Mar 7th - 5:47 pm
When Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino brought his post-gubernatorial announcement statewide tour to Syracuse today, several high-profile local Republicans were quite obviously AWOL.
The first was Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey, who is hosting Donald Trump at a fundraiser next week. He told the Post-Standard that Astorino “certainly would be a very strong candidate for the Republican Party,” but stopped short of issuing an endorsement.
The second was Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, who angered fellow local Republicans – including Dadey – by crossing party lines in 2010 to endorse then state AG Andrew Cuomo for governor. Mahoney has been a close Cuomo ally ever since he was elected that fall, and has even been floated as a potential replacement for LG Bob Duffy on the ticket this fall, though that would likely require her to switch her enrollment.
I spoke to Mahoney earlier today for an interview that will air on CapTon this evening. I noted her absence at Astorino’s Central New York event, and asked if she would even consider endorsing him against Cuomo.
“I fully anticipated your question, and what I want to do is as much as it’s under my power, I want to stretch the political season out as much as I can,” Mahoney replied. “…Everybody’s really working well together, and we’re geting a lot accomplished. I know when the political season gets here and everybody moves to their own corners and is afraid to make the other side look good…That’s going to come, inevitably, but I’m really trying to push that out as far as I can.”
Mahoney went on to note all the bipartisan effort that went into local projects like the ampitheater/Onondaga Lake waterfront redevelopment (coming instead of the new Syracuse sports arena) and the $15 million nano/film center announced by Cuomo this week at Mahoney’s State of the County address.
I asked when Mahoney thought she might be ready to talk politics, and she replied:
“It’s not entirely under my control, because at some point the whole world is only talking politics. I don’t think we’re there yet. There hasn’t been any buzz about politics, it has really been about these projects.”
“So, sometime between now and November it will be the political season, and we’ll have those conversations. But I really am just trying to put that off as long as I can to try to keep everybody – Republicans and Democrats – continue to try to do things that we have not seen happen in Onondaga County in the recent past. It’s been great what’s been going on, and I really wish we could just push the politics off the to the side.”
You can catch my full discussion with Mahoney at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Capital Tonight.
Mar 7th - 4:39 pm
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has bucked the GOP establishment in his endorsement of George Demos over Sen. Lee Zeldin in the battle for the right to face Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1 this fall.
In a statement released by the Demos campaign, Giuliani called the candidate “a fiscal conservative who says what he believes and believes what he says.”
“As a former prosecutor, he knows the good guys from the bad,” the former mayor continued. “He will rattle the cages of the establishment. He’ll make a difference. And George would never support Obamacare. His voice will be heard in the halls of Congress, and I predict, throughout America.”
“I am impressed with George, his passion, his intellect, and his integrity. I am proud to endorse his candidacy and prouder still to call him a friend. George Demos is one of us. And it’s time for George Demos for Congress.”
In backing Demos, Giuliani is not only at odds with the majority of Republican and Conservative leaders in NY-1, who have lined up behind Zeldin, but he’s also on the same side as former Gov. George Pataki – an early supporter of Demos, who worked for Pataki when he was in office.
Pataki and Giuliani have not always seen eye to eye over the years, either on politics or policy, though their relationship improved markedly after 9/11 and toward the end of the governor’s tenure in Albany.
The state GOP has been vehemently opposed to Demos’ candidacy (sometimes a little too vehemently). The party is very keen on putting forward a united front against Bishop, who came close to losing his seat in 2012 and continues to be the subject of an ethics investigation in connection with his campaign fundraising.
Division within the party – and between Republicans and Conservatives – has previously weakened candidates’ chances of unseating Bishop.
UPDATE: A knowledgable reader notes that Demos’ campaign is run by two consultants: Jake Menges and Rob Cole. Giuliani is longtime Menges client, Pataki a longtime Cole client. So, there’s a certain element of doing some political favors here that is worth noting.
Mar 6th - 12:14 am
Just hours after officially entering the Governor’s race, Rob Astorino announced Western New York would be one of his first stops. Given the extra attention paid to the region by Governor Cuomo, local Republican leaders aren’t surprised.
“It’s important for any candidate for statewide office to travel the state as much as they possibly can. They need to get in front of people. He won’t just come here to do a press conference. He’ll certainly meet with business leaders and people in the community,” said Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy.
