Nick Reisman

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Astorino: Cuomo Will Be ‘Challenged’ In Debate

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino said on Sunday he plans to directly challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in this Wednesday’s debate.

But he added Cuomo will have something of an advantage, given the presence of Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian candidate Michael McDermott on the debate stage as well.

“The governor is going to be challenged for the first time,” Astorino told reporters during a swing through Saratoga County on Sunday. “And unfortunately, it’s not a one on one debate because he’s a coward, he’s afraid of debating me one on one because he would have to defend the indefensible.”

Astorino has pushed Cuomo repeatedly for a televised one-on-one debate with Cuomo.

The governor’s campaign jumped on two debate invitations: One with public television in Buffalo featuring all the candidates, plus a radio debate in New York City with just Astorino.

Astorino said today the format allows Cuomo to skate by without much time on camera.

“But you know, he set it up this way, so all four candidates will be on stage and he’s just got to figure out how he can get off stage in 12 minutes of speaking,” Astorino said. “That’s all he wants to do. He does not want to talk to the people in the state, he doesn’t want to look at them in the eye.”

Cuomo, for his part, has called the debate over the debates a “baloney” issue and contended the forums accepted by his campaign are strike a good balance.

Astorino, nevertheless, knocked Cuomo for traveling to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico while not campaigning in the state.

“He’d rather be in the Caribbean than actually be in New York,” Astorino said. “And, you know, he’s got no vision for a second term, he’s under investigation, he’s got a criminal defense team. So I understand why he doesn’t want to speak to the people of this state, but he has a responsibility to do so.”

Four years ago, the gubernatorial debate descended into something of a farce, with all the candidates appearing on the ballot given a chance to participate.

The debate’s break-out star was Jimmy McMillan of the Rent is 2 Damn High party, who stole the show and subsequently became a viral video character.

McMillan is not on the ballot this year.

Still, having the debate descend into a circus is something Astorino would like to avoid as he would likely want to have the focus placed on him and Cuomo.

The most recent Quinnipiac University poll showed him 20 percentage points behind Cuomo and he continues to lag the governor in fundraising.

After Caribbean Swing, Cuomo Plans Bronx Rally

After a campaign swing through the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will appear at a rally in the Bronx on Sunday, according to an invitation to the event.

The rally is planned at Hostos Community College, with doors opening at 1:45.

Cuomo traveled to the Dominican Republic on Thursday and met with the country’s president on Friday.

The governor pledged to return to the country should he win a second trip as he focuses on trade missions overseas.

Cuomo rarely stepped out of New York during his first term, but now plans to travel heavily in the second term, with trips to China, Italy and Mexico being considered.

That same day, he traveled to Puerto Rico and received the endorsement of the governor there.

The trips signal an aggressive courting of the Hispanic community back in here in New York. In the Dominican Republic, he made a point of praising the growing influence of native-born Dominican lawmakers in New York (Cuomo was in both the Dominican and in Puerto Rico with a contingent of elected officials who traveled separately).

Cuomo’s Republican rival, Rob Astorino, has criticized the trips, saying the governor should be focusing on Hispanic neighbors in New York.

Bronx Rally Invite by Nick Reisman

Following Cuomo Endorsements, Skelos Throws Some Shade

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos waded into some rare waters on Saturday as he criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo for backing a trio of Democrats running in key state Senate races this fall.

The endorsements of Sens. Cecilia Tkaczyk and Terry Gipson and candidate Justin Wagner come after the governor also backed Democrat Adrienne Esposito, who hopes to win an open Long Island Senate seat.

“If the Governor thinks Justin Wagner, Terry Gipson and Cecilia Tkaczyk are the best candidates for these State Senate districts, than he is just as out of touch as they are,” Skelos said in a statement.

Skelos has rarely criticized Cuomo, and the two have worked well together over the last four years, frequently touting a litany of bipartisan measures passing the Legislature and being signed into law by Cuomo.

Indeed, it was only two years ago that some Republicans were actually using Cuomo’s images in their campaign ads, a tactic that the governor did not discourage.

