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Gianaris leads racefor funds

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With less than three weeks remaining in the Democratic primary race for the 36th Assembly seat, Michael Gianaris has pulled far ahead of his opponent, Kimon Thermos, in total campaign contributions.

Both Democrats, who hail from Astoria had said they planned on raising at least $100,000 by Election Day, but only Gianaris, 30, has already achieved that goal, according to the New York State Board of Elections Financial Disclosure Report.

Gianaris has raised $128,733, over $42,000 more than Thermos, 34, who has raised $86,140, based on filing from each candidate this year through mid-August.

The winner of the Sept. 12 primary will face Republican candidate Vince Tabone, also from Astoria.

Although Thermos has lost three previous races for the seat by an average of less than 250 votes to retiring Assemblyman Denis Butler, it is the first such contest for Gianaris, who previously worked for Butler.

Last month Gianaris set a fund-raising record for the district that covers Astoria and Long Island City, generating $102,348, which broke the previous record of $63,000 set by Thermos in his previous election campaign.

The 10 biggest contributors to Gianaris' campaign include his father, Nicholas, a Fordham University economics professor who gave his son $4,000 toward his campaign. Two political action committees, the 1199/Service Employees International Union New York State Political Action Fund and the SEIU New York State Council, both contributed $3,100 to his campaign, the filings showed.

Steven McKenney, who hails from Seattle, contributed $1,500 on two separate occasions in July for a total of $3,000 and Alert Garage Corp., in Long Island City, Glen Kaufman of New York City, and Ma Realty from Corona all contributed $2,500 to his campaign.

Gianaris, who in the past has called money "a necessary evil in modern politics," has been greatly helped by his association with Butler, who has been supported by the Queens Democratic machine in his previous races against Thermos. Another company, Audiovox Communication Corp., based in Hauppauge that markets cell phones, also contributed $2,000.

Gianaris has the backing of many of Queens' strongest Democratic political leaders including City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), Queens County Democratic Chairman Thomas Manton, and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who has given $2,000 to Gianaris through Crowley for Congress, one of his biggest contributions.

Crowley for Congress is one of 23 politically active or affiliated groups that have given $26,700 to the Gianaris campaign.

Only one Queens politician, City Councilman Walter McCaffrey (D-Woodside), contributed to Thermos' campaign. New Yorkers for McCaffrey gave Thermos $1,000. Three weeks ago, McCaffrey was forced from his own primary race with Crowley because of questions about alleged fund-raising irregularities.

Thermos may face an uphill battle running against the Queens Democratic machine, but he has said on more than one occasion that he is willing to continue running his grassroots campaign to reach voters.

Thermos' biggest campaign contribution came from PJP Mechanical Corp., an air-conditioning company in Manhattan, which gave $4,100. AKT Development of Sacramento, Calif., one of the biggest Democratic contributors in the country, according to Pete Krokondelas, Thermos' campaign manager, gave $3,100 as did Astoria-based TMA Construction Inc. Manhattan public relations and lobbying firm Patterson & McLaughlin Communications Inc., gave $3,000.

Astoria resident Nick Andriotis gave $2,000 as did Marangos Construction Corp., of Maspeth, which donated $1,000 on two separate occasions in March.

Four contributors to Thermos' campaign gave $1,500. They include Tom Korakis of Astoria, Gil-Bar Industries of Brooklyn, and Penta Restoration and Ashlar Mechanical Corp. both of Long Island City.

The Thermos camp has accused Gianaris of hypocrisy, however. Gianaris is an outspoken critic of plans to build more power plants in western Queens, has taken contributions from four different Albany firms representing four different power companies for a total of $2,000, the filings show.

Of that total, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP contributed $1,000. Featherstonhaugh, Conway, Wiley & Clyne, which represents Con Ed, contributed $500. Coppola Ryan McHugh, which represents North American Power, and Whiteman; Osterman & Hanna, which represents El Paso Energy, each contributed $250.

"Mike Gianaris needs to explain how he is going to help this community when he's taking money from lobbying firms that represent the power plants." said Thermos campaign spokesman Pete Krokondelas. "The real issue is power plants, cancer clusters and asthma alley."

But Evan Stavisky, Gianaris' spokesman, said it is Thermos who is being hypocritical. One of Thermos' contributors, Patterson & McLaughlin Communications Inc., which gave $3,000 to his campaign, represents tobacco company interests including Philip Morris.

Stavisky said Thermos "is literally throwing up smoke and mirrors."

Gianaris began his career in public service as an aide to Manton when he was a congressman and later served as former Gov. Mario Cuomo's Queens County representative. He currently is associate counsel to the state Assembly.

Thermos is the president of the Aldos Independent Democratic Club and a board member and legal counsel to the Greek-American Homeowners Association. He has been a senior court attorney to two Civil Court judges.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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