State Senate

GOP Mayor Hoping to Replace Maziarz Gets Two More Endorsements

North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt picked up two more endorsements Wednesday night in his bid to replace retiring New York State Senator George Maziarz. Ortt was endorsed by the Conservative and the Independence Parties in the 62nd State Senate District.

“What Albany needs is someone who will bring the leadership of a veteran and experience of a chief executive to represent the people of Niagara, Orleans and Monroe Counties,” said Ortt.

Ortt has already received the backing of the Republican Party.  To appeal to conservatives Ortt has not only promoted his combat service in Afghanistan, he also pledged this week to repeal the New York SAFE Act.

Senator Maziarz, who voted against the SAFE Act, has been criticized by conservatives for not doing enough to repeal it.  Maziarz announced his retirement this month just days before it was revealed a federal investigation was launched into his campaign spending.

“As Senator, I will work toward a smaller, more common sense government that respects the rights of our citizens and the rights of my neighbors. That’s what we have done in North Tonawanda, together, and what we will work to do in Albany,” Ortt added.

Conservative Gia Arnold is challenging Ortt in a Republican Primary.  Niagara Falls resident Johnny Destino is running on the Democratic line.

New York’s 62nd Senate District includes all of Niagara and Orleans counties, as well as the towns of Sweden and Ogden.

Lawyering Up, Ball Pays Tacopina $25K

Less than a week after announcing he wouldn’t run for re-election, Republican state Sen. Greg Ball retained the services of attorney Joe Tacopina for $25,000, his campaign finance filing made public on Tuesday shows.

Ball, a Hudson Valley lawmaker who is stepping down after two terms in the Senate, also reported expenditures from his campaign account dating back to 2007, showing payments for car loans, restaurant tabs, hotel stays and even wine.

Tacopina, a high-profile lawyer who has represented baseball player Alex Rodriguez and former Sen. Hiram Monserrate, has defended Ball’s use of campaign funds and threatened to sue various critics of Ball, including Assemblyman Steve Katz.

Ball’s campaign finances have come under scrutiny in recent weeks after it was revealed his campaign spent money travel without itemizing it.

Ball, of course, is not the only state lawmaker to use campaign funds to pay lawyers.

Both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, facing a lawsuit over his handling of a sexual harassment case, and the under-indictment Sen. Tom Libous have spent campaign money to pay their legal fees in recent weeks.

Grisanti Doubles Down vs. Undocumented Immigrants

Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti, who is facing a GOP primary battle this fall and so far does not have the support of local Conservatives, is continuing to make political hay from various Democratic proposals to assist undocumented immigrants in New York.

His latest salvo is an on-line petition against a plan, introduced just as the 2014 session drew to a close by Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera, called the New York is Home Act, which would enable nearly 3 million noncitizens who meet specific criteria to apply for citizenship with New York’s Office for New Americans.

“This is the most outrageous proposal I have seen during my four years in the Senate,” Grisanti said in a statement released this morning. “It would not only allow illegal immigrants to vote and run for office in state and local elections, it would allow them to get driver’s licenses, serve on juries, and become eligible for Medicaid.”

“It would also allow them to receive in-state college tuition rates and financial aid. The New York City liberals never seem to learn that middle-class families are sick and tired of funding their politically motivated giveaway programs. I will oppose this legislation every step of the way.”

This is a continuing theme for the Democrat-turned-Republican Western New York senator, whose very first TV ad of this year’s campaign (released back in April) focused on his opposition to the DREAM Act, which would help the children of undocumented immigrants access state cash to attend college. Grisanti voted “no” on the DREAM Act when it was brought to the Senate floor in March and failed to pass.

Grisanti is typically considered one of the more moderate members of the Senate Republican conference - a reputation earned by ”yes” votes on two bills pushed by Cuomo: same-sex marriage and the gun control measure known as the SAFE Act.

He faced a Republican primary in 2012 that was backed by Carl Paladino, the Buffalo businessman who ran for governor on the GOP and Conservative lines in 2010. Grisanti won re-election that year in a crowded three-way race that included Democratic and Conservative Party candidates. (He had lost the Conservative Party’s support thanks to his support of gay marriage – ironically, the party backed a Democrat that year - but is the only one of the four GOP senators who voted “yes” on the measure still sitting in the Senate chamber).