Gaining Langworthy’s support seems like a must for any candidate wanting to win the GOP nomination. Langworthy helped engineer Carl Paladino’s unlikely primary upset out of Buffalo in 2010.
Both Astorino and potential Republican candidate Donald Trump have already appeared at fundraising events for the Erie County Republican Committee. Langworthy told Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen Wednesday he’s still not ready to make an endorsement.
“I’ve said I wouldn’t endorse candidates until they declared their formal candidacy. Rob now has. We’ll see if we have one candidate or two candidates,” Langworthy said.
Langworthy has been supportive of Astorino, but, like many Republican County Chairs, he’s waiting to see if Trump is still interested before giving out his coveted endorsement.
“Do we have one have candidate or two candidates that want the endorsement? We will hear from Donald Trump on Tuesday in Syracuse as to what maybe his plans might be. I haven’t talked to him in about a week but looking forward to hear what he has to say when he visits Syracuse,” said Langworthy.
Astorino will appear at the ZeptoMetrix Corporation headquarters on Main Street in Buffalo Thursday Afternoon with Republican Congressman, and former Erie County Executive, Chris Collins. Collins a shareholder in the company, and was not available for comment on Wednesday.
“They have a longstanding relationship back to when they served together as county executives and they have a great appreciation of one another. So he may very well endorse him. I do not know if he will or not,” said Langworthy.
No matter who wins the GOP nomination to challenge Governor Cuomo, Langworthy believes the party’s running mate should come from Western New York. State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin’s name was mentioned as a possible Lt. Governor candidate Wednesday and Langworthy loved the idea.
“I think they share a lot of common values. I think she has fought for the same common sense business perspectives that we need in Albany, not just more of the same special interest nonsense. She would be a great Lieutenant Governor for any Governor,” Langworthy added.
The Erie County Republican Committee has its regional screening meeting April 12. It’s hoping to vet as many statewide candidates as possible, including gubernatorial candidates.
No matter what happens, Langworthy hopes the party will unite behind one candidate.
Mar 5th - 12:59 pm
The war of words between former Oliver Koppell and the IDC, whose leader, Sen. Jeff Klein, the former councilman is eyeing as a potential political target, escalated still further this morning, with Sen. Diane Savino jumping to Klein’s defense.
In a statememt, Koppell accused Klein of declaring “war on Democrats across the state” by endorsing a Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant’s second primary challenge to “regular” Democratic Sen. Tim Kennedy in Buffalo, and discussing a potential challenge to Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins by Westchester County Legislator Virginia Perez.
Koppell noted that Stewart-Cousins is the first woman to serve as a legislative leader in Albany, and laced into Klein for daring to consider backing someone against her.
“He is nothing but a lapdog for Senate Republicans,” Koppell said of the IDC leader. “In acting to weaken Democratic Senate leaders, he is empowering Dean Skelos and his Republican colleagues to block progressive legislation.”
Savino responded to Koppell during an interview on “The Capitol Pressroom” with Susan Arbetter, calling the former councilman’s attack “most ridiculous comments” he has made to date.
“When it comes to be declaring war on Democrats and democracy, Oliver Koppell is guilty of that in spades,” Savino said. “…I think he should be very careful about the allegations or the charges he throws around.”
Savino noted that in 2009, it was Koppell who introduced the bill that extended term limits in New York City, allowing then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg and all Council members who were about to be out of a job – including himself – to ask voters to let them stick around in office for another four years.
“That was not just a slap in the face of the Democratic Party,” said Savino, who pointed out that Bloomberg’s Democratic challenger, former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson, should have had a clear shot at the office and came close to unseating the billionaire mayor that year. “That was a skap in the face of democracy, directly overturning the will of the people.”
Mar 4th - 4:51 pm
Sen. Tom O’Mara became the latest Republican lawmaker to back a measure that would provide for the legalization of medical marijuana.
His support for the measure was first revealed on a Facebook post by advocates who had lobbied the Chemung County legislator on the issue.
“This legislation allows for safe, limited access to medical marijuana, for people who suffer from serious, debilitating diseases. I will continue to work to improve the bill to make sure we maintain a balance between access and compassion for patients, and maintaining control to eliminate the potential black market,” O’Mara said in a statement. “Comprehensive medical research and the ever-growing testimony from medical professionals, health care experts, patients and families show that the use of medical marijuana can help ease the pain and suffering of the seriously ill. I have carefully considered the facts, and after meeting with patients and their families I have come to the conclusion it’s time for New York to offer a highly restrictive, tightly regulated network to provide patients access to treatment that will improve their quality of life.”
