One Less Headache For Skelos

Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, one of several WNY Republicans mentioned as a potential candidate for former Rep. Chris Lee’s seat in NY-26, released a statement through his communications director, Daniel Aikin, this morning to announce he’s taking a pass on the race.

“Senator Ranzenhofer is honored and proud to serve each and every resident in the 61st State Senate District,” Aikin said.

“Currently, he is focused on working with the Governor and his colleagues in the State Legislature to pass a budget that reduces spending and creates private-sector job development. While he is humbled by the support of many, he is not considering a run for New York’s 26th Congressional District.”

Sen. George Maziarz (Niagara County) and Sen. Joe Robach (Rochester) have expressed interest in Lee’s seat. Sen. Patrick Gallivan, who has spent less than two months in his seat, has also been mentioned.

A win by any one of these Republicans could potentially deadlock the Senate at 31-31 – not a situation anyone, particularly Majority Leader Dean Skelos – is interested in seeing again anytime soon.

(As per the comment section: Yes, it would be 31-30 until the special, and if the Democrats won – more likely in Robach’s seat than Maziarz’s, it appears – it would be 31-31. My bad).

Skelos told me yesterday at the Crain’s breakfast that he doesn’t believe Maziarz will run. We haven’t heard that yet from Maziarz, who lunched yesterday with Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy and also said he needs to talk to his family before making a final decision on this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

It seems like the powers-that-be are coalescing behind Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, whose ability to self-fund is awfully attractive to a party that depleted its coffers in 2010 and hasn’t really had much of a chance to restock yet. Plus, she’s a woman – a plus when it comes to replacing a guy felled by his apparent inability to be faithful to his wife.

Corwin reportedly has Carl Paladino, former Rep. Tom Reynolds and Assemblyman Jim Hayes, who declined to run himself, in her corner. The assemblywoman said yesterday she’ll be making a decision in a couple of days.

Here And Now

Nothing like a good political sex scandal to juice up your week…TGIF for so many reasons. Here are the headlines:

Nobody resigns over an attempted affair. There has to be something more there.”

House Speaker John Bohener reportedly told Lee to clean up his act and then rewarded him with a spot on Ways and Means.

The Craigslist woman who caused Chris Lee’s downfall was on a date when she found out about the Gawker story.

She is Yesha Callhan, a 34-year-old faculty specialist at the University of Maryland and a single mother.

On why she exposed Lee: “I assumed that other people have probably come across him as well, and he had lied to them. I felt annoyance at just the audacity of people thinking that they’re not going to get found out when they are lying.”

Callhan doesn’t believe this was Lee’s first time trying to cheat.

Here’s Lee’s resignation letter. Short and sweet.

The Buffalo News wishes Lee had tried to “tough it out” instead of quitting so abruptly.

A number of Senate Republicans are interested in running, which could imperil the slim GOP majority.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (which endorsed Lee last fall) calls on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call a special election “soon,” despite talk the district’s days are numbered.

The governor is expected to call the special, but when?

More >

Extras

Hosni Mubarak is holding on.

Mayor Bloomberg is in trouble with the Irish.

The Donald will decide by June whether to run for president.

David Paterson is joining the faculty of NYU and navigating traffic in his post-gubernatorial life.

Former Rep. Chris Lee’s office remains open for business.

Michael Caputo praised Lee’s “remarkable” crisis control.

There’s a Website to draft former Assemblyman Jack Quinn into the race.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan thinks his party has a “shot at winning” in NY-26, former Rep. Tom Reynolds disagrees.

Thanks to Lee, Gawker has gone legit.

Manhattan BP Scott Stringer called Bloomberg’s comments about pensions “outrageous.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy could be in trouble, but is trying to take a lesson from former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi’s demise.

Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky is rallying college students.

A key figure in the CityTime scandal pleaded guilty.

President Obama wants to expand high-speed Internet access.

Harris Beach launched a muniblog.

Gaming Out The 54th AD

I just got off the phone with soon-to-be-former Assemblyman Darryl Towns, who told me he believes NYC Councilman Erik Martin Dilan would be an “intriguing” candidate to replace him in the Brooklyn seat he’ll soon vacate to take a job with the Cuomo administration.

“If the councilman is interested, I think he would be tough to beat,” Towns said. “But he has not yet shared his interest with me.”

