2014

Schneiderman Demurs On 2018 Talk

From the Morning Memo:

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was victorious last month in his re-election, winning a second term against Republican John Cahill.

And Schneiderman is already taking a perfunctory step toward the next election, filing with the state Board of Elections a campaign account called “Schneiderman 2018,” according to a posting this week.

The campaign account is ostensibly geared toward running for attorney general once again, but the quick turnaround suggested the Manhattan Democrat may also be considering a run for governor.

In Buffalo on Wednesday, Schneiderman deflected a question about whether he would run for governor.

“I’m so excited to be elected and serve another four years to serve with these great folks and work on behalf of the people of the state of New York,” Schneiderman said while flanked by western New York elected officials. “No, I love this job and let me do my work and we’re going to enjoy this and we’ve done great things in the last four years.”

Schneiderman touted his office’s work, which has ranged from dealing with the aftermath of the housing crisis to prescription drug abuse.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t definitively rule anything out.

“We’ve set national models whether it’s dealing with the foreclosure crisis or dealing with prescription drugs or dealing with our law enforcement colleagues providing them with bullet proof vests, I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues for another four years as attorney general,” Schneiderman said.

As he walked away from the podium, Schneiderman turned and said with a smile, “Wow, talk about early.”

Of course, a number of factors will have to come in to play before Schneiderman can launch a run for governor, including what the office’s current occupant, Andrew Cuomo, decides to do.

Don’t expect Cuomo to make a decision anytime soon on his future plans, whether those be serving in a Democratic administration’s cabinet in Washington, running for president or rolling the dice with a third term.

There are few potential Democratic candidates for governor at the moment, though speculation early on has ranged from incoming Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand seeking some executive experience, but Schneiderman is often mentioned at the top of any list of Cuomo successors.

The AG’s office for detractors has come to stand for “aspiring governor” and both Cuomo and his immediate predecessor were both angling for the executive mansion while still running the state’s law department.

Cuomo’s Coattails (Or lack Thereof)

From the Morning Memo:

It’s no secret that Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t perform terribly well on election night in much of upstate – especially not in the North Country, where anger over the SAFE Act continues to simmer.

And one Assembly Democrat blames “a top of the ticket that wasn’t that exciting to voters” for her near loss this fall.

Addie Russell barely eked out a victory in the 116th Assembly District against her Republican opponent, John Byrne, who just conceded the race this past Monday.

“There was a perfect storm of factors that made this race so close,” Russell said during a CapTon interview last night. “One of the key ones was voter turnout – or lack thereof.”

“…Interestingly, on election night I think I received more votes than the governor in my election district. There were no coattails to speak of, you know, the left and the right really didn’t support the governor, and I think that contributed to very low turnout.”

“I was actually in a three-way race and with the governor really not having coattails in the North Country, as well as 10 days out from the election our congressional race became really lopsided, I think people thought, ‘Well, she’s in a three-way race, she’ll be fine.’”

The assemblywoman first arrived in the Assembly in 2009, replacing dairy farmer Darrel Aubertine when he moved to the Senate after winning a long-shot special election.

Russell isn’t the first to suggest Cuomo’s poor performance upstate had a negative impact on down-ballot Democratic candidates.

And many on the left complained that the governor hadn’t done enough – particularly when it came to battle for control of the Senate – in assisting his fellow Democrats with their campaigns.

(Though, given his low poll numbers in some upstate districts, it might have been better for some candidates that he stayed away).

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver defended the governor, however, noting that this was a particularly good year for Republicans across the nation, though none of the statewide GOP candidates managed to capitalize on that trend.

For the record, Russell said she did not regret voting “yes” on the SAFE Act, despite the anger that move may have caused in her district.

She argued that her vote actually puts her in a better position to negotiate with her colleagues about “common sense amendments” that should be made to the gun control law. I noted that talk – especially among Russell’s downstate colleagues – has actually focused on enacting more regulations on firearms, and she replied:

“I really think that those that think that there should be more restrictions placed on gun ownership and law abiding citizens really need to think twice about it.”