That his support for the bill is a surprise would be a bit of an understatement.
O’Mara is consistently one of the more conservative members of the Senate, but the pro-medical marijuana lobby this session has waged an effective campaign to convert Republican lawmakers to their side.
GOP Sens. Mark Grisanti, George Maziarz and Joe Robach have all indicated their support for the med-mar bill.
The push for the med-mar bill comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would allow a limited version of medical marijuana through an existing law. Advocates have said the Cuomo proposal is too limited in scope; an executive order outlining the proposal is yet to be unveiled.
Mar 4th - 8:57 am
A former Republican state senator and GOP power broker who pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion in 2012 is co-hosting a high-dollar fund-raiser next month in support of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election effort, Capital Tonight has learned.
Adding insult to injury, the ex-lawmaker in question – Nick Spano – hails from Westchester County. That’s home to County Executive Rob Astorino, who is widely expected to announce his challenge to Cuomo this week, and is badly trailing the Democratic governor in raising campaign cash.
In an email obtained by CapTon, Spano asks “friends” to join him at an April 3 “Hudson Valley for Cuomo Reception” at the Doubletree Hotel in Tarrytown that will be co-hosted by his lobbying firm, Empire Strategic Planning.
The email includes an attached invitation to the event, for which ticket prices start at $1,00 per person and climb to $25,000 for “sponsorship levels with host committee reception.”
The invite, which appears below, makes no mention of Spano or his firm. But Spano leaves no doubt in the accompanying email as to his involvement in the event, specifically noting his firm’s “hosting” role, and adding:
“I hope you can join me in becoming a key supporter of the Governor’s campaign. I have attached an invitation and contribution form for your use, and will be following up with you shortly in the hopes that you will be able to join with us.”
“Governor Cuomo has made a terrific difference in moving New York forward during the past three years. It’s important we keep that momentum going, and the Hudson Valley for Cuomo Reception is our chance to show him we are on-board.”
“I look forward to seeing you at this key event in Governor Cuomo’s re-election campaign. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have.”
Spano lost his Senate seat in 2006 to Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who was making her second attempt at unseating the Republican lawmaker after losing to him by just 18 votes in 2004.
In 2012, Spano was sentenced to one year and one day in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion.
Once one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers, Spano, a Yonkers Republican, admitted that he failed to pay more than $53,000 in federal and state taxes by not reporting income – including a $45,000 commission he received on a real estate deal and rental income from a Yonkers building he owned.
Spano was released from prison last spring. He had to do two extra months in a Brooklyn detention center after violating the terms of his release by holding a celebratory family lunch and doing an interview with Journal News columnist Phil Reisman while transferring from a federal prison to a Bronx halfway house.
This isn’t the first time Spano, known as a moderate Republican during his time in Albany, has crossed party lines to back a Democrat.
In 2009, he endorsed then-Westchester County Executive Andy Spano (no relation), citing a concern over the “extremists” supporting the incumbent Democrat’s GOP opponent: Rob Astorino.
Astorino went on to defeat Andy Spano in an upset victory in the 2009 November election.
Mar 3rd - 1:33 pm
Conservative and Republican leaders in NY-24 have united behind former US Attorney John Katko to face off against Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei this fall.
Katko emerged from a field of seven (it was eight, but Jane Rossi, a Rome businesswoman and the ex-wife of Oneida Indian Nation leader Ray Halbritter, withdrew at the last minute) Republicans who interviewed with party leaders Saturday at the Palace Theater in Syracse. He left his job to run for office, and cited his experience fighting crime – especially gang members – as apt preparation for the campaign trail and D.C. politics.
Today, the Conservative leaders in NY-24, which includes committees from Onondaga, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego counties, issued a statement in support of Katko, although they stressed that he had prevailed over several candidates who all had “excellent qualifications.”
“Mr. Katko aligns with our Conservative principles philosophically and understands the significance of this election,” said Onondaga County Conservative Chairman Chuck Mancabelli. “Mr. Katko has a strong command of the issues and more importantly, an ability to connect with the voters during the campaign. This is a key element for any candidate to be credible in today’s political climate.”