Cuomo is believed to have at the very least tacitly approved of the coalition agreement between five independent Democrats and the Senate Republicans, which kept GOP lawmakers in control of the Senate despite their numerical minority.

But now Cuomo backs a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate after facing stiff dissatisfaction from the political left.

In May, Cuomo pledged to help his party gain full control of the chamber upon receiving the backing of the labor-aligned Working Families Party.

A month later, Cuomo helped broker an agreement between the Independent Democratic Conference and the mainline Democrats to form a new coalition after Election Day.

But even after that peace offering within his party, Cuomo and Skelos appeared together numerous times in recent weeks, most notably taking a trip to Israel along with IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

Skelos and Cuomo again appeared together to discuss security efforts in the New York City area.

Skelos dismissed criticism from Republicans over the appearances — which some saw as undermining Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino — saying he is separating governing from political work.

In a statement this afternoon, Skelos tied the three Senate Democratic candidates in with Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose push for a Democratic controlled chamber has made him a favored punching bag for the GOP conference in Albany.

He pointed to three measures Democrats back — the Dream Act, a strengthening of abortion rights through the codification of Roe v. Wade and the public funding of political campaigns — as a sign they’re “out of touch.”

“In contrast, the priorities of candidates Terrence Murphy, Sue Serino and George Amedore are to cut taxes, create jobs and make New York State more affordable,” Skelos said, referring to the GOP challengers in those races.

Cuomo And Hochul Back Tkaczyk

The Democratic ticket rounded out their endorsements of Hudson Valley state Senate candidates on Saturday with an endorsement of Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk.

Tkaczyk, an incumbent who won her election by only 18 votes two years ago, faces Republican former Assemblyman George Amedore in a rematch.

“Throughout her career in public service, Senator Tkaczyk has been a tenacious advocate for her district,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “She is exactly the type of leader we need with us in Albany in order to help bring about progressive reform in the next four years.”

In addition to endorsing Tkaczyk, Cuomo and his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, endorsed Democratic Sen. Terry Gipson and candidate Justin Wagner.

The nods came as the Women’s Equality Express, sans the traveling Cuomo, traveled up the Hudson Valley on Saturday.

Tkaczyk’s race, in particular, has drawn the attention of wealthy interests from out of the area.

As she did two years ago, Tkaczyk is benefitting from some outside help in the form of Jonathan Soros, the son of billionaire George Soros, who has poured money into the race through his Friends of Democracy PAC.

And while Amedore and Republicans have blasted the Soros money as well as the intent behind it — pushing the public financing of political campaigns — he has also received help from the Real Estate Board of New York’s political action committee, Jobs for New York.

The race for the 46th Senate District — which stretches from the Hudson Valley, through the Albany area and into the Mohawk Valley — is expected to be one of the costliest races this year.

Klein Backs Stein Nomination, Skelos Disappointed

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in a statement released Friday said he supports the nomination of Leslie Stein to the state Court of Appeals, but his governing partner in the Senate, GOP Leader Dean Skelos is disappointed Gov. Andrew Cuomo chose to not re-appoint a Republican.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo nominated Stein this afternoon, ending the tenure of Judge Victoria Graffeo, an appointee of George Pataki, on the state’s highest court.

“Judge Graffeo has served with distinction for the past 14 years and was identified as the most qualified of the seven potential candidates,” Skelos said in a statement.

He added that “an earnest and thorough review of the Governor’s nomination of Justice Stein” will be coming in the following weeks.

Skelos had initially called on Cuomo to re-appoint Graffeo, but Cuomo opted to go with Stein, an appellate court judge in Albany.

Cuomo’s nomination of Stein is supported by Klein, a Bronx Democrat who is the co-leader along with Skelos in the state Senate.

“I applaud Governor Cuomo on his selection of Justice Leslie Stein to serve as our newest member on New York State’s highest court,” Klein said. “Without question, Justice Stein offers the appropriate balance of judicial experience and empathy that New Yorkers have come to expect from our legal system. Her diversity is her strength, having served in various capacities on the bench, beginning with the local courts all the way up to the State Appellate Division. Well-qualified and highly regarded amongst her peers, I look forward to her confirmation by the Senate.”

