What was originally a plank in Bill de Blasio’s mayoral platform is now a statewide issue.

And in a bit of political jujitsu, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has turned the equality argument back on the rookie mayor, forcing the matter to be looked at not just through a city lens, but through the spectrum of upstate privation.

De Blasio campaigned on the vow to create a system of universal pre-Kindergarten in New York City, and he wants a “dedicated funding stream” in the form of a tax hike on the wealthy, which has to be approved by Albany.

Cuomo, not one to want to raise taxes in an election year, instead released his own plan: A statewide version that funds the program at $1.5 billion over five years, starting with the neediest districts.

The plan wouldn’t fully implement universal pre-K right away, and $100 million would be authorized in the first year.

Education officials have suggested this isn’t enough, and SED Commissioner John King believes the true, annual cost statewide is more like $1.6 billion.

Nevertheless, Cuomo sharpened his argument in a conference call with reporters on Thursday, saying he doesn’t want to set a precedent were richer communities with more millionaires can tap into the advantage to create a better education system for their kids.

And upstate officials — from both parties — coincidentally picked up on that.

While the drumbeat on pre-K for all seemed to begin on Thursday with statements from mayors of Yonkers and Niagara Falls as well as the Ulster County executive, the push actually began much earlier in the week in a little noticed statement from Buffalo Sen. Tim Kennedy.
From the morning memo, in case you missed it:

Pre-K Becomes An Upstate Issue

The Democratic lawmaker, who is facing a stiff primary challenge from the IDC-supported Betty Jean Grant, has been acting as a surrogate of sorts for Cuomo in recent weeks, even if it forces him to break with his colleagues from New York City.

Kennedy, in the statement, says universal should be a given for all, regardless of where they live in the state.

“Every child in New York State deserves universal, full-day Pre-K, not just those who reside in the five boroughs,” Kennedy said. “Universal Pre-K should be just that, universal. Whether families live in Brooklyn or Buffalo, all of our children should have equal access to the educational opportunities that will help them grow, learn and succeed.”

He added, “We cannot set up a system where children who reside in New York City receive universal Pre-K while the rest of New York State’s children are denied. We must commit to giving all of our children a strong education, starting at the earliest ages.”

GOP Spox Apologies For STD Comparison

A spokesman for the state Republican Party on Thursday compared a GOP Congressional candidate to genital herpes in a statement and then quickly apologized.

The spokesman, David Laska, was responding to the latest ad from George Demos, one of two Republicans vying for the nomination in Long Island’s First Congressional district to take on Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop.

In a series of TV and radio ads, Demos has been blasting Republican state Sen. Lee Zeldin for funding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the state budget by approving federal pass-through money.

After the latest radio ad was released, Laska called Demos the “genital herpes of Long Island politics: he shows up at regular intervals, makes a terrible mess of things and disappears having accomplished nothing.”

An uproar from Republican consultants, including OB Murray, resulted. About an hour after the comment was posted on State of Politics, Laska apologized in a tweet.

Regardless of whether the STD comment was approved or not, the incident highlights the intensely bad blood between Demos and the state party, including its chairman, Ed Cox.

Demos, who has launched several campaigns for the House district in the past, in 2010 competed against Cox’s son, Christopher Nixon Cox, for the Republican primary. Demos and Cox finished behind the eventual nominee, Randy Altschuler.