Nov 20th - 7:24 am
A new power-sharing arrangement in the state Senate is being discussed that would last through the 2016 election cycle, giving Republicans a cushion against potential Democratic gains in a presidential election year.
The agreement, according to a source familiar with the discussions, would allow Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein to remain co-president of the chamber and include a handshake agreement that the coalition lasts through the 2016 elections.
The deal would allow Klein to retain the power to decide which bills come to the floor for a vote in the Senate and maintain his role in the state budget negotiations.
It has been widely speculated – and even publicly discussed by some current and former Senate GOP members – that Klein would have to give up some power now that the Republicans have won a clear 32-seat majority (plus the addition of Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder).
But under this deal being floated, in exchange for allowing Klein to retain most or all of the power he currently enjoys, the Senate Republicans would gain the insurance of having the five-member IDC to fall back on two years from now, when a presidential election is expected to cause an uptick in Democratic turnout and potentially put the GOP back into a numerical minority.
A source stressed the talks remain fluid and that the final details of a new coalition agreement are yet to be hammered down.
A spokeswoman for Klein declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos.
Earlier this week, Skelos said after a closed-door meeting with the Republican conference at the Capitol there is a willingness among his members to continue the coalition with the IDC in some form.
“There was a consensus that we would like to keep the coalition going and I will be having discussions with Senator Klein on how we move forward,” he said.
The proposal has its pitfalls for both sides.
Liberals would no doubt once again seek to oust Klein and his members in party primaries – especially given the stakes of the coalition potentially continuing through the next election cycle – even as Democrats eye Hillary Clinton’s likely run for president delivering down-ballot gains for them.
The Republicans would have to trust Klein to keep his end of the bargain should they suffer losses in the next election that puts them in the minority.
Klein in June agreed to form a new power-sharing coalition with mainline Democrats, but that deal was contingent on the party gaining enough seats to form a majority in the Senate.
Klein has insisted that agreement only went into effect when and if the regular Democrats managed to win enough seats to control the chamber, which they failed to do on Election Day.
Under this new arrangement, mainline Democrats would have to either use their resources to primary the IDC (primary challenges to Klein and IDC Sen. Tony Avella of Queens both failed this year) or win enough seats to make the the breakaway conference irrelevant.
Klein’s chance of retaining power would allow him to once again be a Democratic voice in policy making, meaning he would have to deliver some tangible results in order to stave off opposition on the left.
After being elevated to the Senate co-presidency in the last two-year cycle, Klein was able to have the state’s minimum wage increased over a phased-in period.
Nevertheless, Klein has come under criticism from liberals and other advocacy organizations for the Senate’s failure to pass measures aimed at strengthening abortion rights, the DREAM Act and the full public financing of political campaigns.
Klein has countered that the votes aren’t there in the chamber for either bills to pass, even with the IDC’s support.
Republicans would have to convince their reluctant supporters on the right that they are playing a long game by again empowering a group of Democrats in chamber in what amounts to an insurance policy against falling back into the minority.
Nov 14th - 11:28 pm
While some Republicans in Congress are promising to block President Obama from taking action in immigration reform through an executive order, Western New York Congressman Tom Reed is taking a different approach.
“It’s best, in my opinion, to fight the President’s executive action by policy,” Reed said.
Reed, like other Republicans, believes granting “amnesty” could derail any efforts to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill. Rather than simply stopping the President and Democrats in Congress, Reed is calling for action.
“I think there’s broad consensus within the GOP conference that the current immigration rules for America are broken and need to be reformed. And this is an opportunity for us to do it and let’s seize the opportunity,” said Reed.
Reed didn’t release any specifics but is calling for a conservative immigration reform package that would stand in contrast to a 10-point executive order the President is expected to roll out next week.
“We have the better policy in my opinion and that’s what we need to bring to the American people and have the American people engage in this process,” said Reed.
When asked if his plan would include a path to citizenship, Reed said there could be some “middle ground.”
“Not a path to citizenship for those who violated the law. For kids, there’s a potential for a path to citizenship for them, but when we’re talking about rewarding illegal behavior and granting amnesty,” Reed said. “That’s just a non starter and I think that’s where the division comes from, but we can solve this.”
