Meng Receives Nod From NH Party Chair

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley endorsed Queens Rep. Grace Meng’s bid to be re-elected a DNC vice chair, saying in a statement the New York Democrat knows how to build the party from the grassroots level.

“I’ve spent my career working to elevate women in our party, and I am so proud that we have the first all-women delegation to Congress from our state,” Buckley said in a statement.

“Grace understands that success of our party depends on grassroots organizing and expanding state party infrastructure. I’m looking forward to working with Grace to realize our full potential and build up a party that is inclusive, growing, and empowering to people from all backgrounds. Please join me in supporting Grace as Vice Chair.”

Assemblyman Michael Blake, a Bronx Democrat, is also seeking a vice chair post as the party gathers this weekend in Atlanta for its winter meeting.

Blake and Meng were endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has otherwise stayed out of the more high profile fight for the party’s chairmanship.

D-Trip Twitter Ads Casts GOP House Members As Empty Chairs

image004The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Wednesday is releasing a trio of social media ads knocking three Republican House members from New York, casting them as empty chairs at town halls in their districts.

The ads, to be released on Twitter, are being directed at freshman upstate New York Reps. John Faso and Claudia Tenney. A third ad knocks Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is in his second term.

All three are considered to be in “battleground” districts.

“Representatives Zeldin, Faso and Tenneys’ reckless votes to rip apart the Affordable Care Act without a replacement is causing widespread backlash at home,” said DCCC Spokesman Evan Lukaske. “These digital ads expose them for being shameless enough to take people’s healthcare away and for running scared from their constituents.”

To be sure, Tenney and Faso have been hesitant to embrace a sweeping repeal of health care law, saying in recent weeks they want to proceed cautiously so as to not disrupt patients’ care.

The ads come, however, as Republican officeholders around the country have returned to their districts to face protests and angry crowds upset over the move to repeal the law. Those who have not held town hall-style events in person have also been criticized.

An organized protest against Faso’s fundraiser at the Fort Orange Club has been planned for this afternoon.

Gillibrand: No White House Bid, But Cuomo Would Be A ‘Great Candidate’

From the Morning Memo:

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand does not plan to run for president in 2020, but did talk up the candidacy of another New York Democrat: Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I am entirely focused on running in 2018,” Gillibrand said in a NY1 interview.

She plans to serve the full six year term if re-elected.

“I feel honored and privileged I get to serve this state as their U.S. senator.”

As for the short list for the Democratic nomination, Gillibrand expects there to be a “a dozen candidates” and Cuomo would make a great one.

“He’d be a great candidate, he’s a great governor,” she said, citing his support for paid family leave and the push to legalize same-sex marriage in 2011. “He’s done great things in our state.”

Both Gillibrand and the governor will be on the statewide ticket next year: Cuomo has said he is seeking a third term as governor in 2018. Gillibrand worked with Cuomo in the Department of Housing and Urban Development during President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Gillibrand insisted in the interview on Tuesday she is not interested in a White House bid, even as she rises to a new level of prominence in the Senate by opposing nearly all of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominations.

But Gillibrand, a former upstate House member who was elevated to the Senate by Gov. David Paterson in 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton upon her nomination as secretary of state.

Gillibrand has previously demurred five years ago on a White House bid ahead of 2016, when Clinton was at the time widely expected to be the frontrunner for the party’s nomination. At the time, she also suggested Cuomo would make a great candidate, then, too.

Tax-The-Rich Arguments Return

From the Morning Memo:

The latest tax-the-rich argument is coming from Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in the state Senate, who wants to close what’s known as the carried interest loophole, which benefits wealthy hedge funds.

“What really, these hedge fund operators and these private equity operators are saying in essence, is their labor should be taxed at a different rate than any other high earner,” Klein said.

Klein’s advocacy for closing the loophole comes as he faces skepticism from liberals over his alliance with Senate Republicans in Albany. But this month, Klein’s tax stance was backed by liberal advocates.

