Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and Warren County.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will speak at the 1199 SEIU Monthly Executive Council Meeting in Manhattan. This event will be closed press.

At 9 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will be a guest on WCSS 1490AM with host Sam Zurlo.

At 9:30 a.m., the Rev. Al Sharpton speaks during a forum titled “From Protest to Policy: Policing in Communities of Color”; The Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, CUNY’s School of Professional Studies, 18th floor, 25 W. 43rd St., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., Cuomo speaks at the NYS Business Council’s annual meeting,The Sagamore, Bolton Landing.

At 10:30 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman and his GOP opponent, John Cahill; along with Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and his Republican challenger, Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci, speak at the Business Council meeting.

At 11:45 a.m., Astorino will attend the Montgomery County Senior Picnic, Fonda Fairgrounds, 21 S. Bridge St., Fonda.

At noon, activist Howie Hawkins, the Green Party gubernatorial candidate, greets subway riders; Harlem-125th Street station, Lexington Avenue and 125th Street, Harlem.

At 12:30 p.m., US Sen. Chuck Schumer will formally endorse former NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia’s congressional campaign in NY-11, Arthur Von Briesen Park, on the corner of Bay Street and School Street, Staten Island.

At 1:05 p.m., Astorino will be a guest on Long Island News Radio with host John Gomez.

At 1:30 p.m., Eric Garner’s family, their attorney and Dr. Michael Baden hold a press conference following Baden’s final review of Garner’s autopsy records, 520 1st Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 1:30 p.m., Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney will announce comprehensive legislation to combat prescription drug abuse, the Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center, Mackintosh Community Room, 147 Lake St., Newburgh.

At 1:45 p.m., Astorino will hold a press conference calling on Cuomo to cease his television “smear campaign based on an absurd lawsuit brought by Sam Zherka, an Independence Party ally newly indicted on multiple federal charges,” West Capitol Steps, Albany.

At 6:30 p.m., environmental advocates including writers Paul Hawken, Bill McKibben and Vandana Shiva and attorney Elizabeth Yeampierre participate in a “Climate Voices” advocacy and art event; ABC Carpet & Home Inc. store, 888 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 8:20 p.m., Astorino will be a guest on Mark Levin, WABC radio.

Headlines…

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio went to bat for congressional candidate Domenic Recchia, saying he would hit the hustings for the Democrat looking to unseat two-term Republican Rep. Michael Grimm.

A NY1/Capital NY/Siena College poll showed Grimm leading Recchia by just four percentage points (44-40), but also showed that 49 percent of voters had an unfavorable view of the embattled Republican congressman.

De Blasio campaigning for Recchia may not be entirely helpful in Staten Island, where the mayor’s approval rating was a dismal 25 percent according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll. The mayor also lost the borough to his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, in the general election last year.

The Democratic State Committee is launching a petition and Facebook ads calling on GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino to release five years of 1040 returns. There is no requirement for statewide officials or aspirants to release tax returns, but most do as a gesture of transparency.

In a pitch for the state Business Council’s endorsement, Astorino chided top executives for failing to speak up as New York’s economic climate has declined and promised that he would authorize fracking and immediately repeal hundreds of state regulations if elected.

Multiple sources told Ken Lovett that aides to Cuomo, who only formally committed last week to making an appearance at the Council’s meeting, were pressuring to have Astorino moved from the Thursday night speaking spot. But Business Council leaders, noting Astorino agreed to attend the conference months ago, refused.

In a bid to lure NYC’s estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants to carry official identification, those who enroll will get a sweet deal packed with comped tickets and discounts easily worth $2,100.

DailyKos is raising campaign cash for five Senate Democrats/Democratic candidates: Dave Denenberg, Cecilia Tkaczyk, Terry Gipson, Marc Panepinto and Justin Wagner.

Rep. Chris Collins publicly discussed a taboo topic: How fracking saved the Buffalo Bills. “(W)e could have, potentially, more Terry Pegulas. Let’s face it: He’s lived the American dream above and beyond.”

Calling sexual harassment and domestic violence “a crisis facing our nation,” Republican attorney general candidate John Cahill said if elected he’d create a special division dedicated to fighting them.

A Newsday/Siena College poll showed Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice with a big lead – 55-37 – over her GOP opponent, Bruce Blakeman, in NY-4.

A $100,000 incendiary ad campaign that includes an image of American journalist James Foley just before his beheading in Syria is coming to 100 MTA buses and two subway stations, paid for by flame-throwing blogger Pamela Geller.

