Byron W. Brown's money machine keeps rolling, helping the incumbent mayor build what is close to a $600,000 campaign fund as the Democratic primary election enters its final month.
Brown's campaign fund amounts to more than four times what his closest rival, Mark J. F. Schroeder, now has on hand, according to campaign finance reports filed in recent days with the state Board of Elections.
This campaign finance report follows a Spectrum News/Siena College poll released Monday, showing Brown with a strong lead against his two Democratic rivals as the incumbent mayor attempts to become just the second mayor in Buffalo's history to win a fourth four-year term. The poll had Brown with 51 percent of the primary vote compared with 24 percent for Schroeder and 13 percent for Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant.
Brown has been in a strong financial position throughout the campaign season.
He had $518,826 in his campaign fund as of mid-July, then raised another $112,964 over an almost four-week period ending Aug. 7, according to the most recent, 32-day pre-primary campaign finance reports.
After spending $49,623 during those four weeks, Brown's campaign was left with $582,168 as of Aug. 7, the reports show.
Schroeder, the city comptroller, started with $118,115 in mid-July, then raised $50,265 and spent $37,854 during the recent four-week period. That leaves him with $130,526 in his campaign fund, the reports show.
Grant continues to struggle in the fundraising arena. She started with $7,227 in mid-July, took in $6,200 and spent $1,441 during the four-week campaign reporting period, leaving her campaign with $11,986.
Brown and his campaign staff have said throughout the campaign — and repeated Tuesday — that the mayor's strong fundraising illustrates the depth of his support throughout the city, and the positive attitude residents feel about Buffalo's progress under his leadership.
"I am proud to have the support of so many residents and businesses across the city of Buffalo," Brown said Tuesday. "I continue to work hard every day to build on our progress and to stand for all Buffalo residents, which is reflected in the support that I am grateful to have in every community."
But the mayor's opponents said Brown is benefiting from the power of incumbency — almost 12 years in office when he could award contracts and hire employees that help fund his campaign.
"When you have a half billion a year budget to dole out, it's easy to raise money," said Patrick Curry, a spokesman for Schroeder's campaign.
"I'm not surprised," Grant added of Brown's fundraising success. "He is in a position he can award contracts, and he has 800 City Hall employees," she said.
Both also said money isn't necessarily a harbinger of election outcomes.
"I never have much money, and have done a good job with the money raised," Grant said.
"Money doesn't win elections — people do," Curry said. "We will have enough money to compete on the airwaves, but we are more focused on collecting voters than campaign contributions."
Still, as Curry implied, the mayoral race is entering what's likely to be the most expensive phase of the campaign, as candidates turn to often pricey television advertising to get their message out citywide in the final weeks leading up to the Sept. 12 election.
Brown's campaign has spent a total of $307,013 since Jan. 1 while Schroeder's has spent $188,327 and Grant's $6,837.
Television commercials could ratchet those numbers up.
Schroeder is getting ready to air his first television ad, promoting his vision for Buffalo.
Brown is likely to air a series of television commercials lauding attitudes similar to those expressed in the Siena poll, where 78 percent of respondents — including 60 percent of Grant supporters and 72 percent of Schroeder supporters — think Buffalo is headed on the right track.
Grant is sticking to radio.
"I will have signs and radio," she said. "Television is expensive."
Brown has raised a total of $552,157 since Jan. 1, including the $112,964 raised in the recent four-week period that came from a broad group, including unions, attorneys, the development community, politicians, city employees and others doing business with the city.
The five largest donations to Brown for Buffalo over the recent four-week period included a $12,500 contribution from 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers.
Also, home builder Patrick Marrano of Florida contributed $5,000 as did Acquest Development owner William Huntress of Williamsville. Robert Lannon Jr., with the Buffalo engineering firm GHD, also gave $5,000. Lannon gave Brown another $1,600 earlier this year.
Another engineering firm that does business with the city, DiDonato Associates, contributed $3,000 to Brown's campaign. Owner John DiDonato gave Brown $2,500 earlier this year.
Schroeder has raised a total of $166,219 since Jan. 1, including the $50,265 from the recent four-week period. His top five donations during that time included $5,000 from Huntress, the Acquest Development owner.
Also contributing $5,000 each were the New York State Ironworkers District Council and Jack Bertsch, an Orchard Park businessman.
Schroeder received $1,750 from the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, which gave Schroeder $5,000 earlier in the year. He received $1,000 in recent weeks from the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 17, which also donated $2,500 to his campaign earlier this year.
Grant has raised $12,440 since Jan. 1, including the $6,200 raised since mid-July that included a total of $3,000 from three companies owned by Hormoz Mansouri, which each donated $1,000 to her campaign. The three are HLM Holding, EI Team and NPTS Inc. Most of her other contributions were in the $25 to $100 range.
On the spending side, the $49,623 Brown spent over the recent four-week period included $11,376 for signs, $3,654 in postage and $3,196 for T-shirts.
The $37,854 Schroeder's campaign spent since mid-July that included $12,500 to the Future and Present Agency, in California, which helps produce videos, commercials and other digital media; $3,689 for literature; and $1,201 for lawn signs.
The $1,441 Grant's campaign spent over the recent four-week period included $572 for campaign T-shirts and $200 for campaign buttons.