Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

The Weekend That Was

Some photos from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Afghanistan trip can be found here.

Cuomo said he decided two weeks ago, in the days following President Barack Obama’s declaration that the U.S. would pursue the destruction of the Islamic State, to participate in the trip because “it is now abundantly clear that this terrorist threat, even though it has been quiet for 13 years—that this is the new normal.”

Hillary and Bill Clinton are grandparents. Their daughter, Chelsea, gave birth to a baby girl: Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky.

A “longtime friend” says NJ Gov. Chris Christie respects Cuomo’s “political savvy and has no desire to spar with him.” The two governors have forged an extraordinarily close and politically useful partnership, both in public and private.

Public advocate Letitia James is often absent from the office for hours to attend personal appointments and political events, according to seven months of her schedules reviewed by the Daily News.

The botched WEP petition drives for upstate Senate Democrats was bankrolled by Cuomo 2014.

Families for Excellent Schools, an organization that supports charter schools and has become a critic of New York City’s public education system, is launching a weeklong television ad campaign beginning tomorrow as it gears up for a rally this week.

The NYPD has a chokehold problem, the Civilian Complaint Review Board claims in a shot-across-the-bow report ordered by the agency’s new president, civil-rights attorney Richard Emery.

There continue to be divisions within the Erie County Democratic Party, and they might worsen after the November elections.

The DN wants AG Eric Schneiderman to come “completely clean” about his office’s dealings with his ex-wife/Democratic consultant Jennifer Cunningham.

A top official in Israel reportedly tried to intimidate the rabbi who claims Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm shook him down for donations.

Registered lobbyists in New York are now able to take an online ethics training course that was mandated in the 2011 law that created the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York commissioned a secret internal investigation of itself in 2009, uncovering a culture of suppression that discouraged regulatory staffers from voicing worries about the banks they supervised.

India’s new prime minister, once shunned by Washington, appeared before an enthusiastic crowd in a famed New York sports arena today where he appealed for help from Indian-Americans to help develop his country’s economy, vowing that under his leadership, the South Asian nation wouldn’t look back.

A $45 million discrimination lawsuit filed by a Nassau correction officer against his employer is headed to trial after a federal judge last week denied parts of the county’s request to dismiss it.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s re-decorated Gracie Mansion features $63,155 worth of new furniture, according to records obtained by Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute.

Approximately 300 police department supporters turned out by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk in Staten Island Saturday morning for what is intended to be an annual “Honor Our Police” rally to commemorate the lost lives of officers native to the borough.

With SolarCity’s massive solar panel factory now expected to fill the entire first phase of the RiverBend complex, New York State officials need to find a new home for Soraa, a small company from Fremont, Calif., that is developing a line of LED, or light-emitting diode, lights.

Cuomo Agrees To Two Debates (Updatedx2)

Moments after news of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s surprise trip to Afghanistan broke, the governor’s re-election campaign announced that he has accepted to invitations to debate before the Nov. 4 general election.

Cuomo has agreed to one debate upstate, and one in New York City. The upstate debate will be sponsored by The Buffalo News and WNED-WBFO (not, it is worth pointing out, TWC News, which did issue an invite and also tried without success to get the governor to debate his primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, but to no avail).

NOTE: WNED is a public TV station, and WBFO is its radio partner. This post has been edited to reflect that fact.

The Astorino campaign, as evidenced by its statement below, appears to believe that these debates will not be televised. The Cuomo campaign’s statement about accepting the debates makes no mention of how they will be aired. This post will be updated again when more information is available.

The downstate debate will be sponsored by WNYC New York Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal. Both debates will be held in mid-October, though no specific dates were given.

The NYC debate will be a standard one-on-one format with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, according to the Cuomo campaign.

The Buffalo event will be a bit more of a free-for-all, with Cuomo, Astorino, Green Pasrty gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins and the Libertarian Party’s Michael McDermott, a Long Island realtor.

“Governor Cuomo is looking forward to a robust discussion of ideas at both debates and we want to thank the sponsors for making these events possible,” said Cuomo campaign spokesman Matt Wing.

There is no word yet from the Astorino campaign, which has been hounding Cuomo on the debate issue. The county executive had called for eight regional debates, and criticized Cuomo for refusing to engage in a pre-primary head-to-head with Teachout.

