Maloney To Campaign With Teachout

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney on Friday will appear alongside congressional hopeful Zephyr Teachout, who is running in the neighboring 19th congressional district.

The event with Maloney, who was first elected to a Hudson Valley House seat in 2012, is being billed as a “major announcement” for Teachout’s campaign, making it likely an endorsement nod in the race.

Teachout, who has gained the support of Democratic county leaders in the 19th, faces Will Yandik in a potential primary in June.

The event in New Paltz with Maloney and Teachout will also include the city’s mayor, Tim Rogers.

Teachout launched her bid last month for the seat being vacated by outgoing Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican who is considering a run for governor in 2018.

A half-dozen GOP candidates are vying for the Republican nomination, including businessman Andrew Heaney and former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso.

Teachout ran for governor in 2014, but was defeated for the Democratic nomination by incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

Black & Puerto Rican Legislators Honor Pioneers

From the Morning Memo:

The New York Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators is gearing up to mark its 50th anniversary in Albany next weekend, and will be honoring two veteran New York City politicians.

Retiring Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel and former Bronx Rep. Robert “Bobby” Garcia – two Democrats who experienced a rocky road in their political careers, yet retain considerable respect and standing among their supporters – will be receiving the Percy E. Sutton Empire State and Nation Builder Award, which is the association’s highest and most prestigious honor.

The awards ceremony will be held at the association’s 45th annual legislative conference – AKA caucus weekend – which traditionally takes place (for some reason that has never been clear to me) on Valentine’s Day weekend in Albany.

Valentine’s Day – Feb. 14 – also happens to be the 47th anniversary of Garcia’s election to Congress. He won a 1978 special election to fill the vacant seat of former Rep. Herman Badillo, who stepped down to become a deputy mayor. Garcia ran as a Republican, though he made it clear it planned to vote with the Democrats if elected.

While in the House, Garcia earned attention by sponsoring a bill to establish a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. After considerable debate, the bill was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Garcia is also a former state assemblyman and former senator, and was the first Puerto Rican elected to serve in New York’s upper house.

Before receiving their awards, Rangel and Garcia will participate in a panel discussion with two past award recipients – former NYC Mayor David Dinkins and former Buffalo Assemblyman Arthur Eve. The panel will be moderated by former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall.

The keynote speech at the caucus weekend gala will be delivered by DNC Vice Chairwoman and political commentator/operative Donna Brazile.

According to the caucus weekend schedule, the governor is planning to hold a reception at the executive mansion on Sunday.

Dems Believe 54th Senate District Could Be In Play For First Time In Years

It’s been six years since Democrats last ran a candidate in New York’s 54th Senate District. Then-vice chair of the Wayne County Democratic Committee Ed O’Shea ran against longtime incumbent Mike Nozzolio.

It didn’t go well for O’Shea. In the heavily Republican district, Nozzolio won by more than a 2-1 margin.

On the phone Wednesday, O’Shea recalled the campaign. He said he believed Nozzolio was “miffed” that after nearly 20 years in the Senate, he wasn’t running unopposed.

The senator got his wish in 2012 and 2014 and very well could’ve run unchallenged again in 2016. Current Wayne County Democratic Chairman Mark Alquist said, so far, no candidates have expressed interest.

Monday, things got more interesting when Nozzolio announced he wouldn’t run again due to health issues.

“Now that Nozzolio has announced his retirement, it gives us some options because Mike’s been around for decades,” Alquist said.

He said the county chairs within the large district have started discussing who could potentially challenge for the seat.  O’Shea said he’s “pretty sure” he won’t  try to run again.

“Having done it once in a Republican district, it’s pretty, pretty formidable,” he said.

He said although the Democratic Rural Conference went to bat for him in 2010, he didn’t get much support from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

“The democratic administration thought Mike Nozzolio was somebody they could work with,” O’Shea said.

The DSCC said things have changed a bit since 2010. For one, it said the committee has paid off the debts of the last administration and for the first time ever has more than a million dollars going into into campaign season.

Mike Murphy, a spokesperson for the committee, said the 54th District is trending democrat and is definitely on the board. He also said because of Nozzolio’s retirement, no matter what, Republicans will have to spend money there.

