Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Siena/Newsday/News 12 Poll Shows Rep. Bishop Up 10 Over Zeldin

A new Siena College/Newsday/News 12 poll shows veteran Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop leading his GOP challenger, state Sen. Lee Zeldin, by 10 percentage points with seven weeks to go until the November general election.

The split is 51-41 with with 8 percent undecided. Fifty-five percent of poll respondents said they are firm in their choice of candidate and there’s no way they will change their minds before the election.

Despite an ongoing ethics investigation into his fundraising – a point the GOP has repeatedly sought to exploit – Bishop has a strong favorable rating in his district, 54-39. Zeldin’s favorable/unfavorable rating is 40-29, with 32 percent of voters saying they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion one way or the other.

Zeldin is ahead 6 points with male voters, but Bishop has a whopping 23-point lead with women.

“With seven weeks to go, this race is likely to be a hotly contested battle between a popular incumbent Democratic representative and a popular Republican state senator,” said Siena pollster Steve Greenberg. “Enrollment and lower turnout in a gubernatorial year favor Zeldin. However, Bishop is better known, viewed stronger on more issues and is certainly not hurt by having Cuomo at the top of the ticket,” Greenberg said. “This is one to watch.”

Greenberg said jobs is the most important issue to voters, and by 10 points they say Bishop will be better on that issue. Zeldin and Bishop run very close in voters’ minds on taxes, turmoil in the Mideast and immigration.

Zeldin’s campaign manager Eric Amidon issued a lengthy statement calling the poll “flawed,” adding:

“They didn’t ask the ballot right, there were too few Republican and Conservative Party voters, and they failed to account for a missing 6 percent in the party registration methodology. They should throw this poll out and start over again.”

Amidon also insisted Zeldin’s campaign strategy won’t be impacted by the results of this poll. He noted that unspecified pre-primary polls (not conducted by Siena) showed Zeldin trailing his GOP opponent, George Demos, and the senator ended up winning the June 24 race by almost 25 percentage points.

President Obama’s numbers are underwater in NY-1, with his unfavorables outweighing his favorables, 55-41. But support for Obama’s fellow Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is strong, with a 56-40 favorable/unfavorable rating, compared to 24-26 for his Republican challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Astorino remains unknown to 50 percent of voters in this district.

In a hypothetical head-to-head match-up, Cuomo beats Astorino, 52-32, with 6 percent saying they prefer Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, and 9 percent undecided. Cuomo has the support of 33 percent of Republicans in the district, and also leads Astorino by 35 percentage points with women and 5 with men.

Siena poll on NY-1 race between Rep. Tim Bishop, D, and GOP state Sen. Lee Zeldin. by liz_benjamin6490

Extras

Zephyr Teachout says she has been bitten by the political bug and may run for citywide or statewide office again. She’s unlikely to endorse in this year’s governor’s race.

Prominent Rochester developer Wayne LeChase is hosting a fundraiser this evening at his Webster home for Gov. Andrew Cuomo – a high-priced affair with tickets ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.

“A petty campaign that draws scant attention outside the blogosphere, and which sways no one, will be fine by (Cuomo).”

A Cuomo campaign source declined to speculate on whether the governor might endorse Sen. Mark Grisanti, who’s running on the Independence Party line after losing the GOP primary.

Cuomo’s campaign has reportedly spent nearly $8 million into television ads in the race so far.

NY-21 Democratic candidate Aaron Wolf called his Green Party opponent Matt Funiciello’s views on the 9/11 attacks “outrageous and offensive,” saying they disqualify him for having anything to do with foreign affairs.

The outcome of three state Senate contests on Long Island may determine whether Republicans maintain their power-sharing arrangement with the IDC or are relegated to minority status.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s house was broken into. Some cash, two personal iPads, and one personal computer were stolen. Two suspects have been charged.

President Barack Obama will appear for the first time at a fundraiser on Long Island on Oct. 16 to help raise money for the mid term elections.

The de Blasio administration has no plans to change a longstanding policy that essentially grants perpetual permits to the traditional organizers of events such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu urge fellow progressives to “be courageous” and challenge Democratic elected officials “who have abandoned their constituents.”

