Hochul Receives Presidential Congrats

Here’s President Obama’s statement congratulating Congresswoman-in-waiting Kathy Hochul on her win.

He didn’t endorse her as he did the Democratic candidates in past NY specials, and that makes sense, considering his poll numbers these days and the fact that Sen. John McCain carried the district back in 2008 (this was one of just five NY districts he won).

There was, however, a big under-the-radar DNC presence here – including a late cash transfer to the NYS Democratic Party to help with field, I’m told, although I don’t have the exact figure on that yet.

“I want to extend my congratulations to Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul for her victory in New York’s 26th Congressional District,” Obama said.

“Kathy and I both believe that we need to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce the deficit in order to outcompete other nations and win the future. Kathy has shown, through her victory and throughout her career, that she will fight for the families and businesses in western New York, and I look forward to working with her when she gets to Washington.”

DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz On ‘Far-reaching Consequences’ Of NY-26

Newly-minted DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz released a (rather lengthy) statement that echoes the Democratic line of the night: This was a referendum on the Republicans’ effort to overhaul Medicare.

“I wholeheartedly congratulate Congresswoman-elect Hochul and her grassroots supporters for their hard work and dedication despite being outspent by a 2-to-1 margin.”

“Tonight’s election result is not just a victory for Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul, it’s a victory for the residents of Western New York and for Americans who believe that our elected leaders should fight to protect Medicare and ensure that our government works for our seniors, working families and young people.”

” Kathy’s Republican opponent, and those who spent a small fortune on her behalf in a solidly Republican district, found out the hard way that their extreme plans to abolish Medicare and slash Medicaid and investments in health care, education, innovation and job creation are wrongheaded and unpopular even in a district that should have been a cakewalk for the Republican candidate.

“Just a few months ago, former Republican Congressman Lee won the 26th district with 74 percent of the vote – but since that time Republicans have voted to end Medicare and place a whole host of additional burdens on seniors, young people and working families while preserving tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires and big oil and they have been on the wrong side of public sentiment ever since.

“Tonight’s result has far-reaching consequences beyond New York. It demonstrates that Republicans and Independent voters, along with Democrats, will reject extreme policies like ending Medicare that even Newt Gingrich called radical.”

“With this election in the rear-view mirror, it is my hope that Republicans will accept the message being sent by voters in this race, in the polls and at town hall meetings across the country and work with Democrats to get our fiscal house in order while protecting Medicare and other initiatives vital to our economic recovery.”

Pelosi: Hochul Win Sends Medicare ‘Message’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just released the following statement on the Democratic win in NY-26:

“Kathy Hochul’s victory tonight is a tribute to Democrats’ commitment to preserve and strengthen Medicare, create jobs, and grow our economy. And it sends a clear message that will echo nationwide: Republicans will be held accountable for their vote to end Medicare.”

“Congresswoman-elect Hochul will add an independent, strong, passionate voice to the House Democratic Caucus as she works to build a better future for her constituents and for all Americans, bolster our middle class, support small businesses, and restore our economic prosperity.”

“We look forward to welcoming her to the House of Representatives.”

AP Calls NY-26 For Hochul

…Developing.

Gas-Tax Holiday Running On Empty In Assembly

The Senate approved a revised version of the suspension of the gasoline sales tax during the major summer holidays, but its fate in the Democratic-controlled Assembly remains uncertain.

A Democratic amendment proposed by Sen. Jose Peralta aimed at curtailing price-gouging at the pump was shotdown.

The measure, which eliminates the trio of sales taxes that add up to 33 cents, passed the Senate this afternoon 48-14, leading its Assembly sponsor, Jim Tedisco, to call on his chamber to do the same:

“Now that the Senate has passed the Summer Gas Tax Holiday, it should be on the Assembly’s to do list before the legislature breaks for the Memorial Day holiday. Unfortunately, when it comes to giving New York motorists a break and helping out our small businesses during the three busiest summer travel weekends, the Assembly is full of baloney while taxpayers are running on empty,” Tedisco said in a statement.

Both Tedisco and the Senate sponsor Greg Ball say the measure was revised so it wouldn’t impact the bridge and highway fund — long a point of contention for gas-tax holiday. Instead, it creates a rebate program for gasoline stations.

Extras

The NY-26 race won’t be certified tonight, no matter what the results, thanks to a court order obtained by Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.

Corwin said in a statement: “We have anticipated a very close election from the start, and the action taken today is standard procedure and very typical in close campaigns. Our campaign’s goal is to ensure that every legal vote cast is properly counted accurately and fairly.” (No link).

Corwin’s campaign attorney is former AG Dennis Vacco. (No link).