Stein’s spot on the court is pending Senate confirmation.

Stein is Cuomo’s third nomination to the Court of Appeals. He will make a fourth nomination when Judge Robert Smith retires at the end of the year.

Moss Says Astorino Administration Would ‘Defund’ SAFE Act

Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Chris Moss laid out the GOP ticket’s public safety platform on Friday that includes repealing the SAFE Act, though he acknowledged that it’s more likely to be “defunded” first.

Meanwhile, Republicans support re-opening some of the shock prison camps that were closed in recent years as well as potentially revisiting the Rockefeller-era drug laws.

Any effort to repeal the 2013 gun control law passed in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school shooting would require agreement from the state Legislature and, even if Republican Rob Astorino defeats Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo next month, the Assembly would likely still be led by Democrats.

“Obviously, it’s going to be tough,” Moss, the Chemung County sheriff, told reporters in Albany today. “It would probably be defunding the act first to figure out how we’re going to stop it from the ground up. If you take the money out of the SAFE Act, obviously it’s going to be harder to enforce.”

Moss said an Astorino administration would seek to pass gun legislation that would address mental illness and illegal firearms winding up in the hands of criminals.

A number of provisions in the SAFE Act address mental illness issues, as well as illegal guns. Moss added that he’s not opposed to all components of the measure, saying that a provision that increases penalties on those who shoot at first responders would be kept.

“Our legislation needs to be against the bad guys, and not against the good guys,” Moss said while addding, “We’re not opposed to gun legislation, but let’s gear it where it needs to be — not at taxpayers, law abiding citizens, property owners. Let’s actually have the legislation geared toward criminals, to keep guns out of their hands.”

Moss said that re-opening shock incarceration camp closed by the Cuomo administration — including Camp Monterey in Schuyler County — would provide local governments with minimum-risk inmates to perform small-bore tasks around the community as well as training skills.

Asked if the state should revisit the mandatory sentencing laws laid down by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller that were scaled back in 2009, Moss said “definitely.”

“We’re not being tough enough on individuals who not only sell but sometimes use drugs,” Moss said. “I mean, how many chances do you get before you actually do some time? It looks like people are getting several chances. I think that’s part of the reason why you see DOCCs numbers down.”

Advocates opposed to strict sentencing guidelines have long criticized the drug laws for overcrowding prisons, making for a heavy expense on state government in the process, while doing little to curtail crime.

Cuomo Bypasses Graffeo for High Court, Picks Stein

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has chosen to not re-appoint Republican Court of Appeals Justice Victoria Graffeo, instead nominating Leslie E. Stein, an associate justice of the Appellate Division.

Stein, an Albany County resident, has sat on the bench in the state’s court system fro the last 17 years.

Cuomo’s announcement came as he travels in the Caribbean for the next several days, making stops in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

The nomination had been delayed by two weeks, with the Cuomo administration pointing to exceptions in the law for making judicial nominations and as the governor sought to avoid a political fight over the selection.

The state Senate will consider the nomination of Stein next month, but after Election Day.

In a statement, Cuomo praised Stein’s judicial acumen.

“Justice Leslie Stein has extensive judicial experience and has worked throughout her career to help ensure that women, families, victims of domestic violence, and vulnerable New Yorkers have a voice in our legal system. She has also sought to advance the cause of women and diversity in the legal profession,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The move will not make Republicans happy: Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos made a last-minute plea for Cuomo to keep Graffeo, an appointee of Gov. George Pataki, on the court.

But liberals, including Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the Human Rights Commission, urged Cuomo to make a change.

Graffeo has drawn the ire of LGBT advocates in particular as she struck down local-level same-sex marriages in 2006.

The Stein nomination drew support from Stewart-Cousins in a statement.

“I want to thank Governor Cuomo for this thoughtful selection and wholeheartedly congratulate Judge Leslie Stein for her nomination as the next Justice on the Court of Appeals,” Stewart-Cousins said. “She will be a welcome addition to the Court and I am confident she will continue the forward momentum of our justice system and our state. I would also like to recognize Judge Graffeo for her many years of dedicated service.”

