Facing Primary Challenge, Hochul Says She’s Focused On Government

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul responded Friday to the primary challenge launched by New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, saying she’s focused on getting a budget done with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“It’s very early,” she said during a stop in Amsterdam. “We don’t really know whose qualified to run until July 15. But until then the governor and I are focused on getting a budget done on time.”

Hochul, who joined the Democratic statewide ticket in 2014, pointed to efforts in the $168 billion proposal that include measures to bolster women’s rights and create a system of early voting.

“We have a lot on our plate governmentally and that is to continue to be my focus as I continue to travel the state and have met probably millions of people at this point,” she said.

But at the same time, Hochul pointed to 600-plus visits to New York City and her efforts on behalf of the elderly and the disadvantaged.

“They know me as a fighter, someone who stood up on issues,” she said. “I stand up for people. I’m not a stranger to a good fight to the people that I represent.”

Turn 27 Blue Endorses McMurray

From the Morning Memo:

Turn 27 Blue, the coalition of grassroots activists and Democratic Party leaders in New York’s 27th Congressional District, endorsed Nate McMurray as its candidate to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Collins. Five Democrats are vying for the seat.

McMurray is the Grand Island town supervisor. He is the only potential candidate against Collins who has held elected office.

McMurray also lives near, but outside the congressional district, (residency is not a requirement for congressional candidates). The coalition said his passion and experience separated him from the others.

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of this group of county Democratic Chairs and grassroots leaders. I’m confident we are going to turn the 27th District blue, and I’m eager to take this fight to Chris Collins,” McMurray said.

Collins, one of President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters and a frequent surrogate on his behalf, has been a prime target for Democrats this mid-term election, despite the fact that his district his overwhelmingly Republican. Turn 27 Blue came together roughly a year ago.

Over the past several months, the coalition has hosted several forums in different parts of the district. Erie County Democratic Committe Chairman Jeremy Zellner said his biggest takeaway for this development is that voters are ready for change.

“From the pending ethics investigation against him to his decision to ignore his district in favor of his wealthy donors, people were fed up with Chris Collins and his cronies,” Zellner said. “Chris Collins’s arrogant disregard for his constituents and his support for extreme policies that directly hurt New Yorkers has remade NY-27 into a competitive district.”

It is unclear following the endorsement if the field will clear for McMurray, or if other candidates will seek a primary.

Siena Poll: Schumer Favorability Falls In New York

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s national prominence as the leader of the Democratic opposition in the U.S. Senate may be taking its toll on his popularity back him.

A Siena College poll released Thursday morning found Schumer’s favorability has fallen to 52 percent to 39 percent, his lowest rating since the survey began tracking him in 2005.

Schumer, who has drawn across-the-board support from Republicans, Democrats and independent voters is now viewed unfavorably by 73 percent of GOP voters in New York. He still draws support from 72 percent of liberal voters and 56 percent of moderates.

The poll decline for Schumer comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ratings have also dipped in polls this month, which the governor’s office has insisted is tied to the national mood facing Democrats and a reflection of the shutdown politics in Washington, not to the trial of Cuomo’s former aide, Joe Percoco.

While Schumer’s decline came with Republican voters, Cuomo slid with independents, the poll found.

Schumer, meanwhile, only 14 months had enjoyed a 67 percent favorability rating, including a positive 55 percent of Republicans.

The poll also found the most popular living president among New York voters is former President Barack Obama, who holds a 67 percent to 29 percent favorability rating. Former President Bill Clinton, who moved to New York after his second term ended, stands at 59 percent to 36 percent.

President Donald Trump, the first New Yorker in the White House since Franklin Roosevelt, is unpopular in his (albeit heavily Democratic) home state, with a 33 percent favorability rating.

The poll of 823 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 5 through Feb. 8. It has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

Crosstabs can be found here.

Dem Lawmakers Push For Transparency In Social Media Ads

Democratic lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly on Monday backed a plan that would require new transparency and disclosure regulations for social media ads.

At least one of the lawmakers has already been burned by a social media campaign: Assemblyman James Skoufis has in the past been targeted by critics on social media with ads that can’t be traced back to their funding source.

“False, misleading, and anonymous advertisements deceive voters and sabotage our democracy,” said Sen. Todd Kaminsky. “Political ads on Facebook and other digital platforms should be held to the same standards as traditional political ads. Voters should be allowed to see who actually paid for these ads, and hold the authors accountable if they lie. Transparency is a necessary step toward restoring trust in government. I urge my colleagues in the legislature to advance this critical reform in the final budget.”

The lawmakers’ bill lines with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal in his $168 billion spending plan that would require disclosure for the source of online ads that appears on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The bill would also cover mail and print advertisements, with fines of up to $1,000 or the cost of the communication for failing to comply.

“There’s no place in our democracy for lying, anonymous advertising,” Skoufis said. “Social media has opened the floodgates, allowing deceitful ads to permeate our elections. Our common sense measure seeks to shine a much-needed light and, make no mistake, the only people to oppose us are those who are guilty of this political fraud.”

NYSUT Endorses In Senate Specials

The New York State United Teachers union this weekend gave its endorsement to the two Democrats running this April to fill vacant seats in the chamber — two key races that could shift control of the chamber away from Republicans.

NYSUT announced it is giving its backing to Democrats Luis Sepulveda of the Bronx and Shelley Mayer of Yonkers, both Assembly lawmakers, ahead of the April 24 special election.

Sepulveda is running for the seat that was vacated by city Councilman Ruben Diaz, Sr.

Mayer is running in what is expected to be a competitive race for the Westchester County district vacated by County Executive George Latimer. She faces Republican Julie Killian, who GOP committee members nominated last week.

“Shelley Mayer knows how to get things done in Albany. She combines a tremendous intellect with the ability to listen and act in the best interests of her community and the entire state,” NYSUT President Pallotta said. “Shelley has been a tireless advocate for public schools and colleges in Westchester County and a lifelong champion of working people. She clearly earned the NYSUT endorsement and we are ready to work hard on her behalf.”

Democrats need to win both races in order to gain a numerical majority in the chamber and move toward a coalition majority with the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, based on agreement hammered out at the end of last year.

Under the deal, both Democrats in the mainline conference and the IDC must work to fill both seats and put aside primary challenges to their members.

NYSUT also endorsed three candidates running in special elections to fill empty Assembly districts: Patrick Burke, Harvey Epstein and Ari Espinal.

SD-37: Fighting For Children PAC Endorses Mayer

The political action committee that is pushing for the passage of the Child Victims endorsed Democratic Senate candidate Shelley Mayer, the group on Wednesday announced.

Mayer is the Democratic nominee for the special election in the 37th Senate district to replace George Latimer, who left the chamber to take office as Westchester County executive at the start of the year.

The race is a key one for Democrats in Albany, who are seeking to gain a numerical majority in the state Senate in order to gain control after a deal was reached late last year with the Independent Democratic Conference.

“This issue is so important, and I’m honored to have earned the support of Gary and Fighting for Children PAC,” Mayer said. “It’s a telling fact that our State Senate is so broken that we can’t even pass common-sense legislation to protect victims of child sexual abuse and give them justice. We need new leadership in the State Senate, so we can pass the Child Victims Act and a host of other legislation that has been stalled by the Senate Republicans.”

The PAC and its founder, businessman Gary Greenberg, backs the passage of the bill, which would make it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits. The legislation has stalled in the state Senate in recent years, but supporters this session hope the focus and societal shift on sexual misconduct and abuse could reframe the debate over the bill at the Capitol.

“Fighting for Children PAC is proud to stand with Shelley Mayer as she runs for State Senate,” Greenberg said.

“Right now, the State Senate leadership is once more trying to block victims of child sex abuse from seeking justice, and protect the perpetrators of these horrible crimes. The Assembly has done the right thing, the Governor has shown tremendous leadership in including CVA in the budget, but the Senate stands alone on the side of abusers. We need leaders like Shelley Mayer in the State Senate.”

Republicans Dan Schorr and Julie Killien are seeking the GOP nomination. The special election is scheduled for April 24.

Senate Democrats Push Gun Control Package

Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate Tuesday unveiled a package of gun control measures they say can build on recent efforts like the SAFE Act.

“There are things that are very, very good and have worked and we can’t just stop,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins at a news conference.

The measures include proposals that would ban so-called undetectable firearms that cannot be seen by an x-ray or metal detector, strengthen background checks and allow the victims of gun violence to sue manufacturers.

“Studies have proven that states like New York with stronger firearm safety laws have fewer gun caused deaths,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We should be an example to the nation and frankly we should be an example to the nation.”