 UPDATE: Senate Republicans don’t appear to be concerned about a Democratic challenge.

“If the Democrats think they have a chance here, they’re fools. The 54th Senate District is a strong Republican seat and we expect to easily retain it,” GOP spokesperson Scott Reif said.

Negotiations Underway on Pension Forfeiture

From the Morning Memo:

The Senate and Assembly are negotiating new language on a constitutional amendment that would cause public officials convicted of wrongdoing to lose their public pensions – an issue that was supposed to be settled during last year’s session, but got derailed due to labor opposition.

“We’re working with Assemblyman (David) Buchwald right now to get a same-as bill so that both houses have the same kind of bill,” said Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Tom Croci during a CapTon interview last night.

“It’s a constitutional amendment that goes far deeper than what has currently been proposed at taking away pensions.”

As you’ll recall, there was supposedly a deal on this last year, but it was passed by the Senate and not the Assembly, which held off due to reservations expressed by unions that the language was too broad. The worry was that rank-and-file public employees, and not just bad-acting elected officials, who were supposed to be the target of this effort, would be impacted.

Despite numerous assertions that the Assembly would be revisiting the issue, it so far has not. Speaker Carl Heastie just yesterday said he’s seeking “clarity” about the amendment’s reach.

Reform advocates were heartened by the fact that the governor included pension forfeiture in his budget proposal, but lawmakers clearly would like to get something done outside the context of the budget.

Asked how far into the public employee ranks the amendment should reach. Croci said he likes the “federal model” in which anyone who is a position of shaping public policy and/or is a “leader” in a position of public trust is held accountable.

“Those are the kinds of things that we’re trying to sort out right now,” Croci said. “To make sure that we’re going after individuals, whether it’s in the governors branch of government, the executive branch, in the Assembly or in the Senate or in the legislative staff that are considered public officers…we’re having that conversation right now with (Buchwald’s) office.”

Assembly Dems Introduce Tax Hike On The Rich

The Democratic conference in the Assembly on Tuesday introduced legislation aimed at increasing taxes on the rich.

The measure comes after Speaker Carl Heastie strongly hinted the conference would move to overhaul the tax code as rates are due to expire after 2017.

The measure would hike taxes on those who earn between $1 million and $5 million to 8.82 percent, the current top rate. An increase would also be in story for those who earn between $5 million to $10 million to 9.32 percent. Those who earn $10 million or more would have a rate of 9.82 percent.

Current tax rates for those who earn less than $40,000 would not change.

The proposal would set tax rates at:

$40,000 to $150,000: 6.25 percent
$150,000 to $300,000: 6.65 percent
$300,000 to $1 million: 6.85 percent.

The proposal is expected to bring $1 billion in additional revenue.

“The Assembly Majority is committed to doing everything in our power to help New York’s families achieve financial independence and success,” Heastie said in a statement. “It is critical that we fight for a fair and progressive tax structure that reflects this commitment and leads us toward a future where working families have more of the income they need to achieve their goals.”

Back in 2011, state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were under pressure to renew a surcharge on high income earners — the so-called “millionaires tax.” At the time, Cuomo was resistant to calls to hike taxes, but ultimately backed an effort to change the tax code that partially renewed the surcharge for the rich, but reduced rates for middle-income earners.

The tax action at the time helped generate extra revenue that closed a budget deficit.

Senate Republicans have indicated they would oppose an effort to increase taxes this year.

Once Again, Orange County Dems Criticize Larkin

From the Morning Memo:

Democrats in Orange County are once again stepping up their criticism of Republican Sen. Bill Larkin over his use of taxpayer-funded mailers.

This time, Democratic Committee Chairman Brett Broge is knocking Larkin over a mail piece that touts his support for a constitutional amendment for pension forfeiture, a measure that has stalled in the Legislature.

In the statement, Broge points to Larkin taking advantage of a “legal loophole” to collect his pension while he’s still in elected office.

“It’s offensive that Bill Larkin is using taxpayer money to send out a glossy mailer claiming that he is ‘protecting taxpayers.’ Adding insult to injury, Larkin has the gall to talk about pension reform at the same time he is exploiting a legal loophole to collect his own taxpayer-funded pension on top of his Senate salary,” Broge said in the statement.

