Liz Benjamin

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Cuomo’s Second Senate Democrat: Justin Wagner (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today announced his second general election endorsement of a state Senate Democratic candidate, issuing a statement of support for Justin Wagner, who is making his second attempt at winning the Hudson Valley seat currently occupied by GOP Sen. Greg Ball.

The Cuomo campaign this morning issued a press release timed to coincide with the Hudson Valley tour of the governor’s Women’s Equality Express bus, which is actually being “manned” (pun intended) by Cuomo’s running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul.

“I am confident that Justin Wagner will bring a new energy to Albany that will help make the Hudson Valley an even better place to live, work, raise a family and start a business,” Cuomo said.

“And by signing the Women’s Equality Pledge, Justin has also demonstrated a clear commitment to advance the rights of New York women.”

In a departure from the past two weekends of bus tours, Cuomo isn’t actually on the Women’s Equality Express. He had a busy day yesterday, taking a whirlwind tour of the Dominican Republican Puerto Rico to pay his “respects” to, and acknowledge the growing clout of, Latino voters back home.

Last weekend, Cuomo made his first endorsement of a Senate Democratic candidate, announcing his support for Adrienne Esposito. The environmental activist is running for the Long Island seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Lee Zeldin, who is vacating his seat to challenge Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1.

The bus made its first stop at Mt. Kisco Public Library in Mt. Kisco, its second stop at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, and its third and final stop at the Rondout Neighborhood Center Gym in Kingston.

Wagner, an attorney from Croton on the Hudson in Westchester, narrowly missed defeating Ball in 2012 after a very contentious campaign. He announced his intention in November 2013 to seek a re-match against Ball, but the senator decided not to seek re-election this fall, and is widely believed to be planning a relocation to Texas.

The Republicans picked Terrence Murphy, a Yorktown councilman, to square off against Wagner in the 40th SD. The race has become increasingly heated, as the Democrats believe they have a good chance at picking up the seat.

As in several other closely fought Senate races, the Women’s Equality Act has been a central focus of the Democrats’ campaign strategy in the 40th SD.

As part of its efforts to engage directly with voters, the Cuomo campaign and his allies in the women’s rights movement are encouraging all New Yorkers to sign up for women’s equality text alerts by texting “voteWEP” to 225568.

This effort has caused some consternation among the governor’s fellow Democrats, who worry this WEP push could hurt their effort to re-take the majority because most Democratic Senate candidates were not able to qualify to run on the minor party line.

Wagner was one of the Democrats who failed to make the cut for the WEP line.

The WEP push is also worrying Working Families Party officials, on whom the similarity between “WEP” and “WFP” is not lost.

The governor is running on the WFP line, and needs to receive at least 50,000 votes there in order for the party to retain its official status – and, more importantly, its ballot line. But he is not urging voters to support him on Row D, preferring instead to focus on his WEP campaign.

Updated: The Murphy campaign weighs in.

“These women faced discrimination, sexual harassment, and were paid less than men for doing the same job,” said T.J. McCormack, a Murphy spokesman. “When they took their case to court, Justin Wagner’s firm victimized them again.”


Attorney Ron Klain, a Democratic Party veteran and former White House insider, is the nation’s new Ebola Czar.

WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein: “(Gov. Andrew Cuomo) stretched New York’s campaign finance limits so far they’ve become meaningless. And he did it to tell people he is cleaning up Albany.”

Harlem Assemblyman and Manhattan Democratic Party leader Keith Wright is considering retiring from politics to take a plum job as the $174,000-a-year borough county clerk.

GOP NY-1 candidate Sen. Lee Zeldin has a new TV ad out in which he says it’s time to “term limit Tim” (AKA Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop).

Crain’s endorsed Republican John Cahill for AG and Cuomo for governor.

Newsday endorsed Cahill, saying AG Eric Schneiderman’s “lackluster campaign for a second term has been as uninspiring as his tenure.”

The Astorino campaign insists it’s not behind the slew of negative reviews on Amazon of Cuomo’s new book.

The Staten Island pizzeria that embroiled NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in the “Pizzagate” scandal was shut down by the NYC Department of Health this week.

Green Party candidate for governor Howie Hawkins has a novel approach to the heroin epidemic: Legalize it.

Not surprisingly, NY-11 opponents Domenic Recchia and Rep. Michael Grimm clashed repeatedly during a 30-minute televised debate, even arguing over who’s more Staten Island.

Several NYC and state lawmakers were with Cuomo today in the Dominican Republican and Puerto Rico, but they traveled separately from him.

