ALBANY - A new Democratic challenger to longtime state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, says the fact her campaign contributions have outdistanced him by a nearly a 2-1 ratio in the first round of fundraising shows he can be beat.
But with just over three months until Election Day, Farley discounted comments by Schenectady County Legislative Chairwoman Susan Savage, saying the money put into her campaign so far is mainly from influential New York City Democrats with a vested interest in seeing him defeated.
He also said her husband, Steve, is an influential lobbyist.
The first round of fundraising documents filed with the state Board of Elections from the 44th Senatorial District race shows Democrat Savage has raised $75,166, and Republican Farley, first elected to the state Senate in 1976, raised $41,425.
"I think there's a lot of momentum," 48-year-old Niskayuna resident Savage said Friday. "I think there's a lot of excitement ... I think Sen. Farley is surprised by the momentum I have."
Farley has not typically faced many tough political challenges for re-election the last three decades. The closest challenge was in 2000 when he defeated Democrat Brian Stratton, who became Schenectady mayor three years later.
Savage's campaign recently issued a news release touting the fact she had raised more than Farley. The release said the disparity in money raised was "yet another clear sign that the people of Schenectady, Fulton, Montgomery and Saratoga [counties] are fed up with the long-standing dysfunction in the state Senate and are ready for new ideas and a fresh perspective."
"Susan Savage has said that if we want to change Albany, we have to change who we send to Albany. This filing is a clear sign that the people of New York agree," campaign strategist Doug Forand stated in the release. "Susan's success in bringing reform, economic growth and common-sense governing back to Schenectady County is a model for what we need to do to clean up Albany."
The release added that Savage "drastically outpaced the veteran politician by outworking the incumbent and by continuing to talk to voters about her record of creating jobs in Schenectady and her effort to change Albany."
An examination of Savage's $75,166 raised through the "Susan Savage for Senate" group shows several smaller donations of $100 or so from citizens throughout the Capital Region. The largest donation was $9,500 from Friends of Mike Gianaris - a group supporting that downstate assemblyman's run for state Senate. Her other higher donations included $2,500 each from donors in Manlius and Brooklyn; $1,500 each from New York Anaesthesiologists PAC of New York City, Malcolm A. Smith for New York, and New York State Pipe Trades PAC of Glens Falls; and $1,000 from the New State Corrections Officers PBA of Albany.
The 78-year-old Farley, seeking his 18th term in the Senate, said Friday he hasn't quite gotten into full fundraising mode yet.
"I haven't been raising money," the senator said. "That [$41,425] just happens to be coming in. I wasn't impressed by her fundraising."
He said he's been too busy helping to hammer out a state budget that's nearly four months late.
"I'll be doing some fundraising," Farley said.
A closer look at his first election filing shows many personal donations ranging from $25 to $500 from throughout his district into the "Friends of Farley" campaign. The largest individual donor was Thomas Dambra of Rexford, contributing $1,000. Other $1,000 donors included: Finkle Distributors Inc. of Johnstown, Unilux Advanced Manufacturing LLC of Niskayuna, Kingway Manor of Schenectady and Scotia Holdings Inc. of Guilderland.
"They're all New York City senators," Farley said of Savage's contributors.
He added, "I'm encouraged by the response of the people out there."
Farley said Stratton spent $900,000 in the 2000 Senate race and he still beat him by 16 percentage points.
Savage said Farley can put his political spin on the race, but she has a real chance in 2010.
"I think the Senate race is an important race," she said. "I think you're going to find it different. The district is vastly different."
She said more and more people are dissatisfied with the status quo and the Senate has become a "very disfunctional place."
"People are not content with the state Senate," Savage said.
She laughed at Farley's assessment of her husband's lobbying when the downstate banking industry has raised money for him.
"Sen. Farley has taken millions of dollars of lobbyists' money during his time in the Senate," Savage said.
She said there's a changing political environment and her job-creation efforts in Schenectady have served her well. She said he has the ability to attract people to her campaign.
"I have a very strong record," Savage said. "My intention is to work hard for the 44th Senatorial District."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.