Running On — Or From — His Record?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’s running on his record.

Rob Astorino, his Republican opponent, says the Democratic incumbent is running away from it.

That was the tale of the two campaigns on Tuesday, with Astorino in the Mohawk Valley knocking Cuomo’s record on the state’s business climate and the governor touting his at events in Syracuse and New Paltz.

Astorino, visiting a local business in central New York, accused Cuomo of holding few public events because he’s either afraid of defending his record or doesn’t want to face questions on the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, which is now part of an inquiry from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“Those are the reasons he’s not speaking and the fact he’s not speaking to defend his record is the state of politics under this governor,” Astorino told reporters.

He added the negative advertising — which has been paid for by the state Democratic Committee, ostensibly an arm of Cuomo’s re-election campaign — are “disgraceful.”

“That’s the way he’s going to play his game,” Astorino said.

And as we head into the general election, Astorino is pitching his candidacy as one in a change election.

“Unless we change governors, we’re going to get more of the same in the four years,” he said.

Cuomo, meanwhile, held two public events in Syracuse and later in New Paltz.

At SUNY New Paltz, where he announced grants as part of the SUNY 2020 program, Cuomo insisted he was running on his record of the last four years.

“We’ve brought down taxes, we’ve capped property taxes, we’ve created 500,00 jobs, unemployment is down in every region of the state,” Cuomo said. “I said I would go to Albany to get things done, I work with Democrats, I work with Republicans. We’ve made Albany work better than it’s ever worked.”

He added he wouldn’t be bogged down in the “silliness” over controversy such as a TV ad from the Erie County Democrats that highlighted Astornio being a fan of the Miami Dolphins (Astorino has knocked the ad for altering a picture that removed his son, Cuomo and Democrats in Erie say it would have been illegal to include the image of a minor without permission).

And will Astorino being a fan of the Dolphins be a problem for him in November?

“The people of the state are going to have answer that one,” Cuomo said.

The real question though is what Cuomo plans to do in the second term of his administration should he win another four years in Albany.

Candidate Cuomo in 2010 released a series of policy books spelling his plans for the first term. He’s yet to do that for the second term.

Sean Astorino To Cuomo: Why Chop Up Our Family Photos?

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino’s son on Tuesday appeared in an online video taking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to task for a Democratic ad that photoshopped him out of a picture with his father.

The ad, paid for by the Erie County Democratic Committee, was aimed at knocking Astorino for being a fan of the Miami Dolphins as the team played the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, while highlighting Cuomo’s attention to western New York.

The ad featured a picture of Astorino at a Dolphins game, but photoshopped Sean Astorino out of the foreground.

In a video released by Astorino’s campaign, Sean Astorino said it “wasn’t very nice” to cut him out of the photo.

“Before you cut out my pictures again, Mr. Cuomo, why don’t you ask me first?” he says in the video.

It’s unusual for a politician to be upset that a family member wasn’t included a negative TV spot. And it’s also not unusual for politicians to cry foul any time an opponent says or does something that has to do with members of their family. Still, Astorino has put his very telegenic family front-and-center in his campaign.

Senator Kennedy Calls For New “Unifying” Leadership In The Erie County Democratic Committee

Just days after surviving a primary challenge, State Senator Tim Kennedy said Monday he’s not interested in challenging Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner for leadership of the party.

“Any time you have the sort of resounding victory against the party machine that we had there’s going to be a lot of talk but that’s all that it is right now,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he’s focused on doing his job and preparing for the general election in November, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy with the current leadership.  Kennedy has some choice words for the executive committee.

“Quite frankly the leadership that’s currently in existence here in Erie County has created an embarrassing situation where it’s the most dysfunctional party in the state of New York,” said Kennedy.

Zellner and the top elected Democrat in Erie County, Mark Poloncarz, both endorsed Kennedy’s democratic opponent Betty Jean Grant.  They also accused Kennedy of creating division within the party by donating money to a Political Action Committee that funded progressive challenges to party endorsed candidates last fall.