Republicans are considering everything from defunding the specific initiatives in the President’s anticipated executive order, to taking legal action, and even shutting down the government. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell downplayed a government shutdown.
Nov 11th - 7:08 am
New York’s senior senator isn’t psyched about the idea of being back in the minority after serving as one of the most powerful men in the Democrat-controlled upper house.
But Sen. Chuck Schumer is going to make the best of it.
He says he plans to reach across the aisle to forge relationships with some of the new members of the state’s GOP congressional delegation.
He’ll start with Congresswoman-elect Elise Stefanik, who won the NY-21 seat currently held by retiring Democratic Rep. Bill Owens in a landslide last Tuesday, making her – at just 30 years old – the youngest woman ever to sit in the House.
“She was in college with my daughter and they were friends,” Schumer said of Stefanik during a stop in Albany yesterday. “So, we start on a good note there.”
“My daughter spoke very highly of her. In fact, not only is she going to come to the office, but her and my daughter are going to have dinner in the next few weeks in Washington.”
“I haven’t asked Ms. Stefanik yet,” the senator said. “We’ve agreed to get together, but we’re going to make it a dinner and invite my daughter. I’m sure they’ll have no objection because they’re friends.”
No word on where this bipartisan dining experience might take place, though the senator’s past fondness for D.C.’s Hunan Dynasty has been widely documented.
Also, for the record: Jessica Schumer and Stefanik attended Harvard, which is also the senator’s alma mater.
Schumer said he has also spoken to Congressman-elect John Katko, who ousted Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei in NY-24, and found the former federal prosecutor to be a “very fine individual.”
The senator said he had a “great relationship” with former Rep. Jim Walsh, the moderate Republican who held the Central NY seat before Maffei.
“Jim Walsh and I were able to do a whole lot for Syracuse,” Schumer recalled. “He’s a Republican, I’m a Democrat. I think the same will be with Mr. Katko. He seems like a fine man.”
“We’re going to meet in my office in the next week in Washington and start going over how we can go over to help Central New York and his congressional district. I look forward to working with him, I think he’s a good guy.”
Nov 7th - 1:01 am
The race for a Buffalo-area state senate seat was one of the most costly and contentious races in Western New York history. Just 48 hours after the polls closed the apparent winner isn’t over it just yet.
“It’s tough not to take things personally. I know Senator Grisanti wasn’t driving the train on the personal attacks. We had a very collegial relationship on the campaign trail. I will say Kevin Stocker made it personal. So I do have some personal animus towards Kevin Stocker,” said Democrat Marc Panepinto.
Republican Mark Grisanti made a run on the Independence line after losing the GOP primary to Kevin Stocker. With speculation the outcome could decide the majority in the state senate, outside groups spent millions on negative ads.
For Panepinto, the ill will is connected to a negative ad highlighting his misdemeanor election fraud conviction 13 years ago. An “unaffiliated voter” also filed a complaint because Panepinto used his wife’s image, State Supreme Court Judge Catherine Nugent-Panepinto, in campaign flyers.
“I don’t have any animus towards Mark Grisanti. He was the incumbent senator; I think he did an admirable job. And the nastiness that came against me was from the Republican Senate Campaign Committee,” Panepinto said.
Neither Stocker nor Grisanti have officially conceded. Panepinto held a lead of a little more than 2,000 votes over Stocker and a 26-hundred vote lead over Grisanti.
The Conservative Candidate, Timothy Gallagher, captured eight percent of the vote.
“Once you’ve got a certain percentage of numbers, with dispersion over the district, they don’t deviate much from that. There are 2,900 absentees out there and they’ll break the way the normal votes broke,” Panepinto said.
Panepinto said he’s already working with Grisanti to ensure a smooth transition. When asked what he thought the key to his somewhat surprising win was, Panepinto said he worked harder in the weekend of the campaign than one of his opponents did.
“I saw a voter that day on a street in Kenmore, and then he said to me, ‘I just saw Kevin Stocker at L.A. Fitness. He was working out at the gym. Why are you going door to door?’ I said I’m not leaving anything to chance. We’re working right up until 8:55 pm on Tuesday. So I knew that the different way that we ran our campaigns would become apparent. We worked to the end and Kevin was at the gym,” Panepinto added
We reached out to Stocker for comment. So far we haven’t heard back.