“I don’t know how anyone could conceivably want to pile more on a piece of legislation that everyone – even the staunchest supporters – believe needs to be fixed.”

Cuomo Has $9.1M Left In The Bank

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign spent nearly $8 million in the final days of the campaign and in the aftermath of Election Day, a campaign finance report filed Monday shows.

Cuomo, who won a second term by defeating Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, has $9.1 million in cash on hand remaining in the account.

Cuomo began the most recent reporting period — 11 days before the election — with $15.7 million in the bank.

By contrast, Astorino was vastly outspent: The Republican nominee spent $1.4 million, virtually exhausting what money he had left in his campaign account.

Cuomo spent a similar figure in the final days of his 2010 campaign against Republican Carl Paladino: roughly $8 million. But that year he concluded the race with only $5 million in the bank.

The final also shows Cuomo spent $1.4 million in a final burst of TV ad spending, though he also transferred $3 million to the state Democratic committee, which had blanketed the airwaves on his behalf to blast Astorino in mostly negative ads.

The final also reflects the more targeted and data-driven approach Cuomo took to his re-election campaign: He spent $100,000 on the Analytics Media Group, a consulting firm based in Iowa that was founded by former Obama campaign staffers.

The group says it “introduces science to the art of media buying.”

A Final Burst Of Spending From Astorino

Republican former gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino all but exhausted what was left in his campaign account, a filing posted by the state Board of Elections shows.

Astorino, the Westchester County executive who took on Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo, finished the race with $54,996 in cash on hand, the filing shows.

Astorino’s campaign in the final days of the race spent $1.4 million, mostly on last-minute TV ads, according to the filing.

Cuomo vastly outspent Astorino during the gubernatorial campaign and the Republican nominee struggled to raise money during the campaign.

Nevertheless, Astorino performed better than polls predicted, finishing with about 40 percent of the vote.

Astorino has not ruled out running again when the governor’s office is up in 2018.

Astorino, whose current job is up for re-election in 2017, is expected to travel the state in the coming months campaigning and fundraising for Republicans.

In NYC, Voters Write In Taylor Swift, Frank Underwood and Derek Jeter

OK, which one of you smart alecks voted for Derek Jeter?

The New York City Board of Elections on Wednesday released its certification report on the race for governor, which — delightfully — also gave a rundown of write-ins votes for celebrities, fictional characters and figures currently in the news.

Those receiving write-in votes included pop singer Taylor Swift, she received two votes, as did NYPIRG legislative director Blair Horner.

Frank Underwood, the Machiavellian politician who will stop at nothing to rise to the top of politics on the Netflix show “House of Cards”, received one vote.

The odd coupling of environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr. and former President Bill Clinton received one vote as well.

Dr. Craig Spencer, a Brooklyn doctor who was treated for Ebola and later released, received multiple votes alongside Kaci Hicox, a nurse who was briefly detained after returning from west Africa.

Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law School professor who challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo, received several hundred votes when combined with various incorrect spellings of her name.

Together with her running mate, Columbia professor Tim Wu, the erstwhile insurgent Democratic ticket received 133 write-in votes.

Perennial write-in candidate Mickey Mouse did not receive any votes, according to the report.

248331187 NY State Official Election Results by Nick Reisman

Panepinto Almost Ready To Put ‘Nasty’ Senate Campaign Behind Him

The race for a Buffalo-area state senate seat was one of the most costly and contentious races in Western New York history. Just 48 hours after the polls closed the apparent winner isn’t over it just yet.

“It’s tough not to take things personally. I know Senator Grisanti wasn’t driving the train on the personal attacks. We had a very collegial relationship on the campaign trail. I will say Kevin Stocker made it personal. So I do have some personal animus towards Kevin Stocker,” said Democrat Marc Panepinto.

