Schedule Set For Special Elections

The state Board of Elections on Friday released a schedule for the special elections in the 43rd Assembly district and 11th Congressional district.

Key dates include: Certificate of nominations are due March 2, ballots are certified March 13 and the first campaign finance disclosure date is April 6.

In the NY-11, Republicans back Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, while Democrats are eyeing Vincent Gentile, a New York City councilman, to run for the seat vacated by Republican Michael Grimm.

Memo-Calenar-Proc-for May 5 2015 Special Election.pdf by Nick Reisman

Special Elections Set For May 5

As expected, Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning set May 5 as the date to hold special elections in both the 11th congressional district and a newly vacant Assembly seat in Brooklyn.

Cuomo had been under a court order to set the date for the special election by noon today, or a federal judge would have automatically scheduled one himself.

The 11th congressional district, which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, is an open seat following the resignation of Republican Michael Grimm, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion.

Brooklyn’s 43rd Assembly district became open last night following the resignation of Democrat Karim Camara, who is joining the governor’s administration in order to lead faith-based outreach programs.

The proclamation from Cuomo’s office can be viewed here.

Tonko Recalls ‘Honorable’ Interactions With Silver

From today’s Morning Memo, ICYMI…

Since former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest, any number of people – even some of his former allies – have expressed shock and even disgust at the charges levied against him by Bharara.

But one of his former conference members – ex-Assemblyman-turned-Congressman Paul Tonko – has only good memories of his time working in the Silver-dominated chamber. Tonko said during a CapTon interview Wednesday night (the day before Silver was formally indicted on corruption charges) that the interactions he had with the former speaker were “honorable.”

The former assemblyman also took issue with rank-and-file members’ complaints that Silver was too controlling and ruled the chamber with an iron fist.

“I was surprised by the allegations,” Tonko said. “I know that as Energy (Committee) chair, I was given gray latitude and support by the speaker to initiative energy reforms that I think have transitioned us to a pretty good spot in the national scene. This state is looked to often times for sound energy reform and transformation, innovation. That happened because he enabled us. He delegated.”

Tonko said he disagrees with Bharara’s painting of Albany as a big cesspool of corruption, saying:

“It’s a broad brush that is paining everyone here. I served with a number of people who were devoted public servants, who made this their No. 1 priority, and they did it squeaky clean. They were great to work with, and I would suggest that was the majority of folks.”

“…If some of these situations occur, let’s work on a system that provides for the transparency,” the Capital Region Democrat continued. “But to just suggest that everybody is not honorable in the system can take us into such broad interpretation of the fix that’s rehired that you might scare away from very good minds and heats that would serve the public well.”

Maloney: Pass Rail Safety Legislation

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Friday, continued to call on Congress to pass rail safety legislation he introduced just hours after a Metro-North train collided with a vehicle in Westchester County Tuesday night.

The crash killed six, including five passengers from the train and the woman operating the vehicle.

Maloney’s legislation, the Rail Crossings Safety Improvement Act, would improve safety at rail crossings and also invest in positive train control – a method of being able to remotely control a moving train.

“People want answers to why these incidents keep happening and I think that’s very fair,” Congressman Maloney, a Democrat, said at a talk at Marist College Friday. “There are good solutions that we know will make the train safer.”

The legislation would be part of a $100 million federal grant program that would help local communities invest in safety improvements at rail crossings. It would invest $100 million per year over the next four years. That funding would not be limited to New York State – it would be available nationally.

“Sometimes it means putting a bridge over it, putting a tunnel over it, moving the rail crossing,” Maloney said. “Local communities can’t afford to do this. They need help”

Republican Congressman Chris Gibson, who also attended the talk at Marist, says he’s throwing his support across the aisle behind the legislation.

“I’ve been looking at some of the data and these types of incidents, these types of tragedies are declining significantly in our country, but not in New York,” Gibson said. “We have to look at ‘what is going on here in our state?”

Last year, there were 31 train accidents in New York State according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The year before that, there were 43, and in 2011 there were 34 accidents.

“It’s just too bad it takes a terrible strategy like this to focus on a common sense step,” Maloney said.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet determined what details led to the crash.

3rd Time’s A Charm? Powell Declares For Rangel’s Seat

Former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV is formally declaring his intention to run for a third time for the seat occupied by veteran Harlem Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel, who has said the two-year term he is currently serving will be his last in Congress.

