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Money In Politics:

Judges self-funding their campaigns

Published November 30, 2020

Judicial candidates tend to self-finance their campaigns more so than those running for other elected offices, such as state Legislature or city or town council. Judicial candidates do so with contributions and loans from themselves and family members. Ken Kruly, in this edition of Money In Politics, tracks spending in judicial races for state Supreme and Surrogate courts in New York’s 8th Judicial District and Erie County Court and Family Court. You can find Ken’s other work on his independent blog, Politics and Other Stuff.


The numbers: Source of funding

Year Candidate, endorsement, seat Total raised Personal, family funds % of total
2020* Amy Martoche, Democrat, Supreme $ 453,340 $ 188,233 42
Gerald Greenan, Republican, Supreme $ 272,087 $ 212,126 78
Kelly Brinkworth, cross endorsed, Family $ 1,000 $ 1,000 100
2019 Diane Devlin, Democrat, Supreme $ 246,764 $ 102,000 41
Gerald Greenan, Republican, Supreme $ 223,574 $ 122,005 55
Gerald Whalen, cross endorsed, Supreme $ 92,286 $ 4,418 5
Deborah Haendiges, cross endorsed, Supreme $ 23,795 $ 1,500 6
2018 Paula Feroleto, cross endorsed, Supreme $ 78,454 $ 58,454 75
John Curran, cross endorsed, Supreme $ 127,306 $ 2,300 2
Suzanne Maxwell Barnes, Democrat, County $ 166,670 $ 125,650 75
+ Deborah Givens, Democrat, County $ 120,054 $ 80,860 67
Lisa Bloch Rodwin, cross endorsed, Family $ 88,756 $ 29,168 33
2017 Lynn Keane, cross endorsed, Supreme $ 2,000 $ 2,000 100
Erin Peradotto, cross endorsed, Supreme $ 131,771 $ 500 0
Susan Eagan, cross endorsed, County $ 53,434 $ 13,684 26
Acea Mosey, cross endorsed, Surrogate $ 900,347 $ 450,060 50
2016 Lynn Keane, Democrat, Supreme $ 252,190 $ 99,517 39
Grace Hanlon, Democrat, Supreme $ 268,221 $ 147,352 55
Mary Slisz, Republican, Supreme $ 273,316 $ 189,236 69
Daniel Furlong, Republican, Supreme $ 281,104 $ 250,500 89
2015 Frank Sedita, cross endorsed, Supreme
No financial reports filed
Emilio Colaiacovo, cross endorsed, Supreme $ 108,816 $ 1,000 1
Kelly Brinkworth, Democrat, Family $ 302,183 $ 97,290 32
Brenda Freedman, Republican, Family $ 267,907 $ 135,320 51
+ Michelle Brown, Democrat, Family $ 311,920 $ 285,449 92
+ Joseph Jarzembek, Democrat, Family $ 7,870 $ 7,300 93
+ Lost primary
* Next report due Nov. 30
Source: New York State Board of Elections

Talking Points

  • Over the past six years there have been 12 State Supreme Court seats on the ballot in New York’s 8th Judicial District; only four of them were contested. In the same time period there have been six Erie County judgeships on the ballot, only two of which were contested.
  • The candidates in this races raised a combined $5 million. Of that, $2.6 million  came from the candidates and their families.
  • Michelle Brown was the most self-reliant candidate: 92 percent of the money she raised came via herself and family members. (She lost her primary.) Self-funding accounted for more than two-thirds of the money raised for four other candidates: Daniel Furlong, Suzanne Maxwell Barnes, Mary Slisz and Deborah Givens.
  • The most successful fundraiser was Acea Mosey, who amassed more than $900,000 for her successful (and uncontested) bid for Erie County Surrogates Court judge in 2017.
  • Mosey only spent about $180,000 of that money on her campaign. The rest she returned to donors or used to pay back loans, including loans she herself made to her campaign. Judicial candidates are required to shut down their campaign committees after their elections. Of the $180,000 Mosey spent on her race, just over 20 percent comprised donations to candidates for other offices and party committees, both Democratic and Republican. That’s a common practice: Nonpartisan judicial campaign committees often feed the campaigns of partisan candidates.
  • While the campaign finance filings for this year’s races are incomplete, we know the Republican Gerald Greenan has committed at least $334,000 of his own money to his two unsuccessful runs for state Supreme Court, a job that comes with a 14-year term and a salary over $200,000 a year.
  • No filings by Frank Sedita indicates he neither raised nor spent any money as he sought a seat on the state Supreme Court, for which he was cross-endorsed.

Podcast

Ken Kruly and Geoff Kelly discuss how much it costs to run for a judgeship in Western New York — and what the payoff is. Plus, on the subject of judges, Ken and Geoff discuss the latest in the Mark Grisanti saga: an investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Ethics into Grisanti’s handling of a 2018 case argued by attorneys who owed him money.

Listen to Podcast

Coming week of Dec. 14 – Major contributors to state Sen. Tim Kennedy.