David Paterson

Paterson Unsure If State Party Will Help Fiala

patersonOutgoing Democratic Committee Chairman David Paterson in a radio interview on Thursday said he didn’t know if the state party will aid the state Senate candidacy of Barbara Fiala in a Binghamton-area special election.

“I really don’t know,” Paterson said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom when asked about whether the party will invest in Fiala’s bid. “I don’t know.”

Paterson, who in the coming weeks steps down from the chairmanship was appointed to 18 months ago, said in the interview that Fiala has the “fire in the belly” but the race remains an uphill one for any Democrat, given that it has been a “Republican stronghold” for decades.

“I was at the state party where I saw Barbara about a week and a half ago,” he said. “She still has the fire in the belly. But one person can’t do it alone. It’s going to take a lot of effort on behalf of the party to make this happen.”

Fiala has struggled to raise money compared to her Republican opponent, Fred Akshar, a Broome County undersheriff whose candidacy has been injected with hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Senate Republican Campaign Committee as well as rank-and-file state lawmakers.

Republicans hold a voter enrollment edge in the district. Fiala and Akshar are competing next month for a district held by former Sen. Tom Libous, who was ousted in July following a felony conviction on a charge of lying to the FBI.

Fiala, in a subsequent interview that followed Paterson on the radio show, shrugged off the lack of support from the state party, as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had quickly endorsed her candidacy and pledged to help her win the district back in July.
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Paterson Stepping Down From Democratic Chairmanship

Former Gov. David Paterson will step down as the state Democratic Committee chairman, a post he has held since May 2014, Paterson announced on Wednesday morning.

“Today, I am announcing that, after 18 rewarding months, I will be resigning as chair of the New York State Democratic Party,” Paterson said in a statement. “It has been a sincere honor to have held this post and to have played such a central role promoting the Democratic values that are so important to the New Yorkers we serve.”

Paterson was elevated to the post during the state Democratic Convention, when Cuomo replaced Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Manhattan Democrat who shared the job as co-chair with Stephanie Miner, the Syracuse mayor who openly differed with the governor on infrastructure investment, state aid and pension policy.

Paterson that election season was deployed as a foil for the Democratic governor, who at the time was running against Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

Known for — at times — speaking off the cuff, Paterson’s tenure as chairman was often on-message.

In his statement, Paterson also praised working with Cuomo.

“I particularly enjoyed working so closely with Governor Cuomo in the run-up to his re-election last year,” he said. “The Governor has been a strong champion for our Party’s shared ideals and I have been proud to answer his call to serve as Chair of the Party. The legacy he is in the process of creating is built on principled and enlightened policies – things like sensible gun control, marriage equality, a higher minimum wage and lower tax rates than any that our State has seen in the past sixty years – that are opening the door to a better future for all New Yorkers.”

Paterson Backs De Blasio On Permanent Mayoral Control

As the Democratic-led Assembly today prepares to vote for a three-year extension of mayoral control over city schools, former Gov. David Pateron is siding with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on making the power a permanent one.

“I think it should be permanent, to be honest with you,” Paterson said.

The stance puts the state Democratic Committee chairman at odds with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who backs a three-year extension of mayoral control.

Meanwhile, mayoral control faces an uncertain future in the Republican-led Senate, where GOP lawmakers have called for reforms. The Assembly bill being voted on today makes few alterations to how the mayor oversees public schools.

“I think that we cannot measure mayoral control by whoever is the current mayor,” Paterson said. “We decided some years ago that the mayor should take some measure control for the education of the city’s kids and I think it should stay that way.”

Paterson: Corruption Scandals Hurt Cuomo’s Approval

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 37 percent approval rating in a poll earlier this month can in part be attributed to the spate of corruption scandals to plague the Capital, former Gov. David Paterson on Monday said.

Paterson, the state Democratic Committee chairman, told reporters after the spring meeting in Albany of the party that he does expect Cuomo’s poll numbers to rebound.

“Unfortunately when you’ve had a number of scandals, if you’re in the vicinity, there can be an effect,” Paterson said. “I think as time goes on, people will see the difference in Governor Cuomo’s service and they will rise again.”

The legislative session this year has been unprecedented in the high-profile corruption arrests. Both legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate were forced to step down from their leadership posts following corruption arrests.

Cuomo’s handling of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, as well as the decision to shut down the commission last year, is part of an ongoing inquiry by the U.S. attorney’s office.

But Paterson said the public for the moment is lumping the legal troubles of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos in with Cuomo’s own handling of his job.

“In Albany, everybody gets lumped in together,” he said. “We’re talking about a small percentage and let’s just remember to keep those individuals who have been accused the right to defend themselves.”

