State Senate

Stewart-Cousins: ‘We Can Unify’ State Dems In NY

A Democratic majority in the state Senate would make it easier for liberal and progressive causes to pass in Albany, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in her remarks to the New York delegation breakfast this morning.

“There is opportunity. And in terms of progressive leadership, because I know we’ve finished part of our progressive agenda, but there’s so much more to do,” she said. “We’ve got to take the state Senate back for the Democrats.”

Those victories, too, wouldn’t come with deals and strings attached Democrats have found difficult to accept, she said.

“We can do more than survive. We can grow, we can thrive,” she said. “We continue to lead the way, not by giving a little here and taking a lot there and, yes we believe in compromise and working across the aisle. But I don’t think fighting for working men and women should be a struggle.”

The speech was in many respects aimed as a pitch to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has worked well with majority Republicans in the Senate over the last six years. Cuomo gave Stewart-Cousins a leadership award at the breakfast before she spoke and acknowledged how the Democratic conference has a “frustrating situation” being in the minority.

The GOP conference has backed Cuomo’s push for a minimum wage increase for some parts of the state to $15 and a 12-week paid family leave program this year, with a tax-cut package coming along as part of the deal.

Democrats have long grumbled Cuomo does not want their party to control the Senate, believing he prefers the split Legislature in order to triangulate during negotiations.

Asked this week n Philadelphia, Cuomo once again declined to endorse a Democratic takeover of the Senate.

But Democrats in the Senate typically make gains in a presidential election years, and they are playing offense in districts on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley (Republicans want to flip a western New York seat as well as a district in Westchester County).

Stewart-Cousins, too, has sought to improve the relationship with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, which has aligned with Senate Republicans.

Calling up Democratic lawmakers, Stewart-Cousins made a pointed plea for unity.

“I want you to understand that as we unify Democrats on the national level, we can unify Democrats on the state level,” she said. “I want you to understand we know how important as the governor said it’s hard to be dragged to be place when you don’t see the people, you don’t understand the problem.”

I want you to see them. I want you to understand that as we unify Democrats on the national level, we can unify Democrats on the state level. I want you to understand we know how important as the governor said it’s hard to be dragged to be place when you don’t see the people, you don’t understand the problem.

Let’s run the table.

Senate Dems Bask In Senate GOP’s Trump Support

Senate Democrats feel like they have been handed a gift with the endorsement of Donald Trump by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan last week.

Democratic lawmakers who have gathered in Philadelphia for the party’s national convention this week either clucked their tongues or rolled their eyes at Flanagan’s endorsement of Trump, which was an enthusiastic one before the state Republican delegation.

“I’m going to make this unequivocally clear,” Flanagan said. “I’m supporting Donald Trump for president. I’m going to do so with grace, with diplomacy, with passion and with fervor and I’m going to do it with New York style.”

But underlying it all is the hope Trump’s campaign — with its calls to temporarily ban Muslim immigration, a tough-on-crime approach and efforts to deport undocumented immigrants — will help Democrats in swing district win crucial races this fall.

“I think it’s appalling,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman. “I think any Republican endorsing Donald Trump from New York should really have their head examined.”

Flanagan’s endorsement of Trump was not a surprise, considering he had pledged to back the Republican nominee. At the same time, the New York delegation had enthusiastically backed Trump at the convention, leading a chorus of boos and jeers for Sen. Ted Cruz when he refused to endorse Trump at the convention.

Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, called the situation sad, given the GOP’s history in New York.

“This is a man that believes in conspiracy theories that are so whacky that we can’t have someone like that in the White House,” he said. “I think it’s shameful for Senate Republicans who have tried to be a moderate force in New York politics to lurch to the right.”

Others were more outwardly gleeful, including Queens Sen. James Sanders, a supporting of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention.

Trump’s insurgent campaign and takeover of the Republican Party in some ways acted on the same populist impulses that has shaken the Democrats, right up to this week.

“I think they are being driven by winds they don’t control,” Sanders said. “I think they’re more concerned about the right wing of their own party. I think we’re seeing a party in meltdown, whether it be national or at the state.”

The Working Families Party, too, is wasting little time making an issue out of the Trump endorsement, releasing a fundraising email off Flanagan’s comments.

Updated: Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif responds.

“It’s time for the Senate Democrats to get some new ideas and to start focusing on the things that really matter to the people of New York,” Reif said.

“We are going to grow our majority because New Yorkers like what we stand for and what we have done – – including passage of a $4.2 billion middle-class tax cut, record funding for education and elimination of the GEA, and new laws to combat the state’s heroin epidemic.”

