Alessandra Biaggi, right (photo: @Biaggi4NY)
Though the entire New York State Legislature -- 150 Assembly seats and 63 Senate seats -- is on the ballot this year, there is a small number of competitive races to be decided during next week’s primary election on Thursday, September 13. In several key districts, mostly in New York City, insurgent challengers are attempting to unseat sitting Democrats in a sweeping effort to shake up state government, prompting the incumbents to raise and spend money accordingly. All the candidates filed the last round of pre-primary campaign finance disclosures this week with the state Board of Elections, showing their activity between August 9 and 31.
In eight Senate districts, six covering parts of the five boroughs, Democrats who once represented the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a rogue faction that shared power with Republicans for seven years, are fending off spirited challenges. The former IDC Senators are 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, Jeff Klein of District 34 in the Bronx and Westchester, and David Carlucci of District 38 and David Valesky of District 53, both of which are outside New York City.
A few of the senators received new contributions from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC), which was set up by the Independence Party and the IDC but was recently ruled to have violated state law. Based on a judge’s ruling, the leadership of the SICC altered its registration, getting into compliance. But, the Board of Elections enforcement counsel, Risa Sugarman, insisted that earlier donations that were over the legal limit should be refunded, but the former IDC members have refused. A deadline set by Sugarman came and went and it remains unclear if the committee or the senators themselves could face any legal action. Their opponents did vow to sue if the BOE did nothing, but have not made any moves either.
The SICC raised $50,000 in the latest filing from the Real Estate Board PAC, aligned with the Real Estate Board of New York. It transferred $345,000 in total to five former IDC members. The committee still has about $328,000 in the bank. See details of the fundraising and spending in the eight IDC races below.
There are a few other races as well where incumbent Democratic Senators Simcha Felder of District 17 and Martin Dilan of District 20, who weren’t members of the IDC, face similar primary challenges. And in Brooklyn’s District 22, two Democrats are competing in the primary to eventually challenge Senator Marty Golden, a Republican, in the general.
Senate District 11
Senator Avella raised $94,000, including $42,000 from the SICC, and spent $111,000 in the latest filing, leaving him just over $104,000 for the rest of the election. Avella has, in total, raised more than $209,000 and spent nearly $281,000 on his race.
Avella’s opponent, John Liu, the former New York City Comptroller who is challenging him for the second time, raised more than $53,000 and spent nearly $95,000 in the same time. He has $148,000 in cash on hand. His total fundraising for the race amounts to $255,000 and total spending is about $118,000.
Senate District 13
Senator Peralta raised just over $102,000 and spent about $112,000, and has $101,000 in his campaign account. He received a $39,000 bump from the SICC. He has raised nearly $490,000 for his reelection and spent more than $612,000.
Jessica Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, is Peralta’s challenger. Ramos only raised about $37,000 and spent just under $32,000 in this filing, but has about $108,000 in cash on hand for the rest of the race, slightly higher than Peralta. She has raised a total of $273,000 and spent about $160,000 on her insurgent bid for office.
Senate District 20
Senator Hamilton raised about $64,000 and spent $156,000 in this period, and has a balance of about $43,000. The SICC gave him $39,000 as well. Over the course of the race, he has raised more than $400,000 and spent $544,000.
Hamilton’s challenger, Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn-based attorney, has been close to keeping up with the incumbent in recent filings. The latest disclosures show he raised $47,000 and spent $106,000, and has a balance of about $86,000. He has raised a total of $355,000 and spent $254,000 so far.
Senate District 23
Senator Savino continues to far outpace her opponent, Jasmine Robinson, a community activist. Savino raised $27,000 and spent about $94,000, leaving her with about $142,000 in the bank. Over the election cycle, she has raised $331,000 and spent $247,000.
Robinson, on the other hand, has raised little, raising questions about her ability to run an effective challenge. She has raised barely $5,400 and spent just under $1,600 since entering the race. She has also failed to file the last two required campaign finance disclosures.
