Mar 11th - 12:39 pm
The head of the National Republican Congressional Committee is feeling bullish that New York will help the GOP keep and perhaps expand its majority in the House this fall.
“New York, interestingly enough, especially in an off year for Republicans, holds great promise for some pickups,” Rep. Greg Walden said at an event Tuesday at the National Press Club.
Walden seems most excited about regaining the seat being vacated by Rep. Bill Owens, who first won during a 2009 special election marked by nasty GOP infighting. Though Walden said the NRCC isn’t getting involved in the GOP primary between Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny, he did point out the institutional support Stefanik has already accumulated.
“Elise is very poised, has experience and roots in the district as well – got out early, has a lot of endorsements,” Walden said. “They’re going to sort that out,” referring to Republican primary voters.
The GOP may have reason to feel optimistic about the seat. Aaron Woolf, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s pick, used to split his time between the district and New York City and until very recently had never been to Watertown. Woolf is now facing a primary challenge from Steven Burke.
“The Democrats’ recruit is from Brooklyn,” Walden said, referring to Woolf. “That’s a ways. My district is big, but Brooklyn to Watertown is a long way apart.”
Other Democratic seats Walden has his eye on include Rep. Tim Bishop’s, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s and Rep. Dan Maffei’s.
Initially, Walden did not mention Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is facing a rematch against Nan Hayworth, but he said not to read into that.
“No one will outwork Nan Hayworth,” Walden insisted.
Mar 10th - 2:46 pm
Rep. Charlie Rangel tonight is formally kicking off the campaign for his 23rd – and, if you believe his campaign aides – last two-year tenure in the House. And despite some high-profile Democrats announcing their support of one of his primary opponents, Sen. Adriano Espaillat, the veteran congressman continues to have a fair number of recognizable names in his corner.
The host committee for tonight’s event includes former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, former NYC Mayor David Dinkins and former Senator/Secretary of State Basil Paterson (who, along with Dinkins and Rangel make up three of the storied Harlem “Gang of Four”).
Also listed: Former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, who twice tried unsuccessfully to oust Rangel and whose father was pushed from his House seat by the congressman well over 40 years ago. Powell endorsed Rangel in 2012, despite the fact that he had been extremely critical of the congressman during their primary battles. The former assemblyman has kept a relatively low profile since his second primary loss to Rangel in 2010, though he recently made a cameo appearance in a controversial video recorded by Assemblyman Jose Rivera in Puerto Rico.
Rangel reported $211,461 on hand after the final fundraising quarter in 2013. (Basil Paterson is the treasurer of the congressman’s campaign committee).
Mar 10th - 12:35 pm
The defection of minority lawmakers from Rep. Charlie Rangel to his primary challenger, Sen. Adriano Espaillat, continued this morning with Assemblyman Karim Camara’s endorsement of the senator’s second attempt to dethrone the veteran Harlem congressman.
At an event on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan, Camara, who chairs the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, credited Espaillat – a former caucus chair – with helping maintain peace among caucus members when “personality conflicts” threatened to fracture the organization along ethnic lines.
(There has been a long-standing tension between the black and Latino members of the Legislature, with some Latino lawmakers refusing to join the caucus out of concern that it is too controlled by African American members and interests).
“At a time when the progressive agenda was under siege in Albany, and petty differences threatened to divide Black and Latino lawmakers along ethnic lines, Adriano Espaillat displayed exactly the kind of leadership we needed,” Camara said in a statement released by Espaillat’s campaign.
“In this difficult moment, Adriano kept us unified and focused on our shared needs. Now, Adriano is seeking to ensure the seat originally created to give the African and Caribbean diaspora representation in Washington remains at the forefront of fighting poverty, speaking truth to power, and serving as a national model of cooperation between communities of color nationwide. I am proud to endorse his campaign to serve as this historic district’s next member of Congress.”
Camara, who represents a district in Brooklyn, did not pick a side in the 2012 primary in which Espaillat was one of four candidates challenging Rangel. The race was close, but Rangel ended up surviving and is now seeking what his aides say will be his last two-year term in Congress.
According to Capital NY’s Azi Paybarah, who was on hand for the endorsement announcement, Camara insisted that his decision is about “moving forward” and should not be interpreted as a negative toward Rangel, whom he professed to respect.
But other lawmakers of color who have endorsed Espaillat – like NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito – have switched sides since 2012. The speaker said the decision was a difficult one, but Espaillat has a “strong trajectory” of working on issues that matter to her and her constituents. Rangel expressed surprise over Mark-Viverito’s about-face, saying that he had expected her to remain neutral in the race, given her new leadership post.
The Rev. Michael Walrond, a Harlem pastor and associate of the Rev. Al Sharpton, is also running in the primary. He is scheduled to appear at an event this afternoon with allies of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in support of the administration’s rejection of three charter school co-location decisions that are being fought in court by former NYC Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy network.
De Blasio has spoken positively about Walrond, but has also said it’s too early to pick sides in the NY-13 primary.
Mar 7th - 4:39 pm
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has bucked the GOP establishment in his endorsement of George Demos over Sen. Lee Zeldin in the battle for the right to face Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1 this fall.
