5 Questions For The Rest Of Session

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers are returning to Albany with a drastically different political landscape than when they left three weeks ago.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and administration is under investigation for political fundraising activities stemming from his effort to help Democrats gain control of the state Senate.

A former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Joe Percoco, is under federal investigation for reportedly failing to properly report income as broader scrutiny from the U.S. attorney’s office is placed on the governor’s signature economic development program for western New York, the Buffalo Billion.

In the Senate, Democrat Todd Kaminsky appears poised to replaced Republican former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, makign the GOP technically a minority party when it comes to enrollment.

And there’s still 21 legislative session days to go in the calendar — a virtual eternity in Albany time. Then, lawmakers return to their districts to run for re-election and, for a few, campaign in congressional primaries.

Here are five questions for the rest of the session. More >

NY-3: Martins Elevated In NRCC’s “Young Guns” Program

From the Morning Memo:

Republican congressional hopeful Jack Martins was among the 11 GOP House candidates this week elevated in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program.

Martins, a state senator seeking the GOP nomination in the 3rd congressional district on Long Island, was designated with the “contender” status by the committee.

Reaching the status in the program requires candidates to reach certain fundraising and organizing benchmarks in a campaign in a show of candidate strength and viability.

“While our Republican majority continues to work hard to move our country forward, we know there is still more to be done,” said NRCC Chairman Greg Walden.

“These 11 candidates have proven themselves to be exemplary leaders in their communities and they are exactly the kind of leaders we need in Washington. I am confident these candidates will continue to run strong campaigns as they spread the message and values of the Republican party across the country.”

Martins is one candidate in a crowded race to succeed Democratic Rep. Steve Israel.

Three Republicans are competing for the GOP nomination in the district, including Philip Pidot and Martins.

Five Democrats are also running for what is shaping up for a battleground race, including former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.

The primary is a closely watched one for Senate Democrats in Albany, given the potential pickup opportunity they would have with the western Nassau Senate district if Martins wins the June primary.

NY-19: Faso And Heaney Added To NRCC’s Young Guns Program

Two of the Republican candidates running for the GOP nomination in the 19th congressional district have been added to the National Republican Campaign Committee’s “Young Guns” program.

The NRCC added John Faso and Andrew Heaney to the list, which recognizes GOP challengers for hitting certain campaign-related benchmarks such as fundraising ability as well as communicating within the district.

“While our Republican majority continues to work hard to move our country forward, we know there is still more to be done,” said NRCC Chairman Greg Walden. “These 11 candidates have proven themselves to be exemplary leaders in their communities and they are exactly the kind of leaders we need in Washington. I am confident these candidates will continue to run strong campaigns as they spread the message and values of the Republican party across the country.”

Both Heaney and Faso, along with Bob Bishop, are in a three-way race for the nomination in the Hudson Valley district, which is being vacated by Republican Rep. Chris Gibson at the end of the year. Gibson is considering a run for governor in 2018.

On the Democratic side, Will Yandik and Zephyr Teachout are competing for the party’s nomination.

The 19th district has become a battleground seat in recent election cycles following the 2012 round of redistricting.

Beyond NYC, GOP Seeks Advantage In de Blasio Fundraising Investigation

From the Morning Memo:

As the swirl around Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising efforts on behalf of Senate Democrats in 2014 continues, Republicans outside of New York City are pressing the issue to their advantage.

The fundraising probe, part of a broader investigation into campaign finance, an independent expenditure campaign backed by de Blasio and the NYPD, represents a glimmer of hope for New York Republicans in a year in which Democrats running down ballot were expected to do well, given the presidential election.

But now Republicans in battleground legislative and congressional campaigns are tying Democrats to the fundraising issues surrounding de Blasio and the 2014 effort to apparently funnel donations through county committees to individual candidates.

In the 19th congressional district, Republican Andrew Heaney, one of three GOP candidates vying for the nomination in the Hudson Valley battleground race, was the first to tie Democrat Zephyr Teachhout to the fundraising issues in the city.

