Eliminating the middleman, a Democratic candidate for a upstate New York seat in Congress is going after her Republican rival’s financial backer, Jewish billionaire Paul Singer.
Zephyr Teachout, a progressive Democrat running for an open seat in New York’s 19th congressional district, has challenged Singer to debate her personally after the hedge fund titan sunk a cool $500,000 into her opponent’s campaign warchest, the Huffington Post reported Monday.
“I want to talk to you about someone you’ve never heard of before,” Teachout, a law professor and expert on corruption, turned to her supporters in a video message, “because he has decided to spend half a million dollars on a super PAC supporting my opponent John Faso.”
The district includes the Catskills, with its substantial Jewish population, and a broad swath of upstate New York and the Hudson Valley.
Singer, one of the top Jewish Republican donors and a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, gave Faso the big check in May, equalling Teachout’s entire fundraising effort with one stroke of his pen. With the financial playing field level, the district that leans slightly to the Democratic side, could be a tight race in November.
Singer hasn’t responded to the challenge.
Once a reliable top funder of Republican presidential nominees, Singer has led the fight within the GOP against Donald Trump and has refused to provide any financial backing to the presidential race. He had backed Marco Rubio early on and was among the Republican donors who actively sought out other candidates to challenge Trump as the primary race thinned out.
Teachout rose to prominence by running an unexpectedly strong Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014. Her 35% vote in that race was considered a potent sign of Cuomo’s unpopularity with the liberal wing of the party.
Teachout also comes to the battle with her own major Jewish backer, although not of the super PAC type. She has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders, the Vermont progressive senator who challenged Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. Sanders and his campaign have called on their supporters to contribute to Teachout and are credited, to a great extent, with her victory in the June Democratic primary.
In her video message, Teachout called Singer a “big privatizer” who believes in “offshore everything” and who has never seen a trade deal he didn’t like. “I bet $500,000 isn’t even a lot of money for him,” she said, noting that her average donor gives only $15.
Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman