State Senate

Cuomo-Hochul Endorses O’Brien, Who Faces An Uphill Race (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with his running mate Kathy Hochul, endorsed on Friday Democratic Sen. Ted O’Brien in his uphill re-election bid.

In a statement, Cuomo cited O’Brien’s backing of the Women’s Equality Act, support for increasing the state’s minimum as well as economic development in the upstate region.

“Through his tireless support for women’s equality, raising the minimum wage, and revitalizing economic development upstate, Senator O’Brien has been a leading and effective advocate for the people of Rochester,” Cuomo said. “I am proud to support Senator O’Brien in his re-election, because he is exactly the type of leader we need to keep our state moving forward.”

O’Brien’s statement focused heavily on the economic development angle as well as property tax relief.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Governor and I share a commitment to revitalizing the Upstate economy and creating a better future for the people of Monroe and Ontario Counties. I’m proud to have worked with Governor Cuomo to deliver $1.5 Billion in property tax relief, end the tax on Upstate manufacturers, and pass START-UP NY which is creating jobs in Rochester right now. I look forward to going back to the Senate and working with the Governor to pass the Women’s Equality Act and continue to make Upstate New York more affordable for hardworking families and small businesses.”

O’Brien, a freshman lawmaker from the Rochester area, faces Republican Rich Funke, a former television broadcaster with high name recognition. He is among three Democratic freshman north of New York City who are locked in key re-election battles that could decide control of the state Senate.

Cuomo, along with Hochul, previously endorsed the other two upstate Democrats, Sens. Cecilia Tkaczyk and Terry Gipson, over the weekend.

O’Brien is receiving some help from the New York State United Teachers union, which earlier this week dropped $41,140 worth of mailers knocking Funke.

On the Republican side, Balance New York, a super PAC, this week spent $188,385 on TV and radio ads opposing O’Brien’s re-election.

A Siena College poll released at the start of the month showed Funke leading O’Brien 57 percent to 32 percent.

Update: Sen. Cathy Young, the chairwoman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, responds, saying it’s “no surprise” that Cuomo would back O’Brien. In a statement, she ties O’Brien to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The New York City Democrats who are funding Ted O’Brien’s campaign want to give free college tuition to people who are in this country illegally while middle-class taxpayers take out college loans that will take years to repay and work two jobs just to make ends meet. Seventy six percent of New Yorkers don’t receive any tuition assistance at all, yet the New York City Democrats want to give illegal immigrants a free ride on the backs of taxpayers. That’s outrageous.

Two Can Play That Game (Updated)

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.”

Pro-Charter School Group Spends $500K In Two Key Districts

A pro-charter school independent expenditure committee is spending a combined $504,310 in TV and radio ads to oppose to Democratic Senate candidates running in key swing districts next month, according to Board of Elections records.

The group, New Yorkers For A Balanced Albany, is spending $272,000 in radio and TV ads opposing Justin Wagner, a Democrat in the Hudson Valley.

Wagner is running for the open seat being vacated by Republican Greg Ball, and he faces Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy.

Further to the north, the group is spending and additional $232,310 to oppose Sen. Terry Gipson, a freshman Democrat running against Dutchess County Legislator Sue Serino.

The committee is backed by StudentsFirstNY, a group that is primarily funded by wealthy hedge funds and supporters of charter schools such as Paul Tudor Jones II and Daniel Loeb.

On Long Island, the group on Thursday posted a $168,341 cable and TV media buy to oppose the candidacy of Democratic Senate hopeful Adrienne Esposito, who faces Republican Tom Croci in Suffolk County.

Poloncarz Denounces NYSUT’s Anti-Grisanti Mailer

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz deemed a domestic violence-themed mailer sent out by NYSUT’s political arm in opposition to GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti “disgusting” and said he has urged Grisanti’s Democratic opponent, Marc Panepinto, to disavow it.

Poloncarz said the mailer, which depicts a battered woman and proclaims that Grisanti “won’t protect her from her abuser,” is “inappropriate” and “disgusting.”

“I was texting back and forth with Marc today, he agrees,” the county executive told me during a CapTon interview that will air in full at 8 p.m. “He has a debate tonight, and I think he said he would disavow it. I called on him to disavow it. I disavowed it.”

“I think it’s a horrible piece of, of…it’s disgusting to say that a candidate doesn’t want to care about the protection of battered women. Mr. Grisanti may not agree with the entire Women’s Equality platform. I do. But, I know Mark Grisanti is not out there saying he doesn’t care about battered women, and that piece of mail, it bothered me.”

In fact, it bothered Poloncarz so much that he took to Twitter to publicly call out NYSUT’s political action committee, VOTE/COPE, for sending the mailer, saying the organization should be “embarrassed.”

A near replica of the mailer also popped up in the 40th SD race, targeting Republican Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy, who is running against Democrat Justin Wagner for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Greg Ball. Murphy, like Grisanti, has said he supports nine of the 10 planks in the governor’s Women’s Equality Act, expressing opposition only to the abortion rights proposal.

Because Republicans have refused to pass the Women’s Equality Act in its entirety, instead approving the other nine plans individually, Democrats have accused them of holding the act hostage and being opposed to everything from pay equity to cracking down on domestic violence and sex trafficking.

Poloncarz said he supports Panepinto in the four-way 60th SD race in which Grisanti is running on the Indpendence Party line after losing the September GOP primary to attorney Kevin Stocker. He also said he’s not concerned that his chastisement of NYSUT will cost him politically down the road, saying he believes his support among Erie County teachers is firm.

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Balance New York Targets Wagner, O’Brien

Balance New York, an independent expenditure group supported by the Washington, D.C.-based Republican Leadership Committee, spent $362,810 on TV and radio ads knocking two Democratic Senate candidates.

Board of Elections records show the group spent $188,385 on radio and television against Sen. Ted O’Brien, a freshman Democrat running for a second term against Republican Rich Funke.

In the Hudson Valley, the group today posted a $174,425 media buy aimed at Democrat Justin Wagner, who is running for an open state Senate held by Republican Greg Ball. Wagner faces Yorktown City Councilman Terrence Murphy.

Meanwhile, on Long Island, the pro-charter schools PAC New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany posted a $168,341 cable and TV media buy to oppose the candidacy of Democratic Senate hopeful Adrienne Esposito, who faces Republican Tom Croci in Suffolk County.

Jobs For New York, a group funded by wealthy landlords in New York City, reported a $25,000 contribution from Josephson LLC.

The group, controlled by the Real Estate Board of New York, has been running independent expenditure campaigns boosting Senate Republicans.

Jobs For New York reported spending an additional $11,949 on mailers for Republican Sen. Jack Martins and $11,469 on mail for Croci.

Balboni for Schneiderman (Again)

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.

24-Hour Notices: Labor Comes In Big For Senate Democrats

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee received a flood of donations on Wednesday from high-profile labor groups that support the conference’s takeover of the state Senate.

Filings with the state Board of Elections show the contributions range include $12,500 from the AFL-CIO and $50,000 from the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.

The political action committee of the Theatrical Teamsters Local 817 contributed $6,000.

One of the largest contributions came from JSTD Madison LLC, which gave $102,300, records show.

The conference also received a $40,000 contribution from Stephen Silberstein, a California software magnate and Democratic Party booster.

All told, the mainline Democratic conference received more than $408,000 in contributions in a one-day period.

The money comes after a filing earlier this month showed the conference with $1.4 million in cash on hand, compared to the $2.8 million in the bank for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, Democrats are trying to defend three seats upstate held by freshman Sens. Cecilia Tkaczyk, Ted O’Brien and Terry Gipson.

The conference is also trying to play some offense, including open seats in Suffolk and Westchester counties as well as trying to knock off GOP incumbent Jack Martins.

Bloomberg, IDC, Cuomo Ally Boost Grisanti

From the Morning Memo:

As he battles to keep his seat in a four-way race and running solely on the Independence Party line, Sen. Mark Grisanti is getting some last-minute financial help from eyebrow-raising donors who funneled their contributions through a New York City-based environmental group.

The Buffalo Republican’s biggest benefactor was former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who recently penned a $350,000 personal check to the New York League of Conservation Voters with the understanding that the bulk of that cash would go to help Grisanti, multiple sources confirmed.

Bloomberg pledged to protect Grisanti and three other Republican senators who crossed party lines back in 2011 to vote “yes” on same-sex marriage. Grisanti is the last remaining member of that quartet still in the chamber.

The former mayor had already maxed out in his contributions to Grisanti for both the primary and general elections. So he turned to the NYLCV, with which he had a close working relationship during his years at City Hall.

Bloomberg spokesman Howard Wolfson confirmed the mayor’s contributions, and said he gave to the NYLCV because it is “doing good work” in the 60th SD.

Bloomberg, a billionaire Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent, was once the largest personal contributor to the Senate Republicans, but hasn’t given them much support as a group since he departed City Hall at the end of last year.

The former mayor is still involved in politics, but his focus is now mostly national. He has been spending millions of dollars to support House, US Senate and gubernatorial candidates on both sides of the aisle, as well as on various ballot initiatives across the country this cycle.

