Upstate NY

Dem Meddles In GOP SD-60 Primary (Updated)

Also from today’s Morning Memo:

Democratic state Senate candidate Marc Panepinto apparently has a strong preference as to which Republican he’ll face in the November general election should he triumph in his own primary battle tomorrow.

Panepinto feels so strongly, in fact, that he’s willing to spend some of his own campaign cash – not to boost his candidacy – but in an attempt to influence the outcome of the GOP Senate primary in which Sen. Mark Grisanti faces a second challenge from Kenmore attorney Kevin Stocker.

(Grisanti defeated Stocker, 60-40, in the 2012 primary after his controversial “yes” vote on same-sex marriage. He is now the only one of four GOP senators who voted “yes” still in the chamber).

A TV ad that recently started running on WNY airways (including TWC Cable News) casts Grisanti as a party-flipping moderate who can’t be trusted.

Here’s the script:

“Mark Grisanti was a Democrat, until he wasn’t. Grisanti opposed restrictions on the Second Amendment, until he didn’t. Grisanti supported restricting special interest money, until he took it. Grisanti claims he stood with the community, until he chose to defend a West Side drug kingpin against the community. Mark Grisanti, you just can’t trust him.”

A tiny disclaimer that appears at the bottom of the screen just as the ad is ending reveals it was paid for by Panepinto’s campaign.

Attempts to reach a Panepinto spokesperson by phone and email last night were unsuccessful. UPDATE: Panepinto’s campaign today sent me a statement that insisted the ad(s?) have “nothing to do with the Republican primary, adding:

“Looking ahead to the general election, the fact is Mark Grisanti can’t be trusted and puts his needs ahead of those of the constituents of the 60th Senate District. On the other hand, Marc Panepinto has stood with the same party and consistently fought for working and middle class families for his entire life. Voters in the 60th Senate District are fed up with elected officials whose values, platform and party affiliation change each election cycle and that is why Mark Grisanti is wrong for this district and Western New York.”

This highly unusual approach by Panepinto is part of what appears to be an organized campaign by key Democrats and their allies to meddle in the GOP primary.

The Buffalo News recently reported that the political arm of NYSUT, which has endorsed Panepinto in his primary battle with former Buffalo Councilman and state Senator Al Coppola, has been running attack ads and sending out mailers that depict Grisanti as not sufficiently conservative to represent the 60th Senate District.

The left-leaning statewide teachers union is not generally viewed as a protector of conservative values.

Insiders believe the union is hoping to soften up Grisanti to enable a victory by Stocker, whom NYSUT apparently assumes would be easier for its candidate, Panepinto, to beat in November.

Stocker told the Buffalo News he has nothing to do with NYSUT’s anti-Grisanti campaign, and believes he’ll defeat both the senator (in tomorrow’s primary) and Panepinto (in November, assuming he wins tomorrow’s primary) on his own steam.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Stocker has irked local GOP leaders with his write-in campaign for the ultra-liberal Working Families Party line. The WFP has endorsed Panepinto.

The local party officials and the Senate GOP are supporting Grisanti’s re-election – a key win if the Republicans want to take back the majority.

A Buffalo Democratic insider suggested the nexus between the Panepinto and Stocker campaigns could be former Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Pigeon. In 2010, Pigeon assisted Stocker with his failed campaign against Democratic Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, according to this source. And this year, Pigeon is an unpaid and unofficial advisor to Panepinto.

Pigeon did not return an email seeking comment.

Panepinto also briefly considered challenging Grisanti back in 2012. His candidacy has been married by his guilty plea to a misdemeanor violation of state election law for gathering phony petition signatures.

Panepinto called that incident a “lapse in judgment…that did not impede by legal career in any way.” Panepinto was also a candidate for Erie County Democratic chairman in 2012 before bowing out. That post is now held by Jeremy Zellner.

To call Zellner and Pigeon political enemies would be something of an understatement.