In a statement released on Sunday, Heaney’s campaign called on Teachout to disavow the support from the Ulster County Democratic Committee, one of the organizations in question.

“Zephyr wants to have it both ways,” Heaney said in a statement. “She claims to be running on anti-corruption platform yet she is financing her campaign with PAC funds and enjoys the support of both the consultants and Ulster Party leaders who are all at the center of the ‘Team De Blasio,’ investigation.”

In the state Senate, meanwhile, Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy has released a series of press of releases drawing attention to his own race’s role in the investigation, with headlines such as “I Told You So.”

Republicans backing Murphy in 2014, including Putnam County Republican Chairman Anthony Scannapieco, sent a letter of complaint over the county fundraising plan to the Board of Election’s independent enforcement counsel. As was revealed last week, Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman in a report recommended criminal prosecution over the apparent attempt to skirt donation caps.

In a statement, Murphy called for a local investigation into the matter.

“Redistributing donations to evade contribution limits is wrong. Pay-to-play is wrong,” he said. “We need to get to the bottom of how far this goes, even if it is to the top. District Attorney Tendy is a no-nonsense type of guy, and in light of the confession made today in the Times, a local investigation is warranted.”

Murphy won re-election against Democrat Justin Wagner, one of several Senate candidates de Blasio backed in an effort for the party to gain control of the chamber.

Whether any of this matters by the time November rolls around remains to be seen. Republicans have had corruption scandals — and convictions — of their own, with both top leaders Dean Skelos and Tom Libous departing the chamber following guilty verdicts.

Senate Republicans certainly have their share of problems heading into the general election season: the conference just lost Skelos’s seat in Nassau County to Democrat Todd Kaminsky, the demographics continue to worsen and the base is deeply suspicious of the Long Island-based leadership.

But the mess surrounding the fundraising of 2014 could give some fuel to a depleted GOP tank in 2016.

SD-9: Vote Count Should Not Take Months, Senate Dems Say

Senate Democrats aren’t happy with the idea floated by Republican Sen. Cathy Young that a recanvass and absentee ballot count in the 9th Senate district could “take weeks and sometimes even months” before completed.

Young, the chairwoman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, was speaking, seemingly in general, about voting machine audits in tight legislative races. Democrat Todd Kaminsky was the apparent winner over Republican Chris McGrath in 9th district by 780 votes. There are more than 2,000 absentee ballots, but GOP officials are increasingly skeptical they will hold onto the seat.

“These things can take weeks and sometimes even months,” Young told The Buffalo News. “It’s too early to predict, but we’ll be counting every vote.”

Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy disagreed, raising the specter of the Republicans seeking to stall the process to prevent Kaminsky from being seated in the closely divided Senate. With Kaminsky’s win, Republicans would once again be in a numeric minority in the chamber.

“For four months, the voters of the 9th Senate District have been without a representative following the conviction of Dean Skelos, and yet Senator Cathy Young now wants to drag out the certification process for even more months. Even Nassau Republican Party Chairman Joseph Mondello has recognized that Todd Kaminsky won Tuesday’s special election and that there is no path to victory for Chris McGrath. The Senate GOP must not attempt to disenfranchise any voters or stall the process so all Nassau County residents will again have representation in the State Senate.”

Cox Endorses Trump

New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox endorsed on Thursday Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency, a sign the GOP establishment in the state is coming around to the businessman’s insurgent and unlikely campaign.

“As a newcomer to elected office, Donald Trump has shown remarkable political skill that has energized Americans who have felt disenfranchised by a government that hasn’t worked for them,” Cox said in a statement on Thursday morning. “He has a record of cutting through bureaucratic dysfunction and his message to ‘Make America Great Again’ is exactly what we need after two failed terms of President Obama.”

Cox had hedged in a radio interview on Talk-1300 with Fred Dicker on Wednesday over whether he would endorse Trump, a day after his resounding victory in the New York Republican primary.

Rather, Cox praised Trump for energizing the base of the Republican Party in New York and for drawing large crowds at rallies, but stopped short of a full endorsement.

Trump won virtually every county in New York save for his home borough of Manhattan and is on track to pick up at least 88 of the state’s 95 delegates.

