Liz Benjamin

This user hasn't shared any biographical information

Homepage: http://nystateofpolitics.com


Posts by Liz Benjamin

Extras

Former Republican AG Dennis Vacco has been approached by party leaders and businessmen and asked to run for his old job. He’s considering it.

AG Eric Schneiderman says Marketwired has agreed to stop selling to high-frequency traders direct feeds of the information it distributes for clients.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed in a “town hall” telephone conference last night that he spends “less money than the preceding 10 governors, Democrats and Republicans.”

Cuomo is sweetening his property tax freeze plan in hopes of convincing skeptical lawmakers.

After months of work on his memoir, Cuomo appears to have settled on a publication date and title for his forthcoming book.

Competitors are questioning a proposal tucked into Cuomo’s budget that would give a Long Island-based company a health-care contract worth tens of millions of dollars without seeking competitive bids.

East Hills businessman and former Democratic Nassau County executive candidate Adam Haber next week will formally announce his challenge to Republican Sen. Jack Martins.

Common Core President Miles Rapoport says “America is watching” to see if Cuomo delivers on a publicly funded campaign finance system.

Hillary Clinton will turn 69 years old just before Election Day 2016, which would make her the second-oldest president after Ronald Reagan, who was also 69 and a few months on Election Day.

Clinton jokingly said she’s considering the title “Bossy Pantsuit” for her forthcoming memoir.

In the Chinese edition of his book “My Life,” Bill Clinton’s nickname is “Mr. Watermelon.”

New York State is “very close” to securing a final deal with federal officials for an $8 billion Medicaid waiver.

A handful of organizations, including Reinvent Albany, Citizens Union and the New York Public Interest Research Group, used smart phones to broadcast four Assembly committee meetings.

Republican Rob Astorino still intends to attend Somos this weekend despite a call from the Legislature’s two main DREAM Act sponsors that he stay away.

Ben Akselrod, a conservative Democrat who nearly unseated Brooklyn Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz two years ago, will challenge the state lawmaker again.

Darren Bloch, a veteran of both the media and government sectors, will become the new executive director of the Mayor’s Fund To Advance New York City.

Sen. Chuck Schumer’s wife, Iris Weinshall, the former transportation commissioner and current CUNY administrator, is a leading contender to chair the Prospect Park Alliance.

Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg will be this year’s principal speaker at Williams College’s 225th commencement on Sunday, June 8

Tenney Circulating NY-22 Petitions

Though she hasn’t yet formally declared her candidacy, it appears Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney is moving forward with a primary challenge to Republican Rep. Richard Hanna.

A source forwarded one of Tenney’s petitions that he said is being circulated in NY-22 by a Tea Party group. The assemblywoman and her conservative allies are apparently seeking volunteers to carry petitions in the district, which partially overlaps with the serpentine assembly district she currently represents (and was drawn into during the last round of redistricting, compliments of the Assembly GOP leadership, with whom Tenney doesn’t always see eye-to-eye).

In a brief telephone interview, Tenney said she still hasn’t made up her mind about running, but recognized she needed to be out with petitions if she wanted the option of doing so. (Due to the court-ordered June 24 congressional primary date, petitioning started on March 4 and only runs through April 10). The assemblywoman said she has “a couple more people, things that are going to go one way or another” before she decides whether to pull the trigger on a campaign, adding: “We’re working on that today and tomorrow.”

Tenney has repeatedly confirmed she was giving serious consideration to challenging Hanna, despite being discouraged from doing so by party leaders. Hanna is one of the more moderate members of the GOP conference in the House, and Tenney has accused him of being out of step with his district, which she says is more conservative since redistricting, and also “taking populist positions as opposed to taking the positions he said he would.”

Tenney has also slammed Hanna for joining a congressional gay rights caucus and consistently supporting abortion rights during his two terms in office.

A poll conducted recently for Hanna by McLaughlin & Associates found he would defeat Tenney by a wide margain.

Hanna has survived a conservative primary challenge before. Two years ago, he easily defeated a Tea Party candidate, Michael Kicinski of Earlville, who is planning a re-match this summer. The congressman then went on to a general election victory against his Democratic challenger, Dan Lamb, a former aide to retired Rep. Maurice Hinchey.

