Cuomo Coy On Legislative Pay Raise

With the commission charged with considering a potential raise for state lawmakers and Cuomo administration officials poised to holds its final public meeting tomorrow before rendering a recommendation on the issue in November, the governor today declined to take a position on whether he believes a pay hike is warranted.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the commission,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said following an event at which he announced a $63 million transformation plan ($40 million of which will come from the state) for the Greater Rochester International Airport.

“We put together a commission to explore just that question; and we want the opinion of the public,” the governor continued. “I do believe that the commission’s point is right, they need to hear from everyone – including the legislators – as to what their position is and do they believe they deserve a raise and why.”

“And that’s what the commission is going through. Once the commission finishes, they will submit their findings, their opinion, their record. And then I’ll have an opinion that I’ll state. informed by the commission. But the purpose of the commission is to advise me on that question.”

When asked what he might do if a proposal for a 47 percent pay boost – which has been floated during the commission’s deliberations – reached his desk, raising the yearly compensation of New York lawmakers from $79,500 to $116,900 and making them the highest paid legislators in the nation, despite the public corruption scandals that have consumed Albany, Cuomo replied:

“That is an opinion that they’re considering. They’re considering options from zero – right – to forty seven. So there’s a big gap. I don’t want to do an if but let the commission do their work and then I will have a very clear opinion. But I want to be informed by them. They’ve done a lot of hard work. They’ve been all across the state. So let them finish their job. Let them do their report, and then we’ll take it from there.”

The panel was created without any fanfare during this year’s budget negotiations. Its recommendations are due by Nov. 15 and would automatically become law unless legislators vote to reject them. The raises would take effect on Jan. 1, 2017. Critics – and a number of lawmakers – have said that raises should not be awarded absent passage of reforms like banning outside income or at least significantly limiting it, which is something the governor, who received a hefty payment for authoring a poorly-selling book, has proposed.

Three panel members were appointed by the governor, one by the chief judge of the Court of Appeals and one each by the Senate and Assembly.

The Legislature last received a raise in 1999, when lawmakers cut a deal with then-Gov. George Pataki that enabled creation of the state’s first charter schools and also required them to forgo their paychecks – temporarily – in the event of a late state budget, though that didn’t immediately end the state’s chronically delayed spending plans.

Lawmakers previously agreed to create a judicial compensation commission, decoupling their salaries from those of the state’s judges. That commission recommended a $29,100 pay raise for New York jurists.

Three Votes Separate Republican Primary Candidates In AD-138

State Assembly candidate Bob Zinck just completed a comeback that would make Joe Montana proud. After last week’s Republican primary for New York’s 138th Assembly seat, Zinck, the endorsed candidate, was initially down 19 votes to Army veteran Peter Vazquez.

After the Board of Elections counted the initial wave of absentee ballots, the deficit shrunk to just six votes. Tuesday, the BOE added in the final 22 absentee ballots that were turned in at the deadline.

Zinck received 15 votes to Vazquez’s six and won by three. There was one write-in vote.

“I am honored by the support and this goes to show that every vote does count,” Zinck said.

Vazquez told TWC News Rochester reporter Breanna Fuss he felt confident as the process unfolded and was surprised by the result. He said he heard there may have been “foul play” and is reviewing his options.

“We were ahead  by a few the entire race. Again if the reliable anonymous source that we got didn’t call me concerned with what was going on, I would probably say, we also know the reach that (Monroe County Republican Committee Chairman) Bill Reilich has into the county, you know, that there wouldn’t be any kind of foul play. That’s neither here nor there at this point and we’ll explore those options,” Vazquez said.

The count began a little after 2 p.m. and all the absentee and affidavit ballots were counted from across Monroe county. In total there were 289 absentee ballots and 81 affidavit ballots.

Incumbent assemblyman Harry Bronson is the Democratic candidate this November.

Tight GOP Assembly Primary Comes Down To Paper

We should have an answer soon about who will represent the Republican Party in the 138th Assembly District race. Monroe County GOP Chair Bill Reilich said the Board Of Elections will count the remaining 21 ballots cast in last week’s primary today.