1199’s Gresham Takes Real Politik Approach On NY Senate

George Gresham, the president of the politically influential 1199/SEIU labor group, would not rule out backing Republicans retain control of the state Senate, he said in an interview on Monday in Philadelphia.

But at the same time, Gresham insisted it was vital to put “Democrats into office” given they align on key issues facing the middle class.

The comments come after the Times Union reported last week the powerful union, which helped lead the effort to boost the state’s minimum wage to $15 earlier this year, would back Senate Republicans for continued control of the chamber.

Republicans have a narrow advantage in the chamber due to the conference’s alliance with Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn.

“Let me put it this way: 1199’s motto has always been, we didn’t create it, but we live by it, and that is we don’t have permanent friends and we don’t have permanent enemies, we have permanent interests,” Gresham said.

Gresham is attending the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia as part of the New York delegation. The union has been a prominent supporter for causes backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including the minimum wage push this year.

In the end, all Senate Republicans backed the increased, which included a lower target of $12.50 for counties north of New York City, with plans to gradually increase the floor to $15 after 2022.

The stance isn’t all that dissimilar from where the union has been before, Gresham said.

“That’s the way we’re going to make our decisions,” Gresham said. “That’s the way we’ve always made our decisions. That’s why the members elected me to do that, no matter what the position is.”

Still, electing Democrats remains important for “working people,” he added.

“As far as the Democratic ticket is concerned, in this election, there is nothing more important than putting the Democrats into office, because they are the party that puts the working people first,” Gresham said.

WFP Fundraises Off Flanagan’s Trump Endorsement

From the Morning Memo:

The labor-backed Working Families Party wasted little time in blasting out a fundraising email pointing to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s backing on Thursday of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The email is a harbinger of what is expected to be a pitched battle over control of the Republican-led Senate this year, with the presidential campaign between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton playing a major, over-arching role.

Flanagan on Thursday at a breakfast meeting of the New York delegation in Cleveland reiterated his endorsement of Trump, but provided his most extensive comments to date supporting the party’s nominee.

“I’m going to make this unequivocally clear,” Flanagan said. “I’m supporting Donald Trump for president. I’m going to do so with grace, with diplomacy, with passion and with fervor.”

For the WFP, that’s not compatible.

“There is no way you can support a campaign based on racism, xenophobia, fear, and misogyny with ‘grace,'” the fundraising email states.

“There is no way you can support one of the most vulgar and uniquely unsuited and unqualified candidates ever to run for the office of President with ‘diplomacy.’ And there is no way you can credibly claim to represent our state if you fervently back a candidate who stands against so many of the values we all share as New Yorkers.”

Asking supporters for a $3 donation, the WFP says the election will be a key one for Senate control.

“For years, Senate Republicans have been one of the main obstacles to progress on some of the issues working families care most about, like fair elections, the DREAM Act, reforming our broken criminal justice system, and fighting climate change,” the email states.

“Now, they are showing their true colors by fully embracing a hateful, racist presidential campaign powered by fear.”

Senate Democrats this election cycle hope to compete in battleground races on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley. But Republicans are also playing offense in swing districts in western New York and in Westchester County.

Cuomo Signs Hoosick Falls Legislation

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Thursday that would make it easier for those who live near Superfund-designated sites to sue over water contamination.

The measure was approved in the GOP-led Senate in the final days of the legislative session in the wake of a drinking water contamination in Hoosick Falls.

The new law will also impact those who live in Petersburgh, where a separate chemical contamination in drinking water has been found.

Cuomo’s approval of the bill is good news for Republican Sen. Kathy Marchione, the lawmaker who represents the area in the chamber.

Marchione had been under pressure from Hoosick Falls residents to push for a Senate hearing on the contamination issue. Ultimately, Republicans announced a public hearing in the village next month.

Assembly Democrats have scheduled hearings for September on water quality issues in New York, to be held in Albany and on Long Island.

“This new state law means residents in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and elsewhere will now receive more time to have their day in court and fully pursue civil justice,” Marchione said in a statement. “I am thankful for the support our bill has received and that it will become law.”

Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald, who backed the measure in his house, called the approval a bipartisan victory.

“The far-reaching impact of this legislation will bring fair and resolute legal recourses to members of the Hoosick Falls community and to New Yorkers across the state that have suffered or may suffer from undetected toxins in their water supply,” he said.

