With just a little less than two weeks left until the elections, we’re tying up every loose end of our election coverage. 

At the risk of sounding repetitive, the big-ticket race this year is that of the open-seat Suffolk County Executive, being vacated by term-limited Steve Bellone (D-West Babylon). No Republican has been elected Suffolk County Executive since Robert Gaffney (R) in 1999. 

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) is competing for the spot with Dave Calone (D-Setauket), a former federal prosecutor and private equity financier.  

Given Romaine’s credentials, long history in local government, decades-long popularity and name recognition, and twelve years supervising the largest and most complicated town in Suffolk County, The Messenger has already endorsed him for County Executive. 

But that doesn’t mean we still don’t have reasonable questions for Supervisor Romaine’s opponent. It’s more than just Romaine’s resume that makes him our pick, as well as that of Newsday, a critical endorsement that was unveiled earlier this week. There are several questions that should be asked of Dave Calone going into the final stretch of this election.  

Why did he loan himself $750,000? 

Last month, The Messenger did a deep-dive on Calone’s campaign donations and expenditures. Available to the public, it is shown that Calone loaned himself $250,000 from a physical address in July 2022, another $250,000 from post office box in January, and a final $250,000 from a separate post office box this past July.  

The campaign reports of Ed Romaine show no such donations. While Romaine has received sizable donations from Suffolk-based donors, the only donations from “himself” are those from his Supervisor campaign accounts, which is a common and legal form of transferring campaign funds.  

While Calone’s methods of self-funding his campaign are also perfectly common and legal, it begs the question: why does he feel the need to inject booster shots into his campaign when his opponent has had no issue raising money and support without loaning himself nearly $1 million?  

Who are Calone’s friends in high places? 

Calone is the President, CEO, and Managing Director of Jove Equity Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm which invests in companies operating the healthcare, real estate, digital media, software, transportation, energy, and Internet sectors. One issue posed by his background in finance and investment is that he shouldn’t have to look too far to find capital for his campaign. While we’re not asserting that his self-financing is unethical, it begs the question as to why he needs to do it in the first place. Someone with his experience in investments should probably have coffers full from where he can find money from within Suffolk. Is it possible donors didn’t want to fund his campaign, or are many seeing the writing on the wall that Romaine is likely to become the next Suffolk County Executive?  

Calone’s private equity background also prompts another topic: the finance he has received from his private equity connections.  

Top donors include Glen Tullman, CEO of the San Francisco-based consumer-direct healthcare platform Transcarent. Tullman, of Chicago, chipped in $50,000 to Calone’s campaign.  

Records on Crunchbase, a company that provides funding and investment information for private and public companies, show that Calone has been a board member of Tullman’s company since October 2020. The website also shows that Calone’s Jove Equity Partners is an investor of Transcarent. While the site does not disclose the amount shown, there is clearly a relationship between the two businessmen. There is nothing necessarily unethical about the relationship, it’s just a fair question as to why Calone’s top donors include people like Tullman, clearly a friend and a partner of Calone. 

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, the largest donation Calone received since July is a $50,000 check from Cayley Tullman, president of the Tullman Family Office, who listed an Alexandria, Virginia, address on the form. There is a relation between Cayley and Glen, further solidifying the relationship Calone has of friends in high places. 

Another partner of Calone The Messenger has previously discussed is that of Larry Mizel, founder and executive chairman of MDC Holdings, a Denver-based home construction company. Mizel made two $25,000 contributions to Calone, with one occurring on July 5 and the other on July 9. MDC and its subsidiaries have operations in fourteen states; New York is not one of them. 

Mizel helps bridge a gap between two other important factors in our questions for Calone. Mizel helped fund the 2019 inauguration committee of Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D). 

The ultimate friend in a high place for Mr. Calone is none other than the Colorado governor himself. Friends since their time at Princeton, Calone’s political and financial connections with Polis are hardly new. When Calone ran for New York’s First Congressional District in 2016, a technology entrepreneur and investor, Bart Lorang, founder and former CEO of FullContact, a technology company that provides cloud-based software products for businesses, developers, and brands, used his blog bartlorang.com to stump for Calone over the Internet, specifically mentioning his efforts to get Polis elected to Colorado’s Second Congressional District in 2008. 