UPDATE: The Astorino campaign has released a statement from its spokeswoman Jessica Proud, and, not surprisingly, they are not at all satisfied with the governor’s radio-only debate plan.

“This is more games from Andrew Cuomo,” Proud said. “Despite their claims, there have been no negotiations between the campaigns. We have called for at least one televised debate between the two major party candidates, as is custom in every election from President of the United States on down.”

“It’s clear Governor Cuomo is terrified to go one-on-one with County Executive Astorino on television. Is it because he doesn’t want people to see his face when he’s asked about his role in the Moreland corruption scandal? The people of New York deserve better.”

UPDATE2: When questioned about the TV issue, Astorino campaign advisor Bill O’Reilly reiterated: “The voters deserve a one-on-one televised debate with the two principal candidates.”

The fact that the four-way debate is the only one that will be on TV is what the Astorino folks have a problem with.

Cuomo Takes Surprise Trip to Afghanistan

With just six weeks remaining before the November general election, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Afghanistan with a bipartisan delegation of governors at the invitation of the U.S. Department of Defense, which is sponsoring the visit, his office announced this afternoon.

As is fairly standard with these sorts of overseas trips to high security zones, the governor’s office did not provide any advance notice of his plans. The first word of his trip came via the governor’s twitter account – @nygovcuomo – which announced at 12:52 p.m. that Cuomo had arrived safely in Afghanistan. This was followed by a public schedule announcing the governor is in Afghanistan (with no public events planned), and a press release including some details of his itinerary.

Cuomo was invited on the trip by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and is also joined by Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson, Tennesee Gov. William Haslam, Missouri Gov. Jeremiah Nixon, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and other DoD officials.

While in Afghanistan, Cuomo will receive security briefings on on counterterrorism issues, the evolving global threats that affect New York’s safety at home, and other matters, according to a press release put out by his office.

He’ll also meet with New York and other American troops who are currently stationed in Afghanistan – including those from Fort Drum, New York’s 10th Mountain Division – to thank them for their service.

Approximately 270 members of the New York National Guard are currently deployed in Afghanistan, the bulk of which are based in the Hudson Valley and New York City. Additionally, approximately 900 members of Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division are in the country.

Cuomo departed the US from Washington, D.C. last night after receiving a security briefing from. He left from Andrews Air Force Base and traveled to Ramstein Air Base in Germany en route to Afghanistan.

Cuomo arrived in Germany this morning, and while there, he visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where he met with hospital staff and wounded servicemembers. Cuomo’s office posted photos of the visit on the governor’s Flickr page. He then continued on to Afghanistan, arriving Saturday evening local time.

A Cuomo spokesman said the governor is due back in New York at the end of the day on Monday. (Presumably, this means LG Bob Duffy is in charge until then).

Over the past several weeks, Cuomo has been intensely focused on terrorism, holding four events related to keeping New York safe as members of the Islamic State (AKA ISIS, or ISL) ramp up their activities overseas. Two of those events were held with Nwe Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has agreed to partner with Cuomo on anti-terrorism efforts.

On Thursday afternoon, Cuomo and NYC Mayor bill de Blasio took separate trips on the NYC subway system after the Iraqi prime minister warned of Islamic State plots to attack it. Both Democrats downplayed the reports, saying there was no knowledge of any specific threats made.

Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, suggested there was a political motivation behind the governor’s newfound focus on terrorism. Cuomo, in turn, characterized Astorino’s comments as “irresponsible,” saying the “essence” of his job is to keep New Yorkers safe.

Extras

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio offered a strong defense of Rachel Noerdlinger, his wife’s chief of staff, one day a report that her live-in boyfriend has a lengthy criminal history.

A Hamburg man agreed to take down the sign on his fence that blasts Cuomo and the SAFE Act. The town said it violated a zonign ordinance.

President Obama will sit down with CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday for a wide-ranging interview on domestic and foreign policy.

It’s possible no matching funds will be given out by the state Board of Elections this cycle through the pilot public campaign finance program.

Rep. Chsrlie Rangel, who has feuded with the Rev. Al Sharpton, does not believe Sharpton will advise the president on who UG AG Eric Holder’s successor should be.

Tim Wu opines on Holder’s “disappointing” tech legacy.

The Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park will lose its Association of Zoos and Aquariums accreditation at the end of the month.

