State Senate

Flanagan Rips Cuomo’s RHA Support

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement Thursday blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push for the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, charging that is being brought about by the “singular fear” of Cynthia Nixon’s primary challenge.

The bill has been a flashpoint for Cuomo in the wake of the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the U.S. Supreme Court and the pending confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a development that could tip the balance for abortion cases at the high court.

Cuomo has vowed New York would serve as a bulwark if the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is overturned.

“Governor Cuomo’s singular fear is Cynthia Nixon tarnishing his newfound progressive narrative,” Flanagan said in a statement.

“He knows, as the Daily News pointed out in a recent editorial, that Roe is the law of the land in New York. Roe is federal law, no case is currently before the Supreme Court or even anticipated to be decided in the near future. Further, New York’s Attorney General offered a legal opinion in 2016 that Roe stands in this state.”

The RHA would shift language for abortions from the state’s penal code to the public health law, change abortion’s status as an exception to homicide and allow abortions in the third trimester of a pregnancy under certain circumstances.

Cuomo has released ad aimed at individual Republicans in the state Senate who represent potential battleground districts for Democrats, urging them to return to Albany and take up a vote on the bill.

Cuomo’s top aides scoffed at the statement, pointing to a Quinnipiac University poll this morning that found 73 percent of New York back the Roe v. Wade decision.

“What or who are you afraid of?” tweeted Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide. “Enough with the obfuscation — PUT THE BILL ON THE FLOOR”

Updated: Flanagan’s comments were criticized by reproductive rights groups.

“Senator John Flanagan chooses to stand with right-wing extremists and ideologues rather than with New York women,” said Robin Chapelle Golston, the president of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.

“His comments that women do not need to fear losing their constitutional right to abortion while the president has vowed to overturn Roe v. Wade defy logic. Senator Flanagan tells us to be complacent while the Trump administration is conducting a full-scale assault on our access to health care from destroying Title X, the nation’s oldest family planning program to packing the Court system with anti-choice zealots.”

Klein Picks Up Labor, Diaz Nods

Sen. Jeff Klein this week continued to rack up a series of endorsements from establishment figures and entities, including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and key labor unions.

“I am proud to receive the endorsement of my long-time colleague Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Borough President Diaz and I have worked together for many years to improve the quality of life for Bronx residents, transform our infrastructure, create economic development and jobs, and enhance services and tourism for all who visit, work and live in our borough,” Klein said Thursday in a statement.

“Our partnership is built on our shared commitment to serve our hometown and our neighbors through progressive, effective public policy and investment, and I am honored to have his support.”

Klein on Wednesday was endorsed by District Council 37, the largest public workers labor organization in New York City.

“DC 37 stands with Senator Jeff Klein because he has fought for our member’s rights and benefits, he shares DC37’s progressive values and, time and again, he has demonstrated his commitment to ensuring economic and social justice for all,” the union said.

“Senator Klein has worked to pass landmark legislation for working families, including the $15 Minimum Wage, Paid Family Leave, Universal Pre-K, and the SAFE ACT. During these difficult times, when there is so much hostility to working families in Washington DC, we need strong progressive leadership in Albany and that is why DC37 is proud to endorse and support Senator Klein.”

And Klein on Tuesday was endorsed by the New York City Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Klein is the former leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which folded in April and its members re-joined the mainline Democratic conference in the state Senate under a push backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Under the arrangement, Klein became the deputy minority leader in the chamber.

Multiple former IDC members face primary challenges this September.

Klein is being challenged in the Sept. 13 vote by Alessandra Biaggi.

Earlier this year, Klein was accused by a former staffer of forcibly kissing her in a 2015 incident. Klein has denied the allegation and has sought an investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Independence Party Endorses Basile For Senate

The state Independence Party on Wednesday endorsed Republican Tom Basile for the state Senate district being vacated by GOP Sen. Bill Larkin.

The endorsement of the party and securing its ballot line is helpful, given the push by Democrats to flip the district with Assemblyman James Skoufis.

“Our state faces challenges that don’t discriminate by political party,” said Party Chairman Frank MacKay. “That’s why it’s important that we have Senators willing to put people and common sense first and focus on the issues that matter to our families and economy. For decades Senator Larkin served the people of this district in a way that was fair and independent. He worked across the aisle to do the right thing. Tom Basile will represent this district the same way.”

The party has been criticized for its opaque platform and confusing it can sow among voters who believe they are registering as “independents” or blanks without party affiliation, but in reality have joined the Independence Party.

In a statement, Basile, a former official with the state Republican Committee, struck a non-partisan tone with the endorsement.

“More people view themselves as politically independent today because they lack confidence in the two-party system,” he said. “It is an honor to have endorsement of Chairman MacKay and the Independence Party. As Senator, I will be a voice in government for people who want greater independence from a corrupt state government that taxes and spends far too much for people to afford to live here. We’re all in this together. It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation or where you come from, you deserve to have the opportunity to make it in our area.”

