Kathy Hochul raised record-breaking $60M to win term as NY governor

Democrat Kathy Hochul raised a record-shattering $60 million-plus to win election to a full term as governor in a surprisingly close race against Republican challenger Lee Zeldin, a top finance campaign chief boasted in a note to supporters.

That means Hochul raised — and likely spent — nearly $20 for each of the 3 million votes she received.

Much of the money was raised from entities with business before the state — including donors who operate casinos seeking a license in New York, film companies that benefit from tax credits, cannabis companies, contributors from the massive health care industry who run or work at hospitals and nursing homes, and other state contractors and public employee unions.

“As you all know by now, New York has elected Governor Kathy Hochul to a full term. A historic campaign in not only that she is the first female to hold this office, but also that our finance team broke many records, raising over 60 million dollars in total!,” Mackenzie Wasilick, finance chief of staff at Friends for Kathy Hochul, said in a message to supporters on her LinkedIn page.

“Over the past 14 months, we have executed over 340 fundraisers, as well as countless meetings and hours of call time,” she added.

One of the campaign workers she thanked for raising donations was James Tebele.

Gov. Kathy Hochul raised nearly $20 for each of the 3 million votes she received.
James Keivom

He’s the son of Charlie Tebele, whose New Jersey-based Digital Gadgets score a no-bid, $637 million, overpriced emergency contract to provide COVID-19 tests after hosting a fundraiser for Hochul and raising over $300,000 for her campaign that critics slammed as a corrupt “pay-to-play” deal.

Hochul denied any wrongdoing in the no-bid award to Digital Gadgets, saying in September, “I would do that all over again.”

Government watchdog groups decried the special interest money that flooded Hochul’s campaign.

“Sixty million dollars is a staggering amount of money. It’s not great news for democracy,” said John Kaehny, director of Reinvent Albany.

Governor Kathy Hochul celebrates her victory.
Gov. Kathy Hochul raised at least 50 percent more in donations than Gov. Andrew Cuomo generated in 2018.
James Keivom

He said Albany needs a new law to severely restrict or ban donations from entities that bid or have been awarded government contracts, or have other business before the state. Such limitations are in place in the New York City government.

A new law that kicks in for statewide races in 2026 tightens contributions limits for governor from $69,700 to $18,000.

Hochul raised at least 50 percent more in donations than her predecessor, three-term Gov. Andrew Cuomo, generated in 2018. Cuomo resigned last year amid sexual misconduct and harassment accusations and Hochul, his handpicked lieutenant governor, succeeded him as governor.  

Her campaign also vastly outraised Zeldin’s, which generated about $27 million in donations.

Lee Zeldin takes the stage at Ciprians as the election comes to a close.
Lee Zeldin’s campaign raised less than half of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s funding.
Matthew McDermott

But outside pro-Zeldin super PACs helped cut into Hochul’s fundraising advantage. Conservative billionaire Ronald Lauder raised $10 million for the Safe Together New York, then ran ads attacking Hochul.

Kaehny of Reinvent Albany said a new law also is needed to rein in spending by super PACs, which are used to get around contribution limits on fat cats giving directly to candidates.

Wasilick, meanwhile, saluted Hochul’s fundraising team for a job well done.

“Our outstanding finance team was led by Abby Erwin, Casey Ryan, Sarah Sellman, and Justin Kim. We would be nowhere without our compliance manager Helena Essex, as well as some of the finest associates in the country: Noah Genson, Drew Thomas, Carmen P., James Tebele, Paige Phillips, and Laurella Dolan,” she said in her message.

“And of course, our consulting team: Sash Gluck, Tuckkr Green, Allison Romer, and Ryan Belcher,” Wasilic said.