Michael Vasquez, a former stockbroker living in Binghamton, has declared his intention to challenge Hanna, which means this will be a four-way race if Tenney gets in. Congressional petitioning started March 4 and ends April 10.

Hanna has been endorsed by seven of the eight GOP county committees in NY-22 – Tioga County so far hasn’t weighed in – and also landed the Independence Party’s nod.

Thanks to the Legislature’s refusal to move the state-level primaries to coincide with the June House primary, the assemblywoman would not necessarily have to forgo seeking re-election to her current seat if she challenges Hanna and loses. But she insisted that she hasn’t given any thought to that strategy, telling me: “ I’m not going this because I’m planning on losing, and honestly, I haven’t given (an Assembly run) a lot of thought. I haven’t even gotten on the ballot yet.”

NY-22 petition for Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney by liz_benjamin6490

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the city with no public schedule.

From 9 a.m. to noon, NYC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Inc. President and CEO Nick Lugo, U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel and officials from the Business Initiative Corp. of New York, ESD, the MTA and the U.S. Small Business Administration speak during a community economic development and small business seminar; The Silberman School of Social Work Building, CUNY’s Hunter College, 2180 Third Ave., Manhattan.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the New York State Transportation Equity Alliance holds its 3rd Annual NYSTEA Transportation Equity Conference at The Albany Room, One Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 10:45 a.m., state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah will speak at the “End AIDS New York” rally – an event that will outline steps the state can take to eradicate the disease by 2020 – the Well, LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 11:45 a.m., supporters of the Coalition for a Real Minimum-Wage Increase hold a rally; 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

At noon, state lawmakers who represent the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese will present retiring Bishop Howard Hubbard with a proclamation honoring his years of service, Assembly chamber, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at noon, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaks at the New York Building Congress Luncheon, STV Group Inc.m 225 Park Ave. South, Manhattan.

At 12:15 p.m., IDC members and advocates for senior citizens will outline legislative proposals on how to address this growing affordability crisis for low-to-middle-income seniors, Room 124, state Capitol, Albany.

At 1:15 p.m., state Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky will deliver remarks on financial regulatory enforcement at an event hosted by the Exchequer Club, St. Regis Hotel, 923 16th St., N.W., Washington.

At 1:30 p.m., Matthew Edge, founder of Money Out of Politics Democracy, a grassroots group hanging pro-campaign finance banners on highways and other landmarks in all 62 counties of New York, holds a press conference on getting Cuomo to keep his promise to include small donor matching funds in the budget, Capitol steps, Albany.

Also at 1:30 p.m., outgoing NYC Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty will testify at a budget hearing hosted by the NYC Council’s Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee, committee room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., victims of past alleged ConEd negligence hold a press conference in support of victims of the East Harlem explosion and call on the utility to replace decaying infrastructure to avoid further tragedies; Offices of Wigdor LLP, 85 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., the SUNY Board of Trustees holds a public hearing, State University Plaza, Front Courtroom, 353 Broadway, Albany.

At 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively, Assemblyman Dan Stec and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis host separate fundraisers at the Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, International Brotherhood of Teamsters union President James Hoffa, Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Rangel, Israeli TV host Noa Rothman and AG Eric Schneiderman attend the American Friends of the Yitzhak Rabin Center’s award ceremony honoring Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd; Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Queens.

Also at 6 p.m., Sen. Jose Serrano holds a fundraiser at the University Club, 141 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 6:30 p.m., Sen. George Latimer holds a fundraiser at the Plaza, Empire State Plaza Concourse, Room 130, Albany.

Also at 6:30 p.m., the New York State Youth Leadership Council hosts a Shining The Light For The New York DREAM Act event, across the street from 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

Headlines…

Following the failure of the DREAM Act in the Senate, the blame game is well underway.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino blamed Cuomo for the DREAM Act’s demise.

Juan Gonzalez hasn’t been impressed by Cuomo’s “whispered response” to the DREAM Act, and says he has work to do if he doesn’t want to lose the support of Latino voters this fall. He’ll have a chance to start doing so at Somos el Futurp this weekend.

