Harry Wilson

Wilson Weighs In On Pension Reform

Harry Wilson is out of the country, but he couldn’t help weighing in on the pension reform debate raging back home in New York, where his 2010 opponent, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, is under fire for opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for creation of a sixth pension tier with a 401(k)-style option for new state employees.

“Anyone with even a basic understanding of finance – or even arithmetic – can see that our current pension system is unsustainable,” Wilson said in a statement forwarded to me by his erstwhile campaign manager, GOP consultant Bill O’Reilly.

“Sensible pension reform should be about objective analysis, not political games, and would be both pro-taxpayer and pro-public employee. Pro-taxpayer because local governments can’t afford their current pension obligations, and they are still increasing. Pro-public employee because an unsustainable system tragically puts their retirement benefits at risk.”

“Governor Cuomo’s modest proposal is the least that needs to be done to protect New York’s public pensions and overburdened taxpayers. And Comptroller DiNapoli and the legislative leadership should be leading the charge to make it happen.”

Wilson, a largely self-funding political newcomer in 2010, came within just a few percentage points of defeating DiNapoli in the state comptroller’s race. Observers contributed his loss in part to drag caused by having controversial gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino at the top of the ticket, but DiNapoli was also helped tremendously – particularly in Democrat-dominated NYC – by the cash and GOTV operation of his labor supporters.

Now, DiNapoli is being accused of carrying the unions’ water in the pension reform fight. State Conservative Chairman Mike Long and Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy have even gone so far as to call on DiNapoli to return his union campaign contributions, which account for up to one quarter of his total cash (that’s public and private combined) to avoid the appearance of pay-to-play.

Wilson doesn’t have any immediate plans to return to the political stage, though many have urged him to do so. He briefly considered challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, but then decided against it. He is keeping his hand in state politics, however, and recently put in an appearance at the Conservative Party’s annual political action conference in Colonie.

Wilson: Supercommittee Failure Due To ‘Leadership Deficit’

Harry Wilson has released what I believe is his first official policy statement since his failed bid for state comptroller last fall, or, at the very least his first of this election cycle, in response to the supercommittee’s failure to reach a deficit reduction deal.

It’s fitting that Wilson should choose this particular topic on which to re-enter the political discourse, since he has considerable experience trying to get companies – and even entire industries – back onto the path of fiscal health.

Wilson, who came within spitting distance of ousting Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli last fall during his inaugural run for elected office, is now “seriously considering” another statewide run – this time against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who must run for a full six-year term in 2012.

Gillibrand wasn’t a supercommittee member, but Wilson’s critique of Washington writ large could be construed as a swipe at the junior senator – or at least at the institution of which she is a member.

Here’s Wilson’s statement in full:

“Our political leaders have been tasked with finding a bipartisan solution for America’s great fiscal crises. Today, they have failed again, despite the fact that the consequences for countries that fail to deal with their debt and overspending problems are splashed across our television screens every day.”

“I have spent much of my professional career working to fix companies that have amassed too much debt to sustain in times of anemic growth, so I have seen this movie before. Strong leadership and forward thinking can minimize the pain for an overleveraged company or country, while feckless leadership and procrastination make a bad situation worse.”

“Thanks to the Super Committee’s failure, our leaders in Washington are making things worse, despite the existence of a number of bipartisan and Republican plans that would more than deliver the necessary savings.”

“This leadership deficit threatens the promise of America. As a father of four, I am sickened by it. We cannot let political paralysis and weakness threaten our children’s future. I, like many, have been fortunate to live the American Dream – yet now, protests from people on the right and the left who are sadly losing faith in that Dream underscore how seriously it is threatened today.”

“In order to fix America and put our country on a sustainable path towards fiscal stability, growth and future prosperity, in order to ensure the creation of good jobs for out-of-work Americans, I am urging Congress and the President to go back to the negotiating table and solve for our future. As the tragic examples of Greece and Italy can attest, they don’t have a choice.”