“As the states face huge cuts from Congress in education and health care and transportation and housing, this is smart revenue that can be obtained fairly,” said Michael Kink, the executive director of Strong Economy For All.

And the tax talk from the IDC dovetails with other efforts elsewhere: Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to keep higher tax rates on millionaires due to expire at the end of the year. Assembly Democrats want to hike taxes on those who make more than five million.

But there’s also opposition.

“In general, we’re opposed to tax increases,” said Business Council spokesman Zack Hutchins. “We feel we need to be doing things to better the tax climate in New York state and lower taxes, not increase them.”

Business interests and Senate Republicans have argued the state doesn’t necessarily need the money that would come from hiking taxes on the wealthy.

“If you look at the executive’s own fiscal plan, by their own calculations, as long as you adhere to the 2 percent spending cap, you don’t need the extra revenue that would come from extending what was supposed to be a temporary millionaires tax,” Hutchins said.

The governor himself has argued, though, that he wants the money to fund education, including a proposed plan that would provide free tuition at public colleges for families that earn less than $125,000.

Stewart-Cousins: Threats Against JCCs ‘Unacceptable’

Following another round of bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers across the country and in New York, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called the episode “absolutely unacceptable” in a statement released on Tuesday.

“The threats made against Jewish Community Centers are absolutely unacceptable and these hateful actions have no place in New York or the United States,” she said. “We must stand united in the face of bigotry and hatred.”

A wave of threats leveled at JCCs occurred first at the end of January, with a new round of threats this week, forcing dozens of facilities to close.

WFP, Nadler Push For DOJ Inquiry Into Trump’s Russia Ties

The Working Families Party and Rep. Jerry Nadler on Monday called for the passage of a resolution of inquiry into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

The WFP, a labor-backed party line, released a petition email signed by Nadler that calls on supporters to sign onto to the effort.

“Trump’s alarming foreign ties, his refusal to put the country above his business interests or even disclose his finances, and his disdain for ethics laws have been clear since before the election,” Nadler writes in the email. “A Resolution of Inquiry is the ONLY measure in Congress that can force a vote to investigate Trump and his associates’ potentially unconstitutional conflicts — business, ethical, and foreign.”

The Department of Justice through the FBI is already reportedly investigating foreign ties between members of Trump’s political circle, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort and New York political activist Roger Stone, including whether they had any contact with Russian agents prior to the election.

Democrats in Congress have seized on the links to Russia in recent weeks, drawing blood with the resignation of Trump’s national security advisory, Michael Flynn, after it was revealed he had spoken to the Russian ambassador during the transition despite his denials.

“I was appalled — but I wasn’t surprised,” Nadler wrote in the email. “We all saw this coming, and we know Flynn is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Cuomo Pledges To Boost Raise The Age, SUNY Tuition Plan

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday in Albany during a reception at the executive mansion pledged to push for a long-stalled effort to increase the age of criminal responsibility in New York as well as his own proposal to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities.

Cuomo tied both efforts to his desire to see New York be “always the first” — especially as liberals and Democrats remain fearful the gains made under President Barack Obama’s administration will soon be swept away by the new Republican leadership in the federal government.

“When it came to progressive leadership, New York is always first,” he said.

Cuomo hosted the event at the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators caucus weekend, an annual Albany gathering of lawmakers that draws honorees and activists.

The event was held to honor the newest member of the Court of Appeals, Rowan Wilson, whose confirmation this month marks the first time two black judges are serving simultaneously on the state’s highest court.

But Cuomo also sought to reiterate his own 2017 agenda at the event and his own push to have New York be a “progressive leader” in the country.

At the mansion gathering included Cuomo cabinet officials, members of the Court of Appeals, former Gov. David Paterson and nine members of the Democratic-led Assembly, including Speaker Carl Heastie.

Cuomo over the last several months has had a rocky relationship with both chambers of the Legislature following the lack of an agreement for a special session that could have led to a legislative pay increase, the first in nearly 20 years.