Another measure would allow the courts to seize firearms of those who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or people around them.

“This allows people to be proactive and it’s intended to be designed such that you may seek an order for somebody you care about to protect,” said Sen. Brian Kavanagh.

And the lawmakers want to ban the possession of bump stocks, a device that was believed to have been used in the Las Vegas mass shooting last year.

“The scary truth is that bump stocks while illegal to use in New York are legal to possess, to purchase and to transport,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman.

But Republicans in the state Senate are skeptical of bans on devices like ban stocks and similar gun control legislation that say is a step too far. Republican Senator Robert Ortt last month said the GOP conference was yet to discuss a bump stock ban.

“The issue is because of the mistrust, the feeling is always this is the first shoe or this is the foot in the door to further limit gun ownership,” Ortt said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year has proposed a gun control bill that would expand the seizure of guns for those convicted of domestic violence.

Senate Democrats Start Fundraising Ahead Of Special Election

From the Morning Memo:

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally scheduled a special election to fill legislative vacancies in the Senate and Assembly, Senate Democrats on Monday released a fundraising letter as part of the push to keep the districts in their column.

Both the Bronx and Westchester County districts would be holds for the party if their candidates — Assembly lawmakers Luis Sepulveda and Shelley Mayer — prevail. But both races are key to a unity push for the mainline conference and the Independent Democratic Conference in the chamber.

Should Democrats win both, they would hold a numerical majority in the chamber.

“As long as Republicans hold power in the State Senate, New York can’t stand up to President Trump and pass laws to protect our families from the awful policies coming out of Washington,” the fundraising email states.

“Together, we can give New Yorkers the state government they deserve and make history by elevating the first woman to lead the New York State Senate. The fight for the Senate Majority is here.”

Republicans are expected to compete fiercely for the Westchester County district that was vacated by George Latimer, the new county executive.

The district has long been sought by Senate Republicans as a potential flip for them. Julie Killian, the Republican who last ran for the district in 2016, is running again for the GOP nod alongside former Yonkers Inspector General Dan Schorr.

GOP officials hope the district, which includes parts of Yonkers and the Long Island Sound communities, will be receptive to arguments against Democratic advances in the Legislature, which they would link to tax increases.

It’s expected to race will be one of the more costly special elections in recent history, given the stakes and the intense focus on flipping the Senate either this spring or later in the year general election by Democrats and other advocates.

The special election will be held April 24.

SD-41: Tyner Files To Run For Senate

Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner has filed to run for the state Senate seat held by Republican Sen. Sue Serino, according to a state Board of Elections filing.

Tyner is a former congressional candidate, having sought the Democratic nomination for the 19th district in 2012, losing to Julian Schreibman.

Serino was first elected in 2014, unseating Sen. Terry Gipson, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Serino again in 2016.

The Hudson Valley Senate seat has been something of a swing district, with Gipson narrowly winning a three-person race in 2012 that ousted longtime Republican incumbent Stephen Saland. Gipson is now a Democratic candidate for governor.

A liberal activist, Tyner launched a short-lived bid for governor in 2010.

NY-19: Clegg Nets Indivisible Nod

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic congressional candidate Dave Clegg Thursday will announce the endorsement from the Ulster County Indivisible group, a progressive movement that arose in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency.

Clegg is among the crowded field of Democrats running for the nomination in the 19th congressional district in the Hudson Valley, a seat held by Republican Rep. John Faso.

“Indivisible Ulster’s goals and values mesh seamlessly with those of Dave Clegg,” said Teresa Lepore, a spokesperson for the movement who announced the endorsement.

“An activist in our community for over 30 years, Dave doesn’t just talk about being a progressive Democrat, he has lived it. We’re proud to endorse his candidacy for Congress because he is the best candidate to defeat John Faso and stand up to Donald Trump’s hateful and divisive agenda.”

Because of the highly competitive primary, Democrats have sought out edges such as endorsements from activist organizations to boost their profiles and candidacies in the bid to take on Faso. The race for the 19th congressional district is expected to be among a handful of battleground districts that could tip the balance of power in the House of Representatives.

“I’m delighted to to have the support of Indivisible Ulster,” Clegg said. “I have spent over 30 years living, working, and fighting for the Hudson Valley, and now it’s time to stand up for our progressive values in Washington. Our country is at a crossroads, and I’m honored to have joined with our local resistance movement to stand up to Trump and take back Congress.”