State Senate

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.

Flanagan Rips ‘Ridiculous Public Policy’ Of Parolees Voting

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan ripped Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order that would grant parolees the right to vote in New York, charging that the governor is “exchanging votes at the expense of public safety.”

Cuomo on Wednesday announced the executive order, which would apply to the more than 35,000 people on parole in New York.

“It’s ridiculous public policy,” Flanagan told reporters at the Capitol in Albany. “He said, I’m tired of waiting. I’m going to do something like this on my own and the taxpayers should be absolutely outraged.”

Flanagan also insisted Cuomo did not raise the topic in the budget negotiations, though the governor’s office insists the issue was raised at a lower level of negotiations. Similar orders have been placed in 14 other states, including Indiana, Montana, North Dakota and Utah as well as Washington, D.C.

“The way this should be done is we have hearings, we have committees, and a legitimate public policy discussion that the governor doesn’t want to engage in,” Flanagan said. “I think he’s trying to expand the universe of people who are eligible to vote and I don’t agree.”

Flanagan did not rule out a legal challenge to the executive order, which rests in large part on the governor’s ability to issue pardons contained in the state constitution.

Asked if he thought Cuomo was issuing the order because of the primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon the Democratic primary for governor, Flanagan said, “Yes, and I still think it’s bad public policy regardless. He’s saying we don’t need a Legislature.”

Killian Condemns Klein Donation

With the Independent Democratic Conference dissolved, the shoe is on the other foot for Republicans.

That’s lent Republican Senate candidate Julie Killian some room to condemn a $11,000 contribution from Sen. Jeff Klein, the former leader of the IDC, to her Democratic opponent in the race Shelley Mayer.

Killing in a statement linked the allegation against Klein that he forcibly kissed a former staffer to criticism that Mayer has received that she mishandled harassment claims while a top counsel for the Senate Democrats.

Klein has denied the incident took place and called for an investigation. Mayer’s campaign has insisted she followed protocol when the harassment cases were brought to her during the time of the Democratic majority in the state Senate.

“My heart goes out to all three of these victims. They were harassed, abused and stalked and yet, while they seek justice, they are being met with the same cold indifference as when they initially sought protection,” Killian said.

“Shelley Mayer failed these women once and accepting this money in light of the circumstances is a failure yet again. Shelley Mayer must return the $11,000 immediately, or if she refuses to do so, at the very least donate the money to a charity like Hope’s Door or My Sister’s Place that helps abused women. And she must apologize to the victims who she has failed.”

Klein’s donation wasn’t the only one to Mayer from the former IDC lawmakers. Sens. Diane Savino, David Carlucci and Marisol Alcantara donated to Mayer’s campaign.

Stewart-Cousins Says Mayer Faces ‘Double Standard’ On Handling Of Sexual Harassment Case

Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins defended Democratic Senate hopeful Shelley Mayer’s handling of sexual harassment complaints made by legislative aides, saying the lawmaker faces “a double standard” with the criticism.

Mayer was criticized by the staffers, who told The Daily News last week they felt she should have been more aggressive in her handling of the complaints.

The allegations were made when Mayer was the top counsel to the Senate Democrats against a then-staffer. Mayer at the time sought to follow protocol, which was to bring the matter to the top official in the Senate, the secretary. At the time, the women were concerned the staffer was too close to Secretary to the Senate, Angelo Aponte.

“The reality is she did do something,” Stewart-Cousins said.

“Shelley Mayer went to the person who she was supposed to go to and apparently that person didn’t do anything. So as I always say, it’s kind of a double standard. You had a woman who did what she was supposed to do and apparently her supervisor didn’t do anything and now the woman is to blame. That concerns me.”

Mayer is running for a key Senate district in Westchester County against Republican Julie Killian. Her victory would give Democrats 32 enrolled members in the chamber and potentially a working majority, depending on whether Sen. Simcha Felder leaves the Republican conference. The special election is next Tuesday.

“Shelley Mayer is a proven legislator with a great deal of intelligence, great deal of integrity and I am sure at the end of all this, she will be the next senator from the 37th district,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Updated: Killian’s campaign reacted in a statement.

“Sen. Stewart-Cousins said today that Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer ‘acted as she should have,’ but not only do the two victims say that Mayer didn’t help them and actually ‘put them in more danger,’ Mayer’s actions don’t even meet the previous standards of acceptable action set by Sen. Stewart-Cousins herself,” campaign spokesperson Mollie Fullington said. “Did Mayer ‘confront’ the sexual abuse ‘head-on’ and ‘make it clear that it is not acceptable’ as Sen. Stewart-Cousins says is required? No, she did not. Instead of confronting the abuse head on, Mayer told the victims that it would have to wait until ‘after the election.'”