After the votes were tallied last Tuesday, the party’s endorsed candidate, Bob Zinck, was unofficially down 19 votes to challenger Peter Vazquez. Reilich said after the initial wave of 93 absentee ballots were counted, Zinck’s deficit had dwindled to six.

“It is a toss up,” he said. “It normally breaks as the results are, but with a six vote swing, it could go either way.”

Reilich said the remaining ballots are absentees that were mailed near the deadline as well as affidavit ballots. He did not rule out the possibility of either side taking the issue to court.

“It’s closer than I would have liked, that’s for sure, but it’s not over until it’s over,” Zinck told TWC News Rochester reporter Tara Grimes last week.

Meanwhile, Vazquez remained upbeat about his chances and pleased with his performance overall, telling Grimes: “Our platform has been put together with all the ideas and concerns that I’ve heard from the citizen’s from the 138th so I’m pretty confident, I’m very happy.”

The winner would face incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Harry Bronson, who won a primary of his own last Tuesday against former TV reporter Rachel Barnhart. I asked Reilich what he thought of the GOP’s chances at taking the seat altogether in November.

“Let’s get past this first,’ he said. “Depends who comes out of this.”

McGuire Bows Out of 133rd AD Race

Conservative and GOP leaders scrambling to replace the late Assemblyman Bill Nojay’s name on the general election ballot after he won the Republican primary just days after committing suicide ended up tapping different candidates, setting up a potentially disastrous vote-splitting situation in November.

But today, the Conservative Party’s pick, the Rev. Jason McGuire, a vocal pro-life/pro-family advocate and executive director of the New Yorkers Family Research Foundation and its affiliate, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, issued a statement announcing that after meeting with the Republican contender, former Assemblyman Joe Errigo, after funeral services held for Nojay in Rochester, he is no longer interested in running.

“If I were to remain on the ballot, it greatly increases the likelihood that a candidate who does not represent the values of either the Conservative or Republican Parties would be elected,” McGuire said.

“It would also mean that an inter-party squabble would be handing this seat to a candidate whose residency and roots are not in Livingston County. New York is a difficult enough blue state without missing easy layups in key election years.”

“For these reasons, I have notified state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long that I am asking that my name be withdrawn from consideration for the 133rd Assembly District. I am asking that in my stead the state Conservative Party support Assemblyman Joe Errigo’s bid for state Assembly. I am grateful for the confidence that so many have placed in my brief candidacy, but for now this is in the best interests of the constituents of the 133rd Assembly District.”

Nojay “defeated” Honeoye Falls Mayor Rick Milne in the GOP primary this past Tuesday by 16 percentage points, according to the unofficial results. Milne subsequently told party leaders charged with selecting a replacement candidate that he did not want to be considered.

Nojay had also been endorsed by the Reform and Independence parties, which also now must seek a replacement candidate, and it would not be at all surprising at this point if they, too, went with Errigo. The Democrats are running Barbara Baer.

McGuire Talks Conservative Party Run For Assembly

Jason McGuire, the Conservative Party candidate for the Assembly seat formerly held by the late Bill Nojay, acknowledged in an interview Thursday there is a concern the small “c” conservative vote could be split in the November general election.

“Frankly I was in this race before Joe Errigo was in this race,” he said. We needed a candidate, was asked if I would serve and was nominated and accepted.”

Still, McGuire in a phone interview said he expects the race is winnable either for him or the Republican picked to replace Nojay on the ballot, former Assemblyman Joe Errigo.

“I think we both have a concern the ticket isn’t unified in this race,” he said. “At this point, I’d say this race is winnable in either way.”

McGuire is the executive director of New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms, a socially conservative advocacy organization that lobbies state lawmakers.

McGuire declined to directly criticize Errigo, who in 2010 endorsed Democrat Andrew Cuomo for governor, though he did indicate he had hoped Republican chairs in the Assembly district picked a different candidate.