Carl Paladino is not running for governor, but he’s still trying to draft Donald Trump into the race.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approval rating among New Yorkers has dropped since he took office in January, a new Q poll found, while NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s job approval remains high among voters.

The poll showed there is a “sharp racial divide” in voters’ optimism about the city’s future.

Astorino sought support from a crowd of conservatives gathered in Albany, saying, “Liberty is indeed on the line in the Empire State.”

“Republicans for Cuomo” co-chair Ken Langone issued a statement of apology for his “inappropriate” choice of words in linking the progressive strategy to fight income inequality to Nazi Germany.

That appeared to be enough for the governor, who was called on by liberals and Astorino to repudiate Langone’s comments and return his campaign contributions.

Cuomo is planning to make it easier for the state to yank the vehicle registrations of motorists who zip through toll lanes without paying and ignore collection efforts.

More >

Extras

Compliments of Bill Samuels’ EffectiveNY: “Cuomocchio.”

Former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell will wait until after the budget to decide whether to primary IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

A new Q poll poll gives NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio a 45 percent approval rating, with 34 percent of New Yorkers polled saying they disapprove of the mayor’s work.

Liberal advocates called on Cuomo to denounce Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone’s Hitler-related comments and return his campaign contributions.

Langone has issued an apology, calling his choice of words “inappropriate.”

Republican NY-21 candidate Elise Stefanik has a revamped campaign website.

SUNY has a new website, too, which you should visit ASAP for “mascot madness.”

Jeffrey Fenster is returning to the private sector in two weeks after a four-year stint as executive director of the Workers’ Compensation Board.

To mark Sunshine Week, the Cuomo administration touted the year-old open data initiative known as Open NY.

Chelsea Clinton says her father, the former president, has significantly improved his heart health by becoming “the world’s most famous vegan.”

“Probable U.S. presidential contender” Hillary Clinton is speaking tonight in Montreal.

Longtime NYC election lawyer Henry Berger has a new job with the de Blasio administration.

Another political action committee, “HillaryPAC,” joins the nine existing groups dedicated exclusively to electing, or defeating the former Secretary of State - who hasn’t yet declared a run.

Former Rep. James Walsh, a Republican who held the NY-24 seat for two decades, guided GOP candidate John Katko around D.C. last week. Katko might yet face a primary.

Organizers of a gun rally being held in Albany on April 1 say Donald Trump will speak at the event planned for West Capitol Park.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino picked up the endorsement of the state Rifle & Pistol Association.

NYC will pay $98 million in a settlement with a group of black and Hispanic firefighters who claimed that two FDNY entrance exams discriminated against minority applicants.

GOP Rep. Tom Reed, a top DCCC target this fall, formally announced his re-election campaign.

Village elections are taking place across New York today. Check TWCNews for results.

Gagglegate

Here’s the gaggle Gov. Andrew Cuomo held with reporters following his property tax relief event in Utica earlier today. I’m posting it at the request of several colleagues and in response to the governor’s press office, which says my characterization on Twitter of the governor not taking off-topic questions is “false.”

TWC News’ Cara Thomas was at the event, and told us here at CapTon that she was unable to get any questions in – neither off-topic nor on – during the roughly five-minute Q-and-A session.

As you can see, there isn’t a moment when the governor or his spokesman, Matt Wing, say outright that off-topic questions won’t be entertained, but the reporters all start with on-topic questions – as is generally the practice, especially for TV folks who need soundbites for packages – and then run out of time when the governor informs them he has to get back to Albany.

Cuomo did get one off-topic question before he departed. It was about a local issue (the Stanley Center for the Arts).

Could the local reporters have been more aggressive in their questioning? Yes – they could have ignored on-topic questions entirely, and started right off the bat with off-topic questions about the DREAM Act and the Nazi comment by “Republicans for Cuomo” co-chair Ken Langone (both issues on which we here in Albany were hoping to get the governor’s comments).

But perhaps they thought they would have more time with the governor, and, to be fair, local reporters might not be used to the take-no-prisoners sorts of gaggles in which members of the LCA typically engage.

Make of this what you will.

