Billionaire cosmetics executive Ronald Lauder has funded an independent expenditure committee that over the last day spent more than $1 million in TV ads against Democrats running in key state Senate races.
Lauder, the chairman emeritus of Estee Lauder, contributed $1.7 million to the group Safe Together New York, a filing at the state Board of Elections shows. The committee has since spent a combined $1 million on TV ads against incumbent Sens. Monica Martinez, Jim Gaughran, Kevin Thomas and Andrew Gounardes. An ad funded by the group is also airing to oppose Democrat John Mannion, who is seeking an open Senate seat in central New York as well as Democrat Jim Barber.
The filing shows the group is also spending money in those races on Facebook and Google ads.
The money could be the starting gun for what has so far been a relatively sleepy front in the ad wars among independent expenditure groups in state Senate and Assembly races.
Senate Democrats in 2018 gained control of the chamber for the first time in a decade with victories on Long Island and in Brooklyn as well as the Hudson Valley.
Mannion is running for the seat vacated by Republican Bob Antonacci, a Syracuse-area district that Democrats have long hoped to flip. Barber is running to flip the seat being vacated by Republican James Seward.
Even if Democrats lose all of these races, their majority would not be imperiled. But Democrats in the chamber do stand to potentially win a supermajority after this year's elections.