Borough President Helen Marshall may have a far more serious primary challenge to her incumbency than she initially thought since attorney Marc Leavitt has nearly tripled her fund-raising total with just over a month to go before the election.
Leavitt, a Sunnyside Democrat with a reputation for performing what he calls “political satire cabaret,” received $261,619 in the first round of matching funds from the Campaign Finance Board last week — enough to give him a $234,161 advantage over Marshall, who did not raise enough to qualify for the program.
“I’m delighted. We’ve all been working really hard,” Leavitt said in an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers. “This is especially significant, since I am challenging an incumbent who has all the institutional support. When we received that, it was the first time I said to myself that I’ve got a real shot at winning this thing.”
Marshall, who has raised $119,803 and has $94,691 on hand, did not receive enough donations under $1,000 to qualify for the city program, which will match contributions up to 6-to-1 for participants. Since 1989 the city Campaign Finance Board matches private contributions from city residents up to the first $1,000 per contributor contributions.
Marshall campaign spokesman Gregory Joseph, of the Parkside Group, said she plans to file for matching funds on the second possible date, Aug. 20.
“She’s plugging away, she has several fund-raising events planned for the coming weeks and will be filing on the 20th,” Joseph said. “We expect she will have more than enough to qualify by then.”
Two other contenders - Democrat Robert Schwartz and Republican Robert Hornak — also have not raised enough to qualify for the program.
Leavitt is perhaps best known to this point in Queens for his political satire cabaret performances, where he muses on political issues through satirical songs. But he said he is now running for borough president because he believes Marshall has not done enough to advocate for Queens’ strengths in her two terms in office.
“We need a borough president with an awareness that Queens is in fact the multicultural center of the world and we don’t get credit for it because we don’t promote the borough well enough,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t think that we have that strong an advocate right now.”
Leavitt said if elected, he hopes to work with city and state leaders to bring more funding to Queens, which he said is shortchanged when compared to other boroughs. He also said he hopes to make English courses available to all residents free of charge and plan monthly events showcasing individual communities in the borough.
He said he would bring a new perspective to the office because he is not a career politician.
“I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need this. I don’t need a salary,” he said. “This is not a stepping stone for me. This is an opportunity. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to really promote what good government can be.”
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@
©2009 Community News Group
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