Actor Alan Cumming and PETA activists brought a sculpture of the New York skyline rendered entirely in vegetables to City Hall, as they named the the Big Apple the most vegan-friendly spot in the nation.

Former Gov. George Pataki and his onetime top aide, John Cahill, double teamed on Cahill’s opponent, AG Eric Schneiderman, during a FOX Business appearance.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio released the Mayor’s Management Report for FY2014.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick is asking GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino to “repudiate” Pastor Donnie McClurkin, a formerly gay minister who promotes “conversion therapy.”

A new NYCLU report accuses New York of providing inadequate representation to poor defendants, effectively denying their constitutional right to an attorney.

An internal struggle over the control of a Twitter account, @OccupyWallStNYC, is the subject of a lawsuit.

Democrats in key Senate races said they do not support Sen. Gustavo Rivera’s bill that would provide amnesty and other rights to illegal immigrants in New York.

Ne Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is back in the first-in-the-nation-presidential-primary state of New Hampshire today for the third time this year to stump for Republican candidates

New York license plates that start with the letter “E” appear to be defective, plagued by peeling and bubbling.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Battle Heats Up (Updated)

The election for the Erie County Democratic Party chairmanship is just three days away, but a new candidate has entered the fray to challenge incumbent Jeremy Zellner: Town of Amherst Councilman Mark Manna.

Manna, who is also a contract negotiator for the UFCW in Western New York, threw his hat into the ring last night,. He is being supported by Sen. Tim Kennedy, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and NYSUT regional staff director Mike Deely. During a brief telephone interview this afternoon, Manna called the party under Zellner a “laughingstock” that can’t raise money, win elections or broker a peace deal between the constantly warring factions.

“In my job as a labor negotiator, I have to bring all side to the table,” Manna said. “I’m the candidate to bring peace and progress and start with a clean slate. (Zellner) is more interested in controlling failure than managing success.”

Kennedy has made no secret of his desire to see Zellner go – particularly after the chairman backed his primary opponent, Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, in her second failed attempt at ousting the senator. Kennedy’s name was floated as a potential challenger to Zellner, but during a CapTon interview earlier this week, he said he wasn’t interested in pursuing the post himself. He did, however, express interest in seeing a change in leadership.

I spoke with Kennedy this afternoon, and he was effusive in his praise for Manna, calling him a “working class labor organizer who has literally pulled himself up by the bootstraps.”

“Mark Manna is a coalition and consensus builder who can actually bring peace and unity to the Democratic Party that the current leadership cannot,” Kennedy said. “He has strong relationships with each and every faction of the party…It’s time for Democrats to unite and put our resources behind beating Republicans rather than beating on each other.”

Kennedy insisted that Cheektowaga Democratic Chair Frank Max, who had been challenging Zellner, has removed his name from consideration and is backing Manna. That has also been reported on a WNY blog, but I so far have not been able to independently confirm it.

UPDATE: Max has confirmed to our TWC News team in Buffalo that he is indeed backing Manna, and that he along with five elected officials in the town of Cheektowaga are meeting tonight to discuss the issue. According to Max, who unsuccessfully challenged Zellner for the chairmanship in 2012, the party has been in “freefall for the past two years,” plagued by a lack of communication.

I also asked Kennedy about where Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz would end up in this intra-party battle. Poloncarz, as you’ll recall, joined Zellner in backing Grant against Kennedy in the primary, along with Rep. Brian Higgins. Kennedy said the county executive “has the opportunity to unify this party by working with the consensus, labor-backed candidate; he has a decision to make.” Manna said he spoke with Poloncarz earlier today, but did not manage to secure his endorsement.

The chairmanship vote will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday morning in Lackawana. It will be a weighted vote based on the number of enrolled Democrats in each committee member’s district.

Kennedy predicted Manna would have sufficient votes to defeat Zellner, but Zellner scoffed at that suggestion, noting that he has the support of Manna’s own town party leader.

“This guy has no political base, and the numbers aren’t there,” Zellner told me. “This is Steve Pigeon grabbing someone at the last minute and putting them up like he always does.”