The NRCC is gleeful over NY-21 Democratic candidate Aaron Woolf’s many missteps.

Civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel is suing the NYC Council for improperly firing analyst Artyom Matusov, who questioned data in a report by NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.

The ins and outs of the $350 tax rebate checks currently in the mail.

Someone used part of their rebate check to contribute to GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s campaign.

Education activist Diane Ravitch explains why she’s going Green in this year’s governor’s race.

Some Wall Streeters are already concerned US Attorney Preet Bharara could be tapped by Obama to lead the DOJ.

Empire City Casino in Yonkers is warning that they’ll have to lay off workers if a new casino license is awarded in Orange County.

Five candidates will appear on 10 ballot lines in the November governor’s race.

Bill Clinton is Hillary Clinton’s biggest asset should she run in 2016, but also her greatest potential liability.

The Sierra Club and a community group filed a lawsuit seeking to put the $140 million project to convert the coal-fired Dunkirk power plant to natural gas on hold.

Questions remain over the placement of seven high-level sex offenders in a West Seneca neighborhood.

A 74-year-old partner at a Wall Street law firm claims in a federal lawsuit against New York City that he was falsely arrested for talking to an Occupy Wall Street protester.

Before last night’s big game, CC Sabathia presented Derek Jeter with a watch and a blown-up portrait of The New Yorker magazine cover of Jeter tipping his cap.

WEA At Play In LI Assembly Race

Also from the Morning Memo…

Much has been written about the role of Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act in the battle for control of the state Senate. The issue has even spurred the governor to create a new minor party in hopes of galvanizing the female vote in November.

But the issue is also at play in contested Assembly races, and is the subject of a hard-hitting ad that started running yesterday on Long Island.

Its target is Republican Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, who is being challenged by Democratic Suffolk County Park Police sergeant Tom Schiliro.

The ad, titled “Absurd,” links Palumbo with former Republican Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a 2012 Tea Party-backed US Senate candidate who infuriated both sides of the aisle with his comments during a TV interview about “legitimate rape.”

Akin lost his challenge to Sen. Clarie McCaskill, who had been viewed as the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the 2012 cycle.

Palumbo, like many fellow Republicans, has said he supports 9 of the 10 points in the Women’s Equality Agenda. He opposes the abortion-rights plank, which has prevented the act’s passage in the closely-divided Senate.

The Assembly, which is dominated by Democrats, passed the act in its entirety by a vote of 88-43 this past session.

In a press release, Assembly Higher Education Chairwoman Deborah Glick called Palumbo’s claim that dentists will be able to perform abortions under the WEA “outrageous” and “factually incorrect.”

“Here we go again with another colossally out of touch Republican man telling bizarre lies in order to deny women their constitutionally protected rights,” Glick, a Manhattan Democrat, said.

“…These comments call into question whether Mr. Palumbo is fit for office. He is either unable to understand the legislation he votes on, or he is being willfully misleading so he can advance his extremist anti-women agenda. Either way, it’s disgraceful.”

Similarly themed ads will soon be running in other Assembly races, paid for by DACC, according to a Democratic source familiar with the conference’s political playbook.

Here’s the script of the new ad:

Female narrator: When it comes to women’s health, some politicians say the most ridiculous things. Remember the Senate candidate who said rape never results in pregnancy because…

GOP Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (circa 2012): “If it’s a legitimate rape, uh, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”

Female narrator: Now here on Long Island, Assemblyman Palumbo is worried the Women’s Equality Act will interfere with his next teeth cleaning.

Palumbo: “I look at this and say; ‘So, you’re allowing dentists to perform abortions, isn’t that right?”

Female narrator: “No, Assemblyman Palumbo. That isn’t right. It’s absurd.”

Watch Here >>

About That WNY Unity…

From today’s Morning Memo…

Earlier this week, Marc Panepinto’s campaign made a big to-do about the so-called “united front” of normally fractured Western New York Democrats coalescing behind his state Senate campaign since Sen. Mark Grisanti’s upset loss in the GOP primary.

There was a “unity” rally at Panepinto’s headquarters, followed by a press release that featured glowing statements from almost all of Erie County’s top Democratic leaders, including: Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Sen. Tim Kennedy and Rep. Brian Higgins.

