Campaign spending on the Oyster Bay Town elections has exceeded $1 million, more than double the spending in the last race in 2015, campaign finance filings show.
The Republican and Democratic town supervisor candidates’ campaigns and the Oyster Bay party committees this year have spent nearly $1.1 million, according to expenses reported to the state board of elections by four campaign committees. That’s more than twice what comparable committees spent in 2015 when former Town Supervisor John Venditto nearly lost to a virtual unknown by 99 votes.
“Money is a measure of competitiveness and concern, and this is clearly a competitive race and both parties are concerned,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean at the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.
Levy said Republicans are concerned they will lose “a major citadel,” while Democrats are concerned they’ll miss the opportunity to capitalize on voter anger over the corruption charges filed against former town officials — including Venditto — and contractors over the past two years.
“The Democrats clearly smell blood and the Republicans have to defend the castle,” said Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia-based political consultant. “It’s a much more competitive race.”
Oyster Bay Republicans have long outspent Democrats in town races and the 2017 election is no exception, but the gap has narrowed dramatically, campaign finance records show.
With less than a week left before the Nov. 7 election, Democrat Marc Herman’s town supervisor campaign and the Democratic town committee have spent $458,277, compared with $636,496 spent by Supervisor Joseph Saladino’s campaign and the Republican town committee.
In 2015, Democratic candidate John Mangelli and the Democratic committee spent $48,385, while Venditto and the Republican committee spent $471,527.
The biggest expense for Saladino has been television advertising, the records show. He spent $350,000 on television advertising buys in the third week of October, campaign finance records show. That same week, Herman’s campaign spent $86,500 on television ads.
The supervisor’s job this year has a $140,000 annual salary, town spokesman Brian Nevin said.
Reported campaign expenses also include transfers made from one committee to another, which means some funds may be counted more than once. The spending by supervisor candidates and the town party committees are large pieces of the entire campaigns, but they are not the whole picture: county committees, local political clubs and individual candidates for town board and town clerk have also spent money on the elections.
In addition to the major party candidates, three independents and third-party candidates are also running for supervisor. They have reported spending a combined total of $12,659 this year, according to campaign finance records.
Levy said the perception that Democrats could win shows up in better fundraising, which makes increased spending possible.
“The people who write checks you know are going to look to invest their cash into races where they think they can be won and it’s only recently that Democrats have had a really good shot,” Levy said. Oyster Bay Republicans are spending more now because “they know they’ve got a fight on their hands and they want to protect an important piece of the local organization, which is a big town government,” Levy said.
Oyster Bay Republicans have an advantage in party affiliation with 38.2 percent of the 227,741 registered voters in the town registered as Republicans, compared with 31.6 percent registered as Democrats, according to Nassau County Board of Election statistics. The remaining voters include 24.8 percent of “blank” or unaffiliated voters and 5.4 percent registered with third parties, data show.
Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said the party is investing more money in the Oyster Bay race because party officials think they can win.
“The difference is that in 2015 we had just scratched the surface of the massive corruption in Oyster Bay, and now we’re in an environment where the public knows all about the corruption, and that makes this a much more competitive race,” Jacobs said.
The Nassau County Republican Committee did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Herman said in an interview that fundraising has been “going great” because people are “fed up with the corruption.”
Donors “see a real opportunity for a change in the town with a clean slate and every penny that we are raising is going toward TV, mail, radio, in order to get our message out,” Herman said.
Saladino issued a statement Wednesday saying, “I’m thankful to have earned tremendous support from both residents and local employers who know I’m the only candidate who cleaned house, cut property taxes and has a vision to make the Town of Oyster Bay great for generations to come.”