The contest for New York City Mayor may feel as if it’s all but over—with Democrat Bill de Blasio holding, according to some pollsters, a 70 point lead in the polls over Republican Joe Lhota.
But money continues to pour into the coffers of both campaigns.
We wanted to get an idea of what the numbers might tell us. Which candidate had the most small-dollar donors, for example? And which one drew the attention of the city’s high rollers? Which neighborhoods contributed most to the campaigns? And of course, who has the biggest war chest?
But we also wanted to go past the numbers: What compels people to open their wallets and give their money to a political campaign?
There were the expected answers—folks saying they were simply interested in good government, or that they supported a candidate because of the “D” or the “R” next to his name.
But there were surprises, too, like the woman from, of all places, Georgia who told us that she gave $10 to de Blasio because her hobby is giving small donations to candidates across the country.
Here are some of our favorites.
de Blasio Donations by ZIP Code
This map represents the amounts donated to de Blasio’s campaign by ZIP Code. The highest amounts came from ZIP Codes 10021, 10028 and 10024 in Manhattan and 11201 and 11215 in Brooklyn. Fewer donations came from the Bronx and Queens.
Lhota Donations by ZIP Code
This map represents the amounts donated to Lhota’s campaign by ZIP Code. The candidate received the most support from some of the same areas as de Blasio, including ZIP Codes 10021 and 10028 in Manhattan, as well as 10128. Lhota received far less support than de Blasio in Brooklyn, and less support in the Bronx and Queens.
This chart represents the number of people who donated to Bill de Blasio and Joseph Lhota’s campaigns in different increments: $10 and Under, $11-$50, $51-$100, $101-$500, $501-$1000, $1001-$4950 and $4951-$9900. $4950 is the most an individual can donate to one campaign, though a person can donate up to that limit again in a different campaign cycle; for instance, an individual could give $4950 during a primary, and another $4950 during the general election.
$10 to de Blasio: All the Way from Georgia
Zehline Davis, a 75-year-old retired schoolteacher from Decatur, Ga., has no ties to New York City. But she donates to political campaigns all across the country, especially “against the ones I want to put out of office,” she said. Inspired by “things that I read in the paper and what I get on the internet,” Davis heard about de Blasio’s campaign for NYC mayor and decided to contribute. “I think he should be the person to be elected. He’s a family man. I like that,” she said. Davis started getting into politics when she was 18 years old. She began as a Republican but switched parties about 20 years ago. She strongly dislikes the Tea Party. “You know how they got in? People were complacent,” she said. Davis is politically engaged in other ways—“right in the car dealership today, I was getting out the vote,” she said—but mostly, she uses her money. She said she has no idea how much she’s donated to campaigns in her lifetime. “If I feel that a person is the right person for that position, then that’s why I donate the money,” she said. Davis estimates that she donates about $300 a month at this point. When her credit card statements arrive, “I always say I’m not gonna do this any more, but I do,” she said.
$20 to Lhota: Diffusing the Loose Cannon
Douglas Damoth is a Brooklyn resident and longtime registered Democrat, but he’s willing to cross party lines. “Bill de Blasio isn’t anyone I want to see in office,” he said. Damoth, a project controller at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, occasionally donates to campaigns, but not regularly. “De Blasio’s a loose cannon. His policies won’t benefit the city. Lhota seems like a more serious candidate.” Damoth contributed $20 to “yes, make a statement in support of Lhota, but mostly to express dislike with de Blasio.” “His thinking,” Damoth said of de Blasio, “does not mirror what I like.”
$10 to de Blasio: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Stan Chadziutko said he has never donated to a local campaign before, but he’s liked de Blasio “for a very, very long time.” Chadziutko, who is retired and lives in Brooklyn, said de Blasio’s liberal values mirror his own. “I think we just need a change after 12 years of what we’ve had, and he’s the most viable choice,” Chadziutko said.