Democratic activist Bill Samuels was also involved, and he called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to quit his flirtation with a potential Grisanti endorsement and get on board the party’s unity train.

It turns out, however, that “unified” might be too strong a word to describe the Erie County Democrats when it comes to Panepinto’s campaign.

Not surprisingly, given the party’s history of infighting, there are divisions over just how much support the various players are willing to give, and even over whether Panepinto should be on the ballot at all.

Though their statements were included on Panepinto’s press release, Higgins and Poloncarz did not attend the unity rally.

I’m told Buffalo Assemblyman Sean Ryan wasn’t there, either, and Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner – who just survived an attempt to oust him from his leadership post – was AWOL, too, though he had a previously scheduled family responsibility that kept him from attending.

A well-informed Erie County Democrat said there’s a lot of trepidation about Panepinto, and not just because of his 2001 misdemeanor conviction for collecting fraudulent voter signatures on designating petitions – though that is a concern, particularly given the implosion of Dave Denenberg’s campaign on Long Island.

(In 2005, Denenberg pleaded guilty to falsifying petitions – a situation similar to the one Panepinto experienced. The GOP was making hay of the incident, but something much bigger tanked Denenberg’s campaign).

There’s also some history between Zellner and Panepinto, who briefly was a candidate for Erie County Democratic chairman in 2012 (the year Zellner was first elected) and backed out.

During a brief telephone interview yesterday afternoon, Zellner told me:

“As of right now, we’ve endorsed Marc Panepinto…that means this is politics, and anything can happen.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

There was talk in Erie County Democratic circles that Panepinto was a supporter of Amherst Councilman Mark Manna’s unsuccessful challenge to Zellner (also backed by Kennedy and Brown, by the way).

Zellner said he had heard that rumor, but he hasn’t yet had a chance to speak with Panepinto about it.

“If I found that out, I would be surprised and not happy,” the chairman said. “…We’ll be talking soon, and I’m sure we’ll work it out.”

There was also a rumor floating around after the Denenberg debacle that some Democrats would prefer to get Panepinto off the line altogether by nominating him for a judgeship. Zellner said he had heard that one, too.

“I find it really hard to believe,” the chairman told me. “(Panepinto) is working really hard, and putting in a lot of time..”

“..Do I think him leaving for a judgeship could happen? Anything could happen if someone found a catastrophic poll that showed he was getting murdered. You never know.”

“But I find it hard to believe, given that he has the Democratic line in a heavily Democratic district and I know his work ethic. I think he has a paid canvass in the field right now, and he’s really hitting a lot of doors.”

Meanwhile, Grisanti is forging ahead with his re-election bid on the Independence Party line, and flirting with IDC Leader Jeff Klein, who is clearly trying to strengthen his post-election bargaining position with the so-called “regular” Democrats by growing his conference.

Remember: Grisanti used to be a Democrat, and he is fairly moderate (consider his “yes” vote on gay marriage), through he does hold conservative positions on some key matters, like, say, the DREAM Act.

And to complicate things still further, Kevin Stocker, the attorney who defeated Grisanti in the GOP primary, isn’t saying who he’ll be caucusing with in Albany next year if he wins the November election.

Here and Now

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

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will host an Environmental Roundtable at City Hall with advocates, elected officials, and stakeholders, where they will discuss the administration’s new climate policy, One City: Built to Last. This roundtable is closed press.

Later, de Blasio will meet with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Manhattan. This meeting is also closed press.

At 6:40 a.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss appears live on “The Morning Newswatch” on WHCU News/Talk 870 AM Ithaca.

At 8 a.m., GOP AG candidate John Cahill will be a guest on “Utica Talk of the Town” with Mark Piersma & Frank Elias, WUTQ 100.7 FM.

At 9 a.m.. state Education commissioner John King visits Gloversville Middle School, 234 Lincoln St., Gloversville.

At 9:30 a.m., Cahill will be a guest on “Binghamton Now” with Bob Joseph, WNBY News Radio 1290 AM.

At 10 a.m., Cahill attends a meet-and-greet at the Great Kills Senior center, 11 Sampson Ave., Staten Island.

At 10:30 a.m., King visits HFM BOCES Regional P-TECH, Jansen Avenue School, 305 Jansen Ave., Johnstown.

At 11 a.m., Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathy Hochul tours Eveningside Vineyards, 4794 Lower Mountain Rd., Cambria.