Cuomo, LG candidate Kathy Hochul and former NYC Council speaker Christine Quinn announced a “women’s equality pledge”, which indicates support for all 10 points of the failed Women’s Equality Act, calling on all seekers and holders of state office to sign it.

New York City plans to hire potentially dozens of additional contractors to rebuild superstorm Sandy-damaged homes, a move that officials say could quadruple the pace of construction.

The city’s unemployment rate fell faster in August than in any month on record, to 7.3 percent from 7.8 percent in July, the State Labor Department reported.

Phil Reisman wonders what’s taking Cuomo so long to write his memoir (or “mem-wah,” as Reisman prefers), and thinks Astorino’s 11-year-old son, Sean, should get a book agent.

De Blasio said securing alternative employment for Central Park’s horse-drawn carriage drivers will be a priority if his long-promised ban on the industry is realized.

More >

Rick Perry To Headline Buffalo Fundraiser for Astorino

Carl Paladino this afternoon sent out an invitation to a Sept. 30 fundraiser for GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, that will be headlined by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The event will be held in the grant court of the Elliott Square Building in Buffalo, which is owned by Paladino – the 2010 GOP/Conservative candidate for governor, who lost big to Cuomo, but did manage to beat him in Western New York.

Tickets to the Perry fundraiser start at $99 per person and $175 per couple, but rise to $500 per couple if the couple in question wants to get their picture taken with the governor.

According to the invite, this event is being hosted by united GOP/Conservative front that includes Paladino, state Conservstive Chairman Mike Long, state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, (who was former Congresswoman-turned-LG-candidate Kathy Hochul’s unsuccessful opponent in the 2011 special election for former Rep. Chris Lee’s seat), and Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo.

Not too terribly long ago, Paladino was threatening to run for governor himself if the Republicans failed to select someone who met his conservative standards to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Astorino did not appear to meet the Buffalo businessman’s exacting standards. But Paladino is now fully in Astorino’s camp, and even recently traveled with the candidate around the state on a bus tour.

Perry has been mentioned as a potential 2016 contender, despite his failed 2012 bid and his recent indictment on two felony counts of violating Texas public-integrity law, and he regularly raises campaign cash for various Republican candidates (in other words, gathering chits).

The Texas governor has also made repeated trips to New York in hopes of wooing businesses to his more business-friendly state (especially when it comes to taxes, since Texas has no income tax whatsoever), and has even run ads here encouraging New Yorkers to relocate.

Perry isn’t the only out-of-state GOP governor to help Astorino. During a recent trip to a Republican Governors Association meeting in Aspen, Colorado, Astorino said he securred commitments of support from Perry, Mike Pence from Indiana, Nikki Haley from South Carolina, and Bobby Jindal from Louisiana.

The foursome’s agreement to assist Astorino is a rebuke to the head of the RGA, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has repeatedly refused to lift a finger on Astorino’s behalf, saying at one point that he didn’t want to invest RGA resources in “lost causes.”  After that comment, Christie clarified that he does support Astorino’s campaign, but won’t provide him with any assistance until the race between the county executive and Cuomo tightens considerably.

Extras

Hillary Clinton said Congress is living in an “evidence-free zone” as it debates issues of equal pay and family-friendly work policies.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “I have not murdered a unicorn. And I am against it. Eleventh point. All women are against murdering unicorns.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will vote “no” on President Obama’s request to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight against ISIS, breaking with Sen. Chuck Schumer, who plans to vote “yes.”

A former state tax commissioner who sat on both tax policy commissions convened by Cuomo said it would be “a real challenge” to let New York’s “millionaires’ tax” expire on schedule at the end of 2017.

Selim “Sam” Zherka, a Westchester political activist and strip club owner who was a key player in a racketeering lawsuit against GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, was slammed with a host of federal fraud charges

AG Eric Schneiderman is hosting a fundraiser (tickets $250 to $25,000) at the BB King Blues Club & Grill on Oct. 9.

Democratic Senate candidate Adam Haber, a retired Wall Street futures trader, has loaned his campaign $200,000 as he prepares to square off in November against GOP Sen. Jack Martins.

Mufid Elfgeeh, the Rochester man accused of plotting to kill members of the U.S. military, has denied new federal charges that he tried to aid ISIS.

Democrats have a second attack ad against Republican Assemblyman Steve Katz –  this time knocking him on his record on women’s rights issues.

Problem with the state DEC’s new online licensing system for hunting and fishing licenses continue to fester.

On a year-to-year basis, New York’s statewide job creation rate of 1.9 percent trailed the national private job creation rate of 2.1 percent. Most of the job gains were downstate.

