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What’s it cost to run for office?



HUDSON—Political fundraising for congressional positions (Senate and House combined) nationwide so far this year is nearly 30% higher than spending was at this point in time in the 2018 mid-term election cycle and projected to hit a staggering nationwide total of nearly $12 billion, according to OpenSecrets and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) website. So what is the story in the local federal and state elections?

In 2018, by the end of November, 2018, successful Democratic Congressional candidate Antonio Delgado had collected just shy of $8.57 million, while his opponent, John Faso, had raised nearly $4 million. Since that time, our district, the 19th Congressional District (CD 19th), has been reconfigured, but this year too Democratic candidate Josh Riley has so far outraised his opponent, Marc Molinaro. According to Federal Election Commission data, as of October 3, 2022 (the most recently-filed reports) Mr. Riley has raised $2.91 million to Mr. Molinaro’s $2.03 million.

But that is only part of the story.

First, donations, and hence spending, are expected to increase substantially in the last weeks before the election. For example, in 2018 Candidate Delgado raised more than 25% of his overall two-year election cycle total in October and November alone. So, too, the contributions received by candidates Riley and Molinaro will undoubtedly jump in the final run-up to the election.

Of even greater importance is the spending on behalf of the candidates made by super PACs, national party committees and other non-candidate groups—an amount that substantially exceeds the totals collected by the two candidates themselves. Through mid-October, 2022 PACS, national committees and other non-candidate groups had spent nearly $6.2 million on the CD 19th election, according to OpenSecrets.

The 19th CD has been reconfigured repeatedly during the past two decades. The latest redistricting created an area of 7,937 square miles that runs from the Northwest corner of Dutchess County to southern Rensselaer County on the East and from Broome County to Oneida County on the West, and that includes all or parts of Madison, Chenango, Otsego, Delaware, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties sandwiched in between.

According to U.S. Census data, the district is largely rural (with a density of 88.7 people per square mile) and has a median age of 44.6, which is 10 % higher than that of the state as a whole. Roughly 12.2 % of the population lives below the poverty line, and the median per capita income ($41,145) and household income ($71,258) are both slightly lower than the overall figures for the state. Seventy-nine percent of the population is white, with Hispanics as the next largest ethnic group. Ninety percent of the population has graduated high school and 35% have a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Comparing the contribution detail reported by the Molinaro and Riley campaigns shows that—putting aside PAC and party-committee spending—Mr. Riley has raised substantial funds from donors outside New York, while most of Mr. Molinaro’s donors are in-state. More than $513,540 of the Riley campaign’s donations are from “small” donors, giving $200 or less, while only $185,796 of Molinaro’s contributions come from “small” donors; conversely Mr. Molinaro collected more than $1,012,000 in “large” donations of $2,000 or more versus $662,708 for Mr. Riley.

State candidate contribution data is harder to glean than federal information, as it does not include readily ascertainable totals. That said, the New York State Board of Elections website shows that in 41st State Senate District, which includes Columbia County, since January 1, 2021 and through the October 3, 2022 reporting date, Democrat Michelle Hinchey has raised more than $1.1 million to Republican Sue Serino’s $353,592. (As a result of redistricting, the two incumbent state senators now face each other in an area that has nearly 209,000 registered voters and includes all or parts of Columbia, Dutchess and Ulster counties and the cities of Hudson, Poughkeepsie and Kingston).

In the newly-configured 106th Assembly District, that includes most of Columbia County and part of Dutchess County, incumbent Democrat Didi Barrett has out-raised Republican Brandon Gaylord $165,772 to $37,312 so far this cycle.

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