Governor Wilbur

Betsy's 'Warbucks' Bets $3 Million on Wonk With a Wiggle

The Ross family campaign would be going nowhere were it not for a third candidate in the race, Brooklyn D.A. Joe Hynes, who consistently registers in the teens on state polls. Kevin McCabe, who is running the Vallone effort, estimates that 80 percent of Hynes voters would be for Vallone, a fellow Catholic with strong city name recognition, were Hynes not in the race.

Hynes announced in May that he would withdraw from the race if he did not get the 25 percent at the state Democratic convention necessary for automatic nomination. Ross got him enough delegates, throwing at least $87,000 at Nassau County Democratic leader Steve Sabbeth to move votes into the Hynes column. The Hynes and Ross campaigns are so connected that one of Hynes's top backers, Senate Democratic leader Marty Connor, was paid $30,000 by Ross on July 20.

Connor, who employed one of Hynes's sons, represented Hynes in his 1994 race for attorney general, and directed Hynes's floor operation at the state convention this year, told the Voice that Nussbaum and Wilbur hired him as the campaign's election lawyer in early July. Connor says he got the D.A.'s okay before accepting the position with Ross.

A skillful election lawyer with connections at every level of board and judicial review, Connor says he helped bind and check Ross's 58,000 petition signatures, far more than the legally required 15,000. He says he was hired—even though Ross already had an experienced lawyer supervising the almost-completed petition effort at a third of Connor's cost—because the campaign was "paranoid" about a challenge that, not surprisingly, never occurred. The campaign obviously was not paranoid about a challenge from Hynes, since it was eager to hire an election lawyer from an ostensible opposing camp, virtually an unprecedented occurrence in state politics.

By Connor's own count, his Ross paycheck, the largest he's ever collected as a statewide retainer without litigation, amounted to about $3000 a day. Connor and Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, whose club candidates Connor represents at no cost, have been the two principal Democratic obstacles to a Vallone nomination, even convincing a reluctant Hynes to stay in the race when he threatened to withdraw earlier this year.

The Hynes campaign is so half-hearted that it's raised half of its 1994 million-dollar total, and wasted much of it, leaving only $84,000 in the bank with a month to go. It's made $7250 in payments to committees controlled by Brooklyn boss Clarence Norman, paid a Norman friend $12,000 for two months of campaign work, dumped $90,000 on a printer tight with Norman and Connor, and given $50,000 to one Hynes son and an aide in the D.A.'s office. Hynes is hardly raising any money from the biggest donors to his earlier campaigns, including cigarette distributor Lenny Schwartz, insurance executive William Wallach, and lawyer Barry Kamins.

He is running to place, not to win—a pacer for Ross in a primary that has only Republicans smiling.

Research: Anne Benjaminson, Michael Kolber, Dan Steinberg, and Nicole White

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