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Democrats, labor pour money into anti-AOC effort ahead of primaries

The Democratic Party’s civil war is raging ahead of the New York primaries at the end of June.

The state Democratic Party and political allies are throwing big bucks around as they rally to save embattled Assembly members targeted by democratic socialist challengers supported by the likes of lefty superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“These are people who want to take over the Democratic Party, want to take over the Legislature and we disagree with them … We’re not going to stand idly,” state party Chair Jay Jacobs told The Post Friday.

Newly released campaign finance records show the AFL-CIO and TWU Local 100 have respectively sent $25,000 and $117,000 to the state party in recent days.

The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, has sent $4,700 checks each to embattled Assembly incumbents Erik Dilan (D-Brooklyn), Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster) and Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx).

“I’m very lucky,” Benedetto said of getting at least $6,700 from several unions in recent days after reporting just $10,489 on hand in late May.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto received more than $6,000 from multiple unions.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

He and Assemblywoman Nikki Lucas (D-Brooklyn) have received thousands in recent days from organized labor to bring their campaign war chests to a relatively flush $50,000 each

Lucas challenger Keron Alleyne reported $36,350 last month but no new totals by publication time.

Groups like the Working Families Party and the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America are targeting Democratic legislative incumbents ahead of the June 28 primary election — early voting starts Saturday, June 18 — following a disappointing legislative session for some on the political left.

Assemblyman Erik Dilan (D-Brooklyn)
Assemblyman Erik Dilan is being pitted against District Leader Samy Nemir Olivares.
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“We’re calling in all the help that we can get because we just had an incredibly depressing legislative cycle, where the Democrats didn’t pass any of the priorities that we were fighting for,” said Nina Luo, co-chair of the DSA chapter.

Climate activist Sarahana Shrestha for example, is going after Cahill after he failed to move legislation this year imposing a carbon tax statewide.

“We have to have all hands on deck and make sure we win this thing,” Cahill told The Post.

But Shresta’s campaign received a $4,700 donation on June 14 from the AOC-affiliated Courage to Change PAC after reporting $69,377 last month compared to $52,631 for Cahill.

Neither campaign had filed new totals by publication time.

The DSA and Working Families Party are both backing challenges against Cahill, Dilan and Lucas while the WFP is also targeting Benedetto.

Dilan reported $197,786 against the $71,942 on hand for local Democratic District Leader Samy Nemir Olivares, but neither candidate had updated totals ready by publication time.

The father of the incumbent, former state Sen. Martin Dilan, notably lost a 2018 Democratic primary for state Senate against Julia Salazar despite a fundraising edge with party insiders and their allies.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster)
Climate activist Sarahana Shrestha Shrestha is challenging Assemblyman Kevin Cahill’s seat in Ulster.
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Former AOC staffer Jonathan Soto has received a $4,700 donation from his former boss, but confirmed Friday he now has about a third of the money that Benedetto has to spend in the home stretch of the campaign after having the edge weeks ago.

The donations are part of a wider battled between the progressive superstar and the party establishment that include recent clashes with congressional colleagues like Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Hudson Valley) as well as New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

New campaign filings show tens of thousands in new donations have also flowed to Gov. Kathy Hochul for her own campaign ahead of her own primary election while she receives help from spending by an increasingly flush state party.

Jonathan Soto, Candidate for NYS Assembly District 82.
Former AOC staffer Jonathan Soto claims he never advocated for defunding the police.
Courtesy of Jonathan Soto

The race heated up Friday when Benedetto released a video online accusing Soto of calling to defund the police.

“A lot of the fear-mongering that he’s using, claiming that we’re talking about abolishing the police. I have a very clear narrative on public safety as a public school parent,” Soto told the Post.

Benedetto and other incumbents appear to be winning the money game for now, but the WFP-endorsed Soto expressed confidence Friday that grassroots campaigning would win the day for him – just like AOC and other democratic insurgents in past election cycles.

“He hasn’t been knocking on doors and in the community. And he basically wasted a lot of his money … that’s not how you win,” Soto said of Benedetto.

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