The race between Rep. Jack F. Quinn and Democratic challenger Francis J. Pordum is shaping up as a big-money event that will likely cost upwards of $1 million and subject the average Buffalo television viewer to more than 100 commercials from the two candidates.
Federal campaign finance documents and discussions with individual campaigns reveal several unusual developments in the race:
As of mid-October, Pordum has out-raised and out-spent the Republican incumbent, which rarely happens in congressional races.
Despite organized labor's vow to try to defeat Quinn, the AFL-CIO has spent far more on television commercials in other congressional districts, and both Quinn and Pordum have received substantial amounts of labor money.
As of Oct. 16, Quinn received 44 percent of his campaign contributions for the year from political action committees, despite a vow to take only a third of his donations from PACs.
According to the federal campaign documents, Pordum, a longtime state assemblyman, spent $433,370 in the
race as of Oct. 16 -- compared with Quinn's $319,926. Campaign managers for both candidates said they expect the campaign to cost about $1 million.
Pordum also out-raised Quinn for the year to date, spending much of the money on an intense television campaign.
Pordum's campaign manager, Jason Linde, estimated that the average local television viewer will have been exposed to Pordum commercials 68 times. Quinn ads have been only slightly less prevalent.
Linde said he expects the Quinn campaign to have outspent the Pordum effort by Election Day, but said Pordum easily raised enough money to get his message out to the district's voters.
"We've done what we set out to do," Linde said.
Quinn's campaign manager, Mary Lou Palmer, said Quinn had plenty of money for an effective campaign.
"We've always run a grass-roots campaign," with only one paid staff member, compared to three for Pordum, she said.
"What we do spend, we spend wisely," Ms. Palmer added.
Pordum's campaign has been able to get its message out despite the fact that organized labor has by no means helped Pordum as much as it has helped some other Democratic challengers.
While the AFL-CIO is not releasing district-by-district spending information for its $20 million media campaign against the Republican Congress, Linde estimated that the state AFL-CIO Council has spent about $150,000 on its own to help Pordum, while the national AFL-CIO has spent nothing.
In contrast, estimates for AFL-CIO spending range from $400,000 to $750,000 in Syracuse, where Republican Rep. James Walsh is facing a spirited challenge from former Cortland Mayor Marty Mack.
"If I had the AFL-CIO spending $400,000 here, this race would be over," and Pordum would win, Linde said.
Deborah Dion, a spokesman at the AFL-CIO's national headquarters, refused to comment on why the labor group had spent so much more to defeat Walsh than to defeat Quinn.
But James O'Connor, a spokesman for Walsh, said it was likely because Walsh was chairman of the panel that oversees federal funds for the District of Columbia, and tried to eliminate upwards of 7,000 unionized government jobs there.
Although Pordum has far more labor endorsements than Quinn, both candidates received large amounts of money from union PACs. Pordum got $119,870 from unions as of Oct. 16, while Quinn got $90,150 -- more than half his total PAC money.
Pordum said much of the labor money that went to Quinn arrived before he challenged the incumbent.
"I got the support of the local and state labor groups, where it really matters," he said. "They know that, unlike Jack Quinn, I've always been there fighting for them."
Ms. Palmer offered a different explanation for why Quinn raised far more union money than most Republicans do.
"You have to look at his (Quinn's) record," she said, noting his fight to save union jobs at Amtrak and to raise the minimum wage. "They look at his union record and they say, why not?"
Partly because of the union money, Quinn is in danger of violating his 1992 vow to take only a third of his money from PACs.
As of Oct. 16, he had raised $162,997 from political committees, compared to $202,075 from individuals.
"He promised to reform Congress, but he can't even follow his own reforms," Pordum said. "The voters deserve better than someone who breaks his own promises."
Quinn's press secretary, Helen Jones, said the congressman is having three fund-raisers this week that should boost his level of individual contributions.
"Jack's explanation has always been that it kind of comes and goes in spurts but balances out (at 33 percent) at the end of the year," she said.
News Washington Bureau Assistant David Boag contributed to this report.