“We’ve worked really hard since I’ve become chair to bring people together. We’ve done that, and we’ve won some important races…My relationship with the governor is flowering right now, and that has to do with the huge win he had in Western New York on primary day. This is not the way to keep the momentum going here. We need to not be fighting.”

Pigeon, a Kennedy ally, is himself a former Erie County Democratic chairman. He’s a controversial figure in WNY politics, but also is an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo was involved (behind the scenes) during the Erie County Democratic Party’s last chairmanship fight in 2012. The governor and his people worked hard to oust Zellner’s predecessor, Len Lenihan, but Zellner wasn’t the replacement they wanted. They preferred Max, the Cheektowaga chair.

In recent weeks, there has been a thaw between Zellner and the governor, with the chairman making an appearance at the post-primary victory rally held for Cuomo and his running mate, former WNY Rep. Kathy Hochul, in Orchard Park.

Zellner also said he collaborated closely with Team Cuomo on the TV commercial that dinged the governor’s GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, for being a fan of the Miami Dolphins, who were soundly beaten by the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday in the team’s home opener at the Raklph.

The ad has generated a lot of attention and controversy, thanks to the photoshopping of Astorino’s 11-year-old son, Sean, out of an image of him and his Dad at the Dolphins’ stadium. Democrats said they erred on the side of caution by removing Sean from the photo, suggesting it might have been illegal for them to include it without first getting permission from his parents.

Hawkins: ‘Scandal’ That Bills New Owner Is Fracking Rich

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins thinks there are “real issues” to debate about the NFL, but which candidate roots for what team is not one of them.

In a statement released this afternoon, Hawkins took Gov. Andrew Cuomo to task for the Erie County Democratic Party ad that slammed his Republican opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, for being a Miami Dolphins fan, and featured an Astorino family photo that had been edited to remove his 11-year-old son, Sean, from the foreground.

“While the rest of the country was debating the issues of domestic violence, child abuse and the NFL, Cuomo spent his campaign dollars photoshopping Astorino’s son out of a sport attack ad,” Hawkins noted. “Rather than debating which sports teams we follow, we should be debating jobs, health care and climate change.”

“The NFL needs to send a stronger message that it is not going to tolerate violence against women, children and its own players. One way to show they are serious is by firing Commissioner Goodell.”

According to Hawkins, the “real scandal” related to the Buffalo Bills is that the team’s new owner, Terry Pegula, made his money in fracking – the controversial natural gas drilling process to which the Green Party is vehemently opposed.

Also, Hawkins believes the NFL has deteriorated into a “modern version of the gladiator fights with its misuse and abuse of its players.” He is a supporter of non-profit community ownership of sports teams on the model of the Green Bay Packers, and opposes tax subsidies and other giveaways provided to billionaire NFL owners to keep them from relocating their teams.

In case you were wondering, Hawkins, a San Francisco native, is a fan of the 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. His second tier favorites are the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills. He also roots for his hometown Syracuse Orange and his alma mater Dartmouth Big Green in college football.

Also, Hawkins is not alone in his call for the gubernatorial race debate to turn to more substantial matters. Daily News columnist Bill Hammond took both Astorino and Cuomo to task for focusing on sports and political gamesmanship instead of issues.

Hammond slammed Cuomo for failing to put forth an agenda for the second four-year term he’s seeking, noting that in 2010, candidate Cuomo released seven book-length white papers addressing everything from ethics reform to energy policy. But Hammond also had some sharp words for Astorino, saying the county executive lacks a clear message and affirmative priorities, and instead is offering a “mish-mash of proposals and talking points.”

Rice’s 1st NY-4 TV Ad – a ‘Promise’ On Texting & Driving (Updated)

Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, the Democratic candidate for the seat of retiring Long Island Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, is on the air with the first TV ad of her campaign, which focuses on her record of combatting drunk driving, and her proposal to crack down on drivers who text behind the wheel.

Just last week, Rice unveiled a five-point plan to address the texting-while-driving problem – an issue on which Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also focused, but not one that’s generally high on the “to-do” list for a member of Congress. Taxes, terror, jobs, healthcare? Yes. Texting-while-driving? Not really.

