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Big GOP donors sitting out State Senate races?

Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower

Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) and Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) are in closely watched races this fall. Credit: James Escher

ALBANY — So far, the biggest real estate political committee in New York politics is sitting out the State Senate elections.

The same goes for a prominent political-action committee bankrolled by charter schools.

And that could mean trouble for Republicans.

The GOP is trying to hold on to its 32-31 advantage in the Senate, the one area of state government it controls in a heavily Democratic state.

But Democrats are predicting a “blue wave” of energized voters will flip Senate control in November.

Three of the most closely watched races are on Long Island: Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) v. Suffolk County Water Authority chairman James Gaughran, a Democrat; Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) v. Democratic North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan; and Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) v. Massapequa Park Mayor Jeff Pravato, a Republican.

State records show when it comes to getting outside help in spending on the battle for the State Senate, Democrats are getting broad support from teachers’ unions and other labor groups. That’s not uncommon.

What is unusual is that the two sectors that have helped Senate Republicans the most in recent elections — charter schools and the Real Estate Board of New York — are spending far less this year than in recent campaigns.

“Jobs for New York,” a political committee formed by the Real Estate Board of New York, has spent relatively little money in the last four weeks. In contrast, it spent about $440,000 during the same time period in 2016 to boost Republicans through polling and ads.

In past years, REBNY spending often was seen as a bulwark against the teachers’ unions, which typically spend heavily to help Senate Democrats. With three weeks before Election Day, Jobs for New York has money on hand and could jump into the races. It does plan on spending to help Phillips soon. But its lack of participation so far is troubling, one Republican consultant said.

The same goes for “New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany,” the name of a charter school-backed political committee that helped the GOP maintain Senate control in the past.

In the last four weeks of this year’s campaign, it has spent $110,000 on behalf of candidates. Over the same time period in 2016, it spent $1.64 million.

A spokesman for the real estate group declined to comment as did a spokesman for the charter school group.

The lack of outside help “could be troubling for Senate Republicans in terms of forcing them to go to other sources,” said Michael Dawidziak, a Long Island political consultant who primarily works with the GOP but is not involved in the Senate races. But it’s not a clear sign of the direction of the races. Senate Republicans have pointed out they have about $2 million more in the bank than Senate Democrats in their main fundraising committees.

For the Democrats, the New York State United Teachers have spent about $1.4 million through “Fighting for Our Future,” an offshoot committee it founded. The Communications Workers of America, through its independent expenditure committee, has spent about $150,000 trying to help Senate Democrats.

State & Region