Zellner is running for re-election for the chairmanship this year. Insiders suspect all the subterfuge surrounding the campaigns of Panepinto and Stocker – not to mention the Democratic primary battle between Erie County Legislature Minority Leader Betty Jean Grant and Sen. Tim Kennedy – might actually have something to do with that race.

Given the notoriously tangled web of WNY politics, I’m sure there’s much more to this story that remains under the radar. Feel free to drop a line if you’ve got any additional information and/or insight.

Addendum: Zellner will get a boost this afternoon from a GOTV really being held in Orchard Park for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate (and WNY native), former Rep. Kathy Hochul. Kellner’s expected attendance may signal a thaw between himself and the governor, according to Bob McCarthy, or, at the very least, a temporary detente.

Bill de Blasio, Boogeyman

From today’s Morning Memo:

If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em.

Even as they question whether the deal struck by their erstwhile power-sharing partner, IDC Leader Jeff Klein, with his former Democratic colleagues will stick, the Senate Republicans are seeking to turn Klein’s abandonment to their political advantage.

GOP senators – especially those who represent districts north and west of Albany – are warning that upstate will be forgotten if the downstate-dominated Democratic conference takes full control of the chamber.

And they’re playing up the fact that uber-liberal NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is leading the charge to flip the Senate into Democratic hands, with Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos even going so far as to suggest that de Blasio will become the “de facto governor” of New York if Democrats control both houses of the Legislature.

That’s a comment clearly designed to get under the skin of the actual governor, Andrew Cuomo, who has had a rocky relationship with de Blasio since the mayor took office in January.

Skelos drove his point home by saying Cuomo was being “timid” and “sold out” to the labor-backed Working Families Party – a top de Blasio ally – when he agreed to assist his fellow Democrats in their push to take back the Senate in exchange for the WFP’s endorsement.

Sen. Tom Libous, the deputy leader of the Senate GOP, and Senate Finance Chairman John DeFrancisco, made similar comments in separate interviews yesterday.

(Interestingly, and perhaps a bit off-message, DeFrancisco also defended IDC member Dave Valesky, saying he doesn’t support Onondaga County GOP Chair Tom Dadey’s threat to challenge the Syracuse Democrat this fall in retaliation for the IDC’s defection).

The anti-de Blasio/downstate vs. upstate argument is apparently a coordinated message for the Senate Republicans, who, according to Capital NY, plan to run this fall against “ultra-liberal New York City radicals” who are working to empower “illegal immigrants” and stifle business.

I’m pretty sure a good number of upstaters have no idea who Bill de Blasio is, but the “we’re your last line of defense against the liberals in NYC” argument is one they’ve certainly heard before from the Senate GOP.

It remains to be seen whether that line of reasoning resonates this time around.

Gallivan Calls IDC ‘Flip’ A Bad Deal For Upstate Interests

Tuesday Republican State Senator Pat Gallivan was standing next to Governor Cuomo, in Buffalo, as he ceremonially signed a package of bills into law designed to combat heroin use.  Just a day later he was attacking a political deal the Governor brokered that could pave the way for Democratic control of the State Senate. 

“When the State Assembly, the State Senate, and the Governor’s office were all occupied by Downstate New York City centric people from the same party, in this case the Democratic Party, there was tremendous dysfunction,” Gallivan said.

The Elma Republican not only offered a warning of what he believes will happen if the Senate falls back into Democratic control he also criticized the timing of the deal. 

“Before we get too far ahead of ourselves we still have elections to go through.  And June, in my estimation, is not the time to determine whose going to be leading the senate come next January.  That will be determined by the citizens of the state in each of the districts,” said Gallivan.  

Gallivan says it’s now up to voters to block what he calls a bad deal for Upstate New York.

“In 2009-2010 we saw an additional $14 Billion in taxes and fees levied.  I don’t think one party control of government is a good thing.  We do need the checks and balance and in a case like this we go back to 2009-2010 and citizens should be rightly concerned if we were to go back to that.  And the citizens of Upstate especially should be concerned their futures will be controlled by New York City and New York City interests,” Gallivan added.

