Dec 4th - 5:54 pm
It turns out Assemblyman Keith Wright was correct when he said earlier this week that veteran Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel will be making an announcement “sooner rather than later” about whether he’ll seek yet another 23rd term in 2014.
What Wright was not (ahem) right about, however, is that Rangel has already made a decision about running. Not only is the congressman still considering retirement, but he has also started to meet with potential successors.
“I had thought about retirement very, very seriously and it’s not off the table,” Rangel told our Washington, D.C. Bureau reported Michael Scotto today.
“But the truth of the matter is I have to give people that want to aspire to fill the vacancy – which it would be if I retired – time to raise the money and get known throughout the district, and I meet every week on this issue with different candidates, and those I haven’t met with I’m meeting with this weekend.”
“…I’m talking with some people seeing whether or not there can be some coalition around a candidate as it has been for the last 43 years,” Rangel continued. “But before Christmas I’ll have to make some decision.”
Wright, who chairs the Manhattan Democratic Party and co-chairs the state Democratic Party, is frequently mentioned as a potential successor to Rangel. The assemblyman unequivocally told the New York Post that the congressman “is running,” adding: “You can’t keep a war horse down.”
While speaking to Scotto, he shied away from saying he is seeking his own replacement, but did hint that somebody – and he refused to name names – around whom he thought a coalition could be built recently decided they’re no longer interested in the job.
“That person decided that they have other political ambitions, and I had worked with that person for a number of years, but I have to respect their decision,” the congressman said. “I say all of that to say that I was left without a possible successor that had already done these things – knowing all the community leaders.”
Despite being censured for ethics violations in 2010, Rangel won a hotly contested Democratic primary in 2012. His toughest challenger was Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is widely expected to run again next year.
Nov 27th - 3:35 pm
Assembly Democratic spokesman Mike Whyland said in a statement that majority’s campaign committee’s voluntary compliance with Moreland is a separate issue from the government-related subpoenas.
The Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee is already complying with the anti-corruption panel after receiving its subpoena, Whyland noted.
The fact is the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, a non-government entity, is already cooperating with the Moreland Commission and, unlike the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, never contested a subpoena in the first place There is a world of difference between a subpoena to a party committee, which falls within the Moreland Commission’s mandate to examine campaign contributions and spending, and a subpoena that is a fishing expedition if you will, aimed at legislators and their lawful activities unconnected to campaign contributions. The former has nothing to do with the Legislature as a body; the latter, as admitted by one or more of the commissioners, is aimed directly at the Legislature.
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said in a separate statement earlier that the SRCC agreement today with Moreladn does not impact the legal challenge from by the Senate and Assembly leadership challenging the commission’s power to subpoena.
Nov 8th - 9:52 am
You gotta give State GOP Chairman Ed Cox some credit. Here we are in San Juan where you practicality have to show a Democratic Party allegiance card to get in, and there he is hosting a reception in order to broaden the appeal of the New York Republican Party – particularly among Latinos.
But if the stated goal was to recruit new members, the Republicans sure had a peculiar way of showing it.
The reception followed the one hosted by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Somos host, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz. It was on the second floor of the hotel in what can best be described as a back room. One of the nicest bars in the Condado Hotel, I must admit, although not a ton of space. I came in and set up the camera, mostly to see who would show up. But when I walked out of the room I noticed someone arguing with a potential guest.
Former City Council Candidate Ralina Cardona was trying to get into the party, but was told “no” because ( you ready for this??? ) she “wasn’t on the list.”
I am forever reminded that life is high school.
Ralina and crew eventually brushed past the invisible velvet rope, which was fine since it’s not like the room was that packed. But it occurred to me that if the message is “inclusion,” this was an odd way to welcome people.
Thinking this was maybe an isolated incident, I walked back outside the reception when I heard a familiar voice calling my name. It was Sen. Martin Dilan, a Brooklyn Democrat, who immediately unburdened himself with a lengthy explanation about how he too had been excluded from the GOP party.
