BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
The question of whether candidates are receiving support from conservative donors and organizations has become a sticking point in the Democratic primary for the 38th State Senate District.
Lead candidates for the seat are Clarkstown Town Clerk Justin Sweet and Nyack Trustee Elijah Reichlin-Melnick. Sweet accused Reichlin-Melnick of accepting “thousands of dollars in questionable campaign donations from Donald Trump’s best friend – NYC real estate mogul and GOP bankroller Richard LeFrak.”
Sweet told the Rockland County Times, “I have no idea why millionaires and billionaires from New York City’s real estate industry would be so invested in a suburban State Senate district. But it’s a question that deserves an answer.”
The claim LeFrak donated to Reichlin-Melnick’s campaign is not technically true, however, as LeFrak’s donations have come through an independent PAC. Reichlin-Melnick claims to have never met or talked to LeFrak.
“My opponent’s claim is demonstrably false. None of these people or groups have ever donated to my campaign. I’ve made it very clear throughout this campaign that the richest New Yorkers must pay their fair share and that if elected I will lead the fight to raise taxes on multi-millionaires and billionaires. My campaign is being powered towards victory on June 23 by a diverse coalition of Democrats – including over 75 endorsements from progressive leaders and organizations and hundreds of local grassroots donors.”
Sweet noted in a press release that the political action committee, the Hudson Valley Voters for Change, has thousands of dollars in its coffers – and lots of supporting materials for Reichlin-Melnick, including a glossy new mailer. Many of the donations to the PAC came through LLCs owned by LeFrak.
Meanwhile, Reichlin-Melnick’s campaign hit back at Sweet’s past friendly relations with the NRA and own campaign donations received from non-Democrats. “It is ironic that Mr. Sweet is accusing others of ‘betraying Democrats’ when he has run as the nominee of the far-right Conservative Party many times and has a troubling history of connections to the NRA. Adding to the irony, a quarter of the money he has received from individual donors has come from registered Republicans and Conservatives, and less than 55 percent has come from Democrats. For a Democratic senate candidate to get nearly half his individual donations from non-Democrats is extremely unusual, to say the least,” Evan Menist, campaign manager for Reichlin-Melnick said.