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Rich Schaffer gets heat for donation in 1st CD primary

Suffolk County Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer, who is

Suffolk County Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer, who is neutral in the party primary in the 1st Congressional District, drew heat for giving $1,000 to candidate Kate Browning. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

While Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer has declared his neutrality in the 1st Congressional District primary, he got heat from several contenders after candidate Kate Browning in a recent email indicated she had the party leader’s support.

Browning’s message listed Schaffer among 26 officials, unions and other groups from whom “we’ve received support.” While not mentioned in the email, the basis for Browning’s claim is that Schaffer made a $1,000 personal contribution on March 31.

The email spurred a flurry of calls to Schaffer from Browning primary opponents Perry Gershon and Vivian Viloria-Fisher, as well as the campaign manager for candidate David Pechefsky.

Schaffer said he has not endorsed Browning, but gave her a donation because she asked him “and we’ve been friends forever.” After the calls, Schaffer said he sent Gershon $250 and Viloria-Fisher and Pechefsky $200 apiece.

Gershon immediately sent out his own campaign email to backers saying Schaffer “recently showed his confidence in our campaign by making a personal donation.” Viloria-Fisher acknowledges getting a donation from Schaffer but declined to comment further.

Pechefsky said his campaign manager asked Schaffer to “spread the love if you’re staying neutral.” Pechefsky called the donation a “nice gesture” and said he has no problem with Browning getting more, noting Schaffer has “known her longer.”

Democratic candidate Elaine DiMasi, a former Brookhaven National Laboratory scientist, said she was not aware of Schaffer’s contribution to Browning nor Schaffer’s donations to other competitors. “My character is to say this is what I have to offer and not tell people this is what I think you should give me,” she said.

But Schaffer said if DiMasi calls, “I will give to her, too.”

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