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Posts by Liz Benjamin
Sep 10th - 4:28 pm
Now that the primary is officialy in the books, general election contests are heating up all over the state – including on Long Island, where Republican Michael Venditto is poised to release a hard-hitting ad that slams his Democratic opponent and fellow Nassau County legislator, Dave Denenberg, for his 2005 conviction on petition fraud charges and says he’ll “fit right in” with the string of Albany lawmakers busted on corruption charges.
Denenberg and Venditto are battling for the seat vacated by former Sen. Chuck Fuschillo. Venditto, an attorney and the son of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, was unanimously nominated by local Republicans back in March over veteran Assemblyman Joseph Saladino.
The Republicans need to retain this seat if they are to have a shot at their goal of taking back the majority in November. But the Democrats are feeling very bullish about Denenberg, who they believe might be able to pull off an upset victory. In his past local races, Denenberg, who has been in office since 1999, has carried as much as 73 percent of the electorate in a district that was almost 47 percent Republican. (The dsitrict has since been redrawn, but remains heavily Republican).
The 8th Senatorial District had 82,385 active Democrats, 75,445 Repulicans and 48,050 blanks as of this past April, according to the state Board of Elections.
If this ad is any indication, the GOP is prepared to go all-out on this race. I believe this is Venditto’s second ad of the campaign, but the first wasn’t an attack spot. This new ad will be running on cable stations on Long Island.
UPDATE: Deneberg’s campaign manager Jeff Friedman sent the following response (the day after I posted this item):
“This is a desperate attempt by the Venditto campaign to distract voters from the real issues of property taxes, fee increases and the budget deficits that he and the Republicans supported and created. Venditto’s record of repeatedly raising fees and creating budget deficits by mismanaging money and his anti-women positions are unacceptable to residents of Nassau and Suffolk, and this ad only proves that he knows it. Dave Denenberg is the only candidate in this race who will fight for lower taxes, women’s equality and a real minimum wage increase, and nobody will fight harder than Dave Denenberg.”
Here’s the script for Venditto’s ad:
“Who will ever forget this picture? Dave Denenberg was accused of fraud and deceit. And his law license was suspended in New York and New Jersey after he pled guilty. Dave Deneberg believes this qualifies him to be state senator. There are already too many criminals in ALbany. We don’t need another. Tell Dave Denenberg ‘no,’ because Deneberg won’t change Albany, he’ll just fit right in.’”
Sep 10th - 3:44 pm
The finger pointing is well underway over who is most to blame for Sen. Mark Grisati’s upset loss to his GOP opponent, attorney Kevin Stocker, in yesterday’s primary – a defeat that could have significant implications in the November battle for control of the Senate.
Heading into the primary, the Senate GOP didn’t seem terribly worried about Grisanti’s ability to win, especially since Stocker had challenged him in 2012 – when the fallout from the senator’s 2011 “yes” vote on same-sex marriage was still fresh – and failed to get very far, winning just 40 percent of the vote.
But Stocker got a very early start on this year’s campaign; he has been door knocking for well over a year now. And he also got some unexpected assistance from NYSUT’s political arm, which spent close to $300,000 on anti-Grisanti mailers and ads leading up to the primary, and Democrat Marc Panepinto, who ran TV ads suggesting Grisanti wasn’t sufficiently conservative to represent the 60th Senatorial District.
The convention wisdom is that the Democrats and their allies believed it would be easier to defeat Stocker than Grisanti in the general election, and so weighed in try to manipulate the GOP primary and get the candidate they preferred.
The unorthodox approach worked, and now there’s effectively a four-way race in the 60th with Grisanti on the Independence Party line and attorney Timothy Gallagher on the Conservative line, though he was believed to be a placeholder tapped by party leaders who wanted to wait to see how the GOP primary played out.
Grisanti hasn’t yet said whether he will continue campaigning on the Independence Party line in the general election, nor have the Senate Republicans issued any formal statement about the race. But the odds are that the risk-averse GOP, which has plenty of other races to worry about an invest in, is not going to waste much time on a candidate who lost the primary and is now in a four-way race that seems – on its face, at least – to be a losing proposition.