Astorino, Moss Are Upstate Bound (Updated)

Fresh off their anointment at the state GOP convention in Westchester today, gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and his hand-picked running mate, Chris Moss, will hit the campaign trail together, heading back upstate.

The Westchester county executive and Chemung County sheriff will attend the Otsego County GOP spring dinner at 6 p.m. at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, according to a press release from the party chairman, Vince Casale.

This will be the GOP duo’s first appearance together as officially nominated candidates, and Moss’ first official campaign stop.

Upstate will figure prominently in the Astorino-Moss campaign strategy. It is the region where Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s poll numbers have experienced the biggest slide, thanks largely to the passage of the SAFE Act, which both Astorino and Moss oppose.

Also attending: Rep. Chris Gibson, who is facing a challenge from Democrat Sean Eldridge in NY-19; Sen. Jim Seward and Assemblyman Pete Lopez.

UPDATE: A little more intel on Astorino’s post-convention schedule: He’ll attend Assemblyman Jim Tedisco’s annual breakfast fundraiser on Friday morning at the Glen Sanders mansion in Scotia. Consider this:

“To commemorate Astorino’s visit to the 112th Assembly District (“The land of Champions”), Tedisco will present him with championship shirts from the NCAA National Champion Union College Men’s Hockey Team and Class A State Champion Scotia-Glenville High School Boys Basketball Team.”

“He also will give Astorino a painting done by Tedisco’s wife, Mary, of a racehorse named Jim Dandy, who in l930, defeated a Triple Crown-winning horse named Gallant Fox by eight lengths at the Travers Stakes in Saratoga.”

“That year, Gallant Fox won nine races and was considered unbeatable. Tedisco thought it only appropriate that a champion candidate like Astorino should receive mementos commemorating local champions because, despite the so-called odds, he’ll win by 10 lengths when the November race for Governor is over.”

Mayor Miner Steps Down From Democratic Party Post (Updated)

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who has made headlines by publicly opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a number of high-profile policy issues, today submitted her resignation from the position of state Democratic Party co-chair – a post for which Cuomo hand-selected her two years ago.

It has been speculated for some time that Cuomo would force Miner out of her political position, thanks to her criticisms of key elements of his agenda – especially where financially ailing upstate cities are concerned. But Miner insisted during a brief phone interview this afternoon that she was not pressured to depart.

“It’s time,” the mayor said. “I want to give them a chance to put somebody in there who can help them with a full slate of elections moving forward. It was my decision.”

But a Democratic source insisted that had Miner not resigned, she would not have received sufficient votes at the state party convention in Melville next month to be re-elected along with her fellow co-chair, Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright. UPDATE: Miner told Gannett’s Joe Spector that she won’t be attending the convention at all. Instead, she’ll attend a conference on cities in Boston.

UPDATE2: Miner spoke briefly with TWC’s Bill Carey, who told her about the Democratic source’s comment. Her response: “That’s laughable.”

Miner tendered her letter of resignation (which appears below) to Cuomo and members of the state Democratic Committee this afternoon. In it, she pledged to “do all I can to ensure Democrats continue to get elected to office this year and going forward.”

Miner and Wright were tapped by Cuomo to co-chair the party in May 2012. They replaced Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, who was a holdover from the era of former Gov. David Paterson. (Incidentally, Jacobs also insisted that he wasn’t forced to give up his state post, but rather had decided that the time was right after three years on the job for him to move on).

Miner was elected mayor of Syracuse – the first woman to hold the position – in 2009. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2013, and is barred by term limits from running again.

Last spring, Miner made headlines when she publicly questioned Cuomo’s plan – or lack thereof – to address the fiscal problems faced by cities like hers. She also penned an OpEd criticizing the governor’s proposal to let municipalities borrow to offset ballooning pension costs, calling that idea ”an acconuting gimmick.” A modified version of the plan did end up in the 2013-14 budget.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s resigns from NYS Democratic Party co-chairmanship. by liz_benjamin6490

74 State Labor Dispute Forces AG To Relocate Fundraiser

You may have seen in this morning’s “Here and Now” that AG Eric Schneiderman was scheduled to hold a fund-raiser this evening at 74 State – the boutique hotel down the street from the state Capitol that has for several years been a popular watering hold for elected officials, legislative staffers, lobbyists and reporters.