In a statement released by the Demos campaign, Giuliani called the candidate “a fiscal conservative who says what he believes and believes what he says.”
“As a former prosecutor, he knows the good guys from the bad,” the former mayor continued. “He will rattle the cages of the establishment. He’ll make a difference. And George would never support Obamacare. His voice will be heard in the halls of Congress, and I predict, throughout America.”
“I am impressed with George, his passion, his intellect, and his integrity. I am proud to endorse his candidacy and prouder still to call him a friend. George Demos is one of us. And it’s time for George Demos for Congress.”
In backing Demos, Giuliani is not only at odds with the majority of Republican and Conservative leaders in NY-1, who have lined up behind Zeldin, but he’s also on the same side as former Gov. George Pataki – an early supporter of Demos, who worked for Pataki when he was in office.
Pataki and Giuliani have not always seen eye to eye over the years, either on politics or policy, though their relationship improved markedly after 9/11 and toward the end of the governor’s tenure in Albany.
The state GOP has been vehemently opposed to Demos’ candidacy (sometimes a little too vehemently). The party is very keen on putting forward a united front against Bishop, who came close to losing his seat in 2012 and continues to be the subject of an ethics investigation in connection with his campaign fundraising.
Division within the party – and between Republicans and Conservatives – has previously weakened candidates’ chances of unseating Bishop.
UPDATE: A knowledgable reader notes that Demos’ campaign is run by two consultants: Jake Menges and Rob Cole. Giuliani is longtime Menges client, Pataki a longtime Cole client. So, there’s a certain element of doing some political favors here that is worth noting.
Mar 6th - 1:26 pm
Rep. Michael Grimm has a friend in Rep. Gregory Meeks.
The Republican and Democrat teamed up to pass a bill to halt rising flood insurance rates, and at a press conference Thursday, the two tried to outdo each other with their compliments.
“You’re the man,” said Meeks, as he walked into the event.
“No, you’re the man,” replied Grimm.
Grimm went on call Meeks a “true leader” and a “friend.”
Meeks responded by saying, “I want to thank especially my buddy Michael Grimm, who you know, let me tell you – he was relentless in trying to make sure we had a deal here.”
The Queens Democrat has long been a friend of the embattled Staten Island Republican, who is facing a tough reelection against Democrat Domenic Recchia.
We asked Meeks’ office if the Democrat plans on getting involved in the Grimm/Recchia race and are waiting for a response. National Democrats are working hard to unseat Grimm, as they fight an uphill battle to regain control of the House.
Mar 6th - 1:16 am
It appears Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins will have a challenger for this fall’s midterm election. The Erie County Republican Committee confirmed Wednesday Night that Kathy Weppner will announce her candidacy in New York’s 26th Congressional District, Friday morning.
The former conservative radio talk show host will make it official during a press conference at Amherst Town Hall. A well-known caller, Weppner was given her own weekend show on WBEN before leaving the station in November of 2012.
Weppner announced on her website this week she’d be challenging Higgins:
“I want you to join me in a fight to take back Washington and return it to the people. This is not a Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Independent fight. This is an American fight and we better rise up together before it is too late! Elect me to represent you and I will fight for the liberty, freedom and prosperity that brave Americans have fought and died for. All of our futures and the future of those we love depend on us to do this.”
Taking on Higgins won’t be easy. The incumbent Democrat has name recognition and a significant Democratic enrollment advantage in the district.
Weppner may even have to win over some in her own party. Several well-known Western New York Republicans have not only supported the South Buffalo Democrat, they’ve raised money for him.
Higgins has not made an official announcement but his supporters are already passing out petitions.
Mar 3rd - 1:33 pm
Conservative and Republican leaders in NY-24 have united behind former US Attorney John Katko to face off against Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei this fall.
Katko emerged from a field of seven (it was eight, but Jane Rossi, a Rome businesswoman and the ex-wife of Oneida Indian Nation leader Ray Halbritter, withdrew at the last minute) Republicans who interviewed with party leaders Saturday at the Palace Theater in Syracse. He left his job to run for office, and cited his experience fighting crime – especially gang members – as apt preparation for the campaign trail and D.C. politics.
Today, the Conservative leaders in NY-24, which includes committees from Onondaga, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego counties, issued a statement in support of Katko, although they stressed that he had prevailed over several candidates who all had “excellent qualifications.”
“Mr. Katko aligns with our Conservative principles philosophically and understands the significance of this election,” said Onondaga County Conservative Chairman Chuck Mancabelli. “Mr. Katko has a strong command of the issues and more importantly, an ability to connect with the voters during the campaign. This is a key element for any candidate to be credible in today’s political climate.”
State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long will have the final say on this endorsement, but with both the Republicans and the Conservatives behind him, Katko has a better shot at trying to prevent a GOP primary.
One of his rivals for Row B, John Lemondes, a retired Army colonel from LaFayette, has not yet decided whether he will seek to force a primary. He finished second to Katko during the GOP endorsement process, though Katko received more than 50 percent of the weighted party vote, according to Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey.