The ad is airing on a wide variety of targeted cable channels across Cablevision and FiOS networks, according to Rice’s campaign. The DA is facing Republican former Nassau County Legislator Bruce Blakeman in November, after both candidates won June primaries for their respective major party lines.

Blakeman has far less campaign cash on hand than Rice ($609,249 with $700,000 worth of debt, to her $1.4 million, as of the last fundraising quarter, which ended at the end of June). He has been hammering her on her silence regarding the corruption-busting Moreland Commission, which she co-chaired until January, when she quit the post to run for Congress.

UPDATE: Blakeman’s spokesman Matt Coleman sent this response:

“Bruce Blakeman will be better in Washington to fight for more jobs, lower taxes and to keep New York safe from terror. Bruce Blakeman in Congress and Kathleen Rice as District Attorney taking-on texting while driving is a win-win for Nassau voters.”

Here’s the text (ahem) of Rice’s ad:

Clip from 2005 Nassau DA’s race Rice ad: I’m Kathleen Rice. Nassau County can do a much better job of drunk driving enforcement.

Rice today: When you elected me DA, I promised you that I would take on DWI. I did. And we’ve made progress where nobody said we could. Now we have a new challenge – we’ve all seen it. Drivers young and old, texting behind the wheel. I’ll make you another promise: Send me to Congress, and I’ll go after texting – just like DWI – and we’ll save lives.

I’m Kathleen Rice, and I approve this message.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and Monroe County with no public schedule.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will have a closed-door meeting today with Dan Matthews, Senior Vice President of PETA, and actor Alan Cumming.

At 8:25 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will be a guest on AM970 The Answer with host Joe Piscopo.

At 10 a.m., NYC GOP leaders will announce a new platform of issues and introduce candidates from throughout the city for state and national legislative offices, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Astorino tours Van Tassel’s Gunsmithing, 30412 New York 37, Evans Mills.

At 11 a.m., the New York Civil Liberties Union holds teleconference with reporters on the state’s record on public defense of poor offenders.

At 11:30 a.m., Astorino tours the Otter Creek Winery, 33109 Rudes Rd., Philadelphia.

At noon, LG Bob Duffy speaks at the Smart Schools Commission Public Symposium, University at Buffalo, Clinical and Translational Research Center, Fifth Floor Atrium, 875 Ellicott St., Buffalo.

At 12:30 p.m., AG Eric Schneiderman holds a campaign event with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and other local leaders, 370 Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, Happauge.

At 12:30 p.m., Astorino tours Vintage Doors, 66 South Main St., Hammond.

At 3 p.m., Astorino tours businesses in the Village of Canton, starting at Henry’s, 13 Hodskin St., Canton.

At 4:15 p.m., Astorino tours businesses in the Village of Potsdam, starting at Evan’s & White Hardware, 1 Maple St., Potsdam.

At 5:30 p.m., Astorino attends the St. Lawrence Conservative Committee reception, Between the Buns, 6 Elm St., Potsdam.

At 6 p.m., Nassau County Democratic Committee and Chairman Jay Jacobs welcomes Schneiderman to an open house to officially open the party’s new headquarters, 500 Old Country Rd., Suite 103, Garden City.

At 6 p.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss attends the Suffolk County Republican Committee “End of Summer Blast” Reception, Dublin Deck, 325 River Ave., Patchogue.

Also at 6 p.m., the NYS Business Council kicks off its annual fall meeting with a welcome reception at The Sagamore in Bolton Landing. Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media is the keynote speaker at a 7 p.m. dinner.

At 6:30 p.m., de Blasio and NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray play in the Mayor’s Office vs. City Council Softball Game, MCU Park, 1904 Surf Ave., Brooklyn.

Also at 6:30 p.m., Assemblyman John McDonald, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and other local leaders hold a forum on heroin and opiate abuse, Joslin Office Meeting Room, 2400 Second Ave., Watervliet.

At 7:30 p.m., Moss attends and delivers remarks at the Jackson Heights Community Meeting, Community United Methodist Church, 81-10 35th Ave., Jackson Heights, Queens.

At 8 p.m., GOP AG candidate John Cahill attends a Northeast Queens Republican Club event, Clearview Park Golf Course, 202-12 Willets Point Blvd., Queens.

