Skoufis Adds Endorsements by PEF, RWDSU

From the Morning Memo:

State Senate candidate James Skoufis has picked up additional union support as he seeks to flip retiring Republican Sen. Bill Larkin’s seat into Democratic hands in November.

The assemblyman has been endorsed by the Public Employees Federation, New York’s second-largest state workers union; as well as the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

“The Public Employees Federation is proud to endorse Assemblyman James Skoufis in his election bid to the New York State Senate,” PEF President Wayne Spence said.

“Assemblyman Skoufis has dedicated his entire public service career to helping working families, ensuring our children receive a quality education, and fighting for better wages and improved healthcare for all New Yorkers. At a time when anti-union forces are ramping up efforts to tear us down, we know Assemblyman Skoufis will have our backs in the New York State Senate.”

As we saw in last week’s Democratic primaries, organized labor remains a force to be reckoned with in New York, despite the decline of unions elsewhere in the country.

Labor helped turn out the vote for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his race against actress-turned-activist Cynthia Nixon, having repaired the rather rocky relationship it has had with him since he took office; and also assisted a number of insurgent state Senate candidates defeat incumbent former IDC members.

Larkin’s Hudson Valley seat is one of five opening up this fall due to retirements by GOP incumbents. It is one the Democrats are counting on to change hands as they push to regain control of the chamber.

Skoufis has similarly received the backing several powerful state unions such as AFL-CIO, NYSUT and CSEA. He faces Stony Point councilman, Republican Tom Basile, in this November’s general election.

Gaughran Endorsed By Child Victims Act Backer, Gun Control Group

Democratic state Senate candidate Jim Gaughran on Thursday picked up the endorsements of Long Islanders Against Gun Violence and Gary Greenberg, an upstate businessman who is one of the prominent supporters of the Child Victims Act.

Gaughran, running for the Long Island district represented by Republican Sen. Car Marcellino, pledged to push both issues if elected.

The Child Victims Act is meant to make it easier for the survivors and victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits. The measure has stalled in the Republican-led state Senate.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved the first gun control legislation since the SAFE Act in 2013, a measure that blocks those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing a firearm.

Gaughran says he wants to go further, drawing in more misdemeanor sex crimes that would prohibit a person from owning a gun.

“How can anyone oppose protecting children and keeping dangerous sex crime offenders away from our communities and unable to purchase guns,” Gaughran said. “My proposals would ensure that anyone on the state’s sex offender registry would be blocked from owning firearms and would have to vote by absentee ballot to keep them away from our schools and families who go to polling places. These are common sense plans that should have been enacted a long time ago, and I will fight for them to be passed into law when I am elected to the State Senate.”

Cuomo TV Ad Blasts Molinaro as ‘Trump Mini-Me’

From the Morning Memo:

It’s no secret that President Trump is the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s favorite punching bag and scapegoat for any and all problems plaguing New York.

Since winning the Democratic primary last week, Cuomo has continued to focus mainly on Trump, and also is stepping up his effort to link his general election opponent, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, to the president, who is deeply unpopular here in his home state.

In a new ad released yesterday by Team Cuomo, Molinaro is branded as Trump’s “mini-me” – a moniker the governor’s campaign has been employing for some time now.

The ad brands Molinaro as opposed to abortion rights, an assault weapons ban, affordable healthcare, and marriage equality. It also says he voted against equal pay while serving in the state Assembly and supported the federal government’s 2017 Tax and Jobs Act.

The tagline:

“A Trump mini me for governor? No way, no how.”

Molinaro has sought to explicitly run as a Trump opposite in both temperament and personality. Molinaro has noted repeatedly he did not vote for Trump in 2016, writing in Rep. Chris Gibson that year instead.

Prior to his significant win against his primary opponent, actree-turned-activist Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo and his campaign paid little attention to Molinaro, who is vastly underfund compared to the governor, and also is running an uphill battle in a Democrat-dominated, largely anti-Trump state.

Molinaro, meanwhile, is trying to capitalize on free media and has launched a so-called “Cuomo Corruption Tour.” He continues to hammer away at Cuomo’s alleged ties to Albany corruption – particularly the conviction on federal corruption charges of former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco, who is scheduled to be sentenced today.

It remains to be seen whether this line of argument holds weight with voters, as a June Siena poll showed Cuomo has a nearly 20 percentage point lead over Molinaro.

“Andrew Cuomo’s corruption is eroding all public trust in government, and that cannot stand,” Molinaro said. “His administration acts like a corrupt enterprise operating beyond all bounds of normalcy and under strict and willful secrecy. Even his so-called ethics commission, JCOPE, appears to be inside the Cuomo cabal. We must find a way to get at the truth, and this bill will do it.”

In a statement released yesterday, referencing gun control comments Molinaro made at a campaign stop in Utica, Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Abbey Collins said:

“We knew that Trump mini-me Marc Molinaro is an NRA puppet, we just didn’t think he’d be so brazen about it. After a long career opposing common sense gun safety reform, ‘A’ rated Molinaro has made rolling back the toughest and smartest gun legislation in the nation – the SAFE Act – part of his campaign platform, threatening just yesterday to dismantle it piece by piece.”

“At a time when people of all ages across this country are crying out for increased gun safety measures, this latest move proves Trump mini-me Molinaro is in the iron grip of the gun lobby. His position is disturbing and dangerous, and the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers will remember Molinaro in their thoughts and prayers when he loses this election by a landslide.”

Molinaro has reiterated on multiple occasions that he did not cast a ballot for Trump in the 2016 election, instead writing in the name of former Rep. Chris Gibson from NY-19.

Also while in Utica, Molinaro picked up the endorsement of Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, a fellow Republican, who in the past crossed party lines to endorse Cuomo for re-election.

Skoufis Hits the Airwaves

Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis, who is running for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Bill Larkin, is going up on the air with his first TV ad of the campaign – a spot that focuses on assistance he provided a New Windsor woman to help get insurance coverage for her ailing son.

Skoufis makes only a few brief appearances in the ad, which, interestingly, makes no mention of his party affiliation. He doesn’t have a speaking role. Instead, it’s mainly a testimonial from Heather Miele, a constituent of the assemblyman who says he helped push a reluctant medical insurer to provide coverage for her 9-year-old son, Nicholas, whose specific ailment is also not mentioned.

Miele also introduced Skoufis at his initial announcement of his candidacy for the 39th Senate District seat back in May, saying he was very responsive to her needs, meeting immediately with herself and her husband after they called his office, and managing to resolve their issue within 24 hours – not just once, but twice.

Skoufis is running in the general election against Tom Basile, a Stony Point councilman who has been endorsed by Larkin – one of five Republicans who decided not to seek re-election this fall, complicating the GOP’s already uphill battle to retain its slim hold on the majority in the chamber.

Skoufis’ campaign did not provide any details about where the new ad will be airing, other than to say that it goes up today. Also unavailable: Information about the size of the buy, other than the fact that it was characterized as “significant.”

Here’s the transcript of the ad:

“When you have a child that has the medical issues that my son does, fighting these insurance companies becomes a full time job. I had gotten so frustrated I didn’t know where to turn. A friend told me to call James Skoufis, and I’m so glad I did.

James stood up to the insurance companies and really put his foot down. Instead of getting letters that start with ‘unfortunately,’ we’re now getting letters that start with, ‘good news, you’ve been approved.’ Thanks to James I can focus again on my number one job: Being a mom.”

New CLF Ads Target Brindisi

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC endorsed by the House Republican leadership, is releasing two more ads in NY-22 today, both of which target the Democratic candidate, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, and seek to cast him as a political insider who is too liberal for the moderate-to-conservative leaning district.

The ads will run in the Binghamton and Utica media markets, as well as on digital platforms, and is part of some $2 million worth of time the CLF has reserved in this hotly contested district for the fall.

The fist spot, dubbed “Sheldon and Nancy,” tries – yet again – to tie Brindisi both to disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whom the assemblyman has said he will not support to continue as head of the conference if he is elected to the House in November.

The ad also accuses Brindisi of being a “rubber stamp” for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s agenda, voting for Cuomo’s “agenda” over 90 percent of the time.

Among the issues highlighted here is single payer healthcare, for which the assemblyman voted “yes,” though technically speaking, that NOT a key agenda item for the governor – something that became a flashpoint during his primary battle with actress-turned-activist Cynthia Nixon.

Brindisi has sought to distance himself from the former speaker, releasing an ad of his own last month that highlighted his role in push the speaker to resign when he was hit with federal corruption charges.

That ad came out on the same day the CLF, which is working hard to boost the re-election chances of Brindisi’s opponent, Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney, herself a former assemblywoman, released a different spot, which maintained the assemblyman had actually been Silver’s “go-to guy” in Albany.

Brindisi has also not been afraid to publicly criticize the governor, particularly when he felt Cuomo was ignoring the Mohawk Valley.

The second ad features a Chittenango woman, Sherry Menninger, who says she can’t support Brindisi because she’s concerned he wants to “make everyone eligible for Medicare,” which will raise the national debt and “wreck” the system for everyone.

“In Albany, Anthony Brindisi rubber-stamped Silver’s and Cuomo’s agenda over ninety percent of the time. Brindisi voted for single-payer health care, and a two hundred billion-dollar tax hike. Now Brindisi wants to rubber-stamp Nancy Pelosi’s agenda, supporting a thirty-two-trillion-dollar government takeover of health care, nearly doubling the debt. Anthony Brindisi is a tax-and-spend rubber stamp.”

“(Sherry): “I earned my social security and Medicare benefits, and I want Washington to keep their hands off them. That’s why I can’t support Anthony Brindisi. Brindisi wants to make everyone eligible for Medicare. And that’s a thirty-trillion-dollar budget buster. Brindisi’s plan would end Medicare as we know and explode the national debt, wrecking Medicare for seniors, raising taxes on everyone. Anthony Brindisi doesn’t get my vote.”

Pressure Mounts on Morse

State Democratic Party Vice Chair Christine Quinn is the latest to issue a statement calling on the Mayor of Cohoes, Shawn Morse, to resign in the wake of a TU report that he allegedly used physical violence against his wife and daughter.

“I’ve worked on anti-violence initiatives my entire life,” said Quinn, who is also a former speaker of the NYC Council. “I have worked on behalf of victims of domestic violence since I was a young advocate.”

“The tapes that were released, along with the numerous accusations leveled by numerous women, fit an all too familiar pattern of a serial abuser who not only shouldn’t have a role in public policy, but should probably be locked up.”

“These allegations and the tapes we have all heard paint a disgusting and disturbing picture of a violent man, who has no business in office. I stand with Governor Cuomo, Chairman (Byron) Brown, Assemblywoman (Pat) Fahy and Mayor (Kathy) Sheehan in calling for him to step down immediately.”

As Quinn noted, her statement is coming on the heels of similar calls issued over the weekend by Brown – chair of the state Democratic Party – and Cuomo himself. (The Fahy and Sheehan calls came in late 2017, after the TU published a series of allegations of abuse by Morse that dated back a number of years).

Also calling for Morse’s resignation is Assemblyman John McDonald, the former mayor of Cohoes.

The fact that Quinn, now the president and CEO of Win (Women in Need), a homeless services organization, and Brown are both appointed to their party positions by Cuomo, who controls the entire committee, makes it clear that the governor is orchestrating an effort to pressure Morse out of office.

This comes at a particularly sensitive time, as the #MeToo movement continues to make headlines, and not a day goes by when accusations of inappropriate treatment, or even flat out rape, are made against some high-level individual in a wide array of fields – from journalism and politics to Hollywood and the arts, and beyond.

The latest maelstrom surrounding President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is being accused – now publicly – by a women who says he attacked her while they were both in high school (an allegation he denies), makes it all the more important for Cuomo to speak out about this, particularly as he just defeated a woman in the Democratic primary and is now refocusing his efforts on the November general election, and perhaps the 2020 presidential race.

Morse, meanwhile, has not shown any signs of heeding any suggestion that he needs to step aside.

To the contrary, he is defiant, calling on Cuomo to resign because he is “the most corrupt governor in America,” and suggesting the governor call his former top aide Joe Percoco, who was found guilty of federal corruption charges, and “ask him why he’s not in jail.”

Wofford Releases First TV Ad For AG Bid

Republican attorney general candidate Keith Wofford on Friday released his first TV ad as the focus in the race turns to the general election.

Wofford, an attorney originally from Buffalo, stands in his old neighborhood and speaks directly on camera.

“You know, being in this neighborhood really reminds me why I got into this race,” he said. People who are all working together for the same thing, which is to try to make better lives for their kids. But, the headwinds have been tough. Money goes into our government and doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go. But when I’m elected Attorney General, that’s going to be something that changes.”

Wofford is set to face New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, the victor of the four-way Democratic primary on Thursday.

The office is an open one after the resignation of Eric Schneiderman in May amid allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Incumbent Barbara Underwood, appointed by the Legislature in May, is not seeking a full term.