Poloncarz is supporting Zellner again for chairman.   He said Zellner has the support of the committee members who will actually vote at the party’s reorganizations meeting next month.

“Jeremy’s worked very hard to create an environment that’s conducive to electing good Democrats.  He worked very hard in support of Governor Cuomo in this recent primary and it showed,” Poloncarz said.

Governor Cuomo got 70 percent of the Erie County vote in his primary with Zephyr Teachout, and despite the loss in the Kennedy-Grant race Poloncarz thinks Zellner had a very good Primary Night.

“I think Tim (Kennedy) probably looked at things and said, ‘Well, he’s not happy with things being done at Democratic Headquarters but the chairman does have the support of the committeemen.’  So I’m happy he’s not going to run I don’t think we need a fight for the chairmanship,” Poloncarz added.

When reached by phone late Monday night Zellner called Kennedy’s comments “a shame.”  Zellner said both he and Poloncarz reached out to Kennedy to congratulate him and try to promote unity.

“It does not surprise me however that he is taking this road because his Chief Advisor Steve Pigeon is the most divisive figure in our county’s party history,” Zellner said.

Zellner, who plans on being re-elected chairman, said he’s been working to bring the unity many Democrats are calling for.  Despite the split with Kennedy, Zellner believes he’s made progress.

“We are not stopping that momentum now.  Senator Kennedy ought to be working with our party, not attempting to divide us,” Zellner said.

Zellner could face another challenge from Cheektowaga Democratic Chairman Frank Max.  Max unsuccessfully challenged Zellner in 2012, and as all parties acknowledged there’s usually a surprise candidate.

Astorino Campaign Upset With Photoshopping Son Out Of Picture

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s campaign is upset with a Democratic ad that mocks his support for the Miami Dolphins for including a photoshopped picture that erases the candidate’s son.

While most candidates would not want their children included in an attack ad, even a light-hearted one that pokes fun at Astorino being a fan of an out-of-state team, the Republican candidate says the spot is “personally hurtful” for altering a family photo.

“Andrew Cuomo’s negative advertising already knew no bounds, but to erase my son from a cherished family photo is wrong and personally hurtful,” Astorino said in a statement. “If Governor Cuomo wants to keep running false ads against me with his pay-to-play millions that’s his business, but doctoring my family photos is beyond the pale. I won’t even bother asking him for an apology, because I know I won’t get one from this governor.”

Astorino has indeed included his rather telegenic family in his campaign and features them in his TV commercial that’s airing statewide.

The ad aired in western New York as the Buffalo Bills took on the Dolphins on Sunday.

The spot, paid for by the Erie County Democratic Committee, also highlighted Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s focus on Buffalo during his first term.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner told our colleagues at TWC News in Buffalo that the was “fun.”

“We’re working with the state committee and the governor’s campaign to put a little levity in there but also point out the fact that it is no small thing that our governor has paid so much close attention to our community over the last four years,” he said.

Zellner had no comment when asked about Astorino’s criticism of it photoshopping his son out of the ad.

Tkaczyk Loses Women’s Equality Line

Democratic Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk’s efforts to gain the Women’s Equality Party ballot line failed on Monday when a state Supreme Court judge invalidated nominating petitions submitted by her campaign.

Tkaczyk, a first-term Democratic lawmaker, faces Republican George Amedore, who she narrowly defeated in 2012.

“Cecilia Tkaczyk’s petitions were carried and signed by out-of district voters, who have no ties to the 46th Senate District, including pages upon pages from Brooklyn and the Bronx,” said Eileen Miller, a spokeswoman Amedore campaign. “Just because she votes like she represents the residents of New York City does not mean the residents of New York City can legally sign her nominating petitions. It’s shameful that she has such disregard for state election law and the people of her district.”

Tkaczyk spokesman Gary Ginsburg responded, saying the “bottom line” is that the incumbent continues to be a supporter for women’s right in the state Senate.

