State Senate

Koppell Dings Klein, Backs His Primary Opponent

Former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell, who unsuccessfully challenged his fellow Bronx Democrat, Sen. Jeff Klein, in a 2014 primary, today is announcing his support for the woman currently trying to unseat Klein this September, Alessandra Biaggi.

In a statement obtained by CapTon, Koppell said Biaggi’s election “will send a powerful message and take us one step closer to the progressive Democratic majority we deserve—one that passes stronger rent laws, the Dream Act, real campaign finance reform, and the Reproductive Health Act to firmly protect a woman’s right to choose in New York.”

“Alessandra Biaggi will help enact the progressive agenda that Senator Klein’s IDC/Republican alliance has unconscionably blocked for the past seven years,” Koppell continued. “And she’ll bring new Democratic energy to a State Senate that needs it.”

The timing of Koppell’s announcement is ironic, given the fact that the Senate Democrats came one step closer to controlling the majority with yesterday’s win in a Westchester special election of Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer over Republican Julie Killian.

All that remains now is convincing Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder to reconsider his decision to remain with the Senate GOP through the end of the session – an effort Gov. Andrew Cuomo apparently has personally undertaken – and the Democrats will once again be in charge in the upper house.

But Koppell is apparently siding with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that feels the reunification of the warring Democratic factions in the Senate, which was engineered by the governor a few weeks ago as he started to significantly feel pressure from his own primary challenger, actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, is too little, too late.

The Working Families Party is backing Biaggi and other Democrats who are challenging IDC members, and has not dropped that support in the wake of the peace deal brokered by the governor. (The party is also backing Nixon, which has led to split among its the labor and activist wings).

In his statement, which will be in wide release later today, Koppell accused Klein of empowering Republicans in New York, helping them raise millions of dollars not only to maintain control of the majority, but to further the “Trump agenda.”

According to Koppell, who is also a former NYC Council member, Klein has “betrayed the Democratic Party and hindered the realization of Democratic policies in New York State and nationally.”

Biaggi, a former counsel for Cuomo who also served as a top aide on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said she is “thrilled” to have Koppell’s support, adding:

“He has championed issues throughout his distinguished career in public service that will be top priorities for me — from consumer protection and tenants’ rights to environmental conservation and government reform.”

One might ask just how significant Koppell’s endorsement is in terms of his ability to move voters. As Klein and his supporters would no doubt point out, Koppell conceded the race back in 2014 as the senator was maintaining a 25-percentage point lead on primary night.

It’s also worth noting that back in 2014, Klein announced his intention to realign his then-breakaway conference, the IDC, with the so-called regular Senate Democrats, but then never followed through. Koppell maintained his primary challenge to the senator anyway, running with the endorsement of the New York Times.

Democrats Win, But Republicans Retain Power

From the Morning Memo:

There’s a new status quo for Democrats in the state Senate: The Independent Democratic Conference is dissolved and they have 32 enrolled members, enough for a narrow working majority after keeping two seats in their column following special elections on Tuesday.

But for now, that’s not the case. There have been 32 registered Democratic members of the state Senate in recent years, but the disbanded IDC is no longer keeping Republicans in power as either a key bloc of votes or in an outright majority coalition.

It’s now down to one man: Sen. Simcha Felder, who insisted on Tuesday, hours before the polls closed in special elections in the Bronx and Westchester County, that he would not go anywhere, at least until the end of the legislative session, which concludes in June.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing political pressure from the left to push Democrats to a majority, was similarly insistent on Tuesday evening at the victory party for Democrat Shelley Mayer that all Democrats in the Senate — Felder included — must work together.

“And my friends, today is just the beginning,” Cuomo said. “Because we now have 32 registered Democrats under the leadership of Andrea Stewart-Cousins and we expect and believe 32 registered democrats are going to come together and form a Democratic majority. And today is just the beginning, because we are going to go out and work every day until November, and we are going to send Washington a message and we are going to elect a Democratic House to stop this Republican president freight train.”

On social media, Cuomo went further, with his Twitter account posting “We now have 32 Democrats under the leadership of @AndreaSCousins.” As Republicans pointed out in a statement of their own, that’s not true.