8 p.m. G.O.P. attorney general candidate John Cahill attends Northeast Queens Republican Club event, Clearview Park Golf Course, 202-12 Willets Point Boulevard, Queens.

At 8:15 p.m., Moss attends and delivers remarks at the Northeast Queens Republican Club, Clearview Park Golf Course, 202-12 Willets Point Blvd., Bayside, Queens.

8:45 p.m., Cahill attends America’s Mayor Republican Club event, Community United Methodist Church, 81-10 35th Avenue, Jackson Heights.

Headlines…

Sen. Mark Grisanti will wage an active campaign on the Independence line for the 60th District seat this fall following his defeat last week in the Republican primary.

The federal government rejected most of the Cuomo administration’s bid to use $511 million from a clean water fund for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project – a decision that has implications for Thruway tolls across the entire state.

The EPA determined that $29 million of the plan to build the Tappan Zee bridge is a valid use of clean water funds, but the rest of the project – or $482 million – is not eligible for that cash.

“(T)he bridge construction was never dependent on this loan in the first place,” said Cuomo, who plans to appeal the EPA decision. “This was never part of the planning for the bridge financing in the first place.”

Indian Point’s reliance on the Hudson River and its impact on aquatic life are at the center of a dispute between state regulators and the plant’s operator, Entergy Corp, as it to renew its federal operating license – an effort opposed by New York and environmental groups.

The mayors of the nation’s three largest cities – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – plan to launch a new effort to increase citizenship among legal permanent residents, an effort officials hope will spread across the country.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will head to England next week to speak at a conference for the English Labour Party.

Despite a 20-count indictment on charges including tax evasion and perjury, Rep. Michael Grimm is holding his own against his Democratic challenger, according to a new NY1 News/Capital New York/Siena poll.

More >

Extras

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has agreed to pay $66,000 in penalties and other fees in a false advertising investigation by AG Eric Schneiderman’s office.

Rescue New York, a Super PAC supporting GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, unveiled its first TV ad of the 2014 cycle.

State regulators have launched an investigation into high-interest loans backed by borrowers’ real estate, issuing subpoenas to nine different lenders.

The transfer of power between the de Blasio and Bloomberg administrations has not been entirely smooth.

Former aides to ex-Mayor Bloomberg have launched a public campaign to secure his reputation as the city heads in a different direction.

In another move to ease her way back into politics, former NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn helped to raise money for Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the publication of Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.”

Watertown/Fort Drum is the ninth fastest growing small city in the nation.

GOP AG candidate John Cahill’s campaign sent donors a memo citing internal polling that shows the race against incumbent Democrat Eric Schneiderman tightening considerably.

Former NYC Comptroller John Liu formally conceded the primary to his opponent, Sen. Tony Avella, acknowledging that a gap of 568 votes was too great to overcome with paper ballots.

Several Hollywood mega-producers are hosting a fundraiser for a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC.

The NYT fact-checked Astorino’s first TV ad.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she would “not vote for troops on the ground” to counter the growing threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Jerry Goldfeder suggests the residency requirement for gubernatorial candidates should be done away with.

Nik Wallenda is in Outside magazine.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco urges voters to support a constitutional amendment that he has been pushing that would make the Legislature digital.

While in Iowa, Clinton sidestepped immigration questions posed by DREAMers. Advocates were not pleased.

Four Wny families filed a lawsuit contending New York’s method of funding charter schools cheats students, disproportionately affects low-income kids and students of color and violates the state Constitution.

According a study in the American Journal of Political Science, people can literally sniff out ideology, and this may explain why so many couples share political beliefs.

US Sen. Maria Cantwell vowed to introduce legislation aimed at revoking the NFL’s tax-exempt status if the league doesn’t force Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the team’s name.

Princeton University faculty voted to alter the school’s sexual misconduct policies, lessening the burden of evidence needed to find a student guilty.

SUNY New Paltz is getting $10 million from the NYSUNY 2020 program to create an Engineering Innovation Hub.