“After nearly 40 years in office, career politician Bill Larkin is simply out of touch with the residents of the Hudson Valley. We desperately need a fresh voice in Albany.”

Democrats have repeatedly criticized Larkin in recent weeks as they seek to potentially make his Hudson Valley Senate district a competitive one this year.

The GOP-led Senate last year backed a measure that strip public officials of their pension if convicted of a felony. But in the Assembly, lawmakers raised objections to how the amendment was written and whether the language was too broad.

Ultimately, the Assembly approved a different measure that doesn’t match up with the Senate version.

“All New Yorkers are supportive of preventing any lawmaker from collecting their pension if convicted of a felony,” said Orange County Republican Chairwoman Courtney Greene. “It is about time the Democrat lead Assembly get on board. The Democrats have resorted to personally attacking Senator Larkin because they have no one who can match his record of service to our community and our country.”

Teachout Rejects Super PAC Spending (Updated)

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic congressional hopeful Zephyr Teachout on Monday will announce plans to reject spending on her behalf from “super PACs” in her race for the 19th district.

Teachout, a Fordham Law school professor who formally entered the race last week, sent a letter to her fellow candidates — both Democrats and Republicans — urging them to also not allow spending from the entities.

“I’m calling on every candidate in this race to join me in taking the People’s Pledge and reject special interest SuperPAC money,” said Teachout in a statement. “Throughout my career, I’ve never been afraid to stand up for ordinary citizens whose voices are drowned out by special interests, big corporations, and powerful insiders. I’m running for Congress to give people their voices back so together we can address the real concerns facing our communities.”

In singing onto the pledge, Teachout is taking a page from the 2012 race for Massachusetts Senate. At the time, both Republican Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren vowed to not accept any outside spending on advertising in the hotly contested campaign.

Candidates are not allowed to coordinate with super PACs, which can spend unlimited funds on a candidates’ behalf. Often used to attack opponents, super PACs have grown in prominence and usage in federal elections since the 2010 Citizens United decision.

Teachout herself is an advocate for campaign finance reform, having written a book on the topic following her run for governor in a 2014 Democratic primary against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

For now, the most prominent super PAC in the 19th congressional district has been the New York Jobs Council, which has been supporting the candidacy of Republican Andrew Heaney. The group has repeatedly knocked Heaney’s rival for the GOP nomination, former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso.

The Hudson Valley-area district is being vacated at the end of the year by Rep. Chris Gibson, who is considering a run for governor in 2018.

Updated: The pledge is effective once each of the active candidates in the race agree to the pledge. I’m also reminded that Teachout ran the May Day super PAC, which was created to push for campaign finance reform.

NY-19: Teachout’s Dem Competition

From the Morning Memo:

Though some NY-19 Democratic leaders have already coalesced behind Fordham Law School Prof. Zephyr Teachout’s congressional candidacy – and were urging her to run before she even officially announced her campaign – her road to the nomination isn’t entirely clear.

This past weekend, Livingston Deputy Town Supervisor Will Yandik announced his campaign for the seat Republican Rep. Chris Gibson will be giving up at the end of this year, and he was endorsed by the Columbia County Democratic Committee.

“I am running for Congress because this is my home,” Yandik said in a statement. “I love these communities and our way of life, but the dysfunction in Washington is making it harder for families in upstate New York to get ahead. We need a member of Congress who understands our communities and will focus on getting results for this district.”

Though he doesn’t come right out and say it here, Yandik, who was born and raised working his family’s farm in Columbia County, is clearly positioning himself as the non-carpetbagging Democrat in this race.

Teachout, who has been renting in the district since March, has been playing up her rural Vermont roots, and insisting the fact that she only recently became an upstate resident won’t matter all that much to NY-19 voters.

According to Yandik’s press release, he left home to attend Princeton and Brown universities and also worked on environmental policy (no additional details are given, but his website says he worked at the Environmental Defense Fund) before returning home in 2009 to manage his family’s Green Acres Farm, which grows sustainable fruits and vegetables and runs a popular roadside stand and bakery.

Yandik is the first Democrat ever to hold the deputy supervisor’s post in his town. He says he has “great respect” for Teachout’s “passion for reform,” and shares her views on many issues, but adds: “I’m running for Congress because I was raised to step up and help my neighbors when they’re in need, and this is an opportunity to do just that.”

