State Senate

Independence and Intrigue in SD-53

From the Morning Memo:

Perhaps there’s potential for Simcha Felder-type situation in Central New York, but a lot of cards need to fall into place first.

Democratic candidate Rachel May officially won her primary over incumbent Sen. David Valesky, following the counting of absentee ballots yesterday. However, Valesky will still appear on the November ballot, since he holds the Independence Party line, and potentially the Women’s Equality Party line as well.

Whether he will actively campaign as an independent candidate, however, remains an open question.

“Now that all the votes have been counted, I congratulate Rachel May on her win in the Democratic primary,” Valeksy wrote on Facebook. “Ms. May and her supporters deserve credit for their hard work and tireless advocacy on behalf of progressive causes.”

“Since last week’s primary, countless individuals have urged me to actively campaign as an independent. Out of respect for them, I will take some time to consider all options going forward.”

Should he decide to stick it out, Valesky has a few things going for him – namely the power of incumbency and just short of $400,000 in his campaign coffers as of 11 days before the primary. He is also running in a district that includes most of the city of Syracuse, where just last year Mayor Ben Walsh ran a successful independent campaign.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Janet Burman isn’t expected to make much noise. She has run unsuccessfully for several other offices, and she has less than $2,000 in campaign money.

There’s also the matter of her name being conspicuously left out of a statement issued yesterday by Onondaga GOP Chairman Tom Dadey, in which he urged voters not to choose May in the general election.

“If Rachel May is elected to the Senate, she will bankrupt this state and make our communities more dangerous and our families less safe,” Dadey wrote. “There is an alternative to Rachel May and the Democrat socialists who are attempting to takeover our state government, and the voters of the 53rd Senate District would be wise to choose it.”

Might this be a sign that the GOP be open to backing Valesky in November?

Burman is not a lawyer, so she can’t be nominated for a judgeship and would only be able to get off the ballot if she moved out of the district. If the party could convince her to suspend her own campaign, it could either actively throw institutional support behind Valesky, or at a minimum, stay out of the race.

Then the question is this: If the incumbent were to launch a successful third party campaign with tacit – or even outright – support from the local GOP, who would he conference with in the state Senate?

Valesky is one of the founding members of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, which helped the Republicans maintain control of the majority.

Despite a deal to reunify with mainline Democrats earlier this year, he and five other former members were defeated by a slate of progressive insurgents during the primary. Come next session, there will be no IDC, but it’s possible Valesky could decide to side with Republicans again.

After all, Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, has been doing so for years, and has at times wielded significant influence as a result. Thanks to Felder, the GOP currently hold a one vote edge in the chamber, but Democrats have high hopes of taking back the majority in November.

That means SD-53 could turn into a swing district, depending on what Valeksy – and, more importantly – CNY voters, decide to do in November.

Gallivan Not Sold on Collins Re-elect

From the Morning Memo:

Add state Sen. Pat Gallivan’s name to the list of Western New York Republicans who aren’t thrilled with the idea of sending disgraced Rep. Chris Collins back to Washington as he’s battling charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.

During a CapTon interview last night, Gallivan, who took himself out of the running early on as a potential replacement for Collins on the November ballot – back before the congressman decided he would seek re-elect despite his legal troubles after all – said he needs to be convinced to vote for Collins, though he didn’t express a preference for any other candidate.

“For me, I’m one of his constituents, my district – all but two or three towns – sit wholly within that 27th Congressional District, and I think that Congressman Collins has to make his case, make a case to his constituents – myself included – in order to be re-elected,” the senator said.

When pressed on whether that means he can’t be counted on to vote “yes” on Collins, Gallivan replied:

“I serve the citizens, and I try to be responsive to the citizens that I serve, and I think he needs to do the same. He has said publicly that he is innocent of these charges, and I think that what he needs to do tell us about it, tell us that he is innocent and convince us that he is.”

“And if he can successfully do that, then he can be re-elected. I think he owes that, he has said that publicly, he now owes that to his constituents.”

WNY GOP officials had been struggling to figure out how to get Collins off the general election ballot and replace him with someone else – all while Democrats threatened to challenge any such move in court.

But Collins this week made their decision for them, announcing that on the advice of his attorneys, he had decided to run for re-election, and subsequently has said he plans to actively campaign while also fighting to clear his name.

The Cook Political Report has moved the NY-27 race to “leans Republican” from “likely Republican,” saying Collins flip-flop on his re-election bid improves the chances of his Democratic opponent, Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, despite the overwhelming GOP enrollment edge in the district.

Skoufis Adds Endorsements by PEF, RWDSU

From the Morning Memo:

State Senate candidate James Skoufis has picked up additional union support as he seeks to flip retiring Republican Sen. Bill Larkin’s seat into Democratic hands in November.

The assemblyman has been endorsed by the Public Employees Federation, New York’s second-largest state workers union; as well as the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

“The Public Employees Federation is proud to endorse Assemblyman James Skoufis in his election bid to the New York State Senate,” PEF President Wayne Spence said.