Bloomberg’s cash accounts for about half of the approximately $700,000 worth of independent expenditures the League plans on spending on this year’s elections. That’s about twice the amount it spent in 2012.

This isn’t the first time Bloomberg and the NYLCV have teamed up to help Grisanti. In 2012, the League made Grisanit’s re-election immediately after the senator’s “yes” vote on same-sex marriage one of its top priorities, and co-hosted a fund-raiser for him at Bloomberg’s Upper East Side townhouse. The organization spent in the six figures to assist Grisanti’s successful campaign that year.

The NYCLV recently named Grisanti its third priority Senate candidate in the general election – along with Long Island Democrat Adrienne Esposito and freshman Democratic Sen. Ted O’Brien, of Rochester. The outcome of any – or all three – of those races could play a big role in the fight for control of the Senate.

Technically speaking, however, the League isn’t taking sides in that fight, preferring instead to endorse on a case-by-case basis, supporting lawmakers it believes have backed its agenda in Albany.

Grisanti chairs the Environmental Committee in the Senate, while O’Brien is the ranking member on that committee. Esposito is a long time environmental activist.

The NYLCV has already paid for one TV ad in support of Grisanti, and will soon hit the airwaves with another, a spokesman confirmed. Also on tap: Mailers and an extensive GOTV effort on the senator’s behalf.

The NYLCV also received a $150,000 contribution from the IDC’s PAC. IDC leader Jeff Klein has been courting Grisanti since the GOP senator lost his party’s primary in September to attorney Kevin Stocker.

The League also got a check for $5,000 from environmental attorney Larry Rockefeller, a moderate Republican who recently crossed party lines to endorse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and appeared in a campaign ad on the governor’s behalf.

Crain’s, which first reported Bloomberg’s contribution to the NYLCV, noted that both the real estate industry and the teachers unions, which are spending big to help opposite sides in the Senate fight, have given money to the League’s PAC.

Jobs For NY: $35K In Mail For Long Island Districts, NYSUT Spends $41K For O’Brien

The political action committee backed by wealthy New York City landlords has spent another $35,805 in two key Long Island state Senate races.

Meanwhile, the political arm of the New York State United Teachers union, has spent more than $41,000 on mailers on behalf of Democratic Sen. Ted O’Brien.

Jobs For New York, the group backed by the Real Estate Board of New York, has invested $18,807 in mailers on Republican Sen. Jack Martins’ race in Nassau County, where he faces Democrat Adam Haber, according to filings with the state Board of Elections.

In Suffolk County, the group spent $16,997 on mail for Republican Tom Croci. The Islip town supervisor is taking on Democratic candidate Adrienne Esposito for an open seat being vacated by Republican Lee Zeldin, who is running for Congress.

An additional $13,000 was posted for unspecified staff wages.

The spending caps a flurry of TV ads, polling and other campaign spending for Republicans running in competitive state Senate races. The group this week posted $85,200 on TV advertising in the 46th Senate district, where Democratic incumbent Cecilia Tkaczyk faces a rematch against Republican former Assemblyman George Amedore.

NYSUT, meanwhile, has spent $41,140 on mail on behalf of O’Brien, a Rochester-area lawmaker who a Siena College poll found was bad trailing Republic Rich Funke.

Senate Dems Mobilize Against Prop. 1

From the Morning Memo:

As Election Day draws near, members of the so-called “regular” Senate Democratic conference are expressing their opposition to the redistricting constitutional amendment – one of three ballot initiatives that New Yorkers will be asked to vote on next month.

Yesterday, Sen. Liz Krueger released an open letter to “friends and colleagues,” denouncing Prop. 1 as “fake reform,” and urging them to vote “no” on Nov. 4.

Krueger noted she voted “no” on the amendment, which she deemed a “sneaky attempt to maintain power, cloaked as reform, by a party afraid of losing its leadership position due to demographic trends throughout our state.”

“There is still time to get this right,” the Manhattan Democrat wrote. “The next New York State redistricting is not until after the 2020 Census, so there is no urgency to enshrine this power grab into our state Constitution.”

Also yesterday, Sen. Martin Malave Dilan, a Brooklyn Democrat who served on the last legislative redistricting task force, issued a statement in opposition to Prop. 1.

“What I learned traveling the state as a member of the task force charged with drafting new legislative districts was that the original intent of the process was misrepresented; citizens and participants were misled as to its openness and transparency; and it was fundamentally fraught with gamesmanship,” the senator wrote.

“The independent commission to be created if voters support ballot proposal one this November is neither independent or capable of restoring the public’s trust in the process,” Dilan continued.

“Proposal Number One, like the public hearings leading up to the lines adopted in 2012, the task force that formulated them, and the end product, is a farce.”