At 11:30 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will deliver the keynote address at the Long Island Clean Cities Coalition “Advancing the Choice Conference”, Carlyle on the Green, Bethpage State Park, 99 Quaker Meeting House Rd., Farmingdale.

At noon, Cahill will hold a press conference on domestic violence, Seaman’s Society for Children and Families, 50 Bay St., Staten Island.

Also at noon, Moss addresses the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Government Affairs Committee, Metrocenter, 49 Court St., Binghamton.

Also at noon, a pre-recorded interview with Moss airs on on “Talking Back with Shannon Joy” on WYSL 1040 AM Rochester.

Also at noon, the State Board of Elections meets, 40 North Pearl St., Fifth Floor, Albany.

At 1 p.m., Sen. Patty Ritchie and Dutchess County Legislator/state Senate candidate Sue Serino host a discussion on agriculture, Eastern View Nursery, 1167 Noxon Rd., Lagrangeville.

At 1:30 p.m., Hochul tours Maid of the Mist dry docks with Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Discovery Center, 200 Robert Moses Parkway North, Niagara Falls.

At 2:30 p.m., Moss appears at Scott’s Guns & Accessories, 306 Watkins Rd., Horseheads

At 4 p.m., Hochul tours Williamsville Octoberfest with Mayor Brian Kulpa, 5565 Main St., behind Village Hall, Williamsville.

At 6 p.m., Hochul attends the Botanical Gardens Gala, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo.

At 6:30 p.m., Moss attends and delivers remarks at the Cattaraugus County Republican Committee Annual Dinner, The Old Library Restaurant & Inn, 116 South Union St., Olean.

Headlines…

Staten Island Zoo officials are considering banning the practice of allowing the mayor to hold the rodent during the annual Groundhog Day ceremony, after it was revealed that the most recent “Chuck” died days after being dropped by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in February.

Police increased security measures at transit hubs around New York City hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that his security forces uncovered a plot to attack its transit systems.

The assertion by Iraq’s prime minister was greeted with some skepticism by American intelligence officials, who said they were looking into it nonetheless.

De Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, Cuomo and MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast rode the subway to demonstrate its safety, and the governor said no specific threats had been made.

Cuomo said he was mugged on the subway as a teenager, but characterized the experience as “somewhere between harassment slash mugging, low-level mugging and harassment.”

Jimmy Vielkind: “Jeff Klein may or may not follow through on a tentative deal to end his Independent Democratic Conference’s alliance with Republicans and form a new coalition with Democrats come November. But there is one goal he is doggedly, indisputably fixated on in the meantime: growing his conference to maximize his own influence.”

Cuomo said it was “irresponsible” for his GOP opponent, Rob Astorino, to question and suggest a political element to his security meetings and anti-terror collaboration with NJ Gov. Chris Christie.

Nearly half of registered voters in the suburbs said they held an unfavorable view of the new mayor, while one in three like him, according to a Wall Street Journal-NBC 4 New York-Marist College poll this week. The rest were unsure or said they had never heard of him.

The de Blasio administration is sticking by Rachel Noerdlinger, despite reports that she has a long-term live-in relationship with a convicted killer and drug trafficker who considers police officers “pigs” and continues to get in serious scrapes with the law.

More >

Extras

Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the subway to demonstate its safety in the face of unspecified terror threats to the system, and had a “chance meeting” with his erstwhile primary opponent, Randy Credico.

Cuomo reportedly revealed he is a Miley Cyrus fan, and his daughters loaded her music into his iPod.

Staten Island Zoo spokesman on Chuck/Charlotte’s demise: “We don’t know how the animal suffered the injuries but we don’t think it was from the fall.”

“When you’re talking about a celebrated icon…do you really want to tell children Santa Claus died?”

A new Rasmussen poll showed Cuomo vs. Rob Astorino at 49-32 with 12 percent undecided.

The nation’s first black US attorney general, Eric Holder, is resigning, but plans to remain in office until a successor is confirmed.

Rev. Al Sharpton said he is in “immediate conversations” with the White House about crowning Holder’s successor.

US AG Preet Bharara?

Or maybe California AG Kamala Harris will become the second woman to hold the position of America’s top law enforcement officer.

