Zellnor Myrie, center, and other IDC challengers
With one month to go until primary day, candidates for state office filed their latest campaign finance disclosures on Tuesday, covering the period between July 17 and August 13 of this year.
The entire state legislature, with 213 seats, is on the ballot but most of the competitive races are taking place for positions in the 63-member state Senate, where the Republican and Democratic conferences each hold 31 seats. Republicans maintain control with the help of Sen. Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat from Brooklyn who professes no party loyalty. The 150-member state Assembly, on the other hand, is overwhelmingly Democratic and has few competitive races.
The most closely watched primary races involve members of the former Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of eight Democratic senators who caucused with Republicans from 2011 until earlier this year, when they rejoined the mainline Democratic conference. All eight of them are facing primary challenges from insurgent progressive candidates.
When Governor Cuomo announced a unity deal in April that brought the rogue Democrats back into the Democratic fold, there was an agreement that the state Democratic Party and prominent unions would support the members of the former IDC. However, the shock primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th Congressional District over Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley -- who played a prominent role in brokering the unity deal -- spurred many elected officials, activist groups, and unions to support the challengers over the senators.
Six out of the eight former IDC senators were outraised in July and August by their challengers, some by significant margins. But the IDC members have significant amounts of campaign cash already and enjoy support from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Democratic Party. Senator Jeff Klein, the leader of the former IDC, was significantly outraised by challenger Alessandra Biaggi, but has over $1.6 million already in the bank.
What remains unclear is whether the former IDC members will have to return hundreds of thousands in donations from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, a fundraising committee set up in 2016 by the IDC and the Independence Party that was declared illegal by a state Supreme Court judge in June this year. In July, the state Board of Elections’ enforcement counsel Risa Sugarman, in a strongly worded letter, called on the senators to return over-the-limit contributions received from the SICC. But the senators have refused to do so, ignoring a deadline set by Sugarman that lapsed last week. Sugarman has declined to comment on what steps she may take next.
The former IDC Senators include Tony Avella of District 11 in Queens, Jose Peralta of District 13 in Queens, Jesse Hamilton of District 20 in Brooklyn, Diane Savino of District 23 in Staten Island and Brooklyn, Marisol Alcantara of District 31 in Manhattan, and Klein of District 34 the Bronx and Westchester, as well as David Carlucci of District 38 and David Valesky of District 53, both north of the city.
Those are not the only competitive Democratic primaries, however. Senator Felder, who represents District 17 in Brooklyn, is being challenged by Blake Morris. In District 20, also in Brooklyn, Democratic Senator Martin Dilan, who was never an IDC member but who received funds from the SICC, is being challenged by democratic socialist Julia Salazar. And in District 22, also in Brooklyn, the winner of the Democratic primary contest between Andrew Gounardes, general counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Ross Barkan, a journalist-turned-politician, will face incumbent Republican Senator Marty Golden in the general.
Senate District 11
Senator Tony Avella, who represents northeastern Queens, raised $27,000 and spent about $76,000 in the latest filing period. He has just under $122,000 in cash on hand. Avella has raised a total of $268,000 and spent about $171,000 since January 2017, the beginning of his current term.
Avella’s challenger John Liu raised $202,000 and spent $13,000. He has just under $190,000 in cash on hand. Liu, the former New York City Comptroller who unsuccessfully challenged Avella in 2014, started the filing period with less than $1,000 in his campaign coffers, owing to a late start to his campaign just before the filing deadline. Liu’s supporters, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, facilitated a petitioning and fundraising blitz in July to get him onto the primary ballot against Avella, who at that point was the only former IDC member not to have a primary challenger.
Senate District 13
Senator Jose Peralta has appeared particularly vulnerable among the former IDC members since Ocasio-Cortez’s insurgent primary victory over Crowley, the head of the Queens Democratic establishment. Peralta’s district is situated within the congressional district that Ocasio-Cortez won and the senator has the backing of Crowley, which some observers believe could redound to his opponent’s benefit. He raised $30,000 in this last filing and spent $102,000. He has $112,000 cash on hand. Peralta has raised a total of $545,000 this election cycle, and has spent $503,000.
Peralta is being challenged by Jessica Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio. Ramos raised $37,000 and spent about $33,000. She has $103,000 cash on hand. She was recently endorsed by the mayor, and has racked up endorsements from local leaders and Democratic clubs. In total, Ramos has raised $239,000 and spent $136,000 during her campaign.
Senate District 20
Senator Jesse Hamilton, who represents parts of central and western Brooklyn, raised $22,000 and spent just under $100,000. He has $135,000 cash on hand. Hamilton has raised a total of $506,000 this election cycle, and has spent $388,000.
Challenger Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn-based attorney, raised $43,000 and spent $53,000. He has $145,000 cash on hand. In total, Myrie has raised $308,000 and spent $163,000 during his campaign. Myrie was endorsed by Mayor de Blasio over the weekend, and has garnered support from several prominent elected officials in the district, including most recently Congressional Representatives Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velázquez and Jerry Nadler.
