Gov. Kathy Hochul cemented her status as the frontrunner in her bid for a full, four-year term with a potent one-two punch this week.

First came the poll. Siena College found her with a more-than-30-point lead in a Democratic primary amongst her various rivals, and that was before former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio decided against joining the race.

Then came the fundraising numbers. Hochul’s campaign raised a historic $21.9 million since July, a record-smashing sum for a single filing period. It’s more than double what all of her Democratic and Republican opponents raised, combined, and far outpaced the $7 million Cuomo raised during the same period when he first ran as an incumbent in 2014.

How exactly does a governor raise that much money in such a short span of time? Gothamist/WNYC dug into Hochul’s first six-month campaign filing as a candidate for governor, which was made public this week.

It shows the story of a relentless fundraising schedule; an ability to tap into sources of campaign cash well before any of her rivals ever got the chance; a reliance on well-heeled donors from the real estate sector with significant business before the state; and, well, a lucrative cameo by none other than comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

Hochul is Doubling Up Her Rivals

Hochul’s $21.9 million haul is the single-highest total for a state-level candidate in a single six-month period, demolishing the previous record of $12.8 million set by then-Gov. George Pataki in 2002.

She is far outpacing her rivals ahead of the June 28th primary and November 8th general election, when she’ll be seeking her first full term.

Republican Lee Zeldin, a Long Island congressman also in the running, took in about $4.2 million over the same time period.

Zeldin, however, has been raking in more small-dollar donors than anyone. He reported at least 7,459 individual donors over the six-month period, and that number is likely underselling it; he also had more than $400,000 in contributions that his campaign didn’t itemize, which is permitted when the individual donations are $100 or less.

Hochul, by contrast, listed 7,040 donors. She had an average contribution of $3,113, compared to Zeldin’s $569 (which would be driven far lower if the unitemized donations were listed).

Zeldin’s campaign said he actually had more than 21,000 donors since July, counting those whose contributions weren’t individually listed. More than 90% were less than $100, his campaign claims.

“I’m all in, and as seen once again in our latest fundraising report, tens of thousands of donors, volunteers, and other passionate, dedicated supporters from across New York are all in too,” he said Tuesday.

Among the other major-party candidates who find themselves trailing in the money race are another Long Island U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat who raised about $3.4 million and now has more than $5 million on hand. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who is challenging Hochul from her left in the Democratic primary, raised about $223,000 since July – or roughly 1% of Hochul’s haul.

On the Republican side, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino raised about $763,000 – well behind Zeldin, but well ahead of Andrew Giuliani, son of the former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who raised about $86,000.

Dozens Of Donors Shell Out Big Bucks

Hochul showed no qualms about accepting big-money contributions from ultra-wealthy donors – many of whom will try to push her administration one way or the other on state issues that affect their business.

The state’s individual contribution limit for the Democratic gubernatorial primary and general election totals $69,700 in 2022. It’s $60,829 for the Republican primary and general, a lower limit calculated based on the lower number of eligible GOP primary voters.

Overall, 98 people or entities made single contributions of $50,000 or more to a gubernatorial candidate since mid-July. Of those, 82 went to Hochul – and 49 of them maxed out.

Among them:

  • Real estate billionaires like Jane Goldman ($69,700), the billionaire co-owner of Solil Management, an investment firm that owns and manages apartments and other real estate throughout Manhattan.
  • Others from the real estate world who maxed out: Sheryl Tishman, the philanthropist and member of the Tishman family; Jeff Blau of The Related Companies; Steven Roth of Vornado, the firm behind the Penn Station neighborhood expansion plan; and Arnold Gumowitz, who opposes the plan.
  • At least three owners of professional sports teams, including Jon Ledecky ($50,000) of the New York Islanders ($50,000); Stephen Ross ($69,700) of the Miami Dolphins, who also happens to chair and majority owner of The Related Companies who developed Hudson Yard; Steve Cohen ($67,000), the hedge fund executive who owns the New York Mets. Cohen’s wife, Alexandra, also contributed $69,700.
  • Former Google executive Eric Schmidt ($69,700) and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.
  • William Haugland Sr., William Haugland Jr. and Joseph Haugland ($69,700 each), whose Long Island-based construction company has contracted with the state, Port Authority and MTA.