Despite John Liu conceding to his primary opponent, Sen. Tony Avella, an official winner may not be decided for weeks, after a vote count that begins with an uploading of polling machine memory sticks.

Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Assemblyman Francisco Moya want state Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky to investigate Airbnb for what they call misleading insurance policies.

Republican NY-25 candidate Mark Assini has a new TV ad.

The state Business Council still hasn’t decided whether it will endorse in the governor’s race or remain on the sidelines as it had traditionally done before 2010.

Buffalo parents need to empower themselves to know that better educational choices exist for their children, said Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

Since the news of Terry and Kim Pegula agreeing to buy the Bills and assuring their future in Buffalo, sales of the team’s jerseys has spiked 800 percent over their yearly average.

Charles Barron hosted Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe at City Hall as a freshman Brooklyn councilman in 2002. He would like to repeat the performance in his first term as a state assemblyman.

New York auditors say police have been slow getting updated information from registered sex offenders who fail to provide it for the state’s public registry.

Officials have been so eager to show off Tappan Zee Bridge progress that in six weeks they have twice taken reporters and photographers out on a cramped tugboat to tour the site.

Teachout Urges ‘No’ Vote on Redistricting Amendment

After her better-than-expected (but not enough to win) showing in last week’s Democratic primary, Zephyr Teachout appears determined to keep her finger in New York politics, issuing a statement today urging voters to reject the constitutional amendment that will change the redistricting process.

Teachout deemed state Supreme Court Justice Patrick McGrath’s ruling that the amendment could not claim to set up an “independent” redistricting commission “spot (on)”, saying the body will actually be “a proxy for the same kind of partisanship that has corrupted our politics.”

“Only in Albany would ‘independent’ mean ‘appointed by the Legislature,’” Teachout continued. “The governor knows this is a ridiculous proposal, and the courts have defined it as a continuation of the status quo.

Meaningful redistricting reform is only possible if we stand up for the government we want, not settle for the fake reform our government is willing to give us. On November 4th, New Yorkers should reject Proposition 1 for the false choice it is.”

Prop. 1 as this constitutional amendment is known, has divided the good government community, with some – like Common Cause NY, which was part of the lawsuit that challenged the amendment’s wording – saying that the changes it makes will only make things worse.

It remains to be seen whether Teachout has the power to motivate her supporters on issues other than her own gubernatorial run.

In an interview with the NY Post, the Fordham Law professor, who returned to the classroom the day after her primary loss, said she has been bitten by the politics bug and may run for a citywide or statewide office in the future. She also said she’s not likely to issue an endorsement in the governor’s race before the November general election.

Hayworth’s 1st NY-18 TV Ad Focuses On Veterans

Former Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth has released her first TV ad of her re-match with Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in NY-18 – a spot that focuses on the county’s beleaguered VA system.

The ad, called “Our Heroes,” doesn’t make any specific policy promises, but rather generally focuses on Hayworth’s experience as a doctor treating vets and what she says is her “unwavering support for veterans.”

Recent reports have Hayworth gaining steam in this race. Her campaign has touted her win in the June Independence Party primary as a momentum builder, despite the fact that it was a very small turnout race.

An exclusive TWC News/Siena poll scheduled to be released tonight will demonstrate whether the numbers are indeed in Hayworth’s favor with seven weeks remaining until the November election.

Thanks to her Independence Party win, Hayworth’s name will appear on three lines on the ballot, while Maloney only has two (Democrat and Working Families Party).

Maloney’s campaign has been sending out fundraising appeal emails with increasing frequency, trying to instill a sense of urgency in his supporters over Hayworth’s supposed gains.

His most recent missive went out yesterday, and sought to use Hayworth’s imminent first ad as an impetus for donors to give more.

Here’s the script for Hayworth’s ad; her campaign didn’t give any information about the size of the buy, where it will be running or for how long:

Hayworth: As the daughter of two World War II veterans, I revere the sacrifices of the men and women who made our freedom possible.

I had the privilege of caring for out veterans in the VA as a doctor. I’ve witness firsthand the unconscionable inefficiencies of the VA.

Our veterans need access to the best care, anytime and anywhere they need it. To all those who have followed the call of duty, this duty is owed in return by a grateful nation.

I’m Nan Hayworth, and I approve this message.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City.

Voters in Scotland decided today whether to declare independence, exiting a 307-year-old union with England.

At 8 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino attends a North Country Chamber of Commerce roundtable meeting, 7061 State Route 9, Plattsburgh.

