Dollars for Democrats: New nominees for Congress show fundraising muscle

Democratic nominee for Congress Hakeem Jeffries and his young sons greet Brooklyn poll workers. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Along with the slate of incumbents who cruised to victory, New York City’s biggest winners in Tuesday’s Democratic Congressional primaries were Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries and Grace Meng, who won tense races to fill open seats in Congress.

The party’s newest candidates will be riding more than just momentum in November: both proved to be prodigious fundraisers who outraised the majority of the city’s incumbents in the primaries. As of June 6, Jeffries had raised $770,445 and Meng had raised $754,885 for their campaigns, totals surpassed only by fundraising heavyweights Joseph Crowley, Carolyn Maloney, Charles Rangel and Jerrold Nadler.

Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist, said that both Jeffries and Meng were “absolutely” on track to become prolific fundraisers for the Democratic Party. “The ability to raise money puts you into an important category of people who can be long term players,” Sheinkopf said.

As we reported last week, the city’s leading fundraiser in the House is Rep. Joseph Crowley of Queens – who has raised more than $1.9 million this cycle with only token opposition, and has long sought to parlay his fundraising prowess into a top role in the House’s Democratic Caucus. Crowley has raised more than $500,000 from the finance, insurance and real estate industries, and donated nearly as much to Democratic Party committees and candidates.

Like Crowley, Jeffries has relied heavily on the finance, real estate and legal industries, the top three sectors that have donated to his campaign, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Jeffries also had considerable success raising money outside the primarily low- and middle-income 8th Congressional District that he seeks to represent, in part as a response to the inflammatory racial rhetoric of his opponent, Charles Barron.

Meng’s biggest financial support came from retired people, followed by the real estate sector and health professionals. Meng spokesman Austin Finan said her support from retired people likely reflected her emphasis on protecting entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Democratic consultant Sheinkopf added that “many candidates who are Asians have had a lot of success in raising money within the community.”

Neither Jeffries nor Meng, who were locked in competitive primaries, have donated to the national party so far. Finan said that to his knowledge Meng had not received any fundraising requests from Democrats, but that she “certainly plans on raising the funds necessary to win in November.”

Lupe Todd, a spokeswoman for the Jeffries campaign, did not return our call for this article.

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