A Republican source familiar with Grisanti’s campaign insists his loss was not the fault of the Senate GOP, which did not run the senator’s campaign. Instead, Grisanti used his own campaign team, which included veteran GOP consultant Jack Cookfair. This source griped that Team Grisanti ran his campaign in a vacuum, refusing to take direction or share polling data with the powers-that-be in Albany. The senator did accept a last-minute offer of assistance about 48 hours prior to the primary, the source said, but by that time, the damage was already done.
The SRCC did see success in a primary campaign it ran for Terrence Murphy, the chiropractor and Yorktown councilman who was the conference’s preferred candidate to run for retiring Sen. Greg Ball’s seat in the Hudson Valley. Murphy easily defeated his primary opponent, Assemblyman Bob Castelli, winning 69 percent of the vote.
Sep 10th - 1:52 pm
Republican NY-4 candidate Bruce Blakeman is keeping the heat on his Democratic opponent, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, release a new web video that accuses her of being anti-woman.
The video, which the campaign says will eventually air as a full-fledged ad on cable TV, resurrects a 2006 storyline in which Rice, then a newly-minted district attorney, told the dozen lawyers in her office who had been working part time – mostly to care for their children – that they had a choice: Come back to work full-time, or don’t come back at all.
Rice told Newsday that the county “deserves victims’ advocates that are full time,” and also noted that her predecessor (the man she had defeated at the polls in 2005, 31-year incumbent Denis Dillon) had done away with the part-time policy in 2004, but grandfathered in the dozen attorneys in question. She also said she needed all hands on deck in order to overhaul the DA’s office, and was hampered by the fact that the county legislature has imposed a statutory limit on the size of her staff.
The New York Times was unsympathetic to Rice’s arguments, and editorialized against her policy.
Rice and Blakeman are battling to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy in the Long Island district. Rice, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for state attorney general in 2010, has the support of numerous women’s groups. When she was elected in 2005, Rice became the first woman ever to hold the Nassau County DA post. She has since been re-elected twice – in 2009 and 2013.
Blakeman’s ad also dings Rice for refusing to fire a campaign staffer for making sexist and racially insensitive comments on Twitter. Rice’s campaign said it had been unaware of the Tweets, which a spokesman called “stupid, insensitive attempts at sarcasm and parody,” and responded by disciplining the staffer, Zach Tierney, but kept him on the payroll.
Here’s the script for Blakeman’s video:
Voiceover: “Upon becoming District Attorney, without conscience or warning, Kathleen Rice eliminated the positions of twelve working mothers who worked flexible shifts to care for their children.”
Neighbor: “What’s wrong with her?”
Voiceover: “And Kathleen Rice refused to fire her campaign aide when he mocked the physical abuse of women…and considers women a man’s property.”
Neighbor: “And Rice is OK with that? What’s wrong with her?”
Bruce Blakeman: “I’m Bruce Blakeman and I approve this message.”
Sep 10th - 1:03 pm
Lenora Fulani, the controversial Independence Party activist who challenged former Gov. Mario Cuomo for the Demoratic nomination in 1994 – the same year he lost the governor’s office – issued a statement congratulating his son’s challenger, Zephyr Teachout, on her performance in yesterday’s primary.
Fulani also took the opportunity to make the case for one of her long-sought policy proposals: Making New York primaries nonpartisan. If the state did not insist on closed contests in which only registered party members can participate, she said, Teachout may well have bested Gov. Andrew Cuomo altogether.
“Congratulations to Zephyr Teachout on her primary run against Cuomo the Younger,” Fulani said. “Twenty years ago my primary campaign against Cuomo the Elder showed real anger within the Democratic Party at the status quo.”
“The status quo has gotten a lot worse since then, and I hope the Teachout movement connects with progressive independents to change the primary system. If we’d had a nonpartisan primary on Tuesday where independents could vote, Teachout could have done more than teach. She could have won.”