State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long will have the final say on this endorsement, but with both the Republicans and the Conservatives behind him, Katko has a better shot at trying to prevent a GOP primary.
One of his rivals for Row B, John Lemondes, a retired Army colonel from LaFayette, has not yet decided whether he will seek to force a primary. He finished second to Katko during the GOP endorsement process, though Katko received more than 50 percent of the weighted party vote, according to Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey.
So far, only Ian Hunter of Syracuse, who fought with party leaders last year after he passed petitions to run on the GOP and Conservative lines in the mayor’s race, has announced plans to mount a GOP primary challenge. Dadey went to court to kick Hunter off the GOP line, leaving the Democratic incumbent, Mayor Stephanie Miner, without a Republican opponent. Hunter ended up receiving just over 15 percent of the vote on the Conservative line.
Because of the early, court-ordered June primaries in House races, candidates must beging passing petitions tomorrow to gather the 1,250 signatures needed for a spot on the primary ballot.
Maffei has been a top target for the Republicans and Conservatives ever since he was bounced from his seat in a tight race by Ann Marie Buerkle in 2010. Maffei defeated Buerkle in a re-match in 2012, and she briefly mulled running against him yet a third time, before opting out of the race last September. Buerkle was appointed by President Obama to a $155,00-a-year, five year term as a commissioner on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in the spring of 2013.
Feb 28th - 10:21 pm
When Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino announced he was running for the Buffalo Public School Board, more than a few political observers found the idea laughable. A year after easily winning a seat on the board, few are still laughing.
“One of the criticisms of Carl Paladino when he was running for governor was that he didn’t have a good understanding of the ins and outs of government and parliamentary procedure. I think a lot of people have watched what he’s done on the school board and have been impressed,” said Democratic Strategist Jack O’Donnell.
Paladino was adamant he never intended to use the Buffalo Public School Board as a way to remain visible in the public eye, but admits it may have been an unintended consequence.
“The press is always looking for a motive. I don’t need to stay relevant. I’m not here to learn about educational techniques. I’m not looking to hold a higher office. I don’t need that. I’m 67-years-old I just want to help this community,” Paladino said.
Others who’ve tried to their hand at Western New York politics are hoping to follow in Paladino’s footsteps. Former Buffalo Mayoral Candidates Bernie Tolbert and Sergio Rodriguez are seeking a seat on the school board in May.
Paladino believes they plan to use the board as a stepping stone to something else.
“It’s probably true. I don’t think either one of them will be relevant in the future,” said Paladino.
Whether or not Paladino is still relevant depends on who you ask, of course. But there are few people who have been written off as many times and still continue to make headlines.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt his voice is still relevant,” O’Donnell said.
Besides all things Buffalo School Board-related, Paladino is using whatever influence he has to rally support behind a potential Donald Trump gubernatorial bid.
“He’s the number one brand in America and I think he could defeat Andrew Cuomo,” Paladino said.
Even before the effort to “Draft Trump” was launched, Paladino threatened to challenge any GOP candidate on the Conservative line if they didn’t call for the removal of the State Senate’s top Republican, Dean Skelos, and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.
“Republicans and Conservatives statewide are still talking to or talking about Carl Paladino. There are a lot people who underestimate or don’t listen to him at their own peril,” said O’Donnell.
Paladino’s continued popularity in certain circles has allowed him to put pressure on State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to get out of Trump’s way.
“Astorino is a good man and he’d a make a good governor, but getting there is the problem. Winning is the problem. Having the name recognition, and having the money it’s just not there,” Paladino said.
For Paladino it’s more about dragging the Republican Party and ultimately the state to the political right than it is about being governor. Four years after his upset win in the GOP Primary, Paladino believes he still has unfinished business.
“We haven’t seen the change I envisioned. All we’ve seen is the same old nonsense from Cuomo. If you ask in this state if their lives are better than they were four years ago I think they’ll tell you no,” Paladino said.
While Governor Cuomo’s polling numbers remain strong, Paladino says Cuomo is vulnerable on issues like the NY SAFE Act, and hydrofracking.
“He’s deprived the entire Upstate population, the Southern Tier population, of an economic opportunity for no good reason Thirty-seven states drill, 36 frack. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t frack. Inciting the people into worrying about their water table getting infected, it’s all nonsense,” Paladino added.
