State Senate

‘Friend & Neighbor’ Amedore’s First TV Ad (Updatedx2)

Former Assemblyman George Amedore has won the airwaves race in his re-match with Democratic Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, releasing the first TV ad of the 46th Senate District contest.

Interestingly, the spot makes almost no mention of the campaign, focusing instead on Amedore’s work assisting flood with clean-up in the aftermath of Irene and Lee, which hit parts of the district very hard.

The ad, which will start to air next week, portrays Amedore as a sort of hometown hero, with testimonials from people who witnessed him helping others.

This is all part of an effort to soften Amedore’s image following his close loss to Tkaczyk – by just 18 votes – two years ago.

In that race, the former Republican assemblyman came off as a sharply-dressed successful businessman (his family owns Amedore Homes in Guilderland) and political insider, while Tkaczyk, a former school board member and farmer, was the political newcomer just trying to fix a broken government system.

This time around, Amedore has ditched the suits and ties in favor of button-down shirts with the sleeves rolled up. What he hasn’t given up are his conservative positions – particularly when it comes to abortion rights, which is shaping up to be a big sticking point in this race.

Now it’s Tkaczyk who’s the insider, and – according to Amedore and his fellow Republicans – a member of the downstate dominated Democratic conference that wants to take control of the chamber and give upstate the short end of the stick.

And Tkaczyk also has an incumbent’s edge when it comes to fundraising, with $236,643 on hand as of the last state Board of Elections’ filing in mid-July to Amedore’s $142,183.

This race is one of a handful of closely contested contests being fought around the state as the Republicans and Democrats battle (again) for control of the chamber.

In 2012, outside interests keen on making Tkaczyk into the poster child for public campaign financing spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on her behalf. So far, that kind of independent expenditure spending has not materialized this year.

Here’s the script for Amedore’s ad:

Rita Treesdale: He was here every day, full of mud from head to toe.

Female narrator: When the floodwaters devastated our community, George Amedore was there helping, day after day.

Ollie Rhimer: I’d always see him working away with his family, tearing down walls and helping everybody. He was ripping down sheetrock, and pulling up old rug, and cleaning up mud and debris, right alongside the victims.

It was just like some neighbor coming over to give you a hand.

Female narrator: Our friend, our neighbor. George Amedore.

Updated: Senate Democrats sent over two statements.

“George Amedore can try to hide the truth but voters will see through his lies,” said spokesman Gary Ginsburg. “The facts are simple, George’s values are way too extreme and out-of-step with those of the residents of the 46th Senate District and George has a history of supporting businesses who ship jobs overseas and standing against equal pay for equal work for all New Yorkers.”

Shortly after, Ginsburg sent a second statement from Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton.

“When the floods hit Fort Plain last year, Senator Tkaczyk was here immediately, helping with our clean-up and recovery efforts. And she kept coming back, bringing State officials, community development experts and investors with her. She said she would do all she could to help us, and she kept her word.”

UPDATE2: And now we have a statement in response to the Democratic statements from Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif, who will be getting the last work here, because we won’t be accepting any more statements.

“The hardworking residents of the 46th Senate District can see with their own eyes that Cecila Tkaczyk has a habit of saying one thing and doing another, just like when she pledged not to send political mail at taxpayer expense and then went on to spend $81,000 in just six months – - more than any other Democrat in the entire State Senate,” Reif said. “Despite what her political cronies say, it’s clear that Cecilia Tkaczyk doesn’t keep her word.”

Sierra Club Endorses Avella

Another environmental organization has endorsed Sen. Tony Avella’s re-election.

The Queens Democrat on Tuesday received the endorsement of the Sierra Club — a nod that comes after the lawmaker got the backing of the New York League of Conservation Voters, who are making his campaign a top priority this cycle.

“The Sierra Club is proud to endorse Tony Avella and help return his leadership to the Senate”, said Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “Avella has stood apart as the Senate’s leading voice in protecting New York’s environment and has played a key role in building the movement that has held fracking at bay in the Empire State. Anyone who appreciates clean air and water owes Senator Tony Avella a debt of gratitude.”

Avella, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, faces former city Comptroller John Liu in a Democratic primary.

“The Sierra Club has been a leader among environmental organizations, from keeping New York’s drinking water clean to leading the fight against hydrofracking, they have been a crucial partner in protecting New York’s environment. For all these reasons and more, it is my honor to accept their endorsement. I look forward to continuing to stand side-by-side with them in the battle to defend New York State’s vital water resources,” Avella said in a statement.