Fulani, who, like Teachout and her running mate, Tim Wu, was vastly out-spent by Mario Cuomo, received just over 20 percent of the primary vote in 1994.
With her 34 percent of the vote, Teachout posted the strongest challenge to an incumbent governor since primaries for the office were established in New York in 1970.
There have been only two other major-party primaries against governors seeking re-election since then: Fulani’s challenge to Mario Como, and LG Mary Anne Krupsak’s 1978 challenge to her previous partner, Gov. Hugh Carey, in which she received 33.7 percent of the vote.
(Incidentally, Krupsak was the last female Democratic LG. In his victory statement last night, Andrew Cuomo congratulated his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, on her win over Wu, saying it put her one step closer to becoming the first woman in the LG’s office for 35 years).
Fulani was one a prominent figure in New York politics, but she las largely fallen off the radar screen since 2006, when then-AG Eliot Spitzer made clear he would not accept the state Independence Party line in the governor’s race unless she and her supporters were excommunicated from the party leadership due to statements critics called anti-Semitic that Fulani made in the 1980s. (Spitzer took some heat for this, since he was more than willing to run on the Independence line when he won the AG’s race in 2002, even though Fulani was still a force within the party).
Six years earlier, former First Lady Hillary Clinton had declined to seek the Independence Party line in her first US Senate run in New York due to Fulani’s presence in the party. Clinton sought – and received – the party’s nod for her re-election bid in 2006 after the party’s chairman, Frank MacKay, pushed Fulani and her backers from power.
Fulani also played a role in the initia election of Mike Bloomberg (then a Republican) to the New York City’s mayor’s office in 2001. She not only endorsed the billionaire businessman, but also organized Independence Party members to work on his behalf. The 59,000 votes that Bloomberg received on the Independence Party ballot line that year exceeded his margin of victory over the Democratic (and Working Families Party) candidate Mark Green.
In 2003, Fulani endorsed Bloomberg’s proposed amendment to the New York City Charter to establish non-partisan elections. Bloomberg spent $7 million of his own money on the campaign, but voters still rejected the idea.
Sep 10th - 6:23 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in New York City and Erie County. No announcement yet as to his public schedule, but he’s expected to make a post-primary victory appearance with his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will thank Department of Education staff for their work during the first week of school at the Tweed Courthouse. This event will be closed press.
At 9 a.m., Manhattan BP Gale Brewer participates in a DEMOS and NYC Central Labor Council racial justice roundtable on hiring practices, 275 Seventh Ave., Manhattan.
At 9:30 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino attends meeting with the Staten Island Board of Realtors Legislative Committee, 1535 Richmond Avenue, Staten Island.
At 10 a.m., Councilman Donovan Richards and climate advocates rally for resolution on United Nations Climate Summit and address climate change, City Hall steps, Manhattan.
At 10:45 a.m. Astorino visits seniors, Mount Loretto Friendship Club, 6450 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island.
At 11 a.m., Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins holds a press conference as part of statewide tour, Perseverance Park, corner of Washington and South Salina Streets, Syracuse.
Also at 11 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Letitia James holds a press conference to release a report aimed at improving outcomes for 1,000 youth that age out of foster care annually, City Hall steps, Manhattan.
At 11 a.m., LG Bob Duffy attends the funeral service for Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson, Blue Cross Arena, 100 Exchange Blvd., Rochester.
Also at 11 a.m., Jimmy McMillan gubernatorial candidate and the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party hold a press conference criticizing Cuomo’s housing policies, New York City Housing Court, 111 Center St., Manhattan.
Also at 11 a.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss attends the New York State Sheriffs Association Supervisors Conference closing ceremonies, Gideon Putnam Hotel & Conference Center, 24 Gideon Putnam Rd., Saratoga Springs.
Also at 11 a.m., GOP AG candidate John Cahill attends a breakfast with Sen. Marty Golden, Bridgeview Diner, 3rd Ave., Brooklyn.
At noon, Nassau County police unions endorse GOP Sen. Jack Martins, Nassau County PBA Headquarters, 89 East Jericho Turnpike, Mineola.
