Astorino Hits the Road With Paladino

Remember way back when, when Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino was making threats about a second run for governor this fall unless the Republican Party picked a candidate who measured up to his conservative standards and supported ousting Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb?

Well, Paladino has come around since then – with a brief foray into the imaginary land of “Trump for governor” – and is now 100 percent on the Astorino campaign train – so much so that he’s headlining a two-day “convoy” with the candidate from Buffalo to Albany next month. The event kicks off with a rally in Buffalo on Sept. 6 and ends with another rally outside the Capitol the next day.

Along the way, there will be stops in Rochester, Syracuse and (a little randomly) Guilderland. Supporters are being invited to join the convoy in their personal vehicles. (In his email announcing this event, Paladino provided a link where would-be participants can register their cars).

Paladino continues to be a bit of a lightning rod for the Republicans. For example, just because he’s on board with Astorino does not mean he has given up criticizing state GOP Chairman Ed Cox – long a top target of the mad-as-hell 2010 GOP/Conservative gubernatorial candidate – as well as Kolb, Skelos and other people Paladino considers too “RINO” (Republican in name only) for his taste.

When he ran for governor, Paladino came under fire for his far right positions on a host of issues – especially same-sex marriage and abortion rights. He nevertheless managed to defeat Cuomo in Western New York in the general election, which has caused the governor to lavish attention (and state cash) on the region since he took office, and also was the driving motivation behind his selection of former Rep. Kathy Hochul as his running mate.

The Cuomo campaign is trying to portray Astorino as too “extreme” in his views to represent a Democrat-dominated state like New York. Hanging out with Paladino – while likely a popular move with the GOP and conservative grassroots – no doubt gives the governor and his allies more fodder with which to attack Cuomo’s GOP opponent.

Pride Agenda Endorses Cuomo, Who Affirms Support For GENDA

The Empire State Pride Agenda on Thursday announced it was endorsing Gov. Andrew Cuomo after he sent a letter to the LGBT-rights group re-affirming his support for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act.

In the letter from Cuomo to ESPA Chairman Norman Simon, Cuomo writes that he is reiterating his “deep commitment to protect the rights of all New Yorkers, including those in the transgendered community.”

“As my first term as Governor comes to a close, I am reaffirming my commitment to the progressive ideals and sense of equality that we have advanced and continue to hold dear,” Cuomo wrote in the letter, dated Aug. 19. “In this regard, I look forward to continuing my pledge to have our laws and policies reflect the core values of New Yorkers: equality and fairness for all.”

In making its endorsement, ESPA Executive Director Nathan Schaefer cited Cuomo’s efforts to pass the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2011 — an episode that remains one of the signature achievements of the governor’s first term.

“We’re proud to endorse Governor Cuomo and these other worthy statewide candidates for office for their support on issues important to LGBT New Yorkers,” Schaefer said in a statement. “In particular, we appreciate Governor Cuomo’s leadership in securing marriage equality in our great Empire State, and his more recent removal of the unnecessary and unfair barriers that preclude transgender New Yorkers from having access to birth certificates that reflect their accurate gender identity. We’re also so pleased to have this letter in hand, highlighting the Governor’s commitment to the passage of GENDA.”

The letter is the firmest stance Cuomo has taken in favor of GENDA in recent months, which he did put much emphasis on during the most recent legislative session.

Since the passage of the same-sex marriage law, some of the more high-profile LGBT issues have stalled in Albany, including GENDA. In the most recent legislative session, a measure that would have banned what’s known as gay conversion therapy did not muster the needed votes in the state Senate for passage, though it did make in-roads with the addition of a Republican co-sponsor.

Cuomo faces a Democratic primary challenge from Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, who has been seeking to channel the unrest within the liberal advocacy community over the governor’s record, which has been liberal on social issues, but decidedly moderate on the fiscal and economic side.

ESPA has also endorsed Cuomo’s pick for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, as well as Democrats Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Gov Letter by Nick Reisman

14 Lawmakers Call For Special Prosecutor In Garner Death

More than a dozen state lawmakers have signed onto a letter calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to probe the death of Eric Garner after he was subject to a choke hold from police.

The three-page letter, sent by Assemblyman Nick Perry on Thursday, was also signed by Democratic members of the Senate and Assembly, all from mostly from New York City.

