In NY-10 Money Primary, Carlina Rivera Leans on High Rollers As Yuh-Line Niou Stakes Out Clear Control of Left Lane

Rivera’s populist rhetoric is not in-sync with her fundraising, a significant portion of which comes from leading New York City developers and financiers, corporate lawyers and restaurateurs.

Theodore Hamm Jul 18, 2022

As of this past Friday’s filings, candidates have raised over $3 million for the open-seat Democratic primary race in the new NY-10 district, which stretches from lower Manhattan through Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope and Sunset Park.

A significant percentage of that total haul has come in maximum donations of $2,900 from high rollers both in and, more often, outside the district. The crowded field of candidates features nationally known figures including Trump impeachment prosecutor Dan Goldman, former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, and current upstate Congressman Mondaire Jones.

A recent poll, however, found that two local elected officials lead the pack. City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who represents the Lower East Side, is the current leader, at 17%. Assemblywoman Yuh-line Niou, who represents Manhattan’s Chinatown, places second at 14%.

The backers of each candidate know that as illustrated by the 15-term careers of Manhattan House members Jerry Nadler, Carolyn Maloney and Brooklyn’s Nydia Velazquez, it is not easy to knock out a Democratic incumbent. An early investment in a candidate could thus pay dividends for decades.

Trump impeachment prosecutor Dan Goldman is running third in the polls behind Carlina Rivera and Yuh-Line Niou. His campaign is emphasizing Trump, abortion rights and gun control, not economic justice issues. Photo: Twitter.

Goldman, polling third with 12%, easily leads the pack in fundraising, with over $1.2 million. Voters in the district are receiving his mailers. His backers include scores of corporate lawyers and business titans including Gregory and Carrie Penner, both members of Walmart’s board of directors, which likely will mobilize union voters against Goldman.

An heir to the Levi Strauss family fortune, Goldman makes no claims to be anything other than a corporate Democrat. His website offers zero mention of economic inequality, instead emphasizing Trump, abortion rights and gun control.

Rivera, by contrast, foregrounds the “exacerbated inequities” caused by the pandemic on the landing page of her site. Her platform then advocates for a “fair and just economy” with the “ultra-wealthy pay[ing] their fair share.” Thus far her endorsements include Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and 1199SEIU, the influential health care workers union.

Rivera’s populist rhetoric is not in-sync with her fundraising (which totals $401,000), a significant portion of which comes from leading New York City developers and financiers, corporate lawyers (and lobbyists), and restaurateurs. Scott Sartiano, owner of Zero Bond — the private club where Mayor Eric Adams cavorts with Wall Street elite — is just one of Rivera’s many high-profile backers.

The winner of the NY-10 Democratic primary could hold the seat for decades, making an early investment in a candidate especially valuable. 

Don Capoccia, anti-labor developer of community gardens on the Lower East Side and the divisive Bedford-Armory project in Crown Heights, is a four-figure contributor to Rivera. (He contributed the same amount to Goldman’s campaign.) Details regarding Rivera’s support from various leading real estate players — including YIMBY maven Ben Thypin and Brooklyn’s Walentas family — can be found on this thread from Indypendent contributor Todd Fine.

Rivera’s filing also lists max donations from over a dozen restaurant and bar owners. Although her LES district is over-saturated with nightlife establishments, Rivera is viewed by many local residents as unsympathetic to their complaints and instead as an ally of the business owners and landlords.

Backed by the Working Families Party and Sunrise Movement NYC, Yuh-line Niou makes “demanding that the rich and mega-corporations pay their fair share” central to her campaign. Yet unlike Rivera, Niou’s filing (totaling $241,000) is not a roster of the city’s business elite. In fact, the only boldface name among her max contributors is Cynthia Nixon.

Currently polling at a mere 5%, Bill de Blasio nonetheless has raised over $500,000. Extell developer Gary Barnett, which is building the “super-tall” Two Bridges project in Lower Manhattan, is on the list. De Blasio, meanwhile, has been struggling to figure out his campaign message.

As the race enters the homestretch, Niou is staking out clear control of the left lane.

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