Forgetting for a minute that it really wasn’t my place to invite him, I offered to take him inside with me to which he quipped: “I don’t want to go into any party that doesn’t want me inside.” His arms were definitely crossed, and I am pretty sure he stomped his foot when he said it, which doesn’t change the fact that he is correct.
Thinking I was now part of something really exclusive, I triumphantly sauntered back into the room and waited for the guest of honor, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is coming off a big win.
When prompted, Astorino explained that Westchester is a “deep blue” county, and he cleaned up with 60 percent of the Hispanic vote in Westchester. This is an interesting statistic for the GOP, which needs desperately to make inroads with Latinos. For reference, we should note that Gov. Chris Christie won 51 percent of the Hispanic vote in New Jeresey this past Tuesday.
These are precisely the types of numbers that allow Republicans to win statewide or even national elections. Asked about potentially challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year ( a decision that he’ll have to make quite soon if not already ), Astorino was demure, saying:
“We are the highest could County in America, we are the highest taxed State in America. We gotta make some fundamental change because our State is fundamentally oubalances lance right now.”
Hmmmm. I’ll take that as an “I’m still thinking about it” answer. But then again what do I know? I was reporting from inside the party that’s still literally telling people they are not welcome.
Nov 8th - 8:49 am
For now at least, it would seem that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is firmly in control of the Democratic Conference in the Asssembly and by extension, his leadership position.
It wasn’t an overwhelmingly well attended welcome reception that Silver hosted with Asssemblyman Felix Ortix last night here in San Juan, but there were enough members representing enough geographic diversity to make clear that not much has changed since the band was last all together in Albany back in June.
Queens Assemblyman David Weprin said that the speaker has “100 percent support” in the conference, and while that might have been a tad generous, he was not alone in his assessment. Assemblyman Tom Abinanti echoed the sentiment,
“I don’t think there is any wavering in support for the Speaker. He’s done what we wanted him to do which is bring us together, cone up with a budget we can live with ands the Assembly passed a lot of good bills last year. not all of them became law, but t he Assembly was able to come together and pass a whole agEdna, very good pieces of legislation for the state of New York.”
Silver, who might actually be a perpetually reincarnated superhero, never seems to lose his control of this conference.
Last spring it was the women assembly members who steadfastly stood by him as the messy Vito Lopez affair unloaded on his watch. Then we learned about another case where harassment complaints were made, this time against Micah Kellner, a Manhattan Democrat, and NEW questions arose about how the speaker handled them.
We haven’t heard much from Silver or the members since then on this matter, though we do know Kellner will be returning to Albany, since he NYC Council bid failed this fall.
One assemblywoman who was here last night probably summed it up perfectly when she told me “no one talks to each other, ” when it comes to the Assembly leadership. She added, “besides, who would take over?!? There is no one.”
That feeling also seems pervasive if not universal.
However, if we have learned anything from how City Council speaker races are decided, sometimes it’s not the individual members who make leadership decisions but the county chairs who tell them how to vote. Tonight the Democratic chairs of all five NYC boroughs will be having dinner together at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse in San Juan. Among the topics expected to be discussed is the future leadership of the Assembly speakership.
Because as one source noted, “20 years is a long time.”
Nov 7th - 1:48 am
Every election night has its winners and losers. Hang around politics long enough and you’ll be on the losing side at some point.
“If you don’t get knocked down, you don’t appreciate how it feels to get back up,” said Erie County Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy.
Langworthy knows what it’s like to get “knocked down.” Just hours after his candidate, Jane Corwin, was bitterly defeated by Kathy Hochul in a Special Congressional Election in 2011, many within his own party were calling for Langworthy’s head.
“Someone who hasn’t experienced failure hasn’t had much experience,” Langworthy said.
That loss made Tuesday night a little more special for Langworthy. His party won two countywide races and took control of the Erie County Legislature for the first time since 1977.