“The New York City politicians who think it will be easy to flip the State Senate and impose their radical agenda on the people of New York should take heed,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.

“Our Majority represents the checks and balances, and the real accountability that hardworking taxpayers need and deserve. Without us it’s one party rule, higher taxes, runaway spending and New Yorkers will be less safe.”

It’s not clear at this point what Cuomo can do, exactly, to move Felder out of the Republican fold.

Felder does not face similar political pressures that Sen. Jeff Klein and members of the IDC faced that led them to rejoin the Democratic conference. He has made clear he will back whichever conference he feels is best for his constituents, many of whom are Orthodox Jews.

Democrats may well continue to look toward November, when their base is expected to turnout heavily in down-ballot races.

“To be certain: this is a great night for us and our shared New York Values as we add our State to the momentum of the “blue wave” as it heads into November,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, the chairman of the state Democratic Committee. “And, my friends, this is just the start of all the progress yet to come.”

Senate Democrats Win 2 Open Seats, But Not A Working Majority

Senate Democrats on Tuesday won a pair of open seats in the state Senate giving them 32 enrolled members in the 63-seat chamber, but for now are denied a working majority.

Democrats Luis Sepulveda and Shelley Mayer declared victory in two open Senate districts, in the Bronx and in suburban Westchester County.

The latter race was a costly special election to fill the vacancy created at the start of the year by George Latimer’s departure to become Westchester County executive.

“This has been an amazing campaign, and I am so proud to be the next State Senator for the 37th District. It was a spirited and hard-fought race, but this campaign was always bigger than me,” Mayer said in a statement. “All of us are part of something bigger, a movement for change, a blue wave rising in special election after special election. Tonight, that wave rolled across Westchester, from Yonkers to Bedford.”

But earlier in the day, and as votes were being cast in 11 special elections for legislative seats across the state, Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder announced he would continue to conference through the end of the session with Senate Republicans. Felder, an enrolled Democrat, had been considered a wildcard in the push to reunite Democrats in the chamber.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month announced a peace deal between the mainline Democratic conference in the state Senate and the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference. The move led to the dissolution of the IDC, one step in Democrats taking a majority this month.

Pushing Felder out of the Republican conference was considered a different, potentially more cumbersome chore for Democrats in New York. Felder in an interview earlier in the day would not say if Cuomo personally sought to apply pressure on him to switch conferences.

Facing a Democratic primary challenge on his left from Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo appeared at a rally for Mayer in the district and push GOTV efforts from the state Democratic Committee.

Regardless, the altered status quo stands in the Senate with Republicans maintaining a narrow majority, but Democrats arrayed to take power, hopeful that a wave year could spread to down ballot races.

“These electoral wins are part of the ‘blue wave’ sweeping our state and nation which will help even more Senate Democratic candidates win in the upcoming General Election,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“Now is the time for all Senators elected as Democrats to work together and achieve the functional Democratic Majority that New York voters elected this past November, and again tonight.”

Cuomo: Senate Control Remains Open Issue

Gov. Andrew Cuomo through a spokeswoman on Tuesday said push to reunify Democrats in the state Senate remains an open issue, despite Sen. Simcha Felder announcing his plans to remain the Republican fold.

“The Governor’s position is clear: the Democrats must unify to take back the majority,” said Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Cuomo. “This conversation will continue in the morning.”

Felder’s announcement comes as two Senate seats are being contested in special elections in the Bronx and Westchester County today. Should Democrats win both, they would have a numeric majority in the chamber. Felder’s decision to stay with the GOP conference for the remainder of the session would ensure Republicans remain in power.

“We’re thrilled with Senator Felder’s decision to continue to caucus with our Majority,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif.

“Since 2012, he has been an important and trusted member of our conference, and an effective legislator for the constituents he represents. We look forward to continuing to work with to move his district and our entire state forward.”

Felder To Stay With Senate GOP

A key state lawmaker is staying put in the Senate, ensuring Republicans will remain in power in the chamber until the end of June.

Sen. Simcha Felder on Tuesday confirmed in an exclusive interview he will remain in the Republican fold, ending a weeks-long guessing game over whether he would switch sides and empower Democrats to hold a working majority in the chamber.