“George Amedore has again demonstrated his opposition to women’s rights and he should be ashamed of himself. He voted against equal pay for women every chance he got in the Assembly and opposes a woman’s right to choose even in cases of rape or if her life or health are in danger. The bottom line is that only one candidate in this race will fight to protect women’s rights and healthcare, and that’s Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk.”

The campaign had submitted 4,444 signatures to gain access to the ballot line, but a hearing officer of the state Board of Elections found 3,160 of those were invalid. Three-thousand signatures are needed to qualify for the independent line.

Tkaczyk isn’t the first incumbent Democrat to fail at gaining access to the Women’s Equality Party line: Rochester-area Sen. Ted O’Brien, another freshman Democrat, tried unsuccessfully to be added to the WEP ballot.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Democrats earlier this year formed the Women’s Equality Party as a way to boost vote totals in November and promote the women’s agenda, a 10-point omnibus package of bills with provisions aimed at pay equity, anti-human trafficking and housing discrimination.

The package has stalled in the state Senate due in large part to Republican opposition to a plank the is aimed at codifying Roe v. Wade in state law.

Tkaczyk did receive the Green Party ballot line last week through the opportunity-to-ballot process.

The Tkaczyk-Amedore rematch is considered one of the more closely contested races in the Legislature this year.

Rooting For The Home Team?

From the morning, ICYMI:

If you were watching the Buffalo Bill’s home opener against the Miami Dolphins yesterday, you might have caught an ad paid for by the Erie County Democratic Party, slamming Astorino for being a Fins fan.

In case you missed the ad, which ran for several days – including on TWC News – you can see it here. And here’s the script:

“This weekend, when the Miami Dolphins come to town, we’ll all be rooting for our Buffalo Bills – well, everyone but Rob Astorino.”

“You see, Astorino is a Miami Dolphins fan. Governor Cuomo stood with us. He’s delivered for Buffalo and all of Western New York.”

“So, this November, when Rob Astorino comes asking for your vote, let’s remember who was on our team.”

Astorino has not been shy about his love of the Dolphins – a team for which he has been rooting since the age of 5.

Last week, Astorino fought fire with fire, questioning the governor’s relationship with rocker Jon Bon Jovi – a hated figure in WNY, thanks to the belief that a Toronto-based group of which he was a member wanted to buy the Bills and move the team to Canada.

Astorino Tweeted a photo of Cuomo and Bon Jovi at a recent Hamptons shindig, asking LG Bob Duffy: “Better off in WNY being lifelong Fins fan or Jets fan like Cuomo w/ Bon Jovi as BFF? #BillsMafia.”

Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud offered a more traditional response to the ad, saying:

“We have the highest taxes in the country, the worst economic outlook, the governor is under criminal investigation and this is what they’re talking about? It says it all.”

This whole fight would have been a lot more significant had Terry and Kim Pegula’s bid for the Bills been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the new stadium question appears to be on the back burner for now. Cuomo, who was on hand to cut the ribbon yesterday on the newly renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium, said:

“It is beautiful, people are gonna be blown away by how good it is and how much better it functions. And for me, frankly, that’s enough.”

“…The Bills are staying. The stadium’s good. Let’s stay right here for a while. Let’s win today, and the future will take care of itself,” the governor added.

The Bills did indeed “squish the fish,” thrilling the sold-out crowd at the Ralph by beating Miami 29-10.

State Dems Push Astorino On Tax Returns

State Democrats stepped up their calls on Monday for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino to release five years worth of tax returns, saying in an open memo to reporters there are “unanswered questions about his outside income.”

The memo, which was first reported by The Daily News this morning, notes that Republican George Pataki released tax returns stretching back five years when he ran for governor in 1994.

“If he won’t release five years of his returns, then he’s obviously hiding something,” said state Democratic Committee spokesman Peter Kauffmann.

In response, Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud said the documents will be made available, and slammed Cuomo’s not-so-stellar record on transparency, along with the controversy over renovations made to the home he shares with Sandra Lee that did not have the proper building permits.

