GOP comptroller candidate to use public financing

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A Republican county official from central New York entered the state comptroller race Wednesday and said he will participate in a pilot public campaign financing program recently rejected by the Democratic incumbent.

Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci kicked off his campaign to be the state’s chief financial watchdog in Syracuse, telling The Associated Press that he would “wholeheartedly and enthusiastically” take part in the voluntary public financing experiment that lawmakers authorized for the comptroller race.

“We will show the taxpayers that we know how to spend every dollar we receive wisely,” said Antonacci, a lawyer and accountant who was first elected county comptroller in 2007.

Incumbent Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has long pushed for broad public campaign financing and even suggested using future comptroller races as a trial run. But he balked when the pilot program was approved for the fall election, saying it was rushed and that he didn’t want to be a “sacrificial lamb” and be forced to return contributions he’d already accepted under existing rules.

DiNapoli was appointed to the comptroller’s office in 2007 and elected to a full term in 2010. He welcomed Antonacci to the race on Wednesday, saying he looks forward to a contest that focuses on the issues confronting state government.

“I’m proud of my record of protecting taxpayers and restoring integrity to this office,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “I’ve managed the state pension fund to record highs, fought corruption at all levels of government and shed light on dark money in politics.”

Antonacci’s announcement comes a week before the state’s Republican Party gathers in Westchester County to hold its nominating convention.

The public financing program authorizes a six-to-one match for the first $175 of an individual contribution. Matching funds are capped at $4 million each for the primary and general election, and individual donations are capped at $6,000. The new rules will only apply to this year’s comptroller race.

The experiment with public financing was approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature in March. It’s been criticized by several good-government groups that had long sought public campaign financing for all statewide offices and the Legislature. New York City already has a similar system in place.

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