But Schneiderman’s team informed us the event has been moved around the block to Taste (45 Beaver St.) due to an ongoing dispute between 74 State’s new owners and the Hotel & Motel Trades Council, a small but powerful labor union.

The nine-story, 74-room (hence, along with its address, the name) hotel sold last month for $3.8 million to Albany Lodging Group LLC, a company affiliated with Visions Hotels. According to HTC, the new owners failed to honor and executive a collective bargaining agreement with its employees, who are HTC members.

The Albany County Legislature weighed in last night in support of the union with a proclamation that appears below. The AG has close ties to organized labor, which he undoubtedly wants to maintain and strengthen as he gears up for his first re-election bid this fall.

This isn’t the first time a Capital Region hotel has seen a loss of business due to a contract dispute with HTC. In the summer of 2012, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, NYSUT, the New York State Trial Lawyers’ Association and other influential groups and elected officials joined in a boycott organized by the union of the Desmond Hotel in Colonie due to its contract standoff with management. Desmond employees worked without a contract for over a year, but eventually did settle their dispute.

Albany County Legislature proclamation in support of HTC in sale of 74 State, Albany. by liz_benjamin6490

Trump Wants A Clear Path To GOP Nomination Now

Donald Trump told an enthusiastic Western New York crowd Friday night that he’s leaving the door open to a possible run for governor. 

But, given the conditions he has laid out for the state Repiblican Party, it appears that door is closing quickly.

Trump was the featured guest at a fundraising dinner for the Erie County Republican Committee in Depew. With state GOP Chairman Ed Cox sitting in the audience, Trump took the podium and criticized him.

“You need strong leadership and honestly you don’t have that strong leadership right now. You don’t have that at the top, top level,” Trump said. 

Trump has made it clear he wants no part of a potential GOP primary with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. 

Before Trump’s 757 even touched down he told Bob McCarthy of the Buffalo News if Astorino doesn’t bow out soon he’ll move on

Trump supporters, including Buffalo Businessman Carl Paladino, had been calling on Cox to pressure all the potential candidates to get behind whoever emerges from the convention. 

For Trump it now appears that’s not good enough.   

“I want to see a unified party. You see the kind of response we have today. I want to see a unified party. If we have a unified party I will do it,” said Trump.

Trump did spend most of his 30 minute speech critiquing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership. Trump called New York the highest taxed and most anti-business state in the union. 

The real estate mogul-turned reality TV star said that if he’s elected he would support hydrofracking and Second Amendment rights.

“They want to take away your guns with the SAFE Act which I call the UnSAFE Act, which is one of the great catastrophes,” said Trump.

Despite the “Buffalo Billion” and a clear focus on Western New York in his first term, Trump accused Cuomo of only paying attention to the region around election time. He described most of the planned development as promises that won’t be kept.

“Buffalo is suffering badly. It’s failing. It’s not going to be here for very long and Buffalois really emblematic of what’s wrong with the state,” Trump added.

Despite Trump’s ultimatum for a clear path to the GOP nomination the state party chair seemed unfazed. 

Cox told the Buffalo News after Trump’s speech that the party has two good candidates.

Moody’s: ‘A Stalling Economy’ Upstate

Slowing sales tax revenue among upstate counties during the fourth quarter of 2013 is a sign the region’s economy is stalling during the recovery, an analysis from Moody’s on Tuesday found.

The report from that weak sales tax receipts are a “credit negative” for upstate counties due to their dependence on the revenue for their operating budgets.

Overall, sales tax growth in the fourth quarter excluding New York City was only a 1.4 percent increase over a year earlier.

Moody’s found that of the state’s 57 counties excluding the city, 36 had a sales tax growth of under 1 percent.