Sierra Club this week endorsed Zephyr Teachout’s campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Sept. 9 primary.

NYLCV Taps Avella as Pre-Primary ‘Top Priority’

As he faces a tough primary challenge from former NYC Comptroller John Liu, Sen. Tony Avella has picked up the support of the New York League of Conservation Voters, which today will name the Queens senator its top priority candidate in advance of the Sept. 9 election.

In an email to its members, the NYLCV touted Avella’s “tireless work” on some of the organization’s key agenda items, like getting toxic chemicals out of children’s products, promoting clean energy and protecting clean drinking water.

“Whether he was leading the charge on the Child Safe Products Act, or making sure regulations are in place that will safeguard our drinking water from hydraulic fracturing, Tony has kept the environment a top issue in the Senate,” the email states.

“And that’s just what we need if we’re going to make New York safer and healthier for everyone.”

The NYLCV’s support comes with a “significant” five-figure independent expenditure on Avella’s behalf that will include phone banking, door knocking and a GOTV strategy.

Avella can certainly use the assistance. He has been trailing Liu in fundraising, and this primary fight has divided Queens Democrats and organized labor.

A few unions are sticking with Liu despite the deal for the IDC and regular Democrats to reunite after the general election – an agreement that grew out of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s endorsement battle with the labor-backed Working Families Party.

Avella, however, is being supported by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who helped broker Cuomo’s WFP endorsement deal, and the healthcare workers union SEIU 1199.

The WFP initially backed Liu, but is now neutral in this primary battle, along with one in the Bronx, where former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell is trying to topple IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

A source familiar with the NYLCV endorsement process said both Liu and Avella filled out questionnaires and interviewed to receive the group’s nod.

But at the end of the day, the source said, Avella impressed the NYLCV board with his record and “political courage” on the organization’s issues – especially his push for the Child Safe Product Act, even though it never got to the Senate floor for a vote.

When he defected from the so-called “regular” Democrats to join the IDC this past February, Avella was bumped up to vice chair of the Senate’s Environmental Committee from the position of ranking member.

The NYLCV is also increasing its PAC budget this year from $350,000 in 2012 to $385,000 – in part due to greater independent expenditure spending.

Avella isn’t the only candidate the NYLCV is backing in advance of the September primaries. Its full list of endorsed candidates can be found here. There will be another round of endorsements – including in statewide races – in late September.

The pre-primary list includes GOP Sen. Jack Martins, whose support by the NYLCV has sparked a bit of a war between the NYC-based organization and a Long Island environmental group.

The Long Island Environmental Voters Forum protested Martins’ support by the “Manhattan-based” League.

The local group is particularly upset that the Senate never voted on the Long Island Water Quality Control Act, and has expressed support for Martins’ Democratic challenger, Adam Haber.

Citizens Union Prefers Sampson And Smith Opponents

The good-government group Citizens Union on Friday unveiled a slate of candidate preferences, including the Democratic primary opponents to two under-indictment Senate Democrats, Malcolm Smith of Queens and Brooklyn’s John Sampson.

Citizens Union announced it prefers both Dale Smiterman, a former labor official, who is challenging Sampson, as well as Leroy Comrie, who is Smith’s opponent.

Sampson faces embezzlement charges, while Smith is accused of attempting to bribe his way onto the Republican mayoral ballot.

“With the unfortunate rise in corruption in New York and the resulting withering public trust in our political process, it is so important that we educate voters on where candidates stand on good government issues,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “Through an avid and prudent process, we evaluate candidates, placing our preferences with great care and thoughtfulness with the intention of supporting the election of those candidates best possible to serve their communities and the state in an honest and principled manner and who are reform-minded with a plan.”

The group also backed Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, who faces a primary challenge from former city Councilman Oliver Koppell, and IDC Sen. Tony Avella, who is fending off a challenge from John Liu, the former city comptroller, for the Democratic ballot line.

Meanwhile, Citizens Union announced it prefers former city Councilman Robert Jackson over incumbent Democratic Sen. Adriano Espaillat.

