Wall Street Backs McGuire for NYC Mayor, Unfazed by Polls
(Bloomberg) -- Financial industry donors are continuing to pump money into former Citigroup executive Raymond McGuire’s long-shot bid to be New York City mayor despite his lackluster popularity among voters.
Wall Street has showered McGuire with more than five times as much money as it’s given to any of his competitors, helping him top the field in fundraising as he founders at the bottom of polls for the decisive June 22 Democratic primary. The winner is almost certain to become the next mayor in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.
McGuire’s campaign has received $1.4 million from employees of big banks, private equity firms and hedge funds who gave at least $200 -- almost half of it this year. More than $300,000 came in the last two and a half months, according to New York City Campaign Finance Board data of individual donations compiled by Bloomberg.
By comparison, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who has the second-highest amount of donations from the financial sector, received about $253,000 over the course of his campaign.
Overall, McGuire, who has never held elective office, has raised $9.7 million, including $1 million of his own money. He loaned his campaign $2 million in May.
Donors interviewed by Bloomberg News, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they backed McGuire despite his weak numbers because the politician-heavy field lacks business expertise. This is the first time New Yorkers will choose the mayor and other officeholders by ranked-choice, in which they can select as many as five candidates on their ballots. The donors say they are holding out hope that through the complexity of the new system, McGuire could ultimately win if he were the second or third choice of enough voters.
That seems unlikely with two weeks left in the race. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams led the latest survey by NY1/Ipsos, followed by Yang and former City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in a virtual tie. McGuire’s standing dropped 2 percentage points since April to 4%, leading only former Obama administration official Shaun Donovan.
The McGuire donors cited what they consider his compelling personal story. He was raised by a single mother and his grandparents in a part of Dayton, Ohio, that was, as he puts it, “the wrong side of the tracks.” Through scholarships, he attended the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, then received his bachelor’s degree, a law degree and an MBA from Harvard University. He moved to New York in the mid-1980s, eventually rising to vice chairman of Citigroup with a home on Central Park West.
“People have underestimated how valuable that foot in both camps could be,” said Tom Glocer, a McGuire backer and the former chief executive officer of Thomson Reuters Corp.
Among those giving the maximum amount to his campaign are Paul Tudor Jones of Tudor Investment Corp., Pershing Square Capital management founder William Ackman and James Tisch, president and chief executive officer of Loews Corp.
Some Wall Street donors have hedged their bets. Daniel Loeb gave McGuire’s campaign $5,100 in May, but also donated to Adams and Yang. He’s also made $500,000 donations to super political action committees that support Adams and Yang, as did New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, who hasn’t backed McGuire.
Asked whether his Wall Street supporters were getting a return on their investment in an appearance Monday on Bloomberg Television, McGuire cited his higher name recognition and his ability to tell his story to New York voters, many of whom have yet to make up their minds.
“My way forward is to focus on the undecided,” he said. “If you know my journey, which they are now understanding, then they understand my purpose.”
Yet his campaign has never quite caught fire.
McGuire, 64, announced his run to much fanfare last year, coming out with a splashy video by Spike Lee. Because of the pandemic, McGuire didn’t hit the streets to connect with voters like rivals Adams and Yang, who made multiple stops a day at bodegas, schools and sports arenas. Despite looking good on paper, critics said McGuire failed to resonate with New Yorkers on a personal level.
“Folks assumed Ray McGuire was going to really bust out in this race and he did not,” rival Maya Wiley said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Ray is not someone who is felt. He can tell his personal story, but he can’t get people to feel his personal story.”
McGuire has opted out of the voluntary public financing program, intended to encourage candidates to rely on small-dollar donors who live in New York City. Donations of up to $250 by city residents are matched 8 to 1. Candidates who take public financing can accept no more than $2,000 from individual donors, while McGuire can accept $5,100.
Public financing has somewhat leveled the playing field. Adams was outraised by millions, but has received more than $6.1 million in public funds to close the gap. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, another candidate, got the same amount, while Yang has gotten $5.9 million, making all three financially competitive with McGuire.
The money haul is increasingly important in the crowded race as the candidates escalate spending in the final weeks, including on expensive television ads.
Whoever wins faces mounting financial challenges, which McGuire’s Wall Street donors say he is uniquely qualified to confront.
The city faces revenue shortfalls caused by the exodus of high-income individuals that began after Congress capped the federal deduction for state and local taxes in 2018. That accelerated when the coronavirus pandemic drove even more people out of the city.
Donors said they also favored the way McGuire campaigns on his status as a political outsider, unlike his opponents, many of whom who have worked in government for years.
”I am not a career politician,” McGuire said Monday on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t owe any political favors. Zero. Bupkis.”
While McGuire has raised the most money, he’s also spent the most. New York doesn’t require candidates to disclose their cash on hand, but does provide estimates based on fundraising versus expenditures. As of May 17, he had less money in the bank than Adams, Yang, Garcia, Stringer and Dianna Morales.
Donors also note that New York’s ranked choice primary means that his low poll numbers are less important than the number of voters who pick him as their second choice.
McGuire, whose wife Crystal McCrary McGuire, has been an entertainment lawyer and television producer, also has received more than $123,000 from members of the film and television industry -- well more than any other candidate in the race.
Lupe Todd-Medina, a campaign spokeswoman, said that Laurie Tisch, a philanthropist and a cousin of James Tisch, would be holding a fundraiser Tuesday at her home. The campaign is offering work that artists created for “Arts for Ray” for sale to supporters.
“The only reliable poll will be conducted at the ballot box,” Todd said. “Ray has almost four decades of relationships, they know where his interests rest, and they know he wants the best for New York City”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.