Democrats

Martins Slams Curran for Heastie Fundraiser, Lands Flanagan Backing (Updated)

Republican Nassau County executive Jack Martins’ campaign issued a statement today slamming his Democratic opponent, Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran, for her fundraiser last night that was headlined by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Martins campaign spokeswoman Mollie Fullington, (a Pataki administration veteran), accused Curran of being “bought and paid for by the New York City politicians who have continually abused Long Island taxpayers and don’t share our values.”

“Heastie led the effort in the state Assembly to make New York a Sanctuary State for violent felon illegal immigrants, and has been anything but a friend to Long Island as speaker of the state Assembly,” Fullington said.

“…Nassau County cannot afford to have a County Executive who is indebted to New York City politicians like Speaker Heastie,” she continued. “Nassau County needs an independent, experienced leader who will protect county taxpayers and stop the New York City special interests that want to impose their radical agenda on Long Island taxpayers and families.”

Martins is himself a product of Albany, having served in the state Senate for six years, and declining to seek re-election in 2016 when he opted to run for the House seat vacated by former Democratic Rep. Steve Israel. Martins lost that race to Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who, in an ironic twist, used to hold the county executive post that Martins is now seeking.

It’s interesting that Martins’ campaign is using that “violent felon illegal immigrants” line, which is a page straight out of the Senate GOP playbook. The Senate Republicans, who have steadfastly refused to approve the DREAM Act in their chamber, employed that same approach in the last election cycle with considerable success – especially in upstate and Long Island districts.

As for Martins’ Senate tenure, Fullington said he “successfully fought against Assemblyman Heastie and the New York politicians who redirected Long Island’s state school aid to New York City<" adding:

“Jack Martins rolled back the unfair MTA payroll tax Heastie supported to require Long Islanders to subsidize New York City’s subway system and he restored the state property tax rebate program that Heastie and the New York City politicians eliminated when they had total control over state government.”

And since we’re on the subject of the Senate GOP, it’s worth noting that Martins landed the endorsement today of his former colleague, and fellow Long Islander, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who called Martins “right leader at the right time.”

Expect another round of attacks along these same lines from the Martins campaign when Gov. Andrew Cuomo headlines a fundraiser for Curran on Oct. 5. Cuomo has long been an ally of the departing Republican Nassau County executive, Ed Mangano, who declined to seek re-election after being hit with federal corruption charges.

UPDATE: Philip Shulman, Curran’s campaign spokesman, emailed the following response:

“Let’s cut the hypocrisy. Laura is indebted to no one. And Jack Martins would know about indebtedness. Martins took more than $275,000 from Dean Skelos’ corrupt political machine to fund his campaigns for state Senate. So it’s no wonder he blocked efforts to remove Skelos from power after his indictment on federal corruption charges.”

Cole Ends Short-Lived Challenge to Collins

Erin Cole, a Democrat and U.S. Army veteran who announced a 2018 challenge to Buffalo-area Republican Rep. Chris Collins in July, has already decided to terminate her campaign, announcing the decision in a brief press release late this afternoon that did not provide any specific reasons for her departure from the political arena.

“As a proud American, veteran and public servant, I believe it is time to replace partisan Republican Congressman Chris Collins,” Cole said. “Collins is currently facing an ethics investigation for alleged insider trading and he refuses to meet with us regarding our needs.”

“After exploring this race for the last two months, I have decided to end my campaign. I will support a strong Democratic challenge to Collins while continuing my work promoting economic development and supporting fellow veterans.”

“I have greatly appreciated the support and encouragement of so many wonderful people in WNY and the Finger Lakes. Together, we must elect a representative who puts this district first, not himself.”

Cole, who has worked for both state and federal governments, most recently as the international division leader for Global New York at ESDC, acknowledged during a Capital Tonight interview that her quest to oust Collins from the most Republican-dominated House district in the state was a longshot. But she said she always had a desire to “contribute to the greater good,” citing her military experience as proof that she has long been interested in public service.

In that same interview, Cole said she first considered running for Congress in 2016, but the timing wasn’t right. But a year later, she felt “ready” to take on the congressman, who has become an outspoken defender of, and frequent surrogate for, President Donald Trump.

Ryan Whalen reached out to Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, who said the party did not receive a heads up from Cole about her decision to drop out of the race, but also did not seem terribly worried about it. Zellner told Ryan he’s currently focused on the November elections, which he expects will set the tone for next year’s congressional midterm contests.

