Nick Reisman

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Zellner Re-Elected Erie County Dem Chair

Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Zellner fended off a challenge to his leadership and secured another term, our colleagues at Time Warner Cable News Buffalo report.

Zellner’s victory comes after Sen. Tim Kennedy and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown supported Mark Manna, a contract negotiator for the UFCW in western New York, over Zellner’s re-election (Kennedy himself was at one point floated as a possible replacement for Zellner, but denied his interest earlier this month on Capital Tonight).

Grant, who also had the support of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, had previously challenged Kennedy for the Democratic ballot line in 2012 and lost.

The faction that lined up against Zellner came after the chairman supported Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant’s failed primary bid against Kennedy.

Zellner had accused his rival faction of having Steve Pigeon, a former county chairman himself, finding Manna out of nowhere in order to knock him from his post.

Zellner initially won the chairmanship in Erie County after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s allies behind the scenes stepped in to oust then-Chairman Len Lenihan.

Still, Zellner wasn’t the choice of Cuomo sympathizers, who backed Cheekotowaga Chairman Frank Max.

Nevertheless, as Liz reported earlier, there has been a thaw in the relationship between Cuomo’s political operation and Zellner, which comes as the governor focuses heavily on western New York in order to achieve an overwhelming victory against Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino this November.

Hillary Clinton Fundraise For Rice And A Few Others (Updated)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will appear at a Sept. 29 luncheon fundraiser for Kathleen Rice, a Democrat seeking to replace Rep. Carolyn McCarthy in the 4th congressional district.

Updated: As Colin Campbell on Business Insider points out on Twitter, the event is actually for a ton of Democratic candidates running for House seats in New York, not just Rice.

Tickets to the fundraiser range from $500 to $1,000.

Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, faces Republican Bruce Blakeman for the seat.

“When I was first elected District Attorney, I was honored to have Hillary swear me into office,” the campaign wrote in an email to supporters. “Now as we push into the final weeks of my campaign for Congress, I’m thrilled that Hillary is hosting an event to support me and my fellow Democratic congressional candidates from New York.”

Clinton, a former U.S. senator from New York, is widely believed to be considering a campaign for president in 2016 and in recent months has been traveling the country appearing alongside Democratic candidates.

DiNapoli Hopes Loan Claw Back Will Trigger Spending Plan For TZB

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is hopeful the partial denial of more than $400 million for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project will help shine more light on the spending for the project.

“The big question mark still is how’s it going to be paid for and the real question is what’s the impact on tolls,” DiNapoli said in an interview after speaking to the state Business Council. “So as soon as the Thruway Authority comes forward with that information, I think the more confidence we’ll all have. So perhaps this denial will force a little more priority to have that full disclosure of the financing plan.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this month denied more than $400 million be used as a loan from the bridge, with the money come from a clean-water revolving loan fund. The state had initially sought $500 million to help pay for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, but EPA officials only approved $29 million for aspects of the project.

The state plans to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, an independent authorities budget office is investigating the process through which the Thruway Authority requested the loan.

DiNapoli said he couldn’t compel the Thruway Authority to release more details on the proposal.

Cuomo, speaking with reporters today, reiterated that the loan was never a key piece for the bridge construction.

“The loan had nothing to do with anything. It was not part of the financing,” he said. “It was not part of the budget. The EPA loan came after the fact — way after the fact. So it was never an integral component for the Tappan Zee bridge or calculations for the Tappan Zee Bridge.”

He said there’s been “no discussion” about using a portion of the state’s $4 billion budget surplus to pay for the construction of the replacement bridge.

Esposito Receives Green Party Nod

Adrienne Esposito became at least the third Senate Democratic candidate on Friday to gain the endorsement of the Green Party through the opportunity-to-ballot process.

Esposito, who is running for the Suffolk County Senate district held by Republican congressional candidate Lee Zeldin, is competing for the seat against Islip town Supervisor Tom Croci.

“I am deeply proud of securing the Green Party ballot line because of the work I have done throughout my career to protect Long Island’s natural beauty. I’ve dedicated my life to preserving and improving our environment, and I plan to be an environmental champion in the Senate. In the wake of the toxic dumping scandal that has rocked our community, Suffolk County needs leadership on environmental issues now more than ever. I will be honored to lead the way as a State Senator,” Esposito said.

Sens. Cecilia Tkaczyk and Terry Gipson this month also gained the Green Party ballot line as well.

All three candidates are running in tightly contest races this year as Democrats try to gain full control of the state Senate.

To Business Leaders, Cuomo Touts His Bipartisan Accomplishments

Gridlock, dysfunction and chaos were spoken of in the past tense.

And Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to business leaders jittery about his support from the union-aligned Working Families Party and endorsement of a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate that he has no intention of going backwards.

