The candidate expected to win former State Senate majority leader Dean Skelos’ seat had the backing of some of New York City’s biggest names in real estate.
Democrat Todd Kaminsky, a Long Island Assemblyman who declared victory on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday after unofficial results showed he held a narrow lead over Chris McGrath, seemed to be a favorite among real estate bigwigs in the special elections. He took in at least $50,000 from various real estate firms and developers, according to filings with the New York State Board of Elections. These donors included John Catsimatidis, chairman and CEO of the Red Apple Group, who contributed $10,000 to Kaminsky’s campaign.
Catsimatidis was also a big spender in the lead up to the presidential primaries. An analysis by The Real Deal in September showed the billionaire shelled out $70,000 to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and $2,700 to Hillary Clinton. Howard Lorber, chairman of Douglas Elliman and CEO of the Vector Group, donated $5,000 to Kaminsky’s campaign. The Zucker Organization donated $5,000, and principal Laurie Zucker Lederman contributed another $1,000. Burton Resnick, head of Jack Resnick & Sons Inc. and REBNY chairman emeritus, provided $6,000. Deborah Rechler, wife of RXR Realty’s Scott Rechler, dished out $11,000 to his campaign.
His Republican opponent, McGrath, a personal injury attorney, also received contributions from a handful of real estate players. Atco Properties & Management head H. Dale Hemmerdinger donated $2,500, and Larry Gluck’s Stellar Management offered up $1,000. McGrath was also popular with the property owner groups, like the Rent Stabilization Association PAC, which donated $10,000.
The candidates vying for former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s seat didn’t seem to attract much attention from the real estate community. The winner, Alice Cancel, who was chosen by the 65th District Democratic County Committee and a longtime Silver supporter, raised less than $5,000, according to campaign finance filings. Her fiercest opponent, Yuh-Line Niou, took in nearly $200,000.
These two positions — the State Assembly and Senate seats vacated by Silver and Skelos, respectively — come with a complicated history with the real estate industry. Skelos was convicted in December for pressuring supporters, including developer Glenwood Management, into hiring his son. Silver was convicted in November for a scheme that involved receiving kickbacks for steering developers — Steve Witkoff and Glenwood — to hire certain firms to perform tax work.
The special election was just a temporary fix to the two vacancies. A primary will be held in September and the election will be in November.