At 12:45 p.m., Cahill visits Amico Senior Center, 1562 86th St., Brooklyn.
At 7 p.m. Moss hosts a discussion forum, Paladin Center, 39 Seminary Hill Rd., Carmel.
In a politically humbling message sent by some urban, rural and suburban Democrats, Gov. Andrew Cuomo saw his little-known opponent, Zephyr Teachout, capture more than a third of the state’s primary vote. This despite the governor benefitting from an outsized campaign bank account and the power of party and union organizing.
Though she ran her campaign on a shoestring and with scarcely any organizational support, Teachout was on pace to record the strongest challenge to an incumbent governor since primaries for the office were established in New York in 1970.
Cuomo ran especially strong in Erie County, where he has put a focus the past four years after losing the region in 2010 to Carl Paladino. But he lost to Teachout in a number of upstate rural counties and locations in the Hudson Valley – including the Albany area.
According to unofficial returns, Cuomo won about 62 percent of the vote to Teachout’s 34 percent. Cuomo’s running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, received close to 60 percent of the vote, while her opponent, Tim Wu, got 40 percent. Randy Credico, an activist/comedian candidate for governor, drew less than 4 percent.
Hochul passed her first significant political test since losing her House race to GOP Rep. Chris Collins in 2012. Wu said he believed he and Teachout, despite being unknown and vastly outspent, “put on a pretty damn good show.”
Some upstate Democrats who worked for Teachout in this race said they did so to send a message of displeasure to Cuomo, and still plan to vote for him in November.
Cuomo made no appearances after voting yesterday morning in Mt. Kisco. Instead, he issued a written statement (while Teachout was delivering her election night speech) saying his victory “is a testament to the progress we have made together over the last four years.”
Kenneth Sherrill, a political-science professor emeritus at Hunter College, summed up Teachout voters’ attitude toward Cuomo thusly: “They don’t like him. As much as they may agree or disagree with him on the issues, there is a distaste for his personality.”
Hochul, who cast herself as the underdog in the LG primary, appeared without the governor last night at a victory party in Buffalo and said that the “election starts tomorrow.”
Now it’s on to the general election in which Cuomo’s GOP challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, shares several of Teachout’s disadvantages, including a vast gap in campaign cash and low name recognition, and none of her advantages, such as appealing to women. He also faces the huge disadvantage in party registration.
There were 18 major-party primaries yesterday for seats in the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans are closely matched and a few races could determine which one is in the majority.
Sen. Jeff Klein declared victory in his re-election bid against his primary challenger, former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell, and offered a spirited defense of the legacy and future of the Independent Democratic Conference he leads in Albany.
In a stunning upset, Republican challenger Kevin Stocker trounced incumbent Sen. Mark Grisanti in the 60th District race. Stocker, making his second attempt at ousting the senator, received 57 percent of the vote to Grisanti’s 43 percent, with all votes tallied.
Grisanti will appear on the November ballot on the Independence Party line. Democrat Marc Panepinto won his primary battle in the 60th SD with former Sen. Al Coppola.
Panepinto was backed by NYSUT’s political arm, which spent nearly $300,000 on a pre-primary effort against Grisanti.
Despite his indictment on charges he lied to the FBI about helping his son get a job with a politically connected law firm, Sen. Tom Libous, the GOP conference’s No. 2 member, easily defeated his primary challenger, Denver Jones.
Another senator indicted on corruption charges, Queens Democrat Malcolm Smith, lost in a landslide to his Democratic primary opponent, former NYC Councilman Leroy Comrie. But Sen. John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat who faces embezzlement charges, held onto his seat.
Sep 9th - 4:53 pm
Posted by Liz Benjamin in [...]
UPDATE: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s counsel, Mylan Denerstein, one of his longest-serving senior aides, will leave her post with the administration Friday.
This is an actual ballot that was cast in Binghamton.
Kathy Hochul said she didn’t know when she agreed to be Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s running mate that she would be running independently of him in the primary.
