In Debate, Cuomo And Astorino Engage, On Topic Or Not

There were four candidates on stage, but both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino sought to make the only scheduled debate of the campaign about them.

The candidates for governor squared off in an hour-long debate on Wednesday evening with topics ranging from the governor’s handling of the defunct Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, upstate economic development, hydrofracking and medical marijuana.

But both Cuomo and Astorino came ready to blast each other and largely ignore Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Michael McDermott.

McDermott, in particular, was highlight complimentary of Cuomo, thanking him for insisting the minor-party candidates be allowed to debate and defended the governor when he was asked about his previous comment in a radio interview about “extreme conservatives” having a place in the state.

Both Cuomo and McDermott exchanged a warm handshake at the conclusion of the debate.

At the heart of the forum was much of what has been discussed during the campaign: Cuomo insisting the state’s economy and government had improved and became better functioning under his watch, while Astorino criticizing the state’s tax and regulatory climate, which he says leads to an out-migration.

Cuomo, who has rarely mentioned his opponent by name in public, was quick to criticize “my friend, Mr. Astorino.”

“The people are following those jobs for better states,” Astorino said while knocking Cuomo’s handling of the economy.

Cuomo responded to tout his record on change the state’s tax code while criticizing Astorino for a credit down grade of Westchester County during his tenure as well as high property taxes.

“Yeah, rhetoric is fine, facts are better,” he said.

When the topic turned to Cuomo delaying a decision on whether to allow high-volume hydrofracking, the governor said he was waiting to see the outcome of a lengthy Department of Health review. He then took a swing at Astorino

“When he goes upstate he’s Sarah Palin, drill baby drill,” he said.”When he goes back home he’s Mark Ruffalo and supports a ban on wastewater treatment storage.”

Hawkins, the Green Party candidate who pledged to ban hydrofracking, was used as a foil by the governor.

Cuomo, in a chance to play up his centrist credentials, noted he physically and literally had Astorino and Hawkins to his right and left respectively on the issue.

As expected, Astorino excoriated Cuomo for his handling of the Moreland Commission, including alleged interference by his office in the direction of subpoenas as well as shutting the panel down following an ethics agreement.

The Moreland situation is currently the subject of an ongoing inquiry by the U.S. attorney’s office.

“Why do you need a criminal defense team if you’ve done nothing wrong?” Astorino said to Cuomo.

But in many respects, the debate format seemed to resemble a game of telephone.

One candidate would asked a question about a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills football team, which would then lead to Cuomo and Astorino sparring over a complex housing settlement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

On that score, Hawkins said he did not believe the team should have a taxpayer-funded facility built for them.

“I think Mr. Pegula has enough money for a new stadium,” he said, referring to the team’s new owner, Terry Pegula.

But on that question, Astorino and Cuomo blasted each other for their stances on a 2009 affordable housing settlement in Westchester County with the federal government.

Cuomo indicated Astorino’s stance hurt minorities; Astorino accused Cuomo of “playing the race card.”

Likewise, a question about medical marijuana devolved into both Cuomo and Astorino continuing to litigate the HUD issue, as well as local and state property taxes.

Nevertheless, McDermott, the Libertarian candidate, saw an opportunity with the medical marijuana question.

“I think I can stay on this topic,” he said.

Extras

While pushing the Women’s Equality Party, Democratic LG candidate Kathy Hochul has described a proposal to reform colleges’ handling of sexual assaults as the 11th plank of its agenda.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, will be dressing up for Halloween and greeting trick-or-treaters at Gracie Mansion.

Brian McLaughlin, a one-time Queens Democratic political power and labor leader, was released from a federal prison camp after serving a little more than half of his 10-year sentence.

Nassau County GOP Chairman Joe Mondello is still in Astorino’s corner, even if the local county executive, Ed Mangano, is for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

While flirting yet again with a presidential run, former Gov. George Pataki made a pitch for smaller government in New Hampshire this morning.

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health has sent a letter to Cuomo calling for set training and standards to deal with a potential outbreak of the Ebola virus in New York.

An airline passenger who arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport on Tuesday and was held for evaluation at a New Jersey hospital has not tested positive for Ebola.

Democratic state Senate candidate Madelyn Thorne, who’s challenging GOP Sen. Hugh Farley, has a new ad explaining why she’s running.

By promoting Bill Clinton’s rally for Rep. Tim Bishop, Stony Brook University may have violated its own long-standing policy against using resources to aid political candidates or causes.

Rep. Paul Tonko is also on the air, and is using the ad as a fundraising tool.

GOP NY-21 candidate Elise Stefanik is getting attention from young voters for the possibility that she’ll be the youngest member of Congress is she’s elected next month.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise endorsed GOP AG candidate John Cahill.

The Fix tries to figure out who the 945 people were that bought Cuomo’s book.