New York has 71,759 tax-subsidy deals worth $21 billion on its books – more than five times as many as any other state, according to a conservative group funded largely by the Koch brothers.

Onondaga County’s sheriff won’t be sticking around once his 20-year term expires. Kevin Walsh has put his home in North Syracuse up for sale; he’s headed to California.

A State Supreme Court judge dismissed litigation against a Buffalo legal firm that epitomized the bitter split between Canadian and New York members of the Peace Bridge Authority.

Staten Island’s Republican Party is behind the bumber stickers that read “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for JOE LHOTA.”

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, who crossed party lines to endorse Cuomo, backed GOP NY-24 candidate John Katko.

LG Bob Duffy continues to have fun expressing himself on Twitter.

Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg failed in his personal quest for nonpartisan primaries in the Big Apple; he’s now contributing to a similar effort underway in Oregon.

As he signed an executive order creating new protections against identity theft and credit card fraud, President Obama joked about how his own card was rejected at a trendy NYC restaurant.

…it turns out, the president doesn’t use his card enough, and the company though some fraud was occurring. First Lady Michelle Obama paid for the couple’s meal.

The New York Sun makes the Frieden-Bloomberg connection vis-a-vis the US’s Ebola response.

New Hampshire US Senate candidate Scott Brown told Fox News that Ebola wouldn’t be a problem for America if Mitt Romney had won in 2012.

If you believe government forecasters, the winter of 2014-15 might not be so bad in Buffalo-Niagara after all.

Conservative Group Targets Rep. Maloney In NY-18 (Updated)

American Action Network, a conservative 501(c)4 run by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, today announced it will spend $600,000 to try to oust Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney during the final weeks of the campaign.

The money will be spent on mailers and digital advertising as well as some TV ads later this month, AAN said.

“Sean Patrick Maloney thinks his constituents should have to live by one set of rules and he should get to live by another,” said Emily Davis, spokeswoman for the American Action Network. “From voting to have first class air travel for members of Congress to violating a ban by the very entity he oversees in Congress, Sean Patrick Maloney has proven he doesn’t deserve the trust of Hudson Valley families.”

Maloney, a first-term Democrat, is facing a challenge from the Republican he defeated two years ago, former Rep. Nan Hayworth. Recent polls – including one released by Hayworth’s campaign – have shown this race tightening into a new statistical dead heat, which has caused the DCCC to send in the cavalry (in the form of TV air time, using money that had originally been slated for congressional contests elsewhere in the state) in an effort to protect Maloney on Nov. 4.

The “violating a ban by the very entity he oversees” refers to a drone employed to record a video of the wedding ceremony this past June of Maloney and his longtime partner (and now husband), Randy Florke. Maloney is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s aviation subcommittee, which oversees the FAA. The FAA is looking into the use of the drone – or “unmanned aircraft,” as it prefers – to determine if there was any violation of federal regulations or airspace restrictions.

AAN and its sister organization, the Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC, have announced a total of over $19 million worth of independent expenditures in 2 congressional districts across the country this year. The group was launched in 2010, and reported spending close to $19 million on Senate and House races that cycle.

AAN has a New York connection – former Rep. Tom Reynolds sits on its board.

Hayworth and Maloney squared off in a televised debate last night that was hosted by TWC News and moderated by myself, Nick Reisman and Michael Scotto. If you missed it, you catch it again here.

UPDATE: Maloney spokeswoman Stephanie Formas sent the following response:

“This Wall Street funded Super PAC and Tea Party Congresswoman Nan Hayworth are two peas in a pod. They support privatizing Social Security and giving more tax breaks to multimillionaires like themselves. Congresswoman Hayworth’s Wall Street friends want her back in Congress so she can pass her plan to let them gamble senior’s retirement on Wall Street.”

More Liberal Dem Support for Hawkins

After Zephyr Teachout’s loss in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor, made a public appeal for her disappointed supporters on the left to back his campaign.

It appears that call is being heeded. Hawkins yesterday picked up the support of a third New York City-based liberal Democratic Club – the Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform (based in Brooklyn).

“Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform is dedicated to endorsing candidates who support the average Brooklynite,” the club’s president, Raul Rothblatt, said in a statement released by the Hawkins campaign.

“We have straight-forward values: People should get paid fairly for their work. Right now, our state government seems more interested in enriching people who get overcompensated for their work.”

“The current governor’s policies are closer in line with the GOP than with our Democratic Party values.”

