State Senate

Gun Control Group Endorses Grisanti

A pro-gun control organization that has been one of the more vocal supporters of the SAFE Act on Tuesday endorsed Buffalo Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti’s re-election.

Grisanti, who voted for the SAFE Act in 2013, lost his Republican primary last month to Kevin Stocker, but retains the Independence Party ballot line next month.

“We are proud to endorse Senator Grisanti for re-election,” Leah Gunn Barrett, the group’s executive director. “Mark Grisanti is a strong and independent voice in the State Senate who has always acted in the best interests of his constituents, not party bosses or monied special interest groups.”

Despite losing the primary, Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos endorsed Grisanti’s re-election as well.

Republicans have trained most of their attacks in the 60th Senate District against Marc Panepinto for a previous election-law violation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who supports a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate this fall, has not said whether he will endorse Grisanti, the last Republican lawmaker in the Senate to have backed same-sex marriage in 2011.

While Cuomo has said it was Grisanti’s vote for the marriage law that cost him the Republican line, the lawmaker survived re-election in 2012. It was likely Grisanti’s vote in favor of the SAFE Act, which has drawn the ire of firearms advocates and gun owners, that is most attributable to his loss.

Biz Council Rolls Out More Senate Endorsements

The Business Council is backing Republican challengers in key Senate swing districts, the statewide lobby group on Tuesday announced.

The organization is also backing Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx, who does not face a serious challenge next month for re-election.

The Business Council today endorsed Republican challengers Sue Serino, George Amedore and Rich Funke — all of whom are running to unseat Democratic incumbents.

The council gave its nod to Republicans who hope to keep districts in the GOP column: Terrence Murphy, Tom Croci, Michael Venditto and Robert Ortt.

“Our endorsements of challengers and candidates running in races for open Senate seats are based on these candidates’ intent to support The Business Council’s pro-growth policies, and in several cases, the candidates’ pro-growth performance in other public offices,” said Heather C. Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council.

And the council is backing Sen. Marty Golden of Brooklyn, a Republican who also has the nod from 1199/SEIU.

The Business Council earlier this month endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, for re-election over his Republican challenger, Rob Astorino.

In general, the business community has backed Republicans in the state Senate as the party seeks to maintain power in the chamber, with groups pouring thousands of dollars into independent expenditure committees backing GOP candidates.

On the Democratic side, a coalition of labor groups, the Working Families Party and Mayor Bill de Blasio are seeking to give Democrats full control of the chamber.

Unshackle Upstate, NFIB Mail In Key Senate Districts

From the Morning Memo:

Two business groups have launched a joint, $40,000-mail campaign in two upstate Senate districts on behalf of Republican candidates.

In total, NFIB and Unshackle Upstate are sending out 140,000 pieces of mail to voters in the Hudson Valley and Albany area.

The mailers will be sent to voters who will decide key Senate races. Two mailers are aimed at criticizing Democratic Sens. Terry Gipson and Cecilia Tkaczyk, while the other two pieces are positive, aimed at highlighting Republicans Sue Serino and George Amedore and tout their endorsements from Unshackle and NFIB.

“George Amedore knows what it takes to run a successful business and create jobs,” says the Amedore-related mailer. “That’s why George Amedore has been endorsed by New York’s leading business and taxpayer organizations NFIB and Unshackle Upstate.”

The positive-themed mailer for Serino strikes a similar tone.

The negative mailers both tie Gipson and Tkaczyk to New York City-based interests and knock them for their legislative scorecards as compiled by the two business groups.

“We need a State Senator who will fight for us, not for wealthy special interests from New York City,” the mail pieces say.

The 46th Senate District race in particular is one of the more expense state Senate races this year.

The campaign is a rematch between Amedore, a Republican former assemblyman, and Tkaczyk, who defeated him by only 18 votes in 2012.

Amedore is also receiving help from the Real Estate Board of New York, a group of New York City landlords who are investing in Senate races via Jobs for New York.

On the Democratic side, the super PAC Friends of Democracy announced a $230,000 TV ad campaign on Tkaczyk’s behalf.

Meanwhile, in the 41st Senate District, Gipson is running for re-election after winning two years due to a crowded three-way field.