Nov 3rd - 4:31 pm
The Green Party is up in arms over a mailer sent out by Terrence Murphy, the Republican running for retiring Sen. Greg Ball’s Hudson Valley seat, that links the candidate to Green gubernatorial hopeful Howie Hawkins.
The mailer, which does not indicate – as required by law – who is responsible for sending it, informs voters who want to protect the environment and stop hydrofracking that they only have “one choice” – to support the Green Party’s candidates in tomorrow’s elections.
It features photos of both Hawkins and Murphy, saying the gubernatorial candidate is “100 percent” against fracking, while the Senate candidate “voted against” fracking (in his current position as a member of the Yorktown Council).
The mailer also accuses Murphy’s Democratic opponent, attorney Justin Wagner, of representing “one of the largest fracking companies” whose natural gas flows through the Algonquin pipeline, which is slated for expansion in Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties.
The firm that employs Wagner represents ExxonMobil; the candidate himself is on the record opposing fracking in New York “at this time.”
There has also been some debate during the campaign over Murphy’s position on fracking, which appears to have evolved to the point where he is on the record in support of a moratorium – not the full out ban the Greens have been seeking since 2010.
Murphy won a Green Party primary by 50 votes back in September as a write-in candidate. State Green Party Co-Chair Michael O’Neil called the Republican’s write-in tactic “reprehensible” and “potentially unconstitutional,” accusing him of using the Opportunity to Ballot process to “steal” Row E for this election.
“(B)ut he is *not* a Green Party Candidate from the perspective of the Green Party of NY State,” O’Neil continued. “We abhor his use of opportunity to ballot and this mailer to confuse voters…On the mailer, Murphy attempts to align himself with Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for governor who is currently polling around 10 percent statewide against Andrew Cuomo. The Hawkins campaign was not notified at all about this mailer and has not endorsed Murphy.”
“…This is plain and simple dirty tricks politics to make voters believe Murphy is part of a Green movement to which he is actually fundamentally opposed. It is the kind of cynical prevarication that turns people away from electoral politics and only the latest example of why Opportunity to Ballot and ‘fusion voting’ should be abolished in New York State.”
Murphy also has the Conservative, Independence and Stop Common Core lines, while Wagner’s name will appear on just two lines – Democrat and Working Families.
(Like a handful of his fellow Democratic Senate candidates, Wagner’s effort to petition his way onto the governor’s Women’s Equality Party line failed).
UPDATE: A SoP reader set me straight on the disclaimer question, writing:
“Candidates for state office in New York have no legal obligation to include a ‘paid for’ disclaimer anywhere. This stems from the Duryea decision in the mid 1970s. Perry Duryea, and several Democrat and Republican legislators were indicted for doing mailers without disclaimers, which supported third party candidates whose success would have been beneficial to the candidates whom the legislators supported.”
“The courts threw out the indictments, claiming that anonymous political speech was synonymous with free speech. As a result, there is no requirement for a disclaimer on state campaigns – from governor down to Assembly.”
Nov 2nd - 9:00 am
Siena this morning released the results of its second and final pre-Election Day polls of three contested upstate state Senate races that could prove crucial in next week’s battle for control of the chamber.
The Republican challengers remain ahead in two of the races, and one has tightened to become a statistical dead heat, which means we should get ready for a long election night – possibly with some contests too close to call without a tally of the paper ballots.
The tightest contest is the 41st SD, which pits Democratic freshman Sen. Terry Gipson against Republican Dutchess County Legislator Sue Serino in the Hudson Valley.
In the last Siena poll, Gipson was trailing Serino by 12 percentage points. But in this poll, he has closed that gap, and is now within two percentage points of his challenger, who’s ahead 48-46 among likely voters with 5 percent undecided.
Gipson won a three-way race in 2012 with 44 percent of the vote. This year, he’s ahead with women voters by 17 percentage points after trailing in the last Siena poll by 7 points. She’s up with independents, though only by 9 percentage points, down from 26 points.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his GOP challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino are running neck-and-neck in this district, 43-42, with Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins getting 11 percent of the vote.