The New York City real estate industry has long been a huge player in the realm of state government, though in recent years it’s seen its influence wane with a tide of progressive lawmakers joining the Legislature. The industry is facing several issues in Albany that could have a major effect on its bottom line.

Take the recently expired eviction moratorium, which had been instituted since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hochul has also proposed replacing the 421-a tax credit with a similar tax credit rather than allow it to expire altogether. The credit is meant to spur affordable housing construction but is often criticized by tenant advocates who view it as a handout to developers. And progressive lawmakers are pushing a bill that would implement good cause eviction, which would limit how much landlords can increase rent prices and give tenants a right to lease renewal in many cases.

Another big-money contribution to Hochul’s campaign came from a somewhat surprising source, albeit one closely associated with New York: Jerry Seinfeld, the stand-up comedian best known for his eponymous sitcom.

Seinfeld contributed $50,000 to Hochul’s election effort on Dec. 6. A Westchester resident, it was Seinfeld’s first contribution to a state-level candidate. His wife, Jessica, has made a couple smaller contributions over the years, including $5,000 to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2017.

He wasn’t the only person associated with movies and television to contribute to Hochul’s campaign. Michael Eisner, the former Disney CEO who still invests in film and TV, contributed $20,000; Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg contributed $10,000.

Hochul gave film producers a major reason to support her on Tuesday, when she proposed extending the state’s existing film tax credit – which grants significant tax breaks to those who film or perform post-production work in New York – by an additional three years.

Hochul has pushed back against any insinuation that donations to her campaign will influence her decision-making process in office. On Tuesday, she suggested the massive fundraising haul was a symbol of broad support across the state.

“I am so proud of our campaign team and grateful for all of our supporters who share our vision to create a stronger, more equitable New York,” she said.

The 12 donors of $50,000 or more who did not support Hochul all went to Zeldin. Among them were three members of the Bruderman family, which owns a New York-based financial and investment banking firm.

Hochul Leans On Manhattan

Since becoming governor in August, Hochul has split her time between her hometown of Buffalo, the governor’s mansion in Albany and a hotel in New York City.

And if her campaign filing is any proof, her time in New York City has been lucrative for her campaign.

Hochul has taken in huge amounts of campaign cash from Manhattan’s wealthiest ZIP codes, according to her filing.

Donors from the Midtown ZIP of 10022 – an area running from 5th Avenue to the East River and East 49th Street to East 60th Street – contributed more to Hochul’s campaign than any other ZIP: About $693,000 in total.

The Upper East Side was home to a number of potent Hochul donors, too. Residents living in the 10128 ZIP code, which encompasses the area bordering Central Park from East 87th Street to East 96th Street, donated more than $459,000 to Hochul since July.

In total, Hochul raised more than $18 million of her $21.9 million haul in New York state, according to her filing. That alone would be enough to far outpace other gubernatorial candidates. Of that, $7.4 million came in Manhattan alone – about a third of her total haul.

Who Is Still Donating To Andrew Cuomo?

Cuomo, who resigned August 24th amid a sexual-harassment scandal, took in more than $224,000 in contributions since July 11, leaving his dormant campaign with about $16.4 million on hand.

The bulk of that money – about $190,000 of it – was contributed to his campaign before August 3rd, the day attorneys hired by Attorney General Letitia James’ office released a report concluding Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women. About $89,000 of that came from the Wilpon family and entities connected to it, including the holding company that previously owned the New York Mets.

The remaining $34,700 came entirely from small donors who pitched in between $10 and $50 in the months that followed the release of James’ report, a period that included Cuomo’s August 24th resignation and the subsequent filing – and dropping – of a criminal complaint against him.

The pattern of Cuomo’s campaign receipts seems to suggest the contributions are coming in part from the remnants of his rabid national fanbase that developed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when his daily press briefings were broadcast nationally.

He received 549 individual contributions on August 3rd and thereafter, which works out to an average contribution of about $63 during that period. Of those, 250 were from New York. The remaining 299 donations were spread across 35 other states, including 46 from California and 38 from Texas.

Cuomo’s campaign spent about $2.1 million over the past six months. The bulk of that money went toward a team of attorneys representing him in various legal proceedings, including Rita Glavin, who has become a public spokesperson and main lawyer for Cuomo and was paid about $899,000 for her work.

The article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling for Steven Roth.