Jul 17th - 12:30 pm
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.”
Jul 14th - 11:11 am
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.
Jul 9th - 12:40 pm
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.
Jul 3rd - 10:48 am
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.
Jun 26th - 12:39 pm
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.”
Jun 26th - 10:34 am
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.
Jun 26th - 8:05 am
From today’s Morning Memo:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senate Democratic leaders, labor union officials and even liberal activists are hailing the IDC’s announcement that it will rejoin the “regular” Senate Dems after the November elections.
But if this new relationship had a Facebook status, it would definitely be: “It’s complicated.”
First of all, this won’t be a straight reunification, but rather a new version of the power-sharing deal IDC Leader Jeff Klein struck with Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos back in 2013.
Klein has repeatedly said in interviews since the big announcement yesterday afternoon (made, by the way, via press release and without much fanfare) that the IDC will “live on” and “remain in tact.”
In other words, both Klein and whoever is leading the Senate Dems in 2015 – presumably the current leader, Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins – will have to jointly agree on everything that comes to the Senate floor for a vote.
Also, as Capitol Confidential so neatly pointed out, the numbers in the Senate chamber at the moment mean that no one – not the Democrats OR the Republicans – has a clean majority without the IDC.
And no one really knows how those numbers will change after the November elections, which is why this deal won’t official go through until then – assuming it holds.
Also, keep in mind that there’s no guarantee a true Democrat-controlled majority would be able to pass all this progressive legislation everyone keeps talking about.
For example, neither Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. nor Sen. Simcha Felder (assuming he returns to the Democratic fold, too) will support a taxpayer-funded campaign finance system or strengthening abortion rights.
So, that’s two votes right there that the Senate Dems would have to find elsewhere if they want to pass two top priorities for both Cuomo and the liberal activist members of the WFP.
But it’s not 100 percent clear if the primary challengers who have already announced their intentions to run – most notably Klein’s opponent, former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell; and Sen. Tony Avella’s opponent, former NYC Comptroller John Liu – will stand down.
So far, Koppell is saying he’ll proceed as planned with his primary campaign against Klein, in part because he’s “skeptical” that the IDC leader will actually go through with his pledge to share power with his fellow Democrats.
It’s likely that if Koppell insists on soldiering on, the unions (which are already divided between him and Klein) and the WFP will slowly back away from him, leaving him without much support in his quest.
It could be a different story with Liu, who is hard-charging and ambitious and trying to work his way back into an elected post after coming in fourth in the 2013 NYC mayoral Democratic primary.
Unlike Koppell, Liu has the support of his home borough’s Democratic organization – in fact, Queens party leaders recruited him to challenge Avella as a punishment for the senator’s recent defection to the IDC.
And several unions that were key in negotiating the WFP endorsement deal of Cuomo that started the Senate reunification ball rolling – SEIU 1199 and HTC – will likely stick with Liu regardless of the IDC’s new power-sharing agreement, according to a labor source.
As for the other IDC members, their primary challengers were less far along in the process, and so their nascent campaigns are easier to kill in the cradle. But their departure from the field is not yet set in stone.
For example, MTA Board Member Allen Cappelli hasn’t yet agreed to terminate his nascent campaign to topple IDC member Diane Savino, a Staten Island senator.
And in Syracuse, Common Councilor Jean Kessner, who just picked up some key support from Assemblyman Sam Roberts in her fledgling challenge to Sen. Dave Valesky, also hasn’t yet formally ended her run.
She did, however, welcome the news of the IDC-Dem reunification and told the Syracuse Post-Standard that she’s likely to back down, saying: “(U)nless some really crazy glitch comes up, then we’re all set.”
Sen. David Carlucci, the IDC’s youngest member, reportedly has been the most anxious to see his conference strike a deal with the regular Democrats so he can potentially avoid a primary challenge from Clarkstown Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner.
According to a source familiar with these talks, Carlucci informed the Rockland County Democratic Party’s executive committee members two days ago that he would leave the IDC if a reunification deal failed to materialize.
The party had declined to endorse Carlucci this fall, and was flirting with backing Hausner.
Jun 26th - 1:03 am
Tuesday Republican State Senator Pat Gallivan was standing next to Governor Cuomo, in Buffalo, as he ceremonially signed a package of bills into law designed to combat heroin use. Just a day later he was attacking a political deal the Governor brokered that could pave the way for Democratic control of the State Senate.
“When the State Assembly, the State Senate, and the Governor’s office were all occupied by Downstate New York City centric people from the same party, in this case the Democratic Party, there was tremendous dysfunction,” Gallivan said.
The Elma Republican not only offered a warning of what he believes will happen if the Senate falls back into Democratic control he also criticized the timing of the deal.
“Before we get too far ahead of ourselves we still have elections to go through. And June, in my estimation, is not the time to determine whose going to be leading the senate come next January. That will be determined by the citizens of the state in each of the districts,” said Gallivan.
Gallivan says it’s now up to voters to block what he calls a bad deal for Upstate New York.
“In 2009-2010 we saw an additional $14 Billion in taxes and fees levied. I don’t think one party control of government is a good thing. We do need the checks and balance and in a case like this we go back to 2009-2010 and citizens should be rightly concerned if we were to go back to that. And the citizens of Upstate especially should be concerned their futures will be controlled by New York City and New York City interests,” Gallivan added.
Jun 25th - 5:58 pm
The Independent Democratic Conference will form a new power-sharing coalition in the state Senate with the mainline conference after the November elections, a move that’s supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a coalition of liberal organizations and labor groups.
The announcement signals an end to the IDC’s power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans in the chamber, which began in the aftermath of the 2012 elections with the GOP in a numerical minority.
In the statement, Klein, a Bronx Democrat, touted the accomplishments of his five-member faction, but added he wants to see a package of liberal friendly legislation pass in the chamber that has been not supported by Republican lawmakers.
Klein pointed to the January 2013 gun control law and the hike in the state’s minimum wage, along with the legalization of medical marijuana as IDC-GOP accomplishments.
“Yet as we reflect on these past achievements, it is also clear that core Democratic policy initiatives that the IDC championed remain unfinished,” Klein said in a statement. “As Democrats, the IDC remains committed to the fight for an equal education for all New York students – which the Dream Act would provide, protecting a woman’s right to choose, increasing workers’ wages, and enacting meaningful campaign finance reform. I agree with Governor Cuomo that these are progressive priorities we must pass.”
Without any caveats, Klein said his conference now backs a new coalition with Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
“Therefore all IDC members are united and agree to work together to form a new majority coalition between the Independent Democratic Conference and the Senate Democratic Conference after the November elections in order to deliver the results that working families across this state still need and deserve,” Klein said.
In the same statement, Cuomo — who liberal advocates have accused of tacitly endorsing the power-sharing agreement that left Republicans in charge of the chamber — praised the move.
“I applaud the IDC’s decision. There is no doubt that we have accomplished much for the state over the past four years. We have transformed the state government from dysfunctional to highly functional, a deficit to a surplus, and losing jobs to gaining jobs. There is also no doubt there are progressive goals that we have yet to achieve and that we must accomplish next January,” he said.
The power-sharing agreement is the fruition of behind-the-scenes negotiations with Cuomo, labor leaders and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on control of the Senate.
Key labor groups part of the effort to flip the Senate released separate statements praising the announcement.
Stewart-Cousins also released a statement thanking Cuomo and de Blasio, as well as her members.
“There is much work to be done between now and January. We commit ourselves to focusing on that work and doing our best to serve the people of New York in a way that will make them proud,” she said.
Under the agreement, Klein and Stewart-Cousins would share power as co-leaders in the Senate.
In a statement, the WFP praised the news as a chance to pass long-sought liberal measures.
”Today’s announcement that the IDC will be reuniting with Senate Democrats to form a new progressive majority in the State Senate is great news for working families throughout New York,” said State Director Bill Lipton. “From public financing and the full women’s equality agenda to the DREAM Act and raising the minimum wage, we now have a tidal wave of momentum to finally pass these critical pieces of legislation. We look forward to working with Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senator Jeff Klein and a new progressive majority next year, and to growing that majority this November.”