Watch Here >> (TWC ID required)

After DREAM Act Fails, Senate Dems Divided On Klein (Updated)

The Senate Democrats aren’t all reading from the same playbook on the question of who’s to blame for the failure of the DREAM Act last night.

Some, like Deputy Minority Leader Mike Gianaris, are point fingers directly at IDC Leader Jeff Klein. Gianaris, who has long been at odds with Klein, said Klein had “failed miserably” because he was unable to get any of his power-sharing Republican colleagues to vote “yes” on the bill, and rejected the IDC’s argument that the Democrats aren’t united on this issue, either, saying: “If Senator Klein thinks things should pass when there’s only Democratic support, why did he leave?”

But others, including Sen. Jose Peralta, sponsor of the DREAM Act, declined to blame Klein, saying the Republicans should bear the brunt of the blame for refusing to produce even a single vote for the legislation.

UPDATE: After having some time to process the DREAM Act loss, Peralta changed his tune. At a press conference earlier today, the Queens senator said the DREAM Act supporters were “set up” by a surprise vote that was doomed to fail. He also said it’s time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step up and push for this issue to be part of the budget deal.

And Sen. Daniel Squadron, of Brooklyn, even gave Klein some half-hearted praise during a Capital Tonight interview, saying he IDC leader deserves credit for at managing to get the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Look, I am glad it was out there,” Squadron told me. “I don’t think you could call today a victory for anybody. The bill didn’t pass. The fact that we got 30 votes against 29 is a positive sign. The fact that there was the kind of passion that you saw was a positive sign.”

“But the victory here isn’t about some sort of parliamentary step. It’s about creating the DREAM Act in this state for the 4,000-plus students for whom it would make the difference in being able to get an education…I do think that having a vote is a positive step, and I think Senator Klein deserves credit for that. But today is not a positive day for the DREAM Act by any measure.”

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who recently flirted with the idea of joining the IDC (which doesn’t appear to want him), was far more effusive in his praise, saying in one of his frequent “What You Should Know” missives that’s it’s time for his fellow regular Democrats to swallo their pride and work to get Klein and his fellow renegades back into the fold.

“We needed 32 votes in the Senate for the DREAM Act to pass, and sad to say, we lost by 2 votes,” Diaz Sr. wrote. “The vote tally was 29 Nays to 30 Ayes. Two Democratic senators voted against the DREAM Act. They were Simcha Felder from Brooklyn and Ted O’Brien from Monroe County in upstate New York.”

“All of the IDC Members, I repeat, were united with their leader, Senator Jeff Klein, voting yes for the DREAM Act … and we Democrats were left with egg on our faces.”

“You should know that there are reasons for many of my colleagues to be angry at Jeff Klein and the IDC Members. That is understandable! But we cannot continue to hold grudges. For the good of the Senate Democratic Conference, we should all put our pride aside.”

“By being able to convince the Republicans – even though they all voted against the DREAM Act – Senator Jeff Klein has proven to be a worthy leader. He is someone who keeps his word, and someone who could be of tremendous help for us Democrats to get back into the Majority.”

Watch Here >>

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

At 8:30 a.m., Borough President Eric Adams, in partnership with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, will host the first meeting of the Brooklyn Economic Exchange, Community Room, Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Also at 8:30 a.m., Assemblywoman Janet Duprey hosts a fundraiser at the Albany Room Restaurant, Concourse, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 9 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman will deliver the keynote address at a New York Law School event entitled “Insider Trading 2.0: A New Initiative to Crack Down on Predatory Practices.” A panel discussion will follow. 185, West Broadway, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., NYC Council members and housing advocates attend a rally and press conference to end the cycle of predatory equity and call for a community-based plan to take over the buildings, improve deplorable living conditions and preserve affordable housing, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., Westchester County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino speaks at the New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation’s Legislative Day, Empire State Plaza, Convention Center, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., government officials including NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, community, religious and union officials and fast-food restaurant workers criticize labor practices of McDonald’s Corp. franchise restaurants during a demonstration and news conference, coinciding with protests scheduled in cities nationwide; 341 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Rep. Tom Reed will formally announce his candidacy for re-election, First Arena, 155 N. Main St., Elmira. He’ll hold a second event at 3 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce, 1 Franklin Sq., Geneva.