Cuomo praised former NY Post editor Pete Hamill at a cremony where the veteran writer received the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish American Writers & Artists.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he has “never met someone in politics that I disrespect more” than party-switching former Florida Gov. Charlie Christ.

As they pitched their ideas to private angel investors at a RPI event, technology executives called the Start-Up NY program too slow and complex to be useful.

The Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Richmond County Young Democrats launched an independent expenditure to assist Democratic NY-11 candidate Domenic Recchia.

The MTA announced that more than 6 million people rode the subway on five separate days in September, breaking the record for most rides five times.

The White House has a scientific explanation for why reporters can’t witness President Barack Obama’s interactions with campaign donors: The very act of observing an event can change its outcome.

Eric Mower + Associates is combining with Middleton & Gendron, a public relations and brand communications agency in New York City.

Last Night and What’s Ahead

Senator Chuck Schumer is reaching out to help Senate Democrats while both candidates for governor are looking for support from latino voters. Speaking of the race for governor, how do both candidates fare when it comes to the economy? Plus, interviews on Republican support for congressional seats in NY and a complaint against Governor Andrew Cuomo. Here’s highlights from last night and a look ahead to tonight.

WATCH (NO LOG-IN REQUIRED):

***FEATURED TONIGHT***

Our debate between candidates for the 19th Congressional District airs tonight at 7 p.m. That race is between incumbent Congressman Chris Gibson and Democratic Challenger Sean Eldridge. Gibson, a retired army colonel, has represented a part of New York in Congress since 2010. Eldridge, a political newcomer, is a man of many hats, but is known to most as a business investor in the Hudson Valley. The debate is one hour, featuring questions from our panel along with rebuttals. The candidates also get to ask each other one question – you don’t want to miss that.

WATCH:

Full Show – 10.21.14

State of Politics LIVE – 10.22.14

Complaint Against Cuomo: Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin Interview

Rallying Republicans: NRCC’s Greg Walden Interview

The Insiders

Schneiderman Allies: Cahill Ad ‘Shameful’

Allies of Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Wednesday hit back against an ad released by his Republican rival John Cahill earlier in the day that took the AG to task for his office initially recommending the release of a convicted rapist.

The statements, released by the Schneiderman campaign, include criticisms of the ad from New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, NOW NYS President Zenaida Mendez, NARAL Pro-Choice New York President Andrea Miller and Laurel Eisner, the former executive director of Sanctuary for Families.

“John Cahill’s sinking campaign has officially hit rock bottom. Trivializing the safety of women with cheap partisan attacks is shameful and beneath the office he is seeking,” Mark Viverito said in her statement. “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has an outstanding record fighting to protect women and has the backing of every major women’s organization that has endorsed in this race as well as law enforcement unions across the state.”

In the ad from Cahill’s campaign, Schneiderman is criticized for his office’s recommendation that Ronald Bower, who was convicted of sexual assaults dating back to the 1990s, should be released. The recommendation had been made by Thomas Schellhammer in December, who at the time was the chief of the Conviction Review Bureau.

In a letter Schellhammer raised questions with conviction in a letter to the state Parole Board.

Schneiderman’s campaign, though, pushed back against the allegations noting that the Parole Board is independent, while also pointing out the ad comes as Cahill trails the incumbent Democrat by 21 percentage points.

“In a desperate attempt to distract voters from his own anti-choice, anti-woman positions, John Cahill has attempted to discredit Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lifelong commitment to improving the lives of New York women,” said Miller, of NARAL-Pro-Choice New York. “Attorney General Schneiderman is a stalwart pro-choice advocate – most recently, he has helped prevent harassment and intimidation outside women’s health clinics by fully enforcing clinic protection laws. There’s no fooling New York voters when it comes to the Attorney General’s record and leadership on the issues that matter most to us.”

Women’s issues in general have come to the forefront of the campaign season this year, with candidates on the state legislative level sparring over the Women’s Equality Act.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, created a ballot line to focus on the act, which has stalled in Albany over an abortion-related provision.

Jobs For NY: $35K In Mail For Long Island Districts, NYSUT Spends $41K For O’Brien

The political action committee backed by wealthy New York City landlords has spent another $35,805 in two key Long Island state Senate races.

Meanwhile, the political arm of the New York State United Teachers union, has spent more than $41,000 on mailers on behalf of Democratic Sen. Ted O’Brien.

Jobs For New York, the group backed by the Real Estate Board of New York, has invested $18,807 in mailers on Republican Sen. Jack Martins’ race in Nassau County, where he faces Democrat Adam Haber, according to filings with the state Board of Elections.

In Suffolk County, the group spent $16,997 on mail for Republican Tom Croci. The Islip town supervisor is taking on Democratic candidate Adrienne Esposito for an open seat being vacated by Republican Lee Zeldin, who is running for Congress.