This year, the Conservatives have again taken a pass on Grisanti, backing a palceholder candidate pending the outcome of a GOP primary, in which Grisanti faces a challenge from attorney Kevin Stocker. Sotcker failed in 2012 to knock the senator from his perch.  But Stocker is angering local GOP leaders by trying to wage a write-in campaign on the line belonging to the WFP, which is working hard to flip the Senate into Democratic hands.

If he succeeds, Stocker would challenge Democrat Marc Panepinto on the WFP line in September while also running against Grisanti on the GOP line.

Grisanti has the Independence Party line, which means he’s assured at least one line on the November general election ballot. (Rus Thompson, the Paladino-backed Independence Party member who had been threatening to run, won’t be appearing anywhere on the ballot either in September or November).

Conigliaro Launches Bid Against Addabbo (Updated)

Senate Republicans on Monday announced they had coalesced around real-estate attorney Michael Conigliaro to run against Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Addabbo in Queens.

“My campaign will focus on the issues that are important to the forgotten middle class; creating jobs, cutting taxes and making sure that the next generation has an even better shot at life. Quite frankly, it’s not enough to stand on the sidelines and simply complain about the status quo. I’m running for State Senate because I want to change things for the better. I believe I can make a difference,” Conigliaro said in a statement.

Addabbo is a frequent target for the Senate GOP. Earlier this year, Republican former city Councilman Tom Ognibene was interested in running for the job and went as far as circulating petitions, but ultimately declined.

In 2012, Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich took on Addabbo in one of the costliest state Senate races that year.

In a statement, Ulrich signaled his support for Conigliaro.

“I’m supporting Mike Conigliaro because he’s honest, hard-working and understands that public service is a privilege, not an entitlement,” he said. “Mike will make a great State Senator. He’s the real deal and someone who we can count on to deliver real results. I’m proud to endorse him in this race.”

Updated: The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee’s Executive Director Josh Cherwin weighs in.

“After being rejected by numerous preferred choices and acknowledging that they will not be providing financial support to this race, the Republicans are turning their political problems into a comedy by not even having announced candidates until weeks after nominating petitions were submitted. Senator Addabbo will be re-elected because the people of his district know that he represents their views and stands up for them in Albany.”

Senate Democrats Hope Panepinto Can Unseat Grisanti (Updated)

Senate Democrats are looking toward attorney Marc Panepinto to unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Mark Grisanti in Buffalo.

In doing so, they point to his fundraising advantage over Grisanti, which is fueled in part by a $54,000 contribution from Panepinto himself to the campaign.

They also point recent endorsements from the statewide teachers union as well as 1199/SEIU, the latter of which endorsed Grisanti in 2012.

“I decided to run for State Senate because the residents of the 60th Senate District deserve real leadership and are not receiving the results they require from our current State Senator. For our regional and statewide economy to once again prosper we need raise the minimum wage, lift millions out of poverty and allow local governments to better address the needs of their constituents by providing municipalities with the ability to raise their own minimum wages. I am honored to receive the support of hardworking men and women throughout New York State and I will continue to fight to ensure the residents, families and businesses who call the 60th Senate District home receive the quality government services and support they deserve.”

That being said, Grisanti has been a top, but elusive target for Senate Democrats.

Grisanti first won his seat in 2010, defeating Democratic incumbent Antoine Thompson, and helping Republicans gain control of the Senate.

Two years ago, the Democratic effort to win the district back became bogged down in the fog of western New York politics, with the party’s preferred candidate, Chuck Swanick, running on the Conservative Party line.

Grisanti won the race handily.

In the interim, Grisanti supported the legalization of same-sex marriage and is one of only four Republicans who backed the 2011 measure to remain in office.

Grisanti has forged mutually beneficial ties with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration while also distancing himself from other liberal-supported bills, most notably taking a firm stand against the Dream Act.

Grisanti is once again running in a battleground district, but a Democratic victory there is far from a foregone conclusion.

Updated: Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif responds.

“Is this the candidate who Mike Gianaris and the New York City Democrats are supporting now, after they successfully pushed aside a woman who wanted to run for this seat as a Democat? If leftist New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the radical Working Families Party and the Senate Democrats are allowed to control this seat, hardworking Western New York taxpayers are going to get the shaft — just like they did when Democrats controlled the Senate in 2009-10 and raised taxes by $14 billion,” Reif said.

