GOP Tries To Push Maffei Off the WFP Line

The incomparable Bill Carey reports that Democratic incumbent Rep. Dan Maffei could lose a key spot on the November ballot if Republican leaders win a new court battle.

Maffei has the endorsement of Democrats for his re-election bid in NY-24. He also has the support of the labor-backed Working Families Party – but the GOP is trying to change that.

The Republicans filed an order to show cause today that seeks to invalidate Maffei’s WFP petitions, claiming a staffer of the congressman who witnessed requirement signatures on the petitions is not properly registered to vote in New York.

The GOP claims William Miller is registered in two other states – North Carolina and Georgia – and they raise questions over the validity of his registration here. Of just over 170 signatures gathered for the petitions, Miller was the witness for 117.

Maffei’s Republican opponent, former prosecutor John Katko, has the GOP, Conservative and Independence Party lines. If this challenge to Maffei’s WFP line is successful, the congressman would only have one line in November – the Democrats’ Row A. (Theoretically, that is, unless he creates a new, independent line to run on).

WFP State Director Bill Lipton blasted Katko and his “Tea Party allies” for filing this suit, which he said “has no merit and is simply an effort to disenfranchise voters.”

“Maffei’s campaign has the endorsement of the Working Families Party and the qualifications necessary to circulate and collect Working Families Party signatures,” Lipton said.

Frank Hoare, an Albany-based Election Law attorney representing Maffei’s campaign, called the challenge “a political stunt” designed to “distract Central New Yorkers from the fact that Katko won’t take a position on tough issues and doesn’t have a plan to create jobs in Central New York.”

“Representatives from the Friends of Dan Maffei Campaign followed the letter and spirit of the law and had the proper qualifications to circulate and collect the requisite signatures to qualify and appear on the ballot,” Hoare said.

A state Supreme Court justice has ordered a show cause hearing on the matter for May 5th.

Republicans try to push Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei off the WFP line. by liz_benjamin6490

Mayor Miner Steps Down From Democratic Party Post (Updated)

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who has made headlines by publicly opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a number of high-profile policy issues, today submitted her resignation from the position of state Democratic Party co-chair – a post for which Cuomo hand-selected her two years ago.

It has been speculated for some time that Cuomo would force Miner out of her political position, thanks to her criticisms of key elements of his agenda – especially where financially ailing upstate cities are concerned. But Miner insisted during a brief phone interview this afternoon that she was not pressured to depart.

“It’s time,” the mayor said. “I want to give them a chance to put somebody in there who can help them with a full slate of elections moving forward. It was my decision.”

But a Democratic source insisted that had Miner not resigned, she would not have received sufficient votes at the state party convention in Melville next month to be re-elected along with her fellow co-chair, Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright. UPDATE: Miner told Gannett’s Joe Spector that she won’t be attending the convention at all. Instead, she’ll attend a conference on cities in Boston.

UPDATE2: Miner spoke briefly with TWC’s Bill Carey, who told her about the Democratic source’s comment. Her response: “That’s laughable.”

Miner tendered her letter of resignation (which appears below) to Cuomo and members of the state Democratic Committee this afternoon. In it, she pledged to “do all I can to ensure Democrats continue to get elected to office this year and going forward.”

Miner and Wright were tapped by Cuomo to co-chair the party in May 2012. They replaced Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, who was a holdover from the era of former Gov. David Paterson. (Incidentally, Jacobs also insisted that he wasn’t forced to give up his state post, but rather had decided that the time was right after three years on the job for him to move on).

Miner was elected mayor of Syracuse – the first woman to hold the position – in 2009. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2013, and is barred by term limits from running again.

Last spring, Miner made headlines when she publicly questioned Cuomo’s plan – or lack thereof – to address the fiscal problems faced by cities like hers. She also penned an OpEd criticizing the governor’s proposal to let municipalities borrow to offset ballooning pension costs, calling that idea ”an acconuting gimmick.” A modified version of the plan did end up in the 2013-14 budget.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s resigns from NYS Democratic Party co-chairmanship. by liz_benjamin6490

Black And Latino Lawmakers Pushing New Minimum Wage Push

A coalition of community organizations and black and Latino lawmakers on Thursday plan to make a renewed, post-budget session effort to increase the state’s minimum wage.

Lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, will rally at a McDonald’s in midtown Manhattan at 12:30 for the wage hike.

The group behind push is the same organization of fast-food workers that has been supporting an increase in the minimum wage, along with more protections for service workers.

The effort to raise the minimum wage yet again stems from dissatisfaction among liberal lawmakers that the minimum wage legislation approved in 2013 by the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not go far enough.

The agreement raised the state minimum from $7.25 — currently the federal minimum wage — to $9 over the next three years.

But some Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate say the agreement didn’t go far enough and in some cases hurt low-wage workers.

In addition to the wage hike being too small, lawmakers say tax credits designed to encourage the hiring of teens hurts older workers earning the minimum wage. They also point to the exclusion of tipped workers from the minimum wage increase.

