ALBANY -- The stakes are high in the battle for control of the state Senate, evidenced by the flood of money in recent days to impact key races through the Hudson Valley, western New York and Long Island.
The influx of cash was highlighted Tuesday when a whopping $10 million was filed into a campaign committee for Airbnb, the home-sharing website that is fighting a bill that would impose new regulations on the company.
Whether the company, which in an expensive fight with the hotel industry, dumps money into legislative races is uncertain, but the filing raised eyebrows in Albany.
In 2014, the last time the 63 Senate races were on the ballot, independent expenditures by special-interest groups totaled about $15 million, Politico New York reported at the time.
"We want to make sure that our hosts know we're in their corner, and that both our critics and our allies hear their voices this November and beyond," Josh Meltzer, Airbnb's head of public policy, said in a statement.
Airbnb wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto a bill passed by lawmakers in June that would make it illegal to advertise apartments for rent for less than 30 days, which is already against New York law.Senate at stake on Election Day, Nov. 8, millions of dollars are pouring into races.
At stake is the direction of New York's education policies, real-estate laws and social issues.
Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate.
Earlier this month, hedge-fund manager Paul Singer contributed $1 million to StudentsFirstNY, a group that supports stronger education standards and more charter schools, records show.
The group's campaign committee since Sept. 1 has doled about $1.6 million to oppose Democratic Senate candidates, mainly through television ads, according to the campaign filings.
That includes more than $300,000 in ads each against Democratic candidates Terry Gipson and Alison Boak.
Boak is facing Sen. Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown, Westchester County.
Gipson is a former senator who is running in a rematch against Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, in a district that stretches through Dutchess and Putnam counties.
"We want to see a Senate that acts in the best interest of students and not special interests," Jenny Sedlis, StudentsFirstNY's executive director, said in a statement.
To counter the money, the New York State United Teachers union is ramping up its spending, putting about $1.5 million in Democratic candidates over the same period, records show.
That included $312,000 on Friday to run ads for Gipson.
NYSUT will not only run ads to aid its endorsed candidates, but will also volunteer to help the campaigns, said NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn.
"The commitment of financial resources helps our endorsed candidates to run competitive races, sometimes against opponents backed by hedge-fund billionaires and others who want to impose their personal ideology on the whole district," Korn said in a statement.
The outside money has fueled a war of words in some key races.
"New York City special interests like the Real Estate Board of New York and the charter school lobby have no place in Hudson Valley politics," Boak said in a statement about Murphy.
William Faulkner, Murphy's spokeswoman said, Murphy has supported stronger measures to control the influence of money in campaigns.
He said Boak "has no credibility whatsoever," charging that her campaign staff is tied to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose office is under investigation for steering money in 2014 races to help Democrats.
The race is considered one of the battleground contests as Democrats look to take control of the Senate for the first time since 2010 and Republican seek to retain its last vestige of statewide power in New York.
New York has twice as many Democrats than Republicans, and the GOP hasn't held a statewide seat since 2006.
USA TODAY Network Albany Bureau Chief