Though Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rudolph W. Giuliani have yet to officially announce, Western New Yorkers are being asked to pony up for a Senate battle many believe will set a spending record for a New York State race.
In fact, it is expected that this campaign -- pitting the nation's first lady against the mayor of New York -- could rank 1998's $38 million matchup between Alfonse M. D'Amato and Charles E. Schumer as a minor league affair. Some even predict the race will easily outpace the $44.4 million Senate record set in California in 1994.
"There is one safe assumption: There will be more money spent on this campaign than has ever been spent in New York," said Joe Slade White, an East Aurora political consultant with experience in major races. "Clearly, they'll both spend $20 million and probably more."
And while most of that sum will originate from New York City and around the nation, intense efforts are under way to generate as much as possible from Erie County. In the past few days alone, Democrat Clinton and Republican Giuliani have convened local strategy sessions aimed at gaining access to money and the people who have it.
"We here in Erie County will be in the eye of the storm and that's why we're being viewed with so much seriousness," said Anthony H. Gioia, a Buffalo businessman expected to assume a major fund-raising role in the Giuliani campaign.
"We've got a good host committee, with most of them committed to helping throughout the year," added Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon. "I think you'll see some pretty good fund raising here."
The overall numbers are already piling up. Giuliani has raised almost $12 million in 1999 -- a record for a non-election year Senate candidate. But Clinton has also weighed in with $8 million in the last six months of 1999.
Locally, both candidates began laying the foundation for the fund raising ahead during their visits over the past few days. Clinton attended a meeting of about 20 top Democratic money people at an Orchard Park affair hosted by attorney Carl P. Paladino.
They are planning a $500 event for Feb. 7 -- the day after her official announcement -- at the Buffalo home of attorney Herbert M. Siegel. Included on the invitation are well-known Democratic fund-raising names such as Arnold H. and Sue Gardner, Frank J. McGuire, Ernestine R. Green, George F. Hasiotis, Savino and Virginia Nanula and Judy Benjamin-Goodyear.
Clinton addressed the money situation during her visit last week, indicating her goal is to raise "enough."
"I don't know exactly what that is, but our fund raising is going well," she said. "I was very heartened by the large crowd (meeting in Orchard Park) who have committed themselves to this campaign. And I'm going to work as hard as I can to raise what is needed to communicate with people through the media."
She added that part of the idea of gathering a core group of local supporters is to organize those who will help spread her message.
"It's not just raising the money to run a media campaign that I'm worried about," she said. "I'm trying to put together a campaign that really reaches people and helps convince them to vote for me."
Gioia, meanwhile, was host to an event at his North Buffalo home on Saturday prior to Giuliani's appearance for a Roswell Park Cancer Institute affair. He said about 40 prominent Republicans attended the party, which didn't raise any money but laid the groundwork for future efforts.
"We certainly talked about the concept," he said.
Gioia acknowledged that Western New York will probably supply only a small percentage of the total funds raised for the Giuliani Senate effort.Intermediate string overflow Cannot justify line