A Vote For Wilson For Senate (Updated)

Republican Harry Wilson, who, as a largely self-funding political newcomer, came within just under 4 percentage points of ousting Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli last fall, has not said anything publicly in response to a NY Post report that he’s being talked up as a potential 2012 challenger to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, but he already has at least one GOP county chairman in his corner.

“I’m very optimistic that Harry Wilson might be on our ticket next year…maybe as US Senate candidate,” Tom Dadey, who heads the Onondaga County Republican Party, told me during a CapTon interview last night. “…I have not talked to him directly about that in the last couple days, given our own local elections and busyness that has gone on. But Harry would be a great candidate.”

“He came very close when he ran before. He is a great candidate, and I would be happy to support a guy like Harry Wilson…We have an opportunity, we definitely have an opportunity to beat her. Her poll numbers, she’s weak in a couple of areas, and a match-up against Harry Wilson, somebody who’s a likeable candidate who’s got a young family, who’s got the business background, very personable, he could do very well in another statewide run here in New York.”

Gillibrand’s approval rating has remained stalled at under 50 percent for some time now, despite the fact that she has been in office since early 2009 and won a statewide election – quite easily – against former Rep. Joe DioGuardi last year.

Realistically speaking, the Republicans have one more shot at unseating Gillibrand before she becomes entrenched as the state’s junior senator. It’s going to be a difficult task for whoever the GOP settles on, particularly since it’s a presidential election year that will pull those once-every-four-years voters to the polls in this Democrat-dominated state. Gillibrand will be seeking her first full six-year term. Last year’s election, as you’ll recall, was to serve out the remainder of the term to which former Sen. Hillary Clinton was re-elected in 2006.

Gillibrand is a prodigious fundraiser, and has $7.1 million on hand. Wilson spent $6.97 million, most of which was his own money, on his losing campaign.

So far, just one Republican – Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos – has declared his candidacy against Gillibrand. Maragos has pledged to infuse his campaign with several million dollars, and has so far loaned it $121,612. Economist David Malpass, who finished second to DioGuardi in the GOP primary last year, has not ruled out another run. Others floated (in the same Post story): 2010 gubernatorial candidate/former Rep. Rick Lazio, state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who unsuccessful sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2006.

UPDATE: GOP strategist Bill O’Reilly tells Gannett’s Jon Campbell that Wilson ‘s main focus is on the private sector and it “will remain there” until further notice, adding: “If that ever changes, he will make that known.” Which, in my book, is a definitive leaving open of the door.

Obama Taps Harry Wilson Again

2010 Republican State Comptroller Candidate Harry Wilson has once again been tapped by President Barack Obama to serve the country. Back in 2009, he was a Sr. member of the Treasury Department team that oversaw the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler.

Now, he has been sworn in as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation – an independent agency of the federal government that essentially insures defined benefit pension plans so workers cannot lose their pensions.

“Harry Wilson has a deep knowledge of corporate restructuring, and highly relevant government experience,” said PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum. “This background gives him invaluable insight into the challenges we face at PBGC. I look forward to his wise counsel as a member of the Advisory Committee.”

The appointment is interesting from a political standpoint because it adds to his resume as a future Comptroller candidate. The main role of the Comptroller is to be the sole trustee of the state’s $146.9 billion Common Retirement Fund. This position with the PBGC will keep him working with pensions in a government setting.

DiNapoli Puts Best Face On Low Campaign Funds

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli made no secret during a CapTon interview last night of the fact that he prefers the service end of public service to the political fundraising aspect.

Most elected officials feel that way, although a select few – Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has been known to gleefully squeeze in fundraising calls while driving in between public events, comes to mind – actually enjoy the ask.

DiNapoli has just under $53,000 on hand in his campaign account, according to his July 15 filing, and he spent almost as much as the $326,527 he took in over the past six months.

The comptroller has been pushing for some time to have his office used as a pilot for a statewide public campaign finance system, but while his former colleagues in the Assembly passed a bill to do just that this past session, the Senate did not follow suit.

