Senate Dems All In With Party-Switching Marcellino Opponent

Emboldened by the recent setbacks experienced by the Senate Republicans, the Senate Democrats are expanding their reach to support challengers to veteran incumbents previously believed to be nearly impossible to dislodge – including Long Island Sen. Carl Marcellino.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and DSCC Chairman Mike Gianaris will be on hand tomorrow afternoon when Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy – a Republican who only recently joined up with the Democrats – formally kicks off his campaign against the 71-year-old Marcellino, who has held his seat since 1995.

Kennedy had been slated to challenge Democratic Assemblyman Charles Lavine – as a life-long member of the Republican Party. He was officially nominated by the Nassau County GOP (run by former state GOP Chairman Joe Mondello), and everything.

But the local Republicans pulled their support of the mayor after the Conservative Party objected to the fact that Kennedy had, in his mayoral capacity, officiated over two same-sex marriages and refused to repudiate the 2011 Marriage Equality Act (passed with the assistance of four “yes” votes from Republican senators) that made gay marriage legal in New York.

Kennedy was upset that Marcellino failed to speak out on his behalf, or even attempt to intercede with party leaders after they yanked their support for the mayor’s Assembly campaign. “I was abandoned by the party,” Kennedy told the North Word News. “Why would I want to be a part of a party that deems me unfit for obeying the law?”

Kennedy also said that his values “as they relate to human rights do not reflect views of the Nassau County Republican leadership,” and he believes elected more Democrats to the Senate would be good for Long Island residents because they “tend to be more in touch with the middle class.”

Democrats have a slight enrollment edge in the 5th SD, with 78,515 enrolled members to the GOP’s 74,250 as of April 1, according to the state Board of Elections. There are also 3,133 enrolled Conservatives, 9,917 members of the Independence Party, 731 Working Families Party members and 58,088 “blanks” who are not affiliated with any political party.

Labor Gives Big To DSCC

Key labor unions contributed heavily to the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee as a coalition led by the Working Families Party seeks to help Democrats take full control of the chamber, filings posted on Tuesday show.

Over the last six months, the DSCC received $102,300 from the Public Employees Federation, $102,300 from the New York State United Teachers union and $102,000 from 1199 SEIU.

Other traditional allies of Senate Democrats also contributed, including the Communications Workers of America and 32BJ.

The bulk of the contributions appear to have come in the spring, as the labor-backed Working Families Party and advocacy organizations formed a coalition with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help the party take full control of the state Senate.

Cuomo, along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, brokered an agreement in June to have the five independent Democrats in the chamber form a new governing coalition next year with the mainline conference.

Overall, the Senate Democrats reported a cash-on-hand balance of more than $1 million heading into the fall. Senate Republicans have five times that amount in their conference’s campaign account.

Who Stays on The Ballot, and Who Doesn’t

Last month at the Gay Pride parade, former NYC Public Advocate Mark Green bumped into Randy Credico and Zephyr Teachout while marching with the Jim Owls Club. Teachout and Credico, who have both submitted signatures to run as Democrats in the primary for Governor, had not previously met. Green had an idea. While emphasizing that he has no plans to endorse any candidate or get involved in the primary, but does appreciate healthy competition, he urged the two scrappy upstart candidates to form a non-aggression pact. An agreement not to challenge each other’s signatures in court. The deal was struck and the two candidates shook on it.

I wasn’t there, but I bet it was a proud moment for all involved including the larger left, democracy in general, and of course the good people of the great state of New York.

Teachout later invited Credico to drop out of the race and join her nascent campaign, but Credico declined opting to stay in the race.  Credico was coming off his showing last fall in the Democratic Mayoral Primary. The day after the vote was tallied it still was not clear Bill de Blasio had avoided a runoff but it appeared as though some districts in the Bronx who might ordinarily have gone for de Blasio had actually voted for Credico. This later proved to be false but that morning Credico proceeded to facebook message me multiple times to let me know that if de Blasio doesn’t avoid the runoff he, Randy, is solely responsible. Naturally, I told him he was the Ralph Nader of the 2013 election, and that he should be very proud.

Credico aside, the Teachout/Wu campaign could prove more of a thorn in the side for Camp Cuomo. First, there is this excellent story from Blake Zeff at Capital which explains the Kathy Hochul problem for the left as LG, and how Tim Wu could conceivably grab some votes. Then of course there is the issue of Teachout herself. While the leadership of the Working Families Party has joined forces with labor, Cuomo, de Blasio and the new progressive coalition in New York which is determined to elect Cuomo and a Democratic Senate, there are still those in the Working Families Party and elsewhere who are dissatisfied with Cuomo and may want to register a protest vote with Teachout. Just last week, the Village Independent Democrats rescinded their “no endorse” in the gubernatorial election and instead went with Teachout. While the VID doesn’t represent all that many votes, it’s a Barometer of the soul of the Democratic party. Ed Koch came out of there, after all.

When Teachout was first seeking the nomination, some questioned whether she meets the residency requirement. In order to run for Governor, one has to have lived in this state for five years as of election day. Teachout’s history could be subject to a court challenge, or at least a good lawyer could probably make an solid argument against her.

Teachout moved to New York in June 2009 from North Carolina. She began teaching at Fordham in the fall and moved in with a friend in the East Village. Her name will not pop up on the lease or on any utility bills from that period, all of which could be subpoenaed by a lawyer challenging residency. In early 2010 she taught at Harvard University in Boston for about 7 weeks. Later that same year she finally signed her own lease and moved into a place on West 82nd street where she lived for a year. Teachout then stayed with friends again until 2012 when she moved to Fort Green, Brooklyn where she lives now.

Teachout says she is prepared for a legal challenge. She has numerous affidavits lined up from students and others. But there are also questions about her voting absentee. The Board of Elections cannot rule on this issue, but the courts can if the Cuomo campaign files suit. That window is now open, but the earliest it would go before an Albany judge is two weeks from last Thursday’s filing deadline.

Wagner To Report Raising $255K

Justin Wagner, the Democrat hoping to replace outgoing GOP Sen. Greg Ball in the Hudson Valley district, will reporting raising more than $255,000 for the bid and have $218,700 in cash on hand.

This is Wagner’s second campaign for the Senate seat that covers Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties after narrowly losing to Ball in 2012.

Republicans Terrence Murphy, a Yorktown councilman, and former Assemblyman Bob Castelli, are vying for the GOP nomination in a primary.

The seat is expected to be one of about a half-dozen battleground districts around the state this year as Democrats seek to claim an outright governing majority in the chamber.

“These numbers make it clear: Justin Wagner is on track to win,” said campaign manager Steve Napier. “With every day, our campaign gains more allies and supporters, while at the same time the Republicans are engaged in an ugly and divisive primary with extreme conservative overtones. Most importantly, this filing demonstrates that Justin Wagner will have the resources to share his mainstream and common sense vision for New York with the voters of the Hudson Valley.”

The Daily News reported this morning that the once in-debt Senate Democratic Campaign Committee will report more than $1 million in their campaign war chest.

Buffalo Teachers Union Backs Teachout

Most of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout’s more than 45,000 signatures to get on the September primary ballot came from the New York City area. But at least 600 came from Buffalo.

The President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Phil Rumore, said the BTF decided to pass petitions for Teachout and her Lt. Governor candidate Tim Wu, to send a message to Governor Cuomo.

“He’s supported charter schools, cut funding for public schools, and has said failing schools should face the death penalty. Our members don’t support those positions,” Rumore said.

The union’s move will likely raise some eyebrows especially in Western New York. Cuomo’s Lt. Governor Candidate, Kathy Hochul, was put on the ticket, in part, to help the Governor win some of the Western New York votes he lost to Carl Paladino four years ago.

“It’s a message I’m sure teachers across the state feel need to be sent,” Rumore said.

It’s a stance other union leaders are taking note of.

“I’m certainly interested to see if Buffalo’s support for Teachout could start a trend,” said Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski.

Urbanski said the RTA typically defers to the New York State United Teachers Union in statewide races but will speak to the BTF and NYSUT, and possibly raise the issue with RTA members in September.

“Governor Cuomo has name recognition and big bucks, but many teachers have been displeased with him,” Urbanski said.

Much of that displeasure comes from the poor rollout of the Common Core.  It’s something Rumore called a factor in his union’s decision to back Teachout.

“It’s teaching our kids to death.  I call it institutionalized child abuse,” said Rumore.

When asked if the BTF would support Republican Rob Astorino if Cuomo and Hochul make it through the primary unscathed, Rumore didn’t rule it out.

“That’s a decision we really haven’t had any discussions on that but it’s a possibility, let me put it that way,” Rumore added.

Teachout-Wu: Spend BNP Settlement On Schools, Infrastructure

Add gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout and her running mate Tim Wu to the list of people who have come out with proposals to spend the state’s estimated $3 billion settlement from the French bank BNP.

Teachout, who is petitioning her way onto the Democratic ballot to force Gov. Andrew Cuomo into a primary, said in a joint statement with Wu that she would like to see the money spent on both adding more funds to public education as well as adding more money to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“This is fantastic news for the state and a huge opportunity to address two gaping holes in the current budget: public schools and public infrastructure,” said Teachout. “Governor Cuomo has starved public schools and raided transit funds, endangering the education of our children and the safety and reliability of our infrastructure. Schools are still being funded a staggering $5.7 billion below constitutionally required levels. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, meanwhile, still needs $10.5 billion just to bring basic infrastructure back to a state of functioning ‘good repair.’ This is unacceptable. What’s worse is that Governor Cuomo has starved these essential institutions and services so he can grant tax giveaways to wealthy interests.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, released a plan this week that would set aside funds from the settlement for both transportation spending as well as ending gap elimination adjustment in schools.

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino has suggested using the money for infrastructure repairs while Democratic Assemblyman Tom Abinati has a specific plan in mind: The replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

WFP Raises Off IDC-Dem Deal

Part II of today’s Morning Memo:

The WFP is wasting no time is trying to capitalize on the news that Klein and breakaway conference have agreed to strike a power-sharing deal with the regular Democrats.

In an email with the subject line “Guess Who’s Back?” WFP State Director Bill Lipton crowed over the news that Klein et al would be forming a “new progressive majority coalition” that (theoretically) will enable passage of a host of blocked bills – from the Women’s Equality Act to public campaign financing.

But Lipton also recognized that even with the IDC on their side, the Democrats would be holding an extremely slim, one-seat margin in the chamber – and that’s assuming they hold every seat they’ve got in the upcoming elections.

“There are three progressive Democrats in swing districts elected with the help of Obama’s 2012 wave,” Lipton wrote.

“Holding those seats will take real work. There are also three formerly Republican held open-seats that could be ripe pick-up opportunities to expand the majority.”

“We need to start raising the money to run competitive races in all six of those seats starting now. Can you contribute $3 to elect a progressive majority in the State Senate?”

“…it’ll take a lot more work to get to that progressive vision we’re dreaming about.”

“And there’s no doubt that the billionaires and bankers and the right wing forces will spend big to stop this from happening. They’ll pour untold millions into New York State Republicans to stop us from putting New York on a progressive path.”

I believe the three swing district Democrats Lipton is referring to are Sens. Terry Gipson, Cecilia Tkaczyk and Ted O’Brien.

The open seats include two on Long Island – one vacated by ex-Sen. Chuck Fuschillo, the other to be given up by Sen. Lee Zeldin as he challenges Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1 – and one in the Hudson Valley that currently belongs to retiring Sen. Greg Ball.

Part of Cuomo’s WFP endorsement deal also reportedly included creation of a $10 million fund to help the Democrats take back the Senate, but it remains unclear exactly where all that cash will come from – and how much, if any, Cuomo himself will be contributing.

Bill de Blasio, Boogeyman

From today’s Morning Memo:

If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em.

Even as they question whether the deal struck by their erstwhile power-sharing partner, IDC Leader Jeff Klein, with his former Democratic colleagues will stick, the Senate Republicans are seeking to turn Klein’s abandonment to their political advantage.

GOP senators – especially those who represent districts north and west of Albany – are warning that upstate will be forgotten if the downstate-dominated Democratic conference takes full control of the chamber.

And they’re playing up the fact that uber-liberal NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is leading the charge to flip the Senate into Democratic hands, with Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos even going so far as to suggest that de Blasio will become the “de facto governor” of New York if Democrats control both houses of the Legislature.

That’s a comment clearly designed to get under the skin of the actual governor, Andrew Cuomo, who has had a rocky relationship with de Blasio since the mayor took office in January.

Skelos drove his point home by saying Cuomo was being “timid” and “sold out” to the labor-backed Working Families Party – a top de Blasio ally – when he agreed to assist his fellow Democrats in their push to take back the Senate in exchange for the WFP’s endorsement.

Sen. Tom Libous, the deputy leader of the Senate GOP, and Senate Finance Chairman John DeFrancisco, made similar comments in separate interviews yesterday.

(Interestingly, and perhaps a bit off-message, DeFrancisco also defended IDC member Dave Valesky, saying he doesn’t support Onondaga County GOP Chair Tom Dadey’s threat to challenge the Syracuse Democrat this fall in retaliation for the IDC’s defection).

The anti-de Blasio/downstate vs. upstate argument is apparently a coordinated message for the Senate Republicans, who, according to Capital NY, plan to run this fall against “ultra-liberal New York City radicals” who are working to empower “illegal immigrants” and stifle business.

I’m pretty sure a good number of upstaters have no idea who Bill de Blasio is, but the “we’re your last line of defense against the liberals in NYC” argument is one they’ve certainly heard before from the Senate GOP.

It remains to be seen whether that line of reasoning resonates this time around.

Espaillat Concedes to Rangel; Will Run for Re-election in Senate (Updated)

In a statement sent out this afternoon, Sen. Adriano Espaillat conceded the primary for the 13th congressional district to incumbent Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel. He also declared his candidacy for re-election to the state Senate.

Espaillat had held off on conceding to Rangel, saying he’d wait until “every single vote” was counted before admitting defeat. This comes after the senator’s last attempt to knock off Rangel in 2012 ended in an extremely tight race. As affadavit and absentee ballots continued to be counted in that election, the race grew tighter, eventually ending in a victory for Rangel of less than 1,000 votes.

But it seems Espaillat’s camp realized the vote deficit was too much to overcome this time around. Earlier today, the senator called Rangel to congratulate him on his victory and his long career in the House of Representatives.

Because of quirks in the scheduling of federal and statewide elections, this concession allows Espaillat to move on to a re-election bid. He has represented the 31st Senate District in Manhattan since 2011 after serving more than a decade in the state Assembly.

Espaillat’s concession statement:

“I want to express my deepest appreciation for all of the efforts of my supporters and volunteers on my campaign for Congress. My sincerest thanks goes out to the unwavering endorsements provided to me from all of the labor unions, newspapers, advocacy groups, elected officials, and community leaders.”

“Even though I will not be representing the 13th District in Congress, I will continue to fight for Opportunity for All. While much has been written about the politics of race and ethnicity within this District, there is no question that our campaign focused on bringing the community together around our shared needs and struggles.”

“Today, I am announcing my re-election campaign for the New York Senate from where I will continue to work to find new ways to bring jobs, affordable housing and immigration reform to our community, so that middle and working class families can thrive here.”

UPDATE: Espaillat’s decision to seek re-election comes on the same day former NYC Councilman Robert Jackson formally launched his campaign for the seat the senator would be vacating had he succeeded in his second attempt at ousting Rangel. So, it appears Espaillat has a primary battle on his hands this September.

Also, the DN notes that Espaillat told its editorial board back in June that he did not intend to try to hang on to his seat in the Senate chamber, saying: “This is not my plan right now, to go back to Albany I want to go to Washington, I want to make a difference, I want to bring about change to the district.”

Espaillat also switched gears and sought re-election back in 2012 after his first primary loss to Rangel. That was the first year that the state and federal primaries did not fall on the same day, thanks to the inability of legislative leaders to agree on a date.

Klein: To Be Clear, IDC Isn’t Rejoining Regular Dems

IDC Leader Jeff Klein this morning was adamant that the agreement he announced yesterday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo should not be interpreted as a return by his breakaway conference to the regular Democratic fold.

The five IDC members – assuming they all survive this campaign cycle – will be retaining their identity as members of their own conference, Klein told Susan Arbetter during an interview on The Capitol Pressroom, adding: “We were threated to come back to the Democratic fold or face primary challenges; we’re not saying that we’re rejoining the Democratic conference.”

“The proposed coalition is about getting a legislative agenda done, and we have to sit down and talk about how we can achieve that,” Klein said.

Klein said the IDC had served as a “strong, stabilizing force” during its partnership with the Senate Republicans, but the time has come to reassess that relationship in light of the fact that top progressive priorities like the DREAM Act, a statewide public campaign finance system and the Women’s Equality Act aren’t being allowed to the floor of the Senate for a vote due to the opposition of GOP Leader Dean Skelos.

The Bronx Democrat said he was moved to form the IDC back when the Senate was “dysfunctional,” but he is now optimistic that things have changed.

He did not, however, rule out the possibility of supporting candidates in the fall elections who might be interested in joining the IDC, explaining that there would be a “litmus test” of supporting the progressive agenda. He said the time to discuss the November elections and challenges to GOP candidates will come when the “dust settles” on the September primaries.

“While I agree and support bipartisan governing, I’m a Democrat; I want to elect Democrats,” Klein explained. “But I think now, we have to elect Democrats that actually support the issues the IDC has championed.”