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Money Advantage Could Be the Difference in State Democratic Primaries

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With two rival Democratic factions in the state Senate vowing to work together and form a majority next year, party leaders are looking ahead to the November elections, but some primaries could greatly determine the makeup of that new majority, and the money advantage in some races could be the difference.

A small group of breakaway Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference recently agreed to form a new majority with mainline Democrats in the state Senate. After that deal was struck, some Democratic primaries that had been threatened against IDC members quietly disappeared.

For two of those races, though, the deal came too late. Former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell has opted to push on against IDC leader Jeff Klein in the Bronx, although Klein is now challenging his petitions.

Former City Comptroller John Liu has also opted to continue his primary against IDC member Tony Avella in Queens, although according to the latest financial disclosures, Liu has has roughly $440,000 to Avella's roughly $88,000.

"It costs money to get the message out to the voters, and that's exactly what I plan to do," Liu said. "All this money is about mailing information, calling voters so that they have the full set of information by which to make the best choice."

"Most of his money, if not all of his money, is coming from outside not only the district, outside the state," Avella said. "So it shows very little support in the district."

Regardless of the outcome of the primaries involving the IDC versus Democrats, numerically speaking, it may not make that much of a difference in terms of forming the majority. That's because all Democrats have vowed to work together. In fact, Democrats are looking beyond the primaries to the general election, where they are hoping to pick up Republican seats.

"I've never seen anything like it, that we now have four vacancies coming from the Republicans, who have decided to just flee for the hills and leave the Senate, including some of their top leadership," said state Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens.

In the Assembly, Democrats continue to hold a substantial fundraising advantage. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is sitting on $2.9 million, and the Democrats have roughly $4.5 million. That compares to Assembly Republicans, who have about $1.5 million. Minority leader Brian Kolb has $250,000 in his personal account.

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