Congressional district hopefuls open wallets

Five of the 10 candidates running for Michael McNulty’s 21st Congressional District seat started the

Five of the 10 candidates running for Michael McNulty’s 21st Congressional District seat started the race in debt, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The other five candidates either started without debt, or did not file their first-quarter campaign disclosures, indicating they haven’t raised money yet.

Candidates James Buhrmaster, a Republican, and Gary Mittleman, a Democrat, each have $100,000 in debt, primarily in loans to themselves, while raising $7,000 and $4,000, respectively, during the first quarter of the year.

The financial summary is through March 28. The next FEC financial filing is at the end of June.

Candidates Darius Shahinfar and Phil Steck, both Democrats, have debts of $52,000 and $50,000, respectively, again representing loans to themselves. Shahinfar raised $32,000 and Steck $154,000 since announcing their candidacies, their filings show.

Candidate Tracey Brooks, a Democrat, raised $178,000 and has no debt, according to her first-quarter FEC filing.

The other candidates in the race are Democrats John Aretakis, Craig Burridge, Lester Freeman and Arthur Wesler and Republican Steven Vasquez.

Tom Nardacci, a spokesman for Steck, called the filing the campaign’s first benchmark. “Having a good showing is important. It is the first tangible marker people can look at for campaign strength. From Phil’s perspective, it shows he was able to bring in that amount of money and that 85 percent is local,” he said.

Kyle Kotary, a spokesman for Brooks, called her tally “a huge start to a competitive congressional race like this. When you [remove] personal loans, Tracey is very much in the lead.”

Kotary said Brooks raised her money in seven weeks while Steck raised his in 14 to 15 weeks. “Again, actual dollars raised is the only fair apples-to-apples comparison.” About 86 percent of the money came from donors who live or work in the Capital Region, he said.

Nardacci said the candidates will use the money to get their messages out during the expected Democrat and Republican primaries this summer. “We don’t have a final budget number for the primary, but people said it could be as costly as a million dollars,” he said.

The money is for TV, radio, direct mail, “all the things necessary to get your message to voters directly,” Nardacci said.

Brooks, Buhrmaster, Mittleman and Steck spent between $25,000 and $53,000 to launch their campaigns, according to their FEC filings.

Nardacci said in Steck’s case, the money paid for consulting fees and to launch a Web site at a cost of $13,000.

“A Web site is very important for communicating through the Internet and for reaching out to the net community as well as giving people the opportunity to sign up through the site,” he said.

In July, the candidates will start circulating petitions to get on the ballot. Nardacci called this the next test, indicating how serious the candidates truly are about running for the congressional seat. Candidates need 1,250 names to register for the ballot.

“It is all about building momentum. The prime marker is petitions,” he said.

After the primary, Nardacci expects the major and minor parties to begin issuing endorsements. “Everyone is focused on the primary,” he said.

Only the city of Schenectady Democratic Committee has endorsed a candidate, and the candidate, Paul Tonko, is not in the race. Tonko is the former Democratic assemblyman for the 105th District and is currently president of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority.

Categories: Schenectady County

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