“We also feel the governor failed to live up to his campaign promises of fighting corruption. The failure of the Moreland Commission is just the most egregious example of why voters in Brooklyn are angry with Governor Cuomo.”

The PHDR endorsement comes on the heels of decisions earlier this week by the Village Independent Democrats and Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club – both Manhattan-based organizations – to support Hawkins.

Also last night, the Buffalo Teachers Federation voted unanimously to endorse Hawkins, according to his campaign, becoming the third teachers union to back his minor party gubernatorial bid.

The Buffalo teachers had been strong supporters of Teachout during the primary.

Hawkins will be in Buffalo today to discuss, among other things, public education and the Common Core.

As for Teachout herself, she is still on a statewide tour promoting her new book, “Corruption in America”, and simultaneously trying to help the Senate Democrats’ in their quest to re-take the majority.

Teachout has not yet issued an endorsement in the governor’s race.

Hawkins said earlier this month that he spoke to Teachout about backing him, and she’s “open” to the idea. It’s highly unlikely she’ll support her erstwhile primary opponent, Cuomo, before the Nov. 4 election.

TV Ad #2 for Schneiderman: Pro-Cop, Anti-Crime

With just over two weeks remaining in the 2014 campaign, Democratic AG Eric Schneiderman is starting to ramp up his TV presence, cashing in on the air time he reserved months ago.

Schneiderman’s campaign today will release his second TV ad, which has a dual focus – his crime-fighting efforts, and his program to use cash from civil forfeiture funds to help purchase bulletproof vests for cops around the state.

Schneiderman started what he dubbed the “inVEST” program after the federal government cut funding over the past three years for bulletproof vest purchases by local police departments.

The AG pledged to dedicate some $3.5 million to the program, which reimburses local law enforcement agencies up to 50 percent of the cost of new vests. (The federal money also comes in the form of a matching funds).

The program has already helped purchase close to 8,000 vests, according to Schneiderman’s campaign.

The AG’s Republican opponent, former Pataki administration official John Cahill, has pledged to return a more law-and-order focus to the office if he’s elected on Nov. 4. Throughout the campaign, Cahill has accused Schneiderman of being insufficiently tough on crime – an accusation the AG’s campaign deemed “desperate.”

The Schneiderman campaign also likes to remind reporters that the AG has broad support from the law enforcement community, and has been endorsed by a variety of police unions across the state.

Cahill has the support of the State Troopers PBA, in part due to his opposition of the AG’s move to unseal documents about the 1971 Attica prison riot.

Recent public opinion polls have showed Cahill gaining on Schneiderman, though the AG continues to maintain a double-digit lead over his Republican rival. Schneiderman has a 25-to-1 cash advantage over Cahill.

That fact, coupled with the AG’s forward-thinking strategy of reserving $3 million worth of air time for the final weeks of the campaign, will enable him to blitz the airwaves and raise his name recognition just in time for Election Day in a way Cahill cannot.

Schneiderman’s new ad, which appears below, will run through Election Day. His first ad, called “One Set of Rules,” is still on the air, too.

Here’s the script of the new ad:

“Gridlock in Washington blocked funding for bulletproof vests for our police officers. As a New Yorker, I was outraged. As attorney general, I did something about it.

We’ve paid for bulletproof vests for close to 8,000 police officers across the state and funded it with money my office seized from drug gangs and criminals we’ve locked up.

Taking criminals off our streets and keeping our cops safe. There’s nothing more important.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on a whirlwind tour of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico today.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend an event with Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy in Manhattan, which will be closed to the press.

At 10 a.m., US Sen. Chuck Schumer endorses state Sen. Ted O’Brien at a campaign rally, 1048 University Ave, Building 3, Rochester.

At 10:10 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci hosts Lauren Sheilds, the namesake of “Lauren’s Law”, and Brian Conybeare, the special advisor to the governor on the new Tappan Zee Bridge project, on the next installment of his monthly radio program “The Albany Report,” WRCR 1300 AM.

At 10:30 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will greet seniors with Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., Grand Slam Banquet Hall, 478 E. Tremont Ave, the Bronx.

At 11 a.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss makes a “major police announcement regarding public safety,” Broome County Courthouse Steps, 92 Court St., Binghamton.

At 11:30 a.m., GOP AG candidate John Cahill discusses his plan to combat heroin abuse in New York, 615 Erie Blvd W., Syracuse.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins takes a “citizens led” tour of Buffalo, discusses education outside Lafayette High School, slated to become a charter, 370 Lafayette Ave.

