Nick Reisman

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Senate Democrats Hope For Blue Wave As Republicans See Red

From the Morning Memo:

The state Senate next year will look like a different place.

Seven Democratic incumbents lost their primary bids last Thursday, while five Republicans are retiring — an unnaturally large amount of churn for the 63-member chamber that’s become the focal point for liberals and the final lever of GOP power statewide in New York.

Battle for control of the chamber won’t be played out in just in enclaves of New York City, but suburban districts.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, were practically giddy at the turnout last Thursday and the potential to have it continue through November.

And already, traditional allies of Republicans are backing their candidates.

The Long Island Contractors Association on Oct. 29 will host a fundraiser for Jim Gaughran, the Democrat challenging Senate Education Committee Chairman Carl Marcellino.

“The thousands of men, women, and companies who make up the Long Island Contractors Association are essential for our communities and I am deeply honored to have earned their support,” Gaughran said.

“For too long Long Island has been under-served by state government, and I am going to fight to ensure we finally get real tax relief and our fair share of state education aid, investment, and infrastructure support.”

Democrats are increasingly excited, too, about races like the central New York contest between Democratic candidate John Mannion and Republican Bob Antonacci for the district being vacated by Sen. John DeFrancisco, a longtime GOP antagonist for the governor.

At the same time, they are confident Rachel May, the Democrat who beat former IDC Sen. David Valesky last week, will prevail in the general election. Valesky, a Democrat who first won a marginal seat in 2006, had been a top target for Senate Republicans until he joined the IDC, which aligned with the GOP conference.

Ironically, Valesky’s seat was reshaped during the Republican-led redistricting process that ultimately made it safer for Democrats.

For Republicans, the arguments to keep their majority, which comes with the aid of registered Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder, will be in the form of warnings: The socialists are coming.

“The Democrat Socialists are on the march, and if they are allowed to implement their radical agenda, New York will never be the same,” Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan wrote in an email last week to supporters.

“You and I can prevent that from happening, but we must act now. There is absolutely no time to waste.”

Flanagan’s email warned of the costs borne of single-payer health care, a push to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and, a staple of Republican concerns, depriving upstate and suburban communities of needed resources.

“If the Democrat Socialists running for Senate succeed in November, no one will be around to protect hardworking taxpayers,” Flanagan wrote in the email. “No one will be standing up for the small business community and entrepreneurs. Dysfunction and chaos will permeate our state Capitol. And, they will bankrupt our great state.”

And a Democratic majority could also lead to long-sought victories for the party as well, ranging from election reform, the public financing of campaigns and a bolstering of rent control and other affordable housing protections.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being presented with a different challenge. Accused in the past of not doing enough to help his own party take control of the Senate, he may now get a Democratic-led Senate stocked with progressives who will want to push him further to the left.

Cuomo on Friday at a news conference insisted that won’t necessarily be the case. After all, Democrats will need to win seats on Long Island, the Hudson Valley and in upstate New York in order to have majority control.

To keep those districts, the revolution will have to be at very least moderated, he’ll likely argue. Their constituents may be socially liberal, but may wince at tax hikes.

They’ll also have to defend a seat held by Sen. John Brooks, a Democrat elected in what had been a GOP seat.

Cuomo could very well push even harder to elect those suburban Democrats whose constituents line up with Cuomo’s voters. If there is a blue wave, Cuomo won’t just want to surf it, he’ll want to control its direction.

CWA Calls For Unity

The Communications Workers of America, one of the labor unions to bolt from the Working Families Party, made a public plea to Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams for unity on Friday a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo cruised to a primary victory.

“New York State’s primary election is behind us,” said Dennis Trainor, the union’s district one vice president. “Now we must focus on the crucial task which lies ahead between now and November 6th: uniting the labor movement, communities of color, and all progressive-minded voters across the State to re-elect Governor Cuomo and his team, win back as many New York Congressional seats as possible, and ensure that State Senate Democrats arrive in Albany next January with a decisive majority.”