Senate District 23
Senator Diane Savino, who represents Staten Island’s North Shore and part of southern Brooklyn, raised $8,500 and spent $59,000. She has $208,000 cash on hand. Savino has raised a total of about $795,000 this election cycle, and has spent $769,000.
Savino faces activist Jasmine Robinson in the primary, who has yet to raise significant funds for the race. Robinson only brought in $6,000 and spent $1,600 in the latest filing. She has less than $5,000 in cash on hand. In total, Robinson, who dropped out and then immediately re-entered the race after a controversy involving fraudulent petition signatures, has raised about $6,000 and spent $1,600.
Senate District 31
Senator Marisol Alcantara, who joined the IDC right after being elected in November 2016 with financial support from the SICC, raised $22,000 and spent $115,000. She has $37,000 cash on hand. Alcantara has raised a total of $476,000 this election cycle, and spent $497,000.
Though she was the handpicked successor of her predecessor, now-U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, and is the only Latina serving in the Senate, her short tenure in the body and her membership in the IDC has made her vulnerable in the election.
Robert Jackson, a former City Council member who lost to Alcantara in 2016, is challenging her again this year. He raised $43,000 and spent $49,000 over the last month. He has $152,000 in cash on hand. In total, Jackson has raised $328,000 and spent $173,000 during his campaign.
Senate District 34
Senator Jeff Klein, the leader of the former IDC and currently the deputy Democratic conference leader, raised $15,000 and spent $550,000 in just 30 days. He has $1.6 million in cash on hand, far in excess of his other former IDC colleagues. Klein has raised a total of $1.8 million this election cycle, and spent $1.6 million.
Klein, who as leader of the IDC was the fourth man in the room negotiating the state budget, is currently the Deputy Minority Leader in the Senate. Klein has been accused of sexual misconduct by former aide Erica Vladimer.
Alessandra Biaggi, Klein’s challenger, raised $77,000 and spent $49,000. She has $242,000 cash on hand. In total, Biaggi has raised $432,000 and spent $156,000 during her campaign.
Senate District 38
Senator David Carlucci, who represents Rockland County and part of Westchester County, raised $7,700 and spent $81,000. He has $368,000 cash on hand. Carlucci has raised a total of $403,000 this election cycle, and spent $398,000.
His primary opponent, Julie Goldberg, raised $16,000 and spent $12,000. She has $16,500 cash on hand. In total, Goldberg has raised about $33,000 and spent $16,000 during her campaign.
Senate District 53
Senator David Valesky, who represents part of Syracuse, Madison County, Oneida County, and Onondaga County, raised $7,000 and spent $36,000. He has $636,000 cash on hand. Valesky has raised a total of $263,000 this election cycle, and spent just under $200,000
Valesky’s primary opponent is Rachel May, who raised $25,000, spent $39,000, and has $67,000 cash on hand. In total, May has raised about $145,000 and spent $78,000 this election cycle.
Other Senate primary races to watch:
Senate District 17
Senator Simcha Felder raised about $9,600 and spent $34,000. He has $613,000 cash on hand. Felder has raised a total of $514,000 this election cycle, and has spent $195,000.
Challenger Blake Morris raised $24,000 and spent $17,000. He has $17,000 cash on hand. In total, Morris has raised $66,000 and spent $49,000 during his campaign.
Though he’s facing off a senator who is unpopular among state Democrats, Morris has not attracted as much support from city elected officials as the other IDC challengers. He has, however, been endorsed by the Working Families Party, 32BJ, and a few advocacy organizations and Democratic clubs.
Senate District 18
Senator Martin Dilan, who represents parts of North Brooklyn, raised $52,000 and spent $28,000. He has $101,000 cash on hand. Dilan has raised a total of $139,000 this election cycle, and has spent $64,000.
Julia Salazar, his primary challenger, raised $64,000 and spent $37,000. She has $93,000 in cash on hand. In total, Salazar has raised $182,000 and spent $90,000 during her campaign.
Salazar, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, has attracted significant attention for her race, with many calling her the “next Ocasio-Cortez.” She has criticized Dilan for his record on housing, including his now-disavowed vote for vacancy decontrol while he served on the City Council, and has questioned past donations he received from the SICC and Sen. Klein. Salazar has been endorsed by the Working Families Party, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, the United Auto Workers union, and several advocacy organizations.
Senate District 22
Andrew Gounardes, who is running as a Democrat to replace Senator Marty Golden in southern Brooklyn, raised $23,600 and spent $35,000, and has $170,000 cash on hand. Gounardes has raised $262,000 and spent $92,000 over the election cycle.
Gounardes’ primary opponent, Ross Barkan, raised $7,600 and spent $43,000, and has $23,000 cash on hand. Barkan has raised $146,000 and spent $123,000 since he began the race.
Sen. Golden has raised a total of $782,000 this election cycle, and has spent $720,000. According to his latest filings from July, he had 485,000 in cash on hand.
The primary election is on Thursday, September 13.