McGuire was a supporter of Nojay, a two-term incumbent who took his own life on Friday.

Despite his death, Republican voters at the urging of GOP leaders backed his primary bid on Tuesday, giving local chairmen in the area the power to pick his replacement on the ballot.

McGuire noted he did not dispute the selection process itself and had opposed Nojay’s primary opponent, Rick Milne.

“I just wish we had more communication prior to the Conservative meeting yesterday,” he said. “There are some vulnerabilities and strengths with him, just like there are some vulnerabilities and strengths with me.”

McGuire said he and Errigo plan to sit down to have coffee on Friday to discuss the race.

Fighting For Children PAC Points To Primary Success

From the Morning Memo:

Nine of the state legislative candidates backed by the political action committee formed to push for the passage of the Child Victims Act in the Legislature won their primaries on Tuesday.

That includes six Democrats running in state Senate races, several of whom are running for key swing districts this fall, including Alison Boak, Chris Eachus and Amber Small.

At the same time, the Fighting For Children PAC was able to secure a victory in the 31st Senate district, where it had backed Marisol Alcantara for the seat Adriano Espaillat is giving up to run for Congress.

And the PAC supported Carmen De La Rosa in her successful bid to unseat Assemblyman Guillermo Linares.

All told, the PAC spent a combined $41,800 on candidates running in state primary races.

The PAC is aimed at electing candidates for state office who support the Child Victims Act. The bill, which failed to pass this legislative session, would make it easier for the survivors of child abuse to file lawsuits.

The PAC was founded by Greene County businessman Gary Greenberg, who is himself a child abuse survivor.

“We are proud to endorse primary candidates committed to reforming the state’s statute of limitations for child sex abuse to better protect the children of New York,” Greenberg said. “We’re even more proud that most of our endorsed candidates won. This proves that New Yorkers want to protect kids, not their abusers.”

WFP Touts Primary Wins

Lots of people and organizations are claiming victory this morning after seeing the results from yesterday’s (extremely low turnout) primaries, and that includes the Working Families Party, which informed supporters (and reporters) in a late night email that its candidates had won a “clean sweep” of the party’s “priority” contests.

According to the email, the WFP is particularly pleased that its candidates fended off challenges from the “billionaire-funded ‘New Yorkers for Independent Action’ SuperPAC seeking to privatize public schools,” adding:

“Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblymembers Latrice Walker and Pamela Harris in NYC and Assemblymember Phil Ramos on Long Island all won victories despite a massive, million-dollar independent expenditure from the SuperPAC in these races.”

Other incumbent Senate Democrats supported by the WFP who beat back challengers included James Sanders and Toby Ann Stavisky, both of whom represent districts in Queens.

The party also touted wins by its endorsed candidates running for open Assembly seats, including: lawyer and play producer Robert Carroll, who won the Park Slope seat being vacated by retiring Assemblyman Jim Brennan; and community board chair and coffee shop founder Tremaine Wright (NYC), who landed the Bed-Stuy seat currently represented by retiring Assemblywoman Annette Robinson; Anthony Eramo (Long Island), who was victorious in the fight for now-Sen. Toddd Kaminsky’s former seat in the lower house; Monica Wallace (Buffalo), who won the primary for the seat Republican Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak is giving up due to a sexual harassment scandal; and also Jamaal Bailey.

Bailey is a district leader and protégé of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. He won the fight for the Bronx/Westchester Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who departed to join the Cuomo administration earlier this year after losing a bid for Mount Vernon mayor in 2015.

The WFP did not pick a favorite in one of the biggest Senate primary brawls – a four-way race for the seat Sen. Adriano Espaillat is leaving after winning the June primary for retiring Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel’s seat.

Labor was divided in that race, which ended up being carried by Espaillat’s hand-picked successor, Marisol Alcantara, who was also backed by IDC Leader Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, and has indicated (though her spokeswoman, Lis Smith) that she will join the breakaway GOP-allied IDC conference after her all-but-certain general election win in November.