“This is not an exploratory committee,” Powell wrote in an email sent by his campaign committee just before 6 p.m. this evening. (Sort of strange timing, given the fact that much of the political world is prepping for the President’s State of the Union tonight and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State/budget address tomorrow). “I’ve been exploring this district for over 20 years. It’s time to run.”

“I know this congressional district as well as anyone. From El Barrio to Harlem to Washington Heights & Inwood to the Bronx, I’ve represented various parts of this district in the City Council and in the State Assembly. Most of the leaders in these various neighborhoods are people I know and have worked with throughout the years. I hope you pray for me and join me in this exciting journey.”

Powell also noted his long-standing history with the district (albeit in a different, pre-redistricting configuration), pointing out his father, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., created the seat and served as New York’s first black member of Congress from 1944-1970 – the year he was ousted by Rangel.

“We need a progressive voice to preserve the rich history of these last 70 years,” Powell continued. I intend to run for that seat.”

This isn’t a big surprise. Powell recently told the NY Observer that he would likely take one more shot at a congressional run when the 84-year-old Rangel’s current term ends in 2016. He lost primary challenges to Rangel in 1996 and 2010, but endorsed him in 2012 and 2014 when the congressman fought off multiple primary challengers.

Powell, who is now a lobbyist, has said he believes he can win in the district despite the fact that a majority of its residents are now Latino.

It’s a safe bet that the race for Rangel’s seat – assuming he makes good on his pledge and does not seek re-election – will be quite crowded. Assemblyman Keith Wright, the Manhattan Democratic chairman, has long been mentioned as a potential Rangel replacement, and perhaps the top candidate in the congressman’s eyes, should he be able to select his own successor.

Also mentioned: Sen. Adriando Espaillat, who came close to beating Rangel in the 2012 and 2014 Democratic primaries; former Gov. David Paterson, Sen. Bill Perkins, NYC Councilwoman Inez Dickens, and the Rev. Michael Walrond, who ran in the 2014 primary and received 8 percent of the vote.

Moderate Republicans Oppose Immigration Vote

Rep. John Katko bucked House leadership Wednesday on a controversial immigration vote.

The newly sworn-in Republican joined Reps. Chris Gibson, Richard Hanna and Peter King in opposing an effort to block one of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The amendment, part of a multi-pronged effort to derail the President’s immigration policies, would end Obama’s 2012 executive action that has allowed undocumented immigrants brought here as children, known as Dreamers, to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

A total of 26 House Republicans opposed the measure, perhaps worried about the message the bill would send to swing voters in states with large immigrant populations.

“I disagree with the President’s unilateral approach on this issue,” Katko said in a statement released shortly after the vote. “But I also disagree with members of my party who wish to retroactively punish those who have already come forward under the protection granted by the President. Congress needs to work in a bipartisan way with the President to secure our borders and reform our broken immigration system.”

That sentiment was echoed by Hanna, who said the amendment would uproot the lives of 600,000 young people who have already been granted permission to stay.

Hanna, Gibson and King, however, did support a similar effort back in August to end the Dreamers program.

Reps. Chris Collins, Tom Reed, Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin supported Wednesday’s vote.

All of the state’s Republicans voted to scrap Obama’s executive action, announced in November, that allows millions of other undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation. They also supported the Department of Homeland Security spending bill to which the amendments were attached.

The bill passed the House by a vote 236-191. It is likely moderate Republicans and Democrats in the Senate will vote to strip the immigration amendments out of the bill and then send it back to the House.


Ms. Malliotakis Goes to Washington

From today’s Morning Memo:

GOP leaders in NY-11 may be coalescing behind Staten Island DA Dan Donovan to run in the yet-to-be-called special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Michael Grimm, but Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel.

Malliotakis, a Staten Island Republican, traveled to Washington yesterday to meet with NRCC leaders about her potential candidacy for the lone NYC seat in the GOP’s column.

Her effort could be assisted by the fact that national party leaders reportedly aren’t thrilled by the idea of having the guy best known as the DA in the Eric Garner case as their candidate – a move that would no doubt focus the election on the sticky issues of criminal justice reform and race relations.

