Senator Kennedy Calls For New “Unifying” Leadership In The Erie County Democratic Committee

Just days after surviving a primary challenge, State Senator Tim Kennedy said Monday he’s not interested in challenging Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner for leadership of the party.

“Any time you have the sort of resounding victory against the party machine that we had there’s going to be a lot of talk but that’s all that it is right now,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he’s focused on doing his job and preparing for the general election in November, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy with the current leadership.  Kennedy has some choice words for the executive committee.

“Quite frankly the leadership that’s currently in existence here in Erie County has created an embarrassing situation where it’s the most dysfunctional party in the state of New York,” said Kennedy.

Zellner and the top elected Democrat in Erie County, Mark Poloncarz, both endorsed Kennedy’s democratic opponent Betty Jean Grant.  They also accused Kennedy of creating division within the party by donating money to a Political Action Committee that funded progressive challenges to party endorsed candidates last fall.

Poloncarz is supporting Zellner again for chairman.   He said Zellner has the support of the committee members who will actually vote at the party’s reorganizations meeting next month.

“Jeremy’s worked very hard to create an environment that’s conducive to electing good Democrats.  He worked very hard in support of Governor Cuomo in this recent primary and it showed,” Poloncarz said.

Governor Cuomo got 70 percent of the Erie County vote in his primary with Zephyr Teachout, and despite the loss in the Kennedy-Grant race Poloncarz thinks Zellner had a very good Primary Night.

“I think Tim (Kennedy) probably looked at things and said, ‘Well, he’s not happy with things being done at Democratic Headquarters but the chairman does have the support of the committeemen.’  So I’m happy he’s not going to run I don’t think we need a fight for the chairmanship,” Poloncarz added.

When reached by phone late Monday night Zellner called Kennedy’s comments “a shame.”  Zellner said both he and Poloncarz reached out to Kennedy to congratulate him and try to promote unity.

“It does not surprise me however that he is taking this road because his Chief Advisor Steve Pigeon is the most divisive figure in our county’s party history,” Zellner said.

Zellner, who plans on being re-elected chairman, said he’s been working to bring the unity many Democrats are calling for.  Despite the split with Kennedy, Zellner believes he’s made progress.

“We are not stopping that momentum now.  Senator Kennedy ought to be working with our party, not attempting to divide us,” Zellner said.

Zellner could face another challenge from Cheektowaga Democratic Chairman Frank Max.  Max unsuccessfully challenged Zellner in 2012, and as all parties acknowledged there’s usually a surprise candidate.


The Barack Obama Foundation announced the finalists for Obama’s presidential library and museum: the University of Chicago; the University of Illinois at Chicago; Columbia University and the University of Hawaii.

Tom Golisano, who was said to be in the running to purchase the Buffalo Bills football team, said he was pleased he lost out to Terry and Kim Pegula.

Zephyr Teachout wants to stump for Democratic Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk and James Kemmerer, challenger to Brooklyn GOP Sen. Marty Golden.

Teachout and Tim Wu called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo support net neutrality.

NY-21 Democratic candidate Aaron Woolf wants to raise the minimum wage, but he didn’t always pay it to employees at a Brooklyn eatery he owns, legal filings show.

Woolf’s GOP opponent, Elise Stefanik, released details from her 2013 tax return, and called on him to do the same.

“This American Life” did a show on the school board battle in East Ramapo.

Frank Seddio, the chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, believes Sen. John Sampson will be returning to Albany next year – with his help.

NYC Public Advocate Tish James targeted nail salons in a new report.

Sen. Liz Krueger will introduce an amended version of her bill seeking to legalize marijuana for general use in New York.

Bob Hardt thinks US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is going to be a “major player” as the Democrats search for their post-Obama identity.

The governor hasn’t been spending much time in the Capital Region.

Onondaga taxpayers will see a property tax decrease but increases in water and sewer fees if the Legislature adopts the 2015 budget proposed today by County Executive Joanie Mahoney.

New York City’s adult smoking rate has risen to 16 percent, according to new city data, the highest rate since 2007.

The NYS Rifle & Pistol Association is running a GOTV campaign.

GOP NY-4 candidate Bruce Blakeman seized on his opponent’s formation of a new joint-fundraising committee and its use of a veteran political treasurer who once admitted campaign finance violations.

Cuomo signed a law that will let the same firm design and build the Onondaga Lake amphitheater on the western shore of Onondaga Lake.