Felder says this decision to stay put will last through the end of the legislative session.

“The reasoning is I try to do what’s best for my constituents and New Yorkers,” Felder said. “We have about 25 days left in the legislative session. It doesn’t make any sense to cause havoc and turmoil in the state Senate. Not for my constituents or New Yorkers in general. I think anyone who’s objective would say you want orderly, efficient government working.”

This means Republicans will stay in power in the Senate, even if Democrats gain a numeric, 32-member majority in the state Senate, which could happen after two special elections are held today. In the most closely watched of the races, Democrat Shelley Mayer faces Republican Julie Killian for the suburban 37th Senate district.

Felder insisted the decision was not based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed ban on plastic bags, but would not answer when asked if Cuomo had personally pressured him to change sides in the Senate.

The decision comes two weeks after the Independent Democratic Conference, which had been aligned with Senate Republicans, agreed to dissolve and rejoin the mainline conference fold — boosting Democratic chances of a takeover this month.

“I think it’s a serious, serious decision,” Felder said. “I don’t think it’s something to play around with like it’s some kind of toy.”

Felder also insisted he did not plan to change his party enrollment, keeping him an outlier in the conference, but also an open-ended question as to what he will do next.

“I’ve said many times I try to do what’s best by my God, my wife and my constituents,” Felder said. “The party identity may mean something to loyalists, but I’m blessed to serve in a district that doesn’t really care about parties.”

Democrats remain confident that Mayer will win in Westchester, while Democrat Luis Sepulveda will prevail in a Bronx Senate seat as well.

“Today’s results will show that the ‘blue wave’ that has swept across the nation is right here in New York,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. “Today’s wins will once again give Democrats a numeric Majority and come November we will win even more seats. The voters are sick and tired of Democrats that empower Trump Republicans.”

SD-37: Cuomo, State Dems Push GOTV

The state Democratic Committee on Tuesday morning released a get-out-the-vote email signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo aimed at boosting voter turnout in the key 37th Senate district.

The special election being held today in Westchester County is one of 11 legislative vacancies being filled in the Legislature. But the seat is a pivotal for Democrats potentially taking a working majority in the chamber.

Democrat Shelley Mayer, a state assemblywoman, faces Republican Julie Killian.

“Happy special election day. It’s April 24th and we need everyone to get out and vote to elect Shelley Mayer as our next state senator in Westchester and flip the state Senate from #RedToBlue. Shelley is a proven leader with the experience, integrity, and talent we need to enact progressive policies and fight for middle- and working-class New Yorkers,” the email stated, signed by the governor.

The seat has long been a Democratic one, but Republicans have spent heavily in recent years to flip it to no avail.

“This election is about who we are as New Yorkers. It’s about our shared values as Democrats – our belief in fairness and equality for all,” Cuomo’s email stated.

“We reject what Washington and the rapid Republicans are trying to do, and we see a different path forward for this state. Shelley Mayer is the best person to lead the fight for New Yorkers, help us win a Democratic Senate Majority and stand up for inclusion, acceptance, and opportunity.”

WFP Rolls Out GOTV Effort For Senate Race

From the Morning Memo:

The Working Families Party this month has rolled out a get-out-the-vote effort in the 37th Senate district on behalf of its endorsed candidate, Democratic Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer.

The effort which began two weeks ago includes phone banking and texting parties, leading them to contact 30,000 voters, including 10,000 through door knocking and by working the phones, and 24,000 through text messages.

Mayer is running in a closely contested special election to fill the Senate seat vacated earlier this year by Westchester County Executive George Latimer, facing Republican Julie Killian. A Democratic win could lead to the party assuming a narrow working majority in the Senate.

“Shelley Mayer’s race is a must-win to build a progressive majority in the state senate and pass an agenda that puts working families first,” said WFP State Director Bill Lipton. “Putting boots on the ground and having one on one conversations with voters has always been the WFP’s strong suit. Our members are going all out to win this crucial seat.”

The suburban seat has been the site of costly special elections before and Republicans have long sought to flip the seat. Millions of dollars in TV ads and mailers have flooded the district in the last two months.

