In the crowded field of Democrats in the 19th Congressional District seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. John Faso (R-Kinderhook) next year, two have taken the lead in one respect — outraising the incumbent in what most observers expect to be an expensive race.
The money raised will give Greene County business owner Brian Flynn and Dutchess County attorney Antonio Delgado an edge over any challengers left standing on Primary Day 2018, and could help convince Democratic Party leaders that they are viable candidates.
Federal Election Commission data shows that Flynn raised a total of $753,613 in the second quarter of 2017. That figure includes a $500,000 loan by the candidate to his own campaign committee. Delgado, who kicked off fundraising in February, has so far raised $651,653. Both Democrats outraised Faso, who’s raked in $613,201.
Former Army officer and Kingston native Patrick Ryan came in third among Democrats in the money race, pulling in $213,291. Ryan was the only Democrat to benefit from outside committee spending, receiving $10,000 from two political action committees, VoteVets and Serve America, aimed at electing military veterans to public office. Gareth Rhodes, a one-time press aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, raised $134,962 during the filing period. Former healthcare executive Sue Sullivan raised $54,519 while technology “policy architect” Steven Brisee reported $6,494 in campaign contributions. Two of the Democratic contenders, Kingston attorney David Clegg, who kicked off his campaign just as the reporting period was ending, and Woodstock teacher Jeffery Beals did not file campaign finance reports.
The amounts raised are likely to be just a fraction of the money that eventually pours into the 19th Congressional District race. Last year Faso and his Democratic opponent Zephyr Teachout raised about $6 million to fund their candidacies. Millions more were spent by “Super PACs” on the race. In a field of eight, Faso’s would-be Democratic challengers will have to raise and spend campaign funds to be heard across a sprawling district that encompasses all or part of 11 Hudson Valley counties.
“You need money to get the message out,” said Delgado campaign manager Nicole Johnson. “You have to be able to tell people what you believe in or they won’t vote for you.”
Delgado and Flynn’s head start in the money race is partially a result of timing. Both candidates began soliciting campaign contributions early this year and filed first-quarter FEC reports. Johnson said that Delgado’s fundraising effort began in February when he was traveling through the district meeting with party officials and grass roots groups to get a feel for what Democrats were looking for in a candidate. Others, like Ryan and Sullivan, had just weeks to raise money before the filing deadline. Ryan who kicked off his campaign June 7, said his fundraising total over just three weeks showed that his message of “selfless service” was already reaching voters.
“It was a sprint; we raised $213,000 in three weeks,” said Ryan. “I think that’s a strong testament to how our message resonated with folks across the district.”
Sullivan campaign spokeswoman Libby Post meanwhile said that the meager fundraising reflected a late start on campaign trail. Post said that Sullivan would continue her outreach to women and progressives in the district.
“I think you’re going to see a change in those numbers for the next quarter,” said Post. “People in the district know that we need a change.”
For Delgado and Flynn, the early advantage in fundraising is likely to establish them as frontrunners — at least for now. Meanwhile, their opponents will have to ramp up their own fundraising efforts in the coming months to establish the viability of their campaigns.
“It’s important to show that you have what it takes to take on John Faso,” said Johnson. “It says we’re here to stay and we can compete.”