At 1 p.m., advocates and lawmakers hold an event in support of the Healthy Workplace Bill, which addresses repeated abusive mistreatment at work and offers recourse to the targets of workplace bullying, LCA Room (130), LOB, Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., Cardinal Timothy Dolan and bishops from around the state hold a news conference calling on Albany to support an education investment tax credit bill, 4th floor lobby outside Senate gallery, state Capitol, Albany. (They’re also scheduled to meet with legislative leaders throughout the day, and with Cuomo at 3 p.m. in the Red Room).

Also at 1:30 p.m., Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, the pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Queens, the Rev. Calvin Rice, community officials and families express support for charter schools during a “Speak Out” event sponsored by the group Families for Excellent Schools; 122-05 Smith St., Queens.

At 2 p.m., mental health consumers, families, providers, religious groups and legislative leaders will express their support for statewide implementations of Crisis Intervention Teams, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

At 3:30 p.m., a newly organized group of New York City families whose loved ones have been killed or maimed in crashes will demand that lawmakers take action to support Vision Zero – NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s policy to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2024, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

At 4 p.m., de Blasio holds a meet-and-greet with students participating in Good Shepherd Services’ After-School Programs, bullpen, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 4:30 p.m., the SUNY Board of Trustees meets, State University Plaza, 353 Broadway, Albany.

At 5:30 p.m., Assemblyman and Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie hosts a fundraiser in Meeting Room 5, Concourse, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 6 p.m., Assemblyman Gary Finch hosts a fundraiser at the Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 7 p.m., de Blasio attends the Richmond County Democratic Committee St Joseph’s Day Dinner, La Strada Restaurant, 139 New Dorp Lane, Staten Island.

Headlines…

Even though the DREAM Act failed in a 30-29 surprise vote in the Senate, the IDC is declaring victory for getting the measure to the floor. Sen. Dave Valesky called yesterday “the strongest day for this coalition yet.”

Sen. Mark Grisanti was one of only two Republicans who spoke on the floor during the DREAM Act debate. The other was Long Island Sen. Jack Martins, who advocates considered a potential “yes” voter. Both voted “no.”

All the Republicans present voted “no,” along with two Democrats, Ted O’Brien of Rochester and Simcha Felder of Brooklyn. Two Republicans – Phil Boyle and Kemp Hannon, both of Long Island – were not present for the vote.

Businessman Adam Haber, who ran an unsuccessful and largely self-financed Democratic primary race for Nassau County executive last year, has registered a campaign committee to challenge Martins this fall.

Even Latino advocates were taken aback by the abrupt vote. They had planned to lobby in Albany today for the DREAM Act’s passage. Now they’ll express their disappointment about its failure.

“It certainly seems that it was bought up to fail, given the outcome,” said Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat. He said the vote “made a mockery of a very important issue.”

On Day One of the public conference committee meetings, lawmakers repeatedly insisted that they’re “not that far apart” on the budget. On paper, however, the sides look far apart on a number of initiatives – from the Common Core to med-mar.

Local elected officials who appeared with Cuomo in support of his property tax freeze fell silent when asked if there was a special district within their own jurisdiction that that had eliminated – or at least tried to eliminate – to save money.

More >

Extras

Gov. Andrew Cuomo deflected a question on whether he would accept the state Independence Party line this year, saying it’s not yet time to talk politics.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano defended the Independence Party, calling Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs “a failed leader who likes to bully people.”

“Unless Cuomo moves soon to permit fracking, he’s going to have to answer the question as to why New Yorkers are so smart and why Pennsylvania and Ohio are so dumb.”

De Blasio may have beaten Cuomo on the pre-K funding front, but, according to Blake Zeff, it will be a costly victory.

JetBlue, the New York-based airline, will add daily service at the Albany airport in 2015.

According to Cuomo, the definition of transparency is not necessarily that something takes place in public.

Success Academy parents officially filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city Department of Education, alleging, among other things, that founder and C.E.O. Eva Moskowitz was targeted by de Blasio.

The NYS Rifle & Pistol Association will endorse Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino for governor tomorrow.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed suit against Related Companies, one of Manhattan’s most prominent developers, and two of its star architects, for violating the Fair Housing Act.