DiNapoli told me there are “obvious challenges with this office that the other offices don’t have: People are precluded from giving.” But that’s not exactly true. The state attorney general, for example, is precluded from accepting contributions from people who his office is investigating.

The comptroller also made a passing reference to the Alan Hevesi pay-to-play pension fund scandal that put a cloud over the office he inherited, thanks (again) to his old Assembly colleagues, and was still struggling to get out from under during the 2010 election when he eked out a victory against a largely self-funding newcomer, Republican Harry Wilson.

“We’ve worked very hard, you know, because of what happened before I got there, you know, to restore the reputation. And I believe we’ve done that, but does limit our options as far as fundraising,” DiNapoli said.

“And this may come as a surprise to you, but there aren’t a whole lot of givers out there that are just waiting with their checkbooks, saying: I gotta to give to the comptroller’s race because that’s the hot race in New York State. It was last year because somebody had an awful lot of money they pulled out of their own pocket. I got more money than my opponent has in the bank…

“Perhaps it will be an uncontested election. I think we have a long way to go, and I think we showed folks, even being outspent just about two-to-one and with everything against us, the people still made a wise choice in the comptroller’s race in 2010; I think they’ll do the same thing in 2014.”

NOTE: DiNapoli’s comment about having more in the bank than his opponent was in reference to his thus far nonexistent challenger for 2014 – just to clear up any confusion, should any exist.

Wilson Stays In The Mix

Harry Wilson, the 2010 GOP state comptroller candidate who came close to ousting the Democratic incumbent, Tom DiNapoli, focused much of his campaign on fixing the problems plaguing New York’s pension system.

Empire State voters may have rejected Wilson’s advances, but pension troubles – sadly – are not unique to this state, and the former hedge fund manager has found a new spot to exercise his expertise: Rhose Island.

The Ocean State’s governor, Lincoln Chafee, and general treasurer, Gina Raimondo, tapped Wilson to serve on a 12-member voluntary advisory group to craft a comprehensive pension reform plan. The group met for the first time this week, and Wilson was interviewed by the local news. (His comments start at about the 1:45-minute mark).

At the request of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Wilson’s firm, MAEVA Advisors, is playing a key role in the restructuring of YRC Worldwide, the nation’s largest trucking company. (Ironically, the local chapters of the Teamsters endorsed DiNapoli, whose widespread labor support played a key role in his defeat of Wilson).

A NY GOP source said Wilson is being courted to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012. (She already has one announced opponent, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, who has pledged to spend up to $5 million of his own cash on that campaign).

According to this source, Wilson definitely still has the political “bug,” and hasn’t yet ruled out a Senate run.

UPDATE: A source close to the Teamsters – both the IBT International and joint Council 16 – are “solidly behind both DiNapoli and Gillibrand.” In fact, the union just dropped $10,000 at a recent DiNapoli fundraiser.

What Saved Tom DiNapoli? (Updated)

…Arguably, Andrew Cuomo, despite the fact that the governor-elect never endorsed or campaigned with the state comptroller.

OK. I know what you’re thinking. But hear me out on this one.

Even big DiNapoli supporters have told me the former Long Island assemblyman had no business winning on Tuesday.

Not only was he vastly outspent by his Republican challenger, Harry Wilson, but he was practically dark when it came to TV ads in the final weeks of the campaign – something virtually unheard of. What’s more, Wilson swept nearly every single newspaper editorial board in the state.

UPDATE: DiNapoli spokesman Eric Sumberg informs me the campaign was indeed dark in the last week or so upstate, but was definitely on the air in LI and NYC.

So, in the end, it came down to field for DiNapoli – specifically, the GOTV operation provided by organized labor, which was solidly in the comptroller’s corner.

That field was overseen and paid for by the state Democratic Party, which received $1 million from Cuomo to fund the coordinated campaign.