Republican Sen. Stephen Saland, a GOP lawmaker who backed same-sex marriage, lost in part because of the presence of Conservative Party nominee, Neil DiCarlo, in the general election.

Democrats this year are defending these two seats, plus the district represented by Sen. Ted O’Brien in the Rochester area.

O’Brien, a freshman lawmaker, faces former broadcaster Rich Funke.

Democrats hope to play defense in two Long Island seats, as well as a Hudson Valley district that’s being vacated by Sen. Greg Ball.

View the mailers after the jump. More >

Molinaro Defends Serino On Energy Tax Vote

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro is calling on Democratic state Sen. Terry Gipson’s campaign to take down a TV ad that knocks Sue Serino for backing a repeal of a residential sales-tax exemption.

“Terry Gipson’s latest ad stating state Senate candidate and County Legislator Sue Serino voted for the repeal of the exemption of sales tax on residential energy is inaccurate,” Molinaro said in a statement. “Sue voted NO on the resolution to repeal the sales tax exemption on residential energy sources and that’s a matter of fact and record (county resolution 2013341). The ad should stop running immediately.”

Serino, a county legislator, voted against a resolution to repeal the exemption, but Democrats have seized on her vote for the county budget writ large, which included built-in revenue from the sales tax.

In his statement, Molinaro says the vote for the budget, but against the tax is beside the point.

“To say or imply that Serino supported the sales tax on energy is not true,” Molinaro said. “Her opposition is and was well known even though she did vote for the county’s 2014 budget.”

The race between Gipson and Serino is considered one of the key battles for state Senate control this year.

Senate GOP Keeps the Heat on Denenberg

Technically speaking, Democrat Dave Denenberg isn’t running anymore for the Long Island state Senate seat once held by former GOP Sen. Chuck Fuschillo. The Nassau County legislator dropped out of the race in late September, after a lawsuit by his former law firm accused him of defrauding a client of more than $2 million by billing for “fictitious” services that he never performed.

But Denenberg’s name remains on the ballot after Nassau County Democrats decided against the only option available to them to remove him from their line – nominating him for a judgeship. Though Denenberg isn’t actively campaigning against his GOP opponent, Nassau County Legislator Michael Venditto, Senate Republicans aren’t taking any chances, launching another attack ad that highlights his legal troubles, both past and present.

The GOP needs to hold all its seats on Long Island, including the 8th SD, which was left vacant by Fuschillo’s abrupt retirement on New Year’s Eve 2013, as part of its strategy for winning back control of the chamber. The Democrats viewed Denenberg as their best chance for a pick-up on the side, but have since transferred their attention to Adrienne Esposito, who is battling Republican Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci for another open seat – the one being vacated by state Sen. Lee Zeldin, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1.

Another active race on Long Island pits businessman Adam Haber, a Democrat, against Republican Sen. Jack Martins. Denebger’s implosion freed up time and resources for the Senate Republicans to spend on defending Martins.

A Long Island GOP source says there’s a “shadow campaign” pushing Denenberg, who continues to serve in his capacity as county legislator, despite calls – most notably, from former US Senator-turned-lobbyist Al D’Amato – for him to step down.

Here’s the script for the new anti-Denenberg ad, which hits the airwaves today and is similar to a past ad that said the Democratic attorney would “fit right in” with the string of Albany lawmakers busted on corruption charges:

Announcer: “There’s no other way to put it, Dave Denenberg is a criminal. First Denenberg is arrested and convicted for fraud and deceit. Then Denenberg is fired from his law firm for stealing $2 million from his clients, creating fake bills for work he never did. The kicker: Denenberg forges more than one judge’s signature to cover it all up. We already have too many criminals in Albany. Do we really need another one. No, Mr. Denenberg, we don’t.”

Watch Here >>

NYLCV Hits Airwaves For Grisanti, Announces Statewide Slate

With just two weeks remaining until Election Day, the New York League of Conservation Voters is poised to announce its third and final top priority candidate: Sen. Mark Grisanti.

The League is launching a new TV ad on behalf of the Western New York Republican, which highlights the fact that he is no longer running on the GOP line after losing his own party’s primary to attorney Kevin Stocker, and instead will appear solely on the Independence Party line.

