At a sparsely populated fund-raiser in Jackson Heights Saturday, Ognibene mixed and mingled with about 20 supporters from the America Bangladeshi Friendship Society. Accompanied by his wife Margaret and his campaign team, the former City Council minority speaker from Glendale, who left the Council in 2001 because of term limits, said the coffers from his fund raisers have been active, but slow to fill."That's what makes it tough," Ognibene said. "It's nice to get 100 $10 donations, but it would be lovely to get 100 $4,000 donations."With the Bloomberg campaign already ahead with $11,155,868 at its disposal, Ognibene's last filing showed him lagging well behind with a total of $49,301, according to city Campaign Finance Board online records. Shaw is even lower at $37,741.The former teacher said his goal is to get in debate time with the mayor, but without some major funding to promote his campaign against Bloomberg, Ogniebene's chances may whither away."There was just an article out today about the Republican Party that said one of the main criteria is they have their own money," Ognibene said. "The sad part is, no matter what your message is, you got to get it out, and to get it out, it's going to take money."As a hopeful participant in the city's matching funds program, Ognibene would be eligible for up to $6 for every $1 he raises. Bloomberg, on the other hand, opted out of the program, a move which allows him unlimited campaign finance spending. To be eligible for the program, participants must raise a minimum of $250,000 from a minimum of 1,000 contributors."It's David and Goliath, isn't it?" Ognibene mused. "... There's so much energy out there against me, but I'm just hoping we can pull it off and give him a very strong race... I'll be staying on the Conservative Party line and I want to give Republicans who care about this party an option to vote for somebody who care about their values."If nothing else, Ognibene, who recently raised media attention on his stance to repeal the city smoking ban, said he hopes his fight for the mayor's seat will inspire people looking for a more conservative Republican into his corner."My campaign is true grassroots," he said. "When people give to somebody running for mayor, who is holding another public office, they're really giving because they want to maintain their influence in their office. There's something inherently wrong with that. That's why I think people would be energized by a grassroots campaign."Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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