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Donations to Tim Kennedy spike after Democrats win Senate majority

Timothy M. Kennedy's campaign account would typically pull in small amounts, $1,000 or less, in the quiet weeks following a State Senate election.

Not so this time for Buffalo's Democratic senator.

The November elections gave Democrats control of the Senate and made Kennedy the region's only senator in the new ruling party. You have to drive to Syracuse in order to find another Senate Democrat.

In his new status, Kennedy threw a campaign fundraiser days ago, allowing people reliant on state government to show how much they appreciate him by paying $100 to $5,000 for a ticket.

With the windfall from the Jan. 11 event in Statler City, Kennedy raised a total of $110,208 in a six-week period following last year's election season, according to a statement filed with the state Board of Elections days ago.

Compare that with the same period following Election Day 2016. Kennedy, in the minority at the time, raised $500.

The two other upstate Democrats in the Senate, Neil Breslin of Bethlehem and Rachel May of Syracuse, who just won her first term, reported sums nowhere near Kennedy's.

With money from the fundraiser, Kennedy's campaign treasurer reported about $551,000 in the bank on Jan. 15. It shows the "Kennedy for Senate" fund is on its way to being replenished after Kennedy spent some $400,000 to survive a primary against a candidate running to his left, attorney Shaqurah G. Zachery.

While Kennedy was expected to cruise to victory, and did, he was taking no chances after an up-and-coming congressman from Queens, Joseph Crowley, was upset months earlier by a primary challenger on his left, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“What happened to Joe Crowley, I think, was certainly an eye-opener for everyone that anything can happen at any time," Kennedy told The Buffalo News in September, a week before his primary.

At Statler City, Kennedy's campaign received checks from familiar givers: the law firms of Phillips Lytle and Hodgson Russ, lobbyist and former Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, assorted developers, groups representing funeral directors, auto dealers and other companies that rely on state state policy or state spending, like County Line Stone.

As the new chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Kennedy can advance legislation and budget items beneficial to companies willing to give to political causes.

A Kennedy spokesman, Adam Fogel, attributed the January spike to timing. Kennedy would traditionally hold a large fundraiser in October and raise $50,000 to $75,000, Fogel explained. But after the primary, and facing no general election opponent, Kennedy put off his customary fall fundraiser and scheduled one to benefit the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which then spent the money on key races.

"We focused on getting the Senate back in Democratic hands," Fogel said. "Clearly with the results of the November election, the senator's efforts to help his colleagues certainly helped."

When January rolled around, the Kennedy team turned to asking donors for money for his campaign.

"This one did a little better than we have typically done," Fogel said of the event, "but not that much better."

Did it do better because Democrats are now in the majority?

"It's just the second week," Fogel said. "We are going to raise money like we have in the past."

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