The Buffalo Bills officially announced plans to sell the team to the Pegula family, saying: “This is a very important day in the history of the Buffalo Bills franchise.”
Cuomo and US Sen. Chuck Schumer heaped praise on the Pegulas for buying the Bills.
Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera demanded an immediate investigation into his local polling site after two pages of voter information were missing when he showed up to cast his ballot.
Hillary Clinton will headline a high-dollar fundraiser for the DCCC later this month - the second event she is holding for the group as it heads into the final stretch of the midterms.
Former Gov. David Paterson refused to fault Cuomo for refusing to debate Teachout, saying he probably wouldn’t have debated her, either.
Moments after casting his primary ballot this morning, Cuomo said he will not make an “emotional decision” on fracking.
Trying to cast a vote for himself this morning, Queens Sen. Tony Avella had a first-hand experience with polling machine glitches.
Hedge funder Robert Mercer has given $500,000 to Rescue New York PAC, an outside group backing Republican Rob Astorino’s candidacy against Cuomo.
More than a dozen protesters, mostly student volunteers for Rep. Tim Bishop, demonstrated at the kickoff rally of his GOP opponent, state Sen. Lee Zeldin, that was attended by former U.S. Rep. Allen West.
Former First Lady Laura Bush is the most high-profile promoter of the George W. Bush legacy - a burden she carries lightly and with a smile.
The Teachout campaign apparently was not aware that the polls in Binghamton didn’t open until noon.
After a year of sluggish sales in 2013, the grandstand at the New York State Fair stormed back this summer with strong ticket sales and one record-breaking concert.
Behold the million-dollar parking spot.
The e-commerce site Etsy will no longer allow the Washington Redskins name or logo to be used in its marketplace.
A report from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office shows how infrastructure spending has declined in recent years, in part due to the phase-out of post-crash stimulus funds.
Sep 9th - 3:55 pm
Now both the NRCC and the DCCC are on the air in the Long Island district of NY-1, hoping to assist their respective candidates – Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop and Republican state Sen. Lee Zeldin – as the November general election draws near.
The NRCC this morning released a spot that highlights the fact that Bishop is under investigation for helping a constituent secure a fireworks permit for a Bar Mitzvah and then demanding a campaign contribution in return. That’s actually the national committee’s second ad on the subject; the first aired in February.
Now the DCCC has followed suit with its first ad of this race, which accuses Zeldin of wanting to “privatize” Social Security and features a testimonial from a Long Island senior citizen named “Walter.” The ad started running on cable stations in the district today. Here’s the script:
Walter: I worked for over forty-three years before I retired. When the market crashed, all of our plans, our future, could have been gone. The only sure thing was having Social Security to fall back on.
Narrator: Lee Zeldin said he’d privatize Social Security…gambling our retirement on Wall Street with the same banks that crashed our economy.
Walter: Let’s face it. The stock market is a gamble. If you want to gamble, go to a casino. Don’t gamble with Social Security. This is money we earned. Lee Zeldin would break Social Security’s promise.
Narrator: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.”
Sep 9th - 2:44 pm
Democratic LG candidate Tim Wu this morning compared himself to the iconic boxer Rocky Balboa, saying he and his running mate, gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, have fought the good fight and left it all out on the mat in their long-shot primary challenges to former Rep. Kathy Hochul and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“I woke up this morning and I just felt this incredible energy and calmness,” Wu said after casting his vote. “And I’m just really excited to see what happens. Nobody knows what’s happening in my race. There has been no polling whatsoever; it all depends on turnout.”
“You know, for me, I love the movie “Rocky,” it’s all about going the distance. And I felt we have fought this campaign strong. We have exploited everything. We’ve been outspent one hundred-to-one. But we have run this campaign with integrity, and I’m proud of it. I’m expecting in my race a big upset, and I’m very excited to see what happens.”
Sep 9th - 2:25 pm
Posted by Liz Benjamin in [...]
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout touted her “positive vision” for the state after casting her ballot in Brooklyn this morning, seeking to strike a clear distinction between herself and her running mate, Democratic LG hopeful Tim Wu, and their respective opponents, Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Rep. Kathy Hochul.