“We are happy to make the County Executive’s tax return available, but since the Governor seems to have suddenly discovered an interest in transparency, we’re calling on him to release the building permits obtained for renovations to his home and allow the tax assessor inside to conduct a proper revaluation,” Proud said. “Governor Cuomo was caught underpaying his property taxes for several years and failing to get the necessary building permits required by law. Despite overwhelming evidence, the Governor continues to deny the renovations were done and refuses to let the tax assessor inside. If the Governor truly believes in the importance of disclosure, he will release the building permits and allow the tax assessor to conduct a proper valuation of his property.”

Astorino’s financial disclosure form with the state shows that he outside income from a Connecticut media firm Townsquare Media, which his campaign revealed is $30,000. In addition, Astorino lists his annual salary of $160,000 as Westchester County executive.

The state Democratic memo notes all elected statewide officials have released their tax returns. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman release their returns annually in April to reporters.

Cuomo in 2006 released tax returns dating back 14 years when he ran successfully attorney general.

NYSDC_Astorino Tax Returns Memo by Nick Reisman

Ralph Nader Tours Capital Region For Green Party Candidates

Nick Reisman sat down with Howie Hawkins and Ralph Nader Sunday afternoon for an exclusive interview. Catch it on Capital Tonight Monday at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

“Money does not vote, people vote.”

Powerful words from long-time consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader Sunday. Nader was in the capital region to support Green Party candidates Howie Hawkins and Matt Funiciello. The trio started the day in Glens Falls, which lies in the congressional district Funiciello is vying for. That’s the 21st, where he’s currently facing Republican Elise Stefanik and Democrat Aaron Woolf.

A recent WWNY-7 News/Siena Poll shows just 10 percent of voters backing the Green Party candidate, and Elise Stefanik in the lead with 46 percent of the vote. It’s no secret that a big part of Funiciello’s problem is name recognition with a whopping 61 percent of voters saying they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. But while in Albany Sunday, Funiciello said he’s optimistic about his chances.

“The reality is, the polls that just came out show me in double digits with 15 thousand dollars spent, next to millions of dollars by the corporate candidates. And one of the most interesting things is how many people on a name-recognition level know who Matt Funiciello is who might vote in this race – it’s twice the number who are voting for me … if 10 percent is my vote total right now, I’m in those double digits and only 20 percent knows who I am? What’s going to happen when I’m in those televised debates, which I am?”

Funiciello will face off against his two opponents on Time Warner Cable News October 8th at  7 p.m. He said he’s now studying bills in the house he would support to ‘up’ his game during the debate. Until then, he’s running his campaign while working full time at his Glens Falls area bread bakery.

Howie Hawkins, meanwhile, is playing a much bigger game, bringing Nader’s national influence into the race for Governor. According to the campaign, during two events in the capital region, Nader raised more than $6,000 for the gubernatorial candidate. While that’s pocket change compared to the Governor’s $35 million+ war chest, Hawkins says he’s grateful Nader is on his side leading into November.

“His whole career, people respect the fact that he stood up for the people against corporate abuse. I think that’s an issue, as he was saying, that cuts across left and right. People don’t want to be exploited, defrauded, misused or abused. So, it’s great to have his support.”

Going into the general election, Hawkins is calling for a series of debates against the governor and Republican opponent Rob Astorino. Astorino was on Capital Tonight Friday, where he said if Hawkins is polling well leading up to the debates, the campaigns would possibly look into sending an invitation to the Green Party candidate. Hawkins referred to that statement Sunday as the moment, “the light bulb popped out of his head.”

As far as creating those numbers, Hawkins said his campaign is looking into expanding into the downstate New York City, Long Island, and Westchester area where he’s not as well-known as his opponents. While he said he does have a solid upstate base, as far as downstate goes, “once they get to know me I think we’ll get votes down there.”

Part of that draw may come from having the support of Ralph Nader, who said Sunday he’s supporting both candidates to give people a choice between the two most popular parties.