Cuomo’s approval of the bill, which removes the statute of limitations for lawsuits to be filed in water contamination sites, comes as a Republican-led oversight committee in the House of Representatives is investigating the federal and state response to the issue.

Cuomo’s office sought and received a deadline extension for turning over documents related to the contamination.

The bill’s approval was also cheered by environmental organizations.

“The signing of this bill into law is not only a huge moral and legal victory for Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh residents, but an important step in holding polluters accountable,” said Liz Moran of the Environmental Advocates of New York. “For too long, when crises like this occurred, residents were left reeling from the public health and economic consequences, while those responsible were allowed to slink away.”

In Cleveland, Flanagan Embraces Trump

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan gave an unequivocal endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday at a breakfast meeting of the state GOP in Cleveland.

In those same remarks, Flanagan blasted Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, even appropriating his “Tale of Two Cities” narrative by quoting from book.

“I’m going to make this unequivocally clear,” Flanagan said. “I’m supporting Donald Trump for president. I’m going to do so with grace, with diplomacy, with passion and with fervor and I’m going to do it with New York style.”

All together, it was one of the more staunchly conservative remarks Flanagan has made in any context since becoming majority leader last year.

And to be sure, Flanagan had said previously he would back whoever becomes the nominee for his party. That nominee just happens to be Trump, whose controversial remarks could buoy Democrats running down ballot this election year.

Flanagan was also deeply critical of Democrats and their handling of policing issues as a national debate continues over law enforcement interactions with people of color.

“I am so sick and tired hearing about disparaging comments about people who work in law enforcement, no matter what their capacity may be,” Flanagan said.

Trump, as well as his running mate, Indian Gov. Mike Pence, the best qualified candidates to handle even broader issues such as national security, Flanagan said.

He framed the remarks as a way of showing the differences between Republicans and Democrats both in New York and on the national level, especially on issues of crime and law enforcement.

“Us versus them, a tale of two cities — they don’t share our priorities,” said Flanagan, a Suffolk County lawmaker. “We talk about law and order. We’re a lot more concerned than we are about the criminals. And that’s a proper priorities.”

The comments come as Flanagan is fighting to preserve Republican control of the state Senate, where the GOP holds a narrow advantage thanks to their alliance with Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder.

In a preview of the coming elections, Flanagan pointed to Senate seats held by incumbent Democrats in western New York, Westchester County and Nassau County as potential pickups.

Flanagan, too, indicated he plans to campaign across the state for Republican candidates running in swing districts. Democrats are especially hopeful this election cycle to make gains in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island.

He did not reference Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who Flanagan has publicly worked well with as has the Republican conference for the last six years in Albany under his administration.

And yet, Flanagan returned to a favorite punching bag for Republicans as well as Cuomo: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Let’s talk about cities and the mayor of the city of New York,” he said. “He does not share our values. He sees himself as a true progressive and God love ‘em for doing that. But his priorities are a lot different than the ones I have to the people on Long Island and people like Cathy Young, Mike Nozzolio and Hugh Farley and all across the state of New York.”

Conservative critics of Senate Republicans have long decried what they’ve seen as an alliance with Cuomo on key issues, most recently backing an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $15 in the New York City region.

But Flanagan, in his remarks, outlined a different narrative in which he sees GOP lawmakers backing a far different set of priorities than Democrats.

“I think we are at a crossroads not only in the state of New York, but also in the country,” Flanagan said. “If you look at the Republican platform versus the Democratic platform, it is night and day, it is black and white, it couldn’t be any clearer what our priorities are.”

Flanagan: ‘I Don’t Want To Assume Anything’ On 1199 Nod

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in an interview on Wednesday said he isn’t taking for granted the support of 1199 SEIU amid reports the powerful labor group will back the GOP conference for continued control of the chamber.

“I don’t want to speak for 1199. They’re going to make independent determinations, they’re going to have their conventions and things of that nature,” said Flanagan, who is in Cleveland this week for the Republican National Convention. “So, I don’t want to assume anything. Any one of our members, myself included, we’re going to run on our record.”

The Times Union reported this week the labor union, which played a key role in pushing this year for boosting the minimum wage to $15, is preparing to back Republicans, who hold a narrow majority in the state Senate.

GOP incumbents are fending off challenges in battleground races in the suburbs as well as parts of upstate New York. Republicans are playing offense in a Westchester County race as well as in western New York.

Republicans ultimately backed the $15 wage plan in the budget, with the pay floor growing to that target in New York City and the suburban counties over the next several years.

Upstate, the wage grows to $12.50 and then is subject to a study of economic conditions.