Deadspin picked up the Bills vs. Fins storyline in the governor’s race.

AG Eric Schneiderman’s office has indicted a state Education Department employee for allegedly stealing more than $2.5 million through a diversion scheme which captured money that was supposed to go driving schools.

The University at Buffalo has nearly 30,000 students enrolled for 2014-15, the largest student body in the history of the university.

DiNapoli Plans To Debate Antonacci

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was endorsed on Monday by the PBA of New York State, signaling a post Labor Day kick off for his re-election campaign.

“Endorsing Comptroller DiNapoli was an easy decision for our members,” said PBA of NYS President Manuel Vilar. “Residents of Upstate New York are learning what Long Islanders have long known: Comptroller DiNapoli has represented the voices of organized labor and the working class; he has acted in the best interest of all New Yorkers, and not in his self-interests; and he has committed to, and delivered on, his promise to be open and honest in his actions.”

The PBA of New York State formed in 2011 after breaking away from Council 82, which at the time was undergoing tough contract negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. Today’s endorsement of DiNapoli is one of the first statewide nods the labor group has given since its formation.

DiNapoli, who assumed the office in 2007, is running statewide for a second time, and faces Republican Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci.

His campaign in 2010 was a bit more high profile, considering he faced Republican Harry Wilson, a wealthy self-funding candidate who narrowly lost.

This time around, DiNapoli is more of a known quantity for statewide voters, while Antonacci is working to qualify for the state’s newly formed public matching program, which applies only to the comptroller’s race.

Still, DiNapoli has focused on turn out in November and hopes to remind voters that he still has a race this year for an office that, while important, can be an after thought.

“We’re going to do what we can in the normal ways of getting the message out there and I hope those who support will remind people it’s out there,” he said. “Part of our effort on the political side certainly is to remind me this office is important, this race is going on.”

Antonacci has called for a series of debates with DiNapoli, who said today he expects there to be one.

“I’m sure there will be a debate,” he said.

After Primary Win, Murphy Hits Airwaves (Updated)

The subhead of this post: Do the Senate Republicans have a secret plan to groom a new generation of young voters by getting their parents to raise their allowance?

I joke – but only sort of.

Terrence Murphy, a Yorktown councilman and the preferred Senate GOP candidate to run for retiring Sen. Greg Ball’s seat, has released his first TV ad of the campaign since defeating his primary opponent, Assemblyman Bob Castelli, last week.

The ad features Murphy and his wife, Caroline, getting a campaign briefing from their two kids, daughter McKayla and son Jack. McKayla, dressed in a business suit, does all the talking. Her candidate dad doesn’t say a word. And the whole thing ends with a joke about raising the kids’ allowance – the second time a Senate GOP candidate’s offspring have made that pitch in a campaign spot. (The first was one of Sen. Jack Martins’ four daughters).

The Senate Republicans and their candidates are under fire this election cycle for the failure of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act to pass in tact, thanks to GOP Leader Dean Skelos’ refusal to let it come to the floor for a vote with its abortion rights plank.

Obviously, the GOP has determined that the best way to address the women’s rights issue is to play up the fact that some of their candidates are the fathers of daughters, and therefore have a vested interest in this particular topic.

UPDATE: Apparently this “kids teaching you how to run a campaign” idea was also used by an Iowa US Senate candidate who lost a GOP primary in June – a point the Senate Democrats employed to slam Murphy. His campaign shrugged off the criticism, accusing the Democrats of trying to distract attention away from important topics.

Here’s the script of Murphy’s ad:

Daughter: Dad, we’ve put together a plan for your campaign for New York State Senate. First, keep cutting taxes. You did it here on the town council, now you can do it up in Albany. Second, make sure everybody knows how you kept dangerous chemicals out of our water. And third, raise our allowance.

Astorino Campaign Upset With Photoshopping Son Out Of Picture

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s campaign is upset with a Democratic ad that mocks his support for the Miami Dolphins for including a photoshopped picture that erases the candidate’s son.

While most candidates would not want their children included in an attack ad, even a light-hearted one that pokes fun at Astorino being a fan of an out-of-state team, the Republican candidate says the spot is “personally hurtful” for altering a family photo.

“Andrew Cuomo’s negative advertising already knew no bounds, but to erase my son from a cherished family photo is wrong and personally hurtful,” Astorino said in a statement. “If Governor Cuomo wants to keep running false ads against me with his pay-to-play millions that’s his business, but doctoring my family photos is beyond the pale. I won’t even bother asking him for an apology, because I know I won’t get one from this governor.”

