Today In NY-26

The three top candidates in the race for the NY-26 seat vacated by former Rep. Chris Lee are all busy today. Here’s the rundown:

- House Speaker John Boehner travels to WNY to support the Republican contender, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, signaling a growing concern in the national party leadership about this long-GOP held seat. Boehner and Corwin will be at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens in Depew at 11:45 a.m.

- In a continued push to make the GOP’s controversial plan to overhaul Medicare the central issue of this race, Democratic Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul will appear with members of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare at 2 p.m. at her Clarence campaign office. (Clarence is Corwin’s hometown and base).

- Independent Jack Davis is inviting members of the public – regardless of party affiliation – to have a hot dog at Zorba’s Texas Hots on his dime between noon and 1 p.m. while Corwin is up the road (about 3/4 of a mile away) at a fundraiser with, as Davis’ campaign put it, the “Washington Republican elites.”

“The problem with both parties is the influence of special interest money,” said Davis campaign manager Curtis Ellis.

“While Jane Corwin is sipping chablis with lobbyists and the Washington Republican elite, Jack Davis is inviting everyone, Republicans, Democrats and independents, to join him for a workingman’s lunch – a hot dog at Zorba’s Texas Hots.”

In recent days, the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy reports, a “phalanx” of GOP leaders have trekked to Buffalo to help Corwin, including: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus, and Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

But, aside from a downstate fundraiser hosted by Rep. Carolyn Maloney and an email appeal from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (which netted $12,000 for Hochul’s campaign), the national Democats are largely AWOL from this race – at least publicly speaking.

Not great from a PR standpoint. As Cantor told McCarthy:

“If I were the Democrats, I certainly wouldn’t want national leaders coming in to campaign for this vision that is not producing the results people want.”

According to McCarthy, Sen. Chuck Schumer will host a fundraiser for Hochul “soon.” There is some behind-the-scenes assistance from the DCCC in the form of polling and personnel. Rep. Louise Slaughter will appear at a Hochul fundraiser on May 16, but has no plans to campaign with her.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently side-stepped a question about a Hochul endorsement, but insisted – through spokesman Josh Vlasto – that he supports her “100 percent” and will do whatever he campaign asks of him.

Here And Now

It’ll be crowded at the Capitol today as more than 1,200 gay marriage supporters gather for the Empire State Pride Agenda’s lobby day.

Attendees will hear from LG Bob Duffy, Sen. Thomas Duane, Assemblymen Daniel O’Donnell and Matt Titone, Miss New York Claire Buffie, Rev. Stacey Latimer, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and Dru Levasseur, a Lambda Legal transgender rights attorney.

Also on tap today: US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be at Penn Station to announce nearly $800 million worth of federal high-speed rail funds will go toward improving rail service on the Northeast Corridor. About $450 million of that will go to Amtrak to improve track conditions – particularly in New Jersey.

Members of the newly formed NYS Bipartisan Pro Choice Legislative Caucus will launch their fight to protect women’s reproductive rights with the Reproductive Rights and Health Information Fair. (12:15 p.m. in the LOB well).

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will receive NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health’s 2011 Champions of Choice Award in Manhattan.

And now, some headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s live-in girlfriend, Food Network Star Sandra Lee, and his ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy, reportedly lunched recently at the “Provençal-style restaurant Café of Love” in Mount Kisco.

UB’s new president, Satish K. Tripathi, acknowledged the scaling back of the long-sought UB2020 plan was necessary, saying: “The goal hasn’t changed. The reality has changed, in terms of funding.”

More >

The Weekend That Was

The Obama administration is increasing pressure on Pakistan and also released videos of Osama bin Laden watching himself on TV.

The president said the raid on bin Laden’s compound was “the longest 40 minutes of my life.”

A PATH train failed to stop at the end of a track in Hoboken this morning, jolting the roughly 50 passengers on board and sending 34 to area hospitals with minor injuries.

The president’s success in tracking down and eliminating bin Laden hasn’t stopped Rudy Giuliani from thinking about running in 2012.

“I separate the two things,” the former NYC mayor said on “Meet the Press” this morning.

Reps. Anthony Weiner and Jerry Nadler want the bin Laden bounty money – $50 million – to go to the first responders.

Bin Laden took herbal Viagra.

An ultra-Orthodox newspaper photoshopped Hillary Clinton out of a Situation Room photo taken during the bin Laden raid.

Security costs continue to rise for NYC.

The 2012 GOP field may be more sharply defined than you think.

On potential GOP contender, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was born in Baton Rouge to immigrant parents from India, has released his birth certificate.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer wants a “no ride” list for Amtrak.