So far, only Ian Hunter of Syracuse, who fought with party leaders last year after he passed petitions to run on the GOP and Conservative lines in the mayor’s race, has announced plans to mount a GOP primary challenge. Dadey went to court to kick Hunter off the GOP line, leaving the Democratic incumbent, Mayor Stephanie Miner, without a Republican opponent. Hunter ended up receiving just over 15 percent of the vote on the Conservative line.
Because of the early, court-ordered June primaries in House races, candidates must beging passing petitions tomorrow to gather the 1,250 signatures needed for a spot on the primary ballot.
Maffei has been a top target for the Republicans and Conservatives ever since he was bounced from his seat in a tight race by Ann Marie Buerkle in 2010. Maffei defeated Buerkle in a re-match in 2012, and she briefly mulled running against him yet a third time, before opting out of the race last September. Buerkle was appointed by President Obama to a $155,00-a-year, five year term as a commissioner on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in the spring of 2013.
Feb 27th - 12:45 pm
Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs announced today that he will not pick a favorite from among the candidates vying for retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s seat, and urged party committee members to back whomever they feel is the strongest contender to win in the November general election.
Jacobs wrote the following email to county committee members, and also released it to members of the press:
“Dear County Committee Member:”
“As you know, there is the possibility of a primary contest for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 4th CD. As both candidates have deep roots in the County Committee and both are long-serving public officials who have run on our Party’s line multiple times, I have decided NOT to take a position in this race, should there be one.”
“Accordingly, I leave it to each member of the Committee to make their own judgment and support the candidate of their choosing.”
Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice is widely viewed as the frontrunner in race for the Democratic line, and she has been endorsed by McCarthy, who is opting not to seek re-election due to health concerns.
Rice’s decision to run may have caused other Democrats to think twice about throwing their respective hats into the ring. But Nassau legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams remains interested, He’s raising money to see if he can fund a campaign.
DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, who hails from Long Island, has said he hopes there won’t be a primary, but in the event that there is one, he urged candidates to avoid going negative and focus their criticism for the Republicans.
On the GOP side, Bruce Blakeman, the former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, has announced his intention to seek McCarthy’s seat. Blakeman also ran an unsuccessful bid for the US Senate in 2010, finishing dead last in a three-way Republican primary, and an unsuccessful campaign for state comptroller in 1998.
Blakeman is an attractive candidate to the Republicans due to his local name recognition and ability to self fund. He already has the support of Rep. Pete King, but he’s facing a potential primary battle with New Hyde Park attorney Frank Scaturro.
Petitioning for congressional races starts next week, thanks to the court-ordered June primary date for House races.
Feb 25th - 11:30 pm
The “Kids Before Cons Act.” It’s the name of a new piece of legislation introduced by three New York Congressmen on Tuesday.
The bill, sponsored by Republicans Chris Collins, Tom Reed, and Chris Gibson, would prohibit the use of federal taxpayer dollars to provide a college education to convicted criminals. The measure is a response to Governor Cuomo’s proposal to provide free College Education to inmates at 10 state prisons.
“The Governor’s latest plan to fund college educations for convicted criminals using taxpayer dollars is an insult to law abiding citizens all across our state,” Collins said.
All three GOP sponsors said the Governor’s plan sends the wrong message.
“College students in New York leave school with an average of nearly $26,000 in student loans, a huge undertaking for any family,” said Reed.
“We can do better than spend federal taxpayer dollars on the education of convicted criminals when our hardworking New Yorkers need the assistance themselves,” Gibson said.
Collins plans to take action during the House Appropriations process to ensure no funds in any particular bill are used to fund college courses for convicted criminals. Collins says the “Kids Before Cons Act” does not ban states from using federal dollars to support GED or work training programs in prisons and correctional facilities.
“We must put our college kids before cons,” Collins added.
The Governor’s office provided no immediate response the congressional proposal.
Feb 25th - 10:18 am
From the morning memo, in case you missed it:
A day after Republican Chris Day launched his Congressional bid, longtime Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey is kicking off her own re-election campaign to keep the suburban House seat she first won in 1988.
In an email to supporters, Lowey touted her recent accomplishments, including $60 billion in Sandy disaster aid and funding for a replacement to the Tappan Zee Bridge.
“As the highest ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, I served on the bi-partisan House-Senate conference committee that broke the gridlock in Washington and passed a budget in the fall to end the Tea Party shutdown,” she added in the email. “Just last month, we enacted important legislation to improve our economy and quality of life through restoration of federal investments in infrastructure, early education, homeland security, medical research, and much more.”
Day, the son of Rockland County Executive Ed Day, announced he would challenge Lowey in the 17th Congressional District at a breakfast meeting of Westchester County Republicans on Sunday.
Lowey faced Republican Joe Carvin in 2012, who at one point was a U.S. Senate candidate.
“In one short week, hundreds of supporters will begin a month-long canvass to collect petition signatures so that I can qualify to run for re-election. I know that I can count on you to help and to advise me throughout the campaign,” Lowey wrote. “I am proud to call the Hudson Valley home, and it is an honor to serve you in the United States Congress.”