ALBANY — Every single veteran Republican in the New York State Senate has seen a decline in campaign fundraising in 2019, coinciding with the conference’s fall into the political minority.
The 21 Republicans who aren’t in their first term of office raised less money in the first half of 2019, compared with the first half of 2017, comparable periods in the Senate’s two-year election cycle, a review of state Board of Elections records shows. Hardly any came close to matching their 2017 totals.
The shift is noticeable and not altogether unexpected. Republicans controlled the Senate for years before massive Democratic wins in November 2018. With the plunge in clout came a plunge in political contributions.
Some of the dropoffs were steep: Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) had raised $45,000 (figures rounded off) for his campaign fund so far this year, compared with $363,000 in the first half of 2017 when he was still Senate majority leader.
Sen. Richard Funke (R-Rochester), who holds what some consider a swing seat, went from raising $121,000 in 2017 to $55,000 in 2019.
Some declines were large in proportion, if not in actual dollars. Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-Heulveton), who represents a district along the St. Lawrence River and the Canadian border, raised $52,000 in 2017. This year? Only $9,000.
Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) raised $9,000 this year. Two years ago, he raised $30,000 over the same period.
Combined, the 21 veteran Republicans have raised just over $830,000 this year. That is a fraction of the $2.1 million they raised in the first half of 2017.
The power shift also was reflected in the main fundraising committees of the GOP and Democratic Senate conferences.
In the first six months of this year, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee raised about $175,000 – compared with $1.2 million during the same period in 2017.
By comparison, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee raised $1.7 million this year and just over $500,000 in 2017.
The flow of money follows huge losses for Senate Republicans last year.
They had controlled the Senate for all but a few years over the last five decades and entered 2018 with a 32-31 advantage in the chamber. But Democrats flipped eight seats – including four on Long Island – and one Brooklyn senator switched allegiances, giving the party a nine-seat gain. The Democrats now control 40 of the 63 seats.
“Money follows power and the Republicans in the Senate don’t control any relevant committees and they don’t control the agenda. So it’s not surprising the bottom is falling out for Republicans” in regards to campaign contributions, said Blair Horner, a longtime legislative observer for the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio said the money shift is dramatic because Democrats now have a huge numerical advantage.
Donors "don't see Republican prospects as very bright," Muzzio said. If Democrats' majority was smaller, like, say, 34 seats, donors "would be spreading the money around a bit" to hedge their bets.
Senate Republicans acknowledged the fund-raising drop, but maintained they can rebound because Democrats’ agenda went too far to the political left in 2019.
“Now that we’ve completed a legislative session where Democrats gave free college tuition and driver’s licenses to illegal [immigrants], granted new rights to some of the state’s worst criminals and raised taxes … fund-raising is only going to grow” for Republicans, said GOP spokesman Scott Reif. “People want checks and balances, not one-party rule.”
Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) countered that part of his party's fund-raising boost was attributable to its success in enacting a series of progressive laws.
"I think people who wanted to see how well we managed the Senate are pleased with the results," Gianaris said. He noted there are more fund-raising cycles to come before the 2020 elections, while saying: "This is definitely a great start for us -- and a poor start for them."
Veteran Senate Republicans saw steep declines in campaign contributions during the first half of 2019 -- following their fall from the political majority to the minority. Here is a look at the fundraising of the three Long Island Republicans in the Senate in contrast to the first half of 2017, a comparable period in the election cycle:
-- State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport):
2017: raised $363,000.
-- State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson)
-- State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore)