IDC Lawmakers Blast Teachout’s Debate With Astorino

Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t participate in this morning’s radio debate between his Democratic rival Zephyr Teachout and Republican opponent, Rob Astorino.

But that didn’t stop Cuomo’s surrogates today from criticizing Teachout’s participation in the forum on WNYC, suggesting that the event served only to raise Astorino’s profile and give a “platform” to his opinions.

Earlier, it was former Gov. David Paterson taking this line.

And this afternoon, two members of the Independent Democratic Conference — which broke away from the mainline conference and formed a majority coalition with Senate Republicans that essentially kept the GOP in power despite their numerical minority — took turns knocking Teachout for helping Astorino gain some exposure.

First, IDC Leader Jeff Klein — who faces a primary challenge of his own next week — knocked the debate.

“Why would any progressive Democrat give right-wing Republican Rob Astorino platform to broadcast his anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-worker views? This sad gimmick is backfiring because New Yorkers know a publicity stunt when they see one. If Zephyr Teachout actually cares about Democrats, she should stop doing debates that elevate an extreme conservative.”

Then, IDC Sen. Diane Savino issued a similar-sounding statement.

“Other than seeking another shameless media opportunity, what is the point of giving a platform for Republican Rob Astorino’s extreme agenda? More airtime for an anti-choice, anti-worker, anti-gay Republican is not what progressive New Yorkers are looking for.”

To be fair, the IDC has said it is dropping its coalition with the Senate Republicans after Election Day and forming a new coalition with the mainline conference.

And for institutional Democrats, the statements today are trying to make the point that Teachout shouldn’t be giving a Republican any oxygen, even if it helps her in the short term. Today also wasn’t the first time Teachout held an event with Astorino: The two appeared in a joint news conference to knock Cuomo’s record on ethics reform.

The coalition, though, still remains a sore point for many liberals who blame the IDC-GOP alliance for blocking or watering down a host of long-sought measures and Cuomo not forcefully pushing for a Democratic-controlled Senate.

In May, Cuomo announced he backed a full takeover of the Senate as he received the endorsement from the Working Families Party.

IDC PAC Mails For Kennedy Opponent

A mailer circulating in the 63rd Senate District paid for by the Independent Democratic Conference’s political action committee touts Democratic candidate Betty Jean Grant’s primary campaign against Sen. Tim Kennedy.

The mailer highlights this month’s endorsement of Grant by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, including a photo of the two shaking hands.

“Betty Jean Grant is the Senate I need in Albany,” the mailer quotes Poloncarz as saying.

The mailer isn’t the only sign of involvement for the IDC in western New York.

Campaign filings show the IDC’s PAC has contributed $25,000 to the Erie County Democratic housekeeping account.

The mailer comes after the five-member IDC and the mainline conference agreed to form a new coalition in the state Senate after Election Day, essentially ending the leadership pact between the breakaway Democrats and the Senate Republicans.

As a result, Democrats publicly said they would yank support from primary challengers, including Oliver Koppell, a former city councilman and attorney general, who faces IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

Similarly, Klein pulled support for Fernando Cabrera, who is challenging Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera.

Still, a number of proxy battles between the IDC and mainline conference continued on.

Sen. Liz Krueger contributed $3,500 to Koppell’s effort in July, as part of her continuation of support for him in that race.

Grant has not said whether she plans to join the IDC if she is elected to the state Senate.

The Grant-Kennedy primary has created a split in the Democratic party in Erie County and, as Capital reported this morning, the incumbent has the crucial backing the statewide teachers union in the race.

Klein Touts NYSUT Endorsement

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Friday touted his endorsement from the New York State United Teachers union.

“I’m honored to have the endorsement of NYSUT, whose membership works hard each and every day on everything from shaping young minds in our public schools to educating adults in our colleges and universities. I’m committed to being a voice for our educators in Albany,” Klein said in a statement released this afternoon.

Klein faces former city Councilman Oliver Koppell in a Democratic primary next month.

NYSUT announced its slate of endorsements in the Legislature this week, but declined to endorse in the race for governor.

“Those who earn endorsements are friends of public education and labor,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said. “Over the last two years, they earned our support by advocating effectively for our public schools, colleges and healthcare institutions; listening intently to the concerns and aspirations of our members, and voting consistently the right way.”

NY Court Officers Endorse Avella

The labor group that represents state Supreme Court officers endorsed on Friday Sen. Tony Avella’s bid for a third term in the state Senate.

Avella, a Queens Democrat and the most recent addition to the Independent Democratic Conference, faces former city Comptroller John Liu in a hotly contested primary next month.

“Senator Avella has a proven record in his support of our Members. His support of our hard working Supreme Court Officers has been demonstrated by both his voting record and his sponsored legislation. A true New Yorker, we are proud to have him representing our values in Albany. He has been on the right side of issues that directly benefited our Members, their families and all New Yorkers,” said New York State Supreme Court Officers Association President Patrick Cullen.

Liu attended a rally with former Rep. Kathy Hochul on Thursday, the governor’s preferred running mate for lieutenant governor. However, Hochul stopped short of a full endorsement for Liu.

“Every New Yorker depends upon the hardworking men and women of our court system,” Avella said in a statement. “Every day, they ensure that those seeking justice are protected while their integrity ensures law and order remains upheld. It is my honor to receive their support for my campaign.”

Klein Campaign Knocks Koppell For Delayed Disclosure

The re-election campaign of Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Thursday knocked his primary challenger Oliver Koppell for failing to file a campaign finance disclosure form with the Board of Elections on time.

“Senator Klein’s challenger, a former New York State Attorney General, didn’t waste time violating the law and failed to disclose his campaign donors to the public by the appointed deadline. On the campaign trail Mr. Koppell talks about campaign finance reform, a measure which Senator Klein continues to tirelessly advocate for in the State Senate, and yet, he cannot follow the rules of our current system. Mr. Koppell should be fined. While candidates were busy submitting their disclosures, Mr. Koppell’s campaign instead blasted out a classless, disparaging fundraising email in a tone that’s become the hallmark of his baseless race.”

Klein and his five-member IDC last month announced plans to break from the Senate Republicans and form a new governing majority coalition with the mainline conference after Election Day.

A filing released by the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee this week showed it had paid more than $30,000 in consulting work to Parkside for Koppell’s race.

Sen. Mike Gianaris, the mainline conference’s fundraising chairman, said in an interview on Capital Tonight last night the payment was made for previous work done and before the deal was announced.

“I just want to be very clear. We have an agreement as a conference that we are not supporting the campaign against Jeff Klein in that primary, and we are absolutely sticking to that,” Gianaris said. “What was reflected in the filing was some spending for activity that occurred before there was any agreement not to do that.”

RWDSU Backs Avella

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on Monday endorsed Queens Sen. Tony Avella’s re-election bid.

The endorsement from RWDSU comes as Avella faces a stiff primary challenge from former New York City Comptroller John Liu.

Avella, elected in 2010, joined the five-member Independent Democratic Conference earlier this year.

“Sen. Avella’s record of results and leadership illustrate his continuing dedication to the progressive values that matter not only to RWDSU’s workers, but to all New Yorkers. Whether it’s a higher minimum wage, worker safety or public campaign financing, Sen. Avella has been there and so we are now proud to support Sen. Tony Avella for reelection to the 11th State Senate District,” stated Stuart Appelbaum, President of RWDSU.

Liu earlier today was endorsed by a trio of high-profile Queens congressional members: Joe Crowley, Greg Meeks and Grace Meng.

Labor Groups Endorses IDC

All five members of the Independent Democratic Conference on Wednesday were endorsed for re-election by the International Union of Elevator Constructors.

“State Senators Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, David Valesky, David Carlucci and Tony Avella truly care about the safety of our members and the elevator riding public. In the State Senate, the IDC pushed for legislation which would require licenses for elevator mechanics. This would ensure that quality work, like the work our highly trained, union workers perform each and every day, is done. The International Union of Elevator Constructors endorses all five members of the IDC,” said Lenny Lagotte, IUEC Local 1 Chairman of Statewide Safety.

The IDC, composed of Sens. Diane Savino of Staten Island, Jeff Klein of the Bronx, David Valesky of Oneida, Tony Avella of Queens and David Carlucci of Clarkstown, last month agreed to end its coalition arrangement with Senate Republicans and form a new power-sharing arrangement with the mainline Democratic conference.

Of the five IDC members, Klein and Avella still face primary bids from former city Councilman Oliver Koppell and ex-Comptroller John Liu, respectively.

The Working Families Party plans to remain neutral in the primaries, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — key architect of the IDC-Democratic conference reconciliation — endorsed Klein and Avella on Tuesday.

Unwinding The Senate Primaries

From the morning memo:

The agreement that paved the way for the Independent Democratic Conference to form a new governing coalition with mainline Senate Democrats has, for now, put the brakes on the intraparty warfare in the chamber.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins broke bread in the form of a lunch.

Labor unions, the Working Families Party, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio all back an end to Republican rule in the state Senate.

Nevertheless, remnant skirmishes in the form of Senate primaries remain in play.

Potential Democratic challengers to IDC Sens. David Valesky and Diane Savino recently announced they won’t challenge them following the new coalition deal.

But primary campaigns continue against Klein, who faces former Councilman Oliver Koppell, and IDC Sen. Tony Avella, who faces former city Comptroller John Liu.

Several IDC-backed challenges also remain on the table against mainline Democrats Tim Kennedy and Gustavo Rivera.

“To be clear, we haven’t had made any specific agreements related to primaries,” Sen. Mike Gianaris said in an interview on Capital Tonight on Wednesday. “Now that we’re in a cooperative mood we’re trying to be as helpful as we can and as you said someone of these primary candidates have decided to stand down. But there are primaries going on on both sides of the equation.”

Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, is the leader of the Senate Democrats’ political and fundraising arm.