More >

The Fantastic Four

Here’s the video from the Independent Democratic Conference’s response at last night’s LCA show in which the four renegade minority members (AKA Klavinoluccilesky) demonstrated they are ably capable of poking fun at both the press corps and themselves.

Obama Didn’t Lose Sleep Over Decision To Kill bin Laden

“As nervous as I was about this whole process, the one thing I didn’t lose sleep over was taking bin Laden out. Justice was done.”

During 60 minutes hour long special on the death of Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama said he was nervous, and tense during the 40 minute operation last Sunday.

Obama detailed the amount of planning, and intelligence that went into the operation. He says he was first notified of the compound in August of 2010, and planning began then for a tactical mission. Obama praised the intelligence community, but in the end he said it was still only 55% to 45% that bin Laden was in the compound.

“If this is a wealthy prince from Dubai and we are sending an elite strike force team into a sovereign country, we have a problem,” Obama said.

Obama also deflected the question of why he didn’t inform Pakistani officials of the bin Laden mission. Obama said he didn’t tell his family, and most of his senior advisers, so he wasn’t going to tell people he didn’t know.

The US relationship with Pakistan has been criticized heavily in the past week, but Obama was quick to defend them as an ally.

“What I can say is, Pakistan since 9.11 has been a strong counterterrorism partner with us. There have been times when there were disagreements… they will continue. We have been able to kill more terrorists on Pakistani soil then anywhere else, and we could not have done that without Pakistani help,” Obama said.”

The President went on to say more work needs to be done to improve the relationship with Pakistan. He also echoed what we have been hearing from the administration all week that Pakistan has to come up with answers about why Osama bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad for at least 5 years without their military knowing.

Duffy Headlines Pride Agenda Rally

When more than 1,000 gay-rights advocates descend on Albany Monday, the emissary greeting them won’t be Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.

The Empire State Pride Agenda will hold a rally in Albany as a coalition of groups try to push for gay marriage legalization by June.

Duffy has usually been deployed for economic development matters, not social issues like gay marriage.

The Empire State Pride Agenda notes in its release that Cuomo’s backing of the issue is key in order for it to pass the Republican-led Senate, where potential swing votes are being counted and re-counted.

With the leadership of a historically popular governor, an Assembly that has repeatedly voted in support of this agenda and rapidly increasing statewide momentum, this year marks the most dynamic opportunity yet for LGBT New Yorkers and their allies to tell their stories directly to legislators.

As Joe Spector noted earlier, Cuomo and the gay community have had a historically strained relationship. But the governor has said he wants the measure approved by the time the Legislature wraps up its work in the next six weeks. It’s also seen as a needed victory in order for him to shore up support within the progressive wing of the state’s Democratic Party.

The governor, who has met with leaders in the gay community earlier this year, is yet to release his official schedule for Monday.

Duffy is due to speak at 10 a.m. at the Empire State Convention Center. A rally at the West Capitol Park is set for 1 p.m. Advocates are then expected to meet with lawmakers to push the issue.

Also due to speak at Monday’s rally is Sen. Tom Duane, an openly gay Manhattan Democrat the sponsor of the failed 2009 bill for gay marriage legalization. The measure failed in the then-Democratic-controlled Senate, 38-24. Republicans now hold a 32-30 advantage.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, a North Country Republican whose son is gay, is also on the schedule.

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Hank Morris, Dan Hevesi Named In NM Lawsuit

Disgraced former political consultant Hank Morris and Dan Hevesi, an ex-state senator and son of jailed former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, are named in pay-to-play pension fund lawsuits brought by a New Mexico government agency, the AP reports.

The suits, filed in state and federal courts by State Investment Council, claims the agency’s onetime top manager, Gary Bland, and the Dallas-based financial advisory firm Aldus Equity Partners improperly steered investments to political supporters of former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Dan Hevesi was one of several placement agents on a New Mexico investment deal.

Aldus Equity’s founding partner, Saul Meyer pleaded guilty in October 2009 to fraud for his role in the New York pension fund scandal.

At the time, then-AG Andrew Cuomo branded Meyer “a corrupted gatekeeper.” Meyer pleaded guilty to charges that he paid over $300,000 in bogus finders fees to Morris in exchange for $375 million worth of investments in Aldus private equity funds between 2004 and 2006.

In 2007, investigators subpoenaed records from a financial business owned by Dan Hevesi, who is Alan Hevesi’s eldest son, but no charges were ever brought against him.

Last fall, the Times reported Alan Hevesi had agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge for his role in the pension fund mess in order to protect Dan Hevesi and also his younger son, Assemblyman Andy Hevesi.

