‘Following the money’ for borough president candidates

February 4, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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There are 12 candidates who have filed for Brooklyn borough president, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board. How much money have they raised, and who have they raised it from?

We’ll concentrate on the four who already hold elected office. The information is courtesy of the CFB’s online feature, “Follow the Money.” 

This site gives you not only the amount of money each candidate has raised, but the names of their donors and the amount of money each donor has given. From this, you can also deduce information about a candidate’s donor base. 

If only money determined the election, two of them —Councilmember Robert Cornegy and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon — would be the main candidates, with Councilmember Antonio Reynoso trailing behind and Councilmember Dr. Mathieu Eugene a distant fourth.

State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. Photo by Susannah Pasquantino

Along with the total amount the major candidates have raised, as of last week, we’ll also mention the amounts raised by “heavy hitters,” people or organizations donating $1,000 or more, and what these people represent. In addition, two or more people with high positions in the same medium-size business (or two or more members of a family) commonly give separate contributions to a particular candidate.

We must first note, of course, that money does not guarantee election. There are many examples of candidates who have won despite raising less money than their rivals. However, money is important to every political contest.

Brooklyn Councilmember Robert Cornegy. Photo courtesy Cornegy’s office

Leading the money race as of last week is Councilmember Cornegy, who had raised $249,639.99. The look at his big donors shows heavy support from labor unions, blue-collar businesses and real estate. 

For example, he received five donations from people affiliated with Local 32 BJ, $1,000 from CWA District 1 PAC; $1,500 from the International Union of Operating Engineers, and $1,000 from Dalia Lamming-Tilly, comptroller for TWU Local 100.–>

Cornegy also received $1,000 from developer Daniel Brodsky; two donations, $1,000 and $500, from Ofer Cohen, president of commercial realtor TerraCRG; $3,950 from Noah Katz, of PSK Supermarket; $1,500 from Margo Catsimatidis, wife of grocery-store and real estate billionaire George Catsimatidis; $1,000 from Alan Levitt, owner of Big Apple Compactor, and more.

Brooklyn Councilmember Dr. Mathieu Eugene.
Photo courtesy Eugene’s office

In other fields, Cornegy also received contributions from Alan Fishman of Ladder Capital, also chairman emeritus of BAM; and George Arzt, political consultant.

Second is Jo Anne Simon, who raised $117,850 as of last week. Among her bigger donors are well-known Court Street attorney Gregory Cerchione, with $1,500; Nancy Schuh, the head of a real estate management firm, also with $1,500; Jay Snyder of HBJ Investments, who has long been active in Democratic Party politics, with $1,500; a political club, the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, with $1,000; Henry B. Gutman, with $1,000; Local 891 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, with $1,000; and Dawn Cardi and Edgar Cardi, both attorneys with Cardi & Edgar LLP and both with $1,500.  

Another donor to Simon’s campaign, listed as William Harris, retired, with $1,500, may be her husband, Bill Harris, well-known as a real estate broker in Boerum Hill and nearby areas. Simon herself contributed $4,500 to her own campaign. 

Brooklyn Councilmember Antonio Reynoso. Photo courtesy Reynoso’s office

All in all, however, the list of big donors to Simon’s campaign is a fairly short one. This means that most of the money for Simon’s campaign has been raised from donors contributing a smaller amount.

Antonio Reynoso, as of last week, had raised $166,395.59.  Among his larger donors were Anthony Diaz and Mariano Diaz, both associated with C-Town supermarket, with $1,500; the Soft Drink Brewery Workers PAC, with $1,000; Theatrical Teamsters Local 818, with $1,000; two people associated with the financial Madison Group, with $1,000 each; International Brotherhood of Teamsters local 813, with $1,500; and more.

Since Reynoso’s district encompasses Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood, several large contributors hail from that area: for example, Martin Needelman, attorney with Brooklyn Legal Services A, with $1,500; Miriam Gross, associated with the Williamsburg Hotel, with $1,500; and Jonathan Flothow of Steve Winter energy conservation, in Ridgewood. Finally, Peter and Susan Restler, parents of Brooklyn political figure Lincoln Restler, contributed $1,000.  

From the money point of view (and again, money alone doesn’t win elections), Councilmember Eugene, who raised $38,137.00 as of last week, has a way to go to catch up with three above-named candidates. 

As far as big donors are concerned, he received $1,500 each from Benjamin Kahan and Jerome Kahan, both affiliated with Sheepshead Nursing and Rehabilitation; $1,000 from Yolanda Lezama Clark, nursing instructor and author of a children’s book on the West Indian Day Parade; $1,500 from Jean-Paul Ho, a real estate broker; $1,000 from Louis Belzie, a psychiatrist; $1,000 from Dr. Edouard Hazel, a physician, and several others. 

The preponderance of people in medical-related fields may reflect the fact that the Haitian-born Eugene himself has a medical degree. Although Eugene doesn’t practice medicine nowadays, he’s still active in health issues.

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