Astorino has indeed included his rather telegenic family in his campaign and features them in his TV commercial that’s airing statewide.

The ad aired in western New York as the Buffalo Bills took on the Dolphins on Sunday.

The spot, paid for by the Erie County Democratic Committee, also highlighted Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s focus on Buffalo during his first term.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner told our colleagues at TWC News in Buffalo that the was “fun.”

“We’re working with the state committee and the governor’s campaign to put a little levity in there but also point out the fact that it is no small thing that our governor has paid so much close attention to our community over the last four years,” he said.

Zellner had no comment when asked about Astorino’s criticism of it photoshopping his son out of the ad.

Tkaczyk Loses Women’s Equality Line

Democratic Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk’s efforts to gain the Women’s Equality Party ballot line failed on Monday when a state Supreme Court judge invalidated nominating petitions submitted by her campaign.

Tkaczyk, a first-term Democratic lawmaker, faces Republican George Amedore, who she narrowly defeated in 2012.

“Cecilia Tkaczyk’s petitions were carried and signed by out-of district voters, who have no ties to the 46th Senate District, including pages upon pages from Brooklyn and the Bronx,” said Eileen Miller, a spokeswoman Amedore campaign. “Just because she votes like she represents the residents of New York City does not mean the residents of New York City can legally sign her nominating petitions. It’s shameful that she has such disregard for state election law and the people of her district.”

Tkaczyk spokesman Gary Ginsburg responded, saying the “bottom line” is that the incumbent continues to be a supporter for women’s right in the state Senate.

“George Amedore has again demonstrated his opposition to women’s rights and he should be ashamed of himself. He voted against equal pay for women every chance he got in the Assembly and opposes a woman’s right to choose even in cases of rape or if her life or health are in danger. The bottom line is that only one candidate in this race will fight to protect women’s rights and healthcare, and that’s Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk.”

The campaign had submitted 4,444 signatures to gain access to the ballot line, but a hearing officer of the state Board of Elections found 3,160 of those were invalid. Three-thousand signatures are needed to qualify for the independent line.

Tkaczyk isn’t the first incumbent Democrat to fail at gaining access to the Women’s Equality Party line: Rochester-area Sen. Ted O’Brien, another freshman Democrat, tried unsuccessfully to be added to the WEP ballot.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Democrats earlier this year formed the Women’s Equality Party as a way to boost vote totals in November and promote the women’s agenda, a 10-point omnibus package of bills with provisions aimed at pay equity, anti-human trafficking and housing discrimination.

The package has stalled in the state Senate due in large part to Republican opposition to a plank the is aimed at codifying Roe v. Wade in state law.

Tkaczyk did receive the Green Party ballot line last week through the opportunity-to-ballot process.

The Tkaczyk-Amedore rematch is considered one of the more closely contested races in the Legislature this year.

Friday Night and What’s Ahead

Who should be invited to debates? Rob Astorino shares his thoughts. Plus, after our exclusive TWC News/Siena Poll showed Sean Eldridge trailing incumbent Rep. Chris Gibson, we caught up with the candidates for their reactions. Catch highlights here, as well as a look ahead to tonight:



Rob Astorino Interview

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren Interview

Sen. Mike Gianaris Interview

Reporter Roundtable

Biz Council Sees Gains In Past Session

The state Business Council on Monday presented a rosy picture of the 2013-14 legislative session, praising the Senate and Assembly for approving “pro-growth” measures ranging from tax reform to controlling state spending.

While the lobby group acknowledges more is to be done on energy and health care issues, the Business Council presented positive scores for not just the state Senate (under a coalition of Republicans and independent Democrats) but also Democrats in the Assembly, a conference not necessarily known for endearing itself to the business community.

“As in past years, the strongest support for our issues comes from the Senate and Assembly Republican conferences, with a high number of both scoring 80 percent or more, while members of the Independent Democratic Conference also achieved positive scores,” said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of government affairs for The Business Council. “With two-house passage of a number of Business Council priority bills, we also saw a sharp improvement in scores in the Assembly Democratic conference. Where just 25 Assembly Democrats topped 50 percent pro-business in 2012, in this two-year cycle, all but 14 members scored 50 percent or higher.”

Pokalsky is a guest on Capital Tonight this evening.

