Some of the campaign mailers that were sent out by the NY Republican State Committee in the last days of the 2021 campaign. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The New York Republican State Committee spent nearly $60,000 on the campaigns of candidates for Riverhead Town offices last year, according to campaign disclosure reports filed with the State Board of Elections.

The committee expended $19,376.10 for Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, $15,190.46 for Councilman Ken Rothwell, and $6,299 each for Councilman Bob Kern, Highway Superintendent Mike Zaleski, Assessor Laverne Tennenberg and Assessor Dana Brown.

Several mailers for the Riverhead Republican slate were paid for by the state committee, according to imprints on the mail pieces, which went out late in the campaign. One side of the mailers promoted the entire Republican slate with a positive message and the other side contained an attack on supervisor candidate Catherine Kent.

The state committee sent out at least one other mailer promoting Aguiar alone.

The amount spent on Riverhead campaigns is minuscule compared to other races, such as the more than $1.5 million the state committee dropped in the Nassau district attorney race in 2021. Most of the state committee’s expenditures on behalf of candidates last year were in county races across the state, including in Suffolk. But the committee did spend money in town races. It supported about a dozen candidates in town races in Suffolk County, besides the candidates in Riverhead: candidates in Islip and Huntington, as well as the Brookhaven town clerk.

The New York State Democratic Committee similarly spent large sums of money on mostly county and some town contests last year, but spent no money on Riverhead candidates.

Local and county party officials, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, said county committees often transfer funds to the state committees to pay for mailings and other expenses in county and town races because the state committee gets more favorable prices. The party officials also said some donors contribute large sums to the state committee earmarked for particular candidates in order to shield the donations from public disclosure. The state committee must disclose which candidates it allocates expenditures to, but not where the funding came from.

The only significant donor to the Republican State Committee with known ties to Riverhead is billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, who owns United Riverhead Terminal. He donated $50,000 to the state committee in October. A spokesman for Catsimatidis, attorney Nelson Happy, said Catsimatidis has no say in how the state committee spends the money he donates.

The state Republican committee spent money in Riverhead races only three times in recent elections: $12,450 on behalf of Aguiar in 2019, $10,919 on then-Councilwoman Jodi Giglio’s town supervisor campaign in 2015 and $6,835 on Giglio’s council race in 2013.

Riverhead Republicans swept the elections in November, winning every contested seat in a landslide. 

Aguiar raised $15,755 since Nov. 29 report

According to January periodic reports released last week, Aguiar raised $15,755 since the 27-day post general report on Nov. 29, with her biggest contributions being $1,000 donations from Noisi Firearms gun shop of Westhampton Beach, G2D Development Corp (developers of buildings on Osborn Avenue and Main Street), L.I. Drag Racing Club (the company behind the Long Island Needs a Drag Strip Facebook page) and J. Petrocelli Contracting Inc..

Aguiar has nearly $20,000 in her campaign chest, although she also has $20,000 in loans she made to her campaign currently outstanding, according to her report.

Aguiar’s campaign also refunded $2,191 in contributions, according to the January periodic report. Two of those refunds — $1,000 from the Long Island Builders PAC and $691 from East End Commercial Real Estate — were both made to entities who contributed above last election cycle’s $1,185 limit any single contributor was allowed to donate. (Editor’s Note: Aguiar’s report lists multiple refunds from Long Island Builders PAC with the same check number. This is assumed to be an error.)

Aguiar previously refunded over $15,000, and then another $4,500, in excess campaign contributions that were over the legal limit for any single contributor. The campaign remains $1,130 over the contribution limit from Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyards LLC, which is currently in front of the town’s planning board looking for approval to build a new tasting room.

Aguiar was the only candidate to receive an influx of donations following the election. Other winning candidates did not list any contributions on their committee’s January periodic reports. 

However, in a 27-day post general report amended Jan. 18, Rothwell’s campaign lists an unattributed $3,415 contribution on Nov. 20. Rothwell said the contribution listed is the total donations raised by the Zac Brown Tribute Band concert he hosted at Jamesport Farm Brewery. He said the money is the aggregate of contributions through ticket sales below $99, which do not require donor disclosures.

The campaign committees of former Democratic candidates Catherine Kent and Evelyn Hobson-Womack both had not filed a January periodic report as of Monday. According to the 27-day post-general reports, they have $4,913 and $2,090 left in their campaign accounts, respectively. The Riverhead Town Democratic Committee filed a “no-activity” report in lieu of a periodic report. 

The only Democrat to file a campaign finance disclosure report was Town Board candidate Juan Micieli-Martinez, who listed a $500 donation from Farm Country Kitchen on Oct. 20 — which is a contribution that was supposed to have been disclosed in the 11-day pre-general report.

In the race for New York State governor, incumbent Kathy Hochul has raised $21.6 million, the most out of any candidate in the running. Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is challenging Hochul for the Democratic nomination, raised $3.3 million. Another challenger, New York City public advocate and former lieutenant governor candidate Jumaane Williams, raised only $222,000.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, the current frontrunner in endorsements by Republican committees around the state, raised $4.2 million since his last report and currently has $5.6 million in the bank. Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is also vying for the Republican nomination, reported raising $763,000, with $1.3 million in the bank. Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor and Donald Trump lawyer Judi Giuliani, reported raising only $85,000 for his gubernatorial campaign.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]