Mayor Byron W. Brown has more than a half million dollars in his campaign chest, far ahead of his opponents in the Democratic primary for City Hall's top job.
The three-term incumbent in the last six months raised almost $440,000, four times more than Mark J.F. Schroeder, the city comptroller, raised and 70 times as much as Betty Jean Grant, an Erie County legislator, according to campaign spending reports filed this week with the New York State Board of Elections.
Brown now has $519,000 remaining in his Brown for Buffalo campaign fund after spending just over $261,100 from mid-January through mid-July, the reports show.
Schroeder, who raised $115,600 and spent $154,500 in the past six months, is going into the final seven weeks of the primary campaign with $118,100 remaining in his Friends of Mark Schroeder mayoral campaign fund.
And Grant, who raised $6,240 and spent $4,678 from mid-January through mid-July, has $7,227 remaining in her Committee to Elect Betty Jean Grant fund, according to the campaign filings. Grant is using her county legislature account for fundraising, but soon will switch it over to a mayoral campaign fund, she said.
Brown's strong fundraising ability reflects his support from throughout the city and the progress Buffalo has made under his leadership over the past 12 years, according to a statement from the Brown campaign.
"Mayor Brown's campaign continues to have the support of an impressive number of people, the majority of whom live, work and do business in the City of Buffalo," the statement said.
But Schroeder's campaign said Brown benefits from being a 12-year-incumbent whose influence over city jobs and contracts translates into political donations.
"When you've had your hands on the purse string of a half-a-billion-a-year budget, it doesn't surprise me people want to get in your good graces," said Patrick Curry, with the Schroeder campaign. "It's a lot of money. It's the power of 12 years of incumbency."
Grant agreed it's challenging to raise money when going up against a longtime incumbent, but predicted she will have an easier time once the Erie County Board of Elections verifies her candidate petitions, so that her supporters are sure she will be on the Sept. 12 Democratic primary ballot. That process is expected to be completed by the end of July, according to the county election board.
"I've been told by several sources to call after I make the ballot," Grant said.
Brown's biggest financial backers during the recent six-month period come from the local business community and include the Buffalo Niagara Partnership as well as the 43 x 79 political action committee formed by some of the city's top business leaders. Each group gave Brown $12,500.
Brown also received $12,700 combined from four different companies associated with Norstar Development, which builds low-income housing in the city.
Beyond that, Brown's contributors run the gamut, from current and former elected officials, to developers, lawyers and other firms and individuals doing business with the city, as well as City Hall department heads and other city workers.
Developer Nick Sinatra contributed $2,000 while Creative Structures, a firm Sinatra is partnering with on a medical mall on Jefferson Avenue, contributed $2,500. A third partner in the project, Dr. Gregory Daniel of Amherst, made a $7,400 donation.
The Hodgson Russ law firm contributed $1,250 to Brown over the last six months, while one of its attorneys, Adam Perry, contributed another $2,750. The firm received $1 million in city business over the past three years, according to city documents.
John DiDonato, a principal with DiDonato engineering company, contributed $2,500. His firm received some $6 million in city business over the past three years, records show.
Political supporters include former Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, whose political fund gave Brown $1,500, and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, whose campaign fund contributed $2,500.
Other politicians donating to Brown included state Sen. Timothy Kennedy, whose campaign fund gave $515 and City Councilman Christopher Scanlon, who contributed $285. Both are from South Buffalo, which is Schroeder's home turf.
Brown also received financial support from his City Hall department heads, some of whom contributed $1,200 each to the mayor's re-election campaign.
About 70 percent of Brown contributors — and 60 percent of the money donated — over the past six months are attached to City of Buffalo addresses, a News analysis of his campaign funds found. The rest is mostly from suburban Erie County, with a few from Buffalo companies with out-of-state headquarters.
Schroeder's biggest supporters over the past six months included some longtime friends, among them William Murphy, an attorney who lives in Hamburg and has an office in Buffalo. Schroeder has known Murphy for years, ever since serving as Murphy's Boy Scout leader, according to a Schroeder aide. Murphy gave Schroeder $5,000 and Murphy's law firm made an additional $3,184 in in-kind contributions.
Schroeder also received $5,000 from Rose Rohloff, another longtime friend, co-owner of DiTondo's Tavern in Buffalo.
Schroeder received $5,000 over the past six months from the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association. Those funds came prior to the PBA endorsing Schroeder for mayor this month.
Schroeder was the only mayoral candidate seeking the police union endorsement, and the PBA board was impressed with him, said PBA President Kevin M. Kennedy.
Schroeder told the police union that he would work to get the officers additional training that the PBA has been pushing for, Curry said.
Almost $53,000 of the $115,600 Schroeder raised in the past six months comes from outside of Buffalo, with big chunks from Hamburg and Orchard Park, which Schroeder represented while in the state Assembly from 2005 to 2012, according to a Buffalo News analysis of the campaign reports.
Another $18,000 of contributions to Schroeder — each less than $100 — are not itemized. Election law does not require candidates to provide detailed information — including identity of donors and specific amounts they gave — on contributions that are less than $100.
Of the remaining $44,000 in Schroeder contributions coming from Buffalo addresses, almost $20,000 came from one ZIP code — 14220, the South Buffalo ZIP code where Schroeder lives.
Grant's largest contribution was $1,000 from American Rated Cable Communications of Buffalo, which owns the Delavan Avenue building where the county legislator's district office is located. She also received $500 each from HLM Holding and NPTS Inc., engineering firms on Sheridan Drive in Amherst owned by Hormoz Mansouri, whom Grant described as one of her longtime supporters.
She also received $250 from the Buffalo Teachers Federation and $100 from Bernie Tolbert, who ran unsuccessfully against Brown in a Democratic primary in 2013, and is currently running for Erie County Sheriff. Those donations were made in April, a few days before Grant announced she was running for mayor.
Sixty-eight of the 77 donations Grant received over the past six months came from Buffalo addresses.
Back in the 2013 mayoral race, Brown spent a total of $1.5 million in the primary and general elections combined. His Democratic primary opponent, Tolbert, raised and spent about $230,000.
Brown’s general election opponent, Republican Sergio R. Rodriguez, raised and spent less than $35,000.
At the time, Tolbert said Brown's fundraising ability made it difficult for him to raise money.
“People get scared off,” Tolbert said at the time. “People said, ‘Why would you run against someone who has so much money?’ and suggested it was political suicide.
“Money allows you to have a better organization,” Tolbert added. “Money can buy TV ads that help you raise your profile. Money goes where money is.”