Support for the primaries against the IDC members appears to be on the decline as labor groups like 1199/SEIU make plans to pull out.

That hasn’t dissuaded either Koppell or Liu from pulling the plug on their campaigns.

“Some of this is going to be going on just as a matter of domestic politics in these Senate districts, if you will, that have nothing to do with the Democratic conference and the IDC,” Gianaris said.

Though he’s had differences with Klein, a Bronx lawmaker, he said there’s no reason to suspect the agreement that ended the GOP-IDC coalition is anything but solid.

“I think there are a lot of people who feel comfortable about this going forward,” Gianaris said, pointing to the recent lunch between Klein and Stewart-Cousins. “I think everyone has a great deal of confidence that this is a real thing and it is moving forward.”

Meanwhile, Gianaris also confirmed the mainline conference is supportive of former Vestal town Supervisor Anndrea Starzak’s candidacy for Republican Sen. Tom Libous, who is under indictment for making false statements to the FBI.

Gianaris has formed a good working relationship with the Binghamton Republican, but said on the political side of things, he expects the Southern Tier district, where GOP voters outnumber Democrats, to be in play this year.

“That is a district that maybe wouldn’t have been in as play prior to yesterday and we’re going to take a look at it and expect to compete as we expect to compete everywhere,” he said.

Klein: To Be Clear, IDC Isn’t Rejoining Regular Dems

IDC Leader Jeff Klein this morning was adamant that the agreement he announced yesterday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo should not be interpreted as a return by his breakaway conference to the regular Democratic fold.

The five IDC members – assuming they all survive this campaign cycle – will be retaining their identity as members of their own conference, Klein told Susan Arbetter during an interview on The Capitol Pressroom, adding: “We were threated to come back to the Democratic fold or face primary challenges; we’re not saying that we’re rejoining the Democratic conference.”

“The proposed coalition is about getting a legislative agenda done, and we have to sit down and talk about how we can achieve that,” Klein said.

Klein said the IDC had served as a “strong, stabilizing force” during its partnership with the Senate Republicans, but the time has come to reassess that relationship in light of the fact that top progressive priorities like the DREAM Act, a statewide public campaign finance system and the Women’s Equality Act aren’t being allowed to the floor of the Senate for a vote due to the opposition of GOP Leader Dean Skelos.

The Bronx Democrat said he was moved to form the IDC back when the Senate was “dysfunctional,” but he is now optimistic that things have changed.

He did not, however, rule out the possibility of supporting candidates in the fall elections who might be interested in joining the IDC, explaining that there would be a “litmus test” of supporting the progressive agenda. He said the time to discuss the November elections and challenges to GOP candidates will come when the “dust settles” on the September primaries.

“While I agree and support bipartisan governing, I’m a Democrat; I want to elect Democrats,” Klein explained. “But I think now, we have to elect Democrats that actually support the issues the IDC has championed.”

IDC-Dem Deal Could Bring Valesky A GOP Challenger (Updated)

Perhaps they traded one problem for another?

The announcement yesterday of a post-election IDC-Democrat reunification in the Senate may result in fewer – or perhaps merely less strenuous – primary challenges against IDC members, but the deal could result in a GOP opponent for one member where none previously existed.

Onondaga County Chairman Tom Dadey issued a statement this morning raising “serious concerns” about the IDC-regular Democrat deal, and saying it will “will hand over the keys of state government to the New York City Democrats and the radical Working Families Party.”

“Putting liberal New York City interests back in charge of our entire state government would be a disaster for hardworking Upstate taxpayers, who would surely see their taxes go up and their state aid go down,” Dadey continued.”

As a result of this new development, Dadey said he is now exploring all options – including recruiting a Republican candidate to challenge Syracuse IDC member Dave Valesky.

Two years ago, the Onondaga County GOP gave Valesky a pass, declining to field a candidate against him.

That was a significant change from 2010, when Valesky was a top GOP target. And back in 2004, Dadey himself ran against Valesky on the Conservative and Independence Party lines.

Dadey’s presence that year on the ballot against the Republican incumbent, then-Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffmann (a former Democrat), to whom he lost the GOP primary, split the vote on the right and created a narrow path to victory for Valesky.

The GOP was not at all happy about losing Hoffmann’s seat, and Dadey was persona non grata with former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno for some time.

Dadey went out of his way in his statement today to say that he personally likes Valesky, but just isn’t a fan of his politics at the moment.

Valesky had been facing a primary challenge from Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner, but upon learning the news of the IDC-Democrat deal yesterday Kessner sounded prepared to end her campaign.

UPDATE: A Democratic consultant emails a good point, writing:

“The Republicans made Valesky’s district much more Democratic (in the last round of redistricting). The county chair’s threat is empty – especially since Valesky has won in his former district, which was much worse. Same for (Sen. David) Carlucci.”

In other words, the threat of primary battles was actually more potent, and if that has, in fact, been neutralized, then the IDC members have a heck of a lot less to worry about this fall.