These real estate execs gave Kathy Hochul the most cash

Big players poured millions into governor’s coffers; a few backed Lee Zeldin

L-R Governor Kathy Hochul, Scott Rechler, Jack Cayre, and Alex Adjmi (Getty, OSO NYC)
L-R Governor Kathy Hochul, Scott Rechler, Jack Cayre, and Alex Adjmi (Getty, OSO NYC)

It’s not clear if real estate has Gov. Kathy Hochul in its pocket, but she certainly has the industry in hers.

Some of the most prominent real estate professionals in the city have contributed generously to Hochul’s war chest as she vies for her first four-year term as governor. Republican nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin’s haul from the industry has been comparatively modest.

Hochul has raised more than $34 million since taking office last August. Roughly $12.7 million of that was collected between Jan. 21 and June 27, state campaign finance filings show. Checks of $10,000 or more from prominent real estate figures this year add up to at least $1.1 million. (The Real Deal did not tally their smaller 2022 donations.)

The industry quickly lined up behind Hochul after she took over for Andrew Cuomo, who resigned to avoid impeachment. In fact, GFP Real Estate’s Jeffrey Gural and SL Green Realty’s Marc Holliday each gave her campaign $10,000 the day after she was sworn in.

By January, real estate professionals had thrown more than $4 million Hochul’s way, with executives from Vornado Realty Trust, Extell Development, Silverstein Properties, Related Companies, Rudin Management and others each donating tens of thousands of dollars.

The Cayre family has been an especially robust supporter. From the beginning of April until the Democratic primary in June, which Hochul won handily, the Cayres gave $209,100, bringing their total to more than $400,000 since she took office.

Developer Scott Rechler of RXR and his wife Deborah together provided more than $80,000 in May, after having previously donated $50,000.

The Adjmi family and entities tied to their company, A&H Acquisitions, provided at least $227,700 since last year. Alex Adjmi, who was pardoned by President Donald Trump, gave Hochul’s campaign $69,000 on June 24. He told the Daily News that he supported the governor’s “crime policies.” (She tweaked a bail reform law to keep more suspects behind bars.)

Zeldin has raised more than $13 million since announcing his candidacy in April 2021, and roughly $4.7 million since late January. During that time, Zeldin took in at least $400,000 in donations of $5,000 or more from real estate professionals, largely from Long Island and upstate companies.

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Geographical exceptions included developer Peter Kalikow and his wife Mary, who together have given Zeldin $35,329 this year after lavishing $50,000 on him last year. Douglas Elliman’s Howard Lorber gave $10,000 this year.

Ex-casino mogul Steve Wynn, who stepped down from Wynn Resorts in 2018 amid sexual misconduct allegations, and his wife, Andrea, each gave $74,558. That prompted a lawsuit by Republican challenger Harry Wilson, who alleged that Zeldin wrongfully spent some campaign funds and accepted donations that exceeded legal limits, including from the Wynns. A judge threw the lawsuit out last month.

Before leaving his company, Wynn, who grew up in central New York, explored opening a casino in the state. Gural is also in the gambling business. Hochul, should she win in November, would preside over a process that is expected to add three downstate casinos.

It remains to be seen if more real estate companies and professionals will help Zeldin now that the primary is over, if only to hedge their bets. No Republican has won a statewide race since 2002, but some political strategists give Zeldin a shot if he can keep voters focused on inflation and crime.

Hochul has positioned herself as a moderate Democrat, fending off a challenge from her left by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and from centrist Rep. Tom Suozzi. Progressive challengers in several Assembly races largely failed to usurp incumbents.

At the Real Estate Board of New York’s annual gala last month, Hochul told the trade group that she would fight for its priorities in the legislative session beginning in January.

“Next session, we’re going to make sure that we get the changes we need to support this industry because you create thousands of jobs, you give people their homes, you give places of business their homes, and I want to let you know we’re supportive and continue to be,” she said.

But this year, Hochul failed to deliver on key measures sought by property interests, most notably a property tax break for multifamily development to replace 421a, which expired June 15. She also abandoned an effort to spur construction of accessory dwelling units statewide and has not passed a bill to help large building owners comply with New York City’s emissions law.

Zeldin is also supportive of 421a, but would face the same combination of opposition and apathy from legislators that Hochul did.