An additional $13,000 was posted for unspecified staff wages.

The spending caps a flurry of TV ads, polling and other campaign spending for Republicans running in competitive state Senate races. The group this week posted $85,200 on TV advertising in the 46th Senate district, where Democratic incumbent Cecilia Tkaczyk faces a rematch against Republican former Assemblyman George Amedore.

NYSUT, meanwhile, has spent $41,140 on mail on behalf of O’Brien, a Rochester-area lawmaker who a Siena College poll found was bad trailing Republic Rich Funke.

Cahill Ad Blasts Schneiderman On Rapist Release

Republican candidate for attorney general John Cahill on Wednesday released a TV ad that criticizes Democratic incumbent Eric Schneiderman for his office initially backing the release of a convicted sex offender in December.

“Hard to believe, he fought to free a convicted rapist and put him back on our streets as a high risk sex offender,” the ad’s female narrator says. “A move the parole board called “shocking” and “very disturbing.”

The spot concludes: “Eric Schneiderman: Too Dangerous for New Yorkers”

The ad was swiftly rebuked by Schneiderman’s re-election campaign, which notes the Parole Board, which approved of the release is independent of his office.

“This is a despicable new low for the Cahill campaign. Down 20 points in the polls, they are now using offensive imagery of abused women in their misleading ads,” said spokesman Peter Ajemian The independent Parole Board decided to release a man who served 23 years in prison based on its own criteria. The suggestion that Attorney General Schneiderman has been anything but tough on crime — especially when it comes to protecting women and children — is absurd. He’s busted human trafficking rings and protected kids from online predators, and is a leader in fighting for enhanced penalties for sex crimes.”

The recommendation to release Ronald Bower was made in a letter by Thomas Schellhammer in December, who at the time was the chief of the Conviction Review Bureau, who raised questions over whether Bower was guilty of a series of sexual assaults in Queens and Nassau County in the early 1990s.

District attorneys whose offices were involved in the prosecution of Bower urged the Parole Board to re-examine its decision to grant Bower release and disagreed with Schellhammer’s initial findings.

The AG’s office would reversed course on backing the release of Bower.

Schellhammer was replaced by Schneiderman in April with Gail Heatherly. At the same time, Schneiderman formed a Conviction Review Committee” that reviews parole recommendations.

Gillibrand Endorses Panepinto (Updated)

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday gave her nod to Democratic state Senate hopeful Marc Panepinto.

Panepinto is running for Buffalo’s 60th Senate district, a seat currently held by Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti, who lost his party primary last month, but retains the Independence Party ballot line.

“I am proud to endorse Marc Panepinto in the 60th State Senate District,” Gillibrand said. “Marc is a fighter for the middle class, is committed to bringing good paying jobs to Western New York and will pass the Women’s Equality Act. Marc is the ally we need in Albany.”

Panepinto has been endorsed by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer as well.

Not endorsing yet in the race is Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has not ruled out backing Grisanti’s re-election bid. Grisanti is the last sitting Republican in the state Senate to have backed the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2011.

But the endorsement of Grisanti is a tricky one for the governor. Cuomo in May endorsed a full Democratic takeover of the chamber, something he did not do in 2012.

For his part, Panepinto says he’s not losing any sleep over whether the governor ultimately makes an endorsement in the race.

“I support the Governor on those agenda points and most of his agenda. The fact he hasn’t endorsed yet doesn’t concern me. He knows where he needs to be to pass the Women’s Equality Act and that’s not with Senator Mark Grisanti,” Panepinto told reporters on Tuesday.

Updated: Senate GOP spokeswoman Kelly Cummings responds.

“As an attorney herself, it’s really surprising that Senator Gillibrand thinks it’s ok to endorse someone who was convicted of serious crimes and had his license to practice law suspended in New York State. If convicted criminal Marc Panepinto gets elected and Democrats seize control of the State Senate, they’ll go back to the chaos and dysfunction that existed in 2009-10 during their two disastrous years in power. Maybe Senator Gillibrand thinks that’s the only thing that will draw attention away from the mess that she, President Obama and her fellow Democrats have made in Washington.”

Long, In Radio Ad, Pushes A Vote For Row C

Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long in a 60-second radio ad released this morning urges voters to back Republican Rob Astorino for governor by voting for him on row C, the long-held ballot position for the Conservative Party.

“Astorino for Governor means more on the Conservative Party line, row C,” Long says in the radio ad. “When you vote Astorino on the Conservative Party line you tell Albany you’re fed up with the same old games. Demand real change. Vote on the Conservative Party line for Rob Astorino for Governor.”

Long’s ad comes as Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins hits 9 percentage points in a Siena College poll.

While minor-party candidates tend to over perform in polls, the likely protest vote directed to Hawkins is expected to be high, which could vault the Green Party to a much higher ballot level.

