ALBANY – In the final weeks of his Democratic Party primary race against challenger Cynthia Nixon, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is spending donors’ money at a dizzying clip.
The spending spree by Cuomo’s campaign has also left the governor with $16 million in the bank. While that's a level that most candidates would die for, it stands at just half the $31 million Cuomo had on hand at the same time during his 2014 re-election bid – as well as just two months ago.
The expenditures, heavily focused on television ads, show the seriousness with which Cuomo is taking his bid for a third term – no matter that polls might show him holding a big lead over his challengers.
The Cuomo campaign bank balance comes as he has not yet begun heavily focusing on his general election campaign where he faces multiple challengers, including Republican Marc Molinaro and a possible ongoing gubernatorial bid by Nixon, who has a spot on the small but influential Working Families Party ballot line in November even if she loses the Sept. 13 Democratic primary to Cuomo.
Between the middle of August and the first few days of September, Cuomo spent $8.5 million – or $386,000 per day on average.
Of that total, $2.5 million was directed from the Cuomo campaign to the New York State Democratic Party, an organization the governor controls. A Cuomo campaign official called that dollar transfer by Cuomo to the party to help other Democrats “unprecedented.’’
In its own separate filing, the Democratic Party on Wednesday reported allocating $1.9 million for several Democratic candidates. Of that, $1.6 million went to efforts to help Cuomo’s campaign, the party reported to the state elections board.
Cuomo’s Republican opponent, who has sought to highlight corruption scandals that have hit the governor’s administration, jumped on the Cuomo campaign spending and how much money is left in the governor’s campaign account compared with four years ago or even as recently as July when it had $31 million on hand.
“Andrew Cuomo is blowing through his dirty money at an alarming rate because he knows he’s in trouble," said Katy Delgado, a Molinaro spokeswoman.
In 2014, Cuomo faced little-known Zephyr Teachout, a law school professor who would go on to capture 34 percent of the Democratic primary vote against Cuomo. Teachout, who did especially well in upstate counties against Cuomo, is now one of four Democrats seeking the party’s nomination for attorney general.
In that 2014 race, Cuomo did not take Teachout’s campaign seriously, at least compared with how much he spent then versus his campaign expenses in his 2018 re-election effort, especially against Nixon. Like Teachout in 2014, Nixon has never sought elected office before.
The $8.5 million total expenditures in the new Cuomo report to the elections board – and the final one before next week’s primary – compares with $2.5 million he spent during the same reporting period four years ago. He also raised $490,000 in that period in 2014 versus $167,000 in the most recent three-week period for his 2018 campaign.
Nixon on Wednesday also submitted her final pre-primary report with the state. It shows she raised $475,000 in a three-week period ending late last week and spent $450,000. One-fifth of the funding she received came from “in-kind” donations and the vast majority of those came from the Working Families Party.
Nixon listed just $467,000 in the bank going into the final stretch of the campaign.
The Nixon campaign on Wednesday said over the past six months it has received 27,000 individual contributions, which it said is four times the number of individual donors Cuomo has gotten. It also said it got more than 600 donations from individuals in the first 24 hours after her debate last week with Cuomo. Nixon is not accepting corporate donations for her run against Cuomo.
Cuomo supporters said Nixon’s filing shows she lacks money to mount any sort of serious advertising effort in the final week of the campaign.
A month ago, Cuomo had $24.4 million in the bank.
The Cuomo campaign, in response, did not focus on how much the governor has been spending on his campaign. Instead, Abbey Collins, a Cuomo spokeswoman, said in a statement that Cuomo has "delivered unprecedented support" to elect an all-Democratic statewide ticket and that he "will continue to lead the way with his aggressive, coordinated campaign" in U.S. House and state Senate races. She said Cuomo's campaign has also spent in excess of $100,000 on anti-Molinaro ads as groundwork for the general election.
The Nixon campaign, like Molinaro, said Cuomo's big spending shows a concern within the governor's camp. “Governor Cuomo is nervous, and he should be. Cynthia is gaining unprecedented momentum behind her candidacy. We've had four times as many donations from New Yorkers than the Governor has, she saw large crowds during her upstate swing over the weekend, and we have thousands of volunteers knocking doors and making phone calls across the state,'' said Lauren Hitt, a Nixon spokeswoman.
Cuomo's running mate, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, an Erie County Democrat, is also spending heavily on her primary campaign. In the last three weeks of August, Hochul on Wednesday reported raising $356,000 -- more than twice the amount Cuomo brought in during the same period -- and spent $1.5 million. She has $390,000 in the bank.
Hochul's primary opponent, Jumaane Williams, a New York City Councilman from Brooklyn, raised $62,000 during the same period and spent $38,000. He reported having $72,000 on hand.