Assembly

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.

Winners:

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.

Losers

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.

GOP Committee Urges Vote For Nojay

The Hornell Republican Committee in a statement issued on Sunday urged a vote for the late Republican Assemblyman Bill Nojay in Tuesday’s primary over Honeoye Falls Mayor Rick Milne.

Nojay took his life on Friday morning as he was due in court to appear for a potential fraud charge. He reminds on Tuesday’s primary battle for the 133rd Assembly district seat in the Rochester area.

Should Nojay win the primary posthumously, the county chairs in the Assembly district would be able to pick a replacement for the general election.

“After discussions with party leaders at the local and county level, the Hornell GOP Committee urges fellow republicans to vote for Bill Nojay in Tuesday’s primary,” the committee said in a statement. “With a Nojay primary victory, the three county chairmen representing Steuben, Livingston, and Monroe counties would select a replacement candidate for the November election.”

Both Milne and Democratic candidate Barbara Baer suspended their campaigns following Nojay’s death.

In the statement, the Hornell GOP noted the committee had unanimously backed Nojay’s re-election.

“Despite the unexpected and tragic loss of our Assemblyman, the endorsement still stands,” the committee said. “The Hornell Republican Committee extends it’s deepest sympathies to Bill’s wife and children in this difficult time.”

Pro-Sanders Group Dives Into Assembly Primary

From the Morning Memo:

The political organization formed in the wake of Bernie Sanders’s bid for the presidency is taking sides in a Long Island Assembly race.

The group, Our Revolution, is backing Democrat Anthony Eramo in his race for the 20th Assembly district, a seat that was vacated by Todd Kaminsky following his victory in a state Senate special election.

Our Revolution on Friday sought small-dollar donations from supporters to boost Eramo’s candidacy in the race for as low as $3.

“Our Revolution endorsed Anthony because he represents the values of the political revolution,” the group wrote in a fundraising email.

“He is a third-generation union member who serves on the Long Beach City Council and he will continue fighting for working people as State Representative in Albany.”

At the same time, the group touted recent victories of two candidates Our Revolution supported in Massachusetts legislative primaries.

“Anthony’s race could be close, but we have shown what is possible when we stand together,” the email states. “That’s why we’re asking for your support in this final stretch before his primary on Tuesday.”

Sanders, a Vermont senator, came up short in the state’s April presidential primary against Hillary Clinton, who represented the state in the U.S. Senate.

Still, Sander’s supporters plan to remain active in New York political races this year.

On the congressional front, Democratic House candidate Zephyr Teachout has been the most prominent Sanders-backed candidate to run for office in New York.

Our Revolution isn’t without controversy, however: The group was formed as a post-primary effort by Sanders, but has led to some considerable grumbling from his supporters over its structure and whether it contradicts much of his campaign’s message about dark money in politics.

AD-65: Niou Targeted In Anti-Asian Mailer

postcard1postcard2The Assembly campaign of Democrat Yuh-Line Niou is crying foul on Friday over a postcard sent to voters in the 65th Assembly district that claims the candidate is being backed by “Chinatown crooks” and the she is a “puppet of the Queens political machine.”

The postcard describes Niou as “not a good fit for our neighborhoods” and that her support is coming from political figures who want to “pander to the Chinese vote.”

The mailer even dredges up the since closed investigation into the Working Families Party’s Data & Field Services operation.

“This effort to drum up fear of the district’s Asian populations and slander Yuh-Line Niou’s integrity and strong reputation is blatantly racist, dog whistle politics at its worst,” said Niou campaign spokesman Jon Greenfield.

In short, the Niou campaign says this is an anti-Asian effort aimed at white voters in the lower Manhattan Assembly district once represented by disgraced former Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“From day one, Niou has run a campaign dedicated to giving a voice to families in the community and address the many pressing issues affecting the 65th Assembly District, from affordable housing, to expanding access to social services for seniors and improving quality of life.

“The Niou campaign has grown in momentum in the final weeks of the primary and had just scored a major coup with the endorsement of the New York Times. This deeply disturbing mailer is an attempt to undermine Niou’s positive momentum and broad coalition of support.”

It’s not clear who is behind the postcard or which voters are being specifically targeted with the message.

Niou earlier this year had originally sought the seat Silver was forced from, losing the official Democratic Party backing to Alice Cancel. Niou, running on the Working Families Party line, lost to Cancel in an April special election.

All told, six candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination in the Assembly district on Tuesday.

Bill Nojay Found Dead

Republican Assemblyman Bill Nojay, a prominent upstate political figure and radio personality, was found dead Friday morning.

Nojay’s death was an apparent suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Our colleagues at TWC News in Rochester report Nojay’s death was confirmed by Monroe County GOP Chairman Bill Reilich through local law enforcement.