The candidate’s release also states that if there is a Democratic primary for the NY-19 nod, and if he is successful, he would face off in the general election against either “Long Island native and lobbyist John Faso, or New York City business owner Andrew Heaney” on the GOP line.

This is the first time I can recall anyone trying to paint Faso, who has lived in Kinderhook for years, as a non-upstater.

He served in the Assembly from 1988 to 2002, held landed the minority leader post in 1998, but gave up his legislative seat to run a close race for state comptroller, losing to Democrat Alan Hevesi. Faso also ran for governor in 2006, losing to then-AG Eliot Spitzer.

Cuomo Endorses Kaminsky’s Senate Bid

The nascent Senate campaign of Democratic Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky was endorsed on Sunday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Kaminsky formally launched his bid today for the district that was vacated by ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos last month following his conviction on corruption charges.

“Todd Kaminsky believes in restoring the promise of economic opportunity for all by raising the minimum wage to $15, and he is fighting every day to support Long Island’s working class families,” Cuomo said in a statement. “He knows we need to keep working to make living in New York more affordable by enacting real property tax relief and voting to uphold the property tax cap.

Republicans in Nassau County last week backed attorney Chris McGrath to hold the seat for the party, which holds a narrow majority in the Senate.

A Kaminsky win would break the Republican hold on Long Island Senate seats as Democrats seek to gain full control of the chamber this year.

Cuomo last endorsed in a special election to replace ousted Sen. Tom Libous, a Republican from the Binghamton area who was convicted of a felony charge of lying to the FBI.

Cuomo had backed his former Motor Vehicles commissioner Barbara Fiala for the seat, which was ultimately won in a landslide by Republican Fred Akshar.

But Democrats feel they have a good candidate in Kaminsky, a rising Democratic star in Albany and a former federal prosecutor who handled the case that sent former Sen. Pedro Espada to prison.

“He fought to uphold the law and bring justice to those who break it as a former federal prosecutor, and he’s continued that commitment by fighting for stronger ethics laws in the state legislature,” Cuomo said. “Todd has stood up for Long Island time and time again in the Assembly, and I am proud to endorse him for state Senate. Together we will continue to move New York forward.”

In a statement, Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said the conference was confident the majority would held this year.

At the same time, Reif knocked Kaminsky’s credentials as a reformer and linked him to Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City.

“While he presents himself as a reformer, the reality is he’s a fraud and a phony who supported Sheldon Silver and voted against taking away the taxpayer-funded pensions of lawmakers convicted of a felony,” Kaminksy said. “Rather than support Long Island families, he has repeatedly sided with Mayor de Blasio and the New York City special interests who are out of touch with the needs and values of our region.”

Niccoli Takes Amedore To Task Over Outside Income

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic state Senate candidate Sara Niccoli wasting little time on Tuesday taking Republican incumbent George Amedore to task over his opposition to banning outside income in the Legislature.

Amedore, whose family owns a homebuilding company, told the Times-Herald Record that he is staunchly opposed to curtailing private sources of income for lawmakers.

“The last thing we need in New York is a Legislature full of career politicians,” Amedore told the newspaper. “That in itself is a recipe for corruption.”

That’s a stance largely in line with the GOP conference, which has been skeptical of efforts to limit what lawmakers can earn outside of the Legislature or create a “professional” Legislature.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo backs a measure that would cap outside income at 15 percent of the base legislative pay, which is currently $79,500. That certainly could go up by the end of this year, pending the outcome of a pay commission’s decision.

But Democrats running competitive races this year have sought to make anti-corruption a major plank in their platform, with limits on outside income a key component.

“Scandal after scandal has rocked Albany. Yet George Amedore continues to prove he’s more concerned with protecting his wallet than helping the people he represents,” said Niccoli, the town supervisor in Palatine. “Restricting outside income for state lawmakers is one of the best ways to address Albany’s crisis of corruption. Our elected officials need to focus on helping our communities and not lining their own pockets.”

The spate of corruption scandals that have hit Albany in recent months — including the arrests of the top legislative leaders and their eventual convictions — has once again spurred talk of ethics and campaign finance reform, but for now, little action.