“The victories are much sweeter if you’ve experienced failure,” Langworthy said.
Langworthy’s counterpart, Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner, was on the other side of Tuesday night’s historic result. It’s a defeat that infuriated one fellow Democrat.
“In a county that has, what, 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans, for us to lose the two countywide races, I think is an embarrassment,” said Buffalo Common Council Member Joe Golombek.
It’s an “embarrassment” that Golombek believes Zellner should answer for.
“I think that the honorable thing for Mr. Zellner to do would be to reassess the party and for the good of the party to step aside,” Golombek said.
This isn’t the first challenge from within that Zellner has been faced with. Former Party Chair Steve Pigeon formed a political action committee that funded candidates who mounted marginally successful Democratic Primary challenges.
Zellner has dismissed these challenges. He’s called Pigeon and those who associate with him “fringe” members of the party.
“Taking lessons on how to be a chairman from Steve Pigeon would be like taking boating lessons from the captain of the Titanic. Steve drove this party into the ground when he was involved here and he has no say in the leadership of this organization,” Zellner said.
Facing renewed speculation over his future, and a new challenge to his authority, Zellner was once again defiant.
“Joe Golombek has never been an organizational person. He’s barely a Democrat. He supports Republicans all the time and so taking criticism from someone who supports Republicans quite often about the Democratic Party is just not kosher with me. I’ll take my criticism like anyone else but we think we had a decent night last night,” said Zellner.
Zellner spent Wednesday pointing to the positives that he believes many are overlooking. Democrats did win the Mayor’s race in Tonawanda, gained control of the Hamburg Town Board, and held onto Town Boards in Tonawanda and Cheektowaga.
“I’ve been speaking to town leaders, elected officials throughout the county who are extremely supportive of our organization and appreciate all the hard work and effort that our group put into the election this year. I feel very comfortable in my re-election next year,” he added.
Zellner’s mentor, and predecessor, Len Lenihan says the attacks on the party chair the day after what’s perceived as a tough election are not unusual.
“Every time we lost a race in my ten years, somebody would say he should resign and the next year we would win everything there was to win,” Lenihan said.
The former head of the Erie County Democratic Party says there is an element, small or not, who’d like to replace Zellner. It’s an element Lenihan says contributed to Tuesday’s results.
“Last night was tough, brought on by a lot of the people who wanted to see the Democrats lose. I think when all is said and done, there’s always going to be competition in the Democratic Party. That’s what it’s like,” Lenihan added.
Golombek has never been much of a Zellner fan. He supported Frank Max for Chairman last year.
Zellner narrowly defeated Max and some believe Max is already preparing another run at the party’s top job. Golombek doesn’t necessarily think Max is the right man for the job but says something has to change.
“I think that the Democratic establishment should take a very close look at themselves and they should realize that they’re not an inclusive party. They’re not a big tent party. They’ve turned into a party of cronyism,” Golombek said.
Despite critiques from inside and outside the party Zellner has remained consistently confident. He believes the party’s wins outside of the countywide races won’t go unnoticed.
“The people who are committee members who actually vote on the chairmanship, they respect that. They appreciate that. So like I said, I feel very confident in my re-election next year,” Zellner said.
Zellner doesn’t seem to need any reassurance. If he did, it’s unlikely he’d take it from his Republican Counterpart.
But there does seem to be one thing Zellner, and those who’d like to replace him, can learn from Langworthy’s historic victory Tuesday Night.
“This is a difficult business. The pendulum can swing wildly, especially in the rough and tumble world of Erie County politics. There’s going to be ebbs and flows,” Langworthy added.
Nov 6th - 3:32 pm
The state Democratic Committee today is blasting Ed Cox’s speech in Buffalo to the Independent Oil and Gas Association as the political confrontations begin to heat up for 2014.