At 12:10 p.m., Cahill will be a guest on Watertown Mayor Graham’s View Radio Show, WATN 1240 AM.

At 1 p.m., LG Bob Duffy delivers remarks at the University of Rochester College Town dedication ceremony, College Town, Building 6, Mount Hope Avenue and Crittenden Boulevard, Rochester.

At 2 p.m., WABC-TV hosts a debate between NY-11 candidates Domenic Recchia and Rep. Mihcael Grimm, which will air in its entirety on “Eyewitness News: Up Close with Diana Williams,” Seven Lincoln Square, 66th Street, Manhattan.

Also at 2 p.m., Moss reiterates his public safety announcement, West Capitol steps, Albany.

Also at 2 p.m., the state Senate Health Committee holds a roundtable discussion on “Ebola: Is New York Ready?”, Senate Hearing Room, 19th floor, 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 2:30 p.m., Cahill again discusses his anti-heroin plan, 317 Washington St., Watertown.

At 2:45 p.m., Democratic LG candidate Kathy Hochul tours the Union Street Project with Former Mayor Linda Witte and Olean Aldermen Adam Jester and Jerry Leber, Entrance to Jamestown Community College’s Cattaraugus County Campus, 260 North Union St., Olean.

At 4 p.m., Hochul tours CutCo Manufacturing Facilities with company officials and the Olean aldermen, 116 East State St., Olean.

At 4:15 p.m., Cuomo meets with Governor García-Padilla at La Fortaleza, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

At 5 p.m., Cuomo and Garcia-Padilla hold a joint press conference, Hotel El Convento, 100 Calle del Cristo, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

At 5:15 p.m., Hochul speaks at the Cattaraugus County Jefferson Jackson Dinner hosted by County Chairwoman Joyce Melfi, 2000 Constitution Ave., Olean.

At 6 p.m., representatives of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and community officials discuss the topic “Understanding Ebola” during a town hall meeting; P.S. 057 Hubert H. Humphrey, 140 Palma Dr., Staten Island.

At 6:30 p.m., Moss attends and delivers Keynote Remarks a the Cortland Republican Dinner, Tinelli’s Hathaway House, 3976 State Route 41, Solon.

At 8 p.m., Astorino will attend and deliver remarks at the Smithtown Christian School Accelerate Banquet with Governor Mike Huckabee, Crest Hollow County Club, Woodbury.


While eight hospitals are prepared to treat patients with Ebola, Cuomo said all 200 hospitals across the state are being trained to recognize the disease.

Cuomo named eight “first responder” hospitals in case of an Ebola outbreak in New York. Two are upstate – the University of Rochester and the State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse. The others were in New York City or on Long Island.

“This city and this state are probably the most prepared in the country for situations like this,” Cuomo said. “Is anxiety higher than the probability? Yes. There is a semi-hysteria and that’s understandable but it’s not backed up by the facts or the numbers we have at this time.”

A passenger died on a Nigeria-to-JFK flight after a vomiting fit yesterday, and Rep. Pete King said officials gave the corpse only a “cursory” exam before declaring that the victim did not have Ebola.

Officials in Connecticut said that a Yale graduate student hospitalized with “Ebola-like symptoms” had tested negative for the virus, alleviating fears that the deadly disease had reached the Northeast.

A three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist said he’s disappointed at being uninvited to a Syracuse University journalism conference because of Ebola fears. He has been covering the crisis in Liberia, but is symptom free.

Cuomo is out of the state today, but he’s still expected to announce his Court of Appeals pick.

More >


President Obama ​is expected ​to issue an executive order to put National Guard boots on the ground in Liberia to help stop the spread of Ebola.

The fight against Ebola “hasn’t been handled well,” and that has compounded fears about the deadly disease, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “I think when people hear about what we’ve done, they’ll feel better.”

An official from the Dallas hospital where two nurses contracted Ebola apologized to Congress today and said authorities are “doing all we can” to find out exactly how they were stricken.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani supports a travel ban in an effort to prevent the spread of Ebola, although he admits: “You can’t stop all flights.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee, called for a travel ban from countries affected by the Ebola outbreak including Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to stop the spread of the disease.

NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan took a stand against The New York Times this morning for failing to mention that NY1 hosted last night’s state comptroller debate in the paper’s coverage. (He also failed to mention TWC News was involved in the event).

Cuomo signed a law to make yogurt the official state snack, a Batavia yogurt plant announced 32 layoffs.