Next up is another re-match – the Capital Region’s 46th SD race, which pits Democratic freshman Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk against Republican former Assemblyman George Amedore.
Tkaczyk defeated Amedore in overtime in 2012, eventually winning by just 18 votes. This year, however, she’s trailing Amedore, 54-43, with 3 percent undecided.
There has been little movement in this race over the past month. Amedore’s lead in the last Siena poll was 52-42. He has grown his support among Democrats from 15 percent to 25 percent, and has maintained a strong lead among independents.
Tkaczyk continues to run virtually even in the Ulster/Greene portion of the district, but is trailing badly, now by 20 points, in the Albany/Montgomery/Schenectady portion of the district.
There is virtually no gender gap in this race between a Democratic woman and a Republican man, as Amedore leads with men by 14 points and he leads with women by nine points, according to Siena pollster Steve Greenberg.
This is one of those races where the Democratic candidate is not going to benefit from assistance from the governor, though he has endorsed Tkaczyk (via press release). Astorino is ahead in the 46th SD, leading Cuomo 46-38, with Hawkins getting 12 percent of the vote.
In the Rochester area 55th SD race, Democratic freshman Sen. Ted O’Brien has significantly closed the gap against his Republican challenger, Rich Funke, however, Funke has a 9-point, 51-42 lead in to the closing days of the campaign.
O’Brien has mounted a major charge and it appears the momentum is on his side. He has cut his deficit from a seemingly insurmountable 25 percentage points in Siena’s last poll to single digits, Greenberg said. He has done so by bringing Democrats home and wooing independents.
Cuomo is leading Astorino, 45-39, in the 55th SD, with Hawkins garnering 10 percent of the vote. Cuomo has endorsed O’Brien, via press release, as part of his Women’s Equality bus tour.
Funke continues to have a far stronger favorability rating than O’Brien, although 39 percent of voters now view him unfavorably – up from 23 percent. While 57 percent of voters view Funke favorably, only 44 percent view O’Brien favorably, and 48 percent view him unfavorably.
Naturally, both the Democrats and the Republicans have something to say about these polls, with each putting the best possible spin on things as the campaign enters its final days.
At this point, it’s all about GOTV and turning out the base, with each party making a last-minute push to get its voters to the polls.
“This latest snapshot clearly shows that momentum is moving in our direction,” said the Senate Democrats’ spokesman, Mike Murphy.
“By Election Day, our campaigns will have knocked on over 750,000 doors and made over 400,000 calls in an unprecedented effort to communicate directly with voters.”
“The paid media campaign that began a month ago, in the face of unprecedented spending on behalf of our right wing extremist opponents, is resonating because we are talking about the issue voters care about and an agenda that will move this state forward. Our candidates will be victorious on Election Day.”
Meanwhile, Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos said the polls show his conference is “on the cusp of flipping three seats currently held by Democrats and cementing a clear majority in the New York State Senate.”
“That’s good news for hardworking taxpayers who want their state representatives to deliver additional tax relief, partner with the private sector to create new jobs and better opportunities, and make New York more affordable for everyone,” Skelos continued.
“New Yorkers want bipartisanship and balance, not an entire state government controlled by liberal Democrats from New York City.”
“They don’t want higher taxes or the chaos and dysfunction we saw with one-party rule in 2009-10. And, they don’t want illegal immigrants getting free college tuition while middle-class families get nothing but student loans that will take them years to repay.”
“Our priorities are the people’s priorities, and the people know we will produce real economic progress in the next two years and make this state a better place to live and work. The New York City-dominated Senate Democrats and their chief ally New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will only take us backward.”
The crosstabs for all three polls appear after the jump.
Oct 27th - 12:10 pm
Republican Oneida County Executive Tony Picente, who crossed party lines to endorse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for re-election, has returned to the GOP fold to endorse his party’s candidate for state attorney general, John Cahill.
The Cahill campaign released a statement from Picente declaring that he is “100 percent” behind the candidacy of the former top Pataki administration aide and believes he’ll be a strong partner in the AG’s office.