Turnout in the district has been higher than normal.

…But it’s unclear which of the candidates that helps and/or hurts.

Jane Corwin canceled an afternoon stop at an East Amherst fire station, which means her 9 a.m. voting was her lone Election Day appearance. (She choose to make calls to voters and spend time with her family instead).

NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions reportedly isn’t optimistic about Corwin’s chances.

It could all come down to Jack Davis.

NYC labor unions aren’t looking to make contract deals with Mayor Bloomberg.

Orlando is a more popular tourist destination than the Big Apple.

“Gay cousin Michael” urges Sen. Tom Libous to vote “yes” on gay marriage. (I’m unsure this is true; we haven’t been able to confirm yet).

Rep. Bill Owens is due in traffic court tonight after getting caught doing 84 mph in a 55 mph zone.

The Democrats overrode Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s redistricting veto.

Presidents can dream, too.

Pataki 2012?

It looks like former Gov. George Pataki has had a change of heart on throwing his hat into the ring.

“I’m not running now, ” Pataki said during a stop today in Henniker, NH. “But we’ll see what happens over the course of the next month.”

The governor spoke at New England College as part of what’s called the ECON-101 Town Hall meeting series, where political leaders discuss their economic plans for America.

While in the Granite State, Pataki lambasted President Obama, saying he has “the worst fiscal record of any president in history.” He also launched anti-Obama ads that will run through June 13 – the date of the GOP primary in NH.

Pataki has been back and forth on this 2012 thing.

He said during a CapTon interview last fall that he hadn’t yet ruled it out. Then a Pataki supporter in Iowa told me back in February that the former governor was indeed seriously considering another attempt at the White House.

But Pataki himself said as recently as late April (during an appearance with Sean Hannity) that he did not plan to run.

Lawsky Wins Senate Nod For Financial Services Department

Ben Lawsky, a veteran of the Andrew Cuomo’s attorney general office and gubernatorial office, won confirmation to lead — and by default shape — the new Department of Financial Services.

The agency combines the departments of Banking and Insurance as a regulatory agency, part of Cuomo’s plan to reorganize and “right-size” state government.

Lawsky, a New York City resident, most recently was Cuomo’s chief of staff.

“There is no one better suited to take on the task of leading this new department than Ben Lawsky,” Cuomo said in statement. “Ben’s deep understanding of complex markets, evolving financial products, and consumer protection uniquely enables him to safeguard investors while maintaining a vibrant marketplace in New York. Ben has been devoted to public service for his entire career and I am glad that he will continue to serve New Yorkers in this capacity.”

Lawsky’s job will probably be a daunting one. He’s being charged with forming the new agency as scrutiny increases on the business practices of Wall Street. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating the causes of the mortgage crisis.

Lawsky told me in an interview last week that he’s got to strike a balance between regulation and ensuring businesses can prosper in New York.

Skelos: ‘Three Way Agreeement’ On Cap, But…

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said in a statement following the news conference today with the legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that a three-way agreement had been achieved, but differences remain on a expiration date and “minor technical issues.”

“Almost four months ago the Senate passed the hard property tax cap legislation proposed by Governor Cuomo,” Skelos said. “Since then, Senate Republicans have advocated every day for the enactment of a strong property tax cap. Other than the sunset provision and minor technical issues, we have reached a three-way agreement on a bill that achieves our goals and includes 95 percent of the bill we already passed and will finally put the brakes on skyrocketing property taxes.”

Skelos said during the news conference that there was a “broad” agreement on the cap between his conference, the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Cuomo.

Earlier in the day, he suggested that linking the tax cap to rent control laws for New York City would remain up for negotiations, noting there’s three weeks left in the session.

Full release is after the jump: More >

Empire Center’s McMahon Likes What He Sees In Cap

It’s a little surprising to hear the Empire Center’s EJ McMahon actually praise a fiscal measure in Albany, but that’s what he’s doing today.

McMahon, the director of the business-backed think-tank, said the proposed cap by the Assembly contains few exclusions, even if the growth in pension costs above 2 percent is carved out of the measure.

“I think it’s a good deal, it’s a tax cap,” McMahon said.

He compared the proposal to what Massachusetts has in place for capping local and school property taxes, saying that while it might not be the toughest in the nation as suggested by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the proposal remains fairly tight.

“The way they constructed the partial exemptions for pensions is very limited,” he said. “The thing that concerned me is they would pass a piece of paper with the title tax cap and then say well, it’s better than nothing and it wouldn’t be. But the essential elements as I understand them in the draft that I’ve read, but the way the pension exclusions are constructed it’s very partial and it’s not an enormous loophole.”