2014

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.

Moss Knocks Tweet From Cuomo Supporter

Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Chris Moss this afternoon criticized a Tweet from a supporter of Gov. Andrew Cuomo as racist.

A tweet from Westchester attorney Andrew Barovick, the chairman of the New York City Bar Association Committee on Medical Malpractice, Monday evening read “In light of election loss, .@SheriffMoss mulling offers to be new spokesmodel for either Cream of Wheat, or Uncle Ben’s Rice.”

The tweet has since been deleted, but not before Moss and allies of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino pounced.
Barovick apologized on Twitter this afternoon.

“What I tweeted earlier about .@SherrifMoss was dumb & insensitive, and I apologize for it,” he said.

Moss, the first African-American Republican to run statewide on the GOP ballot line, called the comment “eyebrow-raising in the extreme.”

“For weeks I have watched the tone of Andrew Cuomo’s rhetoric become increasingly disturbing, particularly as it relates to race relations here in New York. His failed attempts to gin up racial disharmony among the electorate have been nothing short of appalling,” Moss said in a statement. “Now, I find myself under attack as a statewide African-American candidate from one of Mr. Cuomo’s key cheerleaders in Westchester County, Andrew Barovick, who has fired off a blatant racist smear about me via Twitter.”

The push back from the Astorino campaign comes after Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin suggested there would be low-turnout in New York City because of voter laziness.

The Cuomo campaign seized on those comments, with the governor on Monday calling on Astorino and state GOP Chairman Ed Cox to apologize. Cuomo at a rally on Monday called the “lazy” comment “coded language.”

Updated: Matt Wing, a spokesman for the Cuomo campaign, called the comments “abhorrent” and said Barovick isn’t associated with the campaign.

All Over But the Voting

From the Morning Memo:

As we gear up for the political junkie’s Super Bowl that is election night, there’s a long list of things we’ll be watching.

Of course, there’s the battle for control of the state Senate – a fight that very well could hinge on a handful of upstate races, some of which are so close that they might go into overtime, and perhaps could end up in court.

And there’s the question of the IDC. Will the conference manage to grow its membership – perhaps thanks to its support of GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti in Buffalo?

And will the results of the elections enable IDC Leader Jeff Klein to back out of his pledge to ditch his power-sharing deal with the Senate Republicans to forge a new alliance with the so-called “regular” Democrats?

He’s already hedging.

Also, we’ll be keeping an eye on the competitive House races taking place across the state.

Despite the fact that Democrats hold a considerable enrollment edge in New York, Republicans appear poised to end up with nine – and possibly 10 seats after the election dust settles.

Here are some of the other things we’ll be looking out for this evening:

- Cuomo’s Margin

Yes, the incumbent Democratic governor is likely going to win a second four-year term, but by how much?

Will unhappiness on his left flank coupled with enthusiasm on the GOP side translate into a better than expected result for Republican Rob Astorino?

Anything above 40 percent will be considered a good showing for the Westchester County executive, while anything in the 50 percent department is going to be viewed as a significant setback for the governor.

Once upon a time, Cuomo, who won 63 percent of the vote against Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino in 2010, was hoping to best his father’s more than 64 percent win in his first gubernatorial run in 1986.

Now, however, the governor and his allies, aides and surrogates are managing expectations, saying a win is a win, no matter how small.

Former GOP Gov. George Pataki (the last Republican to win statewide office) won re-election to a third term in 2002 with 48 percent of the vote.

The high water mark for a gubernatorial candidate was set in 2006 by Democrat Eliot Spitzer, who won 70 percent of the valid votes cast that year.

In 2012, US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand set a statewide record with her 72 percent win against her Republican opponent, Wendy Long.

- Whither Western NY?

Will all Cuomo’s Buffalove over the past four years – plus his selection of former Rep. Kathy Hochul as his running mate – pay off, leading to a win in the WNY region he lost to Paladino four years ago?

If Cuomo puts in a strong showing this time around, it will be bad news for Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, who saw his clout in the party rise, thanks to Paladino’s strong showing in the last election.

Also, what impact – if any – will all the attention Cuomo has lavished on Buffalo have on the four-way 60th SD race, where Grisanti is fighting for his political life on the Independence Party line after losing the Republican primary to attorney Kevin Stocker in September.

Cuomo said just yesterday that he won’t be picking a favorite in this race – a blow to the Senate Democrats and their candidate, Marc Panepinto.

The governor said he owes a political debt to Grisanti for voting “yes” on same-sex marriage, while he’s disappointed that Panepinto doesn’t support the SAFE Act.

- WFP vs. WEA?

The Working Families Party has been working overtime to convince its supporters to hold their noses and vote for Cuomo on Row D, even though he has pretty much renegged on the endorsement deal he made with the labor-backed party back in May.