NY1’s Michael Scotto caught up with NRCC Chairman Greg Walden after his meeting with Malliotakis yesterday, and the Oregon Republican tried hard to maintain an air of neutrality.

Walden insisted both Donovan and Malliotakis are “very fine candidates” with “different strengths” who would “represent that district very effectively here in Washington.”

“The long and short of it is that the people on Staten Island and Brooklyn will decide who the nominee is,” Walden said. “Our job is to move forward from there and hold that seat.”

“…I’m meeting with them as we do any candidates, but I know I don’t have a vote. The Republicans on Staten Island do. I am really excited about both these individuals. They both bring different talents; they both bring very strong electoral capabilities.”

Asked about the complication for Donovan’s candidacy of the Garner case, in which the grand jury’s decision not to bring charges against a white police officer for the chokehold-related death of an unarmed black man sparked protests and significant unrest in NYC, Walden said:

“I think if Republicans pick Dan Donovan then he will have an opportunity to go explain in further detail his side of the story there certainly that perhaps he hasn’t had a chance to do.”

“But the long and the short of it is we have a good opportunity to hold that seat, and I’m excited going forward.”

Malliotakis was also playing her cards close to the vest, telling Scotto that she had a “very good, pleasant, productive conversation” with Walden.

“We’ll go through the process and see where it ends up,” the assemblywoman said. “We’re not going to discuss any of the particulars of the meetings. We’re going to keep it private. We’re just talking about the landscape of the district.”

Malliotakis said she’s “encouraged” by the grassroots support she has been receiving.

Yesterday, Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton released a statement announcing that the majority of his party’s leaders had signaled support for Malliotakis’ candidacy during a recent informal meeting.

Eaton said he will wait until Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls a special election in NY-11 (something the governor has shown no signs of doing any time soon), and then convene a convention of county committee members to which all potential candidates will be invited to make their respective cases.

“I will then bind myself to their vote and deliver same at my meeting with (Staten Island GOP Chair John) Antoniello at the lawfully appointed time,” Eaton said.

“In the very end, my committee and I will support the candidate selected through this process and work diligently to ensure that he or she is victorious in the election.”

But the reality is that Brooklyn will have a very small say in the candidate selection process, since only a sliver of the borough in included in the district, which contains all of Staten Island.

Antoniello has announced his support for Donovan. But Malliotakis said she’s hopeful Staten Island GOP officials will follow the lead of their counterparts in Brooklyn and hold a convention to select a candidate.

“All we’re asking for is an open and transparent process where the rank-and-file members can be heard, she said.

While the Republicans are holding a very public battle over who they’ll select to run in Grimm’s stead, the Democrats have been fairly quiet.

The potential candidates getting mentioned most on that side include former Rep. Michael McMahon, whom Grimm defeated in 2010, and Assemblyman Michael Cusick.

Assini Already Looking Ahead to 2016

The next election is still two years away, but Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini says he will run again in New York’s 25th Congressional District in 2016.

“About six months into my race for Congress I decided if I do anything, if I spend any more time in government, my efforts would be best spent going to Congress and representing people in the 25th Congressional District, “ Assini said

The Republican fell to incumbent Democrat Louise Slaughter by a surprisingly “razor-thin” margin. With little financial support from the NRCC or the Monroe County Republican Party some are wondering if things could have been different.

“I heard from members of the National Republican Party and they were surprised by how close this race was.  And I think they were a little disappointed that they didn’t pay a little more attention to the race.  The way they worded it, they just never expected the race to be razor thin.  It’s just not something they expected even though I told them it was going to be a close race,” Assini recalled.

He is expecting a rematch against the 85-year-old Slaughter in 2016.  There are more registered Democrats than Republicans in Monroe County and Slaughter’s camp expects her, or any other Democrat, to get more votes in two years.

“Anybody that thinks the presidential race may be a disadvantage for a Republican in this coming presidential year, 2016 I really think they need to rethink the dynamics,” Assini said.

Assini’s focus on running for Congress means he will not be a candidate for Monroe County Executive, a position he’s previously expressed interest in.  With Maggie Brooks facing term limits, Assini sees Monroe County Clerk Cheryl DiNolfo as front-runner on the GOP side.

The list of Democratic candidates includes County Legislature Minority Leader Carrie Andrews, Irondequoit Town Supervisor Adam Bello, former county legislator Vincent Esposito, former Brighton Town Supervisor Sandra Frankel, and former Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green.