At the same time, there’s a lot more competition for the fusion ballot lines, including the Working Families Party.

Astorino, the Westchester County executive, is running on the “Stop Common Core” ballot line.

Cuomo and state Democrats this year formed the “Women’s Equality Party” line that could challenge the position of the WFP, a labor-backed organization whose endorsement the governor had to fight for in May.

Bharara: ‘You’re Assuming There’s One Investigation’

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara would not give a timetable on Wednesday as to when his office would complete its investigation of the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption and whether the governor’s office interfered in the panel’s work.

“We have some of the smartest people in law enforcement continuing that work,” he said.

Bharara also hinted there are multiple focuses when it comes to the inquiry into the commission’s work.

“You’re assuming there’s one investigation,” Bharara said in an interview with Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Pressroom this morning.

Bharara’s office in April took control of the records generated by the commission, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed following an agreement on ethics legislation with state lawmakers in the 2014-15 state budget.

Cuomo has defended his decision to shut down the subpoena-empowered commission, saying that it was always meant to exact a degree of leverage over lawmakers in order to trigger an ethics agreement.

But the governor’s handling the commission has come under scrutiny. Reports revealed that Cuomo’s office sought to direct or block subpoenas away from politically sensitive areas.

The interview with Susan Arbetter comes at a curious time.

Cuomo is set to debate his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, this evening on public television in Buffalo, along with Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Michael McDermott. Both Astorino and Hawkins are expected to bring up the controversy surrounding the Moreland Commission’s demise as well as the governor’s interference.

Arbetter, on Twitter, noted she had been trying to land an interview with Bharara for months and the timing was coincidental.

Bharara would not comment if he believes using an anti-corruption commission as a tool for passing legislation constitutes a crime.

Nevertheless, Bharara said any panel charged with going after public corruption should have a long shelf life and a degree of autonomy.

“Generally speaking, when you’re trying to solve a problem, you need some amount of longevity and you need the core of that institution is independence,” he said.

As he often does in interviews, Bharara criticized the culture of Albany and state government, including allowing lawmakers to received “unfettered outside income” which he said is “recipe for what we have in NY which is a little bit of a corruption disaster.”

He added the “precious little disclosure” allows public officials to take outside money from entities that have business before the state.

Bharara, asked whether he sees a connection between the Wall Street criminals he’s prosecuted and politicians, said there is a similarity.

“I have joked that sometimes it seems like Albany is at the intersection of ambition and greed,” he said.

Mental Health, Gun Possession and Rob Astorino

On Tuesday, Rob Astorino was in The Bronx to court Latino voters and make yet another appearance with State Senator Ruben Diaz. Speaking Spanish to the crowd, Astorino tried to draw a contrast with Governor Cuomo by explaining that he doesn’t take the Latino vote for granted, and he comes to the Bronx with specific proposals. One of those ideas was about firearms, and how to prevent them from ending up in the hands of people with mental illness. But the candidate’s wording on this was a little confusing, especially since he has been traveling all over the state promising to repeal Governor Cuomo’s SAFE Act. Astorino said,

“One of the things we want to do is strengthen our gun laws in dealing with mental health criminals.”

Hmmm. That sounds remarkably similar to what the SAFE Act ( in part ) is designed to do. Over the weekend the New York Times Reported that more than 34,000 names have been put on the list barring individuals from legally obtaining guns in New York State. That’s a lot of people. The thrust of the article is that it might even be too many, raising privacy concerns among mental health advocates. So, if anything, the SAFE Act is doing too good a job at keeping guns out of the hands of people considered to be high risk in the age of Adam Lanza.

Astorino then went on to say,

“Even the New York Times said that the mental health issues in the Safe Act are really not doing anything because people are being missed.”

It actually sounds like the article is saying the exact opposite. It’s not that people are being missed, it’s that the bill may be casting too wide a net. However, if you believe all efforts should be made to keep guns away from people who are potentially disturbed or even dangerous, you probably don’t mind that the process for getting guns just got a lot harder if an individual has mental health issues. Finally, Astorino said

“We need to make sure it [guns] doesn’t get in their hands.”

Asked to clarify his remarks, Jessica Proud, A spokeswoman for Astorino said,

Rob has always supported keeping guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill. He has an entire program…devoted to dealing with mental health and violence.

The Times story points out flaws in the bill with regard to the mental health list. It cites the medical community as worried it will stigmatize people who might not get help. It quoted the mental health commissioner as saying he doesn’t even read the reports. By the way less than 300 of the 34,500 even had gun permits. Rob will repeal the Safe Act because it was a bad law, jammed through in the middle of the night with no public debate or input from experts. We will implement our own bill that comprehensively addresses mental health working collaboratively with experts and the public.

There is no change from his position here. He has been consistent since day one and has a long record as county executive tackling mental health after Newtown and instituting background checks at the gun show.