The race for Nassau County executive could be the most expensive ever, with party leaders and political strategists predicting it would eclipse the nearly $3 million spent in 2009.
The successful Democratic candidate alone would need at least $4 million to be competitive, they said.
Announced Democratic candidates Thomas Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive, businessman Adam Haber -- and possibly North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who has formed an exploratory committee -- each would need at least $1 million for the primary, said Bohemia-based political strategist Michael Dawidziak. The eventual party nominee would need another $3 million for the general election, he said.
"This is not a small county with a small media market," said Dawidziak, who works primarily for Republicans. "It's not a cheap county to land."
The Democratic candidates are just starting to raise money for the 2013 campaign, while Republican County Executive Edward Mangano has been fundraising consistently for more than two years.
For his successful race in 2009 -- the most expensive Nassau county executive race to date -- Mangano, then a Bethpage county legislator, took in $738,000 and spent nearly all of his funds.
Mangano now averages roughly $700,000 in contributions during each six-month election cycle, and has $2.3 million in the bank.
Suozzi spent $2 million on the 2009 campaign, and more than $2 million in the bank. Today, he has about $1.1 million left in the accounts, campaign finance records show. Haber has more than $2 million and Kaiman has $356,000.
While the campaigns declined to discuss their fundraising strategies in detail, their current and past campaign filings provide a glimpse into their respective advantages and potential difficulties.
Cash on hand: $1,084,141
Suozzi enters the race with the financial backing of the Nassau Democratic Party and a reputation as a prodigious fundraiser. Suozzi's past filings show he has a large network of donors from across the county, New York City and neighboring states.
A significant portion of Suozzi's fundraising came from law firms, construction and landscaping companies, caterers, security firms and labor unions, including county detectives and police supervisors, along with non-governmental engineers and steamfitters.
Among the larger contributors to his 2009 campaign were the Long Island Contractors Association, which gave $15,000; Nassau's Correction Officers Association, $14,100; and Cablevision, Newsday's parent company, $50,000. Cablevision hired Suozzi as a consultant in 2010 but he left a year later to join the Manhattan-based law firm Harris Beach.
"I'm going to try to raise the money necessary to win this race," Suozzi said of the upcoming campaign. "Hopefully, I will get support from the party and from traditional supporters that think I am a good elected official."
The last time Suozzi faced a county executive primary, in 2001 against then-Assemb. Thomas DiNapoli, he spent nearly $2 million and drained nearly his entire war chest.
Jeffrey Stonecash, a political science professor at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, said Suozzi cannot assume that his time as county executive will translate into more donations.
Cash on hand: $2,186,104
Raised, July 1-Dec. 31, 2012: $2,252,140, including $2 million he lent his campaign.
A restaurateur and retired commodities trader, Haber is the one candidate in the race with little track record of fundraising. His political experience consists of three years on the Roslyn school board.
While the bulk of his campaign war chest comes from a personal loan, in the final three months of 2012, Haber raised money from donors in affluent North Shore communities including Roslyn, Greenvale and Great Neck.
An examination of his contributions shows that Haber collected money from venture capital and private equity firms, along with several commercial Realtors. Haber also received nearly $100,000 from donors in Coral Springs, Fla., Boulder, Colo., Portland, Ore., and other places out of state, campaign filings show.
Haber says he is willing to invest more of his own money in the race. "The financial threshold for running for county executive is steep," said Haber campaign manager Justin Myers. "So Adam is prepared to invest the resources necessary to run a strong campaign focused on making county government work again for middle-class families in Nassau."
Cash on hand: $356,645
Raised, July 1-Dec. 31, 2012: $232,759
If he decides to enter the race, Kaiman would have to move quickly to raise money, as his fundraising total is smaller that those of his Democratic rivals.
Campaign filings show that Kaiman, who has served five terms as supervisor, has never raised more than $500,000 for a race.
Typically, Kaiman has raised modest sums from supporters in his North Hempstead base of Great Neck, Mineola and New Hyde Park. In his 2011 re-election campaign, Kaiman received contributions from North Shore developers, Realtors, law firms and contractors.
Among Kaiman's biggest supporters in his 2011 race, in which he defeated Republican Lee Tu, was Woodbury-based Cameron Engineering & Associates, which gave $7,150, and Forest Hills-based Cord Meyer Development, which gave $4,250. Cord Meyer is building apartments for seniors on the water in Port Washington.
Kaiman spokesman Justin Meyers declined to comment about fundraising.
Cash on hand: $2,313,920
Raised, July 1-Dec. 31, 2012: $821,077
Mangano entered the 2009 race against Suozzi as an underdog in terms of fundraising and name recognition, but he will face neither problem this time around, analysts said. Mangano also will not have to compete with other Republicans for the county's GOP base of donors because he faces no primary.
The Bethpage lawmaker won by fewer than 400 votes in 2009, when Suozzi outspent him by a more than 2-1 margin.
Since becoming county executive, Mangano has received significant contributions from law firms; taxi companies; developers; auto parts, repair and towing companies; and labor unions, including plumbers, engineers and iron workers.
Among the largest donors to Mangano's 2009 campaign were the Nassau Superior Officers Association, which gave $22,500, and Uniondale law firm Rivkin Radler, where Mangano previously served as of-counsel, which gave $10,900.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin predicted the county executive won't have trouble raising money for his re-election campaign. "Ed Mangano is overwhelmingly supported by middle-class families and seniors who are tired of paying higher taxes handed down to them by Tom Suozzi," Nevin said.
With Laura Figueroa