Republican Mark Grisanti made a run on the Independence line after losing the GOP primary to Kevin Stocker. With speculation the outcome could decide the majority in the state senate, outside groups spent millions on negative ads.

For Panepinto, the ill will is connected to a negative ad highlighting his misdemeanor election fraud conviction 13 years ago. An “unaffiliated voter” also filed a complaint because Panepinto used his wife’s image, State Supreme Court Judge Catherine Nugent-Panepinto, in campaign flyers.

“I don’t have any animus towards Mark Grisanti. He was the incumbent senator; I think he did an admirable job. And the nastiness that came against me was from the Republican Senate Campaign Committee,” Panepinto said.

Neither Stocker nor Grisanti have officially conceded.  Panepinto held a lead of a little more than 2,000 votes over Stocker and a 26-hundred vote lead over Grisanti.

The Conservative Candidate, Timothy Gallagher, captured eight percent of the vote.

“Once you’ve got a certain percentage of numbers, with dispersion over the district, they don’t deviate much from that. There are 2,900 absentees out there and they’ll break the way the normal votes broke,” Panepinto said.

Panepinto said he’s already working with Grisanti to ensure a smooth transition. When asked what he thought the key to his somewhat surprising win was, Panepinto said he worked harder in the weekend of the campaign than one of his opponents did.

“I saw a voter that day on a street in Kenmore, and then he said to me, ‘I just saw Kevin Stocker at L.A. Fitness. He was working out at the gym. Why are you going door to door?’ I said I’m not leaving anything to chance. We’re working right up until 8:55 pm on Tuesday. So I knew that the different way that we ran our campaigns would become apparent. We worked to the end and Kevin was at the gym,” Panepinto added

We reached out to Stocker for comment. So far we haven’t heard back.

Cuomo’s Fusion Success

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo won his re-election with support from four different ballot lines, all of which cleared the 50,000-vote threshold to automatically pop up again this election cycle.

Cuomo held the Democratic, Working Families, Independence and Women’s Equality Party lines, which combined to give him about 1.9 million votes on Tuesday.

The success on the multiple ballot lines comes more than a year after Cuomo proposed an overhaul of New York’s fusion balloting system.

In the wake of Democratic Sen. Malcolm Smith’s arrest for seeking to bribe his way on to the New York City mayoral ballot as a Republican, Cuomo proposed a repeal of the Wilson-Pakula law of 1947.

The waiver allows members of one party to run as a candidate on another ballot line. Nevertheless, Cuomo did not propose ending fusion balloting.

Cuomo’s bill language at the time would have replaced Wilson-Pakula with a petitioning process.

The Working Families Party was up in arms over the proposal, suggesting in an email to supporters a wealthy candidate could “hijack” the ballot line through the petitioning process.

This year, Cuomo worked within the framework of reality: He received a Wilson-Pakula waiver to run on the Independence Party line, a controversial ballot line that critics believe is more about patronage and meant to confuse voters (notably, Cuomo in the spring wouldn’t say whether he’d take the party’s line, only to agree to taking it before the fact).

Currently, the WFP is blasting Cuomo for the creation of the Women’s Equality Party, which its director, Bill Lipton, called a “fake party.”

The WFP is upset the WEP likely helped siphon votes away from its ballot line, causing it to lose its spot at Row D on the ballot.

Election Day Winners

From the Morning Memo:

- Gov. Andrew Cuomo

It may not have been the landslide he was hoping for, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo enjoyed a relatively early night.

As expected, Cuomo was re-elected to a second term, along side his fellow statewide Democrats, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Cuomo received about 54 percent of the vote compared to Republican Rob Astorino’s 40 percent — a somewhat better showing than what was expected for the Westchester County executive.

Still, Cuomo won.

He won despite discontent from liberals, angered over his economic policies they say favor the rich at the expense of the poor.

He won despite alienating the labor-backed Working Families Party with his newly formed Women’s Equality Party, seen as a rival to preserving the WFP’s ballot space.