Several months ago, party leaders interviewed 10 candidates who are interested in taking on Collins, and have not yet made any endorsement decisions, the chairman said.

“We were working closely with all the grassroots leaders and the eight other county chairs working together to turn NY-27 blue,” Zellner said. “We always knew that there were other potential candidates out there. Nothing was set in stone. It’s still very early. There’s a lot of energy in that district to unseat Chris Collins and we’re still very excited about our prospects there.”

Weinstein to Succeed Farrell as Ways and Means Chair

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has tapped the first woman to serve as chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, selecting Brooklyn’s Helene Weinstein to succeed retired Assemblyman Harman “Denny” Farrell Jr., of Manhattan, in the post.

“One of the longest-serving members of the Assembly, Helene has made immeasurable contributions to the residents of New York state,” said Heastie in a press release. “Her vast experience in the People’s House and extensive knowledge of the state budget process will guide the Assembly majority as we continue to pursue our Families First agenda.”

With this selection, the chairs of the budget oversight committees of both the Senate and Assembly are now headed by women. The Senate Republicans were the first to break the glass ceiling when they elevated Sen. Cathy Young, of Olean, to chair the Finance Committee in January 2016. Young also heads the political fundraising arm of her conference, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, or SRCC.

The ranking Senate Democrat on the Finance Committee is Liz Krueger, of Manhattan. She has held that position since 2011, taking over when its former occupant, ex-Sen. Carl Kruger, also of Brooklyn, was indicted on corruption charges.

Weinstein, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1980, was also the first woman to chair the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, a position she has held since 1994. At the time, she was the first woman of any legislative conference to take their party’s top spot on the Finance Committee.

Weinstein said she is “humbled by the historic opportunity to lend new perspective and solutions to the needs facing our families and communities,” adding:

“I have always believed that diversity in leadership is critical to achieving a government that is both inclusive and responsive to today’s challenges. Working together over the years, the Assembly has made tremendous strides in improving the quality of life and economic opportunities for all New Yorkers and I know that we have much more to do.”

“I am proud that I have been chosen to succeed former Assemblyman Denny Farrell, a true legend who guided the Assembly Ways and Means Committee for many years with great skill. I want to thank Speaker Heastie for this honor and I look forward to working with all my Assembly colleagues and partners in government in this new role.”

Weinstein has been a Ways and Means Committee member since 1993, so she has inside knowledge of how it operates. A lot of senior Democrats were interested in this post, since the committee more or less holds the purse strings for everything budget related. Also, the committee has jurisdiction over all legislation introduced in the Assembly that would impact spending or revenues at the State or local level.

Another perk: The Ways and Means Committee chairmanship carries a pretty hefty stipend, known as a lulu in Albany parlance, of $34,000. (That’s just $500 behind what Majority Leader Joe Morelle gets for his leadership post). The job also has a sizable staff – bigger than any other Assembly committee chair.

Heastie joked during my last interview with him that pretty much every member of the conference wanted the job, though Assembly Health Committee Chair Dick Gottfried, the longest-serving member of the Assembly, insisted that he’s perfectly happy where he has been for the past 30 years. Also mentioned, due to his seniority, was Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lenthol, who heads the Codes Committee.

Weinstein’s elevation means the Judiciary Committee job is open, and that sparks a process known as “churn,” in which various lower ranked Assembly chairs jockey for position and move up the leadership ladder.

Fellow Assembly Dems Help Brindisi Raise Congressional Cash

They may be sorry to see him go, assuming he’s able to defeat incumbent Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney next year, but Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi’s Democratic colleagues are lining up to help raise cash for what’s expected to be an expensive and divisive race.

Assemblyman John McDonald, a Cohoes Democrat, forwarded his supporters an invitation to a Sept. 26 event being hosted for Brindisi by a number of upstaters – including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who is fresh off a Democratic primary victory that all but assures her a second four-year term in November.

“I rarely send this type of email, however I am doing so today because of the respect I have for my colleague Anthony Brindisi who is running for Congress in an area adjacent to ours,” McDonald wrote.

“He is smart, young and hard working. He is a true advocate for both education and the hard-working middle class. Please consider supporting Anthony. He will be a great asset to the New York delegation in Washington.”

The event, which will take place at the Albany Center Gallery on Broadway, costs between $35 (for young professionals) to $2,700 (the maximum contribution) to attend. Members of the host committee, which is still in formation, include a number of other Assembly Democrats from both upstate and NYC.

The invitation describes Brindisi as a “top pick-up opportunity for the Democrats in NY-22.”