As you’ll recall, Cuomo promised to help flip the Senate into Democratic hands, and he hasn’t exactly bent over backwards this campaign season to achieve that goal.

Also, the governor has not mentioned a word about running on the WFP line. Instead, he’s urging voters to support him on Row G – his newly-created Women’s Equality Party line, which, of course, is just one letter away from “WFP.”

The WFP needs Cuomo to get at least 50,000 votes on its line in order to maintain its official party status for another four years.

Most observers expect the party will easily meet this threshold, but other minor parties – like the Greens – could very well surpass it in terms of overall votes, which would mean the WFP would lose its hard-won position on Row D.

Also, will the WEA get the 50,000 votes necessary to become an official party for the next four years – potentially providing its chief champion, former NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, with a comeback vehicle after losing the NYC mayor’s race to Bill de Blasio?

Stay tuned.

- Greens Ascending?

The Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins ran in 2010, landing the party official ballot status by surpassing the 50,000-vote threshold.

This time around – thanks to a disaffected left that is looking for an alternative to Cuomo and backed his primary opponent, Fordham Law School Prof. Zephyr Teachout, in September – Hawkins is performing surprisingly well, and perhaps could even break double digits when all the votes are counted.

The Greens are looking to solidify their position as the true progressive alternative in New York – a mantle they say the WFP can’t honestly claim when it cross endorses major party candidates like Cuomo.

- Surrogate Power

De Blasio has put a lot on the line in this year’s elections, even though his name isn’t appearing anywhere on the ballot.

Unlike the governor, the NYC mayor has been all in when it comes to helping the Democrats in their quest to win back the state Senate majority. He raised campaign cash and loaned his top aides to the cause.

De Blasio’s involvement provided fodder to the Senate Republicans, who used him as a liberal boogeyman in TV ads and mailers, warning voters against empowering the mayor and his “radical” downstate agenda.

With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, and some observers predicting the GOP could well take the majority outright, the mayor is already managing expectations.

De Blasio said yesterday that 2014 is merely “step one” in the Democrats’ drive to re-take the Senate, and the real action is going to take place in 2016 – a presidential year that will drive up Democratic turnout.

Another top name with skin in the game tonight: Pataki, who spent much of yesterday stumping with his former top aide and state AG contender, John Cahill.

Pataki, who also endorsed a number of state Senate and congressional contenders, has been making noises lately about another potential presidential bid in 2016.

He even traveled to New Hampshire recently to give a speech and stump for candidates there.

It remains to be seen whether the former governor’s name still carries clout in his home state.

- Night of the Living Indicteds

Despite his 20-count indictment, GOP Rep. Michael Grimm appears likely to win re-election in NY-11 tonight against his hapless Democratic opponent, former NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia.

Grimm may very well be convicted on felony charges, which would force him to give up his seat and spark a special election in the Staten Island/Brooklyn district.

Two other lawmakers battling legal charges are also on the ballot today – Democratic Sen. John Sampson (embezzlement), of Brooklyn; and GOP Sen. Tom Libous, of Binghamton.

Both appear likely to win their respective re-election bids, though they, too, may be forced to give up their seats before serving out a full two-year term.

- Battle for the ‘burbs/SAFE Act discontent

Will Astorino be able to carry his home county of Westchester, which also just so happens to be home to Cuomo and his long-time girlfriend, Sandra Lee?

Astorino’s performance in the suburbs, which have become a swing region in New York, will be closely scrutinized in this election. Republicans are counting on his ability to boost turnout and perhaps positively impact some of their close Senate races in the Hudson Valley.

The still roiling anger over Cuomo’s push of the gun control law the SAFE Act through the Legislature could well translate into support upstate for Astorino, though sportsmen and gun enthusiasts have not been known to vote in big numbers in the past.

- DiNapoli’s Dominance

Four years ago, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was viewed as the weakest link in the statewide Democratic ticket. He managed to hold off his self-funding GOP challenger, hedge fund manager Harry Wilson, but just by a few percentage points.

This time around, DiNapoli is cruising to an easy win against his little-known and under-funded challenger, Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci, who didn’t even manage to qualify as the state’s lone participant in a public campaign finance pilot program.

Will DiNapoli see the biggest margin of victory tonight? And how ironic will that be, given his rather rocky relationship with Cuomo?

- Prop Drop-off

Voters may not be aware of the fact that they are being asked to weigh in on three constitutional amendments this year.

These appear on the back side of the ballot, requiring voters to actually flip it over – and dramatically raising already high possibility that many will simply skip this step altogether.