Paladino Calls Maziarz ‘Poster Child For Term Limits’

Several Western New York Republicans have come to the defense of retiring New York State Senator George Maziarz in recent days; former GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Carl Paladino is not one of them.

“I think George is probably a poster child for term limits,” Paladino said. 

Maziarz has served in the Niagara County based 62nd state senate seat for two decades.  It’s a tenure Paladino believes was too long.

“After a while they start to feel like a king, you know King George,” said Paladino. 

It’s a characterization the Buffalo businessman has repeated over the years, and one that now appears to be gaining traction.  At about the same time Maziarz announced his retirement, reports surfaced the U.S. Attorney’s Office was looking into his campaign spending.

What started as a Moreland Commission report that showed $140,000 in unspecified campaign expenditures continues to expand.  The Albany Times Union reported Friday Federal investigators are now examining unitemized checks that were made out to cash, but never reported to the state board of elections.

The latest questions center on funds from the Maziarz campaign account that were reportedly given to a youth softball team and thousands of dollars in purchases from a WNY business.  Maziarz Campaign Treasurer, Laureen Jacobs, has been asked to turn over documents but her attorney wouldn’t provide any further details.

And although charges have not been filed, Paladino isn’t giving Maziarz the benefit of the doubt. 

“In my book, he was the guy that held Niagara County down,” Paladino said. 

Paladino believes the investigation into Maziarz campaign spending is nothing compared to what he didn’t do.  That criticism has to do with what Paladino describes as more than $1 Billion from the New York State Power Authority’s budget. 

That money, according to Paladino, was generated through the sale of unused allocated power.  Money that Paladino insists should have been spent on development in Western New York.

“George turned the other way as Cuomo was sweeping the account for the last four years.  He never ensured that that money would stay here for Western New York’s benefit.  That’s the kind of stuff that bothered me about George.”

It may take some time before Maziarz’s legacy is clear.  While the jury is still out in the court of public opinion, Paladino made up his mind long ago.  

“George is going to walk away with a million, one hundred thousand dollars in his campaign account and Western New York is no further ahead today than it was when George originally took office,” Paladino added.


Republicans Have Found An Opponent For Latimer (Updated X2)

Joseph Dillon, a Bronxville-based public relations and political consultant, plans to launch a campaign for state Senate against incumbent Democrat George Latimer, several people familiar with his plans said.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Dillon has worked for the Treasury Department during the second Bush administration and has worked in the private sector for Visa and American International Group.

For the last four years, he has run his own consulting firm JLD Consulting.

Latimer, a lawmaker first elected in 2012, represents a swath of the suburban county stretching from Yonkers through the Long Island Sound area and into northern Westchester.

Republican former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer was reportedly interested in running for the district, but ultimately declined.

Republican Jean Maisano declined to run for the post this week.

Latimer’s race last in 2012 was one of the more heated — and expensive — contests that year with the Democrat facing off against businessman Bob Cohen.

Update: Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Executive Director Josh Cherwin fires a few pre-emptive shots at Dillon.

“The Senate Republicans must be truly desperate if they have to resort to having a former-AIG staffer to sneak onto the ballot at the last minute and run for State Senate. While Joseph Dillon and his co-workers were contributing to the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, George Latimer was serving the residents of Westchester County and working to build a stronger New York State. The Senate Republicans clearly had a difficult time convincing someone to run against Senator Latimer if they were forced to settle on this flawed candidate.”

Update X2: Republicans responded to the Democratic attack on Dillon.

“Joe Dillon offers the voters of the 37th Senate district in Westchester a contrast that scares career politicians like George Latimer. Dillon is a father and husband who has been a public servant, entrepreneur and businessman while George Latimer has spent his entire career as a partisan politician who has put politics before people. Latimer’s record of consistently raising taxes — including the job-killing MTA payroll tax and his opposition the property tax cap — and taking positions wildly out of the mainstream have put him out of touch with the average middle class family in Westchester. Joe Dillon is ready to discuss Latimer’s voting record, one of the most extreme in the Senate, and offer voters a fresh choice and voice that is truly representative of the values shared by hardworking Westchester families.”

Teamster Council 16 Endorses Esposito In SD-3

Adrienne Esposito, the environmental advocate vying for an open state Senate seat in Suffolk County, was endorsed Friday by the Teamsters Joint Council 16.