Though the race only recently got underway, it’s already taken a negative turn, which Brindisi and Tenney, who also used to be a member of the Assembly, trading barbs on everything from Brindisi’s father’s legal representation of mobsters to a town hall the congressman is scheduled to hold this coming Tuesday.

Tenney is already seeking to use Brindisi’s ties to fellow Democrats – including Gov. Andrew Cuomo – against him, calling him a “slick politician” who “pretends to be a moderate.”

Though Brindisi has insisted that he will shy away form “name calling,” his allies and outside interests seeking to assist him in ousting Tenney, will no doubt spend considerable time – and cash – playing up her steadfast support for President Donald Trump.

They will surely seek to paint her as too right wing for a district that was previously represented by a moderate Republican, Richard Hanna, who refused to endorse Tenney in the 2016 election cycle after she tried unsuccessfully to beat him in the 2014 GOP primary.

Kavanagh Wins Manhattan Dems, Cuomo Support

The following is from NY1’s Zack Fink. For a more detailed look at the ins and outs of the vote, click here to see his tweets from yesterday.

Democratic Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh is expected to fill the Lower Manhattan state Senate seat vacated by ex-Sen. Daniel Squadron in a yet-to-be-called special election, though he did not secure the lion’s share of the vote when members of the Manhattan Democratic Committee gathered to select a candidate.

District Leader Paul Newell, who ran an unsuccessful primary challenge to then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in 2008 and also lost a bid for Silver’s old Assembly seat in 2016, received more votes.

But Kavanagh is expected to have the support of Brooklyn Democratic Party leaders, and that should be enough to secure him the nomination.

The 26h Senate District seat straddles both New York and Kings’ counties. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC Comptroller Scott stringer and NYC Public Advocate Letitia James have endorsed Kavanagh for the seat, which is safely Democratic, and won’t be a factor in the upcoming rematch over control of the Senate chamber.

There were other contenders for Squadron’s seat, but they bowed out, creating a two-man contest between Newell and Kavanagh. Over the weekend, the assemblyman received the support from the Brooklyn Democratic Party, though the reform New Kings Democrats members are supporting Newell.

Squadron’s abrupt retirement last month took Democrats by surprise, though he had made no secret of his desire to depart Albany, and ran unsuccessfully for NYC public advocate in 2013.

His departure left a vacancy that likely will be filled by a special election called by the governor, who has not yet selected a date, but is expected to announce the contest will run concurrent with the upcoming general election in November.

After yesterday’s vote, Kavanagh’s campaign released a statement announcing that the assemblyman had secured the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his Senate bid.

“We need leaders in the state Senate who will fight for a more progressive future for New York, and I’m proud to endorse Brian Kavanagh for the 26th state Senate district,” Cuomo wrote.

“In the Assembly, Brian has been a relentless advocate for all New Yorkers, working diligently to get illegal guns off our streets, protect our environment, and preserve affordable housing.”

“Now, as the next state Senator for Manhattan and Brooklyn, I know Brian will work with me to continue New York’s proud tradition as the progressive capital of our country. Brian has my full support.”

Cuomo has come under fire from the left wing of the Democratic Party and its allies in the Working Families Party who do not believe he has done enough to assist the so-called regular Democrats in reuniting with the breakaway, eight-member IDC faction to help them re-take the majority in the Senate.

Pressure on Cuomo to help assure a Democratic majority in the Senate has grown as speculation mounts that the is considering a potential White House run in 2020.

There is likely to be a sizable Democratic field interested in taking on President Donald Trump, and if Cuomo gets into a Democratic primary situation, he’ll face the sort of true believing voters who are informed about things like Senate control and the governor’s history of endorsing – or failing to endorse – fellow Democrats in his home state.

Yuh-Line Niou, Brooklyn Dems Back Kavanagh for Senate

Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, who was mentioned as a potential candidate to fill former Sen. Daniel Squadron’s seat, today announced she is throwing her support to her Assembly colleague, Brian Kavanagh, though she pledged to work to reform the special election process to give voters more of a choice in candidate selection.

“I plan to work on legislation in the Assembly to bring real democracy to the forefront of special elections and fix this broken system,” the assemblywoman wrote in a statement released this afternoon.

“…while the current rules are far from ideal, lower Manhattan needs experienced, honest, and thoughtful leaders to represent us at all levels. That’s why it is critical that we elect my friend and Assembly colleague, Brian Kavanagh, to the State Senate.”

Niou cited Kavanagh’s “vast amount of state government experience,” including his efforts as part of a group spearheaded by former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg to push for gun control.