At 9 a.m., Former Vice President Al Gore speaks to religious officials during an “Interfaith Leaders Climate March Breakfast”; Social Hall, Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., Public Service Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman delivers remarks at a forum on state energy policy during the Business Council of New York State’s annual conference, The Sagamore, 110 Sagamore Rd., Bolton Landing.

Also at 10 a.m., SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and IBM Foundation president Stanley Litow discuss the role that business should play in education during the Business Council’s conference, The Sagamore, 110 Sagamore Rd., Bolton Landing.

Also at 10 a.m., the Alliance for Quality Education holds a press conference on its “We Can’t Wait” campaign, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., members of the NYC Campaign Finance Board hold a public meeting, boardroom, 12th floor, 100 Church St., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., ESDC President and CEO Kenneth Adams, SUNY Research Foundation president Timothy Killeen, Clarkson University president Anthony Collins and other higher education leaders participate in a discussion forum about university-based innovation during the Business Council’s conference, The Sagamore, 110 Sagamore Rd., Bolton Landing.

Also at 11 a.m., Astorino announces a proposal regarding the Lake Placid Olympics, in front of the Town of North Elba Municipal Offices, 2693 Main St., Lake Placid.

Also at 11 a.m., Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, advocates and community leaders join together to respond to new federal census data on poverty, inequality, health coverage, and income, 263 W. 86th St., Manhattan.

At noon, anti-fracking advocates call for a statewide ban on the process during a demonstration outside a fundraiser for Cuomo; The Plaza hotel, 768 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 1:15 p.m., Cuomo and Democratic LG candidate Kathy Hochul make a Women’s Equality Party announcement, Plaza Hotel, 785 Fifth Ave., 3rd Floor, Manhttan.

Also at 1:15 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio makes an announcement at the Bronx Zoo, Zoo Center, 2300 Southern Blvd., the Bronx.

ADDED: At 1:30 p.m., AG Eric Schneiderman, State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico and Syracuse Police Chief Frank L. Fowler will make a public safety announcement, AG’s Syracuse office, 615 Erie Blvd. West, Suite 102, Syracuse.

At 2 p.m., Astorino greets voters at Indian Lake, Adirondack Mountains Antique Show, Main Street, Indian Lake.

At 2:45 p.m., Astorino attends a Hamilton County meet-and-greet, Indian Lake Restaurant, Main Street, Indian Lake.

At 5 p.m., Astorino attends the Adirondack Balloon Festival Opening Day Ceremony, Crandall Park, Glens Falls.

At 7 p.m., Rep. Michael Grimm holds a campaign fundraiser, Mama Rao Cucina Italiana, 6408 11th Ave., Brooklyn.

At 7:10 p.m., Astorino delivers remarks during the evening reception at the Business Council’s conference, The Sagamore, 110 Sagamore Rd., Bolton Landing.

At 7:25 p.m., de Blasio speaks at the Gentech 2014 Demo Night and Awards Ceremony, AppNexus, 19 West 23rd St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Webster on last night for a private fundraiser that was expected to raise him $200,000, and was met by anti-fracking protestors.

“One week into the general-election season, the discourse in the governor’s race has devolved into the trivial, with attack ads deploying outlandish imagery, vicious rhetoric or issues far afield from politics.”

Publishing titan and two-time Republican presidential aspirant Steve Forbes praised Cuomo, but said it’ll be a while before the governor can boast of a welcoming business climate in New York.

According to an exclusive NY1/Capital New York/Siena College poll, 88 percent of likely voters have paid a great deal or some attention to the Eric Garner chokehold death case. Just 10 percent have ignored it.

Sources close to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Rep. Brian Higgins confirm they remain supportive of Erie County Democratic Party Chair Jeremy Zellner in a leadership showdown.

The NFL’s finance committee met with Terry and Kim Pegula about buying the Buffalo Bills and unanimously recommended them to be the team’s next owners – a crucial next step in transferring the team to the couple.

A group of about a dozen medical marijuana advocates met in Albany with officials from the Cuomo administration for a briefing on the state’s progress in helping sick patients access marijuana for medical uses.

The Authorities Budget Office is investigating the loan of clean water funds for construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge, the bulk of which has been rejected by the EPA.

Average class sizes in grades 1-3 in New York City public schools rose to 25 or 26 children in the last school year – an addition of three students a class from five years earlier, according to the latest Mayor’s Management Report.

The proposed panel that would draw New York’s all-important political lines can’t be described as “independent” on the November ballot, a state Supreme Court justice ruled.

More >

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 sides 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 Lackawanna. 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 Ralph.

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.”