Stein, however, may be one of the less overtly political choices for Cuomo based on the list of candidates from the judicial screening commission, which included campaign donors and a member of his 2010 transition team.

Due to the timing of retirements of the current judges on the bench and should Cuomo serve a second full term, he will have the opportunity to remake the entire Court of Appeals with his nominees.

Stein, who was elevated to the appellate division in 2008 by Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, is Cuomo’s third nomination to the state’s highest court since taking office.

Cuomo did not weigh in on, but was believed to be privately opposed to, an amendment proposed last year that would have changed the required retirement age for judges. Voters did not approve the amendment.

Another vacancy on the court will open at the end of the year when Judge Robert Smith, another Pataki appointee, retires.

Cuomo Says Dominican Trip About Fostering Economic Ties, Communicating

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters in the Dominican Republic on Friday that his trip to the Caribbean country was meant to forge new economic ties there and communicate with voters back here that he has “respect” for their community.

“Part of running for re-election is about communicating to different communities and luckily in the state of New York we have very diverse communities,” Cuomo said. “Part of what I want to communicate to the New York communicate is understanding and respect for their community and their origins.”

The governor’s swing through the Caribbean — he’s also traveling to Puerto Rico this weekend — comes as he faces re-election in less than three weeks against Republican Rob Astorino, who has criticized Cuomo for leaving the state and not campaigning in voters’ neighborhoods.

The trip comes the same week as Cuomo is able to generate a different level of publicity through the promotion of his memoir, “All Things Possible” which was released on Tuesday.

Cuomo, however, says his trip to the Dominican Republic is not a one-shot. He plans to put together an international trade plan next year with the country (Cuomo has previously said he plans to forge economic ties between New York companies and countries like Italy, China and Mexico in his second term).

Cuomo is traveling with a contingent of state and city lawmakers, including Sens. Adriano Espaillat and Jose Peralta, as well as former Assemblyman Guillermo Lianres.

Cuomo said native-born Dominican politicians in New York are “growing in power and that allows them to better serve their communities.”

REBNY’s Push For Republicans In Senate Continues

The Real Estate Board of New York’s investment in Senate Republican candidates continued this week with thousands of dollars being poured into the group’s PAC, Jobs for New York.

All told, the group funded by New York City landlords spent more than $225,000 in its efforts to help Republicans keep control of the state Senate.

Filings with the state Board of Elections show REBNY spent $20,277 in mailers on behalf of Republican Senate candidate Tom Croci, who is running against Democratic candidate Adrienne Esposito in an open Senate seat in Suffolk County.

In Nassau County, the group sent $20,189 on mail for Sen. Jack Martins, a Republican who is defending his seat against Democrat Adam Haber.

The group’s filing also shows $18,000 spent on polling.

And the group invested $15,475 in television ad production on behalf of Republican former Assemblyman George Amedore, who faces Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk in a rematch.

Jobs for New York also reported spending a combined $151,499 on wages for staff working on Amedore’s race, as well as in the Hudson Valley districts where Sue Serino faces Democratic Sen. Terry Gipson and in the open seat between Republican Terrence Murphy and Democrat Justin Wagner.

The spending on behalf of the Senate GOP comes as the statewide teacher’s union increases its efforts on behalf of Democrats.

New York State United Teachers VOTE COPE reported spending $62,500 on behalf of Wagner, along with $114,000 in mail and polls for Marc Panepinto, a Democrat in Buffalo.

An additional $125,000 was spent to help Gipson in the Hudson Valley.

League Of Conservation Voters Split Difference In AG’s Race

The League of Conservation Voters has endorsed both Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his Republican opponent, John Cahill.

The group’s endorsements of both candidates come as Schneiderman also receives the nod from the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, an organization that’s been critical of Cahill.

Cahill, a former top aide to Gov. George Pataki, is a former commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Cahill has made a point in his campaign of playing up his record on the environment during the Pataki administration.

Schneiderman’s endorsement from the Sierra Club isn’t much of a surprise. The group has been pushing Cahill to release more information on his clients in the energy industry.