Long Surprised By Gibson Retirement

Form today’s Morning Memo, Nick Reisman reports:

State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long said he was surprised to hear of Rep. Chris Gibson’s plans to retire at the conclusion of his third term, though both he and Republican Chairman Ed Cox expect to keep NY-19 in GOP hands.

“He caught me by surprise as he’s caught everyone by surprise,” Long said. “I didn’t know he was going to do that. I think he’s cut shorter than what’s said.”

Gibson, a former Army colonel who first unseated Democrat Scott Murphy in the pre-redistricting NY-20, had initially pledged to stick to a self-imposed term limit of no more than eight years in the House.

He is now potentially eyeing a statewide run – perhaps for governor (which could put him at odds with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who has signaled his desire to run again) or the US Senate (a heavy lift with two popular Democratic incumbents in office).

But Long wouldn’t speculate on what job Gibson may be interested in.

“I guess he has his eyes on something else,” Long said. “I haven’t had a conversation with him. I think he’s done a good job. I’m just kind of surprised he did it so early.”

Cox, too, would not take a guess on what Gibson, who handily defeated Democrat Sean Eldridge last year in a district that backed President Obama in 2012, may seek.

“That’s four years off,” Cox said. “I’m not going to tell him. He wants to help the party, help build the party across the state.”

Cox added there are a “plethora” of GOP candidates in the Hudson Valley House seat who would be available to run for Gibson’s seat.

Among those mentioned so far: Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Assemblyman Pete Lopez, Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino, and Sen. Jim Seward.

On the Democratic side, there’s Sean Eldridge, of course, who just dropped some $4.25 million of his own cash in a failed attempt to unseat Gibson, but did manage to raise his name recognition considerably in the process.

Also mentioned: Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and former Sen. Terry Gipson.

Although he didn’t give Long a heads-up about his plan to step aside in 2016, Gibson did apparently speak to Cox before going public.

The congressman managed to surprise his colleagues yet again yesterday, joining a group of 25 Republican House members to vote against re-electing John Boehner to another two-year term as speaker.

That was the biggest defection from a speaker in about a century, but Boehner won anyway with 216 votes.

Gibson cast the lone vote for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California. He said he spoke with Boehner and explained that his “no” vote was a sign of his disappointment with the speaker’s lackluster messaging.

“He needs to be on ‘Hannity’ – he needs to be out there more,” Gibson said of Boehner, who he described as “a good and honorable man.”

Collins Hopes To Prove Cuomo Administration Wrong On Fracking

Western New York Congressman Chris Collins has made no secret of the fact he’s unhappy with the Cuomo Administration’s stance on hydrofracking.  As the Clarence Republican enters his second term, he’s hoping to use a more prominent role in the 114th Congress to prove the Governor got it wrong.

“Economically New York State needs to be hydrofracking and certainly in the Southern Tier the benefits would be tremendous,” said Collins.

House Speaker John Boehner assigned Collins to the House Energy and Commerce Committee that includes spots on three subcommittees: Health, Communications and Technology, and Oversight and Investigations.

“I want to make sure we have hearings that highlight the safety and the economic impact of hydrofracking around the country, whether it’s in North Dakota or Texas so I can bring facts forward to show that the Governor made the wrong decision,” Collins said.

Following suggestions by fellow GOP Congressman Tom Reed that the federal government could have the authority to overrule the anticipated ban, Collins’ call for hearings could signal a concerted effort to undermine the findings of the state DEC and the Department of Health.

“I’m going to use my role on Energy and Commerce to make sure Western New York has a very active role here in DC,” he said. 

Far removed from the freshman who accidentally showed up at a Democratic Congressional breakfast in 2012, Collins is hoping to take on more of a leadership role in the New York Congressional Delegation.  He’s also offered his help to the NRCC in 2016.

“Typically your first re-elect is your toughest so I’ve already stepped forward to say I would like to use my resources to help our members get re-elected and I’ll just do what I can to make them feel welcome.  I know where I was two years ago, kind of a deer in a headlight drinking out of a fire hydrant,” Collins added.

Collins is now one of eight New York Republicans in the House of Representatives.  That could increase to nine if the GOP can hold on to the seat left vacant by former congressman Michael Grimm.