In the letter, the lawmakers express frustration with what they see as a lack of progress from Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan’s office in pursuing the case, which has been ruled a homicide by the New York City medical examiner’s office.

“We write to you today Governor Cuomo, on the 32nd day following the tragic chokehold death of Mr. Eric Garner, because there is still a stunning and bewildering lack of timely and appropriate action from the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD,” the letter states. “The apparent reluctance to act, displayed by the District Attorney’s Office is a major source of our alarm over the failure to address the deep public anger and steeply eroding trust in our justice system.”

The lawmakers also draw a parallel between this case and the racially charged Howard Beach incident in 1986, when one black man was killed and another beaten.

“In the Howard Beach case, Governor Mario Cuomo allowed just twenty-five days to go by, and with no action by the Queens District Attorney he responded to the widespread opinion, and public frustration that the Queens District Attorney had exhibited a lethargic approach, and maybe even partiality in his investigation,” the lawmakers write. “In appointing a special prosecutor for the Howard Beach case, Governor Mario Cuomo further expressed his opinion that the public had lost confidence in the Queens District Attorney’s ability to fairly prosecute that case.”

The letter comes a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio held a round table discussion on police-community relations with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Rev. Al Shaprton.

Cuomo Garner Press by Nick Reisman

Cuomo: ‘I’ll Leave It To The Campaigns’ On Debating Teachout

Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined whether he would take up an invitation from NY1 and TWC News to debate his Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, telling reporters in Syracuse Thursday morning he would let the decision rest with “the campaigns.”

“I’ll leave that to the campaigns to work out and whatever they decide,” Cuomo said at the State Fair in Syracuse.

Asked a second time whether he’d take up a debate, Cuomo again demurred to the campaigns.

“I’ll leave that to the campaigns to work out if there should be debates, who should participate, that’s a campaign tactic I will leave to the campaigns,” said Cuomo, who is known for taking a hands-on approach with his political operation as well as his government office.

Both Teachout and her running mate, Tim Wu, have agreed to televised debates next month with Cuomo and his preferred running mate, Kathy Hochul.

Teachout, a Fordham Law professor, survived a second court challenge on Wednesday from Cuomo’s re-election campaign that sought to knock her off the ballot citing the state’s five-year residency requirement.

Both the state Supreme Court and the Appellate Court tossed the challenge to Teachout’s ballot status, and Cuomo’s campaign does not plan to appeal.

The primary is scheduled for Sept. 9.

Meanwhile, despite a summer of bad press stemming from his office’s involvement in the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, polls have shown Cuomo still maintains a wide lead over his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino.

“I take all these polls with a grain of salt,” Cuomo said in a response. “I’ve been governor for four years, they know my record, they know what we’ve gotten done.”

Why PEF Didn’t Support Challengers To Sampson, Libous

In their words, the Public Employees Federation took a “bold” risk by endorsing Zephyr Teachout, the long-shot Democratic primary opponent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week.

But the union of roughly 55,000 mostly white-collar public employees wasn’t willing to issue an endorsement in the legislative races of two embattled incumbents: Democratic Sen. John Sampson and Republican Sen. Tom Libous.

Sampson, who faces charges he embezzled funds from an escrow account he controlled, has a Democratic primary opponent in the form of Dell Smitherman, a former labor organizer.

(A former Sampson associate, Melvin Lowe, has reportedly admitted to prosecutors that he stole $100,000 from the Senate Democratic fundraising committee).

Libous, a longtime Binghamton lawmaker and the number two Republican in the Senate’s leadership, is facing a spirited challenge from former Vestal town supervisor Anndrea Starzak. He’s accused of making a false statement to the FBI in a case stemming from his son receiving a job at a politically connected law firm.

In an interview on Capital Tonight, PEF President Susan Kent said the lack of an endorsement doesn’t necessarily mean one won’t be issued in the near future.

But she also acknowledged the Sampson and Libous have delivered while in office, despite their ethical and legal troubles.

“He was very, very helpful with SUNY Downstate — keeping that a public hospital,” Kent said of Sampson.

She added, “Nothing has happened yet in terms of him being convicted of a crime and we’re not going to turn our backs on elected public officials because charges have been made.”

When it comes to Libous, Kent said he was key in responding to a Cuomo proposal to close mental-health facilities in Southern Tier.

She added Libous’s campaign hadn’t returned a candidate questionnaire or spoken to the union’s regional political action committee about an endorsement.

