SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Not all school board races are like the one taking shape in Saratoga Springs, which already features a $12,000 contribution and Florida-based political consultants.
A slate of three candidates running with the financial and organizational backing of Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, a group that formed after the school board in October voted to not authorize district grounds monitors to carry firearms on school grounds, combined raised over $33,000 for the May 21 election.
David Kwiat, an Amsterdam-based ophthalmologist who lives in Saratoga Springs, wrote a $12,000 check for the campaign at a February fundraiser.
Kwiat, who voiced his opposition to the school board’s decision at meetings in the fall, on Tuesday said his donation was motivated by his two children and the rest of the students in the district. Kwiat also said he has never before donated to a political campaign. He said the decision to not authorize the monitors to carry firearms, as some had done for years, removed a “fundamental layer of protection” from the district’s schools.
“This is how strongly I feel about it, that’s the bottom line,” Kwiat said of the donation, which he said was “as much as I can possibly give.”
In November, when dozens of parents and district residents implored the school board to reconsider its decision, Kwiat joined those calls.
“The fact remains that removing the grounds monitors program was a mistake,” Kwiat said at a November board meeting. “When I make a mistake, I just admit it.”
Kara Rosettie, who formed the parent group in the fall and established the bank account being used by the trio of candidates – Ed Cubanski, Dean Kolligian and Shaun Wiggins – said the group’s fundraising totals demonstrate broad interest in rearming the district grounds monitors.
“I think we all have the same reason,” Rosettie said of the donations. “We all want our children’s security back.”
Donors to the joint campaign included Skip Scirocco, Saratoga Springs public works commissioner; former mayoral candidate John Sanford; Ed Moore, former Saratoga Springs police chief; and developer William McNeary. The campaign received over 200 separate donations.
The joint campaign reported spending over $17,000 as of last week. Nearly $9,000 of that spending went to Florida-based political marketing firm Go Right Strategies, which has done work for Republican congressional candidates across the country in recent years. Other expenses included nearly $1,800 to rent space at the Saratoga Golf & Polo Club for a fundraiser and over $3,000 at a digital printing and mail center in Albany.
On its website, Go Right Strategies says it “handles all aspects of a campaign – from political, to digital, to data, to fundraising.” Rosettie said the firm has helped the school board campaign develop its marketing materials and campaign strategy, promising most of the parent group’s advertising and other messaging, which will be targeted to people in the community the campaign thinks will support their position, will roll out at the start of May and last until the May 21 election. The campaign has also started purchasing yard signs, targeted Facebook ads and a robocall that reached thousands of district residents.
“All the money we have been spending and will be spending, the community really won’t see that until the first of May,” Rosettie said.
John Brueggemann, who is running in part on a platform to not rearm district monitors, was the only other candidate to report raising or spending at least $500. Brueggemann, a longtime Skidmore College sociology professor, raised over $4,700 as of last week. He had spent nearly $1,500, focusing most of his spending on yard signs, door hangers and other campaign materials. Brueggemann collected a handful of donations from colleagues on the Skidmore faculty. His biggest donors, Jeffrey and Jamie Schwartz, gave his campaign nearly $1,000 combined.
The rest of the field – sitting board member Heather Reynolds, Connie Woytowich and Natalya Lakhtakia – did not reach a $500 threshold that triggers mandatory reporting requirements, they all said in response to questions from The Gazette last week.
“That is a lot of money for an election when we have so many people in need in our own community,” Lakhtakia said last week of the slate campaign’s over $33,000 fundraising tally.