Progressives Lose Statewide Battle, But Win Local War

From the Morning Memo:

Statewide, Gov. Andrew Cuomo got what he wanted: He secured the Democratic nomination, he’s running for re-election with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Letitia James is the attorney general nominee.

But locally, progressives were able to notch key victories in the state Senate, where six of eight former members of the now-dissolved Independent Democratic Conference went down to defeat and Sen. Martin Dilan, viewed as a representative of the Brooklyn Democratic machine, also lost.

That many incumbents in the state Legislature losing their primaries in one year isn’t just unusual or rare, it’s unheard of — a potential harbinger of what’s to come for the November the elections and a sign the Democratic base in New York is especially restive.

Sens. Jose Peralta, Tony Avella, Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara, Jeff Klein and David Valesky all lost — results that could reshape the state Senate and usher in a more confidently liberal Democratic conference that hopes to take the majority this fall.

Another rarity: Turnout was up.

The IDC had dissolved itself in April under a push by Cuomo, who had faced liberal pressure to help his party gain control of the Senate. The conference had been aligned with Republicans in the chamber since 2011, even going as far as to have a majority coalition with the Senate GOP for the 2013-14 legislative session.

For progressive foes of the IDC, it’s a rejection of how Albany was functioning.

“New York politics changed forever tonight,” said Bill Lipton, the state Director of the Working Families Party. “The IDC is dead. The center of gravity has shifted, and Andrew Cuomo will face a radically different Albany. For years, Cuomo, the IDC and the Republicans led a government which blocked countless progressive policies.”

Lipton was on hand for the WFP’s party in Flatbush Thursday night. It was a relatively subdued evening as it became apparent the ticket led by Cynthia Nixon would lose. But things picked up when the former IDC lawmakers began to fall behind. The excitement built evening further when Alessandra Biaggi was named the winner of her primary over Klein, the former IDC leader.

Nixon’s concession speech dwelled heavily on the Senate shakeup.

“Your victories tonight have shown that the blue wave is real and that is not only coming for Republicans, it is coming for Democrats who act like them,” she said.

But the biggest target for the left, Cuomo, took a step closer to a third term, boosting turnout and, percentage-wise, largely replicating his primary four years ago against Teachout, just with more votes.

Nixon insisted things will change for Cuomo next year, as the freshman lawmakers will want new approaches on rent control, housing and health care, including a single payer bill.

“Because in 2018, progressive rhetoric is not enough,” Nixon said. “People are struggling to survive here. And we need real, substantive policies that address racial, gender and economic inequality in New York State.”

James Wins AG Nomination

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has won the four-way race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, taking a step toward becoming the first black woman to be elected to the post.

James faces Republican Keith Wofford, who would become the first black man elected to the job, in the November general election.

The James victory came over liberal insurgent Zephyr Teachout, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Leecia Eve.

The post was unexpectedly opened in May after the resignation of Democrat Eric Schneiderman amid allegations of domestic violence and sexual misconduct.

And the result is a win for the ticket backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had supported James’s candidacy early on in the nominating process.

James has pledged to serve as a bulwark against President Donald Trump’s policies in New York, continuing much of the spirit of the work of Barbara Underwood, who was appointed by the Legislature after Schneiderman’s resignation.

Primary Campaigns Hit Final Stretch

From the Morning Memo:

Primary day looms Thursday, a test for Democratic incumbents like Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, facing challenges from insurgent candidates on the left.

“I know this campaign would have left everything on the field,” said Jumaane Williams, the Brooklyn councilman running against Hochul in the lieutenant governor primary during a stop in Albany. “There were people who thought we were crazy in January when we announced. I don’t believe anyone thinks that now.”

Campaigning on Tuesday was largely subdued given the anniversary of Sept. 11. The primary itself was moved from Tuesday to Sept. 13 due to the anniversary of the attacks and the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Democrats on Thursday statewide select candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In virtually all instances, the races are pitting either establishment figures, or those who have aligned themselves with incumbents, against those seeking to bring an activist fervor to the office.

And the primary could have real consequences for how New York’s politics operate.

At stake is the liberal Working Families Party, which took a gamble in backing Cynthia Nixon over the governor and could lose its ballot status as a result.

Williams would not say what would happen if he wins and Nixon loses her bid against Cuomo.

“We have to worry about the primary,” he said. “After the primary there’s a fundamental question about making sure the Working Families Party is stable and strong.”