“More Teamsters live in that district than any other statewide,” said George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16. “New York workers need an ally like Adrienne in the State Senate and the Teamsters will be mobilizing our members to get her there.”

The third Senate District is up for grabs this year as incumbent Republican Sen. Lee Zeldin runs for Congress against Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop.

Initially Esposito was due to face Republican Anthony Senft, but he dropped out of the race in the midst of a controversy over waste dumping in a local park.

Republican Islip Supervisor Tom Croci is now seeking the Senate seat.

“I am truly humbled to be endorsed by Teamsters Joint Council 16 because I come from a middle-class family with deep union roots, and I understand just how important it is to fight for good, middle-class jobs,” Esposito said in a statement. “I want to go to Albany to pass a comprehensive jobs plan, which includes fighting for fair wages, worker dignity, and workplace safety.”

The Senate district is one of about a half-dozen competitive districts around the state.

NYSUT Endorses Senate Democrats Facing Key Races

The statewide teachers union on Friday announced it had issued early endorsements to three incumbent Democratic state senators who are expected to be in competitive races this fall.

The New York State United Teachers is endorsing Sens. Cecilia Tkaczyk who represents portions of the Hudson and Mohawk valleys, Terry Gipson of the Poughkeepsie area and Ted O’Brien of Rochester.

Tkaczyk faces former Assemblyman George Amedore, Gipson will compete against Sue Serino and Republican Rich Funke is running against O’Brien.

At the same time, the NYSUT Board of Directors voted to endorse Justin Wagner, a Democrat who is running for the district being vacated by Republican Sen. Greg Ball. Republicans Terrence Murphy and Bob Castelli are vying for the GOP nomination.

All four districts are potentially fertile territory for Republicans, with Gipson and O’Brien holding seats originally held by GOP lawmakers. Tkaczyk’s seat was drawn by Republicans during the redistricting process, but she edged out Amedore in 2012 by 18 votes.

All three Democratic incumbents are running for a second term and are top targets for Senate Republicans, who are trying to maintain control of the chamber after the Independent Democratic Conference announced it would end its majority coalition agreement with the GOP.

Campaign finance filings this week show NYSUT contributed a combined $102,300 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee’s account.

“New York State United Teachers today issued early endorsements to three incumbent state senators who have reliably stood with parents and educators in fighting for fair and equitable funding while vigorously opposing the climate of over-testing that is harming students and public schools,” NYSUT said in a statement.

Senate Dems All In With Party-Switching Marcellino Opponent

Emboldened by the recent setbacks experienced by the Senate Republicans, the Senate Democrats are expanding their reach to support challengers to veteran incumbents previously believed to be nearly impossible to dislodge – including Long Island Sen. Carl Marcellino.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and DSCC Chairman Mike Gianaris will be on hand tomorrow afternoon when Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy – a Republican who only recently joined up with the Democrats – formally kicks off his campaign against the 71-year-old Marcellino, who has held his seat since 1995.

Kennedy had been slated to challenge Democratic Assemblyman Charles Lavine – as a life-long member of the Republican Party. He was officially nominated by the Nassau County GOP (run by former state GOP Chairman Joe Mondello), and everything.

But the local Republicans pulled their support of the mayor after the Conservative Party objected to the fact that Kennedy had, in his mayoral capacity, officiated over two same-sex marriages and refused to repudiate the 2011 Marriage Equality Act (passed with the assistance of four “yes” votes from Republican senators) that made gay marriage legal in New York.

Kennedy was upset that Marcellino failed to speak out on his behalf, or even attempt to intercede with party leaders after they yanked their support for the mayor’s Assembly campaign. “I was abandoned by the party,” Kennedy told the North Word News. “Why would I want to be a part of a party that deems me unfit for obeying the law?”

Kennedy also said that his values “as they relate to human rights do not reflect views of the Nassau County Republican leadership,” and he believes elected more Democrats to the Senate would be good for Long Island residents because they “tend to be more in touch with the middle class.”

Democrats have a slight enrollment edge in the 5th SD, with 78,515 enrolled members to the GOP’s 74,250 as of April 1, according to the state Board of Elections. There are also 3,133 enrolled Conservatives, 9,917 members of the Independence Party, 731 Working Families Party members and 58,088 “blanks” who are not affiliated with any political party.