She also said she believes Kavanagh will be a “bulwark against Trump’s extremist agenda, standing with me on the frontlines to protect our progressive values and combat Trump’s divisive policies.”

It appears that Democratic Party leaders are coalescing behind Kavanagh in advance of today’s vote by party leaders to select a candidate to run in the yet to be called special election.

He has landed the support of Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Frank Seddio, though the reformist New Kings Democrats are backing Paul Newell, a district leader who unsuccessfully challenged then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in a 2007 primary. Newell also has the support of the Downtown Independent Democrats, of which he is a member.

Kavanagh is one of five Democrats who have announced their intention to seek the seat Squadron abruptly gave up early last month.

Also running are: former NYC Council member Alan Gerson; Diego Segalini, a Lower East Side resident who’s executive vice president of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council; and former Brooklyn prosecutor Eileen Naples.

Niou won a six-way race in September 2016 for the Democratic nomination for the seat Silver was forced to relinquish in 2015 due to his federal corruption conviction.

Among those she defeated were Newell and former Assemblywoman Alice Cancel, whom the disgraced speaker helped install to represent his district via an April special election in which Niou ran unsuccessfully on the Working Families Party line.

Martins Releases 1st TV Ad in Nassau Co Exec Bid

Now that he knows who his Democratic opponent will be in November, Republican Nassau County executive candidate Jack Martins isn’t wasting any time getting the general election battle underway.

County Legislator Laura Curran barely had time to savor her Democratic primary victory over County Comptroller (and party switcher) George Maragos last night before Martins, a former state senator, hit the airwaves with his first TV ad of the race.

The spot, entitled “Zero Tolerance” and produced by produced by BrabenderCox, was provided to CapTon for a sneak preview. In it, Martins pledges to battle corruption in a county that has seen its fair share of that particular problem, most recently in connection with the outgoing Republican executive, Ed Mangano, who declined to seek reelection as a result.

The Nassau County GOP backed Martins even before Mangano announced his plans regarding a third term, breaking with the incumbent due to his legal troubles. The party and its candidate clearly want to put as much distance between themselves and their tainted former standard bearer, hence the corruption-busting focus of this ad.

The press release announcing the ad, which is going up with a fairly sizable $1 million buy, notes Martins “passed the pension forfeiture constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot statewide this November.” It also includes a link to his reform plan.

(Note that it did take Albany politicians quite some time to get on board with the pension forfeiture amendment, thanks to ongoing debate and infighting over its final wording).

Here’s the script of the Martins ad, which is pretty straightforward/no frills. It features Martins in a shirt and tie, (sans jacket), speaking to a group of supporters at what appears to be some sort of forum who applaud him at the end.

“We have the ability to great things here in Nassau County, but it starts with having zero tolerance when it comes to public corruption,” Martins says.

“Not only do we have to have the ability to remove somebody from office. we have to have the ability to say we’re going to take away your public pension, because you don’t deserve a pension if you violated the public trust.”

“If you’re an elected official, and you put yourself ahead of the people, there have to be consequences for violating the public trust.”

Martins served three terms as a state senator until last year, when instead of seeking re-election, he ran for the House seat vacated by former Democratic Rep. Steve Israel. Martins lost that race to now-freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive.

After last night’s primary results were in, Martins also didn’t waste any time releasing a statement “welcoming” Curran into the race, but also slamming her for “wanting to make this about the past.”

“Unfortunately, with what appears to be historically low turnout today in the Democratic primary, it seems the strategy of ‘looking back’ hasn’t excited Democratic voters, which doesn’t bode well for Democrats in the general election,” Martins added.

Curran, meanwhile, said her victory yesterday was “a clear message that Nassau County is ready to chart a new path – that we are ready to put an end to the culture of corruption and make our government live up to the greatness of the people of this county.”

She also sought, as she has repeatedly, to tie Martins to the corruption problems that have plagued the local GOP, saying:

“We are facing off against a political machine that has proven it knows how to win. But we know all too well what the reality of those victories have meant – corruption scandal after corruption scandal, with politicians like Ed Mangano, (former Senate Majority Leader) Dean Skelos, and (former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor) John Venditto being dragged out in handcuffs for using our tax dollars to enhance their own bottom lines.”

Flynn Formally Launches in NY-19

The candidacy of Brian Flynn, a Greene County Democrat and medical device manufacturing company president, in NY-19 next year has not exactly been a secret.