Updated: Skoufis in a statement blasted the party and the process for its nomination.

“It’s a shame the Albany Independence Party bosses who feed at Senate Majority patronage jobs like pigs at a trough refuse to let the people be heard. No questionnaire. No interview. Our campaign even submitted nearly 800 signatures – 150 more than our opponent – clearly demonstrating who local Independence Party members prefer to run on their line,” he said.

“Most importantly, however, we are well-positioned to win in November with more ballot lines than our opponent, three times the funds on hand than our opponent, and a significant edge in on-the-ground support. In stark contrast to extremist Tom Basile, we look forward to delivering representation that this Senate District can be proud of.”

Gladd Hires Rhodes Campaign Chief For Senate Bid

Democratic state Senate candidate Aaron Gladd has hired the former campaign manager of congressional candidate Gareth Rhodes, a source with knowledge of the personnel move said.

Gladd is turning to Jesse Meyer in the race to succeed Republican Sen. Kathy Marchione in the 43rd Senate district, which encompasses parts of the Albany suburbs.

Meyer worked previously as a field organizer for Rep. Sean Patrick Maleony and was a regional field director for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in Nevada.

Gladd, meanwhile, reported raising $129,000 in his July filing and has $126,000 in cash on hand. Republican Daphne Jordan reported $35,249 in cash on hand.

Kaminsky’s Large Campaign Haul

From the Morning Memo:

It was not that long ago that Democratic Sen. Todd Kamsinsky’s seat was considered a battleground, tossup race that could decide who gains the upper hand in controlling the state Senate.

Kaminsky’s district, was once a consistently Republican one that had been represented by the scandal-scarred former Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

But Kaminsky in the current election cycle has built up a campaign war chest that is unusually large for a lawmaker in a minority conference who is not in a prominent leadership role.

Kaminsky’s filing made public Monday shows he has $758,227 in cash on hand after raising $427,638 in the last six months. He’s raised about $1 million in the current election cycle.

Some of his money comes from limited liability companies, a source that other candidates have said they won’t touch, and some appear to be LLCs tied to physical building locations, making their original, human donor, difficult to track. Kaminsky backs legislation that would close the “loophole” allowing unlimited donations through a web of LLCs.

Pre-petitioning deadline, no Republican had come forward to announce a challenge to Kaminsky — an eyebrow-raising development for a district that was the source of a hard-fought special election fill the seat vacated by Skelos when was ejected from the state Senate following his conviction on corruption charges. He’s since drawn Francis Becker as his Republican challenger.

Long Island is set to be a battleground once again for control of the narrowly divided chamber, where Republicans hold the advantage thanks to their alliance with Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder, who conferences with them.

Democrats hope to be competitive in races for districts held by Sens. Kemp Hannon, Carl Marcellino and Elaine Phillips.

But Republicans also see an opportunity in the seat held by first-term Sen. John Brooks, a Democrat who unseated Republican Michael Venditto in 2016 in what some GOP officials regard as a fluke: Venditto’s father was indicted on corruption charges; the younger Venditto was not involved.

Meanwhile, Republicans also hope to hold seats in the Hudson Valley, where Sens. John Bonacic and Bill Larkin are retiring.

In the Larkin district, Republican Tom Basile is expected to report raising more than $132,000 in the current filing period, with $261,000 raised this cycle alone — making him a stand out among GOP candidates in an open-seat race.

Williams Endorses Salazar In Bid To Oust Dilan

Jumaane Williams, the Democrat running a primary bid against Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, has endorsed the campaign of Julia Salazar against Sen. Marty Dilan in Brooklyn.

“Jumaane Williams has worked relentlessly to advocate for tenants and to bring the voices of our communities with him to City Hall,” Salazar said. “His bold leadership is exactly what we need in Albany, and I’m thrilled to endorse Jumaane to be our next Lieutenant Governor.”

The endorsement is interesting, given Dilan, though a longtime incumbent, has never bolted from the mainline Democratic conference in the state Senate. Several former members of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference have gained primary challengers, who have been buoyed by the support of incumbent officeholders in recent weeks.

“Julia is a strong progressive advocate who understands that people come before politics, and that incumbency cannot be the sole driver of an elected official,” Williams said. “I am proud to endorse her grassroots campaign for the New York State Senate, and look forward to working with her to create a more fair and equitable state.”

Peralta Launches Digital Ad Touting DREAM Act, Sanctuary State Support

Sen. Jose Peralta on Monday released a digital ad that highlights the diversity of his Queens district and his support for the DREAM Act as well as making New York a sanctuary state.

The digital ad comes ahead of Peralta’s Sept. 13 Democratic primary, facing Jessica Ramos, a former aide to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Peralta, a former member of the now-dissolved Independent Democratic Conference, pointed to his backing of the DREAM Act, which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants. The bill has stalled in the state Senate, where Republicans have campaigned against the measure’s enactment.

At the same time, the sanctuary state legislation, which would bar New York law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration enforcement efforts, has failed to gain traction in the Senate, either.