So PEF is waiting to hear back from him before potentially making an endorsement.

“What we thought to do was best was to reach out to him,” Kent said.

But when it comes to the gubernatorial primary next month, PEF plans to take a muscular approach that Kent pledged will include “boots on the ground.”

“We think we have a very good position for the Democratic primary, getting progressives, getting people out who are not happy with the way the government is working right now, getting them on board to vote for Zephyr in the Democratic primary,” Kent said.

While the AFL-CIO and the New York State United Teachers union has declined to issue an endorsement in the race for governor, Cuomo does have the support of some key labor unions, including 1199 SEIU.

But Teachout has received the backing some of the more activist regional labor groups, including the Buffalo Federation of Teachers and the union the represents firefighters in Yonkers.

Kent wouldn’t say whether the union would wind up endorsing Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins should Cuomo win the Democratic primary next month.

“Right now, our whole focus is on the Democratic primary,” she said. “There’s a finite number of voters who are going to come out.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Onondaga County and New York City. It’s Governor’s Day at the Great New York State Fair. Cuomo will attend, as will numerous other elected officials/candidates, including Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend a Compstat meeting at 1 Police Plaza today; the meeting will be closed to members of the press.

In the evening, de Blasio will host a reception with members of the City Hall press corps, Mayor’s Office press staff, and City Hall senior staff. This event is invite-only and “absolutely off the record.”

There’s a lot going on in New York politics today, so much so that the calendar takes up a lot of room, and so has been relocated to the end of this post.

Headlines…

NYC Mayor de Blasio convened a clergy summit yesterday to “send a message of peace and reconciliation” in advance of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s Staten Island rally against police brutality this weekend. Sharpton attended the meeting.

De Blasio: “We’ve experienced a tragedy with the death of Eric Garner, but this isn’t about a single incident or being mired in the past. This is about a very purposeful and consistent effort forward. It has to be done—it is a way of saving lives.”

Assemblyman Nick Perry of Brooklyn called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Garner’s death.

An appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that rejected Cuomo’s residency challenge to his Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout. She will remain on the Sept. 9 primary ballot, as the Cuomo campaign won’t appeal.

A new Quinnipiac University poll showed that 88 percent of registered voters haven’t heard enough about Teachout to have an opinion of her. Among those who have heard enough, just 6 percent view her favorably.

With the campaigns heating up, Cuomo hasn’t agreed to debate either his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, or Teachout. So, the two are making plans to debate one another without him.

A former top aide to indicted Sen. John Sampson, Melvin Lowe, admitted during confidential meetings with prosecutors that he defrauded the DSCC out of $100,000 – and gave $75,000 of the money to “Senator #1.”

Citi Bike mechanics, station technicians and other employees who run New York City’s bicycle-sharing program could vote on whether to join a union as soon as next month following a decision by the National Labor Relations Board.

The Erie County School Board voted 6-2 in favor of last minute plans to lay off 63 teacher – the highest number laid off in years.

Cuomo served a subpoena on Marolda Properties, a Manhattan based landlord accused of trying to squeeze out rent-regulated tenants from their homes.

Amtrak will continue its tradition of providing train service to the Great New York State Fair, with five trains dropping passengers off daily for the 12 days of the fair, which runs from today to Monday, Sept. 1.

After the second scathing state audit of the City of Lockport’s finances in the past eight months – this one projecting that the city will run out of money next month – there was plenty of finger-pointing among local elected officials.

Sen. Sen. Malcolm Smith, facing federal corruption charges that could send him to prison for years, claimed in a NY1 debate that he has had “a stellar year” in Albany and ­deserves to be re-elected.

With 13 seats in the Legislature vacant – most since January – roughly two million New Yorkers are without a representative in the Senate or in the Assembly, nearly half of them black, Latino or Asian residents.

The Center for Popular Democracy, a labor-backed advocacy group that supports New York’s controversial Scaffold Law, wants to see all the drafts of a controversial report authored by SUNY’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and paid for by the Lawsuit Reform Alliance, a business-backed organization that opposes Scaffold Law.

Before long, registered lobbyists in New York will have to take a mandated online ethics training course through the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Nassau County is facing a $71.6 million deficit by year’s end after a three-year employee wage freeze was lifted and sales tax revenues cratered, the county legislature’s budget office reported.