He won despite having a cool relationship with powerful public employee and teachers unions, which chose to not endorse him or, in some cases, back his primary challenger.

He won despite a Republican wave in state Senate, in Congressional districts in the suburbs and upstate as well as across the country.

He won despite upstate anger over his gun control law that has become a rallying cry for Second Amendment advocates.

He won despite a reputation for being something of a bully with everyone he comes into contact with, for using an anti-corruption commission to exact leverage over the state Legislature and a federal investigation over that involvement.

So, how did he do it?

Cuomo was able to effectively use the resources of the governor’s office that are at his disposal — being able to command an outsized amount of attention through travel, state largesse — and combine it with an effective campaign finance operation.

The result was a steady stream of paid and earned media that simply swamped the underfunded Astorino both over the airwaves, at the mailbox, and finally, at the ballot box.

For Cuomo, the victory tonight amid the shambles of the Democratic Party will likely be turned into validation of his governing philosophy: Left on social issues, a moderate-to-conservative approach on budgeting.

Cuomo believes most New Yorkers — at least 54 percent — are with him

With Republicans now fully in charge of the state Senate next year, Cuomo will be able to put that to the test yet again. Whether he can see his social measures approved — most notably a provision aimed at strengthening abortion rights — will be tested.

- Senate GOP

At the outset, things looked mighty bleak for Senate Republicans.

After all, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had finally come around to backing a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate.

Labor groups, which had traditionally hedged their bets in election cycles, appeared to be in full tilt favor of a full Democratic takeover.

But then things changed or, weirdly enough, stayed the same.

The rift between Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein and Democrats in the mainline conference never quite healed. As Klein relayed on Monday, mainline conference lawmakers continued to help primary challengers to the IDC, including Oliver Koppell, who unsuccessfully challenged Klein (The IDC also sent some money toward Betty Jean Grant, who was running a primary challenge against Sen. Tim Kennedy in Buffalo).

Republicans also recruited well, finding popular and well-known candidates to either hold or flip state Senate seats.

When Sen. George Maziarz announced he was running for re-election, Republicans turned to Rob Ortt, whose candidacy provided little drama. The same with Islip town Supervisor Tom Croci, who held the district vacated by now Rep.-elect Lee Zeldin.

Republicans also had some obvious pick up opportunities upstate, where Democratic freshman Ted O’Brien, Cecilia Tkaczyk and Terry Gipson all went down in defeat last night.

The Senate GOP caught some breaks, too.

David Denenberg, who at one point was touted as a possible pickup opportunity for Democrats in the seat vacated last year by Republican Chuck Fuschillo on Long Island, was accused of fraud in a civil lawsuit brought by his law firm.

The result is a majority without Klein’s IDC. The Senate remains the last vestige of Republican power in deep blue New York. They live to fight for another cycle.

- Landlords and charter schools

Republicans also learned from Democrats in 2012.

That year, Senate Democratic candidates benefitted from well-run and wellf-unded independent expenditure campaigns from public financing advocates and the United Federation of Teachers.

The teachers union and Friends of Democracy was still around this year, but Republican backers brought firepower to the legislative races as well.

Supporters of charter schools, as well as wealthy New York City landlords, poured millions of dollars into the legislative campaigns.

Groups with names like Jobs For New York (backed by the Real Estate Board of New York) and New Yorkers For a Balanced Albany (backed by Paul Singer and StudentsFirstNY) dropped mail, TV ads and radio spots on Senate districts — ushering in a new age in which the independent expenditure committee on the state level is increasingly becoming a important and viable player in legislative races.

The spending comes as lawmakers next year decide a litany of major issues ranging from New York City mayoral control of schools to rent control regulations, both of which are due to expire.

- Western New York

The rest of the state’s political class is starting to catch on to just how fun — and weird — western New York politics can be.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recognized early on the importance of western New York, region of the state that doesn’t even really consider itself part of “upstate” New York necessarily.

