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Hochul starts strong as finances are reported

Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul is starting her bid for re-election with a huge financial head start against her potential Republican challengers.

The Amherst Democrat's campaign committee reported Monday that it had raised more than $355,359 in the first three months of the year, leaving her with more than $874,000 on hand for her campaign.

In contrast, Iraq War veteran David Bellavia of Batavia raised $11,241 and had $7,109 on hand as of March 31.

And former Erie County Executive Chris Collins said he had not yet raised or spent $5,000 as of March 31, which means he did not have to report his campaign finances to the Federal Election Commission.

Both the Bellavia campaign and Collins said, though, that they would have the resources to run a credible race.

"Obviously we would have loved to have raised a lot more," said Michael R. Caputo, a spokesman for Bellavia. "But when you don't have a district till March 20 [the day district lines were finalized] and you don't have petitions filed till April 16, it's very difficult to raise money for a candidate being challenged by a multimillionaire," namely Collins.

Bellavia is just starting his fundraising effort, Caputo said, and will be able to raise enough to compete with Collins even if it's nothing close to what Collins spends.

As for Collins, he vowed, as he has in the past, to be willing to dip into his considerable personal fortune to fund his campaign.

"Collins for Congress will be properly funded," said Collins, a businessman-turned-politician.

Both Bellavia and Collins filed petitions Monday to qualify in the Republican and Conservative primaries June 26 for the right to challenge Hochul in November.

"Kathy Hochul has now raised more than $1 million this cycle," said Fabien Levy, campaign spokesman for Hochul. "When you combine the outpouring of support with Congresswoman Hochul's record of independent leadership, we are confident that she will have both the resources and the record to run a strong and effective campaign this fall."

More than 1,300 people contributed to the Hochul campaign during the quarter, and nearly 3,000 have given her money since her May 2011 special election victory. Hochul's campaign said that more than 85 percent of the contributions came from small donors who gave less than $250.

In other races:

*Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, reported raising $166,580 in the first quarter and had $584,704 on hand as of March 31. Michael H. Madigan, the GOP challenger in the heavily Democratic, Buffalo-based 26th District, did not file a report because his campaign did not start until April.

*Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, reported that she has more than $535,000 on hand, up from $362,753 at the end of 2011. Her Republican opponent in the Rochester-based 25th District, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, did not report any fundraising as of March 31.

*Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, raised $293,776 and had $619,733 on hand at the end of March. Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa, one of the Democrats hoping to challenge Reed, said he raised $113,000 and had about $95,000 on hand. Another Democrat, Ithaca lawyer Leslie Danks Burke, raised $102,102 and had $70,529 on hand.