Paladino has never been afraid to speak his mind or “ruffle people’s feathers.” It’s a quality that his supporters love, and his detractors hate.
“It works both ways. There are those who argue Carl has turned the school board into a circus. It’s all in the eye of the beholder,” O’Donnell said.
And, if you’re one of those who is tired of seeing Paladino on TV, or seeing his name in print, he says don’t blame him.
“I never wanted to be relevant. I never call the press. The press calls me,” Paladino added.
Feb 27th - 1:53 pm
A reader reports that a friend who lives in IDC Jeff Klein’s district received a telephone poll call that included a question designed to gauge support for former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell is he decides to make good on his threat to challenge Klein in a primary this fall.
The PPP poll call came yesterday – the same day Klein triumphantly announced the addition of a new member to his band of renegade Democrats: Sen. Tony Avella, a former NYC councilman from Queens. The call also included questions about Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
During a brief telephone interview, Koppell said he did not commission the poll, though he is planning on polling soon. He said he had heard about the polling call, but had not received it.
Since I had him on the line, I asked Koppell whether Avella’s announcement changes his calculus at all as he’s mulling possible run against Klein, who has been empowered by the growth of his conference from four members back to five. (Remember: Sen. Malcolm Smith was once an IDC member – the lone member of color – but he was ousted after his indictment on federal corruption charges).
“It’s not a welcome development,” Koppell said. “The whole situation is outrageous, as far as I’m concerned. These people get elected as Democrats and then empower the Republicans; it’s simply disgraceful….But I’m not running against five people – if I run – I’m running against one. So it doesn’t make much of a difference in that sense. There are people who think the whole thing collapses if Klein is defeated. That’s likely, but not certain. I don’t think one more people in the IDC makes much of a difference.”
Koppell said the IDC “seduced” Avella into leaving the so-called regular Democrats by offering to move his bills and promising to give him a committee chairmanship (Social Services, it was announced today, not Aging as predicted by Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.; Aging whet to another IDC member, Sen. Dave Valesky).
“They basically bribed him to come over, but the end result is to empower (Senate GOP Leader) Dean Skelos,” Koppell said. “…The Democrats want to do something, while the Republicans don’t care if nothing gets done. That has historically been true for the whole 40 years that I’ve been around. So, the fact that Skelos has veto power means something to the Democrats. The fact that Klein has veto power doesn’t mean much to the Republicans, because they don’t have much they want to do.”
I also reached out to DSCC Chairman Mike Gianaris, who has met with Koppell to discuss his possible primary challenge to Klein, and asked whether the Senate Democrats might be behind the PPP poll. He told me the DSCC generally doesn’t comment on whether or not it is behind particular polls – which isn’t a “yes,” but isn’t a “no,” either.
Feb 27th - 12:45 pm
Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs announced today that he will not pick a favorite from among the candidates vying for retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s seat, and urged party committee members to back whomever they feel is the strongest contender to win in the November general election.
Jacobs wrote the following email to county committee members, and also released it to members of the press:
“Dear County Committee Member:”
“As you know, there is the possibility of a primary contest for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 4th CD. As both candidates have deep roots in the County Committee and both are long-serving public officials who have run on our Party’s line multiple times, I have decided NOT to take a position in this race, should there be one.”
“Accordingly, I leave it to each member of the Committee to make their own judgment and support the candidate of their choosing.”
Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice is widely viewed as the frontrunner in race for the Democratic line, and she has been endorsed by McCarthy, who is opting not to seek re-election due to health concerns.
Rice’s decision to run may have caused other Democrats to think twice about throwing their respective hats into the ring. But Nassau legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams remains interested, He’s raising money to see if he can fund a campaign.
DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, who hails from Long Island, has said he hopes there won’t be a primary, but in the event that there is one, he urged candidates to avoid going negative and focus their criticism for the Republicans.
On the GOP side, Bruce Blakeman, the former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, has announced his intention to seek McCarthy’s seat. Blakeman also ran an unsuccessful bid for the US Senate in 2010, finishing dead last in a three-way Republican primary, and an unsuccessful campaign for state comptroller in 1998.
Blakeman is an attractive candidate to the Republicans due to his local name recognition and ability to self fund. He already has the support of Rep. Pete King, but he’s facing a potential primary battle with New Hyde Park attorney Frank Scaturro.
Petitioning for congressional races starts next week, thanks to the court-ordered June primary date for House races.