“I’m honored to have Ed’s endorsement and I look forward to working with him and the entire New York Republican Party as we head toward victory in November,” Trump said in the statement.

Cox’s endorsement comes after county chairs, including Nassau County’s Joe Mondello, Suffolk’s John Jay LaValle, Erie County’s Nick Langworthy and Onondaga County chairman Tom Dadey backed Trump ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Republican House members from New York — Reps. Chris Collins and Tom Reed, both of whom represent GOP-heavy upstate districts — endorsed Trump as well.

But potential Republican candidates for governor in 2018 have not been quick to jump on the Trump bandwagon. Rep. Chris Gibson of the Hudson Valley announced he was writing in a candidate for governor. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino through a spokesman said he had voted for one of the three Republicans on the primary ballot — Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich — but would not say which.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has not endorsed, but says he will back the party’s nominee.

“Donald Trump has remarkable potential to not only beat Hillary Clinton, but to restore the American dream by jumpstarting our economy and creating jobs, fixing our nation’s finances and building a strong national defense,” Cox said.

As The Dust Settles: Winners And Losers Of Tuesday’s Primary

Well, it’s over, and we survived.

The first presidential primary in years in which New York actually mattered is in the books. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won big in their home state, with the former out-performing many public polls, and the latter performing about as well as predicted, if not better.

Clinton and Trump were the night’s most obvious winners, while their respective opponents – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side; Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on the GOP side – were the clear losers.

But, as with any election, there were some not-so-obvious winners and losers, too. A few thoughts on that…

– Gov. Andrew Cuomo had a very good night.

Though he had to set aside his own widely-speculated White House aspirations to clear the way for fellow New Yorker Clinton, he campaigned hard on her behalf, and won the coveted just-before-the-candidate speaking role at last night’s victory party. He used his time in the national spotlight to tout his accomplishments as governor just as much, if not more, than touting Clinton and her big win.

– It was also a good night for Cuomo’s 2010 Republican nemesis Carl Paladino. The Buffalo businessman jumped the shark in that election cycle with his mad-as-hell demeanor and willingness to pretty much say whatever came to mind.

In other words, he was Trump before Trump was Trump.

And, not surprisingly, Paladino is a big Trump supporter, leading the charge for his fellow real estate developer leading up to New York’s primary. Paladino landed a coveted spot on stage just behind the candidate at his Trump Tower victory speech, and could be seen on national TV, smiling broadly for the cameras just over Trump’s shoulder. Paladino now says he’s considering another run for governor in 2018. But he says a lot of things. Only time will tell.

– Not such a great night for NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was late to get on the Clinton campaign bandwagon, though he did serve as an active surrogate for her in the final days before yesterday’s primary. De Blasio spoke at Clinton’s victory party just before Cuomo, with whom the mayor has been at odds for some time.

And shortly before midnight, the New York Times reported that a federal inquiry into the mayor’s fundraising has broadened to include his efforts to support the state Senate Democrats’ failed effort to re-take the majority in 2014. That was a crusade de Blasio took up to fill a void left by Cuomo, who pledged to help his fellow Dems in order to land the WFP nod for his own re-election bid (a deal the mayor helped broker) and then didn’t follow through.

– The WFP itself had a mixed night. The labor-backed party bucked the Democratic establishment to endorse Sanders over Clinton, even though it had supported her U.S. Senate runs in New York. The WFP worked hard on Sanders’ behalf, even though its members were barred from voting for him due to the closed Democratic primary rules.

Sanders fell short, though he did carry upstate, much like Zephyr Teachout (a WFP creation who did not end up running with WFP support) did against Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The WFP saw its candidate in the special election for ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s seat, Yuh-Line Niou, lose to the Democrat, Alice Cancel, who had been selected by Silver allies. But getting Democrats to cross over and vote WFP on the same day as a hotly contested Democratic presidential primary was a long-shot to begin with.

It looks like the WFP fared better on Long Island, where it backed Democratic Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky against Republican Chris McGrath in the race for ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ seat. Just 780 votes separate the two candidates, and McGrath has refused to concede, though Kaminsky has already declared victory.

