Siena II: Good News For Gillibrand

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s approval rating continues to climb in the wake of her first-ever statewide election success last November, even as GOP leaders continue to search for a candidate to challenge her in 2012.

Today’s Siena poll found New York’s junior senator is enjoying her highest favorable rating ever: 57-18 percent, up from 50-24 percent just four months ago.

A year and a half away from facing voters again – this time for a full six-year term, and not merely the remainder of former Sen. Hillary Clinton’s term – 52 percent of voters, including a plurality of Republicans, say they are prepared to re-elect Gillibrand.

Twenty-nine percent would prefer “someone else,” and 19 percent are undecided.

At least two of Gillibrand’s 2010 GOP opponents, former Rep. Joe DioGuardi and David Malpass, are considering potential re-match attempts against her in 2012.

Former LG Betsy McCaughey is being touted as a possible Gillibrand opponent, and she hasn’t yet ruled out a run. McCaughey spoke at New York’s CPAC and also the the national CPAC this past weekend in Washington, D.C. I’m told some of her “Obamacare” red meat won her a standing ovation.

Gillibrand has been enjoying a spate of national attention following the repeal last year of “DADT” and passage of the Zadroga bill, both of which she made top priorities after inheriting Clinton’s seat in January 2009.

She also unexpectedly became a de facto spokeswoman for injured Rep. Gabby Giffords after her good friend opened her eyes in the hospital while Gillibrand held her hand.

Republicans are worried 2012 will be even more of an uphill battle to anyone seeking to dislodge Gillibrand than 2010 was due to the presence of President Obama atop the Democratic ticket in a Democrat-dominated state like New York. This might be the party’s last chance to defeat Gillibrand, as most agree the longer she holds onto the seat, the less likely she is to lose it.

Siena: Cuomo Hits All-Time High, Even As NYers Digest ‘Painful’ Budget

Today’s Siena poll finds a whopping 77 percent of New Yorkers view new Gov. Andrew Cuomo favorably, up from 70 percent last month, and 72 percent say they at least somewhat support his 2011-2012 spending plan, although they oppose his call to reduce education aid.

A majority of voters – 57 percent – said Cuomo’s doing an excellent or good job as governor, compared to 33 percent who say he’s doing a fair or poor job. That’s up from last month’s 44-28 percent job performance rating.

“After six weeks in office, New Yorkers like the man, and the job that he’s doing as governor,” said Siena poll spokesman Steve Greenberg.

“Most voters continue to view Cuomo as an ideological moderate, and by a four-to-one margin, they continue to trust the governor more than the Legislature to do the right thing for New York.”

Seventy-nine percent favor Cuomo’s desire to close the $10 billion budget gap without raising taxes; 76 percent back his rejection of any new borrowing and 75 support his call to slash overall state spending by $3.7 billion.

But 64 percent oppose Cuomo’s proposed $1.5 billion reduction in state aid to school districts, and 56 percent oppose his 10 percent cut to SUNY and CUNY. New Yorkers are more closely divided, 51-45, over Cuomo’s plan to cut Medicaid spending by about $1 billion.

New Yorkers continue to part ways with Cuomo over the millionaire’s tax, with voters saying 65-33 that the temporary PIT increase on the state’s wealthiest residents should continue past its 2011 sunset date.

And this isn’t just the case of low earners liking the idea of soaking the rich. Sixty-four percent of voters with household incomes of less than $50,000 want the tax continued, a similar 61 percent of voters with household incomes of more than $100,000 want the tax extended, too.

SNY0211 Crosstabs FINAL

Here And Now

This morning’s legislative budget hearing in Albany will focus on economic development. Outgoing ESDC Chairman Dennis Mullen will do the honors because his replacement, Ken Adams, hasn’t yet been confirmed by the Senate.

The afternoon hearing is on taxes.

