Candidates for Hamburg town supervisor will spend close to $100,000 on the race to head Erie County’s fourth largest town.
Incumbent Republican Steven J. Walters has outspent his challenger as of the third week of October, Democrat Walter Rooth III, and he had more money going into the last days of the campaign, according to financial filings made with the state Board of Elections.
Walters also has more money. He had about $17,000 on hand to start this year, and added nearly $41,000 to his coffers – one-quarter of that is from town employees or those with ties to the town.
Rooth, starting from scratch, has raised $44,000, including contributions from the labor unions that represent town police officers and the town’s blue collar and white collar workers. A look at the contributors to each candidate shows some differences.
Rooth, a former assistant district attorney now in the private practice of law, has received contributions from family members and friends, he said, including a $10,000 loan from his mother. He also has received $200 from the Southtowns Police Union, which represents town police officers and detectives, as well as $750 from the CSEA Political Action Fund.
Rooth said the donations do not mean he would go easy on unions or negotiations.
“While the CSEA contribution was a generous one, that came within the last two weeks. It’s not as if my campaign is kick-started or funded by one donation by one union,” he said. “Anybody who talked to me, I told I would treat unions fair.”
Meanwhile, one-quarter of the money raised by Walters, more than $10,000, was contributed by town employees or relatives of town employees, or consultants to the town. Many of the town employees making contributions have been promoted in the last several years.
“I think that just shows that people like the direction the town is running,” Walters said, adding he sends out 1,000 invitations to fundraisers but does not make follow-up phone calls. “If people want to come, they show up. If people don’t want to show up, they don’t.”
He said he does not keep track of who is contributing to his campaign, and donations are not a prerequisite for promotions or employment.
“I don’t have time right now to look at where contributions are coming from, either for myself or my opponent,” Walters said.
Rooth said he has not asked workers to donate. He has received money from a handful of town employees. “I know a lot of people at Town Hall, a lot of them have expressed support for me,” he said. “I’m not asking anybody to put themselves in that position.”
Bill Mahoney of New York Public Interest Research Group said many politicians raise money from those they oversee or supervise, and there are few restrictions on the practice.
“Unfortunately that is par for the course today,” he said.
Walters had spent nearly $53,000 through Oct. 21, while Rooth had spent just under $31,000. Most of the money for both candidates has been spent on campaign literature and mailings.