U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul, the underdog Democrat who survived a GOP challenge two years ago in an unlikely race for statewide office, plans to bank $25 million to face a pair of wealthy primary challengers, according to a new financial report.
Hochul, who is running a race for re-election that is not expected to attract a sizable GOP opponent, raised a little over $330,000 in the first quarter, according to the report. That total does not include $719,000 in matching funds that could boost her overall fundraising to more than $1 million.
The year-end quarter was the last under the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “open seat” exception, meaning Hochul will not receive large-scale backing from the party and cannot receive funds reserved for potential outside expenditures on her behalf.
Hochul, who was a Democrat until entering the 1st District seat in 2008, faces a challenge from attorney and former Erie County executive Chris Collins and businessman and Tea Party activist Carl Paladino, the latter of whom will have raised even more during the first quarter, according to sources close to the campaigns.
Paladino, who boasts a deep personal fortune, has already spent $9.8 million of his own cash in his bid to unseat Hochul.
The Republican-leaning state Republican Party may also be relegated to staying at arm’s length from the sprawling 1st District race, which is expected to be a costly one in what is likely to be a deadlocked district.
Yet Hochul’s campaign insists the high dollar total is not representative of the district, saying the district leans to the Republican side by 8 percentage points and the race is nonpartisan.
“For me, it is vital that we raise a million dollars and not be reliant on the Republican Party,” Hochul said in a statement. “A lot of [voters] have told me that they want to see us push forward in our mission to move us in a new direction and not bring out the bitter partisanship and dysfunction.”
Paladino, who recently blasted Hochul in one of his debates as a “career politician,” has refused to rule out a run against her, as has Collins, who has refrained from commenting on Hochul’s fundraising.
Hochul’s campaign spokesman, Nick Langworthy, said the district will be significantly different when Republicans are out of the majority and independent voters become more influential.
“Kathy can take on whoever the Republicans put up,” Langworthy said. “The facts will speak for themselves, and they will speak to this being a new day.”
Meanwhile, Paladino campaign spokeswoman Alexis Stokes said the millionaire businessman will not apologize for his fundraising efforts on Hochul’s behalf, as her campaign had been criticized for their own “disgusting and despicable” fundraising efforts.
“This is what happens when you ignore the grassroots, campaign on your own interests,” Stokes said. “Carl is glad to continue the fight we started.”
Hochul’s report, however, made it clear that, despite paying for pollsters, media consultants and campaign staff, she expects to continue to rely on individual contributions, including a whopping $1.27 million from her own cash in the first quarter.
Overall, the $34,000 Hochul raised in her home district and Democratic-leaning sections of Buffalo and Erie County, more than doubled her numbers from the race two years ago, when she bested Republican Jane Corwin, the sitting state senator.
Nate McMurray: [email protected] or 571-724-6133