Still, Heastie was introduced to the audience by Alphonso David, Cuomo’s top legal aide, as a “true friend of the administration.”

In turn, Heastie praised Cuomo’s push to get liberal policies enacted, even jokingly suggesting Cuomo approved the state’s increase in the minimum wage in order to beat California by taking advantage of the 3-hour time difference.

“A year ago this time, a many people weren’t sure whether we’d get the increase in the minimum wage or paid family leave, but here we are,” he said.

Cuomo himself alluded several times to Donald Trump’s administration, though did not criticize the president by name.

Nevertheless, he suggested the Trump administration remains a foil for him in getting his agenda through the Legislature.

“With that new conservative administration in Washington,” he said, “we’re going to go the other way and we’re going to go even harder.”

Cuomo Releases Delegates In DNC Leadership Race

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has released New York’s delegates to vote their conscience in the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

“There are a number of strong candidates in the race, and given the feelings on all sides,” said one Cuomo insider, “the governor wanted people to vote their conscience and has released New York’s delegates to do so.”

Cuomo himself has not endorsed in the DNC chair race, though he has given the nod to those running for vice chair posts in the national party, backing Rep. Grace Meng of Queens and Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake.

Prominent New York Democrats have lined up behind Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, including the Democratic minority leader U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

De Blasio Gets WFP Nod

From the Morning Memo:

The Working Families Party on Thursday evening voted to endorse the Democratic incumbents running for citywide offices, including Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The mayor, running for a second term, for now faces a relatively easy path to the Democratic nod amid speculation he would be challenged from rival Democrats, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz or Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

The labor-backed WFP also gave its endorsement to Stringer’s re-election as comptroller and Public Advocate Letitia James.

“With Trump and Republicans in full control in Washington, New York City has the opportunity to show the entire world that there is a better way,” said Bill Lipton, New York State Director of the Working Families Party. “Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate James, and Comptroller Stringer have been leading in the fight to resist Trump and to build a city that works for all of us. We’re excited to continue fighting alongside them.”

For now, those primary challenges to the mayor have been staved off, though some may be waiting to see the outcome of multiple investigations into de Blasio’s political activities and fundraising methods.

Unions Vow To Keep Pressure On Labor Nominee

From the Morning Memo:

Unions on Thursday vowed to keep the pressure on President Donald Trump’s second nominee to fill the top post at the Department of Labor after his first nominee for secretary withdrew from consideration.

Organized labor groups and Democrats had kept up a campaign of sustained pressure against fast food CEO Andrew Puzder’s nomination to lead the department, pointing to his support for automation and opposition to minimum wage laws.

Puzder’s nomination was further put into doubt following allegations of abuse made by his wife, since recanted, as well his employing of an undocumented immigrant.

Trump on Thursday nominated Alexander Acosta, a former member of the National Labor Relations Board in President George W. Bush’s administration.

Acosta’s nomination is generally seen as more placeable to Democrats than Puzder, but unions will continue to scrutinize his record as well.

“We look forward to giving Alexander Acosta the level of scrutiny that any nominee to the DOL deserves,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “As a union that actively opposed the nomination of Andrew Puzder, a candidate clearly unfit to serve as the head of the Department of Labor, we will continue to ask questions about Acosta’s record and his commitment to protecting workers’ rights, and urge the US Senate to do the same.”

After years of setbacks and declining membership nationally, labor groups were seen as being on the offensive in the last year with successful efforts in some states to increase the minimum wage to $15 — a major union-led effort that initially began by focusing on fast food restaurants.

“We look forward to learning more about Mr. Acosta’s record as the confirmation process unfolds. If confirmed, we will hold Mr. Acosta accountable as labor secretary and do whatever it takes to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear in Washington,” said Aiesha Meadows McLaurin, a Burger King worker, in a statement released by the Fight For $15 group. “No matter who becomes labor secretary, we won’t back down for one second in our fight. We’ll keep taking to the streets, standing up and speaking out until we win $15 and a union rights for all.”