The party is most proud of the significant victory by Yuh-Line Niou, a 33-year-old Taiwan-born Assembly staffer who – as a WFP candidate – lost the April special election for the Lower Manhattan seat that used to belong to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Niou won a six-way primary in a field that included Silver’s special election successor, soon-to-be-former Assemblywoman Alice Cancel, (who finished fourth last night); and Paul Newell, a district leader and tenant advocate who unsuccessfully challenged Silver in a 2008 primary.

WFP State Director Bill Lipton credited Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom the party backed over hometown favorite Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, for energizing the progressive movement – an energy Lipton says continues and carried over into local races.

“Tonight’s results show that energy is only growing,” Lipton said. “WFP candidates swept our priority races tonight, fending off a million-dollar expenditure from billionaires seeking to privatize education and winning key open seat races that will shape the state Assembly for years to come. We congratulate all of tonight’s winners and look forward to working to send them to Albany and to winning a Democratic-Working Families majority in the state Senate in November.”

(Of course, the IDC – about to grow to six members strong – is probably going to have a lot more to say about who controls the chamber come January, but that’s a fight for another day).

The WFP took a gamble in backing Sanders and has lost the support of some of its big union backers (and their cash), whose officials groused that the party has become too ideological and dogmatic, leading to multiple fights with New York’s top Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But Cuomo has been making (another) leftward lean of late, championing key WFP issues like a $15-an-hour minimum wage and Paid Family Leave, leading party leaders to take some credit for their role in pushing the Democrats – not just in New York, but across the nation – to the left.

The WFP has a big political challenge on the horizon as the Democratic elected official who is arguably its closest ally (not to mention Cuomo’s biggest nemesis), NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, is up for re-election next year, and, given his weak poll numbers, is facing potential primary battles from one – if not more – of his fellow Democrats.

GOP Chairs In 133rd Assembly District Expect To Pick Nojay Replacement Tonight

The three Republican county chairman in New York’s 133rd Assembly district have 7 p.m. dinner reservations at Omega Restaurant in Geneseo. While they eat, they plan to chose a Republican candidate to represent the district in November’s general election.

“I hope by the time we get to dessert, we all agree,” Monroe County GOP Chairman Bill Reilich said. “If not, we’re going to have to order more food.”

Reilich said he expects to discuss at least eight candidates. He said he has some people in mind but doesn’t want to name any names.

“We are forced to pick only one, which means seven people are not going to be selected, and I wouldn’t want to put a black mark on anyone one of those people because it doesn’t mean they weren’t up to the task,” he said.

Incumbent Republican Bill Nojay took his own life last week, but voters still elected him over Honeoye Falls Mayor Rick Milne in Tuesday’s primary. Nojay lived in the town of Pittsford, but Reilich said his position as a radio talk show host gave him name recognition throughout the district, which also includes parts of Livingston and Steuben counties.

Reilich said, while he plans to put forth some names from Monroe County, keeping the candidate within his county is not the priority. Rather, he said he’s looking for someone who represents the same values Nojay did.

“That district has demonstrated in its voting pattern that it’s not only Republican but it has Conservative leanings, and that’s the kind of candidate were looking for tonight,” Reilich said.

A main focus, the chairman said, will be finding someone who supports Second Amendment rights and opposes the SAFE Act.

“That could be a deal-breaker,” he said.

One candidate not expected to be on the list is Monroe County Legislator Anthony Daniele. Reilich said Daniele told him several months ago because of family business ventures, the timing was not right to run for state Legislature.

Reilich said nothing has changed since then.

Livingston County Chairman Lowell Conrad, whose vote carries the most weight, said he would like to see a candidate chosen from his county.

Primary Day Winners And Losers

From the Morning Memo:

With the third primary of the year in the books for New York, the focus for battle of control of the Senate in Albany will turn toward the general election in November.

Though not surprising as a number of incumbent or establishment-preferred candidates won last night, the primary day results present a complicated picture going forward from now until Election Day.