“John understands that the only way we can get New York working is to encourage a growth-oriented business climate that will create real jobs and keep our best and brightest here at home,” the county executive continued.
“John’s public and private experience, coupled with his genuine desire to serve the people of New York make him the best candidate for attorney general – hands down.”
Picente did not say anything negative in his statement about his Democratic opponent, incumbent AG Eric Schneiderman.
Earlier this month, Picente followed the lead of two of his fellow GOP county executives – Onondaga’s Joanie Mahoney and Nassau’s Ed Mangano – in passing over his party’s gubernatorial candidate, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, in favor of backing Cuomo.
All three Republicans also appeared in campaign ads on Cuomo’s behalf.
Oct 24th - 2:21 pm
Throughout the 2014 campaign, the Senate Democrats have been using women’s issues – particularly abortion rights – as a wedge issue, repeatedly slamming incumbent Senate Republicans and their first-time candidates alike for opposing the governor’s full 10-point Women’s Equality Act.
The Republicans’ refusal to pass the WEA in its entirety has led to the Democrats and their allies accusing the GOP of being anti-woman, and even, in the case of mailers sent out in two hotly contested races in Buffalo and the Hudson Valley, of being unwilling to protect female victims of domestic violence.
Now one GOP candidate is trying to turn the tables on the Democrats.
In a mailer sent out in the 41st SD, where Dutchess County Legislator Sue Serino is facing off against Democratic freshman Sen. Terry Gipson, the GOP maintains Gipson has “turned his back on Hudson Valley women” by voting “yes” in favor of the full 10-point act that included the controversial abortion rights plank, which the Republicans maintain allows non-doctors to perform abortions and threatens women’s health.
The Republicans have passed nine stand alone bills in lieu of the full act, leaving out the abortion piece, leading the Democrats to accuse them of “holding hostage” the other proposals, including pay equity and cracking down on sex trafficking.
UPDATE: A Senate Democratic conference spokesman accused the GOP of lying about Gipson’s record, saying the senator voted “yes” on all nine stand alone bills brought to the floor by the GOP.
Tracey Brooks of Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York flagged the mailer, accusing the Republicans of resorting to “smear tactics” and “baseless attacks” on Gipson as Election Day draws near.
“Senator Gipson has never wavered in his support for the women and families of the Hudson Valley,” Brooks said in a stateent. “Senator Gipson has worked closely with community members and advocates for two years and his actions speak volumes, including his support for women’s equality at work, at home and in her private life.”
“Also, despite Serino’s repeated attempts to falsify the Women’s Equality Act, the legislation is clear. Mirroring state law to existing federal protections does not change practice – New York will continue to follow Roe v. Wade just as we have done since 1973 – when the federal ruling took precedence over our state law written in 1970.”
“Serino is attempting a ‘bait and switch’ to capture voters while distracting them from her extreme, anti-women views which are out of touch with the community. Senator Gipson has the experience, understanding and ability required to represent the 40th New York State Senate District.”
Oct 23rd - 1:26 pm
Former GOP Sen. Mike Balboni and his wife will host a fund-raiser for Democratic state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman next Monday at their Long Island home, according to an invitation sent out by the Nassau County Democratic Party.
The event, which costs between $1,000 (for individuals) and $10,000 (for hosts) to attend, will provide Schneiderman will a last-minute infusion of cash as he heads into the final days of the race with his GOP challenger, former Pataki administration official John Cahill.
Balboni and Schneiderman were once Senate colleagues, and the former senator – who refers to himself as a “lifelong Republican” – crossed party lines to endorse Schneiderman the first time he ran for AG in 2010 against GOP Staten Island DA Dan Donovan.
Balboni’s efforts on behalf of the Democratic AG could be viewed as a snub to Cahill. But the ex-lawmaker’s dalliances with Democrats date back a long way.
Balboni angered his fellow Republicans when he departed the Senate in December 2006 to accept a job offer from Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, serving as the administration’s homeland security czar.
Balboni has long held his Long Island seat largely by force of personality (and incumbancy). Fueled by camapign cash that Spitzer, who was very interested in wresting control of the Senate from the GOP, the Democrats won the seat in a 2007 special election, elevating Democratic Nassau County Legislator Craig Johnson to the state legislative post.