Nixon and Williams, who lost his primary to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, remain the endorsed WFP candidates. It is not year clear if the WFP will remove them from the ballot, what mechanism can be used to do so (one option would be to place Nixon in an Assembly race, though that presents its own complications) and whether Cuomo, miffed by the the party’s rebuffing him in April, will even accept the line.

The primary was a bruising one for both sides, making such a unity plea potentially difficult.

“It is time to put debates and disagreements in the rear-view mirror,” Master said.

“That is why the Communications Workers of America calls on Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams to bring their campaigns to a close and join in supporting a unified Democratic ticket that will defeat our true enemies—the Trump Republicans—this fall. Turnout last night demonstrated that there is a Blue Tsunami is in the making. We urge Cynthia and Jumaane, for whom we have great respect, not to stand in the way of the critical work ahead and instead to help make that Blue Tsunami a reality.”

Cuomo Wins, But The Hard Part Could Come Next

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in his element on Friday.

Everyone, from the pundits in the press, social media theoreticians, the liberal activists and his bete noir, the mayor of New York City, were dead wrong about the challenge he faced against Cynthia Nixon.

And it’s easy to see what his Friday morning press conference was: A reminder, perhaps subtle or not, to everyone that he’s at the top of the political food chain.

“Again, I have to go through the numbers, but I believe I got more votes in the primary than any governor in history,” Cuomo said. “That is saying something. African-American community turnout was almost at presidential levels. Think about that.”

He also said, “When you look at how sweeping the voters were yesterday, it was upstate, it was downstate, it was white, black, brown, it was across the board. it was a vast proportion of New Yorkers.”

Cuomo’s closest aides have been taking something of a victory lap, too, raising some eyebrows for pointedly drinking cosmos in reference to Cynthia Nixon’s Sex and the City role.

And perhaps, after a primary in which the governor and his team felt, well, besieged by negative stories, the Nixon campaign’s dunks and the implication that Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in June could be replicated statewide, some ball spiking was also a useful relief valve following all that stress.

But the party may not last long.

Cuomo is vying for a third term, which can be a snake bit period of time for anyone in politics, whether there is a progressive anti-Trump wave or not. Ask George Pataki or Michael Bloomberg or Ed Koch or even Mario Cuomo. Voters either denied these chief executives a fourth term or they bowed out of office with the public picking someone who was their temperamental opposite.

Republican Marc Molinaro wants to deny Cuomo that third term this November and the general election now begins in earnest.

For now, Cuomo has not fully articulated what he wants out of a third term. He’s proposed a codification of the Affordable Care Act in state law and will likely move forward with a legalization of marijuana. And, should Democrats retake a full majority in the state Senate, it’s likely changes to the state’s voting laws and the Reproductive Health Act will be acted on with, what is for Albany, relative ease.

But there are more nettlesome issues to sort out, including rent control and a liberal push for single-payer health care, which Cuomo backs on the federal level.

At the same time, Democrats will be sending to Albany unabashedly liberal freshmen who defeated former members of the Independent Democratic Conference and will feel emboldened to make changes — and fast. Already, Senate Republicans are running a campaign centered around themselves being the only thing between voters and full-on socialism.

It’s possible Democratic lawmakers from the suburbs and upstate will have a moderating influence if the party takes power and the conference’s leadership will likely make that argument.

Cuomo, too, is pointing out Democrats from those areas will have to be elected in order to hand the party a majority. “The personalities changed,” Cuomo said, but that doesn’t make a majority.

“They’re going to have to go win in Suffolk and Nassau and the Hudson Valley and that’s where they’re going to have to win,” he said.

Cuomo is adept at recalibrating. Term two was all about anticipating such a primary challenge as the one he faced this year.

But when does Cuomo’s shelf life expire? Will it portend a presidential bid in 2020? Is he New York political world’s version of an apex predator, with no one big enough to chase him down?

Cuomo after eight years has left already an indelible stamp on New York’s political culture.

Third terms have not been historically fun for incumbents and what problems lie on the horizon are difficult to foresee.

