Much of the fresh cash came from real estate developers, large-scale landlords and heads of speculating private equity firms, along with a slew of billionaires, attorneys, Eric Adams-aligned political action committees, sports gambling execs and the New York Yankees.
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A late torrent of cash has poured into the race for governor, with Kathy Hochul and Lee Zeldin taking in a combined $3.5 million from wealthy New Yorkers, out-of-towners and interest groups in the final week before Election Day, finance records show.
Much of the fresh funding came from real estate developers, large-scale landlords and heads of speculating private equity firms, along with a slew of billionaires, attorneys, sports gambling execs, an Eric Adams-aligned political action committee and the New York Yankees.
All told, at least 173 contributors gave $1,000 or more to Hochul, the moderate Democratic incumbent, since Halloween as she sought to fend off a challenge from far-right Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, according to the most recently available filings Tuesday morning. Those contributions totaled more than $1.6 million.
Zeldin, meanwhile, received nearly $1.9 million from 375 elite donors over that span, according to finance records, as polls showed Hochul’s lead narrowing. More than a quarter of that came from the Nassau County Republican Committee. Under state election law, candidates must report all contributions above $1,000 daily for the two weeks leading up to Election Day.
Each campaign logged more than $100,000 in the 24 hours before Election Day.
Political consultant Evan Roth Smith, co-founder of the firm Slingshot Strategies, said those last-minute contributions allow campaigns to buy more digital ads or pay TV networks to air a few more of their commercials as voters head to the polls. The cash also gives contributors one last chance to get on a future governor’s good side, he said.
“Late-in-game donations could have a couple purposes,” he said “There are large donors who are trying to get on one side of a political equation or another, if they think they see something and they want to curry favor with a candidate right at the last minute. Or maybe they’ve been holding off and they’re out of time and they need to make a decision.”
The late money builds on record-high fundraising by Hochul earlier in the campaign, along with an unprecedented amount of cash dumped into SuperPACS aligned with Zeldin—including $11 million from conservative billionaire Ron Lauder, an ally of Democratic ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in past election cycles.
While the candidates differ significantly when it comes to housing policy and development (the chief contrast: Hochul has a housing plan, Zeldin does not) both have attracted big money from real estate interests.
James Attwood, an advisor for the private equity firm Carlyle Group, gave the governor $47,100 on Nov. 2—the maximum amount individual contributors are allowed to give for statewide offices in the general election. The Carlyle Group has purchased more than 130 small apartment buildings in neighborhoods like Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Park Slope in recent years, The Real Deal reported in July. The buildings qualify for property tax caps and are not subject to rent stabilization rules, the website found.
Proposed “Good Cause Eviction” legislation would impose a version of rent stabilization rules on smaller and unregulated properties. Hochul has opposed Good Cause (as has Zeldin).
Major Democratic donor Dorian Goldman, whose family owns commercial real estate investment firm BLDG management, also contributed $47,100 to Hochul on Nov. 3. Pennsylvania-based low-income housing developer Israel Roizman gave $15,000 that day, while developer Don Peebles chipped in another $15,000 Monday.
Joshua Nash of private equity firm Ulysses Management, which seeks to “acquire undervalued or mismanaged real estate assets or real estate that is under-performing due to inefficient ownership,” contributed $15,000, while his wife Beth Nash gave $20,000.
Zeldin also received substantial contributions from real estate industry insiders in the final days of the campaign.
Miriam Gefner was among Zeldin’s biggest benefactors in recent days, according to the most recent filings. Gefner, whose husband founded private equity firm Perigrove, which specializes in real estate and other investments for “ultra-high-net-worth individuals,” chipped in $25,000 on Oct. 30.
Zeldin also got a $20,000 boost from Allan Lebovits, who owns buildings through his company Meral Property Group and whose other company, Bridge City Funding, finances large real estate purchases, like a recent $55 million loan for an 11-story Park Slope luxury complex. Bridge City partner Joel Wertzberger, whose Joyland Group buys and manages properties across Brooklyn and The Bronx, also gave $20,000 on Nov. 1.
Abraham Kassin, CEO of the real estate firm Kassin Sabbagh Realty, which leases mixed-use buildings across the city, gave $18,000 on Oct. 30.
Billionaire investor and landlord George Karfunkel, whose firm AmTrust Financial owns a citywide portfolio, including buildings leased by city agencies, gave $10,000. As did Josh Sasouness, a managing principal at the commercial real estate financier Dwight Capital.
Antonio Vendome, a developer and owner of Vendome Property Management, gave $6,000.