One of the perennial truths about New York state politics has been that labor unions and labor groups give money to incumbents in the state legislature. But sometimes, in a tight race, labor money is spread out just a little more evenly-to hedge the bets. So it's a bit jolting that in one of the most closely watched state Senate races in all of New York, the incumbent is getting 25 times as much labor cash as the challenger. As far as unions and labor PACs are concerned, Lorraine Coyle Koppell does not exist.
The Riverdale attorney is waging a spirited battle against Republican heavyweight Guy Velella for his Senate seat. This is the first serious political challenge Velella has faced in nearly three decades in the Assembly and the Senate. But Koppell must overcome Velella's $466,000 war chest, and so far has raised only a little more than $200,000. She can't look to labor for help–while unions and their ilk gave the Democrat only $2,000, Velella raked in nearly $50,000 in blue collar funds, mostly from construction worker and law enforcement PACs.
“The labor folks probably think that Koppell is a long shot,” said Gene Russianoff, who monitors campaign contributions for the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Koppell's campaign, not surprisingly, is confident of her chances. After Koppell trounced her primary opponent, who was backed by the county's Democratic leadership, she won the support of Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, who promised to campaign for Koppell. Her aides say that her opponent, a 30-year Albany veteran, is burdened with an anachronistic political image–he has consistently opposed both gun control and, until very recently, the hate crimes bill.
“Because of his record, I am confident that working people and their families will vote for Lorraine,” said Jeffrey Dinowitz, the Bronx assemblyman who is orchestrating Koppell's campaign. “And we'll be using the Ferrer name-it's a good name.”
In the other city political brawls, labor money was not quite so lopsided. Incumbent State Senator Frank Padavan, the Republican from Bellerose, Queens, who has been in the legislature for nearly 25 years, has amassed nearly $200,000 of which only $15,000 was from labor. His opponent on the Democratic ticket, Rory Lancman, has raised some $107,000, of which $9,000 was labor loot.
In Manhattan's feature bout, the fight between the progressive Liz Krueger and GOP centrist Roy Goodman, labor money has hardly made a ripple. Krueger has $6,500 of union money in her pot of nearly $400,000. Goodman's labor take was a paltry $1,500 in a campaign trove of $250,000.