“As co-Leader of the Senate, Senator Klein has been an effective senate leader in a challenging power-sharing dynamic who is also an outspoken champion of campaign finance reform and strong supporter of the constitutional redistricting amendment,” Dadey said in a statement. “Though we have supported John Liu in the past for elected office and are open to it again in the future, we decided to stick with incumbent Senator Avella, given his proven track record in the four years he has been in Albany.”

The full preferences list is after the jump. More >

Arnold Back In Senate Race

Gia Arnold, the Republican candidate for Senate who dropped her bid after admitting to an extramarital affair earlier this month, announced she is re-starting her campaign.

In a statement Friday, Arnold said she made her previously announcement “thinking more of my current situation, rather than the big picture.”

Arnold is re-entering the race for the western New York seat after receiving an outpouring of support.

“We do need someone in Albany who will represent us all, in making things better, and telling the truth about all aspects of that public service,” Arnold said. “I have realized, after much thought and prayer, that I am still that candidate, despite my shortcomings, and it has been pointed out to me by the hundreds and hundreds of messages I have received.”

Arnold had initially entered the race as a primary challenger to Sen. George Maziarz in the 62nd Senate District.

Maziarz, a longtime Republican lawmaker, announced this summer he would not run for re-election amid a possible probe into his campaign finances.

Republican North Tonawanda Mayor Robert Ortt jumped into the race after Maziarz dropped his re-election bid.

UFT For Espaillat

The United Federation of Teachers annnounced Friday it had given its nod to Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s re-election.

Espaillat, a Manhattan Democrat, is facing a stiff primary challenge from former Councilman Robert Jackson, an ally of Rep. Charlie Rangel.

“Adriano Espaillat has been a dedicated advocate for New York City kids and schools, and we are proud to support his reelection,” said UFT President Mike Mulgrew in a statement. “Adriano was a passionate voice in the fight for universal pre-kindergarten funding this year, and worked hard to secure the $300 million investment in our children’s future. He is dedicated to closing the achievement gap in low-income neighborhoods, and is helping ensure all students have the opportunities they deserve to succeed.”

The endorsement is noteworthy, since Jackson was the chairman of the council’s Education Committee and part of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity’s lawsuit.

Espaillat was endorsed several weeks by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has strong ties to the UFT’s leadership.

GOP Primary Challenge to Libous Back On

The fall elections have become a bit more complicated for Sen. Tom Libous, the Senate GOP’s second highest-ranking member who is suffering from both legal and health problems.

A mid-level appeals court yesterday reinstated Libous’ GOP primary challenger, Tioga County businessman Denver Jones, overturning a lower court ruling that Jones’ campaign failed to submit enough petition signatures to get him onto the Sept. 9 ballot.

The state Board of Elections had ruled that 743 of the 1,713 signatures Jones submitted were invalid, leaving him 30 short of the 1,000 required for ballot access.

A state Supreme Court justice subsequently determined on Aug. 18 that Jones’ petitions were permeated with fraud, leaving him with 835 signatures.

The Supreme Court Appellate Division determined that Jones had not, in fact, engaged in fraud by “falsely attesting to signatures he knew to be inauthentic.” (There’s an incident at a pizza parlor described in the ruling that’s a little confusing).

Also, the appeals court rejected arguments by Broome County Republican Party Vice Chairman Paul Van Savage, who initially challenged the validity of Jones’ petitions, that individuals who circulated the petitions were either ineligible to do so or did not correctly collect signatures.

The appeals court restored all 203 signatures on Jones’ petitions that had been ruled invalid by either the state Board or the Supreme Court, bringing his tally back up to 1,173.

This is not the last word on Jones’ petitions, however, since the appeals court returned the case to the state Supreme Court for further consideration.

In the meantime, Jones’ camp is declaring at least a partial victory, with the candidate’s attorney telling the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin that the ruling was “a huge step in the right direction.”

A Libous spokesman lamented the fact that the appellate court didn’t agree with the Supreme Court’s decision, but said the senator looks forward to “running on his record.”

Libous was not considered particularly vulnerable this fall, despite the fact that he has been battling terminal cancer. But his indictment in July on charges that he lied to federal investigators about allegedly helping his son get a job at a politically connected law firm changed that.

The senator also has a Democratic challenger, former Vestal Town Supervisor Anndrea Starzak, who suggested during a recent Capital Tonight interview that Southern Tier voters need someone more “energetic” and less distracted to represent their interests in Albany.