First elected in 2012, Nojay was a prominent member of the upstate GOP caucus in the Assembly — a reputation that preceded him as a conservative radio host in the Rochester area.

Nojay was being challenged for the GOP nomination in the Assembly district on Tuesday, and had scheduled a fundraiser for this weekend. The lawmaker had also faced fraud charges stemming from a business deal in Cambodia, a legal issue he had initially dismissed as akin to a lawsuit.

Nojay took office as a vocal critic of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the sweeping gun control law known as the SAFE Act. He was also part of a group that unsuccessfully urged Donald Trump to run for governor in 2014 against Cuomo and was an ardent supporter of the businessman’s bid for president.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of New York State Assemblyman Bill Nojay,” said Rep. Tom Reed in a statement. “He was our friend. We will remember him for his dedication and commitment to public service and our community. Bill was a commendable leader. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Debra, and his three children. He will be deeply missed.”

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb in a statement said “our collective hearts are broken.”

“Bill was dedicated to improving New York and communities he served in the Rochester area,” Kolb said. “He will forever be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this tragic time.”

The Democrat running in Nojay’s district, Barbara Baer, announced she would suspend her campaign out of respect following Nojay’s death.

“While we disagreed on most policy issues, Bill was a kind and smart man who was a pleasure to see on the campaign trail,” Monroe County Democrats said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the Nojay family and their loved ones during this difficult time.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie added, “I cannot express how saddened we are to learn about the passing of Assemblymember Bill Nojay. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill’s wife and children.”

We’ll have more on the death of Assemblyman Bill Nojay later on Time Warner Cable News.

NYSUT-Backed Campaign Lit Compares Dem Assembly Candidate To Trump

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From the Morning Memo:

Democrats in New York’s 138th Assembly District received some unusual campaign literature this week prominently featuring Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

It reads: “Some candidates’ ‘experience’ is reality TV.”

Directly below is a photo of incumbent Rochester Assemblyman Harry Bronson, a Democrat, along with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The caption: “Harry Bronson’s experience is reality.”

The message of the mailer would be clear if Bronson were running against Trump. But he’s not.

Instead it’s former TV reporter Rachel Barnhart, a fellow Democrat, who’s challenging the assemblyman in next week’s primary. The candidate and her supporters quickly took offense to the apparent comparison between her reporting and Trump’s well-known reality show, “The Apprentice.”

“It’s disappointing Harry Bronson’s campaign and his supporters have continued to demean and dismiss the work of a 17-year investigative journalist,” Barnhart said.

“Every woman knows what it is like to have her work devalued. Bronson promotes equal pay for women, yet he refuses to disavow repeated attacks on my lengthy and substantive career. Trivializing women’s work is exactly why women are often paid less. The fact is, I accomplished more for the community as an investigative journalist than Bronson has in all his years in office.”

The mailer was sent out by the Fund for Great Public Schools – an independent expenditure group connected to New York State United Teachers.

“This continues a pattern of my opponent sending out questionable mail. First, it was taxpayer-funded campaign mail. Now it’s mail funded by dark money,” Barnhart continued.

For Bronson’s part, he denied any connection to or knowledge of the mailer. He chose not to comment because he said he hadn’t even seen the entire piece of literature, but continued to say his campaign would never use imagery of Trump.

Barnhart said this is not the first time NYSUT has gone after her, pointing to another mailer which referred to her as a flashy TV personality. She said the “reality TV” reference was more of the same.

“I’ve been a Democrat since I was 18,” Barnhart said. “I have pursued social justice issues and advocacy journalism my whole career.”

“If NYSUT doesn’t understand the difference between me and Donald Trump, I’m happy to meet with them. I would love to bring along my parents, both retired city school educators, famed education activist Diane Ravitch, who endorsed me, and the numerous teachers and parents who support my candidacy.”

In Tough Primary, Cuomo Praises Rochester’s Bronson

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the tenure of Democratic Assemblyman Harry Bronson on Wednesday, but stopped short of giving a formal endorsement to the lawmaker who is locked in a tough primary battle this month.

“I’ve worked with Assemblyman Bronson for many years,” Cuomo said during a stop in Rochester. “He’s experienced, he’s talented, he’s a great legislator. I’m a big fan of his. That’s a personal statement of how I feel about the assemblyman.”

Bronson faces former television reporter Rachel Barnhart in a Democratic primary next month for the 138th Assembly district.

Barnhart has name recognition, an advantage most first-time candidates do not normally enjoy, and has criticized Albany writ large for falling short on transparency and ethics.

The Assembly race is one of several closely waged primaries for state legislative offices next Tuesday. Cuomo has typically refrained from endorsing in Democratic primaries, but has made exceptions in the past.

Still, Cuomo on Wednesday did not rule out endorsing in several races.

“I’m not familiar with the race and I haven’t made an official endorsement at this time,” he said. “I’m considering it, along with a number of other races.”