According to Lorang’s blog: “It’s not often that we have a chance to put a real supporter of entrepreneurs into Congress. We did it awhile back, when we voted Jared Polis into U.S. Congress as Colorado’s 2nd District Representative. It’s been awesome to watch Jared take a stand on important issues…Now, we have a chance to elect another huge supporter of entrepreneurship and innovation. This time with Dave Calone for a House seat in New York! Dave is an amazing entrepreneur and angel/venture investor who has been active in the Boulder tech community for the last seven years as a mentor and board member. I should know. He was an early believer and investor in FullContact and has been supportive for the last four years. I can’t thank him enough for not only his financial support, but for his advice and his counsel during the inevitable ups and downs of the startup journey…So please join me in supporting Dave! See you in Boulder on Friday!” 

This adds to the pattern of behavior Calone is displaying while running for County Executive. Even during his 2016 run for Congress, Calone invested in an out-of-state firm and then received campaign contributions from his friends.  

Calone lost the 2016 House primary to Anna Throne-Holst, who would go on to lose to incumbent Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in 2016. 

Speaking of the Governor of Colorado, the formation of Calone’s Jove Equity Partners is actually attributed to Jared Polis himself. Calone took over the firm in 2008 when Polis was elected to the U.S. House. A local Colorado outlet VailDaily, documents the questions Polis received from his opponent during the 2008 U.S. House races specifically mentioned Jove Partners. A 2018 piece from The Gazette during the 2018 Colorado gubernatorial election also shows Jove Equity as a notable asset of Polis, the value of which was estimated to be between $25 million and $50 million according to a 2017 OpenSecrets report. 

Why is Calone so connected to Colorado? 

Last month, The Messenger examined Calone’s numbers and found that even though the Colorado addresses listed in Calone’s contribution report account for just 4% of his total unique donations, those same addresses account for 17% of his total contributions, omitting the $800,000 Calone loaned himself.  

With nearly 20% of his total funding coming from the Centennial State, Calone has also demonstrated a decently-sized list of coffers from the Rockies, who have spared no expense in returning the favor when Calone invested in their technology startups. 

Moreover, Calone attended a Manhattan fundraiser with Governor Polis in July in search of $100,000. The event was held at a private residence and was closed to the public. 

As if Calone didn’t need more outside help, on October 17, a text message invite to a Zoom fundraiser was sent out. The fundraiser included not only Governor Polis, but House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), nationalizing a local race while Supervisor Romaine has not appeared alongside any players from the national stage, except for Lee Zeldin, who still has verifiable and legitimate roots in Shirley.  

How much has Calone spent on consultants? 

According to the July report, Calone spent $48,500 on consultation services from Global Strategy Group (GSG), a New York City-based public relations firm. According to their website, GSG has worked as “top Democratic pollsters” who worked for “dozens of winning campaigns and political organizations.” They claim their work was “pivotal” in securing Democratic majorities in the U.S. House and Senate in 2020. 

Calone paid $102,820 to Tucker Green Consulting and Threshold Group, Inc. Green is the founder and president of Threshold Group. Green touts his first political job being on the 2004 presidential campaign for Vermont governor Howard Dean (D), and his time as Threshold’s leader “working for candidates and organizations across the tri-state area and country.” Green lives in Westport, Connecticut. 

Calone’s consultation numbers beg another question: why does someone born and raised in Setauket need hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultation from nationally-minded groups to run a local campaign? While consultation is expected and often necessary in most campaigns, his knowledge of his own neighborhood would be expected to run farther than what consultants from out of state tell him. 

The Latest Numbers 

In the final campaign report of the season, Ed Romaine has $1,539,352 in the race, while Calone has $1,019,685. In filings dated from July 13 to October 6, Calone has raised $526,390 compared to Romaine’s $460,021. 

State filings show the massive disparity between spending, with Calone having spent $1.88 million since July, and Romaine having spent $461, 521.  

Additionally, Calone has spent $1.1 million on television commercials, while Romaine has spent $240,395. 

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Matt Meduri has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Messenger Papers since August 2023. He is the author of the America the Beautiful, Civics 101, and This Week Today columns. Matt graduated from St. Joseph's University, Patchogue, in 2022, with a degree in Human Resources and worked for his family's IT business for three years. He's also a musician and composer with his sights set on the film industry. Matt has traveled all around the U.S. and enjoys cooking, photography, and a good cup of coffee.