Johnson won a full two-year term in the 2008 elections, but lost his seat in a very tight race 2010 to Republican Mineola Mayor Jack Martins, who is now in a hotly contested race with Democratic businessman Adam Haber.
Balboni remained in his post following Spitzer’s resignation due to a prostitution scandal, but tendered his resignation to Spitzer’s successor, former Gov. David Paterson, in January 2010, to take a job in the private sector. In 2012, he founded a consulting/lobbying firm – RedLand Strategies - that focuses on public safety, government relations, media management and business development.
The former senator has been mentioned from time to time as mulling a potential return to political life, but has so far restricted his efforts to raising campaign cash for other candidates. He
Earlier this year, Balboni, who has some clients who do business with the state, co-hosted a “Republicans for Cuomo” event at The Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, – an event for which tickets went for as much as $50,000 a head.
Balboni is not alone among Nassau County Republicans in his support of Cuomo. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano crossed party lines to not only endorse, but appear in a TV ad on behalf of, the Democratic governor this campaign season.
Meanwhile, Nassau County GOP Chairman Joe Mondello will be hosting a luncheon fund-raiser for Cuomo’s opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, on Monday – the same day as the Balboni event.
Oct 22nd - 1:16 am
After weeks of questions over why Governor Cuomo hasn’t endorsed him and a constant barrage of attacks from his political rivals, State Senate Candidate Marc Panepinto is firing back.
“I’m talking about the issues. My opponents want to talk about negative things. This guy did this. This guy did that,” Panepinto said.
The Buffalo Democrat will appear on the Democratic and Working Families lines on a crowed Ballot in New York’s 60th State Senate District. His chief rival, Incumbent Senator Mark Grisanti, lost the GOP Primary in September but not the support of his Republican colleagues.
The Senate Republican Campaign Committee is behind a scathing attack against Panepinto. The TV ad, details a 2001 election law misdemeanor. It accuses Panepinto of submitting “blatantly fraudulent voter petitions” and “personally forging signatures of handicapped voters and voters who had been dead for years.”
Panepinto claims he signed off on some signatures even though he wasn’t present when they were collected. Those signatures turned out to be bogus and the Democrat pleaded guilty to making false witness statements on petitions.
“Here’s somebody who’s been associated with organizations that affiliated with racketeering. He also had some other allegations against him that have to do with more election fraud. So it seems to be a pattern of abuse that this individual has. So we have make sure that this person is not elected to the state senate,” said SRCC Chair Cathy Young.
Panepinto briefly lost his legal license and has consistently expressed remorse over what he’s called a “mistake.” More than a decade later, Panepinto told Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen he’s moved on.
“I’ve paid the price for that. It’s ancient history and so if they want to continue to talk about what happened thirteen years ago, that’s fine. I think the voters want to know what their plans are for the next two years,” said Panepinto.
On top of that, Panepinto is facing new questions over his wife’s appearance in his campaign flyers. A man claiming to be an unaffiliated voter filed a complaint against Panepinto because he used his wife’s image, State Supreme Court Judge Catherine Nugent-Panepinto, in campaign flyers.
“This attack on my wife is disgusting,” Panepinto said.
Panepinto is confident his use of her image does not violate election law.
“The Office of Court Administration provided my wife with documentation that it is permissible for her to be in my commercials, in my advertisements as long as she’s not identified as a judge and we don’t even identify her by name,” Panepinto added.
As for Governor Cuomo’s endorsement, Panepinto told reporters at a rally for the Women’s Equality Act in Buffalo Tuesday that he’s not concerned about it. Panepinto pointed out he stands with the Governor on the WEA and the Buffalo Billion.
“I support the Governor on those agenda points and most of his agenda. The fact he hasn’t endorsed yet doesn’t concern me. He knows where he needs to be to pass the Women’s Equality Act and that’s not with Senator Mark Grisanti,” said Panepinto.
Grisanti is hoping to buck the odds and win on the Independence line. Kevin Stocker is the endorsed Republican and Attorney Timothy Gallagher is the endorsed Conservative Party Candidate.