Senate District 31
Senator Alcantara is facing former City Council Member Robert Jackson, who was among the candidates that she beat in the primary for her seat two years ago in a very tight finish. Alcantara raised $172,000 and spent $148,000 in the latest filing period, and has about $61,000 in cash on hand. She too received a massive SICC donation of $125,000. So far, she has raised a total of nearly $342,000 and spent about $623,000 on her reelection.
Jackson raised $43,000 and spent $84,000 in the latest filing. He has about $111,000 left to spend. In total, he has raised more than $367,000 and spent about $246,000 to defeat Alcantara.
Senate District 34
Senator Klein, who headed the IDC until its dissolution and is now the deputy leader of the Senate Democratic conference, faces a tough primary challenge from Alessandra Biaggi. Klein once controlled the SICC, which sent him $100,000 in the latest filing period.
Klein raised $138,000 and spent a whopping $836,000, and still has $958,000 in cash on hand. In total, the senator has raised $1.66 million and has spent nearly $2.4 million to get reelected, apparently attempting to leave little to chance.
Though Biaggi is not nearly as well funded, she has the backing of several progressive activist groups, elected officials, and 32BJ, the prominent labor union, all of whom have been actively hitting the ground in the district to build groundswell support.
Biaggi raised about $76,000 and spent about $88,000 in this latest filing. She has about $263,000 left to spend. Over the course of her campaign, she has raised more than $504,000 and spent about $184,000.
Senate District 38
Senator Carlucci raised about $34,000, spent $96,000 and has $305,000 in cash on hand. In total, he has raised $374,000 and spent $494,000 on reelection.
Carlucci’s opponent, Julie Goldberg, has less than $13,000 in her campaign account after raising about $17,000 and spending $21,000 in this filing period. She has raised a total of just under $50,000 and spent under $19,000.
Senate District 53
Senator Valesky raised $47,000 and spent $286,000, giving him a balance of about $397,000 as he heads into the primary. In total, Valesky has raised $274,000 for his reelection and spent about $448,000.
Rachel May, Valesky’s primary opponent, only raised $9,600 and spent about $36,000. She has just over $40,000 left to spend. In total, she has raised $154,000 and spent about $113,000.
Other Races To Watch
Senate District 17
Senator Felder is a conservative Democrat who votes with Republicans and has refused to join the mainline Democratic conference. Elected from a district with a large Orthodox Jewish population, Felder is widely expected to coast to reelection. He only raised $6,600 and spent a little less than $13,000 in this filing, and has $606,000 in cash on hand. In total, he has raised $511,000 and spent $189,000 for his reelection.
Felder’s opponent, Blake Morris, raised about $29,000, spent about $19,000 and has roughly $28,000 left. So far, he has raised a total of $91,000 and spent $64,000 to challenge Felder.
Senate District 18
Senator Dilan, an eight-term incumbent, raised about $73,000 and spent $63,000 in the latest filing period, leaving him with $110,000 in his account. In total, he has raised $211,000 and spent about $124,000.
Dilan’s challenger is Julia Salazar, a young card-carrying democratic socialist who has recently courted controversy over her conflicting statements about her personal history. Salazar raised nearly $43,000 and spent $64,000 in this filing, and has $72,000 in cash on hand. In total, she has raised about $226,000 and spent $142,000.
Senate District 22
Two Democrats -- Andrew Gounardes, general counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Ross Barkan, a journalist -- are competing in next week’s primary in southern Brooklyn.
Gounardes raised about $14,000, spent about $32,000, and has $153,000 in cash on hand as of the new filing. In total, he has raised $277,000 for the race and spent $101,000.
In the latest filing period, Barkan raised about $33,000 and spent about $46,000. He has about $10,000 left to spend. Barkan has raised more than $163,000 since entering the race and has spent about $155,000.
Golden, who is not required to file a primary disclosure since he does not have an opponent, had $485,000 in cash on hand according to his most recent disclosure in July. He has raised a total of $782,000 and spent $707,000 already this election cycle.
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette