Democrats

Panepinto Fights Back; Says Governor Will Come Around

After weeks of questions over why Governor Cuomo hasn’t endorsed him and a constant barrage of attacks from his political rivals, State Senate Candidate Marc Panepinto is firing back.

“I’m talking about the issues. My opponents want to talk about negative things. This guy did this. This guy did that,” Panepinto said. 

The Buffalo Democrat will appear on the Democratic and Working Families lines on a crowed Ballot in New York’s 60th State Senate District.  His chief rival, Incumbent Senator Mark Grisanti, lost the GOP Primary in September but not the support of his Republican colleagues.  

The Senate Republican Campaign Committee is behind a scathing attack against Panepinto.  The TV ad, details a 2001 election law misdemeanor.  It accuses Panepinto of submitting “blatantly fraudulent voter petitions” and “personally forging signatures of handicapped voters and voters who had been dead for years.”

Panepinto claims he signed off on some signatures even though he wasn’t present when they were collected. Those signatures turned out to be bogus and the Democrat pleaded guilty to making false witness statements on petitions.

“Here’s somebody who’s been associated with organizations that affiliated with racketeering.  He also had some other allegations against him that have to do with more election fraud.  So it seems to be a pattern of abuse that this individual has. So we have make sure that this person is not elected to the state senate,” said SRCC Chair Cathy Young. 

Panepinto briefly lost his legal license and has consistently expressed remorse over what he’s called a “mistake.”  More than a decade later, Panepinto told Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen he’s moved on.

“I’ve paid the price for that. It’s ancient history and so if they want to continue to talk about what happened thirteen years ago, that’s fine. I think the voters want to know what their plans are for the next two years,” said Panepinto. 

On top of that, Panepinto is facing new questions over his wife’s appearance in his campaign flyers. A man claiming to be an unaffiliated voter filed a complaint against Panepinto because he used his wife’s image, State Supreme Court Judge Catherine Nugent-Panepinto, in campaign flyers.

“This attack on my wife is disgusting,” Panepinto said.

Panepinto is confident his use of her image does not violate election law.

“The Office of Court Administration provided my wife with documentation that it is permissible for her to be in my commercials, in my advertisements as long as she’s not identified as a judge and we don’t even identify her by name,” Panepinto added. 

As for Governor Cuomo’s endorsement, Panepinto told reporters at a rally for the Women’s Equality Act in Buffalo Tuesday that he’s not concerned about it.  Panepinto pointed out he stands with the Governor on the WEA and the Buffalo Billion.

“I support the Governor on those agenda points and most of his agenda.  The fact he hasn’t endorsed yet doesn’t concern me.  He knows where he needs to be to pass the Women’s Equality Act and that’s not with Senator Mark Grisanti,” said Panepinto. 

Grisanti is hoping to buck the odds and win on the Independence line.  Kevin Stocker is the endorsed Republican and Attorney Timothy Gallagher is the endorsed Conservative Party Candidate.

 

Bill Clinton to Campaign for Rep. Bishop

The Democrats are bringing out the biggest gun they’ve got – former President Bill Clinton – to shore up veteran Long Island Rep. Tim Bishop as Election Day looms.

Clinton will headline a rally for Bishop at 5 p.m. tomorrow at The Staller Center at Stony Brook University along with DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, who has a lot riding on this race, since it’s taking place in his backyard.

The Republicans have been trying to dislodge Bishop for several cycles now, and haven’t yet managed to oust him, despite the fact that his fundraising remains under investigation by the House ethics committee. The congressman is again a top target this fall, and he’s facing a challenge from GOP state Sen. Lee Zeldin.

A Siena poll released early last month found Bishop leading Zeldin by 10 percentage points – a spread the senator’s campaign disputed. The race must be tightening according to the Democrats’ internal numbers, however, or they wouldn’t bother deploying Clinton this far out from the Nov. 4 election.

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg Center poll found that of all the big name Democrats, a nod from Bill Clinton moves voters like no one else – and even he can’t influence a race that much.

An endorsement from the former president makes 38 percent of voters think more favorably about a candidate, the poll found, and 24 percent of voters think less favorably. Former First Lady/Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton was right behind her husband, with 34 percent saying they would view a candidate more favorably if she bestowed her endorsement upon him or her.

A number of big names on both sides of the aisle have been making appearances on behalf of statewide and congressional candidates in recent weeks.

Just yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden headlined a rally at the airport in Syracuse in support of Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei, who faces a tough challenge from Republican John Katko in NY-24. Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has received in-person support from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, along with statements and/or email appears from former Massachusetts Governor/presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US Senator/former presidential candidate John McCain.

Senate GOP Keeps the Heat on Denenberg

Technically speaking, Democrat Dave Denenberg isn’t running anymore for the Long Island state Senate seat once held by former GOP Sen. Chuck Fuschillo. The Nassau County legislator dropped out of the race in late September, after a lawsuit by his former law firm accused him of defrauding a client of more than $2 million by billing for “fictitious” services that he never performed.

But Denenberg’s name remains on the ballot after Nassau County Democrats decided against the only option available to them to remove him from their line – nominating him for a judgeship. Though Denenberg isn’t actively campaigning against his GOP opponent, Nassau County Legislator Michael Venditto, Senate Republicans aren’t taking any chances, launching another attack ad that highlights his legal troubles, both past and present.

The GOP needs to hold all its seats on Long Island, including the 8th SD, which was left vacant by Fuschillo’s abrupt retirement on New Year’s Eve 2013, as part of its strategy for winning back control of the chamber. The Democrats viewed Denenberg as their best chance for a pick-up on the side, but have since transferred their attention to Adrienne Esposito, who is battling Republican Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci for another open seat – the one being vacated by state Sen. Lee Zeldin, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1.

Another active race on Long Island pits businessman Adam Haber, a Democrat, against Republican Sen. Jack Martins. Denebger’s implosion freed up time and resources for the Senate Republicans to spend on defending Martins.

A Long Island GOP source says there’s a “shadow campaign” pushing Denenberg, who continues to serve in his capacity as county legislator, despite calls – most notably, from former US Senator-turned-lobbyist Al D’Amato – for him to step down.

Here’s the script for the new anti-Denenberg ad, which hits the airwaves today and is similar to a past ad that said the Democratic attorney would “fit right in” with the string of Albany lawmakers busted on corruption charges:

Announcer: “There’s no other way to put it, Dave Denenberg is a criminal. First Denenberg is arrested and convicted for fraud and deceit. Then Denenberg is fired from his law firm for stealing $2 million from his clients, creating fake bills for work he never did. The kicker: Denenberg forges more than one judge’s signature to cover it all up. We already have too many criminals in Albany. Do we really need another one. No, Mr. Denenberg, we don’t.”

Watch Here >>

Gillibrand Emails For Schneiderman

AG Eric Schneiderman is getting a boost in the final weeks of the general election campaign from New York’s junior US senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, who says a win by the Republicans next month would be “simply unacceptable.”

An email blast going out later this morning focuses on abortion rights – a wedge issue the Democratic candidates from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on down are again using to blast their GOP opponents in this Democrat-dominated state.

Gillibrand calls Schneiderman a “lifelong pro-choice advocate” and “the ONLY (her emphasis) candidate for Attorney General who represents the values of New York women, especially when it comes to reproductive rights.”

“As a public interest lawyer, Eric defended reproductive health clinic workers,” the senator wrote. “As a state senator, he led efforts to pass the Clinic Anti-Violence Act and a law requiring emergency contraception to be made available to victims of sexual assault.”

“As attorney general, he successfully fought to protect and expand buffer zones around health clinics so that families would be safe from intimidation and harassment.”

“And in response to the Supreme Court’s troubling Hobby Lobby ruling this year, Eric proposed the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act to force employers to disclose to women if they plan to change their contraception coverage.”

“We need an attorney general who unequivocally supports a woman’s right to choose, and Eric is the only candidate in this race who meets that basic standard.”

Schneiderman’s Republican challenger, former Pataki administration official John Cahill, is a practicing Catholic who is personally opposed to abortion and has expressed opposition to the abortion rights plank of Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act.

But Cahill has also pledged to uphold the law regarding abortion if he’s elected attorney general on Nov. 4, as well as any other potentially controversial laws – including same-sex marriage.

Gillibrand’s email does not specifically mention Cahill by name.

NYLCV Hits Airwaves For Grisanti, Announces Statewide Slate

With just two weeks remaining until Election Day, the New York League of Conservation Voters is poised to announce its third and final top priority candidate: Sen. Mark Grisanti.

The League is launching a new TV ad on behalf of the Western New York Republican, which highlights the fact that he is no longer running on the GOP line after losing his own party’s primary to attorney Kevin Stocker, and instead will appear solely on the Independence Party line.

Grisanti joins two other candidates – Democratic freshman Sen. Ted O’Brien, of Rochester, facing off against Republican Richard Funke; and Andrienne Esposito, a Democratic environmental activist who running against GOP Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci for the Long Island seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Lee Zeldin – as the NYLCV’s top priority candidates this season.

The League also went all in for Queens Sen. Tony Avella, a member of the IDC, in his successful campaign against his Democratic primary opponent, former NYC Comptroller John Liu.

The NYLCV is on track to spend $700,000 worth of independent expenditures to assist candidates on both sides of the aisle this year – more than double the $300,000 it spent in 2012.

That cash goes to cover mailers, TV ads, GOTV campaigns and door-to-door canvasses for its priority candidates.

The NYLCV has two ads out for O’Brien – a negative spot that slams Funke; and a positive spot that focuses on O’Brien’s support for the Child Safe Products Act, which made it out of the Senate Environmental Committee and had enough sponsors to pass, but never got to the floor for a full house vote.

The League’s main goal is to defend allies who advance its agenda in the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, which Grisanti chairs. O’Brien is the committee’s ranking member.

The NYLCV is also announcing its support of the re-election campaigns of two statewide Democrats – Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

When it comes to the state attorney general’s race, however, the League is splitting the baby, taking the unusual step of endorsing both candidates: Incumbent Democrat Eric Schneiderman and Republican John Cahill.

Here’s the Grisanti ad:

Second Time’s a Charm; In 2014, Cuomo for Gipson

You probably saw this one coming, given today’s Hudson Valley Women’s Equality tour, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s earlier endorsement of one of the region’s top Democratic state Senate candidates, Justin Wagner.

The governor and his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, just announced their support for freshman Sen. Terry Gipson, who is fighting hard to fend off a challenge from Republican Dutchess County Legislator Sue Serino.

“As Senator, Terry Gipson has demonstrated a clear commitment to economic development, women’s equality and affordable housing,” Cuomo said in a statement released by his campaign.

“We need Senator Gipson back in office this November in order to look out for the needs of the Hudson Valley.”

This is a particularly interesting turn of events, since Cuomo didn’t support Gipson in 2012. Instead, the governor backed then-GOP Sen. Steve Saland as a “thank you” for the senator’s “yes” vote on same-sex marriage.

Saland ended up losing the election, thanks to the presence on the ballot of a Conservative candidate, Neil DiCarlo, with whom the now-former senator split the vote on the right.

A Siena poll released earlier this month showed Serino leading Gipson by 12 percentage points in the 41st SD. He won the three-way race in 2012 with just 44 percent of the vote.

Like Wagner, Gipson’s effort to petition his way onto the governor’s Women’s Equality Party line was unsuccessful. In fact, just two Democrats – IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins – will join the statewide ticket on the WEP line next month.

UPDATE: I’m reminded by the regular Senate Democrats that businessman Adam Haber, who is running against GOP Sen. Jack Martins on Long Island, also qualified for the WEP.

Cuomo’s Second Senate Democrat: Justin Wagner (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today announced his second general election endorsement of a state Senate Democratic candidate, issuing a statement of support for Justin Wagner, who is making his second attempt at winning the Hudson Valley seat currently occupied by GOP Sen. Greg Ball.

The Cuomo campaign this morning issued a press release timed to coincide with the Hudson Valley tour of the governor’s Women’s Equality Express bus, which is actually being “manned” (pun intended) by Cuomo’s running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul.

“I am confident that Justin Wagner will bring a new energy to Albany that will help make the Hudson Valley an even better place to live, work, raise a family and start a business,” Cuomo said.

“And by signing the Women’s Equality Pledge, Justin has also demonstrated a clear commitment to advance the rights of New York women.”

In a departure from the past two weekends of bus tours, Cuomo isn’t actually on the Women’s Equality Express. He had a busy day yesterday, taking a whirlwind tour of the Dominican Republican Puerto Rico to pay his “respects” to, and acknowledge the growing clout of, Latino voters back home.

Last weekend, Cuomo made his first endorsement of a Senate Democratic candidate, announcing his support for Adrienne Esposito. The environmental activist is running for the Long Island seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Lee Zeldin, who is vacating his seat to challenge Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1.

The bus made its first stop at Mt. Kisco Public Library in Mt. Kisco, its second stop at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, and its third and final stop at the Rondout Neighborhood Center Gym in Kingston.

Wagner, an attorney from Croton on the Hudson in Westchester, narrowly missed defeating Ball in 2012 after a very contentious campaign. He announced his intention in November 2013 to seek a re-match against Ball, but the senator decided not to seek re-election this fall, and is widely believed to be planning a relocation to Texas.

The Republicans picked Terrence Murphy, a Yorktown councilman, to square off against Wagner in the 40th SD. The race has become increasingly heated, as the Democrats believe they have a good chance at picking up the seat.

As in several other closely fought Senate races, the Women’s Equality Act has been a central focus of the Democrats’ campaign strategy in the 40th SD.

As part of its efforts to engage directly with voters, the Cuomo campaign and his allies in the women’s rights movement are encouraging all New Yorkers to sign up for women’s equality text alerts by texting “voteWEP” to 225568.

This effort has caused some consternation among the governor’s fellow Democrats, who worry this WEP push could hurt their effort to re-take the majority because most Democratic Senate candidates were not able to qualify to run on the minor party line.

Wagner was one of the Democrats who failed to make the cut for the WEP line.

The WEP push is also worrying Working Families Party officials, on whom the similarity between “WEP” and “WFP” is not lost.

The governor is running on the WFP line, and needs to receive at least 50,000 votes there in order for the party to retain its official status – and, more importantly, its ballot line. But he is not urging voters to support him on Row D, preferring instead to focus on his WEP campaign.

Updated: The Murphy campaign weighs in.

“These women faced discrimination, sexual harassment, and were paid less than men for doing the same job,” said T.J. McCormack, a Murphy spokesman. “When they took their case to court, Justin Wagner’s firm victimized them again.”

More Liberal Dem Support for Hawkins

After Zephyr Teachout’s loss in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor, made a public appeal for her disappointed supporters on the left to back his campaign.

It appears that call is being heeded. Hawkins yesterday picked up the support of a third New York City-based liberal Democratic Club – the Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform (based in Brooklyn).

“Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform is dedicated to endorsing candidates who support the average Brooklynite,” the club’s president, Raul Rothblatt, said in a statement released by the Hawkins campaign.

“We have straight-forward values: People should get paid fairly for their work. Right now, our state government seems more interested in enriching people who get overcompensated for their work.”

“The current governor’s policies are closer in line with the GOP than with our Democratic Party values.”

“We also feel the governor failed to live up to his campaign promises of fighting corruption. The failure of the Moreland Commission is just the most egregious example of why voters in Brooklyn are angry with Governor Cuomo.”

The PHDR endorsement comes on the heels of decisions earlier this week by the Village Independent Democrats and Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club – both Manhattan-based organizations – to support Hawkins.

Also last night, the Buffalo Teachers Federation voted unanimously to endorse Hawkins, according to his campaign, becoming the third teachers union to back his minor party gubernatorial bid.

The Buffalo teachers had been strong supporters of Teachout during the primary.

Hawkins will be in Buffalo today to discuss, among other things, public education and the Common Core.

As for Teachout herself, she is still on a statewide tour promoting her new book, “Corruption in America”, and simultaneously trying to help the Senate Democrats’ in their quest to re-take the majority.

Teachout has not yet issued an endorsement in the governor’s race.

Hawkins said earlier this month that he spoke to Teachout about backing him, and she’s “open” to the idea. It’s highly unlikely she’ll support her erstwhile primary opponent, Cuomo, before the Nov. 4 election.

Democrats Launch ‘Day Of Action’ On Abortion Issue

The coalition that supports a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate on Thursday launched a “day of action” aimed at promoting Republican opposition to the abortion provision in the Women’s Equality Act.

Rallies or demonstrations were held in a half-dozen swing state Senate districts on Long Island and in the upstate region.

The groups, specifically, are targeting Republicans George Amedore, Terrence Murphy, Tom Croci, Rich Funke and incumbent Sens. Jack Martins and Mark Grisanti.

The push against Grisanti, in particular, is an interesting one considering that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not ruled out giving the Buffalo lawmaker his nod following his Republican primary loss last month.

Grisanti retains the Independent Party ballot line and is the last sitting Republican in the Senate to have supported same-sex marriage.

Today’s “day of action” was backed a number of statewide officials and political activists ranging from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and the actress Cynthia Nixon.

“New York is the birthplace of the women’s rights movement,” Nixon said in a statement. “We need strong leaders who will protect and defend our freedom of choice because women’s health care decisions should be made by women, not politicians pushing an extremist agenda.”

The push also comes as Cuomo raises women’s issues this election cycle through the Women’s Equality Party, a ballot line designed to promote the WEA.

The party has caused some consternation among Working Families Party officials, who worry it could draw votes away from their ballot line.

Nevertheless, today’s event as the backing of labor groups and activist organizations aligned with the WFP.

“New York’s voters agree that we must preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose, but the Senate Republicans aren’t listening,” said Ivette Alfonso, President of Citizen Action of New York. “That’s why New Yorkers are coming together to choose a progressive majority for the State Senate that will pass the Women’s Equality Act.”

More WEP Upset

From the Morning Memo:

The consternation over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to create the Women’s Equality Party line is growing among Democratic women who worry that effort will hurt down-ballot candidates running on Row A.

On Monday, a Democratic district leader in Manhattan sent an email to a Cuomo administration aide, asking that he express to the governor her “extreme displeasure” with ads that ask voters to support him on the WEP line next month.

“He either does not understand or care about what that means to the Democratic Party,” wrote Louise Dankberg, who is also a member of the Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club and a longtime Upper East Side political activist.

“Votes in the gubernatorial race determine size of Assembly districts, election districts, district leader lines, state committee members, judicial delegates and alternates,” Dankberg continued.

“We are trying to get the word out that it is important for Democrats or anyone wanting to vote for the governor’s ticket to vote on the Democratic line. Any help is much appreciated.”

Dankberg is not the alone in her concern.

Sen. Liz Krueger, who represents the Upper East Side, recently called the Women’s Equality Party a “mistake” that could hurt the Democrats’ effort to re-take the Senate majority and marginalize female voters.

And Karen Scharff, co-chair of the Working Families Party, said during a CapTon interview last week that she sees no need for the WEP, and does not believe women voters should be “pigeonholed” into a separate party.

It is not lost on WFP officials like Scharff that just one letter separates their party from the governor’s WEP – a move some cynics believe is meant to confuse voters and dilute the WFP vote.

Cuomo is running on the WFP line, but rarely mentions that fact, and so far isn’t urging voters to support him there.

If the party fails to get 50,000 votes for Cuomo on its line, it will lose its official ballot status, and if it is out performed by another party – say, the WEP – it will be bumped from its hard-won slot on Row D to a line further down the ballot.