ConEd notified state regulators this week that it had sold the site of a proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan that came to be known as the “ground zero mosque.”

NYC Councilman Ruben Wills, who faces jail time if he’s convicted on charges of stealing $30,000 in public funds, is introducing a bill requiring the city to inform prison inmates of their voting rights.

Police are investigating after activists unfurled a giant Palestinian flag from the Manhattan Bridge for a short time yesterday afternoon during a march in support for those in Gaza.

Six of the top 10 colleges with the highest percentage of late-night orders are from New York, with Syracuse University leading the list, a new analysis found.

Behold this year’s butter sculpture at the State Fair.

Happening today…

More >

Extras

In the wake of recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is still confident this weekend’s march on Staten Island against police brutality will be peaceful.

The Rev. Al Sharpton: “We must show the world that we are mature enough to allow a citizenry to question those in authority but respect them at the same time.”

Bronx Councilman Andy King warned Ferguson-style racial turmoil could come to New York if federal prosecutors don’t file charges against the cop who shot an unarmed black constituent, Ramarley Graham, in 2012.

A top AFL-CIO official said organized labor is witholding judgment on Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate.

Clinton will host a high-dollar fundraiser for the Democratic Women’s Senate Network at her home, along with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet.

VP Joe Biden was in Connecticut.

LG Bob Duffy, a burgeoning Twitter star, had to go dark briefly because his account was hacked.

Zephyr Teachout: “From the beginning of talking to the WFP, I said I wanted to run in the Democratic primary. And nothing that happened at the WFP convention changed that.”

Jim Kelly got “great news” when he visited a New York City hospital today. There’s no physical evidence of the oral cancer for which he’s being treated.

A video appears to catch former Attorney General and current state Senate candidate Oliver Koppell dissing residents of the district he’s running to represent in Albany.

The NRA has launched a national ad campaign against former New York City Mayor Bloomberg, whose PAC is trying to make gun control a major issue in races across the country.

Three villages will receive state grants to assist in their dissolution plans.

Another FOIL has been filed in connection with a controversial Scaffold Law report paid for by the Lawsuit Reform Alliance.

The League of Women Voters announced the launch of Vote411.org, an electronic voter guide, for select primary races.

A NYC Council committee passed legislation requiring stricter independent expenditure disclosure requirements and banning anonymous campaign ads.

TV weatherman Al Roker predicted de Blasio would serve but a single term, but the dispute didn’t stop the mayor from participating in the weatherman’s 60th birthday celebration.

Cuomo’s office is spending $35,000 for an outside law firm to make sure the state Board of Elections properly implements its pilot program of public campaign financing.

Sen. Tim Kennedy and his primary challenger Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, engaged in “a lively, sometimes testy, but always respectful” debate.

Invitations Sent to Cuomo and Teachout – and Their Running Mates

NY1 and Time Warner Cable News in Albany are inviting Gov. Cuomo and his Democratic rival, Zephyr Teachout, to a live, hour-long Sept. 2nd debate that will air statewide and be hosted by NY1 Political Anchor Errol Louis and Capital Tonight Anchor Liz Benjamin.

Invitations have also been sent to Rep. Kathy Hochul and Tim Wu to participate in a separate debate for Lieutenant Governor on Sept. 3rd.

“NY1 and Time Warner Cable News are committed to a full discussion of the issues in the Democratic primary race and we’re looking forward to hearing what the candidates have to say,’’ said NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt. “Debate season is officially underway.”

Invitations were e-mailed to the campaigns earlier this afternoon – with an RSVP date set for Aug. 28th. Both the Teachout and Wu campaigns agreed to the debate – while the Cuomo and Hochul campaigns did not immediately respond to the invitations beyond acknowledging they had been received.

Marco Rubio To Fundraise In Buffalo Area

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will attend a fundraiser next month in Buffalo, with tickets ranging from $1,000 to $2,500, Republicans organizing the event told TWC News’ Ryan Whalen.

The fundraiser for the potential 2016 presidential hopeful will be held at the home of Jeremy Jacobs, Jr., an executive at Delaware North.

The event will benefit the Rubio Victory Fund, according to an invitation.

Due to headline the event is Anthony Gioia, a former ambassador and prominent Republican fundraiser. Also due to attend is New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox.