Wofford Releases First TV Ad For AG Bid

Republican attorney general candidate Keith Wofford on Friday released his first TV ad as the focus in the race turns to the general election.

Wofford, an attorney originally from Buffalo, stands in his old neighborhood and speaks directly on camera.

“You know, being in this neighborhood really reminds me why I got into this race,” he said. People who are all working together for the same thing, which is to try to make better lives for their kids. But, the headwinds have been tough. Money goes into our government and doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go. But when I’m elected Attorney General, that’s going to be something that changes.”

Wofford is set to face New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, the victor of the four-way Democratic primary on Thursday.

The office is an open one after the resignation of Eric Schneiderman in May amid allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Incumbent Barbara Underwood, appointed by the Legislature in May, is not seeking a full term.

Progressives Lose Statewide Battle, But Win Local War

From the Morning Memo:

Statewide, Gov. Andrew Cuomo got what he wanted: He secured the Democratic nomination, he’s running for re-election with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Letitia James is the attorney general nominee.

But locally, progressives were able to notch key victories in the state Senate, where six of eight former members of the now-dissolved Independent Democratic Conference went down to defeat and Sen. Martin Dilan, viewed as a representative of the Brooklyn Democratic machine, also lost.

That many incumbents in the state Legislature losing their primaries in one year isn’t just unusual or rare, it’s unheard of — a potential harbinger of what’s to come for the November the elections and a sign the Democratic base in New York is especially restive.

Sens. Jose Peralta, Tony Avella, Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara, Jeff Klein and David Valesky all lost — results that could reshape the state Senate and usher in a more confidently liberal Democratic conference that hopes to take the majority this fall.

Another rarity: Turnout was up.

The IDC had dissolved itself in April under a push by Cuomo, who had faced liberal pressure to help his party gain control of the Senate. The conference had been aligned with Republicans in the chamber since 2011, even going as far as to have a majority coalition with the Senate GOP for the 2013-14 legislative session.

For progressive foes of the IDC, it’s a rejection of how Albany was functioning.

“New York politics changed forever tonight,” said Bill Lipton, the state Director of the Working Families Party. “The IDC is dead. The center of gravity has shifted, and Andrew Cuomo will face a radically different Albany. For years, Cuomo, the IDC and the Republicans led a government which blocked countless progressive policies.”

Lipton was on hand for the WFP’s party in Flatbush Thursday night. It was a relatively subdued evening as it became apparent the ticket led by Cynthia Nixon would lose. But things picked up when the former IDC lawmakers began to fall behind. The excitement built evening further when Alessandra Biaggi was named the winner of her primary over Klein, the former IDC leader.

Nixon’s concession speech dwelled heavily on the Senate shakeup.

“Your victories tonight have shown that the blue wave is real and that is not only coming for Republicans, it is coming for Democrats who act like them,” she said.

But the biggest target for the left, Cuomo, took a step closer to a third term, boosting turnout and, percentage-wise, largely replicating his primary four years ago against Teachout, just with more votes.

Nixon insisted things will change for Cuomo next year, as the freshman lawmakers will want new approaches on rent control, housing and health care, including a single payer bill.

“Because in 2018, progressive rhetoric is not enough,” Nixon said. “People are struggling to survive here. And we need real, substantive policies that address racial, gender and economic inequality in New York State.”

James Wins AG Nomination

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has won the four-way race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, taking a step toward becoming the first black woman to be elected to the post.

James faces Republican Keith Wofford, who would become the first black man elected to the job, in the November general election.

The James victory came over liberal insurgent Zephyr Teachout, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Leecia Eve.

The post was unexpectedly opened in May after the resignation of Democrat Eric Schneiderman amid allegations of domestic violence and sexual misconduct.

And the result is a win for the ticket backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had supported James’s candidacy early on in the nominating process.

James has pledged to serve as a bulwark against President Donald Trump’s policies in New York, continuing much of the spirit of the work of Barbara Underwood, who was appointed by the Legislature after Schneiderman’s resignation.