In a speech to the state Business Council’s annual meeting in Bolton Landing on Friday morning, Cuomo relied heavily on touting his record on the state budget as well as his efforts to combat property taxes while also taking some veiled swipes at his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino.

Cuomo proposed using some of a $4 billion surplus, which he acknowledged was a “one-shot” revenue source from numerous financial settlements, on infrastructure spending, education and for helping local governments find ways to share services as part of an overall economic development boost for the upstate region.

Cuomo in a question-and-answer session with reporters after his speech said he would commit about $500 million to the shared services effort and, without naming Astorino, said a hypothetical county executive hasn’t convened local government leaders to take necessary stops to reduce costs.

But the speech was very much Cuomo boosting the results of New York in 2014, four years after he’s taken office: 500,000 new jobs, a credit rating upgrade from the major agencies and approved budgets that kept spending increases under 2 percent year over year.

Cuomo told the business leaders the reason for this was a state Capitol that ran a lot smoother than the years before he took office.

“Washington thinks they discovered gridlock,” Cuomo said. “Albany invented gridlock and it was a vicious form of gridlock.”

The governor also pointed to the state’s massive investment in the economically depressed city of Buffalo in western New York, crediting the emphasis placed on the region with the recent purchase of the Bills football team from an owner who plans to keep the team in the area.

“I don’t know if Terry Pegula buys the Bills four years ago,” Cuomo said. “Today he does.”

Pegula made his money in natural-gas development and the governor’s administration is yet to make a decision on whether to allow high-volume hydrofracking in the state, a controversial extraction process that is supported by the energy industry, but staunchly opposed by environmental groups.

Astorino’s campaign has sought to make Cuomo’s indecision on hydrofracking a major issue in the campaign, and the GOP candidate reiterated his support for the process in his speech Thursday night.

Still, Cuomo sought to shore up support from business leaders that he won in 2010, despite concerns that he will be forced in to a more liberal agenda next year.

In receiving the Working Families Party endorsement, Cuomo pledged to back a faster phase-in of the state’s minimum wage and allow local governments to increase the wage on their own through a state-based formula.

But in a slide-show presentation, Cuomo repeatedly highlight accomplishments made with a state Senate that was either fully or partially controlled by Republicans, and included a photo of him with a smiling Senate GOP leader, Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat.

Cuomo later said the Business Council’s leadership raised concerns with his WFP endorsement.

“I told them I was endorsed by the Working Families Party four years ago, something that I don’t think they were aware of,” Cuomo said.

The circumstances of those two endorsements were vastly different: The WFP four years ago was under an investigation for the actions of its for-profit arm, Data and Field Services. Cuomo ultimately took the line, forcing them to accept his more economically moderate platform.

This year, the WFP nearly nominated its own candidate, Fordham Law School Professor Zephyr Teachout, after party activists raised alarm over the governor’s economic record.

In the end, Cuomo was endorsed after backing a Democratic state Senate and a host of liberal friendly measures.

Cuomo said later this morning he’s willing to work with Senate Democrats, brushing aside concerns they would seek to drag him to the left on economic issues.

In a clear rebuttal of Astorino’s view that the business community should be more forceful in pushing back against policies from Albany detrimental to job growth, Cuomo said he’s never seen them “more engaged” than ever with state politics.

With Astorino watching on, Cuomo knocked Westchester County for having the highest property taxes in the nation and for having a recent credit-rating downgrade.

Cuomo Doesn’t Rule Out Endorsement Of Grisanti

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday did not rule out endorsing Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti,saying it was a “difficult” choice to make.

Grisanti, a GOP lawmaker in his second term who lost his primary this month to attorney Kevin Stocker, is the last of the Republicans in the state Senate who supported the 2011 same-sex marriage law.

Cuomo told reporters after speaking to the state Business Council in Bolton Landing (and touting his work with Republicans in the Legislature) that he was yet to make a decision as to whether he would back Grisanti or the Democrat in the race, Marc Panepinto.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have not made a decision either as to whether they’ll back Grisanti’s bid in the general election or Stocker.

The governor insisted that it was Grisanti’s vote for the same-sex marriage law that cost him the primary, though the Buffalo Republican survived a challenge from Stocker in 2012 as well. More likely, Grisanti faced a backlash for his vote in favor of the SAFE Act, a gun control law Cuomo championed in 2013.

“It’s a difficult problem for me, because I want to be there, I want to be supportive,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo had endorsed or offered to support two Republicans in 2012 who had voted in favor of the measure: Sen. Stephen Saland, who lost a three-way race, and Sen. Roy McDonald, who had retained the Independence Party line after losing his primary, but ultimately declined to compete in the general election.

