arroyo’s mother Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo as well as to the past mayoral campaigns of Christine Quinn and William Thompson.

Correction: In this special election, instead of a $175 threshold for matching public funds, as is usual and as was originally reported, the Campaign Finance Board has set the limit at $87.