Grisanti joins two other candidates – Democratic freshman Sen. Ted O’Brien, of Rochester, facing off against Republican Richard Funke; and Andrienne Esposito, a Democratic environmental activist who running against GOP Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci for the Long Island seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Lee Zeldin – as the NYLCV’s top priority candidates this season.

The League also went all in for Queens Sen. Tony Avella, a member of the IDC, in his successful campaign against his Democratic primary opponent, former NYC Comptroller John Liu.

The NYLCV is on track to spend $700,000 worth of independent expenditures to assist candidates on both sides of the aisle this year – more than double the $300,000 it spent in 2012.

That cash goes to cover mailers, TV ads, GOTV campaigns and door-to-door canvasses for its priority candidates.

The NYLCV has two ads out for O’Brien – a negative spot that slams Funke; and a positive spot that focuses on O’Brien’s support for the Child Safe Products Act, which made it out of the Senate Environmental Committee and had enough sponsors to pass, but never got to the floor for a full house vote.

The League’s main goal is to defend allies who advance its agenda in the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, which Grisanti chairs. O’Brien is the committee’s ranking member.

The NYLCV is also announcing its support of the re-election campaigns of two statewide Democrats – Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

When it comes to the state attorney general’s race, however, the League is splitting the baby, taking the unusual step of endorsing both candidates: Incumbent Democrat Eric Schneiderman and Republican John Cahill.

Here’s the Grisanti ad:

Second Time’s a Charm; In 2014, Cuomo for Gipson

You probably saw this one coming, given today’s Hudson Valley Women’s Equality tour, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s earlier endorsement of one of the region’s top Democratic state Senate candidates, Justin Wagner.

The governor and his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, just announced their support for freshman Sen. Terry Gipson, who is fighting hard to fend off a challenge from Republican Dutchess County Legislator Sue Serino.

“As Senator, Terry Gipson has demonstrated a clear commitment to economic development, women’s equality and affordable housing,” Cuomo said in a statement released by his campaign.

“We need Senator Gipson back in office this November in order to look out for the needs of the Hudson Valley.”

This is a particularly interesting turn of events, since Cuomo didn’t support Gipson in 2012. Instead, the governor backed then-GOP Sen. Steve Saland as a “thank you” for the senator’s “yes” vote on same-sex marriage.

Saland ended up losing the election, thanks to the presence on the ballot of a Conservative candidate, Neil DiCarlo, with whom the now-former senator split the vote on the right.

A Siena poll released earlier this month showed Serino leading Gipson by 12 percentage points in the 41st SD. He won the three-way race in 2012 with just 44 percent of the vote.

Like Wagner, Gipson’s effort to petition his way onto the governor’s Women’s Equality Party line was unsuccessful. In fact, just two Democrats – IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins – will join the statewide ticket on the WEP line next month.

UPDATE: I’m reminded by the regular Senate Democrats that businessman Adam Haber, who is running against GOP Sen. Jack Martins on Long Island, also qualified for the WEP.

Cuomo’s Second Senate Democrat: Justin Wagner (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today announced his second general election endorsement of a state Senate Democratic candidate, issuing a statement of support for Justin Wagner, who is making his second attempt at winning the Hudson Valley seat currently occupied by GOP Sen. Greg Ball.

The Cuomo campaign this morning issued a press release timed to coincide with the Hudson Valley tour of the governor’s Women’s Equality Express bus, which is actually being “manned” (pun intended) by Cuomo’s running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul.

“I am confident that Justin Wagner will bring a new energy to Albany that will help make the Hudson Valley an even better place to live, work, raise a family and start a business,” Cuomo said.

“And by signing the Women’s Equality Pledge, Justin has also demonstrated a clear commitment to advance the rights of New York women.”

In a departure from the past two weekends of bus tours, Cuomo isn’t actually on the Women’s Equality Express. He had a busy day yesterday, taking a whirlwind tour of the Dominican Republican Puerto Rico to pay his “respects” to, and acknowledge the growing clout of, Latino voters back home.

Last weekend, Cuomo made his first endorsement of a Senate Democratic candidate, announcing his support for Adrienne Esposito. The environmental activist is running for the Long Island seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Lee Zeldin, who is vacating his seat to challenge Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1.

The bus made its first stop at Mt. Kisco Public Library in Mt. Kisco, its second stop at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, and its third and final stop at the Rondout Neighborhood Center Gym in Kingston.