The WFP insisted its approach was more direct than the costly ad and mail spending.

“After a certain point, mailers go in the trash, and TV spots go in one ear and out the other. But one on one conversations with your neighbors will always have an impact,” said Westchester Chapter Co-Chair David Schwartz.

“That’s what WFP does best. We will continue going door to door for our dear friend Shelley Mayer pulling voters out until the polls close on Tuesday. There is no one better to fight for all working families in this district, and we are making sure that every voter knows it.”

The WFP’s involvement in the local race comes as the party has been making headlines on a statewide level this month, endorsing Democrat Cynthia Nixon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s rival for the party’s nomination.

Cuomo: Westchester Race ‘First Battle’ In Push For Democratic Victories

From the Morning Memo:

A special election to fill an open Senate seat in Westchester County is the “first battle” toward a Democratic Party takeover of the state Senate in Albany and the House of Representatives in Washington, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said.

Cuomo rallied over the weekend with Democrats in the northern New York City suburbs to boost Democratic state Senate hopeful Shelley Mayer, who is running for the open Westchester County Senate district in what is considered a key special election.

“And it’s the first battle in the war that continues every day until November,” Cuomo said at the rally. “Because we have to elect a Democratic House in November to stop this freight train that the President is now running, and the only way to stop that extreme conservative freight train is to elect a Democratic Congress that can stand up and stop it.”

The seat is one of 11 districts in the Senate and Assembly being considered in special elections on Tuesday. Republicans are contesting this district, having long eyed the seat as one that could be flipped.

A Mayer victory would give Democrats 32 enrolled lawmakers in the state Senate and, depending on what Sen. Simcha Felder does, a working majority in the chamber. There has been no indication from Felder if he will switch from the Republican conference to the Democratic fold.

Cuomo earlier this month announced a truce between the warring factions of Democrats in the Senate, leading to the dissolution of the Independent Democratic Conference in the chamber and their return to the mainline conference fold.

Cuomo has faced increasing pressure from the left to unite the party in the Senate, which liberals have blamed for blocking or helping to dilute reform legislation.

Republicans in the state Senate, meanwhile, continued to rack up law enforcement endorsements in the race. On Sunday, she was given the nod of the Supreme Court Officers Association.

“Our members respect Julie’s experience and support as a member of the public service community,” said Patrick Cullen, the organization’s president. “Julie’s ardor for duty and service is manifest throughout her life and career and that makes the Association proud to endorse Julie Killian for election as the next State Senator from the 37th District.”

SD-37: Killian Blasts Voting Rights For Parolees

Republican Julie Killian is seizing on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order that would grant voting rights for those on parole, raising the issue to the pivotal state Senate race in the 37th district.

Killian was also critical of her Democratic opponent, Shelley Mayer, for supporting Cuomo’s order issued earlier this week.

“While I am a firm believer in criminal justice reform, this Executive Order is astonishing,” Killian said.

“Convicted, violent felons gave up their right to vote when they committed the heinous crimes for which they were incarcerated. Does Shelley Mayer believe that soon-to-be-paroled Terry Losicco, who savagely murdered an elderly woman from Somers after beating her invalid husband, should be rewarded with the right to vote? How about Herman Bell, the known cop-killer? If Bell is paroled, should he be eligible to vote this November? There are severe penalties for these kinds of violent crimes, and we should not reverse them without deliberation and with the stroke of a pen.”

As backed by Cuomo and announced at the National Action Network this week, the executive order would reinstate voting rights for more than 35,000 people on parole.

The special election to fill the Senate district in Westchester County is being held Tuesday.

SD-37: Biden Robos For Mayer

Former Vice President Joe Biden has recorded a robocall as part of a get-out-the-vote effort in the key 37th Senate district in Westchester County.

The call was first reported today by The Daily News.

The call seeks to boost turnout for Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer, who is seeking the Senate seat vacated earlier this year by Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

“Shelley is a fighter who will stand up and champion our values: common-sense gun reform, protecting women’s health and the environment and supporting our schools,” Biden says in the call.

Mayer is running against Republican Julie Killian. A Democratic victory in the race could potentially lead to the party taking control of the chamber later this month.