Broome County in the Southern Tier saw the largest decline of 8.7 percent. Bright spots, however, included the upstate counties of Washington, Essex and Hamilton.

From the report:

The results indicate a stalling economic recovery in upstate New York, where full-year 2013 sales tax revenues rose 1.64%, down from full-year growth of 3.46% in 2012. Fourteen counties reported negative annual growth in 2013, compared with just four in 2012. The magnitude of the declines was also larger: in 2013, four counties – Schoharie (unrated), Broome, Tioga (A1) and Chemung (A1) – fell more than 4%, nearly double the largest decline of 2012. In 2012, Chemung County slowed by 1.84%.

Rebuilding efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy helped boost the growth of sales tax revenue in Westchester, Suffolk and Rockland counties. Westchester saw the largest proportional increase of 6.2 percent.

Moody's Credit Outlook – January 20 by Nick Reisman

Mayor-Elect Warren Reveals Husband’s Criminal Record (Updated)

Just hours before her swearing in as Rochester’s first woman mayor, Lovely Warren released a statement regarding the criminal history of her husband, Timothy Granison, was he was a teenager.

Warren said her statement came in response to a question posed today by a reporter about her husband’s past.

She said in 1997, when Granison was 17 years old, he was “was involved in a situation instigated by other youth that resulted in an encounter with the criminal justice system.”

“Because of his age and the nature of the alleged offense, he was adjudicated a youthful offender,” Warren said.

“The file is sealed, and he does not have a criminal record. Tim learned a great deal from the experience, and is now a loving husband, father and contributing member of our community.”

“What happened with Tim is illustrative of what happens to too many young people in our community who are growing up in very difficult circumstances and get caught up in things that they should not.”

Warren did not offer any additional details about the incident. Her statement referred questions to Christopher Thomas, an attorney who has been co-leading Warren’s transition team. Thomas could not be immediately reached for comment.

UPDATE: The 1997 incident was reportedly an armed robbery of a jewelry store.

Warren said Granison, who now works for Catholic Charities Community Services and for United Parcel Service of America Inc., was able to turn his life around, and the couple hopes his story serves as an inspiration for other troubled youths in Rochester.

“Lots of young people make mistakes – the important thing is that as a community, we don’t give up on them and help them find a better path, just as Tim did,” the mayor-elect said.

“I have been very open about the challenges that I have put behind me to bring me to this point; and neither Tim nor I will ever be less than honest about our life stories.”

“Why? because his story and my story are not out of the ordinary for young people growing up in Rochester today. And our message to our youth is that you don’t have to end up where you start. We are proof positive that you can make changes. You can find a better way.”

Moody’s: Long-Term Benefits of Buffalo Investment ‘May Be Limited’

buffalochart

The plan to send $1.7 billion in state funds for clean energy research in Buffalo is a “credit positive” for the Queen City, according to an analysis on Friday released by Moody’s.

The state has estimated the move will create about 850 jobs in the high-tech sector, along with 500 construction jobs at the research campus in Buffalo.

However, there’s no guarantee the clean energy investment will pay off in the long term, Moody’s notes, considering the unpredictability of that sector.

“Despite the immediate economic benefit, the long-term impact to the region may be limited,” Moody’s found. “The clean technology industry is relatively volatile given the uncertainty of future regulation and the pace of technological development and its ability to jumpstart a struggling post-industrial economy is untested. This project’s ability to spur future development is dependent, in part, on the continued growth of the clean technology industry.”

Buffalo purchased the research campus five years ago for $4.6 million, and state is expected to be off the tax rolls, but city officials believe they will reap some indirect benefits such as residential and commercial development leading to more tax revenue.

As the analysis notes, Buffalo has been bleeding manufacturing jobs for more than a 20 years now, while education and health services sector has increased.

The analysis shows that in the education and health sector alone, the 92,000 jobs today is equal to the level of manufacturing employment in 1990.

Here’s the report:

Weekly Credit Outlook for Public Finance – Dec 12 2013 by Nick Reisman