Jumaane Williams Winning Votes One House Party at a Time

September 30, 2013

Jumaane Williams, council member for the 45th District in Brooklyn, won the primary election by spending only $7 per vote, one of the lowest numbers among the City Council candidate races. In total, he received nearly 76% of the vote.

Jerry Skurnik, a political consultant at Prime New York, explained that one of the biggest factors that affects a campaign is how much competition a candidate faces. If a candidate’s opponent is relatively unknown among the voters, then he or she will most likely be spending less on their campaign. Looking at his opponents, “Jumaane knew he didn’t have to spend as much. Candidates react to their opposition,” Skurnik said.

Skurnik said that the average amount of money that city council candidates raise is $150,000. Williams’ campaign has raised $88,210 so far, though he has only spent $69,086.97 according to the website of the New York City Campaign Finance Board. His major opponent, Jean Similien, spent approximately $23 per vote and received only 12% of the vote.

The main source of Williams’ fundraising came from house parties hosted by individuals in the 45th District. The Chief of Staff for Jumaane Williams’ office, Rance Huff, explained that the office would approach community residents and leaders and ask them if they would host backyard barbecues or an afternoon tea. They purposefully were not trying to reach out for corporate donations, Huff said.

“Jumaane would stop by and chat at the house parties,” said Huff, where community members would generally give small donations, around $10. Leading up to the primaries, Williams’ office hosted only two or three major fundraisers of their own.

Leading up to the general election, Huff commented that they have no intention of even opening a campaign office. The plan is to keep it simple. The office will continue to collect small donations by asking residents and other community leaders to host small fundraising parties in their homes.

Other than reaching out to people in person, by phone or email, Skurnik stated that it is simply too expensive for council candidates to be running ads on television. And “Most are using social media as a supplement to that.”

Even so, Williams has managed to create a fairly strong presence on social media with more than 1000 likes on his Facebook page and more than 5000 followers on Williams’ personal Twitter account. Huff said, “Our opponents had no social media. The campaign mainly uses Facebook and Constant Contant to send out email blasts once or twice a week.”

There were no Republican city council candidates running in the primary election and so far, no Republicans are running in the upcoming general election against Williams. However, Huff says that their focus is turning to their next opponent, Erlene King, a candidate from The Rent Is Too Damn High party. Huff said, “We are not taking her for granted.”

King has raised $9,995 at this point and spent $48,539. King said she decided to join the City Council race this past June when she was called into a meeting by several parents who were concerned when P.S. 269 was being turned into a charter school. Ms. King emphasized that her priority will be to fight for schools and education in the district, something she believes Mr. Williams has ignored.

Her campaign tactics also include house parties, mailing flyers, and making phone calls. “We weren’t doing much before the primaries. We didn’t want to confuse voters because they’ll be looking for your name when it’s not on the ballot,” said King. Her office has not been very active on social media, with 17 followers on her Twitter account and 20 followers on her Facebook profile page. Her campaign’s website recently went mobile within the past week.

The rest of the funds that Williams’ office has currently raised will go towards getting out the vote, said Huff. He also added that will mainly consist of providing the money for “footwork and transportation.” Additionally, Williams’ office will also be focusing on promoting Bill de Blasio for New York City mayor and Scott Stringer for comptroller.

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