Cuomo early on lavished attention on the area, seeking to invest state resources in private industry and becoming a backer of keeping the Buffalo Bills in western New York.

He picked former Rep. Kathy Hochul as his running mate in order to shore up ties there.

While Cuomo did not win all of the western New York counties he lost to Carl Paladino in 2010, he did pick up Erie County, winning 52 percent of the vote.

- Easy Being Green

The Green Party may have had the most successful night of all.

Gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins marshaled liberal angst over Cuomo to win 173,510 votes, good enough for 5 percent of the total — a record total for the party.

The count, once verified, means the Green Party will likely move up some slots on the ballot to Row D, displacing the Working Families Party.

Hawkins did it through an effective campaign operation. He even has a former WFPer, Ursula Rozum, running his campaign.

For a party that only four years ago had to struggle to gain ballot access for the next election cycle, the Green Party has achieved a new level of permanency in state politics.

- The Indictment Crowd

What federal corruption charges?

Rather than receiving their walking papers, three lawmakers under indictment won their re-elections.

Sens. John Sampson of Brooklyn and Tom Libous of Binghamton both won re-election despite their looming legal troubles.

On Staten Island, Rep. Michael Grimm easily defeating his opponent, Democrat Domenic Recchia.

The factors for why these three still have jobs are varied. And it should be noted that Sampson, Libous and Grimm all face vastly different legal cases being brought by the federal government.

But in the end, popularity and tenure trumped anything a federal prosecutor could charge these officials with, at least in the minds of voters.

Election Day Losers

From the Morning Memo:

- Senate Democrats.

This is an obvious one.

Though they talked a good game, the Democrats had a number of difficulties this election cycle – from a cash disadvantage to Cuomo’s obvious reluctance to make good on his pledge to help them re-take the majority.

Also a problem: The Republicans, generally speaking, fielded stronger candidates. Why the Democrats decided to run not one, but two challengers with election fraud convictions is anyone’s guess.

Of course, one of those two – Marc Panepinto – ended up being the lone bright spot of the night for the Democrats, winning the four-way 60th SD race in Buffalo.

Now it appears IDC Leader Jeff Klein is also hedging on his pre-election pledge to ditch his GOP power-sharing partners to form a new coalition with his erstwhile Democratic colleagues.

If the IDC doesn’t re-up their deal with the GOP it could be difficult for the Republicans to lead with such a slim margin in the chamber. Though it has been done before, and they are considerably more disciplined than their Democratic colleagues.

The Democrats and their allies are already looking ahead to 2016, when a presidential election will no doubt boost turnout to their advantage and perhaps put the majority in their hands once again.

It will be a long and potentially uncomfortable two years in the minority until then, however.

- NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and the “progressive” agenda.

The downstate mayor went all in to assist the Democrats in what we now know was a failed effort to re-take the Senate majority, believing that a change in leadership would give him a better shot at getting his progressive agenda passed in Albany.

Now, of course, de Blasio is going to have to contend with a GOP majority that used him as a foil in its upstate races, running ads that warned voters against restoring the NYC-dominated Democrats and their radical liberal friends to power.

Two big fights loom this year in Albany that concern de Blasio considerably: Mayoral control of the NYC school system and the NYC rent laws, both of which are set to expire in June.

Charter school interests that was to see de Blasio’s power over the school system weakened and real estate interests that want to see the status quo maintained in the rent laws spent big money to help the Senate Republicans and Cuomo in this election cycle.

The Senate GOP’s victory last night, coupled with de Blasio’s rocky relationship with the governor do not bode well for the mayor in the 2015 legislative session.

Things don’t look so good either for de Blasio’s left leaning allies – particularly the Working Families Party, though the labor-backed party did thwart Cuomo’s attempt to kill it by creating the Women’s Equality Party.

In his victory speech last night, Cuomo hit the high points of a progressive agenda – the DREAM Act, another minimum wage increase, public campaign financing, education reform, the Women’s Equality Act.