Meanwhile, Paterson told reporters the Skelos arrest shouldn’t be a political issue as Senate Democrats look to run a competitive race against the Nassau County lawmaker, potentially with rising star Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky as a candidate.

“I don’t see it as an advantage,” he said. “I think the issues in an election should be the issues of wages, affordable housing, issues of economic development in the state. Those are the issues New Yorkers get up and care about everyday.”

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul had a different take on the low approval rating.

Hochul pointed to Cuomo instituting a hydrofracking ban as well as the SAFE Act as a sign that the governor isn’t afraid to take controversial stands on key issues.

“Those were tough, tough issues,” said Hochul after addressing the Democratic committee. “Those say to me he’s the type of leader that we’re fortunate to have. He does not go by sticking his finger up in the wind.”

Paterson: Government Not Attracting ‘Best And Brightest’

Former Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday said public service in recent years has failed to attract the best talent and corruption headlines don’t help.

Paterson, interviewed on Fred Dicker’s Talk-1300 radio show Tuesday morning, was reacting to the latest corruption scandal to hit Albany after Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos surrendered to federal authorities alongside his son Adam on fraud charges.

“Our best and our brightest are not going into government these days,” Paterson said. “These latest headlines are helping it.”

Paterson said that people in some circumstances aren’t entering government for the right reasons, such as ending what they feel is an injustice.

“These days people don’t seem to be going into government for that reason and you can feel it when you meet them,” he said.

At the same time, Paterson said the ethics legislation that has been approved in recent years won’t necessarily deter bad actors. And he disagreed with the view the Legislature should be made a full-time entity.

A former senator from Manhattan, Paterson said the Legislature is basically a full-time job now.

“You are accountable in your district as you were not 40 or 50 years ago,” he sad. “There were no district offices 40 years ago. The state is now paying for them.”

Paterson added that his corrective would be better civics training for future government workers and elected officials.

“We don’t encourage the positive values of government — the things you can do,” he said.

Paterson: Preet’s Great, But…

Former Gov. David Paterson in a radio interview on Monday qualified his recent criticism of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s tactics, calling the hard-charging prosecutor “fantastic” when it comes to pursuing public corruption.

But at the same time, Paterson criticized Bharara on Fred Dicker’s Talk-1300 radio show for his public comments critical of Albany writ large.

“The U.S. attorney in my opinion has been fantastic,” Paterson said in the interview this morning. “He has an excellent grasp of when to take matters forward and when not to.”

But Paterson, the state Democratic Committee chairman, reiterated his criticism of Bharara, first made on a Binghamton radio station last week.

Paterson noted he’s not the only one to criticize Bharara: A federal judge knocked the prosecutor for public comments made after the arrest of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, saying they walk “up against the line” of appropriate.

Bharara has criticized what he sees as a culture of pervasive corruption in Albany as well as the so-called “three-men-in-a-room” style of budget negotiations.

“Some of his comments were beyond the pale,” Paterson said. “The way government works is something prosecutors always seem to want to talk about but they’ve never seemed to be in these positions.”

Paterson added: “I think the prosecutors play to the media sometimes.”

Paterson’s comments come as Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has confirmed he’s cooperating with a federal investigation being conducted by Bhararas office.

The former governor, who led the Senate Democrats as minority leader before running on Eliot Spitzer’s gubernatorial ticket, called the Skelos news “sad.”

A factor in the investigation is Glenwood Management. The New York Times reported last week the company itself is not under investigation, but its longtime principle is Leonard Litwin, a prolific campaign donor.

Paterson praised Litwin as a “gentleman” and “one of the best dressed men you’ll ever meet.”

He also decried the amount of money in politics, which he said has an impact on politicians.

“When people give you a lot of money and they call you on the phone and you’re not listening more clearly than usual, I think you’re kidding yourself,” Paterson said. “You tend to react to people who are filling your campaign coffers.”

Paterson’s own tenure as governor ran afoul of ethics violations, including the acceptance of complimentary Yankees tickets. But Paterson questioned some public corruption cases in general for their level of severity.

“All I’m saying just so people understand — there are crimes, they’re easy to understand, I think some of these charges are so complicated that it’s hard to figure out if they’re crimes or ethics violations that the person should be punished, but not put behind bars,” Paterson said.

Paterson To Legislature: Practice What You Preach On Transparency

At 6:24 p.m., a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Communications Director Melissa DeRosa landed in my inbox, declaring that the governor will be calling a meeting with legislative leaders plus the state attorney general and comptroller to come up with “one uniform email retention and FOIL policy that applies to all state officials and agencies.”

At 6:26 p.m., a letter from former Gov. David Paterson to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie followed DeRosa’s statement. In it, Paterson, who – thanks to Cuomo – is now serving as chairman of the state Democratic Party, accused the Legislature of “breathtaking” hypocrisy when it comes to the subject of transparency.

Paterson said he was motivated to write his letter after reading about the proposals introduced today by members of the Senate and Assembly that would block the governor’s controversial 90-day email purge policy and establish an up to seven-year retention policy based on the system already in place in the federal government.

“It feels to me like Albany’s version of the movie Groundhog Day,” Paterson wrote of the transparency debate. “It should really be titled ‘Transparency for Others’ and it must be the 1000th legislative proposal on ‘transparency’ slated to go nowhere.”

“Indeed in truth the hypocrisy of the legislature on this topic is breathtaking. Neither the Assembly nor Senate is yet subject to FOIL – a decades old reform almost every credible government in the country follows. There is no transparency in the State Senate. Senators and Assembly members have no email policy whatsoever. They can delete any email and dispose of every piece of paper. Even Washington, D.C. is better.”

Paterson, who served 22 years in the Legislature and was the first black legislative leader (Senate minority leader) before departing to become Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s LG, urged the Senate Democratic conference he used to lead to follow through on this issue and not be “press release reformers.” (The bill Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell have introduced would subject the Legislature to FOIL for the first time).

“In truth the Democrats know that we never passed these measures when we were in power and the Assembly Democrats know also that they could pass such measures if they ever wanted to,” Paterson wrote.

“The Senate minority should voluntarily agree now to FOIL and agree to keep records and make their documents available to the public. Let them agree to keep their emails for 90 days or permanently as they propose for others and subject them to FOIL. If the Senate minority enacted this policy, it would soon force the Republican majority to accept it. If the Senate did it, the Assembly would be forced to follow. That’s how change occurs.”

“Otherwise, today’s proposal will be another false gesture to appear as a reformer but to act like the same old recalcitrant Senate. Indeed if the Senate minority is not willing to practice what it preaches, my advice is it better not preach.”

Earlier today, AG Eric Schneiderman announced that he has decided to suspend the 90-day purge policy in his office, which was put into place in 2007 by his predecessor, Cuomo. The state comptroller’s office never embraced this policy and has no plans to do so any time soon, according to the comptroller’s spokeswoman.

Paterson: Odds Dems Take Senate ‘Too Close To Call’

Former Gov. David Paterson, the chairman of the state Democratic Party, is a little more bullish these days on a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate.

Well, sort of: He’s gone from not going to happen to “too close to call.”

Paterson, a former Senate minority leader before being chosen as Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s running mate in 2006, in May at the state convention said he didn’t want to “raise expectations” and pointed to the failed “six and change” strategy of taking the chamber out of Republican hands.

“I don’t necessarily think that has to happen,” Paterson said at the time. “…when you have less resources…you have to have a plan that’s sometimes more pragmatic than hopeful.”

But today, at the state Democrats’ annual fall meeting at the Desmond Hotel in Colonie, Paterson was a little more open to the party’s chances.

He pointed to an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort the party is launching which will include a combination of targeted digital advertising and door knocking.

“I think because of a very coordinated effort the state party is making, their whole ability to drill down on voters makes this election too close to call right now who will take the Senate,” Paterson said.

The Senate is currently controlled by a coalition of five independent Democrats and Republicans.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in May pledged to help the party gain full control of the Senate after receiving the endorsement of the state Working Families Party.

Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in June brokered a new coalition agreement between the mainline conference and the IDC that will form after Election Day.

Paterson: Low Turnout Raised Volume Of Cuomo Dissenters

Former Gov. David Paterson, the state Democratic Committee chairman, downplayed the percentage of the vote received by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s rival in Tuesday’s party primary, blaming it on low turnout that drew critics of the incumbent.

Paterson, in a statement Wednesday afternoon, said the votes received by both Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout and Columbia University professor Tim Wu — both of whom exceeded pundit expectations by clearing 30 percentage points — was due to Cuomo detractors: Mainly disgruntled public employees and teachers as well as anti-hydrofracking advocates.

Paterson said those types of advocacy voters “have the loudest voice” when turnout is low.

“In yesterday’s primary with so few contested races on the ballot and no real competition for the Governor’s race we saw surprisingly low turnout from Democrats – only about 10 percent of the over five million Democrats registered in New York showed up to the polls,” Paterson said in a statement released by the party. “When less people vote, the most passionate groups have the loudest voice and both the map and numbers showed exactly that. Voters opposed to fracking, and certain public employee unions unhappy with their contracts and teacher evaluations were the most motivated in this primary.”

Cuomo argued on Tuesday after voting that his supporters were “passionate” as well and insisted, once again, that the only percentage he was seeking was 51 percent.

Both Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, secured high vote margins in their geographic bases: western New York and New York City and its suburbs.

The little-known Teachout and Wu, however, did well in upstate counties, many of them rural.

But Paterson today argues that not too much should be read into the Teachout-Wu campaign’s marshaling the Cuomo dissenters enrolled as Democrats who were interested enough in the less-than-10-percent turnout primary to vote.

The former governor says being the state’s chief executive, especially an effective one like Cuomo, inevitably results in becoming estranged from certain segments.

“As a former governor, I know that making responsible decisions does not make everyone happy. Governor Cuomo’s record is one we as a party can be proud of because he had the courage to make the right decisions, even if they came with some political cost,” Paterson said. “In this instance, negotiating a responsible contract with PEF with three zeros when our state faced a multi-billion deficit, reforming a pension system that has been bankrupting local governments, creating accountability for teachers in our schools and putting science ahead of passion on fracking played a role in the primary and an even more important role in putting New York State back on the right track.”

And then Paterson pivots back to the general election, criticizing Astorino’s stances on social issues:

“As we turn to the general election, this is a strong case for Democrats to make, particularly in the face of opposition that caters to the other farthest extreme. The stakes are high: a choice between a governor with a progressive record who is fixing the economy and standing up for equality, and an extremist who’s being sued for housing discrimination and has a record on social issues that would makes Rick Santorum smile. We have the fortune of facing Republicans, whose positions and proposals are vastly out of step with the electorate and our base, including constituencies who came out in force in the primary. Now we must bring our case to the people.”

Cuomo has often argued that despite noisy protests over a certain policy, the broad majority of the state is with him when it comes to achieving results. His critics are on the margins of the broader opinion of the state, Cuomo says, and adds many often pay more attention to the palace intrigue of the Albany bubble and not the larger picture.

Cuomo certainly would want to end a post-primary narrative that suggests he doesn’t have the support of liberals in his state or that he’s got a problem with unifying the Democratic Party heading into a general election in which he would like to post a substantial margin of victory.

Paterson: ‘Two Republican States’ (Updated)

Former Gov. David Paterson, now the chairman of the New York Democratic Committee, noted in a statement the disparity between Republican standard bearer Rob Astorino’s economic development plan and Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos touted his conference’s economic record in an open letter.

“Rob Astorino put out an economic statement today and Senator Dean Skelos put out an open letter to New Yorkers,” Paterson said in a statement released by state Democrats. “They are both fascinating reading although totally inconsistent as if they live in different states. Senator Skelos’ letter says the state is doing great and jobs are up and taxes are down and celebrates four years of great accomplishment. Upstate is doing great and education is advancing. The state is winning! I agree. Senator Skelos happened to omit the one name most responsible for this success, namely Governor Cuomo. However, Rob Astorino must live in a different state because he thinks the state is doing terribly. He thinks New York is losing and needs radical reform. It really is a tale of two Republican states.”

The Astorino agenda and one backed by Senate Republicans isn’t mutually exclusive, of course.

The plan released by Astorino, of course, isn’t something that Republicans in Albany would have a hard time embracing: He wants to double down on the property tax cap by making it permanent, he favors stripping away and streamlining regulations and backs high-volume hydrofracking of natural gas.

But in classic triangulation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made his achievements at the Capitol the same success story Senate Republicans can tell, even as the GOP conference tries to keep Democrats from gaining full control of the chamber.

Senate Republicans, unlikely in 2012, will likely not be including Cuomo in their campaign ads and literature.

Cuomo, who in May announced he supported a full takeover of the state Senate by his party, has since played nice with Skelos in public, most notably including him on a high-profile trip to Israel last week.

That’s not to say Democrats are working hard to drive a wedge between the Senate GOP and the Astorino camp.

There was a flare up in the relationship in June, when Astorino’s top political advisor, Bill O’Reilly, openly criticized Senate Republicans for compromising with Cuomo and even considered running for a vacant seat.

Updated: State Republican Committee spokesman David Laska responds.

“Politicians who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Only one candidate for Governor is facing a challenge from within his own party: Andrew Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo’s New York is ranked dead last fiftieth in tax climate, business-friendliness and outmigration, and even many Democrats are tired of his schtick. That’s why over 45,000 of them signed petitions for Cuomo’s primary challenger.”