Matching funds integral to Dinowitz, Padernacht showdown

Assemblyman’s son is out-raising real estate lawyer, but public financing could make difference


The race is less than two years away for city council representing not just Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Van Cortlandt Park, but also sections of the Bronx between those communities and Wakefield. At least officially.

Yet, that has not stopped the two main contenders from stocking their war chests now.

Two years into his third term, current councilman Andrew Cohen is term limited and can’t seek re-election. Schoolteacher Eric Dinowitz and real estate lawyer Dan Padernacht both have thrown their hats into the ring to replace him, and have been raising cash for about a year.

Dinowitz  — son of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz — is far ahead of Padernacht, according to July 15 campaign finance disclosures, raising nearly $22,000 this year, bringing his election bank account to $81,500. Padernacht’s campaign has raised just shy of $9,000 during the same period, contributing to his $30,000 total.

It appears to be a significant gap, but thanks to the city’s public matching contribution program, it’s one Padernacht might be able to close a bit. More than $5,700 raised this cycle could be eligible for matching dollars, meaning the former Community Board 8 chair could add nearly $46,000 to his total.

Yet, Dinowitz could opt for matching funds as well. His potential eligible donations are near $7,800, meaning he could pick up another $62,000 — although that gets him super-close to spending limits without even accounting for earlier matching funds Dinowitz is eligible for.

Through public matching, eligible individual donations of up to $175 from individuals residing within New York City are increased eight times the original amount. A candidate wanting a public match would have to raise at least $5,000 from 75 individual donors living within the council district, among other qualifications.

While the money raised was significantly different, the number of overall donors this cycle were not. Between January and July, Padernacht received 103 contributions to Dinowitz’s 108. That means Dinowitz averaged just shy of $200 per contribution, while Padernacht averaged about $82.

While the bulk of each candidate’s contributors appear to be local, their top donors are not, for the most part. Just two of the top 10 contributors for both Dinowitz and Padernacht are from the Bronx.

The Nagizade family of Staten Island has been kind to Dinowitz, combining for $5,700 in campaign contributions this cycle. Padernacht has received support from the Knief family of Howard Beach, but only to the tune of $750.

Notable too are the people who have donated so far. Dinowitz received contributions from U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, Bronx transportation commissioner Nivardo Lopez, former CB8 chair Robert Fanuzzi, Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club’s Bruce Feld. He also picked up donations from the man he wants to replace, Andrew Cohen, as well as the councilman’s chief of staff, Ariana Collado.

Money also poured in from labor unions like Mason Tenders District Council and the United Federation of Teachers, as well as political action committees representing property tax fairness and another for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. He also received donations from his father’s PAC, Friends of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.

Padernacht also received a contribution from a former CB8 chair — Damian McShane.

All of these funds are earmarked for a primary campaign, but it’s still not clear on when it would happen. If nothing changes, it will take place in Summer 2021. But the Bronx political rumor mill has been churning once again, suggesting Cohen could be offered a judgeship he was reportedly passed over for last year. If that happens, and depending on when Cohen steps down from office, a primary race could happen as early as this November, or possibly just after the beginning of 2020.

Cohen’s pursuit of a judgeship has been an open secret in political circles, which prompted Padernacht to file first. Dinowitz, who some say has been groomed by his Assemblyman father for this seat for quite some time, announced his intention to run soon after.

Both candidates feel hopeful they’ll be able to reach enough voters in advance of the council primary, however — whenever that may be.

“I think that Eric has built a broad coalition of support among residents of the northwest Bronx and progressives across the city,” said Matthew Rey, Dinowitz’s spokesman and partner of Red Horse Strategies, a campaign consulting firm.

Dinowitz’s record as a teacher and Democratic leader “will be one that voters in the northwest Bronx clearly see as what they want as their city council member.”

Dinowitz will continue campaigning, Rey added, knocking on doors and raising money where needed.

Padernacht says he’ll be doing pretty much the same.

“I feel great about this race,” he said. “I’ve been meeting a lot of people in the district and gauging their reactions. That makes me feel confident that my candidacy is the right thing.”

One-time Riverdale Press intern Dionel Then says he plans to run for the council seat as well, but has yet to file campaign documents.

Andrew Cohen, Eric Dinowitz, Dan Padernacht, Jeffrey Dinowitz, campaign finance, city council, Heather J. Smith