Rachel Noerdlinger, NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray’s chief of staff, is in a serious relationship with a convicted killer and interstate drug trafficker who last year nearly ran over a New Jersey police officer while driving her car.

President Obama reads a lot of news – both online and in print - but doesn’t watch much TV news.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his $3 million campaign fund are targeting veteran Republican Assemblyman Gary Finch, starting with an $80,000 television ad buy for Democratic challenger Diane Dwire.

Nine New York City Council members called on the Clinton Global Initiative to end its partnership with the controversial room-sharing startup Airbnb to provide housing to AmeriCorps volunteers.

Assembly Republican Minority Leader Brian Kolb defended the use of a GPS tracker to determine if Assemblyman Edward Hennessey actually lives in the district he represents.

For a second straight year, Rockland County has been labeled the most fiscally stressed municipality in New York by the state Comptroller’s Office.

CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s new diversity program is supported by $1.2 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

How Sen. Diane Savino deals with rogue cyclists: “I just scream at them out the window of my car…I yell, ‘Hey, find a #$@!ing bike lane, and get in it!”

A hand recount placed Bronx Assemblyman Victor Pichardo just two votes ahead of his Democratic primary challenger Hector Ramirez, which could leave the freshman legislator with one of the narrowest margins of victory in state history.

Two political analysts – Stuart Rothenberg and Larry Sabato – have decided Rep. Dan Maffei’s re-election is no longer a safe bet, citing a new poll by Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard and Siena College.

GOP Rep. Tom Reed and his Democratic challenger Martha Robertson will participate in three debates next month in NY-23, but she wants more.

More than 100 people may have to sue to get records showing where police in Onondaga County used license plate readers to photograph their cars.

Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the keynote address next month at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) annual National Dinner.

How to make Washington work better? Make Congress 51 percent women to better reflect the population, says US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Farmer Woolf

NY-21 Democratic candidate Aaron Wolf is out with a new TV ad in which he touts his proposal to create jobs in the North Country by supporting and promoting farmers, as opposed to providing tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations – the plan he says his GOP opponent, Elise Stefanik, is pushing.

The ad does double duty by featuring Woolf dressed in a Carhart jacket and standing on a farm (not his), while speaking straight to the camera. This is clearly an attempt by the documentary filmmaker to subtly address the storyline being pushed by the Republicans that he’s a wealthy downstate interloper who’s not in touch with the needs of North Country residents.

In fact, just this morning, the Super PAC created by former Assembly Minority Leader and 2006 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Faso released a new ad that slammed Woolf for selling overpriced pickles at his fancy Brooklyn food store and also failing to pay his taxes.

According to Woolf’s campaign, there is a “substantial” buy for this ad, which is running on broadcast and cable stations. Here’s the script (I’m unable to post the ad itself because the Woolf campaign has disabled the embed code):

“I’m Aaron Woolf and I approve this message because Elise Stefanik and I disagree on how to create good jobs in the North Country.

I think we can do it ourselves if they let us keep our money here.

One example: Our farms aren’t even supplying our own schools when they could be supplying the whole Northeast if we had good infrastructure.

Elise Stefanik thinks the best way to create jobs is to cut taxes for the wealthy. Again. And place more of the burden on the middle class. Look it up. That’s the difference.”

Unshackle Upstate Losing Sampson (Updated)

After serving for almost six years as the executive director of Unshackle Upstate, the pro-business/anti-tax advocacy organization, Brian Sampson is moving on.

The Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors is poised to announce today that Sampson has been tapped to serve as its new president – a position he will assume on Monday, Oct. 13.

ABC, which is represented on Unshackle Upstate’s board, represents roughly 400 merit contractors and affiliate members across New York.

Sampson will continue to serve as an Unshackle board member after his departure.

A search conducted by the organization’s leadership team – the Rochester Business Alliance, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and the North Country Chamber of Commerce – is underway to locate Sampson’s replacement.

Prior to being named as Unshackle Upstate’s executive director in 2009, Sampson served as the upstate director for Business Outreach ESDC.

His previous experiences also include director of government affairs for the Rochester Business Alliance and vice president of the Builders Exchange of Rochester.

During a brief interview folllowing his CapTon appearance last night, Sampson said he is excited to return to the construction field where he got his professional start, and also looks forward to expanding his efforts to include a statewide focus:

Watch Here >>