Higgins Backs Kennedy In WNY State Senate Race

Congressman Brian Higgins is backing State Senator Tim Kennedy in his upcoming Democratic primary against Erie County Legislative Minority Leader Betty Jean Grant. While not completely unexpected, Higgins’ endorsement will likely be seen as an important vote of confidence for Kennedy.

“He’s been a refreshing voice in Albany and he continues to be very effective,” said Higgins.

Higgins backing couldn’t have come at a better time for Kennedy.  A recent dust up with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and the Erie County Democratic Committee appeared to be giving Grant’s candidacy momentum.

“The Erie County Democratic Committee has a different opinion than other Democrats in this community,” Higgins said.

The South Buffalo Democrat told Capital Tonight’s Liz Benjamin that Poloncarz and the committee leadership have their “reasoning” for endorsing Grant, but he believes those reasons aren’t shared by other Democrats in Western New York.

“I think the best candidate will win and I think Tim Kennedy has demonstrated over a very short period of time that he can be a very effective, clear voice on behalf of Buffalo and Western New York,” Higgins added.

Poloncarz ‘partially’ blamed Kennedy, and his financial support of a Progressive Political Action Committee for Democratic losses at the polls last fall.  Poloncarz said the PAC Kennedy donated $100,000 to supported challengers to candidates who were running on the Democratic line for the Erie County Legislature.

Kennedy’s camp claimed Poloncarz support of Grant was political retaliation for Kennedy shedding “needed light on major deficiencies within Erie County government.” Specifically, what a Kennedy spokesman called problems in Erie County Child Protective Services.

AFL-CIO Backs Dems In Key Races, Backs Liu

The AFL-CIO concluded its day of endorsements Monday afternoon, backing a slate of state legislative candidates and incumbents, including Democrats running for re-election in key battleground races.

The umbrella labor group also gave its nod to former city Comptroller John Liu, who is running a primary challenge against Queens Sen. Tony Avella, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference.

But in a nod to the IDC, the AFL-CIO endorsed the rest of its conference, including Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat who is being challenged in a primary next month by former Councilman Oliver Koppell.

The union also backed three incumbent Senate Democrats who considered among the mainline conference’s most vulnerable: Sens. Cecilia Tkaczyk, Terry Gipson and Ted O’Brien.

No endorsement was made in the second Senate district, where Democrat Adrienne Esposito and Republican Tom Croci are vying for the seat being vacated by GOP congressional candidate Lee Zeldin.

“Our members want a state that prioritizes the creation of good, long-term jobs and strong investment in the public services all New Yorkers rely on,” said AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento. “But, that only happens if we elect the right candidates to office. Union members from throughout the state will work together in a coordinated effort to ensure that our endorsed candidates, and in turn an agenda that puts workers and their families first, are successful on election day.”

In Radio Ads, Abortion Foes Blast Senate Democrats (Updated)

The Chiaroscuro PAC, a group opposed to abortion, has released a trio of radio ads aimed at vulnerable Senate Democrats running for re-election this year.

The ads are tailored to the districts of Sens. Terry Gipson, Cecilia Tkacyzk and Ted O’Brien, three freshman members of the mainline Democratic conference.

A sample ad can be heard here.

The spots — all titled “I Am” — criticize the lawmakers for backing a provision in the 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda that supports say is aimed at codifying the federal Roe v. Wade decision in state law, but opponents say is an unnecessary expansion of existing laws.

“New York is already considered the abortion capital of America; do we really need to extend late-term abortions into the eighth or ninth month? Do we really want to let non-doctors perform abortions on children? Statewide public polling shows that Senator Tkacyzk is way out of the mainstream in her positions.”

The ads come as Democrats are creating the Women’s Equality Party, a new ballot line that is aimed at highlighting support for the women’s agenda package, which was first proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013 and includes anti-housing and workplace discrimination measures and a provision aimed at curtailing human trafficking.

O’Brien, a Rochester-area Democrat, meanwhile, is creating a ballot line centered around upstate taxpayers in order to highlight his support for the state’s cap on property tax increases.

Updated: Here’s a response from Tkacyzk’s campaign.

“Chiaroscuro PAC and other radical groups are spreading lies about the women’s equality agenda,” said spokesman Jim Plastiras. “The women’s equality act would simply codify the over 40 year old Roe v. Wade decision into State law, and to say that it would do anything else is a lie. Anti-choice extremist George Amedore, and his Republican allies should be ashamed of themselves for lying to the public.”