Incumbents. The power of incumbency is strong. In fact, it’s so strong a sitting legislator who took his own life amid mounting legal troubles was backed by Republican voters. The late Bill Nojay won his primary last night, a move that was urged by local Republican leaders who opposed his rival, Rick Milne. Elsewhere, incumbents in both parties in the Assembly and Senate largely turned back well-funded primary challenges save for a handful of races downstate. In the Assembly, Harry Bronson, the Rochester-area lawmaker who defeated Rachel Barnhart, a former TV reporter who was believed to have the advantage of name recognition and social media.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. This is the first election cycle for the top Senate GOP lawmaker and, broadly speaking, he got what he wanted as the GOP’s preferred candidates — Chris Jacobs, Jim Tedisco and Pam Helming — who notched victories in their primaries. Having candidates the conference’s political arm can work with heading into the general election doesn’t hurt in the effort to keep control of the chamber.

Adriano Espaillat and the IDC. Marisol Alcantara won her primary for the 31st Senate district, making her a shoo-in for the post in November. Alcantara’s win is a victory for the man she wants to replace in the chamber, Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is running for congress. Espaillat has been seeking to build something of a power base in upper Manhattan and had endorsed Alcantara’s bid. It’s also a win for the IDC, which had backed Alcantara. Should she join the breakaway conference in the fall, Alcantara would bring diversity to the conference and give IDC Leader Jeff Klein more leverage in the coming leadership fight.


Super PACs. Independent expenditure committees backed by wealthy donors who support education reforms and charter schools sought to be major players in a range of Democratic primary campaigns. Their preferred candidates more or less lost last night. Not all super PACs were unsuccessful: A PAC aligned with the New York State United Teachers union shored up incumbents to provide a bulwark in the Assembly.

A Very Unusual Election

From the Morning Memo:

It’s unusual situation to be in, campaigning against someone who’s no longer alive, but that’s exactly what Republican state Assembly candidate Rick Milne has had to do.

Yesterday, the Honeoye Falls mayor resumed campaign activities he had suspended Friday, following the suicide of his primary opponent, incumbent Assemblyman Bill Nojay.

“We all have to understand that I was in this campaign because I thought we needed somebody else in that position,” Milne told TWC news reporter Breanna Fuss. “I still feel that way. I still feel that I’m the right person for that job.”

But if Milne was hoping the Republican establishment would rally around him, he hasn’t had much luck. Monroe County GOP boss Bill Reilich said he’s content to let the voters decide.

“If Nojay is the winner, then we will proceed,” Reilich said.

As voters head to the polls today, Nojay’s name is still on the ballot, due to the fact that his death occurred too close to election day to remove it. What’s more, the deceased assemblyman is actually getting a last second groundswell of support. Both the Hornell GOP committee and the Ontario County Republicans are urging voters to vote for him.

“September 13, please vote NOJAY to honor my father…we can carry his legacy and the best person will have the honor to represent,” read a message from Nojay’s daughter on the Ontario County Republicans Facebook page.

This effort is being cast as a show of respect for the late assemblyman, but if he wins, it would also be a boon for local GOP leaders.

A spokesperson for the state Board of Elections said that if Nojay is elected, party leaders from the three counties in the district would be able to meet and substitute a candidate. The vote would be weighted, based on turnout in the last general election: Livingston County – 45.79 percent, Monroe County – 37.99 percent and Steuben County – 16.21 percent.

“It’s the vote of two of the three chairs minimum, two have to agree,” Reilich said. “Whether the other chairs have names, they haven’t shared that with me. I’ve had people reach to me.”

The certificate of substitution is due within 10 days of death, meaning the decision would have to be made quickly, given four days have already passed. Milne, of course, hopes this rare exercise in the democratic process never actually comes to fruition.

“If I was not chosen to be the candidate, then that is the process and I have to live with it,” he said.

Nojay had also already secured three minor party lines: Conservative, Independence and Reform. The state Board of Elections said those parties follow a similar process, but will be handled by the respective state executive committees because they are not organized at the county level in the 133rd district.