Cox in a speech before the energy industry lobby group is knocking Cuomo’s approach on hydorfracking, the controversial natural gas extraction process. The state has missed multiple regulatory deadlines for hydrofracking and Cuomo has turned the process over to the Department of Health, which is yet to release its study on the process’s health impacts.
In a rebuttal from Democratic Committee Executive Director Rodney Capel, the party accuses Cox of becoming “beholden” to the far right of the Republican Party. In a sign of where things are headed next year, Capel uses the phrase “tea party” twice.
“As we head into an election year, Ed Cox and the New York GOP are beholden to the most extreme elements of the national Tea Party,” Capel said in a statement. “New Yorkers will have a clear choice in 2014: continue the progress we’ve made over the past three years or surrender to the same group of extremists that stalled common sense legislation like the Women’s Equality Act. To the Tea Party Republicans and their co-conspirators in the Senate, we have a simple message: your time is up and it’s time for you to go.”
To be sure, Cox is not really from the “tea party” wing of the Republican Party, and indeed has sought out more moderate “electable” candidates in a state where Democrats have a 2-to-1 enrollment advantage.
Nov 5th - 9:10 am
From the Capital Tonight morning memo, the first item:
Rodney Capel, the state Democratic Committee executive director, wants everyone to remember to vote, and vote for the amendment that would expand non-Indian commercial casinos in New York.
In an email sent by the state Democratic Committee yesterday, Capel rehashes a number of the claims made by the pro-casino forces, including that a lack of table-top games in New York means we’re losing money in the Empire State.
“On the ballot tomorrow is a proposal that is critical to bringing $1.2 billion back to New York from states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut,” he writes in the email. “Tomorrow, flip to the BACK of the ballot and vote YES on Proposal 1. Right now, New Yorkers spend $1.2 billion per year in casinos in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania! New York’s money is funding their schools, lowers their taxes, and sends New York jobs out of state. If you agree that it’s time to bring $1.2 billion back to New York, flip to the BACK of the ballot and vote YES on Proposal 1.”
The $1.2 billion figure is used by New York Jobs Now, a coalition of casino companies and labor organizations that support that amendment in both its TV ads and literature.
The $1.2 billion figure is also one that budget analyst E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center views skeptically, especially the notion that all that money would return should casinos be approved and built.
And the push for the amendment isn’t just playing out on the statewide level.
On the local level, Democratic candidates have touted their endorsements from Cuomo with literature that also reminds voters to back the casino amendment.
Of course, Cuomo is the originator of the current effort to expand casino gambling in New York, having shepherded the amendment through the legislative hurdles and developed the enabling legislation with state lawmakers.
The robocall was paid for by New York Jobs Now, which is expected to exceed the $2 million it had announced it would spend at the start of the campaign.
Nov 5th - 12:48 am
Tuesday Night is likely a make or break night for Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner. There are four races to watch on Election Night in Erie County; two experts agree Zellner needs to win two of them.
Two county legislature races in the suburbs could flip control of the legislature to the GOP. Political insiders say the key to winning those two seats, and the county wide races for Sheriff and Comptroller, is turnout.
“When you have an off-year election, and it’s an off-year election where you don’t have the County Executive’s race on the ballot in Erie County, turnout is always a challenge,” said Republican Analyst Vic Martucci.
Buffalo’s Mayor, Democrat Byron Brown, is up for re-election. In a contested race that would drive Democratic turnout in the city. Martucci says this is not a contested race.
“I would be surprised if the turnout is heavy in the city of Buffalo. I expect the mayor to win and win handily and I don’t think that turnout is going to be sufficient enough where it’s going to have an impact on the countywide races,” Martucci said.
Democrats hold a two-to-one enrollment edge in Erie County. Low voter turnout, particularly in the City of Buffalo, would work against Democrat Kevin Gaughan in his bid to unseat Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
“With his limited resources, and he has limited resources, he’s going to focus on trying to get the city vote out and make it a larger percentage of the overall turnout,” said Martucci.