Flanagan noted he’s worked well with 1199’s leadership in the past, but at the same time wants to continue courting additional labor groups.

“I’ve worked closely with George Gresham and Dennis Rivera and they are good people to deal with,” he said. “I’d love to have the opportunity to work with all people in labor, not just 1199. I think I’ve proven we can do that.”

Will Trump Help Or Hurt Senate Republicans?

From the Morning Memo:

In even numbered years, the conventional wisdom — and recent track record over the last several cycles — has been this: Presidential elections have been bad news for state Senate Republicans.

This election year, however, has been anything but conventional as Donald Trump is poised to become the the nominee of the Republican Party.

Senate Democrats are eager for the opportunity, hoping the candidacy of Hillary Clinton will spell a landslide at the top of the ticket benefitting down-ballot races and giving them enough of a boost to retake the chamber.

Senate Republicans gathered at the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland, however, are more circumspect about what Trump means for their control of the chamber.

“The fact of the matter is, nobody really knows,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco, the deputy majority leader. “You’ve got a poll today, it could change tomorrow.”

New York Republicans have some hope Trump could mean an influx of turnout among GOP and independent voters excited by his candidacy.

“If his candidacy among Republicans brought out the turnout, that’s what the Republican side of the Senate is really concerned about — getting the turnout,” DeFrancisco said.

Republicans have steadily lost seats during presidential election years, when more Democratic voters come out to vote and aid candidates down the line.

Republicans currently hold a narrow majority in the state Senate and are fending off Democratic challenges on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley. Those incumbents facing stiff challenges this election cycle are not in Cleveland this week.

“We certainly have battleground Senate districts. Every one of our candidates — whether it is an incumbent or a candidate — everyone is running their own campaigns,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. ‘Are we going to have a national flavor to it? Of course are.”

But at the same time, Flanagan insisted Republicans have plenty of positive policies to run on, including a middle class tax cut and legislation to combat heroin abuse.

“I think that’s the way it should be,” he said.

There’s also the chances Senate Republicans will craft their message around Trump’s populist campaign.

“I think if you look at some of the key elements that are facing our country today,” said Sen. Joe Griffo, “I think a lot of what he says resonances with people and that’s considering the world around us today.”

Outside Money Starting To Filter Into 60th State Senate District

From the Morning Memo:

As expected, the “outside money” is beginning to flow into New York’s 60th State Senate District. TransPAC, a New York City-based political action committee to advance transgender rights, is putting a focus on the race.

The PAC announced Monday that Amber Small, the endorsed Democrat in the 60th, is one of seven candidates to receive $5000 from it.

“I am proud to have earned the support of TransPAC,” said Small. “New York cannot claim to be a state of equality while our Transgender community still faces discrimination each day. I look forward to being TransPAC’s partner in Albany so that critical legislation such as GENDA can finally be passed into law.

There’s a good chance that donation will look relatively modest by the time November rolls around in a pivotal district for Senate control. Millions were spent in 2014, when Democrat Marc Panepinto won.

Small had a relatively successful July campaign finance period. She raised more than $100,000, although a significant portion came out of her own pocket.

Endorsed Republican Chris Jacobs, meanwhile, raised nearly $500,00. That includes a $200,000 loan he took out in his name.

SD-58: Danks Burke Raises $231K In Bid For O’Mara Seat

From the Morning Memo:

Democrat Leslie Danks Burke has raised $213,929 over the last six months in her campaign for the 58th Senate district.

All told, Danks Burke has raised $385,894 for her bid to unseat Republican Sen. Tom O’Mara, her campaign said.

The campaign also pointed to the majority of her money coming from individuals, with 6 percent of the money being contributed by corporations or political action committees.

“It’s pretty clear to every voter in this district that Albany won’t choose to fix itself. The pay-to-play pattern that pulls our high taxes away from our region will only change by pushing from the grassroots,” said Danks Burke.

“We know we’re not getting our fair share for our schools, farms or for job investment, so voters from Arkport to Yates County and everywhere in between are joining our campaign, volunteering their time and contributing to get the change we need.”

Meanwhile, Danks Burke is scheduled to have a fundraiser held in her honor with Democratic activist and fundraiser Bill Samuels. Donations at the Tuesday event range from $500 to $2,500 (with contribution levels for younger Democrats given the event is being co-headlined by the New York State Young Democrats).

The event is also being co-hosted by CWA’s Bob Master and Sen. Liz Krueger as well as the New York State Rural Democrats.