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Antonacci fails in publicly financed campaign bid, but has no regrets

Ryan Delaney
Republican candidate for state comptroller, Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci, says he still believes in campaign finance reform. (file photo)

The first experiment with the state’s new public campaign financing law went out with a whimper. The method of parlaying private dollars into a public match fell short in the race for the state comptroller.

In order to get $1.2 million in state funds for his campaign, Republican state comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci needed to get 2,000 people to donate between $10 and $175, and it had to amount to at least $200,000.

In the end, Antonacci fell about $50,000 short.

“When you sit there and say to yourself, what does that mean, well, that’s 500 people at $100 a piece," Antonacci said. "And that’s tough to do, it really is. But I needed help. I needed help from the party, and I needed help from the leadership. And frankly there were parts of the state that didn’t come through for us.”

Antonacci says there was little or no support from Long Island, noting most of the donations came from central New York, where he’s known because he serves as Onondaga County comptroller.

He’s in a race against incumbent Democrat Thomas DiNapoli, who raised more than $2 million for his campaign and chose not to take part in the public financing option.

Antonacci says he’s not bitter about trying to use the campaign financing tool.

"You’ve got way too many uncontested races," Antonacci said. "And for a gentleman of my skill set to get into the race, I’m not a multi-millionaire, it gave me a chance to compete on a statewide scale and we just didn’t get there.”

He suggests there could be some tweaking of the rules but says overall, New York state needs something like this to encourage more candidates to run for public office.

"We’ve got to find a way to properly fund candidates who are willing to come out of their everyday lives and run for public office.”

DiNapoli is expected to easily win reelection, with polls giving him a double-digit lead over Antonacci.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.