Two Republican multimillionaires are poised to jump into Congressional races in adjoining New York districts where upstart Democrats ousted GOP incumbents last fall, sources in the Empire State and Washington, D.C., said this week.
In the upstate 20th district, former New York Republican Chairman Sandy Treadwell, who has been preparing for a House bid for several months, filed papers Monday to challenge Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D).
And Republican leaders believe they have persuaded Andrew Saul, a veteran of the fashion industry and the investment world, to run against Rep. John Hall (D) in the Hudson Valley’s 19th district. He may formally enter the race before the end of the month.
Both Saul, the chairman of Caché Inc., the women’s fashion manufacturer and retailer, and Treadwell, an heir to the General Electric fortune, are longtime donors to Republican candidates and causes, and both are expected to wage free-spending campaigns to defeat the Democratic freshmen.
“We’re confident we can win both seats back,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
But Democrats dismiss the two millionaires as political novices who are simply trying to buy their way into Congress.
Gillibrand and Hall rode the national anti-Republican wave that crested in New York last year to upset victories in GOP-leaning House districts. Both have toured their districts tirelessly since taking office, and both posted very solid fundraising numbers for the first quarter of the year — Gillibrand especially.
Gillibrand raised $668,000 and banked $552,000 through March 31; Hall raised $350,000 and had $342,000 on hand.
Still, their fundraising totals could be dwarfed if Saul and Treadwell spend liberally from their own pockets. Both men are known for their civic and philanthropic work, and each has been generous to state and national Republicans for years. Both stepped up their activity with the Empire State GOP through their association with former Gov. George Pataki (R).
Pataki appointed Treadwell New York secretary of state and then arranged for him to become state party chairman, a post he held through the end of 2004. Saul is the Pataki-appointed vice chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that oversees New York City buses and subways and several commuter rail lines.
Treadwell has a wealth of connections in the 20th district through his work as state chairman and has been reaching out to party activists since late 2006. He spoke at a Lincoln Day dinner Tuesday night in Columbia County and recently set up his first campaign office in Saratoga Springs. Bill McGahay, who served as state GOP executive director when Treadwell was chairman, is already doing work for him.
Treadwell said he is in the “process of putting a team together” and finalizing his “media folks and polling people.” At the moment, he said his campaign was focused on “raising dollars” and “planning events.”
Treadwell said he told the Columbia County Republicans: “I very much want to be your candidate.”
But while Treadwell appears to be the favorite of national Republican leaders, his path to the GOP nomination is not assured. For starters, there remains a slim possibility that former Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), who lost the seat to Gillibrand by 6 points in November, may try to get his old job back.