Cuomo Turns Back Nixon Challenge

Gov. Andrew Cuomo turned aside a progressive challenge from actress and education activist Cynthia Nixon on Thursday, clinching the Democratic nomination in his march toward a third term.

The primary campaign highlighted Cuomo’s use of smash mouth politics, his $31 million war chest that pumped cash into a steady stream of TV and digital ads and his ability to maintain a stitched-together coalition of Democratic voters in union households, western New York and among people of color.

Cuomo’s road to victory, however, was a bumpy one.

In August, he drew national headlines when, riffing on President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, he said America was “never all that great.” He later said he misspoke.

Cuomo’s celebrated opening of the second span of a bridge named in honor of his father was delayed after a piece of the old Tappan Zee Bridge had become destabilized.

Cuomo insisted the closure was coincidental and that politics played no role in the bridge ceremony. A letter from the state Thruway Authority made public in the following days revealed the state sought to encourage the span’s readiness by mid-August.

Meanwhile, a mailer paid for by the state party accusing Nixon of anti-Semitism was roundly condemned by Democrats, both allies and opponents alike.

Like the bridge incident, Cuomo insisted he played no role in the mailer and has called it a mistake.

Cuomo had sought to run on his record of the last eight years as the Democratic governor who was able to accomplish major achievements, be it gun control, the legalization of same-sex marriage or the passage of a paid family leave program.

In those accomplishments, Nixon and her allies sought to highlight the weaknesses: The minimum wage is due to increase to $15, but it’s unclear when that happens for upstate New York. Hydrofracking has been banned, but natural gas pipelines continue. Cuomo’s climate change initiative fails to go far enough.

But Cuomo also has framed his re-election around Trump and his vow to have the state act as a liberal bulwark against the federal government’s policies on the environment, organized labor, health care and immigration.

At the same time, Cuomo spent heavily on advertising, expending at least $8.5 million from his campaign committee in the last month of the race. The Democratic committee

Nixon remains the endorsed candidate of the Working Families Party, the liberal organization that gambled with endorsing her in April. Unless Cuomo takes the WFP line, the group’s ballot status could be in doubt.

Republican Marc Molinaro, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Larry Sharpe and Stephanie Miner, a Democrat mounting an independent bid for governor, round out the November ballot.

For progressives, the defeat on Thursday could have some silver linings. They will claim that Cuomo moved to the left on a variety of key issues as a result of Nixon’s challenge including issues like the legalization of marijuana, though Cuomo had been shifting further to the left in his second term, perhaps in anticipation of a primary challenge.

The state Capitol, nevertheless, could prove to be a different place for a governor who has mastered legislative maneuvering and negotiations, especially if the state Senate falls under the control of his own party.

Cuomo Again Calls Mailer A ‘Mistake’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the mailer casting his Democratic primary opponent Cynthia Nixon as an anti-Semite “a mistake” and insisted he has been running a positive campaign.

“Israel is an important issue. There is strong support for Israel and there are strong opinions about Israel,” he told reporters after voting in Westchester County. “The mailer was a mistake. I said that as soon as it came to light, as soon as I saw it. I ran this campaign fully positive. I didn’t say a negative word about my opponent.”

Cuomo’s campaign, however, has sharply criticized Nixon, an actress and education, as an inexperienced entertainer, and his allies have released statements alluding to her role on the Sex and the City franchise.

Cuomo is seeking a third term this year. The mailer, which hit mailboxes over the weekend, was signed off on by Larry Schwartz, a former top aide to Cuomo. The campaign insisted Schwartz had only viewed the “positive side” of the mailer.

“It was not proofread and that was a mistake,” he said. “The tone was not appropriate.”

Cuomo once again criticized President Trump as well, knocking his tweet this morning questioning the official death toll of nearly 3,000 people in last year’s hurricane that battered the island. Cuomo has framed his re-election bid as a way of pushing back against Trump.

“This president is delusional,” Cuomo said. “What he did in Puerto Rico, I think first of all, is illegal. We’re looking to sue him on Puerto Rico.”

