New York State’s Matching Funds Program Debuts. What Does it Mean for This Year’s Election?

According to the New York State Board of Elections, 329 candidates registered for the first state-level public campaign finance program, which aims to curb the influence of big money in politics by matching small, local donations with public funds.

Adi Talwar

Jonathan Soto, a candidate running for Assembly, at a campaign fundraiser in the Bronx on May 6. He’s among more than 300 candidates running for election this year who registered for the state’s first public matching funds program.

The last time he ran for office in 2022, Jonathan Soto’s time and energy was focused on big dollar donors. The East Bronx candidate was up against Democrat Michael Benedetto, who has held onto his title as District 82 assemblymember for nearly 20 years.

Soto ultimately lost that election to Benedetto, who amassed significantly more than his challenger in campaign contributions in the lead up to the June 2022 primary, records show. This time around, Soto—who is running once again for the same Bronx Assembly seat—is hoping a new fundraising law that’s already boosted his campaign’s war chest by $43,049 will help level the playing field.

Enacted by the governor and State Legislature in 2020, New York’s Public Campaign Finance program allows candidates running for state office to qualify for matching funds for contributions between $5 to $250 made by in-district donors.

This year’s elections—during which State Assembly and Senate seats are up for grabs—is the first time candidates for those offices will be able to take part. During the next election cycle in 2026, those running for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and state comptroller will also be able take advantage of matching funds if they qualify and choose to opt in.

The goal of public financing is to curb the influence of big money in politics by amplifying the impact of small, local donors, which has dwindled since the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations and other outside groups to funnel large amounts of money towards elections.

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