$35 to de Blasio: Girl Power
Lauren Altman, 25, is drawn to Bill de Blasio for two reasons: his support of the entrepreneurial industry and his support of women. Altman and her sister are both entrepreneurs—specifically, Altman is a self-employed creative director—so she is “excited about how vocal he’s been about supporting women-owned businesses in New York,” she said. Additionally, Altman said her family is “very involved in gender equity and elevation of women.” Her grandmother worked for Planned Parenthood. When the organization endorsed de Blasio, her support for him solidified. Altman, who lives in Brooklyn, joined the Women for de Blasio Committee as a way to make connections with others who support the candidate. “I thought I could take it a step further with a contribution. I made a very small contribution, but it’s a way to show the seriousness of my support to the campaign,” she said.
$250 to Lhota: What Are Friends For?
Sharyanne McSwain of Brooklyn is the Director of Finance and Administration at StoryCorps, a nonprofit that allows people from all backgrounds to record, preserve and share their stories. She doesn’t usually donate to campaigns, but she gave to Lhota because she has known him for a long time. “I donated because he’s a personal friend of mine,” she said. “I actually don’t even know his political views.”
$150 to de Blasio: Progressive Progression
Susan Lob, adjunct faculty at Columbia University School of Social Work, said she donated to de Blasio because she is “excited by the prospect of a progressive mayor in New York City.” Lob, who lives in Brooklyn, gave to de Blasio because “his positions on income inequality, the need for affordable housing and ending stop and frisk give me hope. I want to support his campaign.”
$20 to Lhota: Meet Me on Wall Street
When Ruth Lapin headed to the polls near her home in Brooklyn during the mayoral primary, she was told she “wasn’t allowed to vote.” No one at the poll would explain why, and when she called the Lhota campaign later in the day, she was told that she was not the only person to have reported problems at the poll. She decided to donate money after the election as another means of showing her support for her candidate. She was initially an Anthony Weiner supporter, but between Lhota and de Blasio, she strongly favors Lhota. “He is more grounded,” she said, “more in touch with everything that is going on.” Lapin, who works as an event planner, said de Blasio “is dabbling in finances. He’s against Wall Street. To be against Wall Street is to be against the lifeblood of New York City.”
$2,000 to de Blasio: Think of the Children
Katherine Kahan is a board member at Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York, a nonprofit organization started by Eleanor Roosevelt to promote the welfare of New York City children. Kahan’s organization examines the city budget to assess the effects budget cuts may have on the children of New York. They use this information to educate city officials on how to better serve children. Kahan, a Manhattan resident, is also a homemaker. “I am very interested in the field of child advocacy and Bill de Blasio is a longtime supporter of early childcare and education, since the time he was a city council member,” she said. “I am aware of his long-enduring interest in this field. He is my candidate because of his support of family and children, and his priorities and vision that recognize everyone in the city.”
$10 to Lhota: Stop Stopping the Frisks
Irene M. Liquorie is a retiree living in Whitestone, N.Y., who calls herself a Republican. She donated to the Lhota campaign because she likes his policies and “wanted to help.” Particularly, she likes that Lhota plans to keep Raymond Kelly as commissioner of the NYPD, bring back stop and frisk and keep the charter school system. Liquorie did not like “the other man,” she said, referring to Lhota’s opponent, Bill de Blasio.
$350 to de Blasio: #cha-ching!
Eli Attie, who served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, and as Vice President Al Gore’s chief special assistant to the White House and campaign speechwriter, gave $350 to de Blasio’s campaign. He was also a longtime writer on the NBC series The West Wing, and the Fox series House. When we asked him on Twitter why he gave, he responded, “Because I love Bill de Blasio!”
$1,000 to de Blasio: Spreading the Wealth
Catherine Steck, of Manhattan, has supported de Blasio since his days on the City Council. She says they first met in 1999 when she was working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. On the morning of 9/11, Steck was on her way to work the polls for de Blasio. “We have very similar political philosophies,” she said. She agrees that the city has become divided, and that the problem is having “an extremely wealthy top tier” while “the people at the bottom are struggling.” Steck, who is retired, believes in him because of what she saw him accomplish as Public Advocate. “He is very intelligent and will recognize the need to keep a presence in Wall Street,” she said, “but also to build opportunities for the rest of New York.”
