Southern Brooklyn

In Race To Replace Nelson, Oberman Leads The Pack In Fundraising But Opponents Catching Up

Clockwise from top left: Theresa Scavo, Igor Oberman, Chaim Deutsch, Ari Kagan

It’s a crowded race to replace term-limited Councilman Michael Nelson of the 48th District, which, come next year, will represent almost all of Sheepshead Bay.

But, so far, it’s been quiet as the campaigns are just gearing up. But a good indicator of a campaign’s strength and public support is their fundraising, and yesterday the candidates submitted their finance disclosure forms to the Campaign Finance Board, revealing their fundraising success – or struggles – and giving a better idea of who’s in it to win it.

Here’s a quick rundown of the amounts raised, spent, and left on hand as of May 11, with some analysis below. Candidates are presented in order of amount left on hand.

  • Igor Oberman (D), attorney and Brooklyn Borough President community liaison
    • $94,158 (raised) – $10,237 (spent) – $83,920 (on hand)
  • *Theresa Scavo (D), chairperson of Community Board 15
    • $69,437 – $0 – $69,437
  • Chaim Deutsch (D), Nelson aide and Flatbush Shomrim founder
    • $74,819 – $5,423  $69,396
  • Ari Kagan (D), 45th Assembly District Leader
    • $52,550 – $13,782 – $38,768
  • *Michael Treybich (D), attorney
    • $21,462 – $7,889 – $13,573
  • Natraj Bhushan (D), attorney
    • $1,827 – $853 – $974
  • David Storobin (R), former State Senator
    • $0 – $0 – $0

Before we go any further, let’s explain those asterisks.

Scavo’s $69,437 includes $29,767 from a previous bid for Nelson’s seat, which she dropped after term limits were extended. In this race, she’s raised $39,670 and transferred over the rest – which gave her a bit of a head start compared to the others.

Meanwhile, Michael Treybich failed to submit his CFB filing on time, so those numbers go to March 11, not May 11. Furthermore, his campaign account is linked to the 47th District, where he previously planned to run before redistricting tossed his residence into our area.

Additionally, Bhushan, who doesn’t have much of a profile in the district, hasn’t managed to attract many donations (though we at Sheepshead Bites are firm believers that money ain’t everything, and we’ll be keeping an eye on him). Storobin, meanwhile, hasn’t raised a dime – but without a primary contender, his season doesn’t really kick off until later in the year.

So for the remainder of this analysis, we’ll be looking at the four who appear to be the big Democratic primary contenders at the moment: Oberman, Scavo, Deutsch and Kagan.

Oberman has the indisputable edge in fundraising. Even after spending more than $10,000 on his campaign, he leads his closest rival, Scavo, by more than $14,000. Scavo and Deutsch are neck-in-neck with money on hand, but Deutsch has already been out spending to promote himself while Scavo hasn’t spent a penny. Kagan has spent the most on himself, and also raised the least of the four – surprising, given that he has the backing of the Kings County Democratic Club and had been considered a lead contender.

First, let’s look at those donations, and where they’re coming from.

In terms of sheer numbers, Oberman is again in the lead. He’s brought in 267 contributors, with an average donation of $353. Kagan may not have brought in big donations, but he’s not all that behind Oberman in the number of contributors, with 248 (average donation is $212). Deutsch received contributions from 222 source, and they gave almost as much on average as they gave Oberman – $337.

Scavo, however, falls behind in the number of contributions, with only 140 – although it’s important to note that’s only of the funds raised this season, not from the influx of cash she received in the previous race that transferred over. The average contribution size was $283. It’s also important to note that Scavo is the only candidate for whom the majority of her cash (again, this season) came from out of the five boroughs. Of the 39,670 she raised this season, $21,485 came from outside New York City, and $18,185 from within. That means many of her donors are ineligible to vote for her.

Sticking with Scavo for moment, let’s look at who’s donating. There are a lot of familiar names to those active in the community: Community Board members, civic association members and members of the Highway Democratic Club (which is backing her). Conspicuously absent is a bevvy of Eastern European surnames – although there are some – which can prove an obstacle in a district where the Russian-Americans are now the largest voting bloc.

Of course, Scavo might not be shedding any tears about that. Both Oberman and Kagan received strong financial support from those with Eastern European last names – and, mind you, guessing ethnicity from a last name is no science – and Scavo might be betting that they split the Russian vote, giving her an advantage.

But that would give Deutsch the same advantage, and he’s not only leading her financially and in the number of donors, but his donor list appears varied and diverse, with support from the Orthodox Jewish and Sephardic communities, as well as Asian and South Asian communities (for what it’s worth, Kagan also has support from the Asian communities, likely due to his previous work for Comptroller John Liu).

We’re going to take a look at those who’ve given the most in a later story, but suffice to say that Oberman is taking some heat for taking large contributions from those who do business with the Trump Village co-op board where he serves as president.

As for where they’re spending their money, it’s pretty predictable. While Scavo hasn’t spent a penny, and appears to have former district leader Michael Geller running her campaign (he who previously lost his position to Kagan), the other three have spent big bucks with political consulting firms. All four have hired consultants. Kagan has hired Hudson TG; Deutsch has Mercury Public Affairs; and Oberman has the The Advance Group. We’ve learned that Scavo has hired Hank Sheinkopf of Sheinkopf Communications after the filing period ended, so it is not disclosed in the reports. (Updated)

We’re going to go a little more into those later, but this post has already taken up more space than intended.

The real takeaway from all this? At the moment there are four well-funded primary contenders appealing to different segments of the community, and three of them with high-powered consulting firms behind them. Campaign season is officially here, and it looks like it’s going to be heated.

UPDATE (5/17/2013 @ 12:15 p.m.): Mike Geller called to inform us that he was not running Scavo’s campaign. He adds that Scavo has hired Hank Sheinkopf, president of Sheinkopf Communications, to consult. The hiring took place after the filing period ended, and is not included in the latest disclosure report.

We have amended the story to reflect this.