Astorino: Cuomo’s EPA Loss is A Metaphor for His Campaign (Updated)

Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino pounced on the news that the EPA has rejected the bulk of a controversial loan from a state clean water fund to pay for projects related to the new Tappan Zee Bridge, saying the cash was just one more “myth” of the Cuomo administration that is being exposed.

Astorino tried to link the loss of the governor’s “dubious” bridge funding scheme to a long list of seemingly unrelated items, including: The use of federal Sandy aid to pay for TV ads, the property tax cap that wasn’t backed by long-promised mandate relief, the lack of public campaign finance reform, and the now-defunct anti-corruption Moreland Commission – the closure of which by Cuomo is now the subject of an investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara.

“Mr. Cuomo’s administration was constructed on the silt of corruption, intimidation, and secrecy,” Astorino said in a statement. There is no bedrock beneath it. This governor is going to fall.”

The Tappan Zee Bridge project is an issue particularly close to Astorino’s heart, since one end of the span is located in his county.

He has long criticized the Cuomo administration for various aspects of the project, and recently penned an OpEd saying the billions of dollars the state has reaped from financial services settlements with BNP Paribas and others should be used to pay for the new bridge and other infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, at an event in New Paltz earlier today, the governor said he has yet to review the EPA decision, but the administration will likely appeal the clawback. He also insisted the Tappan Zee project would not be jeopardized by the loss of these funds, should the appeal fail.

UPDATE: EFC spokesman Jon Sorenen is handling the response for the Cuomo administration, and issued this statement:

“While this loan is not integral to the overall bridge construction, the projects identified here will clearly provide significant benefits for the Hudson River Estuary. EPA Region II is simply wrong in its assessment. We will appeal this decision.”

Cuomo Calls Astorino Photo Flap ‘Silliness’ (Updatedx2)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is refusing to engage with his GOP challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, in a verbal battle over a TV ad paid for by the Erie County Democratic Party that featured a family snapshot from which Astorino’s 11-year-old son, Sean, had been removed.

TWC News’ Bill Carey asked Cuomo about the photo flap during the governor’s appearance at the Inner Habor in Syracuse this morning, and the governor replied:

“I run the campaign that I believe should be run. They talk about the silliness of the political season. I’m not going to engage in that.”

“My campaign is relatively straightforward. I was hired four years ago by the peple of the state to be governor of the state. I’ve worked seven days a week in that job, and I believe my campaign is about saying to them: ‘This is what I’ve done; this is what I’ve accomplished. This is what I said I would do; this is what I actually performed. And letting them judge that performance…I’m not going to get into any political silliness.”

The ad in question ran in Western New York last week in advance of – and during – the Buffalo Bills home opener against the Miami Dolphins. Astorino is a life-long Fins fan, and the ad slammed him for that, while elevating Cuomo as a team player who has invested a lot of time (and state cash) in rebuilding the region’s beleaguered economy – an effort for which keeping the Bills in Buffalo is a key element.

The ad featured a photo of Astorino wearing a shirt the in Dolphins’ trademark turquoise and orange, but it lacked a few features from the original shot – including the team’s logo and Astorino’s son.

The Astorino campaign slammed Team Cuomo, (which, according to Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, collaborated on the creation of this ad) for doctoring the photo, and then upped the ante by releasing a video this morning of Sean Astorino telling the governor it “wasn’t very nice” of him to alter a photo of what was a treasured father-and-son moment.

UPDATE: Cuomo was again asked about the Astorino photo after an event this afternoon at SUNY New Paltz. According to CapTon’s Nick Reisman, the governor reiterated his “silliness” comments, but also went a step further, saying it would have been “illegal” for the Erie County Democrats to use the likeness of Sean Astorino without permission because he is a minor.

UPDATE2: The Erie County Democrats issued this statement: “It is illegal to use the image of a child in an ad without the parents’ permission – we simply followed the law.” And here’s a link to the law to which the party and Cuomo are referring.

Carey also asked Cuomo if he felt, given the outcome of last week’s primary, that he has made any mistakes.

“This reminds me of a conversation with one of my daughters that came back; we were going through her report card,” Cuomo said. “In life you always want to learn and improve. And what you can do better? And what can you do different? So, I think that is an ongoing process.”