“Assemblyman Skoufis has dedicated his entire public service career to helping working families, ensuring our children receive a quality education, and fighting for better wages and improved healthcare for all New Yorkers. At a time when anti-union forces are ramping up efforts to tear us down, we know Assemblyman Skoufis will have our backs in the New York State Senate.”

As we saw in last week’s Democratic primaries, organized labor remains a force to be reckoned with in New York, despite the decline of unions elsewhere in the country.

Labor helped turn out the vote for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his race against actress-turned-activist Cynthia Nixon, having repaired the rather rocky relationship it has had with him since he took office; and also assisted a number of insurgent state Senate candidates defeat incumbent former IDC members.

Larkin’s Hudson Valley seat is one of five opening up this fall due to retirements by GOP incumbents. It is one the Democrats are counting on to change hands as they push to regain control of the chamber.

Skoufis has similarly received the backing several powerful state unions such as AFL-CIO, NYSUT and CSEA. He faces Stony Point councilman, Republican Tom Basile, in this November’s general election.

Gaughran Endorsed By Child Victims Act Backer, Gun Control Group

Democratic state Senate candidate Jim Gaughran on Thursday picked up the endorsements of Long Islanders Against Gun Violence and Gary Greenberg, an upstate businessman who is one of the prominent supporters of the Child Victims Act.

Gaughran, running for the Long Island district represented by Republican Sen. Car Marcellino, pledged to push both issues if elected.

The Child Victims Act is meant to make it easier for the survivors and victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits. The measure has stalled in the Republican-led state Senate.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved the first gun control legislation since the SAFE Act in 2013, a measure that blocks those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing a firearm.

Gaughran says he wants to go further, drawing in more misdemeanor sex crimes that would prohibit a person from owning a gun.

“How can anyone oppose protecting children and keeping dangerous sex crime offenders away from our communities and unable to purchase guns,” Gaughran said. “My proposals would ensure that anyone on the state’s sex offender registry would be blocked from owning firearms and would have to vote by absentee ballot to keep them away from our schools and families who go to polling places. These are common sense plans that should have been enacted a long time ago, and I will fight for them to be passed into law when I am elected to the State Senate.”

Forbes Fundraises For Basile

Basile - Forbes Invite Business and Republican former presidential candidate Steve Forbes will headline a Sept. 28 fundraiser for GOP state Senate candidate Tom Basile.

Tickets to the event range from $250 to $5,000 in New York City.

Basile, a former executive director of the state Republican Committee, is running for the Hudson Valley Senate district being vacated by retiring Sen. Bill Larkin.

The district is one of several battleground races facing Republicans this fall in their effort to hold their narrow majority in the chamber.

Basile faces Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis.

Basile has been lining up the support of prominent New York Republicans for his campaign, with events being hosted by former Rep. Chris Gibson this week and ex-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer earlier in the summer.

Eleanor’s Legacy Backs Strong With Digital Ad

From the Morning Memo:

Eleanor’s Legacy is backing Democratic state Senate candidate Pat Strong with a digital ad that highlights her background as a small business owner and support for the environment.

“Protecting the environment is critical to our region’s long-term economic prosperity and high quality of life,” Strong said.

“The fight against climate change is creating and maintaining good jobs in Upstate New York, and I thank Eleanor’s Legacy for highlighting this major issue.”

Strong is running for the Senate district represented by Republican George Amedore, a seat that has fallen into Democratic hands once before, but has been generally considered safe for the GOP in recent cycles.

“Pat Strong is the leader we need in Albany,” said Brette McSweeney, the group’s executive director.

“She is a successful business owner with a vision of a vibrant upstate New York, where communities grow with good-paying jobs and our natural resources are resilient to climate change and pollution. To preserve and protect the best that Upstate has to offer, it’s critical that we elect Pat Strong to the New York State Senate.”

Basile Endorsed by Orange County Legislator

From the Morning Memo:

Orange County Legislator John Vero endorsed Republican Tom Basile in his bid for retiring GOP Sen. Bill Larkin’s seat in the 39th District – a key battleground in the ongoing fight for the majority.

Vero, a Republican, represents County District 10, which includes the town and village of Chester as well as parts of Warwick.

“Tom Basile has a plan that will encourage our local governments to be pro-active in ensuring that development takes place in a sustainable manner,” Vero said.

“His foresight and willingness to put forward substantive proposals that assist our communities with important issues is why I’m proud to support Tom to be our senator.”

The seat is one Democrats hope to flip this November, and also is one of five positions that are opening due to GOP retirements. Democratic voter enrollment in the district leans Republicans, and a sizable portion of so-called “blanks” – voters unaffiliated with any political party – exists as well.

Basile is a Stony Point councilman and former state GOP executive director, who also worked in former President George W. Bush’s administration. He faces a challenge from three-term Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis.