Thanks to its new high-powered (and high-priced) attorney, the state now has until Nov. 14 to make its appeal of the EPA’s rejection of the bulk of a $511 million loan for the Tappan Zee Bridge project.

Cuomo turned down guest invites from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and MSNBC’s Morning Joe – two shows that were critical of him this summer – to discuss his book.

The finance director of Cuomo’s campaign sent out an email request for certain donors to attend the governor’s book signing last night and asking that they buy not just one copy but “a few.”

The governor defended the controversial SAFE Act, which he discusses in his memoir, saying it’s “reasonable, balanced and measured.”

The New York Court of Appeals rejected an attempt by the oil and gas industry to revive a case on local fracking bans that the court decided earlier this year.

The Log Cabin Republicans are countering LGBT groups’ calls for Cuomo not to reappoint Court of Appeals Justice Victoria Graffeo.

Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, would be happy to place a Walmart in New York City and thinks Mayor Bill de Blasio only measures success by “how many people on welfare.”

Disgraced ex-Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s sexual harassment scandal is socking taxpayers with a soaring legal bill.

Larry Sabato: “Democrats also appear resigned to GOP wins in three upstate New York districts: Reps. Chris Gibson (NY-19) and Tom Reed (NY-23), as well as the open NY-21, which would be a Republican takeover. All three shift from Leans Republican to Likely Republican.”

The Democratic Governors Association just took in a record haul of more than $45 million, fueled by labor unions and former New York City mayor, billionaire and political independent, Michael Bloomberg.

Central New York continues to lose more jobs than any other region in the state.

AG Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Papa John’s pizza franchisee New Majority Holdings, LLC and its owner, Ronald Johnson, for significantly underpaying delivery workers.

De Blasio is reportedly skipping the Empire State Pride Agenda’s annual gala dinner tonight, where his ex-2013 mayoral race rival, former NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn, will be honored.

Democratic NY-11 candidate Domenic Recchia has $987,470 left in his coffers with less than three weeks to go before Election Day, which is a lot more than his GOP opponent, Rep. Michael Grimm, has on hand.

Big contributors to Grimm’s campaign include Susan Molinari, who formerly held the same Staten Island-based congressional seat, and her husband, former Rep. Bill Paxon, a lobbyist at Akin Gump in Washington.

The Syracuse Post-Standard: “Cuomo made good on his promise to reward businesses with tax-free status. Whether that results in an influx of jobs into the state remains to be seen.”

EMILY’s List is using Hillary Clinton’s upcoming birthday (Oct. 26) as an organizing tool.

Woolf Ad ‘Sets the Record Straight’

Democratic NY-21 candidate Aaron Woolf has a new TV ad out – a hybrid spot that seeks both to defend the candidate against attacks from his opponent and launches a few attacks in return.

The ad, called “True”, represents a “substantial” buy on broadcast and cable television stations in the North Country district’s major media markets, according to Woolf’s campaign.

In the ad, Woolf responds to claims that he’s a carpetbagger, admitting that he lived in New York City, but says he now makes his home in Elizabethtown.

He also continues a line of attack that he has been using for weeks – including in the recent TWC News debate – about his GOP opponent, Elise Stefanik, and her “dangerous record” as policy director for the 2012 platform at the Republican Party’s national convention in 2012.

During the debate, Stefanik repeatedly deflected that line of attack, telling Woolf that she wasn’t entirely responsible for the platform, and also noting that she’s running for office now – not two years ago.

The DCCC has its allies, (most notably, the House Majority PAC), have pretty much washed their hands of Woolf in the wake of a recent Siena poll that found him trailing Stefanik by double digits. But he continues to lend his campaign money and fight on.

Here’s the script for thew new ad:

“I’m Aaron Woolf and it’s true. I’ve invested in struggling small businesses that sell North Country farm products.

It’s also true I lived in New York City for a time. But my home is here in Elizabethtown.

What’s not true is Elise Stefanik’s latest story on Social Security.

Elise worked on privatizing Social Security for the Republican Platform. And this year she proposed raising the retirement age and cutting benefits.

I approve this message because I believe she means to do that.”

Citizens Union Debuts Pro-Prop. 1 Video

Citizens Union, the good government group that has been the driving force behind the movement to get a constitutional redistricting amendment passed next month, is releasing a new video explaining its position and urging New Yorkers to vote “yes” on Prop. 1.

The video is serving as a fund-raising tool. It was forwarded to Citizens Union supporters in an email yesterday, and the organization’s executive director, Dick Dadey, urged recipients to watch and then make a “much-needed contribution” to help get the video distributed statewide.