This past spring, Flynn’s name appeared on an ever-increasing list of potential candidates – I believe we’re up to eight at this point? – interested in challenging freshman Republican Rep. John Faso, whose swing district is one of the Democrats’ top targets in the upcoming midterm elections.

And over the summer, Flynn reported raising more political cash than anyone else currently in the race – even the congressman himself – though that was thanks in large part to a $500,000 loan he floated to fund his campaign. (A spokesman for Flynn said there’s no limit at this point to the amount the candidate is willing to spend on this effort, and he also has no expectation of ever being repaid).

Today, however, marks the official launch of Flynn’s bid, which he marked with a video that focuses on the tragic death of his older brother, JP, who was killed in the 1988 terrorist attack on Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and how that spurred the younger Flynn to a life of service, activism and action.

“My older brother and best friend was killed…and my mother picked up the phone, and she slammed down the phone and said: He’s dead. You look for meaning; why did this happen? Why would someone kill your brother. And I heard my brother talking to me and saying, alright, now you’re living for two of us,” an emotional Flynn recalls.

“So, I was 19 years old, and I get in the car and I drive to Washington to get justice for the victims of this terrorist attack. The government tried to tell us that it could have been an accident. But we knew right away that wasn’t true. I was just a teenager, but I learned when you see something that is wrong, you have to do something about it.”

“We fought tirelessly to get safety regulations for airlines that would prevent this kind of terrorist attack…I’ve been fighting for change ever since.”

Flynn goes on to recount his family’s history – three generations living in the Green County area – remembering that his grandfather was a bartender in Leeds, and his great-uncle Mike Quill “started the union that protected subway workers.”

There’s also some personal testimony from Flynn’s sister, Kerry Mariani, and Lynn Gaffney, identified as “a small business owner.”

The video ends with Flynn criticizing Faso for failing to “fix things” in Washington, and instead working with President Donald Trump to make things “worse” with “chaos, dysfunction, (and) hateful rhetoric.” In particular, the video cites Faso’s “yes” vote on the health care reform bill, which has been a flashpoint for the left that is organizing against the Republican lawmaker.

Flynn also launched a new campaign website today, which can be found here.

D-Trip Takes Note Of Trump’s Upstate Poll Slide

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday seized on the Siena College poll released this week that found President Donald Trump’s favorable and job approval ratings falling in upstate New York.

DCCC is attempting to mount competitive challenges in key congressional races outside of New York City, including the districts held by Reps. John Katko, Claudia Tenney and John Faso.

The poll found Trump’s favorable rating upstate stands at only 36 percent and his job approval is only at 26 percent among voters.

Republican voters, meanwhile, hold a low opinion Congress, with half saying it’s doing a “poor” job.

“These poll numbers spell serious trouble for upstate House Republicans,” said DCCC Spokesman Evan Lukaske. “Majorities of Upstate New York voters clearly despise President Trump, House Republicans and their collective effort to pass a health care bill that would have increased premiums and kicked people off their health insurance. Democrats clearly have the wind at their backs as we head into 2018.”

To be sure, Trump’s poll slide won’t necessarily impact upstate congressional races. Trump isn’t back on the ballot until 2020 and the contours of the midterm elections held more than a year from now could turn on other issues beyond those facing the president right now.

Felder, Stewart-Cousins Huddle Amid Senate Fight

image1From the Morning Memo:

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins met privately in New York City on Wednesday with Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a lawmaker who is a key linchpin for control of the narrowly divided chamber.

A source described the meeting as “friendly and productive” and has been part of regular conversations between the two lawmakers.

Felder, a registered Democrat, is said to enjoy a good relationship with Stewart-Cousins, who has spoken to him on several occasions about joining the mainline conference in the Senate.

The meeting comes amid a summertime swirl over the control of the state Senate, led by Republicans with the help of Felder’s membership in the GOP conference.

The focus from liberal advocates has been on the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, which remains a key bloc of votes in the Senate chamber and has in the past worked in a majority coalition with Senate Republicans.

Felder and IDC Leader Jeff Klein for several weeks engaged in a “you first” back and forth over aligning with mainline Democrats in the chamber. Felder, Senate Democrats have pointed out, has not ruled out joining the Senate Democratic conference.

The IDC, in turn, has questioned Felder’s support for key liberal issues the left would like to see accomplished with a working Democratic majority in the state Senate.

Democrats are set to once again have 32 enrolled party members in the state Senate after November. The seat vacated by Sen. Daniel Squadron this summer is considered a safe district for the party.