Wagner, an attorney from Croton on the Hudson in Westchester, narrowly missed defeating Ball in 2012 after a very contentious campaign. He announced his intention in November 2013 to seek a re-match against Ball, but the senator decided not to seek re-election this fall, and is widely believed to be planning a relocation to Texas.

The Republicans picked Terrence Murphy, a Yorktown councilman, to square off against Wagner in the 40th SD. The race has become increasingly heated, as the Democrats believe they have a good chance at picking up the seat.

As in several other closely fought Senate races, the Women’s Equality Act has been a central focus of the Democrats’ campaign strategy in the 40th SD.

As part of its efforts to engage directly with voters, the Cuomo campaign and his allies in the women’s rights movement are encouraging all New Yorkers to sign up for women’s equality text alerts by texting “voteWEP” to 225568.

This effort has caused some consternation among the governor’s fellow Democrats, who worry this WEP push could hurt their effort to re-take the majority because most Democratic Senate candidates were not able to qualify to run on the minor party line.

Wagner was one of the Democrats who failed to make the cut for the WEP line.

The WEP push is also worrying Working Families Party officials, on whom the similarity between “WEP” and “WFP” is not lost.

The governor is running on the WFP line, and needs to receive at least 50,000 votes there in order for the party to retain its official status – and, more importantly, its ballot line. But he is not urging voters to support him on Row D, preferring instead to focus on his WEP campaign.

Updated: The Murphy campaign weighs in.

“These women faced discrimination, sexual harassment, and were paid less than men for doing the same job,” said T.J. McCormack, a Murphy spokesman. “When they took their case to court, Justin Wagner’s firm victimized them again.”

REBNY’s Push For Republicans In Senate Continues

The Real Estate Board of New York’s investment in Senate Republican candidates continued this week with thousands of dollars being poured into the group’s PAC, Jobs for New York.

All told, the group funded by New York City landlords spent more than $225,000 in its efforts to help Republicans keep control of the state Senate.

Filings with the state Board of Elections show REBNY spent $20,277 in mailers on behalf of Republican Senate candidate Tom Croci, who is running against Democratic candidate Adrienne Esposito in an open Senate seat in Suffolk County.

In Nassau County, the group sent $20,189 on mail for Sen. Jack Martins, a Republican who is defending his seat against Democrat Adam Haber.

The group’s filing also shows $18,000 spent on polling.

And the group invested $15,475 in television ad production on behalf of Republican former Assemblyman George Amedore, who faces Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk in a rematch.

Jobs for New York also reported spending a combined $151,499 on wages for staff working on Amedore’s race, as well as in the Hudson Valley districts where Sue Serino faces Democratic Sen. Terry Gipson and in the open seat between Republican Terrence Murphy and Democrat Justin Wagner.

The spending on behalf of the Senate GOP comes as the statewide teacher’s union increases its efforts on behalf of Democrats.

New York State United Teachers VOTE COPE reported spending $62,500 on behalf of Wagner, along with $114,000 in mail and polls for Marc Panepinto, a Democrat in Buffalo.

An additional $125,000 was spent to help Gipson in the Hudson Valley.

Trade Group Endorses Grisanti

The Empire State chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors has endorsed Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti for re-election.

Brian Sampson, the group’s new president, broke the news on Capital Tonight in an interview last night.

The group had previously endorsed Republican Senate candidates running in key races, but had held on endorsing Grisanti up until now.

Sampson said in the interview that the Associated Builders and Contractors had to do “a little more work” researching the four-way race before giving Grisanti, a two-term incumbent, their nod.

“I want to make sure that your viewers understand that out in that district there is no better candidate to be elected on Nov. 4 than Mark Grisanti,” Sampson said. “He is someone who has delivered for his constituents, he has delivered for western New York… he’s delivered for his constituents, he deserves to go back to Albany.”

Grisanti lost his Republican primary to Kevin Stocker last month, but retains the Independence Party line.

Senate Republicans have focused most of their ire on Democratic candidate Marc Panepinto, knocking him for a previous election-law violation.

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos endorsed Grisanti last week in a statement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has also not ruled out endorsing Grisanti’s re-election given that he is the last sitting Republican in the Senate to have supported same-sex marriage in 2011.