Prop. 1 – the redistricting amendment – is probably the most closely watched of the three. It divided good government groups, and was hotly debated within certain circles over the past several months.

Though Cuomo did the deal with legislative leaders that resulted in this amendment, and purported to support it, he hasn’t done much to encourage voters to back it.

Cuomo has talked a bit more about Pro. 3, the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act, which would allow the state to borrow money to purchase technology for students across New York.

Though a panel appointed by Cuomo recently released a report on how the $2 billion would be spent, opponents say the plan still lacks details.

They also question the intelligence of borrowing so much money to pay for technology that will become obsolete quite quickly.

Prop. 2, which would make the Legislature “paperless” has generated the least amount of controversy and won near unanimous support from state lawmakers.

This is the brainchild of Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, who says it will ultimately save the state millions of dollars in paper and printing costs.

For a good cheat sheet on the three propositions – what they say, and who’s for and against them – click here.

Cuomo, Astorino Make Their Closing Arguments

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his closing argument to Democrats on Monday, urging them to re-elect him to a second term on Tuesday citing the successes of the last four years.

“We have fundamentally changed the state governor and the trajectory of the state,” Cuomo told supporters at a rally in Albany. “We took it from gridlock and bankruptcy to a $ billion surplus. We passed four budgets on time in a row, the Legislature’s functioning, we’re getting thigns done.”

Cuomo is heavily favored to win a second term over his Republican rival, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Nevertheless, Cuomo rallied Demcorats in New York City, Albany and Buffalo and attacked his GOP opponents.

“They want to turn back the clock forty years and make a woman’s right to choose illegal and that is not what we believe in the state of New York and that is not what we are going to allow to happen,” Cuomo said.

And Cuomo attacked Astorino supporter Steve McLaughlin, a Republican assemblyman, for suggesting New York City voters won’t come out to vote due to laziness. Cuomo, today, suggested such phrasing was racially motivated.

“I called on our opponents and the chairman of the Republican Party to apologize for that kind of divisive, coded language,” Cuomo said. “They won’t apologize.”

For his part, Astorino released a web video making his closing argument, criticized Cuomo’s handling of the economy.

“When our 0.7 percent economic growth lags the rest of the nation and our economic outlook is ranked worst in the nation, we have a problem,” Astorino said in the video.

Astorino asked voters for four years to revamp the state’s economy.

“Companies want to do business in New York, but they can’t today because the nation’s highest taxes and the nation’s worst regulatory burden has forced them to go elsewhere. Give me four years and I’ll start brining them back,” he said.

But throughout the campaign, Cuomo has counted his own economic successes as the state recovers from the recession. At the same time, Cuomo believes voters Tuesday will be motivated by other issues, like hydrofracking and opposition to Common Core.

“I think that’s what it’s going to be about,” Cuomo said. “More than coattails or personalities, I think it’s about those issues.”

Cuomo reiterated his support for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate, but declined to endorse a Democrat running in a competitive Buffalo Senate race, Marc Pannepinto, citing his opposition to the SAFE Act. Cuomo says he wants Democrats in charge of the Senate to approve public finanicng, the Dream Act and strengthen abortion rights.

“That’s why the Senate is crucially important on all three of those issues,” he said.

NYSUT Spends More Than $500K On Assembly, Senate Mail

In a final burst of campaign spending, the New York State United Teachers union over the weekend shelled $575,272 on mailers for Democratic candidates since Friday.

But instead of just backing Senate Democratic’s as the union’s VOTE-COPE independent expenditure committee has done so far, NYSUT is also spending money in a handful of state Assembly races as well, filings with the state Board of Elections show.

The union spent $43,531 on mail backing Assemblyman Didi Barrett, $10,594 for Assemblyman Frank Skartados, $39,075 for Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and $43,953 for candidate Carrie Woener, among others.

Still, NYSUT isn’t taking its focus off the Senate races, where polls show Democratic incumbents running in key upstate districts are behind their Republican challengers.

NYSUT spent a combined $31,300 on mail backing Democratic Sen. Terry Gipson in the Hudson Valley and criticizing his Republican foe, Sue Serino.

Also in the Hudson Valley, NYSUT is remaining active in the race between Democratic Justin Wagner and Republican Terrence Murphy, spending $33,632 on mailers.

The union is also spending $59,219 on mail in support of Buffalo Democrat Marc Panepinto, and an additional $19,445 opposing incumbent Mark Grisanti.

On Long Island, a race that appeared to have been out of the reach of Democrats is still gaining some NYSUT support.

The union spent $29,669 on mail opposing Republican Tom Croci and an additional $16,669 backing Democrat Adrienne Esposito. The two candidates are vying for an open Suffolk County seat being vacated by Republican Lee Zeldin, who is running for Congress.