Polls have indicated Cuomo is heavily favored to win, but the Nixon campaign has cast doubt on those surveys given progressive upset victories in Queens and Massachusetts earlier this year.

Cuomo retains several additional ballot lines heading into November.

Asked if he would remain on those lines going into the fall, Cuomo joked, “No, I’m going to become a journalist and then just second-guess everybody else because that’s a lot easier and say, ‘why didn’t you do this, why didn’t you do that.'”

SED Memo Outlines Opposition To Guns In Schools

The state Education Department in a memorandum released Thursday outlined its refusal to accept federal funds for the training, purchasing or storage of firearms in schools.

The Education Department’s rejection of federal funding comes as the federal government has floated the possibility of bolstering school security against mass shootings by, among other proposals, have creating grants for weaponry in schools.

“The Department is focused on promoting a relationship of trust, cultural responsiveness, and respect between schools and families; ensuring that schools are safe havens for students and their teachers, where they are free to learn and teach, to laugh, and continually grow together,” the SED memo, released by Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, states.

“There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our students, and we are committed to continuing to partner with you to advance social emotional learning and well-being to promote positive school climates. We simply cannot afford to use federal education dollars that are intended for teaching and learning to pay for weapons that will compromise our schools and communities.”

Department officials in a previous statement last month had rejected the initial idea of arming schools.

9 12 18.TitleIVFundsfor Firearms by Nick Reisman on Scribd

6 Things To Watch For On Primary Day

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic establishment in New York faces today what is perhaps its biggest challenge in a generation as Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks affirmation from party voters and to put down a challenge from actress and education advocate Cynthia Nixon.

It’s been a rollicking and at-times wild primary season for New York, with today the culmination of an extended battle for the gubernatorial, lieutenant governor and attorney general nominations featuring candidates who range from longtime officeholders to those who want to bring an activist’s fervor to the job.

And today could remake how the state Senate, long a cauldron of uncertainty and discontent, is organized and composed next year.

Here are six things to watch for on this primary day:

1. Will bad news matter?

Tactically, it’s been a terrible last few days of the campaign for Cuomo. His celebrated opening of the second span of the Mario Cuomo Bridge was delayed several days after a piece of its successor bridge, the Tappan Zee, was found to have been destabilized. The Thruway Authority had previously encouraged the contractor to have the bridge ready by August, even offering to have taxpayers accept liability for any problems, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times. The second span is now open to traffic, but the issue likely won’t die down as we move toward the general election.

Then came what could go down in the history of New York politics as simply “the mailer.” The mail piece accusing Cuomo’s rival Nixon of anti-Semitism by falsely asserting she supports the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel landed like a loud, angry thud in the final days of the campaign. There have been charges and countercharges as to was to blame, the most recent being Larry Schwartz, a longtime figure on Team Cuomo. The campaign asserted to The New York Post on Wednesday that Schwartz simply reviewed the “positive side” of the mailer. Cuomo has condemned the mailer as have his critics and allies, and the famously hands-on governor has also insisted he had nothing to do with it.

It remains to be seen if these twin headaches for Cuomo will matter in the waning days of the campaign. A Siena College poll taken before the race found Cuomo up 41-percentage points over Nixon, a tough deficit to erase.

2. Polls versus Twitter.

But does polling work anymore? The hope for Nixon’s campaign is that the polling in the race has been catastrophically wrong this entire time, failing to pick up the underlying support from younger, first time voters who are willing to support her candidacy. Polls have consistently shown that instead of a tightening race for Cuomo, it’s become far more divergent in his favor as he’s poured millions of dollars into campaign advertising.

There’s a striking dichotomy, however, on social media, where the bulk of those engaged in politics appear to overwhelmingly support Nixon. Appear is a fair word to use at this point: The world of Twitter can amplify voices and create bubbles, while also creating a false reality and echo chamber. Is Twitter real life? Well, no. But can that online enthusiasm translate to votes for Nixon?

The Nixon team points to congressional races in Queens and in Massachusetts in which traditional polling has been flat wrong. The win of Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Rep. Joe Crowley in June has given Nixon a narrative boost and likely driven Cuomo to spend far more money than he would have in this race in order to bolster his chances.