Longshot Candidate Cleary Releases Digital Ad In SD-2

The Democratic candidate hoping to unseat state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in his home district has released her first campaign commercial.

East Northport horticulturist Kathleen Cleary’s campaign says the digital advertisement will target prime voters in Senate District 2. The political newcomer faces an uphill battle against the Republican who’s been in the state Legislature for 30+ years.

The spot begins with the candidate explaining she decided to run for office because the majority leader was holding up the Women’s Reproductive Health Act, which aims to strengthen abortion rights in New York State.

“If we were to lose Roe V. Wade, women’s right to an abortion would only be if their life was at stake, not if their health or their fertility, but their life. My first pregnancy nearly killed me. Five months later, my second pregnancy left me infertile,” she said.

The ad continued to claim Flanagan holds up many bills that would be beneficial to voters. Cleary said he is taking constituents for granted and is beholden to corporate donors.

The candidate has announced endorsements from New York State United Teachers and Communications Workers of America Local 1180. She has raised roughly $15,000 according to her July campaign finance report.

Flanagan has more than $1.4 million in his campaign coffers.

“Majority Leader Flanagan serves this state and his district with distinction, focusing on issues that matter to everyday people like cutting taxes, generating jobs and creating an affordable New York,” Flanagan campaign spokesperson Candice Giove said.

The campaign went on to say it is unfortunate any candidate would use the Roe Supreme Court decision as a talking point given it is already the law of the land and the state Attorney General’s Office previously offered a legal opinion that it stands in this state.

“The Reproductive Health Act goes far beyond Roe, allowing non-doctors – like nurses, nurse practitioners, and even doulas – to perform abortion, a medical procedure, up until the moment of birth,” Giove said.

She said the bill also diminishes protections for domestic violence victims when unborn children are killed, referencing a specific case in Bronx County earlier this year as an example of the current law’s value.


State Senate To Examine Cuomo’s Conditional Pardons

The New York State Senate will host two public hearings to examine the state’s current parole policies and the governor’s use of executive order to grant conditional pardons allowing parolees to vote.

This year Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, pardoned more than 24,000 individuals, drawing criticism from many of his opponents, including a number of Republican State Senators. Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee Chair Pat Gallivan, R-Elma, was among those critics.

Gallivan annouced the hearings jointly with the chair of the Elections Committee, Fred Ashkar.

“I am troubled by the seeming automatic release of cop killers, sex offenders and violent felons who now have had their rights restored through a questionable process,” Gallivan said. “The governor’s blanket pardon of approximately 25,000 convicted felons, who have yet to pay their debt to society, is wrong. We need to examine current parole policies and the impact of the governor’s Executive Order to ensure public safety is properly served.”

The governor’s executive order received almost immediate backlash when he issued the first round of pardons in May, although prisoners’ rights advocates and civil liberty groups applauded the move. The criticisms continued as state senators and Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro expressed concern about the potential for convicted sex offenders to vote in school polling places during the primary.

The governor’s office has maintained the executive order puts New York on par with 16 other state – liberal and conservative – in restoring voting rights to the formerly incarcerated. The hearings take place on October 1 and October 2 in Albany and Long Island respectively.

Skoufis Hits the Airwaves

Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis, who is running for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Bill Larkin, is going up on the air with his first TV ad of the campaign – a spot that focuses on assistance he provided a New Windsor woman to help get insurance coverage for her ailing son.

Skoufis makes only a few brief appearances in the ad, which, interestingly, makes no mention of his party affiliation. He doesn’t have a speaking role. Instead, it’s mainly a testimonial from Heather Miele, a constituent of the assemblyman who says he helped push a reluctant medical insurer to provide coverage for her 9-year-old son, Nicholas, whose specific ailment is also not mentioned.

Miele also introduced Skoufis at his initial announcement of his candidacy for the 39th Senate District seat back in May, saying he was very responsive to her needs, meeting immediately with herself and her husband after they called his office, and managing to resolve their issue within 24 hours – not just once, but twice.

Skoufis is running in the general election against Tom Basile, a Stony Point councilman who has been endorsed by Larkin – one of five Republicans who decided not to seek re-election this fall, complicating the GOP’s already uphill battle to retain its slim hold on the majority in the chamber.

Skoufis’ campaign did not provide any details about where the new ad will be airing, other than to say that it goes up today. Also unavailable: Information about the size of the buy, other than the fact that it was characterized as “significant.”

Here’s the transcript of the ad:

“When you have a child that has the medical issues that my son does, fighting these insurance companies becomes a full time job. I had gotten so frustrated I didn’t know where to turn. A friend told me to call James Skoufis, and I’m so glad I did.

James stood up to the insurance companies and really put his foot down. Instead of getting letters that start with ‘unfortunately,’ we’re now getting letters that start with, ‘good news, you’ve been approved.’ Thanks to James I can focus again on my number one job: Being a mom.”