But none of those things – particularly not public financing and the full WEA (with the controversial abortion-rights plank) – are likely to fly with the Republicans in control of the Senate, giving Cuomo cover if he fails to deliver on his promises.

The lack of movement on progressive issues will no doubt give the left plenty of fodder for 2016. But again, that’s a long way off.

- Women and the pro-choice movement.

Women’s rights – particularly choice – were front and center in this election cycle, with both Cuomo and the Senate Democrats making them a hallmark of their respective campaigns.

The abortion rights issue also played a role in the state attorney general’s race, where Democratic incumbent Eric Schneiderman handily defeated his anti-choice Republican opponent, John Cahill.

But as long as the Republicans maintain control of the Senate majority, the likelihood of the governor’s full 10-point Women’s Equality Act making it to the floor for a vote is next to nil.

And though Cuomo appears to have succeeding in creating his Women’s Equality Party, his effort divided progressive women voters, many of whom didn’t see the need for a single issue party founded by a man.

The WEP’s achievement of ballot status is a political win for Cuomo, and also for former NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has become the face of the new party and used it as her ticket back onto the public stage after she lost the 2013 NYC mayor’s race to de Blasio.

But all last night’s results really achieved is an assurance that the controversial and divisive issue of abortion rights sticks around for another two years, and likely becomes an issue in the 2016 fight for control of the Senate.

- NYSUT and other pro-Senate Democrat labor unions.

The statewide teachers union spent big money to assist the Democrats in their quest for power in the Senate, angering many people – including some Democrats – with its controversial mailer that featured a photo of a battered woman and the claim that Republicans wouldn’t protect domestic violence victims.

NYSUT did see one big win, thanks to Panepinto’s victory in the 60th SD. The union invested heavily in that race, even spending prior to the GOP primary in an (apparently successful) attempt to portray the Republican incumbent, Grisanti, as too liberal.

But generally speaking, NYSUT and the other unions that put their money into the Democrats’ failed effort to win the majority, came up short.

Needless to say, they’re not terribly happy with Cuomo, who they think failed to follow through on his WFP endorsement deal that included a pledge to help his fellow Democrats in their quest to win back the Senate.

But, in the case of NYSUT, the union and Cuomo already weren’t on the best of terms, leading the teachers to take a pass on endorsing him (or anyone else) in the governor’s race for the second election cycle in a row.

Cuomo’s pre-election comments that he plans to break what he views as the state’s “public monopoly” by pushing for even stronger teacher performance evaluations and continuing to champion charter schools did not bode well for NYSUT over the next four years.

It probably didn’t help matters that a number of local teachers unions backed Cuomo’s primary opponent, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout, and then transferred their support to Hawkins after Teachout lost in September.

NYSUT and other unions did see two bright spots last night in the big re-election wins of the other two statewide Democratic contenders – Schneiderman and DiNapoli. Labor will no doubt continue to try to strengthen their relationships with the AG and state comptroller as they battle with the governor.

- NY-25 Rep. Lousie Slaughter.

We went into last night knowing that there would be at least one surprise, but this one really came out of left field.

Slaughter, an 85-year-old, 14-term Democrat, survived a tough challenge two years ago from Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks in a re-drawn district that supposedly improved the GOP’s chances of ousting her.

After Slaughter survived that knock-down, drag-out race, insiders believed she would cruise to an easy victory this year over her little-known and under-funded GOP challenger, Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini.

Boy, were they wrong.

Now just 605 votes separate Slaughter and Assini, with some 2,800 absentee votes yet to be counted. The congresswoman declared victory last night, insisting that she’s confidence the paper will fall her way. But Assini refused to concede.

There were supposed to be tight House and state Senate races that went into overtime last night, but this wasn’t one of them.

And other than NY-18, where Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has declared victory though his Republican opponent, former Rep. Nan Hayworth is refusing to concede, the NY-25 battle was really the only significant cliffhanger.