From public financing and the full women’s equality agenda to the DREAM Act and raising the minimum wage, we now have a tidal wave of momentum to finally pass these critical pieces of legislation.
We look forward to working with Senator Andrew Stewart-Cousin, Senator Jeff Klein and a new progressive majority next year, and to growing that majority this November.”
Cuomo last month received the endorsement of the labor-backed Working Families Party and agreed to help Democrats retake control of the chamber, which they held for a brief, two-year term marked by chaos and dysfunction.
Mainline Democrats have pointed out that a number of the lawmakers who caused headaches in the Senate — Pedro Espada, Carl Krueger, Hiram Monserrate among them — are no longer sitting lawmakers.
Questions remain, of course.
At least two members of the IDC are facing primary challenges this fall: Klein is being challenged by former city Councilman Oliver Koppell and Queens Sen. Tony Avella faces former City Comptroller John Liu.
Sen. David Valesky of the Syracuse area, meanwhile, faces a potential challenge from Democrat Jean Kessner.
All of the primary challenges have hinged, at least in part, on the lawmakers’ membership in the IDC and alliance with Senate Republicans.
The announcement today also seems to rely on the expectation that Democrats will make gains in the Senate — a non-presidential election year that is usually marked by lower Democratic turnout in New York.
The labor-backed coalition has pledged to help Democrats win seats this fall.
In the short term, the announcement today changes very little.
Lawmakers concluded the legislative session last week, earning the praise of Cuomo.
Barring a special session, they aren’t due to return to Albany for the remainder of the year, and the Senate rules can’t be changed until after new lawmakers are seated.
Jun 17th - 6:38 am
The IDC and Assembly sponsors of a bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in New York amended the measure late last night to address some – but not all – of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s publicly stated concerns.
Most notably, however, the latest version (D print) of the bill continues to allow patients over the age of 21 to smoke the drug – something Cuomo, citing concerns of the State Police and state Health Department officials, said he wants to ban altogether.
However, the changes removes three conditions from med-mar coverage – post-concussion, lupus and diabetes – and also does away with the advisory panel oversight structure, giving more discretion to the state Health commissioner.
The new version prohibits sharing the drug between patients, and caps the number of licenses for registered organizations to grow and dispense medical marijuana at 20, though the commissioner could expand that number after the first two years of the program, if necessary.
Smoking of medical marijuana would not be allowed in public places.
The changes to the Compassionate Care Act were introduced before midnight last night, which means this new version would be sufficiently aged for state lawmakers to take up on the Thursday – the last scheduled day of the 2014 legislative session.
But a source familiar with the negotiations cautioned that this amended act does not represent a three-way agreement between the Senate, Assembly and the governor. Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos is not yet on board, and without his approval, the bill cannot be brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
Sen. Diane Savino and Cuomo gave competing radio interviews to The Capitol Pressroom’s Susan Arbetter yesterday, with Savino, who has been aggressively pushing the Compassionate Care Act, lashing out at the governor for leaking details of weekend negotiations to the Daily News.
Cuomo left the door open for issuing a message of necessity to bypass the required three-day aging process for a medical marijuana deal, but said he would not sign off on anything that he believed would create “havoc” and a “public health disaster.”
Savino, who has already amended the Compassionate Care Act to limit smoking pot to those over the age of 21, rejected Cuomo’s call to ban smoking altogether, and insisted that the Senate would move forward to vote on a bill before the session’s end – with or without the governor’s approval.
This debate is going to rage on until the absolute eleventh hour, it appears. And the discussions are taking place in a highly charged political atmosphere, given the fact that the governor’s office and every single legislative seat is up for grabs in this election year.
As for the voters, med-mar continues to receive high marks.
Yesterday’s Siena poll found 43 percent of New Yorkers would prefer moving beyond a test program (as proposed by Cuomo) to legalize the use of pot by seriously ill individuals, while 37 percent agree with the governor that the more limited test route is the way to go, and 18 percent want to keep the drug completely illegal.