$400 to Lhota: Talent Show
Janice Ellig, a Manhattan resident who describes herself as a moderate Republican, says she regularly contributes to campaigns. As an Executive Search Professional, she helps companies hire executives, so she can spot talent, and she thinks Lhota’s history in both the public and private sectors gives him the breadth of experience needed to run a complicated city. “When I lined all the candidates up, Republican or Democrat, Joe is the only one who really had the experience to run such a complex city,” she said. “I think if we’re not politically involved in our city, state and local governments, we’re not doing what’s right for everyone.”
$10 to de Blasio: Bring It Down to Earth
Barbara Basciano, an assistant director at Jacobi Medical Center who lives in the Bronx, doesn’t usually donate to political campaigns, but this time she felt compelled to do so. To Basciano, de Blasio “seemed like an impassioned, down to earth candidate, not very aristocratic and austere,” she said. She feels “neither here nor there” about the current mayor, but credits him with “keeping the city solvent.” Despite his efforts there, Basciano said that as a city worker, she hasn’t had a raise in four years. She thinks raises for city workers may be on the horizon if de Blasio wins the race.
$10 to Lhota: Wanna Join the Club?
Mary Kierenia of Whitestone, N.Y., decided to give to the Lhota campaign because people from the campaign office implied that donating would be “like being a member of a club or something.” Kierenia, who is retired, defines herself as a Republican and has donated to candidates in presidential elections as well.
$150 to de Blasio: Let’s Disrupt the Disparity
After deciding he was against Christine Quinn, Columbia University scientist and Brooklyn resident Michael Albro contributed to de Blasio’s campaign because he felt the candidate was the most progressive choice in the Democratic primary. Albro believes Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration created policies that maintained “disparity in the city.” He believes “De Blasio was the most progressive candidate and one that had a chance.”
$30 to Lhota: If Rudy Likes Him …
Why did Stanislawa Magnowski donate money to Lhota’s campaign? Because “he has experience. He is a good man.” A retiree living in Long Island City, Magnowski said she believes Lhota knows New York City. She also thinks he knows what the city’s people want. Because she thought former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was a good mayor, his endorsement of Lhota was an important factor in her decision.
$200 to de Blasio: Making the Grade
Dohra Ahmad, a Brooklyn resident and professor at St. John’s University, donated to de Blasio’s campaign during the primary. Although she is not enthusiastic about his support of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, Ahmad believes de Blasio can tackle social inequality and improve the public school system. “I felt that de Blasio would be most likely to restore funding to what is fundamentally a really solid school system,” she said.
$55 to Lhota: Remember the ’80s?
Sara Boyce is a retired professional residing in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. She says that while she doesn’t live in the city, she does feel strongly about the election. She contributed money not to help Lhota win, but to see de Blasio lose. “If the other candidate wins, it’ll be a disaster,” she said. “We’ll be back in the 1980s.”
$50 to de Blasio: Someone Knows Their Dickens
After she attended a de Blasio fundraiser early this year, Rhoda Dunn realized she wanted to contribute to his campaign. “He was talking about issues I cared about, in a manner I cared about,” she said. “I was very impressed.” Dunn gave $50 to de Blasio. As a real estate agent at a Manhattan-based firm, she has watched what she said is a growing divide between those who can and can’t afford housing in New York City. “The problem with New York City is that there are two cities,” she said. “There are those who have and those who don’t. I feel that everybody should have the same opportunities I have.”
Thousands More: Big Donors Drive Lhota Donations
Although no donors who gave large amounts to Lhota’s campaign could be reached for comment, there were many who pitched in thousands. These figures are prominent in New York at banks, law firms and corporations. Bruce Addison, a banker at J.P. Morgan, was one of the individuals who donated over $1,000 to Lhota’s campaign. He’s also donated thousands of dollars to other Republican campaigns, such as Rudy Giuliani’s presidential bid and John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. Salvatore Zizza, the CEO and Chairman of Zizza & Co., a private holdings company, gave even more generously to Lhota’s campaign, contributing $2,500. He’s also contributed extensively to Republican campaigns in the past. Finally, Alan Abramson, who owns Abramson Brothers Inc., a real estate management company, donated $9,900 to Lhota’s campaign, then had $4,950 returned. Both Zizza and Addison were unreachable for comment, while Abramson refused to comment.