“…I’m the first one to say we have more to do, and I’m not saying that in four years we have fixed everything. But I believe we have fundamentally changed the direction of the state in four years. I think the numbers show that.”

EPA Rejects Bulk of EFC Funding for Tappan Zee (Updated)

In a blow to the Cuomo administration – and a big win for the environmental community – the EPA has rejected almost all of the controversial funding approved by the Environmental Facilities Corp. for projects related to building a new Tappan Zee Bridge, deeming them ineligble for funding from revolving loan fund intended to pay for clean water initiatives.

In June, the EFC’s board of directors voted to provide $511 million worth of loans to the state Thruway Authority for 12 projects related to the bridge, and the Thruway Authority quickly voted to accept the money. The EPA has determined that seven of those projects, worth $481.8 million, do not meet the revolving fund’s criteria, while the other five are eligible.

The EPA informed the DEC and the EFC (headed by former Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll) of its decision in a letter sent today. The Cuomo administration has 30 days to appeal the ruling, otherwise it is final.

Among the projects rejected for funding: $66.7 million for a pedestrian walkway to be attached to the new bridge; $100,000 for relocation of a peregrine falcon nesting box on the Tappan Zee; and $70 million for riverbed dredging and “armoring.”

“In light of this determination, EPA is enclosing the FFY 2014 capitalization grant agreement, which is awarded, as modified, to NYSDEC,” wrote Joan Leary Matthews, director of the EPA Region 2 Clean Water Division.

“EPA’s determination of ineligibility of seven Tappan Zee Bridge-related projects applies to funds from the capitalization grant as well as to the recycled funds in the CWSRF. Therefore, if New York State spends either capitalization grant funds or recycled funds toward projects that EPA has determined to be ineligible, EPA will disallow those costs.”

This is a big problem for the Cuomo administration, which repeatedly insisted that this unusual EFC loan – a funding scheme that has never been tried before – was completely legal.

The loan was approved by Public Authorities Control Board representatives from both the Assembly and the Senate, even though some – the Senate Republicans in particular – made some initial noises about wanting more information on Tappan Zee funding plan before signing off on this proposal. The PACB did halve the $511 million, with the understanding that the administration would be seeking the remainder of the money in 2016.

The administration has so far declined to make public its plan to fund the new Tappan Zee – the biggest construction project undertaken by the governor since he took office in January 2011.

There has been a tacit acknowledgment that a toll hike on the Thruway is likely, but the administration has been particularly reluctant to discuss that in an election year – especially since the last proposed toll hike caused such an uproar, and had to be turned back as a result. Officials suggested that the EFC loan would lower future toll increases by saving some $17 million in interest costs over there years, and they painted anyone who opposed the this plan as in favor of toll hikes.

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox jumped on the news of the EPA decision, releasing the following statement:

“Today’s news is another sad result of Andrew Cuomo’s failed style of ‘government by press release.’ From phony budget surpluses to the corruption of his own corruption commission to raiding clean water funds to pay for a bridge, Andrew Cuomo has eschewed substantive policy in favor of playing for positive press – and the results continue to be disastrous for New York.”

UPDATE: Environmental Advocates Executive Director Peter Iwanowicz issued the following statement (no word yet from the Cuomo admin):

“The Cuomo administration’s attempt to raid federal Clean Water Act funds to pay for bridge construction was appropriately rejected. The Environmental Protection Agency has the responsibility to call ‘balls and strikes’ when states seek to divert federal funds away from their intended purpose, and that is what happened.”

“We applaud the EPA for undertaking a very deliberative review and rightfully determining – despite intense pressure – that Clean Water Act funds cannot pay for construction of the New New York Bridge. There are enormous needs across the state for clean water upgrades and now is the time for Governor Cuomo to direct administration resources to help communities access these funds to keep our waterways clean and healthy.”

It’s also worth noting the just last week, the EFC approved a package of low-interest and interest-free loans worth $370 million that would go toward improvements at 11 water treatment plants and facilities in New York City after being criticized by environmentalists for failing to spread funds around to be used for the purpose for which the revolving fund was created: Clean water and sewage treatment projects.