Mychajliw, a former television reporter, easily defeated Democrat David Shenk in last November’s Special Election. Gaughan, is well-known himself for his advocacy for government consolidation.
“He certainly has some name identification. Whether or not that translates into votes is another issue,” Martucci said.
But it’s not just the expected low turnout that could aid Republican Sheriff Tim Howard. Two Democrats are expected to split the opposition vote.
Democrat Bert Dunn lost the Democratic Primary to Dick Dobson, but he remains in the race under the Law and Order Party he created.
“He’s doing what he should have done in the primary, which is spend a whole lot of money and he would’ve been the nominee I think,” said Canisius College Political Science Professor Michael Haselswerdt.
Dunn has spent $200,000 since losing the primary. While some believe Dunn will draw votes from both Dobson and Howard, it’s likely he’ll take more from Dobson.
“He and Dobson are both affiliated with the Democrats in some way. I think he makes it easier for Howard to skate,” Haselswerdt said.
Losing the Comptroller and Sheriff races would certainly look bad for Zellner, but both Martucci and Haselswerdt say there are two other races he needs more.
“He could lose the legislature, which means he’d lose his job in the legislature. It could be a really tough night,” said Haselswerdt.
Zellner is employed by the Erie County Legislature as the Democratic Majority Chief of Staff. It’s a majority that will likely be lost if the Democrats lose one of two suburban legislature seats.
Analysts say the Democrats will likely need to win two contested legislature races in Amherst and in a Cheektowaga-Depew-Lancaster based seat to hold the majority.
Zellner’s hold on the Chairmanship has been considered shaky at best. A marginally successful challenge was mounted by some disgruntled Democrats who formed a political action committee. Two PAC funded candidates, including Dick Dobson, pulled primary night upsets.
Haselswerdt says a bad night for Zellner will lead to another challenge from Frank Max who Zellner narrowly defeated in a hotly contested race for Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman last year.
“If it’s Zellner versus Max after this is all over, I think Max is probably going to be able to supplant him,” Haselswerdt said.
For Zellner, and the Democratic Candidates in these four important races, it will come down to turnout. To generate the kind of turnout needed, Haselswerdt and Martucci say Zellner will have to overcome conventional wisdom.
“There’s no races that anybody that doesn’t care about politics, which is very few people, are going to tune into,” Haselswerdt added.
Nov 2nd - 3:44 am
The Democratic Endorsed Candidate for Rochester Mayor received some support from an unlikely source Friday. It was an endorsement that raised some eyebrows, and made one Monroe County Democrat’s blood boil.
“I’ve been in politics for over 50 years and I have never been so shocked and appalled as I am right now,” said Monroe County Legislator Paul Haney.
In an e-mail to fellow democrats, with the subject line “Disgusting News,” Haney sharply criticized Democrat Lovely Warren for accepting the endorsement of Republican Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.
“Some God awful deal has been made and I am disgusted!” Haney wrote. Haney was irate that Warren would stand side-by-side with someone who as he put it “blocked virtually every initiative that Democrats have advanced in the County Legislature and who opposed Pres. Obama, Gov. Cuomo and tried to knock Louise (Slaughter) out of the box.”
During a Friday morning press conference Brooks suggested her statement of support for Warren was a pledge to work together.
“Residents should know that I believe she and I will have a unique ability to govern together when the election is over,” Brooks said.
Warren pulled a stunning upset in September when she soundly defeated Rochester Mayor Tom Richards in the Democratic Primary. Since then, Warren’s momentum has been slowed by speculation she may not be the most qualified candidate.
“I think the main thing Lovely Warren is fighting right now is the possibility that some voters are going to panic and say I’m hearing Tom Richards will stay. Maybe he can get enough votes and win, maybe this whole election is up for grabs again?” said Aaron Wicks, co-publisher of the online political publication Smugtown Beacon.