An increase on the national level has drawn opposition, but President Obama this year approved an executive order to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10.

Members of the Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Asian & Latino legislative caucus back legislation that would alter the 2013 minimum wage agreement, including ending the tax credits as well as broadening the measure to include tipped workers.

At the same time, a separate bill increase the minimum wage at a faster pace.

Another bill would allow for local governments to set their own minimum wage above the state’s level, currently $8.

Cuomo in a radio interview earlier this year dismissed the idea of local control for a minimum wage.

“If you had local governments setting their own minimum wage you could have a race to the bottom,” Cuomo said.

Senate Democrats Push Hostile Amendments

Senate Democrats on Monday pushed a variety of so-called hostile amendments — additions to budget bills that are used more to prove and raise a political point of what is not in the 2014-15 budget.

All the amendments were ruled “not germane” to the budget bills.

The amendments included a measure aimed at stripping pensions from those convicted of public corruption, increase aid to municipalities by $340 million, a delay in assessing teacher evaluations when it comes to the Common Core standards and a moratorium on allowing high-volume hydrofracking.

At the same time, the mainline conference pushed increased small business aid as well as increased public school funding.

The votes on the measures aren’t on the amendments themselves, but whether they actually relate to the subject at hand.

“As state leaders, we have a responsibility to use tax dollars wisely to grow New York’s economy and assist struggling middle class families, public schools and small businesses,” Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “The 2014-2015 State Budget could have, and should have, done more to help middle and working class New Yorkers and I am disappointed that the Senate Majority Coalition voted against our amendments. The Democratic Conference will continue to fight for common sense solutions to the issues facing our state.”

Cuomo To Skip Nassau Dems’ Dinner Tonight

The legislative budget debate, which is expected to drag on into the night, is preventing Gov. Andrew Cuomo from attending a Democratic dinner in Nassau County where he was scheuled to co-headline a tribute to retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said he received a call from Cuomo aide Joe Percoco a little over an hour ago with the bad news. But Jacobs also received a heads up last night that the way things were shaping up at the Capitol, it was possible Cuomo would need to stay in Albany to make sure the budget vote went smoothly.

Jacobs and Cuomo have been at odds lately, thanks to the chairman’s call for the governor and his GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, to reject the Independence Party’s endorsement in hopes of starving it out of existence.

Astorino, who was unlikely to receive the party’s nod anyway, quickly heeded Jacobs’ call. But Cuomo has hedged, preferring instead to let Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano blast Jacobs at an unrelated Red Room press conference.

During a brief telephone interview this afternoon, Jacobs, a former state Democratic Party chairman, insisted his difference of opinion with Cuomo on the Independence Party has nothing to do with the governor’s decision to skip tonight’s dinner.

“We knew going in when we picked this date that there was a distinct possibility that the governor would not be able to attend because budget wrangling would be going on in Albany,” Jacobs said. “And as I understand it, there is a lot of budget wrangling going on in Albany.”

Jacobs said Pelosi is still scheduled to attend the event, as are a number of McCarthy’s congressional colleagues, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

NRCC Slams Maffei For Second Home Purchase

Rather predictably, the NRCC is taking aim at Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei for buying a $699,000 second home in Virginia, saying the purchase shows he’s out of touch with his constituents back home in Central New York, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet.

The GOP’s statement notes that Maffei lost his seat in year – like this one – when there isn’t a presidential race to boost turnout in this Democrat-dominated state. The congressman is apparently back in the Republicans’ crosshairs now that local GOP and Conservative leaders have settled on a challenger, former federal prosecutor John Katko, to take on Maffei in the general election. (Katko does face a primary challenge from Syracuse businessman Ian Hunter).

“D.C. Dan Maffei apparently loves the Washington life so much that he decided to put down roots there,” said NRCC spokesman Ian Prior. “Maffei will certainly have lots of time to spend in his new $700,000 home after November 4th when Central New Yorkers tell him he can stay in Washington, just not as their representative.”

According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Maffei and his wife, Abby Davidson Maffei, split their time between Washington, D.C. and Syracuse to accomodate both of their work schedules.

The couple had been renting an apartment near the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and also owns a home in Syracuse’s Valley neighborhood, which they purchased last year after selling a house in DeWitt to Joan O’Donnell Dadey, wife of Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey.

Maffei told the Post-Standard that rents in the D.C. area are so high that it made more sense, financially speaking, for him to rent. He and his wife are expecting their first child in June.

Members of Congress receive a base salary of $175,000. As of last June, Maffei was one of the least wealthy members of Congress, thanks to his student loan debt.

Senate Dems Push For More Education Aid

Senate Democrats who represent upstate and suburban school districts signed on to a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders urging them to set aside more state funds to districts outside of New York City.

The lawmakers point to reductions in school aid in prior budget years as well as the gap-elimination adjustments that have impacted districts, especially the so-called “Big 4″ — Yonkers, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

In all, the lawmakers are calling for additional foundation aid as well as fully-funded statewide pre-K program.