Cuomo this year supports a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate, which is currently controlled by a coalition of Republicans and five independent Democrats.

Cuomo And Astorino Meet, Briefly

The Battle of Bolton Landing Part Two it was not.

But Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino had a rare-run in with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday morning here at the Sagamore Hotel for the state Business Council’s annual meeting.

Astorino, who spoke last night to the business lobbying organization, unexpectedly appeared at the breakfast session of the group’s Friday meeting awaiting Cuomo’s scheduled speech.

There was a moment of pregnant anticipation among the business leaders and reporters in the room as Astorino waited close to a door for Cuomo to appear.

When he did, Astorino strode over to the governor to greet him.

“Governor!” Astorino said. “Are we going to debate?”

“Yes,” Cuomo said smiling and clapping Astorino on the back.

“Just tell me when,” Astorino responded.

In a question-and-answer session with reporters after he addressed business leaders here, Cuomo said he expected to debate his GOP rival.

But when it comes to specifics as to who would sponsor the debate, where and when it would be or even if minor-party candidates should be involved, Cuomo said he would leave those up details up to the campaign.

Cuomo and Astorino both are competing for the business group’s endorsement, with each seeking to position themselves as best for making the state more economically attuned to their concerns.

The moment, while a rare interaction between the two men this campaign, was not as electric as four years ago at the Business Council’s meeting, when then-GOP candidate for governor Carl Paladino got into a shouting match with New York Post reporter Fred Dicker over claims the gubernatorial hopeful was making about Cuomo having had extramarital affairs.

Astorino To Business Leaders: Revolt Against Albany

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino on Thursday night called on the state’s business community to be more forceful in its pushback against Albany policies that have hampered job growth and made for one of the highest taxed states in the country.

The subtext of the speech was clear: Astorino was imploring business leaders to drop any fear they have of reprisals from Gov. Andrew Cuomo may come if they do not support his bid for a second term.

Astorino, in his address, went through a litany of complaints he’s often cited on the campaign trail: New York’s high tax and regulator climate as well as historic economic troubles in upstate regions like the Southern Tier.

“Here’s my beef with the business community,” he said after listing the various rankings. “You stand for it.”

Astorino said business leaders — he was careful to say that not everyone in the room here at the Sagamore Hotel in Bolton Landing was at fault — have not marshaled enough of a defense when criticized by liberal state lawmakers and organizations aligned with the state’s powerful labor unions.

“You should be revolting,” Astorino said.

The room, for most of the address, was largely silent, which Astorino later said was a sign they were listening.

Still, there was not much applause when Astorino mentioned his support for hydrofracking, the controversial natural gas extraction process the governor has not made a decision on, angering proponents of the energy industry.

And when he mentioned his plan to scale back the state’s Scaffold Law, the pronouncement only was met with a scattering of murmurs.

“I’m glad they sat there and were listening,” he said.

Astorino’s sell to the Business Council is likely going to be a tough one.

Cuomo was endorsed by the lobby group in 2010 and embraced in his first term a number of key economic measures such as a cap on property tax increases and has limited spending in the state to under 2 percent in his budgets.

At despite his hard-than-expected path to re-election, Cuomo still is the heavy favorite to win in November: He has a $32 million war chest and remains a leader in public opinion polls.

Still, the business community is disquieted by his endorsement in May by the labor-aligned Working Families Party, which resulted in Cuomo’s support for a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate and a host of liberal measures, including a more aggressive approach to the state’s minimum wage.

But Cuomo, too, has faced skepticism on his left, fending off a challenge from Fordham Law School Professor Zephyr Teachout this month in a Democratic primary, who had charged he was too aligned with big business at the expense of ordinary New Yorkers.

Watching today’s speech from Astorino was Ken Adams, the former president of the Business Council when it endorsed Cuomo in 2010 and is now the leader of the Empire State Development Corp. after he was appointed by the governor several months later.

Adams in an interview defended Cuomo’s record, pointing to the state’s improved credit rating as well as 500,000 new jobs created in the last four years.

“You know there’s a lot of changes in the macro climate across this state and I’m picking that up from comments people are making here at this event,” Adams said.

Cuomo addresses the Business Council Friday morning at 10 a.m.

TWC News/Siena Poll: Maloney Leads Hayworth By 8 Points

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney leads his Republican opponent Nan Hayworth by 8 percentage points, according to an exclusive Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll.

The poll found Maloney, a Democrat who unseated Hayworth in 2012, leads 50 percent to 42 percent in the 18th congressional district.

The poll found most voters — 53 percent — have a favorable view of Maloney compared to 31 percent who do not.

For Hayworth, 44 percent have an unfavorable opinion of her, compared to 41 percent who view her favorably.