“This is a very serious choice,” Teachout said. “It’s a choice between going down and more Andrew Cuomo, and more Andrew Cuomo is more tax giveaways for the wealthy, more overcrowded schools and less money for infrastructure. The other choice is Tim and I. And Tim and I represent a real positive vision for New York’s future. We’re traditional Democrats. We’re not ashamed to be traditional Democrats. We’re proud of our commitment to all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”
Teachout reiterated her claim that Cuomo had to pull in “a lot of favors” to get endorsements from progressives like NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and others who might seem like logical supporters of the left-of-center Teachout-Wu campaign. She also said she had cast her vote for “the first woman governor of the state of New York” and “one of the great tech leaders” (assume she means Wu), and expressed support for Renee Collymore, who is running for re-election to the female Democratic state committee seat in the 57th Assembly District.
Unlike Cuomo and Hochul, who won’t be together at a victory party tonight, Teachout and Wu will watch the returns come in at a Manhattan nightclub.
Sep 9th - 2:11 pm
After casting her vote (presumably for herself and her running mate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo) in Buffalo earlier today, Democratic LG candidate Kathy Hochul told reporters she is counting on turnout in her Western New York base to deliver her a victory against her primary opponent, Tim Wu.
“I’m feeling really good about our prospects,” the relentlessly upbeat Hochul said. “The governor and I have been criss-crossing the state. We were in New York City with a huge labor rally, filled with very excited, energized supporters. We came here to Orchard Park last night. And it has been am amazing journey.”
“I’m so proud to be back home again where it all started. And I’m counting on Western New York to deliver for me…it’s the end of a long process. But it has been an incredible journey that started back here, back in May when I was first asked by the governor to be his running mate.”
“And I have seen things, and I have met the most fascinating people, and I feel that it has really changed me as a person. But also to realize that the issues that effect Western New Yorkers, the desire for good housing, and a good job and a great education for our kids to be able to live the American Dream, that’s the same feeling that people have whether you’re in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, anywhere. And those are the issues the governor and I are going to continue to fight for when we take office in January.”
Hochul said that if she’s elected, economic development will be one of her main focuses (carrying on in the tradition of the current LG, former Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy). She also noted she has been aksed by the governor to spearhead the Women’s Equality Agenda, which has failed to pass (all 10 points of it, anyway) in the Senate.
Hochul said she’s used to “rough-and-tumble” type of politics, and hasn’t been upset by all the talk that her race against Wu might be tight. She insisted that neither she nor Cuomo intentionally snubbed Wu and his running mate, Zephyr Teachout, at a Labor Parade in New York City last weekend. Hochul said she didn’t even notice Teachout and Wu were there, noting she was surrounded by a lot of “big union guys all around me,” adding: “You might notice I’m not the biggest person in the world.”
There has been no official polling of the LG primary, though there has been plenty of speculation that Hochul could perhaps lose to Wu in an upset – particularly if turnout in higher than expected New York City, where she is not well known. But so far, reports on turnout have been that it is pathetically low all over the state, though polls upstate (outside Erie County, that is) didn’t open until noon, so there’s quite a bit of time left yet for people to get to the polls before they close at 9 p.m.
Hochul is well known in Western New York, thanks to her time in the Erie County clerk’s office and – albeit briefly – representing NY-26 (now NY-27, after redistricting) in Congress. There are several contested legislative primaries in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area that could push turnout higher there, and that might help her. There is some support in Buffalo for Teachout-Wu, particularly among public school teachers, but it is likely going to pale in comparison to support for Hochul.
Hochul is going to be in Buffalo tonight, while Cuomo will be downstate – he said earlier today after voting with his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, in Mt. Kisco, that he’ll be watching the results come in from his office. So, no big victory party for Team Cuomo-Hochul. Asked how she’ll celebrate if she wins, Hochul – clearly still in campaign mode – replied that she would probably go get a “nice big plate of chicken wings somewhere.”