“The ones that are on the committee, we just all think the world of him. We like where he came from, his humble background and his vision for our country. Plus he can reach out to the Hispanic vote more than other candidates can.” Gioia told Time Warner Cable News in Buffalo.

‘Tough’ Cahill’s 1st Ad Links Schneiderman To Moreland (Updated)

Republican attorney general hopeful John Cahill is hitting the airwaves with his first TV ad, in which he links his Democratic opponent, AG Eric Schneiderman, to the failed Moreland Commission and pledges to be “tough enough” to clean up corruption in Albany.

“John Cahill is Ironman tough and is exactly the kind of Attorney General that New Yorkers need to finally break the lock of corruption on state government,” said Cahill’s campaign spokesman Dave Catalfamo. “His ethical, active and independent approach to the AG’s office, offers voters a clear and compelling alternative to the complicit, lackadaisical, incompetent administration of Eric Schneiderman – this ad tells that story.”

The ad is scheduled to start running statewide tomorrow and will continue for two weeks (including over the Labor Day weekend), and the buy is about $750,000, according to Cahill’s campaign. That’s a sizable chunk of the money Cahill has raised to date; as of the July 15th filing with the state Board of Elections, he had $968,689 on hand.

This is actually the first spot from either candidate. Schneiderman, who has vastly out-paced Cahill in fund-raising, has reserved some $2 million worth of air time during the last few weeks before the Nov. 4 election. Buying so far in advance means Schneiderman not only received a discount, but also was able to snap up good time slots at a moment when voters are likely to be paying more attention to the race than they are in the middle of August.

Cahill’s ad also comes as yet another poll – from Quinnipiac this morning – shows that Schneiderman continues to be over 50 percent mark in his reelection bid, leading Cahill 51-29.

Voters approve 51-22 percent of the job Schneiderman is doing, and 44 percent say he deserves re-election. Forty-eight percent of voters said they don’t know enough about Schneiderman to have an opinion of him, despite the fact that he has been a statewide elected official for almost four years. But 72 percent don’t know Cahill, a former top Pataki administration aide, which explains why he’s spending money now in hopes of raising his name recognition and defining himself before Schneiderman and his allies do it for him.

Cahill’s ad doesn’t mention anything about his party affiliation, and it steers clear of any social issues – though it does mention his work to increase preserved open space in New York. Schneiderman’s camp has been hammering on Cahill over the abortion rights issue (he’s pro-life), trying to paint him as too conservative to represent Democrat-dominated New York.

This ad also refers to “Eric Schneiderman’s ethics commission,” which is a reference to the now-defunct corruption-busting Moreland Commission created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. To call is the AG’s commission is really a stretch, though he did deputize the commission’s members – at the governor’s request – to give them the power to investigate outside the executive branch (in other words, to target the Legislature), and also provide top staffers to assist the commission with its work.

Schneiderman has made it clear he’s cooperating with US Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation of the Moreland Commission’s demise, but he has declined to comment beyond that. Cahill has been slamming the AG for his silence, insisting he has to come clean about what he knew of the Cuomo administration’s interference with the commission’s efforts and why he didn’t blow the whistle on that.

So far, efforts by the Republicans – including Cahill – to tar their Democratic opponents with the Moreland mess hasn’t borne much fruit. Today’s Q poll reiterates the findings of previous polls, indicating that while voters believe Cuomo should have stayed out of the commission’s way and is perhaps contributing to the corruption problem in Albany, that’s not enough to tank their support of him – or Schneiderman, for that matter.

Here’s the script from Cahill’s ad:

“A lot of people call me tough.

I served as Governor Pataki’s right hand in rebuilding Ground Zero. I helped lead the battle to preserve over a million acres of open space… and we won. As Attorney General, I’ll enforce the law and expose the corruption that cripples state government.

When Eric Schneiderman’s ethics commission began investigating his own contributors, it was shut down. Cleaning up Albany starts with a new Attorney General who’s tough enough to clean out corruption.

I’m John Cahill.”

Updated: The Schneiderman campaign weighs in.

“It’s never a good sign when a campaign is forced to squander all its money on air time in August. It must be tough to see Cahill’s paltry poll numbers, so it’s not surprising he’s resorting to a Hail Mary move so early in his campaign,” said campaign spokesman Peter Ajemian. “This ad is the latest example of Cahill running from his own record as an oil and gas industry lobbyist whose views are too extreme for New York.”