Meanwhile, most voters are locked in on their choice: 52 percent don’t believe they will change their mind between now and Election Day.

Still, President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular in the district: 59 percent of voters view him unfavorably.

At the same time, 63 percent of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared to 27 percent who believe it is headed in the right direction.

On issues, there is broad support in the 18th district for increasing the minimum wage nationally to $10.10: 67 percent support the increase.

The so-called “Buffett Rule” has the support of 62 percent of voters, while 50 percent of voters support repealing and placing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The poll of 590 likely voters was conducted between Sept. 12 and Sept. 17. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.


After our poll was released, each campaign issued a statement in response to the results within an hour.

From the Sean Patrick Maloney Campaign:

“Sean has the support of Republicans and Democrats because he’s worked across the aisle to get results for the Hudson Valley – creating jobs, investing in our infrastructure, growing our local economy, and cutting wait times for our veterans. Hudson Valley voters don’t want to go backwards to Congresswoman Nan Hayworth’s Tea Party record of privatizing Social Security, giving multimillionaires like herself huge tax breaks, and defunding Planned Parenthood,” said Stephanie Formas, spokeswoman for Sean Patrick Maloney.

In recent weeks, the Sean Patrick Maloney campaign has opened campaign offices across the Hudson Valley including Brewster, Poughkeepsie and Middletown in addition to the Newburgh campaign headquarters.  In the past week, the Maloney campaign has knocked on 7,058 doors across the district.  

Earlier this month, Maloney launched his first ad, “Dad,” highlighting Maloney’s experience serving as a senior advisor for President Bill Clinton and then starting his own business. You can view the ad here

From the Nan Hayworth Campaign:

After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of Nancy Pelosi’s money to run false attacks against Nan Hayworth, Maloney’s showing as an incumbent is very weak. Hayworth is well ahead with independents, and once voters learn of Maloney’s record of voting for special perks and privileges for himself and higher taxes for us, they’ll reject him in November.

Election Day is several weeks away, an eternity in politics. As Siena pollster Steven Greenberg stated, “With nearly seven weeks to go, this figures to be a nail-biter right up until the final votes are counted.”

“At this point in 2012, Siena had Obama Democrat Sean Maloney trailing Nan Hayworth by 13 points. This race is just getting started, and our first ad is airing today. Voters are ready to turn the page on the Obama/Maloney/Pelosi agenda, and once our message gets out there the race will tighten. When the full story is told, we’re confident that voters will choose doctor, mother, and neighbor Nan Hayworth to represent the Hudson Valley.,” said O’Brien Murray, senior adviser to the Hayworth campaign.

CD180914 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

Citizens Union On Redistricting Ruling: Word ‘Independent’ Is Immaterial (Updated)

A memorandum from the good-government group Citizens Union released on Thursday argues that while much of the focus on yesterday’s court ruling calling on the state Board of Elections removed the word “independent” from the redistricting amendment ballot language, much of the proposal was upheld.

The debate over the amendment, which would change the redistricting process ahead of the next round of new district mapping in 2022, would take the process out of the hands of state lawmakers.

Some good-government groups argue that the proposed change is cosmetic and still keeps redistricting in the hands of lawmakers, who have power over commission appointees.

But Citizens Union argues in its memo that the state Supreme Court actually agreed with key provisions of the proposal.

“In addition, the court agreed that the voting requirement for approval of a proposed redistricting plan “stands as a safeguard against one party dominance in redistricting” decisions, which is an essential element of a fair and impartial process,” Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey wrote.

Whether the word “independent” being included or not isn’t really the heart of the matter and the ruling doesn’t change the “substance” of what is before voters, Dadey wrote.

“Whether the commission is called “independent” or not is immaterial. Wednesday’s decision in no way changes the substance of the amendment, which bans partisan gerrymandering. We urge all New Yorkers to vote for progress on Election Day by voting yes on Prop 1,” he wrote.

UPDATE: Common Cause NY, which was among the parties that sued over the amendment’s wording and declared victory after yesterday’s ruling, issued the following statement from its executive director, Susan Lerner:

“Spin it anyway you like, but after the judge’s ruling, there really isn’t any denying that Proposition 1 is not what it claims to be. New Yorkers understand that this proposed commission would make a bad situation worse.”

“The Judge’s ruling is crystal clear: ‘the Commission’s plan is little more than a recommendation to the Legislature which can reject it for unstated reasons and draw its own lines.’ In no uncertain terms, the Judge found that: “The plan can be rejected for the purely partisan reasons that this Commission was designed to avoid.’ On November 4th, Voters should reject Proposition 1 for the false choice it is.”

Interested Parties Memo – Court Decision on Redisricting by Nick Reisman