Although Richards will appear on the ballot, under the Independence and Working Families lines, he has twice announced he was out of the race and supporting Warren. But Richards has refused to campaign for Warren, and a group of his supporters are continuing to campaign on his behalf.
“One of things that’s been clear from this campaign is that there is still not complete uniformity of opinion within the Democratic Party particularly within the city. Obviously the “Turn Out For Tom” effort shows there are a number of Democrats who are not content with the nominee,” Wicks said.
Wicks believes the Brooks’ endorsement, along with the endorsement of former Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson, was designed to reassure those who voted for Warren in September.
“I think it sends a signal to voters that some of the rhetoric aside, Lovely Warren has been City Council President. She knows the city and she can govern. She’s qualified, so voters need not panic. They don’t need to worry and think about holding onto the existing mayor. They can take a chance on her and know that she’s up to the job. That’s what this endorsement was all about,” said Wicks.
Still, the move seemed to catch Monroe County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Morelle off guard. Morelle said he was not consulted or made aware of the endorsement prior to the press conference.
“Though he has thrown his support publicly behind Warren, there has been some speculation about how warm that support is. So I think the move by the Warren Campaign was done to protect her candidacy. And whether the chairman was involved, or not, was probably irrelevant to their considerations. If they could get this endorsement they were going to get it,” Wicks said.
While Haney, and some of Brooks’ political adversaries, may not like the move Wicks doubts it will cost Warren many votes.
“This is a signal from the most unlikely of sources, a Republican County Executive, that Lovely Warren is someone you can do business with. So I think her base sees this as validation, actually, of what they’ve seen all along,” Wicks added.
But for at least one Democrat this endorsement is simply unacceptable.
“The smell of this ‘deal’ exceeds anything that the old Emerson Street landfill or the Van Lare Sewerage Treatment plant ever produced,” Haney concluded.
Both Brooks and Warren declined to comment on Haney’s email.
Nov 1st - 2:21 pm
Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who spends a lot of time excoriating the Tea Party Republicans he says have hijacked the agenda in D.C., spent some quality time today with one of the state Senate’s most conservative – dare I say, Tea Party-esque? – members: Sen. Greg Ball.
Maloney and Ball teamed up for what was billed as a “Main Street Listening Tour” of Mahopac, Putnam County, which happens to be located in both of their respective districts.
Ball sent out a press release touting the event, complete with the photo that appears here and the following quote from the senator:
“The Mahopac business district is a vital economic corridor in Putnam County. I am happy to work together with Congressman Maloney to enhance the small business climate for business owners and residents not only in Mahopac, but for the entire Hudson Valley Region.”
“Our ma and pa shops in Mahopac have so many wonderful goods and services to offer, they also have a unique insight into the red tape and obstacles that government often creates. I look forward to continuing my friendship with Congressman Maloney as we work in unison for a brighter and more prosperous future for all our constituents.”
The congressman had this to say:
“Small businesses are the backbone of communities like Mahopac and drive economic growth in the Hudson Valley. I ran my own company – I know how difficult running a business can be. Unfortunately, many small businesses in the Hudson Valley still face bureaucratic hurdles and government red tape.”
“I am eager to roll up my sleeves and partner with our local business leaders, Senator Ball and Assemblyman Katz to reduce unnecessary regulations and help our hardworking business excel and grow.”
While railing against the Tea Party, Maloney spends a lot of time promoting himself as a political pragmatist, sometimes voting against his own party and with the GOP in order to demonstrate the sort of independence that plays well in his closely divided Hudson Valley district.
Maloney is facing a likely rematch against the woman he ousted in 2012, Republican Nan Hayworth, who has been raising campaign cash and loaning herself money as she gears up for another run.
Ball and Hayworth have a history of not getting along terribly well.
As you may recall, he was toying with the idea of primarying her back in 2012, and spent a lot of time publicly criticizing her on a variety of issues, but ultimately decided to seek re-election for his Senate seat instead.