Campaign spending varies by race, area

December 11, 2017

Republican Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin heavily outspent Democratic candidate Andrea Smyth in the controversial race to succeed retiring Republican Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino.

But both of those campaigns, in addition to Republican Christopher Meyer’s failed primary run for the seat, still came far short of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s spending of nearly $634,000 to remain the city’s leader.

The last of the financial disclosure reports for the 2017 elections were filed last week with the state Board of Elections, revealing a range of spending and donation figures for races across the Capital Region.

Here’s a look at some of the major contests:

Rensselaer County

Throughout the entire campaign McLaughlin raised $192,858 and spent $153,551, according to his statements.

Smyth raised $84,865 and spent $84,511, according to her campaign finance reports.

McLaughlin’s fundraising soared after he defeated Meyer, the deputy county executive, to win the Republican and Conservative primaries.

During the primary portion of the campaign, McLaughlin raised $53,800 and spent $41,926.

For the general election, the GOP focused its resources on supporting McLaughlin and retaining control of county government. McLaughlin raised an additional $139,058 and spent $111,625.

When contacted about his fundraising, McLaughlin had his campaign spokesman Richard Crist issue a statement.

“Steve’s campaign was fortunate to receive strong grassroots support during the primary and general election,” Crist stated.

“We were successful despite being heavily outspent in the primary and ran a cost-effective effort during the general election. We appreciated every dollar contributed and worked hard to maximize all those dollars,” Crist continued.

Meyer raised $126,419 for his campaign and spent $92,036.

The two Republicans raised a combined $319,277. They spent a total of $245,587.

Smyth said her campaign surpassed its fundraising goal of $75,000. She exceeded it by $9,865. She spent $84,511.

“I hope other candidates are empowered by my example,” Smyth said about the race that saw her take 48 percent of the vote to McLaughlin’s 50.5 percent. Green Party candidate Wayne Foy took 1.5 percent of the vote. His campaign filed no disclosure reports.

“I ran on the issues,” Smyth said.

Albany mayor

Mayor Sheehan filed her latest campaign finance report several days late after the Times Union on Friday questioned why it hadn’t been posted to the state board.

Sheehan filed her 27-day post-general election report four days after the deadline. The mayor’s chief of staff Brian Shea said the delay was due to a clerical error.

“The treasurer accidentally uploaded a previous filing,” he said. “The error was corrected and the report is now posted.”

This is the second delay Sheehan’s campaign has had in reporting finances since she won a second term in Albany’s mayoral race.

In October, the mayor’s campaign neglected to account for in-kind contributions from the 21st Century Albany political action committee, which paid more than $14,000 in wages to various persons between Aug. 8 and Sept. 11. Sheehan was one of 12 candidates who benefited from the PAC’s canvassing efforts.

The PAC’s treasurer Allen Maikels had said the lag was due to it still paying people for their hours, and they wanted to capture all the costs before reporting the final tally.

Sheehan’s closing balance was just under $9,000, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands she loaned her campaign.

Her largest donations — of which she received $12,150 total — were from two unions, U.A. Plumbers & Pipefitters L.U. #773 contributed $2,500 and 1199 SEIU state political action fund contributed $2,000 both days before the general election, according to the 27-day post-general election report.

Sheehan’s three other challengers filed on time, or had no information to file.

Common Councilmember Frank Commisso Jr., who ran on the Independence Party line in the general election after losing in the Democratic primary, reported a closing balance of $6,932, according to the 27-day post-general election report.

He collected an additional $470 in donations, and had expenses from T-Mobile and Verizon totaling $1,269.

Since 2009 — when she first ran for city treasurer — Sheehan has loaned herself more than $450,000, yet the largest sums were seen this year in her bid for re-election. Commisso criticized Sheehan for her loans this year — totaling $387,000 — as well as taking sizable donations from large corporations.

While some say Sheehan financing her campaign suggested her fear of defeat by Commisso, the mayor has contended it was needed for upfront payment for television advertisements that sought to combat the “mischaracterizations” lodged at her administration.

Green Party mayoral candidate Bryan Jimenez filed an “in lieu of statement” and Conservative Joseph Sullivan had no campaign account.

Saratoga mayor

When it came to the mayor’s race in Saratoga Springs, candidate Mark Baker and Mayor-elect Meg Kelly spent close to the same, $42,604 for Baker and $41,529 for Kelly. However, Republican Baker raised $64,512, mainly from the city’s most prominent citizens including $1,000 contributions from Marylou Whitney and her husband, John Henrickson, as well as the Dakes, the Waits and the city’s major developers.

Though Baker had more than $22,000 more to spend than Kelly, he didn’t until the last days of the campaign when he aired some television ads. And his campaign still retains $24,000.

Donations to Kelly’s campaign came in at smaller increments, which she said on the night of the election proved that her campaign was a “boots-on-the-ground, grassroots” effort.

Milton supervisor

The supervisors race in Milton, one of the most contentious in Saratoga County, saw candidate Barbara Kerr and Supervisor-elect Scott Ostrander also spending about the same. Ostrander and Kerr battled in a primary and then again in November when Kerr, who lost the Republican endorsement and primary bid, ran on the Reform Party line. She spent $8,543 to Ostrander’s $8,860.

Among Ostrander’s biggest contributors was Frank Rossi, owner of the property that Walmart wanted in 2014 for a store. Ostrander, who has said he would like to see more development on Route 50, said that contributors like Rossi shouldn’t expect favors.

“I don’t operate like that,” said Ostrander who only spent money he raised.

Kerr, on the other hand, spent $6,000 of her own money for her campaign.

“I don’t regret it,” Kerr said. “I did very well. I got 35 percent of a vote on a line that there is only one registered voter in Milton. I think it sent a message.”

afries@timesunion.com • 518-454-5353 • @mandy_fries

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