The federal deficit is predicted to spike to $1.65 trillion in the current fiscal year – the largest dollar amount ever – adding pressure on Democrats and Republicans to tackle growing levels of debt.

The WSJ’s Jacob Gershman reduces Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s projected budget spending with a single phone call.

One of Mayor Bloomberg’s fleet of private planes was in Bermuda overnight during the Christmas blizzard, but it’s not easy to tell whether the mayor himself was there.

A Bloomberg plane was the last small aircraft to land at LaGuardia as the storm intensified.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has traveled outside New York on taxpayer-funded junkets no fewer than eight times since his appointment two years ago, spending nearly $8,500.

Lippman will announce tomorrow a new policy – the nation’s most restrictive – that bars New York judges from hearing cases involving lawyers who contributed significantly to their campaigns.

The TU’s Fred LeBrun finds it “a little bit scary” that New York has a “supposedly populist governor taking the side of the wealthy, and getting away with it.”

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle applauds Cuomo for calling out the so-called budget “sham” of spending increases built into the law.

More >

Hochul: Not A Time For ‘Amateurs’

Here’s Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul discussing how the NY-26 seat actually could be in play for Democrats, as long as the party goes with someone who has Washington “experience” and can “hit the ground running.”

She clearly considers herself someone who fits that description, although she hasn’t yet made a decision about whether she’ll throw her hat in the ring for the yet-to-be-announced special election to replace disgraced former congressman Chris Lee.

“I don’t think this is time for amateurs,” Hochul said. “We need people who know what they’re doing. There are some good candidates out there.”

“I know I’d be a good candidate, I’m just weighing my options right now. A lot of people have asked me to look at it. If I choose to do it, I’m in it to win.”

The Buffalo News reported that Hochul is solidifying her support among local Democrats, while Assemblywoman Jane Corwin is doing the same with Republicans.

The DCCC is expected to weigh in at some point, although it appears the national party isn’t all that bullish on this race. The NY-26 Republican leaders met today and established a process for selecting their candidate.

The Weekend That Was

The woman who exposed former Rep. Chris Lee’s Craigslist antics thinks he may have wanted to get caught.

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel called NY-26 “Paladino’s district” and isn’t optimistic about the Democrats’ chances there.

The Bear Mountain Compact is officially dead.

Erie County Democratic leaders will poll to find the strongest candidate to challenge County Executive Chris Collins.

What is it about New York politics that attracts scandal?

Rep. Ron Paul won CPAC.

Jimmy McMillan was at CPAC and says he’ll run for president in 2012 as a Republican.

The Times calls on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make good on his campaign pledge for ethics reform.

The Post is glad the feds nixed the Catskills casino deal brokered by former Gov. David Paterson.

Soon-to-be former Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala won’t double dip when she becomes Cuomo’s DMV commissioner.

The plan to save Long Island College Hospital is moving forward.

More >

NY-26 GOP Leaders Set Candidate Screening Schedule

The GOP leaders of the seven-county NY-26 met in Batavia this morning and established a schedule for selecting a candidate to run in the yet-to-be-called special election to fill the seat former Rep. Chris Lee vacated last week in the wake of his Craigslist scandal.

Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy sent out the following e-mail this afternoon:

“Interviews and screenings will take place this week and final interviews will take place on Sunday, February 20th. Final interviews will be conducted with the seven Republican county chairmen in addition to two representatives from each county’s Republican Party leadership.

“Interested candidates should provide a letter of interest and a current resume to their local county Republican Chairman in order for their candidacy to be considered.”

Now that all the would-be candidates from the Senate majority have decided to take a pass on the race, it appears support is coalescing behind Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, who has the support of Langworthy, (who I believe controls the lion’s share of the weighted vote in the district) former Rep. Tom Reynolds, who held the seat before Lee, and others.