3. Will Cuomo’s center hold?

Cuomo has a clear coalition that can lead him to victory today. He’s got labor union endorsements, a key component needed in order to mount any sort of ground game, especially in New York City. He’s got suburban Democrats, who have traditionally liberal views up until they get a look at their property tax bill. And he’s got western New York, namely Erie County, an area rich with Democratic votes. He’s running with his preferred candidate for attorney general, Letitia James, the New York City public advocate, who has a base in Brooklyn, another vote-rich area for Democrats. It’s a tightly knit coalition that gives Nixon little breathing room. She’s got a more nebulous path in new voters, commuters who blame Cuomo for the lousy state of the subways in New York City and upstaters outside of Erie County who do not like him.

Four years ago, Zephyr Teachout was able to harness votes from state workers miffed by Cuomo’s hardball contract negotiations and pension reforms and those who wanted to ban hydrofracking. That was good for about 34 percent of the vote, including victories in the Capital Region and Tompkins County, home of liberal Ithaca. It’s a different landscape four years later: Cuomo banned fracking soon after the general election and the state’s two largest public workers unions have endorsed him.

4. A wide open AG’s race.

In 2010, Eric Schneiderman was able to overcome an open field that was the attorney general primary by dint of his labor support and his status as an elected official in New York City. Schneiderman is gone now, having resigned in May after multiple women accused him of physical abuse.

But James hopes to replicate that strategy from 2010: She’s a citywide elected official and has most of the major labor unions on her side. She’s also got the backing of Cuomo, who in any other year would have remained publicly neutral in such a contest.

This isn’t any other year. James faces Cuomo’s rival from the 2014 gubernatorial primary, Zephyr Teachout, as well as Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Leecia Eve, a former economic development official and executive at Verizon.

All of the candidates are in virtual agreement they would target the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration while in office, making their policy differences virtually indistinguishable. That’s led to charges and counter charges between the campaigns of accepting money from boogeymen of the liberal base: Accepting money from the world of real estate and business.

It remains to be seen if voters will care about Maloney’s decision to run for attorney general and press forward simultaneously for his congressional seat, which has in the past been a swing district or if Teachout, running on the defacto Nixon ticket, will have more success.

5. Will Senate incumbents survive?

In April, the Independent Democratic Conference disbanded, rejoining the mainline Democratic fold. A somewhat awkward press conference was preceded by months of wrangling by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s team in order to forge some sort of peace within the party’s factions of the chamber, which Republicans narrowly control. But the merger has not stopped challengers to the former IDC lawmakers, nor did the peace treaty prevent elected officeholders like U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Comptroller Scott Stringer from endorsing them over the incumbents. The primaries have split labor unions, as well, providing another dose of uncertainty.

Outside of the ex-IDC, there are incumbents like Sen. Martin Dilan, who is locked in a primary against Julia Salazar. Questions have been raised about Salazar’s official biography and false claims she has made there. At the same time, Salazar revealed she was a victim of sexual misconduct by a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, an announcement made just before a conservative website had planned to post a story outing her.

Democrats hope to win enough seats to hold a majority in the Senate next year. But that majority could be a mix of self-idenfitied democratic socialists who want a single-payer health care system and moderate suburbanites who blanch at any mention of tax increases. Today could provide a window into what the Senate looks like next year.

6. Will Democrats turnout?

Turnout is woefully low in these primaries. That’s compounded by New York’s voting laws as well as the bizarre situation of the last several cycles in which two primaries — one for congressional races in June and today’s state races — are held on separate dates because of a court ruling.

Th calendar is also unusual given this is a Thursday, a move necessitated by this Tuesday falling on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Turnout in 2014 stood at around 9 percent. The relative success of Teachout that year has perhaps spurred Cuomo to turn out his own voters this year, making ticking this upward a bit.

And then there’s the intangible of the mood of the electorate dissatisfied with incumbents, the subways, upstate joblessness and population loss and Trump.