Alan Hevesi pleaded guilty last October and was sentenced in April to one to four years in prison – the maximum penalty possible.

Morris was sentenced in February to up to four years behind bars.

Committee To Save NY’s Latest Pro-Cap Ad: ‘Digging’

The business-backed Committee to Save New York is out with its latest TV ad – a companion spot to the imminent “People First Tour” that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and members of his cabinet are launching to promote the governor’s top post-budget priorities: The property tax cap, ethics reform and legalization of same-sex marriage.

The ad, entitled “Digging”, focuses just on the tax cap, which is mired in the Legislature at the moment.

The Senate GOP passed Cuomo’s 2 percent bill early in the session, and Majority Leader Dean Skelos says he won’t accept any watering down or negotiating. (At least one of his members disagrees with that position).

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is about to introduce his own short-term cap bill that will likely feature exceptions not included in the governor’s plan. Cuomo said – through a spokesman – that the Assembly bill is a “non-starter.”

The CSNY spent about half of the $10 million is raised to help Cuomo in the budget battle, which turned out to be fairly one-sided – thanks to the sidelining of SEIU 1199 and the GNYHA. The committee plans to spend the remainder of its cash to help promote agenda items on which its members agree with the governor, and that will not include the rent laws, thanks to the participation of REBNY and big real estate developers.

The script for “Digging”, which notably doesn’t point any blaming fingers, is as follows:

“Each year, New Yorkers are forced to dig deeper, digging deeper into their pockets to pay their property taxes. Taxes shooting up higher and higher, driving families and businesses out of New York. In just 10 years, the typical property tax bill has soared by 80 percent, crushing taxpayers, sending jobs to other states. Governor Cuomo’s plan will cap property taxes to help families and businesses and create jobs here at home. Tell the Legislature to support the governor’s plan.”

A Ranger For Gay Marriage

As per today’s NY Times sports section (interesting placement), here’s the video Rangers forward Sean Avery recorded for the HRC’s New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign in which he becomes the first professional sports figure in the state to declare his support for letting same-sex couples legally wed.

So far, the individuals participating in this campaign have been largely limited to celebrity actors, musicians and dancers (Sam Waterson, Lucy Liu, Russell Simmons, Bill T. Jones etc.) and political figures (Barbara Bush, David Dinkins, Ed Koch, Mayor Bloomberg).

Avery’s participation is being touted by gay marriage advocates as being particularly significant given the homophobia that abounds in the world of sports. (Exhibit A: The recent case of Kobe Bryant). As the Times’ John Branch reports:

No active male player in a major American team sport has declared his homosexuality, and homosexual slurs remain in use to insult opponents and officials.”

Avery, a 31-year-old from Pickering, Ontario, has played nine seasons in the N.H.L. Known as a fashion-conscious, on-ice agitator, he has never been afraid of what others think of him.

“The places I’ve played and lived the longest have been in West Hollywood, Calif., when I played for the L.A. Kings, and when I moved to New York, I lived in Chelsea for the first four years,” Avery said in a phone interview.

“I certainly have been surrounded by the gay community. And living in New York and when you live in L.A., you certainly have a lot of gay friends.”

Avery, who reportedly has a fondness for fashion and “nice suits,” is SoHo resident, and also has a home in LA. The HRC’s Brian Ellner praised the hockey star, calling him “a leader – on and off the ice.”

And there’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek moment in the video when Avery says he treats everyone “the way I expect to be treated.” Avery has been voted the NHL’s most hated played, led the league in penalty minutes and is known as one of its most unpopular antagonists.

Weekend Open Thread

Some possibilities for discussion….

- Rudy Giuliani says he could be “probably be talked into” running in 2012.

- President Obama met Cairo, a dog that took part in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden and the only member of the SEAL team to be identified by name as of yet.

- Al Qaeda confirmed the death of Osama Bin Laden Friday, but pledged to continue its holy war aimed at destroying America.

- By pushing forward with his threat to lay off 4,100 teachers, Mayor Bloomberg is possibly imperiling a significant legacy issue: Improvement of the NYC public school system.

- Bloomberg renewed his call for the repeal of LIFO, saying that without it, the “greatest carnage” will be in the neediest districts.

- The Post calls Bloomberg a “fibber.”

- Senior House Republicans recommitted to their Medicare overhaul plan.

- Paul McCartney is reportedly engaged to MTA Board member Nancy Shevell (the ex-wife of failed 2010 US Senate candidate Bruce Blakeman).

- It looks like playwright Tony Kushner will get his honorary CUNY degree after all.

- Julia Roberts penned an OpEd with Hillary Clinton about the benefits of cleaner burning stoves in developing countries.