ALBANY – Republican Gov. George Pataki, already riding 2-1 leads in the polls over his potential Democratic opposition, reported Monday his most successful six months of campaign fund raising ever.
Pataki said his campaign had raised more than $12.8 million over the first half of this year and has $23.3 million on hand in his bid for a third term. The required report to the state Board of Elections, due Monday, means Pataki has raised about $34 million overall as he gears up for this November's election.
Former federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, the elder son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and state Comptroller H. Carl McCall are battling for the Democratic nomination.
Fund-raising reports from Cuomo and McCall were not immediately available Monday. As of mid-January, Cuomo had raised almost $8.8 million and had about $6.9 million on hand while McCall had raised $7 million and had $5.1 million in the bank. At that point, Pataki had more than $16 million in the bank.
Also not immediately available Monday was the report from billionaire Rochester businessman B. Thomas Golisano, making his third, third-party run for governor. Aides said Golisano has given his campaign committee $50 million to demonstrate his level of commitment to the race.
The governor's previous best six months of fund raising came in the first half of last year when he collected $8.8 million. Fund raising slowed for all candidates in the second half of 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Four years ago, Pataki raised less than $4.3 million during the first six months of the year and had $12.2 million on hand in mid-July of 1998. He went on to easily win a second term that November over Democrat Peter Vallone, who was speaker of the New York City Council at the time.
While Cuomo and McCall are better known statewide than Vallone, they each trail Pataki in independent polls by 2-1 margins. The Republican governor's job approval rating soared in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and has remained high.
Pataki campaign manager Adam Stoll indicated the fund-raising effort wouldn't let up.
"We'll continue to do everything we need to remain competitive in the fall," the Pataki aide said.
"Wow! What a testimony to the good job the governor has done," said State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican ally of the governor, when told about the fund-raising haul.
"It shows the power of incumbency," state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat backing McCall's candidacy, said during an interview on Albany radio station WROW-AM.
The Pataki filing showed the governor's campaign spent $5.8 million over the past six months as the Republican incumbent began television advertising. While Cuomo has also begun running TV ads, McCall has yet to do so. The two Democrats are expected to face each other in a Sept. 10 primary.
In 1994, Pataki spent $14.4 million in ousting the elder Cuomo. In his unsuccessful bid for a fourth term, Cuomo had spent about $11 million. Golisano had spent $6.6 million as the candidate of the Ross Perot-inspired Independence Party.
In 1998, Pataki spent more than $20 million on his successful bid for a second term while Vallone spent just $6 million. Golisano spent $13 million of his own money on that race. Pataki's then-lieutenant governor, Betsy McCaughey Ross, in her maverick bid to become governor, spent $2.5 million. She was the Liberal Party's candidate.