Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who confirmed last week that he'll seek re-election in 2015, has a significant head start on whomever his opponent will be -- raising more than $1 million in the first 11 months of this year alone.
Bellone, a Democrat, ended the last filing period, through Nov. 28, with more than $660,000 in cash on hand, even after his campaign committee gave $30,000 to the Suffolk Democratic committee in donations, and another $340,000 in recent months through transfers to help county legislative candidates. In addition, Bellone's campaign gave $10,000 to former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who lost a bid last month to reclaim his old job.
Since defeating Republican county Treasurer Angie Carpenter in 2011, Bellone has taken in $1.8 million, $1.1 million of which came between January and November of this year, state Board of Elections records show. Much of that is from developers, including:
Louden Realty LLC, of Garden City, $35,000.
Two limited liability companies connected to Glenwood Management Corporation of New Hyde Park, $30,000.
Gerald Wolkoff, who wants to build the $4 billion Heartland community in Brentwood, $25,000.
Gary Melius, who owns Oheka Castle in Huntington, and wants to build a condominium project on the site, $25,000.
Frank Castagna, whose firm operates the Americana Manhasset mall, $25,000.
While Bellone's fundraising allows him to campaign a full year before his GOP opponent is likely to emerge, experts said the amount he has raised so far is not extraordinary.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican recently elected to his second term, had already raised $2.2 million at the same point in 2011. Mangano ultimately raised $8 million between his first and second elections.
"There is no normal anymore," said Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia political consultant who works primarily with Republicans. "What would have been considered good a few years ago may no longer be considered great."
Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said he hopes Bellone can have between $2.5 million and $3 million in the bank by the start of 2015, when his re-election campaign is expected to heat up.
"I think he's pretty much on schedule," Schaffer said of Bellone's fundraising so far.
Dawidziak noted that the timing of Bellone's announcement likely was meant to quash rumors he wouldn't seek re-election: "That can curb your fundraising. People say, 'I'm not going to donate to him if he's not running,' " Dawidziak said.
Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle said the timing won't affect his scouting of potential opponents against Bellone, which he hopes will yield a candidate by this time next year. LaValle said he wasn't concerned about Bellone's fundraising, calling his largest donors "people who are doing business with the county, not from residents who believe in the things he's doing."
Schaffer said Bellone's contributors include unions, environmentalists, the business community and civic groups that represent many residents.
"He's got a wide cross-section of those people who are concerned about the quality of life in Suffolk County, and are happy with the way he is leading us through the challenges that we face," Schaffer said.