For now, it appears Cuomo and lawmakers are putting together a plan that would spend $300 million on pre-Kindergarten programs in New York City, with the option for school districts to receive pre-K funds if they demonstrate a desire for the program.

3 25 14 Letter to Governor and Leg Leaders on Upstate Schools by Nick Reisman

Crowley for Rangel

Though a number of high-profile Democrats have defected from Rep. Charlie Rangel’s side to back Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s second primary challenge to the veteran Harlem lawmaker, at least one powerful party leader/elected official is refusing to turn his back on his long-time congressional colleague.

Rep. Joe Crowley, who is also chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, sent out a combination fundraising/endorsement email on Rangel’s behalf this morning entitled “Keep Him in Congress.” Crowley noted that he serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee with Rangel (actually, Rangel chaired the committee, once upon a time).

“I’ve made it my mission to boost the Democratic Party, first in Queens, where I’m the Democratic county leader, and now across the country as the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in Congress,” Crowley wrote. “We need leaders like Charlie Rangel who know how important it is to create good, middle-class jobs, improve healthcare, and build a better America.”

“Instead, though, Republicans have spent their time, sitting on their hands, blocking Democrats from making progress. They’ve held dozens and dozens of votes to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They’ve blocked votes on the minimum wage, on the DREAM Act and immigration reform, on investing in our infrastructure. On so many important issues, Republicans have opposed progress.”

Crowley also announced in the email that he’ll be headlining a fund-raiser for Rangel this Thursday at Antun’s in Queens Village (a popular political spot). Also expected to attend: Former Gov. David Paterson, Rep. Greg Meeks, and Assemblywoman Vivian Cook.

Oddly, Crowley concludes his email by saying that the Republicans are trying to defeat Rangel. But the Harlem congressman’s bigger problem is the June primary, in which he faces both Espaillat and the Rev. Michael Walrond.

AsCapital NY’s Azi Paybarah notes, Crowley’s decision to stick with Rangel is particularly interesting because of the growing Latino presence in Crowley’s district – something about which the Queens congressman has always been particularly sensitive, worried about a potential primary challenge of his own.

Crowley also backed Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick over Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito in the NYC Council speaker’s race, and ended up picking the wrong horse. Mark-Viverito won that battle, becoming the first Latina ever to hold the speaker’s office. She also recently endorsed Espaillat over Rangel in the NY-13 primary, after supporting Rangel against the senator in 2012.

WFP Backs Rice in NY-4 (Updated)

The Working Families Party this morning announced its support for Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice’s bid for the Long Island House seat of retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy.

“Kathleen Rice has been resolute in her fight to take on a corrupt culture of pay-to-play politics in the state and give average New Yorkers a voice,” said Bill Lipton, state director for the Working Families Party. “As a prosecutor, she has a proven record of delivering bad apples to justice and she’ll bring that same determination to her work on behalf of Long Island’s working families.”

WFP’s Long Island Political Director Jess Carrano also cited Rice’s support for the so-called “Raise the Age” campaign (the push to stop trying some youthful offenders as adults) and campaign finance reform – especially the creation of a publicly funded system.

Rice was one of the three co-chairs of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s corruption-busting Moreland Commission, which recommended (though not unanimously) public campaign finance as a remedy for the never-ending corruption scandals in Albany and NYC. Rice stepped down from her commission post after announcing her congressional campaign.

Much of the labor and Democratic establishment has lined up behind Rice in this race. But she’s not the only Democrat in the running.

Nassau Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams is also seeking the party’s nod to run in the November general election.

The Nassau County Democratic Party is remaining neutral in the June primary. Ditto the DCCC, whose leader, Rep. Steve Israel, is also a Long Islander. UPDATE: Daily Kos notes that the DCCC has put Rice on its “Red to Blue” fundraising list, which certainly qualifies as support.  But I haven’t seen a formal endorsement from Israel himself…perhaps I missed it? UPDATE: Israel is personally supporting Rice, but he’s also not discouragin Abrahams from mounting his primary bid.

Senate Dems To Cuomo: Dream Act Will Pass If It’s In The Budget

The Dream Act will be approved if it is folded into the 2014-15 state budget, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Queens Democrat Jose Peralta wrote in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The letter send on Thursday comes several days after the Senate voted down the measure by two votes, 30-29.

But if the bill is included in the larger context of the state spending plan, the measure that would provide public tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants, Stewart-Cousins and Peralta write.

“While the Dream Act did not receive the necessary votes to pass the State Senate, we are confident that once included in the State Budget many of the Senators who voted against this stand alone bill will vote in favor of a comprehensive budget that includes the Dream Act,” they wrote.

The governor typically has more leverage in the state budget process as compared to the rest of the legislative session. Advocates for the bill are trying to get Cuomo to use his leverage to include the measure in the budget.

Cuomo this morning with reporters said he and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver back the measure, but noted the Senate voted it down this week.

03 20 14 Letter to Governor on DREAM by Nick Reisman