Corwin’s ability to self-fund is a big plus. The fact that she’s a woman is probably helpful, too, considering that she would be running for the seat of a married man who embarrassed himself by trolling the Internet for dates. The race for Lee’s seat is shaping up to be a contest between two of WNY’s best-known female elected officials as Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul is emerging as the Democrats’ strongest contender.

Weekend Open Thread

A shirtless former congressman, holes in the budget, a bad ethnic joke by a certain billionaire mayor…Just another week in NY politics. Enjoy.

Something In The Water

Gail Collins’ take on the Chris Lee scandal this morning is worth reading, despite the following passage, which, as an upstater, I found particularly cringeworthy – probably because it’s all too true:

“Do you think somebody in upstate New York has disturbed the sacred cemetery of a clan of extremely cranky witch doctors? Honestly, when you’ve got high unemployment, terrible weather and a dwindling population, you should not be stuck with a rapidly revolving cast of horny politicians, too.”

Collins points out that upstate has already live through the tickle-party scandal of former Rep. Eric Massa and produced a mad-as-hell gubernatorial candidate who forwarded racist, sexist and pornographic e-mails to friends and fathered a child out of wedlock.

Noting a number of people are saying Lee might have resigned in haste, Collins hits the nail on the head with this:

“I would be absolutely thrilled if the worst thing he’d done over the past few years was misrepresented his marital status on a BlackBerry.”

“However, it’s one thing to be a would-be adulterer and another to be an incredibly stupid would-be adulterer. In his re-election campaign, Lee bragged about his work providing students with instruction on the hazards of having personal conversations on the Internet.”

“Yet he was working under the assumption that the best way to conduct an extramarital social life is to pretend to be a different person online, while using one’s real name and photograph.”

“Nobody wants to be represented by a person who has to be reminded of the existence of Google.”

Sigh.

This comes as the Post is reporting Lee’s wife, Michele, is devastated by his behavior and rushed to join him at his father’s house in Florida in hopes of working things out.

The Shirt Off His Back, Take II

…Now it’s a trend. This one was spotted in Clarence, the Buffalo suburb that the former congressman calls home, at a coffee shop that is out in front of a dry cleaners.

Thanks to the anonymous reader who sent in this gem.

IMG00134-20110212-0603

UFT Unleashes ‘Blizzard’ Against Bloomberg

The UFT is launching a TV ad campaign today aimed at Mayor Bloomberg and his threat to layoff public school teachers if the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed spending cuts to NYC are approved by the Legislature without the mandate relief the mayor says will offset his need to axe public employees .

The 30-second spot is called “Blizzard,” which obviously is meant to invoke thoughts of Bloomberg’s worst moment so far in 2011 – the Christmas weekend storm and his administration’s failure to respond to it in a timely fashion. As if the name wasn’t evocative enough, the ad opens with a shot of the mayor standing next to a snow globe.

The spot also takes the mayor to task for seeking the repeal of the “last in, first out” rule for laying off teachers.

Cuomo has said he’s open to discussion on that subject. Ditto for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who, like Bloomberg, says LIFO should be part of the budget talks (the governor wants to linkage in the budget). The Assembly Democrats, who are closely allied with the teachers unions, are likely to be the sticking point on that.

Here’s the script:

“Mayor Bloomberg sees things differently than the rest of us. Our schools are short of money, yet he refuses to ask millionaires to pay their fair share.”

“He says class size doesn’t matter. And talks more about who will get laid off, than trying to stop teacher layoffs, altogether.”

“This is about protecting our kids’ future, Mayor Bloomberg. And that’s a lot bigger than any snow storm. We can save our schools. But first, we all have to support them.”

The ad was produced by Shorr, Johnson and Magnus Strategic Media. It will air today through Tuesday, Feb. 22 on local broadcast stations as well as cable television networks in the New York metropolitan area.

It will run during a number of popular shows, including: NY1’s “Inside City Hall,” “Conan,” “Daily Show,” “Iron Chef,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Jeopardy!,” “CNN,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and various morning and evening news broadcasts.