The scores for the Senate and Assembly can be found here.

The positive reaction comes as the Business Council is mulling whether to endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a second term.

The group backed Cuomo’s election in 2010 over Republican businessman Carl Paladino (who notoriously got into a shouting match with The New York Post’s Fred Dicker at the group’s annual meeting in Bolton Landing).

Cuomo’s first term has been marked with holding spending increases at under 2 percent year over year, a cap on property tax increases and a general push toward making the state more business friendly.

But business groups gave pause in May when Cuomo was endorsed by the labor-backed Working Families Party, pledging to support a faster increase in the state’s minimum wage, local control for a minimum wage increase as well as a full takeover of the Senate by the Democratic conference.

Astorino Warms To Hawkins In Debate

With Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins piercing through double-digits in public polls, Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino says he is open to including the third-party candidate.

“You’ve got one of two people who can win the race – Andrew Cuomo or me. We’re the major party candidates,” Astorino said in a Capital Tonight interview on Friday. “I think it’s potentially up for discussion at the time of the debates, if Howie Hawkins is doing very well then maybe it should be considered.”

Hawkins has polled statewide at 10 percent, and in two congressional districts — the NY-19 and the NY-21 — Hawkins receives 12 percent of the vote in a race including Astorino and Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

Astorino has called repeatedly for televised debates in different regions of the state with Cuomo, who is running for a second term.

The Republican — who trails in name recognition and fundraising against Cuomo — has said the best forum would be for a one-on-one with Cuomo.

But as Hawkins makes a play for voters who backed Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout in last week’s Democratic primary — a contest that saw her receive 34 percent of the vote — the Green Party candidate could siphon some votes from the Democratic general election ticket.

Hawkins, along with Ralph Nader, sat for an exclusive interview that airs this evening on Capital Tonight.

Rep. Grimm Goes Negative In First TV Ad

Scandal-scarred Republican Rep. Michael Grimm is out with the first TV ad of his re-election campaign, and he’s going right for the jugular of his NY-11 Democratic opponent, Domenic Recchia, accusing the former NYC councilman of being a “tax-raising machine.”

In a statement announcing the new spot, the Staten Island (and a small piece of Brooklyn) congressman slammed Recchia’s Council voting record, noting he supported tolling the outer borough bridges with his backing of congesting pricing – former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s long-time pet project, which died at the hands of the state Legislature. Grimm also criticizes Recchia for voting in favor of extending term limits, which not only enabled Bloomberg to successfully seek a third term, but also extended his own tenure in public office.

“For 12 years as a Brooklyn councilman, Dom Recchia raised almost every middle class tax he could get his hands on, hiking property taxes a record 18.49 percent and raising income taxes,” Grimm said in a statement. “As if the $15 Verrazano toll isn’t bad enough, my opponent voted for even more tolls through congestion pricing and then had the audacity to vote himself an unprecedented third term against the will of the people.”

Grimm’s release does not mention the size of the ad buy, or how long it will be airing. The congressman is a top target of the DCCC, which is hammering him on the airwaves - and also has been largely abandoned by the politial arm of the House Republicans – thanks to his indictment on federal fraud and tax charges in connection with an Upper East Side eatery he used to own. (He has pleaded not guilty).

Recchia launched his first ad of the campaign in mid-August. Grimm’s legal troubles have negatively impacted his fundraising, which might explain why it took him this long to get onto the air to try to counter the Democrats’ ads.

An investigation into his fund-raising operation is ongoing, and his former girlfriend recently pleaded guilty to making an illegal contribution to his campaign when he first ran for Congress in 2010. She is not, however, cooperating with the federation government’s probe. Grimm ousted one-term Democratic Rep. Michael McMahon in 2010. McMahon won the long-held GOP seat after its former occupant, ex-Rep. Vito Fossella, declined to seek re-election in 2008 after a drunk driving arrest exposed his extramarital affair and out-of-wedlock child.

Here’s the script of Grimm’s new ad:

“Congressman: I’m Michael Grimm, and I approve this message.”

Narrator: “Domenic Recchia thinks we’re fools. Recchia claims to protect the midle class, but he’s just a tax-raising machine, raising income taxes, raising your property taxes over 18 percent. Now Recchia says he wants to lower tolls. But for 12 years as a Brooklyn councilman he did nothing except vote for even more tolls.

More taxes. More tolls. That’s the real Recchia. Don’t be fooled.”