More >

Wilson Concedes

As expected, Republican Harry Wilson has conceded the race to his Democratic opponent, incumbent Tom DiNapoli, touting the fact that he had managed to outpoll the top of the GOP ticket by more than 450,000 votes, but ended up falling short of victory in the end.

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“We take enormous solace in the knowledge that we left not a single stone unturned in our effort,” Wilson said in a statement.

“I am fortunate to have the best family and friends a man could ask for, and I cannot thank enough the 1.8 million New Yorkers across the political spectrum who responded to my call for fiscal accountability in Albany.”

“I congratulate my opponent, Tom DiNapoli, for his win yesterday. I hope that the critically important issues we raised during this campaign are addressed for the benefit of the people of New York State.”

Wilson carried every region of the state outside NYC, but DiNapoli’s success in the Democrat-dominated five boroughs – generated largely to the GOTV effort mounted on his behalf by labor unions – proved too much for the political newcomer and former hedge fund manager to overcome.

Wilson said he plans to remain “active in public affairs.” The full text of his remarks this morning (as prepared for delivery) appears after the jump.

More >

Wilson To Concede?

Republican state comptroller hopeful Harry Wilson is scheduled to make an announcement at 9:30 a.m. at the Hilton, his campaign informed the weary press corps via an alert that hit my in-box at 7:16 a.m.

No details were provided, but I think it’s a safe bet this is the concession speech to his Democratic opponent, incumbent Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, that we didn’t see very early this morning after NY1/YNN called the extremely close race in favor of the former Long Island assemblyman.

Wilson sent out a statement last night refusing to concede and noting that there are some 210,000 absentee ballots out that have yet been counted. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, DiNapoli led Wilson by 125,000 votes or 3 percentage points – a pretty much insurmountable lead if the yet-uncounted ballots broke the same way the general election ballots did.

Wilson had the cash advantage (thanks to an investment of about $4 million of his own money) and nearly all the newspaper editorial boards in the state behind him, and DiNapoli did not, unlike his fellow Democratic statewide contender, AG-elect Eric Schneiderman, have the support of the party’s standard-bearer, Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, behind him.

In the end, however, Wilson could simply not overcome organized labor, which was behind DiNapoli and pushed hard to get out the vote on his behalf.

This is really a big win for unions (and they need one, considering the battle they’re facing with Cuomo in the next budget cycle) and also for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who stood right next to DiNapoli early this morning during victory speech.

YNN: DiNapoli Predicted to Win Comptroller Race, Wilson Not Conceding

Incumbent Democrat Tom DiNapoli currently leads Republican challenger Harry Wilson by three points and YNN and NY1 has called Tom DiNapoli the projected Winner.

DiNapoli has not taken the state, but just released this statement:

Public service has been what my life has been about. To be the people’s choice for Comptroller is truly the greatest honor.

I commend my opponent on a spirited campaign.

This victory shows it’s not about the polls, nor the pundits, nor the papers. It’s about the people.

We still have enormous challenges ahead of us and an immediate challenge in dealing with our current budget. I will continue to exercise leadership in resolving these problems.

I congratulate our new Governor, Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy as well as our new Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, on their victories tonight. Together, we will move our state forward.

I owe thanks to everyone who has believed in me and in my candidacy over these past few months: the Democratic Party, the Working Families Party and especially my brothers and sisters in the labor movement.

I look forward to getting back to work with my new colleagues in state government and to doing the people’s business day and in and day out.

THANK YOU NEW YORK!

However, with such a tight margin, Wilson is not ready to concede the race. His campaign sent this statement:

“I want to thank my family and my supporters, including the hundreds of thousands of Democrats and independents who crossed party lines today to vote for me. This race is too close to call tonight, but I remain hopeful that I will prevail in my campaign to bring fiscal accountability to Albany and professionalism to the office of the New York State Comptroller.”

If DiNapoli wins, this will be his first full term in statewide office. He was appointed to the position after Alan Hevesi resigned.