A Kaminsky win would be very bad for the Senate GOP, tipping the numeric balance of power in the Democrats’ favor, though their ability to actually take control of the chamber hinges on the willingness – or lack thereof – of the breakaway, five-member IDC to return to the fold.

– State GOP Chair Ed Cox and the New York Republican “establishment” did not fare well last night. Cox was not present at Trump’s victory party. And though he insisted he was neutral in the GOP presidential primary, he was widely believed to be part of the anti-Trump set. Now comes a skirmish between the two Cox and Trump/Paladino people over the selection of convention delegates, which should be fun to watch.

Trump’s success also no doubt makes many “traditional” Republicans who are running this fall nervous, especially those who didn’t endorse him. If Trump succeeds in landing the GOP nod at the party’s convention, he could cause a drag on down-ballot candidates. Polls have shown Clinton defeating him handily in New York in the general election.

NY-19: Bishop Protests Petition Challenges (Updated)

Republican congressional candidate Bob Bishop on Tuesday is criticizing his rivals for the GOP nomination in the 19th district, saying they are unfairly challenging his petitions for the ballot.

“Andrew Heaney and John Faso are using the same tactics that political insiders have used for years to try and disenfranchise every day Americans,” Bishop said. “Our campaign attracted volunteers from all corners of the district to help a true outsider get on the ballot in order to give voters a real choice in June. John Faso and Andrew Heaney are scared of my candidacy and will do anything to stop it.”

Updated — A spokesman for Faso campaign says the candidate has nothing to do with the petition challenges against Bishop.

Bishop in a statement compared the effort to question his petitions to the Republican establishment’s national unease with Donald Trump’s campaign.

“These political games are exactly what voters are coming out in droves today to stop. My opponents are doing the exact same thing the Republican establishment is attempting to do to Donald Trump – trampling on the people’s voice in favor of their own interests,” Bishop said. “Andrew Heaney and John Faso have repeatedly said that this election should be decided by the voters but it’s clear they will simply say whatever they need to get elected – just like we’ve come to expect from wealthy insiders and career politicians.

The 19th district in the Hudson Valley is being vacated by Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican who is considering a run for governor in 2018.

The district has been considered a battleground for Democrats and Republicans nationally, with Gibson fending off challenges to the seat during re-elections bid in 2012 and 2014.

Potential GOP Candidates For Governor Keep Primary Vote Private

Buffalo businessman and political activist Carl Paladino has been the most prominent supporter in New York of Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination.

But the other two Republicans in the mix for the GOP gubernatorial nomination are keeping their choices close to the vest.

Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican who leaves office at the end of the current term this year while he explores a run for governor, has said he is writing in his vote today. The person he is writing is not currently on the ballot — making his essentially a protest vote.

A spokesman for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, meanwhile, said the 2014 nominee for governor and potential candidate in 2018 has voted for “one of the three Republicans on the ballot.”

Gibson and Astorino aren’t the only Republicans to stay mum on their endorsements. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has not endorsed in the race, but plans to back the GOP nominee for president.

If anything, the desire to keep these votes private underscores not just the volatile nature of the primary race as well as the deep unpopularity that candidates like Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz draw among a broader cross section of voters.

Kasich Forms NY Leadership Team

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich on Friday unveiled a New York leadership team that includes GOP former Sen. Al D’Amato, now an influential lobbyist.

The list of supporters does not include any members of the Senate GOP conference, who the Ohio governor met privately with at the start of the week during a visit to the Capital Region. Kasich told reporters before the meeting that Republicans would be in danger of losing the majority if the GOP nominees are Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has said he will endorse the eventual nominee of the party.

Kasich is being backed by five members of the Assembly Republican conference: Andy Raia, Ray Walter, Chad Lupinacci, Adnrew Garbarino and Andy Goodell.

Kasich is also being backed by two former House representatives: Jim Walsh and Joe DioGuardi.

New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who is considered a potential Republican candidate for mayor in 2017, is also on the Kasich leadership team.