“Voters today have a low opinion of both parties, as we all know. But they feel trapped, if they don’t vote for one or the other, their only option is to stay home. Now, they can go to the polls and vote for an honest, effective, candidate – Matt Funiciello and Howie Hawkins – whose declared agendas are almost overwhelmingly supported by the majority of the people.”

That agenda includes the support of progressive issues, like universal health care, a minimum wage hike – and of course a boost in green energy. Nader said his support is also based on the Green Party’s refusal to take corporate donations. Hawkins said Sunday he doesn’t allow donations of more than $2,600. That means both candidates need several times more donors to match the money raised by their opponents. But if they do, Nader says either have a good chance at the polls.

“They’re at a take-off stage. But they need to have more volunteers, they need to have more money to pay for expenses, transportation signs, all the rest. There’s no outside, fancy political consultants here – and if they get to 15 percent, they’re going to get more media coverage. And if they go to 20 percent it’s a three-way race, and it’s off to the races.”

Former Democratic Candidate for Governor Randy Credico also made an appearance at the event, where he said he’s putting his full support behind Hawkins for the spot.

Credico also said after having several conversations with his former primary opponent, Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout, he believes if she chooses to endorse a candidate for governor, it will likely be Howie Hawkins instead of Governor Cuomo.

Eldridge Launches Anti-Gibson, Pro-Choice Ad

A new ad from Democratic NY-19 candidate Sean Eldridge hit airwaves this weekend. The ad points out incumbent Republican Chris Gibson’s voting record on Planned Parenthood – he’s previously voted to cut funding for the organization.

Eldridge then repeats his support for a woman’s right to choose and equal pay for women.

Here’s the full script (video embedded at the bottom of this post):

I respect Chris Gibson, so I was surprised to learn that even though he says he’s pro-choice he’s consistently voted against a woman’s right to choose. He even voted to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.

I won’t play politics with women’s health, and you’ll always know where I stand.
I served on the board of Planned Parenthood in the Hudson Valley and fought to protect a woman’s right to choose and access to birth control.

In Congress, I’ll continue to fight for women, including equal pay for equal work.

This is the first negative ad from Eldridge since launching his campaign last year. His other ads, found here and here,  talk about his  background in the Hudson Valley and his position on certain issues, including women’s rights.

This new ad comes after an exclusive TWC News/Siena Poll released Thursday put Eldridge 24 points behind Congressman Gibson. The numbers show a serious name recognition problem for Eldridge, with 57 percent of voters saying they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion.

Ironically, Gibson enjoys a 57 percent favorability rating, despite support from voters on progressive issues like a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, higher taxes for millionaires, and a minimum wage hike.

Read the full results of that poll here.


Hochul Points To Missouri As A Warning Sign For NY

Former Rep. Kathy Hochul, the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, on Friday pointed to new restrictions on abortion rights in Missouri as a warning sign for New York.

Missouri’s Republican-controlled Legislature this week approved a new 72-hour waiting period for women who are seeking an abortion, up from 24, and after receiving counseling.

In a statement, Hochul compared the move in the midwest to “the threat” faced by Republicans opposed to abortion like Rob Astorino, the Republican nominee for governor.

“What is happening in Missouri signals the threat we face from ultraconservative anti-choice Republicans like Rob Astorino,” Hochul said in a statement. “The women of New York need a champion to keep our state moving forward, not a Tea Party extremist who opposes the women’s equality act and our right to choose. This is a wake-up call to all New Yorkers — now we must stand up and make our voices heard this fall to ensure women’s equality becomes a reality.”

Astorino has said he will not roll back existing abortion rights in New York, though he is personally opposed to it.

But the statement is another sign that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign, along with Hochul, are seizing on women’s issues ahead of the November general election.

The governor and state Democratic officials this year created a new ballot line aimed at promoting Cuomo’s women’s agenda, that includes a plank aimed at codifying the Roe v. Wade decision in state law.