“You and I know that we must seize this chance to unrig the system, take power back, and for the first time in history hold the Legislature accountable on redistricting,” Dadey wrote.

“Prop. 1 forever bans the drawing of unfair districts that favors incumbents, discourages challengers, and protects majority party control in gerrymandering.”

“Opponents want to defeat Prop 1 by any means necessary for the false promise of something better down the road. Their cynical message dooms New York to years more of partisan gridlock and uncompetitive elections.”

“Remember, we had 87 percent of legislators – 184 out of 212 – say to New Yorkers in 2010 that they would create a fair redistricting process for the 2012 elections. What happened? Nothing. Talk about same old, same old.”

Dadey makes no mention in his email of the fact that Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised repeatedly – starting during his 2010 campaign for governor – that he would veto any redistricting plan that was drawn up in the standard, politically-controlled manner.

But Cuomo caved on that promise, signing off on the legislative leaders’ highly gerrymandered Senate and Assembly lines in exchange for their support of the constitutional amendment that has now twice been passed by separately elected Legislatures and will be left for the voters to decide.

Cuomo has said he supports Prop. 1, but he has yet to do any campaigning – or direct any cash – for the effort to get it passed.

This stands in stark contrast to last year’s pro-casino amendment effort, which included a statewide ad campaign paid for by a statewide coalition of business and labor groups (many, but not all, of which are now supporting Cuomo for re-election).

Prop. 1 has divided good government groups, with some even going to court to get the word “independent” struck from the ballot language describing the new commission that would be set up to take a first crack at redistricting if voters approve the amendment.

And earlier this week, the NAACP came out against Prop. 1, calling it “fake redistricting reform.”

Skelos Goes To Bat For Justice Graffeo

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos has made his preference known regarding the impending vacancy on the state’s highest court, issuing a statement in support of Justice Victoria Graffeo’s reappointment.

In his statement, released last night, Skelos said Graffeo has “served with distinction” during her 14-year term, and “is well regarded by legal scholars and her peers.”

“In fact, she is the most qualified of the seven candidates whose names were submitted to the Governor, and is the only nominee to achieve the highest rating from both the New York State Bar Association and the New York City Bar Association,” the senator, a Long Island Republican, continued.

“I have always found Judge Graffeo’s decisions to be sound, balanced and well reasoned, and if she is reappointed she could continue to serve in this capacity for the majority of another term.”

“New Yorkers should not be deprived of a justice with her experience and qualifications. I strongly urge the Governor to reappoint Judge Graffeo to the New York State Court of Appeals.”

Graffeo, a Republican appointed by former Gov. George Pataki in 2000, is 62 and won’t reach the mandatory retirement age for Court of Appeals Judges for another eight years. (An effort to extend that age via a constitutional amendment, which Cuomo opposed, failed last year).

Reappointing Graffeo would enable Cuomo to look bipartisan, following the lead of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who appointed both fellow Democrats and Republicans to the state’s highest court.

Graffeo was the only Republican on the list of nominees submitted to Cuomo by an independent panel charged with providing the executive with choices of potential high court justices.

She’s one of four Republicans currently serving on the court, along with Associate Judges Robert Smith, Eugene Pigott and Susan Read.

If he’s re-elected next month, Cuomo will have the opportunity to re-make the entire Court of Appeals.

He has already made two appointments: Jenny Rivera, a Latina and law professor, (replacing Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, his father’s appointee and the first Hispanic judge on the court); and Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an associate justice in the appellate division, who is the first black woman to serve on the court, (she replaced the late Theodore Jones, an African-American appointee of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer).

Cuomo recently missed the statutory deadline to make a decision on Graffeo, saying he needed another two weeks to consider his appointment.

Had he chosen Graffeo’s successor – or reappointed her – on the required deadline of Oct. 3, the Senate would have had 30 days to confirm the choice, bringing it right up to the Nov. 4 general election.

Cuomo said he didn’t want his decision to get caught up in the politics of the election season.

But clearly, Skelos is not as interested as keeping this issue out of the political arena.

Graffeo has a number of supporters in the legal and political communities. But opponents of her reappointment are starting to speak out, too.

The Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, recently wrote to Cuomo, urging him not to reappoint Graffeo based on her LGBT record.

And Democratic Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the first openly gay member of the Legislature, also spoke out against Graffeo, saying she has “displayed a hostile posture in regard to the LGBT community.”