“Right now, only 5 to 10 percent of Dreamers attend college, and affordability is the biggest factor when undocumented students decide whether or not to go to college,” Peralta said. “As the lead sponsor I have made it my duty to support and be a champion for all the immigrants in my community and across the state.”

Maloney Endorses Jackson In SD-31

From the Morning Memo:

Rep. Carolyn Maloney on Monday will endorse state Senate candidate Robert Jackson in his primary bid against incumbent Sen. Marisol Alcantara.

Jackson, a former city councilman, is challenging Alcantara in the Sept. 13 primary, one of several primary contests faced by ex-members of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference.

“Robert Jackson is a high-integrity Democrat who has a long and consistent record of standing up for what’s right,” Maloney said.

“An education hero for his fight for our public schools, Robert has courageously fought for small businesses, reproductive health, paid family leave and promoted fairness, justice and equality. With Trump in Washington, we can’t afford to have GOP-aligned Democrats representing us in Albany. We know which side Robert Jackson is on and we can count on him to stand up and fight for women, immigrants and all of us. I’m proud to endorse Robert Jackson today.”

The IDC dissolved in April and rejoined the Democratic conference in the state Senate, but that has done little to quell progressive challenges that had previously declared campaigns.

And since then, some of those campaigns have gained momentum that’s only increased in the last several weeks following the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over incumbent Joe Crowley in Queens in a June congressional primary.

Jackson was previously endorsed by Rep. Jerry Nadler, as well as New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and former Mayor David Dinkins, among others.

Maloney survived a primary challenge of her own last month, turning back a challenge from Suraj Patel.

SD-5: NYSUT Endorses Gaughran

The New York State United Teachers union on Friday endorsed Democratic state Senate candidate Jim Gaughran in the 5th Senate district on Long Island.

The endorsement is interesting, given the Republican Gaughran wants to unseat is Sen. Carl Marcellino, the chairman of the Education Committee in the chamber.

“I thank the educators at NYSUT for endorsing my campaign and supporting my efforts to serve in the State Senate,” Gaughran said in a statement. “I am especially proud to have earned this endorsement because public service and supporting public education are core values to me. Our students deserve a world-class education, and that will only be possible if we invest in our public schools. I will fight to ensure our public schools and educators have the support and resources they deserve.”

NYSUT unsuccessfully this year pushed for the approval of a bill that would decouple state examinations from teacher evaluations, a measure that did not gain a vote in the Senate.

“After every single Senate Republican and several Democrats turned their backs on New York teachers and public school students at the end of this year’s legislative session, NYSUT vowed to remember who failed to stand with us. In this critical race, Jim Gaughran is clearly the better choice for public school teachers and their students,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “We are committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with Gaughran as we fight to restore local control of our schools and advocate for working families.”

Heastie: Assembly Won’t Return To Albany, But The Senate Should (Updated)

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a statement Thursday said his Democratic-led chamber won’t return to the state Capitol, but the Republican-controlled Senate must in order to extend a speed camera program for New York City that’s due to lapse at the end of this month.

In the statement, Heastie also called on the Senate to approved the Reproductive Health Act, a bill that would strengthen abortion rights in New York as called for by Gov. Andrew Cuomo amid the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Assembly previously approved both measures.

“Let me be clear – the Assembly will not accept a watered down version of the Reproductive Health Act and will not play political games with women’s health,” Heastie said.

“Senate Republicans should also stop playing politics with the safety of our children and pass the extension of the speed camera bill. The lives of our children are too important to be worried about preserving political power.”

Sen. Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican, said in a statement Wednesday he wants a special session of the Senate to extend the speed camera program, which would shut down cameras placed near schools should it expired by July 25.

It’s not clear if Senate Republicans would be willing to return; any bills that pass would likely need Democratic support, given the potential for absences of some lawmakers.

“Senate Republicans must stop standing in the way of progress here in New York,” Heastie said. “They need to stop trying to water down good bills in order to please their ever-shrinking political base.”

Updated: Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif in a statement ponited several measures lawmakers in the Assembly could take up, including extending mortgage recording taxes in upstate counties.

“They ignored our comprehensive school safety package that would have kept students safe and given parents peace of mind. They folded their arms and refused to discuss important education reforms, as well as legislation to extend New York City’s speed camera program” Reif said.

At the same time, he pointed to the package of transparency measures sought by government reformers for economic development.

“On top of that, they failed to pass common-sense procurement reform and the so-called “database of deals” that would have introduced much-needed transparency and accountability to the state’s economic development programs – – instead siding with the corrupt Cuomo administration. As for his statement that he won’t accept a ‘watered down’ RHA, it’s important for the public to know that passage of this bill would represent a radical policy shift that would allow non-doctors to perform abortions and allow them right up until the moment of birth,” Reif said.

“We are always open to having real and substantive discussions if they can lead to a positive result for the people of this state, but if anyone is playing politics it’s the Speaker and his Cuomo-controlled Assembly.”