De Blasio called the imminent expansion of mandatory paid sick time “progressive legislation in every sense.”

None of the budget subcommittees wanted to own public campaign financing.

One of downtown Syracuse’s biggest employers will pay a fine of $20 million to settle violations of state law related to certain retirement products.

First Lady Michelle Obama is headed to China.

A national progressive “super PAC” pushing for a Senate vote on public campaign financing warns that if the GOP resists, it will run ads in GOP Leader Dean Skelos’ Nassau backyard.

Cuomo made jokes about an “attack tweet,” like the one he appears to have received from NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

EJ McMahon accuses Cuomo of  back-pedalling on binding arbitration reform.

The governor said he has no interest getting into the weeds about where charter schools are located within a city, just as long as they continue to exist.

FiveThirtyEight.com is live. “It’s time for us to start making the news a little nerdier.”

Attorneys general from 28 states and U.S. territories – including NY – have written to the chief executives of major U.S. pharmacy chains urging them to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Cuomo says nearly 8,900 New Yorkers have had their drivers licenses suspended for failing to pay taxes they owe the state.

AG Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli won restitution from two former Troy Housing Authority employees who pled guilty to defrauding the pension fund.

Pushing for Parks

And item No. 3:

Advocates for the state parks were among those disappointed by the one-house budget resolution passed in the wee hours of the morning by the state Senate last week.

Deep in the Senate’s plan was the elimination of $92.5 million worth of New York Works capital funding that had been allocated for the third year in a row to pay for much needed park repairs and improvements.

The money was apparently scrubbed from the executive budget because the governor had failed to line out in advance exactly where it would be spent.

There has been a $1 billion backlog on work at the state’s parks and historic sites, which saw their busiest year on record with more than 60 million visits in 2013.

And that was despite the fact that some of the most popular parks were forced to close for repairs following Superstorm Sandy.

The Senate approved the previous two years worth of funding, which went to pay for everything from high-profile projects like the overhaul of Niagara falls State Park (the oldest state park in the US, by the way) to more mundane – but necessary – efforts like upgrading the electrical systems at Taughannock Falls in the Finger Lakes.

“By slashing $92.5 million from the New York State Park’s capital budget, the Senate is jeopardizing the future of New York’s state park system,” said Erik Kulleseid, executive director of the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks.

“With more than a billion dollars in documented repairs, upgrades and improvements needed at our state parks, we are deeply disappointed that the Senate put these funds at risk,” Kulleseid continued.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo and the state Assembly for standing up for state parks and urge the Senate to restore this critical funding.”

Then There Were Three (In NY-21)

Item II from the Morning Memo:

A little news this morning out of the 21st Congressional District.

An email that arrived in my in-box at 5:15 a.m. revealed one of the four Republican candidates vying for their party’s nod to run for the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Bill Owens has decided to drop out of the race.

GOP consultant and former US Marine Jamie Waller says “the time is not right” for him to run, and so he has decided to withdraw from the race and back businessman Matt Doheny instead.

This was a fairly abrupt decision. As recently as last week, Waller was preparing to circulate petitions for his congressional run.

“Matt has the strongest work ethic, the proven experience and the record to be a great representative for all of us,” Waller said.

“As a true fellow resident of the North Country, I know Matt shares my values and understands the truly dynamic needs of all communities within the 21st.”

Waller expressed disappointment with Doheny’s main opponent, former Bush administration aide Elise Stefanik, saying she “fails to be truthful” with radio ads that claim she’s the “only conservative” in the race.

Stefanik landed the endorsement of the majority of the NY-21 GOP county chairs before Doheny, who ran two unsuccessful campaigns against Owens, decided to throw his hat into the ring a third time.

Now the two Republicans are battling for support from both GOP and Conservative Party leaders. Joseph Gilbert, a retired U.S. Army major and Tea Party leader from St. Lawrence County, is the third GOP candidate.

The Democrats have selected Brooklyn documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf, who owns a house in Elizabethtown, to run in Owens’ stead.

But Woolf faces a primary from Macomb Town Councilman Stephen Burke, a former St. Lawrence County Democratic chairman.