Towns said he doesn’t yet have a resignation date and is working that out with Team Cuomo.

A reader who is an astute follower of Brooklyn politics said Dilan, son of Sen. Martin Malave Dilan, is “perceived as the odds-on favorite” for Towns’ seat, particularly since he’s term-limited out of his current job in 2013.

Councilman Dilan’s wife is the female district leader for the 54th AD (the district leaders pick the candidates in special elections, I believe) and most of the district falls within his father’s senatorial district.

According to my source, Councilman Dilan’s ascendancy would be a coup for Brooklyn Democratic Chairman/Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who has run multiple challengers against Towns over the years (including Martin Dilan – twice).

Another reader wrote in to comment on the question of a successor for Rep. Ed Towns.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is seen as a strong contender, but he has to work out an agreement with NYC Councilwoman Tish James – perhaps she’ll run for the Assembly seat he would give up?

But, there’s also NYC Councilman Charles Barron, who came close to toppling Congressman Towns in a 2006 Democratic primary. Barron ran a longshot gubernatorial bid last year, falling short of his goal of landing 50,000 votes to start a new third party focused on getting candidates of color elected. Barron will be term-limited out in 2013, too.

Of course, the next round of redistricting, which will set the lines for 2012, could change everything. Jeffries has some up close and personal experience with that.

Hayes Takes A Pass On NY-26, Robach ‘Considering’ A Run

And another one’s down…Assemblyman Jim Hayes, who was among the Republicans mentioned as a potential candidate to replace former Rep. Chris Lee, released the following statement this afternoon:

“Many friends have contacted me to urge me to become a candidate for Congress. And while I am flattered by their support, this would be a very difficult time for me to divert my attention from deliberations on the state budget, to a political fight for what could easily turn out to be a very short term in the House of Representatives.”

“For the last four years, I have been leading the fight for a responsible budget, for less spending and borrowing and lower taxes. As Ranking Member on the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, I have a unique position from which to fight for fiscal restraint in Albany – a position that would be lost to Western New York if I were engaged in campaigning for another office.”

“It is with these concerns in mind, that I want to make it clear that my intention is to remain in the State Assembly.”

“The seven county Republican leaders are fortunate to have a number of outstanding potential candidates to fill this seat and I am certain that they will choose wisely.”

Most of the smart money at this point is on Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, according to numerous GOP sources in Western NY.

Other NY-26 developments:

- Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks also publicly expressed her disinterest in the seat.

- Maybe Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has a 31-31 problem to worry about after all? Democrat-turned-Republican Sen. Joe Robach told YNN Rochester that he is indeed considering a run in NY-26, and he’s not at all concerned with Internet musings about his personal life. (If you don’t know what that’s about, click here).

- State GOP Chairman Ed Cox just called to tell me that Vice Chairman Ed Morgan, who also heads the Orleans County GOP, is going to be heading up the party’s “open selection process, pursuant to our rules” to settle on a candidate for the special election Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to call.

The seven GOP county leaders in NY-26 will be pick a candidate in a weighted vote that’s based on the last congressional – not gubernatorial – election, which was, of course, 2010.

Cuomo ‘Will Take Appropriate Steps’ in NY-26

Now the question is, what are appropriate steps?

Cuomo Spokesperson Josh Vlasto just issued this statement, which we assume that he is going to call a special election, though there is no hint of a time frame for making the proclamation.

“The Department of State received Mr. Lee’s resignation early this morning. The Governor will take the appropriate steps to ensure New Yorkers in the 26th district are fairly represented in Congress.”

Education Reform Now Enlists Teachers In LIFO Ad

Education Reform Now, the advocacy group chaired by former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, has launched a TV ad that features teachers supporting Mayor Bloomberg’s call for an end to the “last in, first out” policy for public school layoffs.

The teachers in the 60-second spot have spent between four and 21 years in the classroom, according to ERN’s press release.

“The ‘Last In-First Out’ policy is bad for teachers, bad for schools and, most importantly, bad for kids,” said ERN President Joe Williams.

“Reckless layoffs that aren’t based on a teacher’s effectiveness have the potential to destroy a school’s culture and derail all the progress that’s been made to improve student achievement. Our lawmakers can’t say they want to improve schools and protect great teachers on the one hand and still support this antiquated policy on the other.”

The ad, called “Merit,” will run on broadcast and cable television stations in NYC and Albany for at least the next month. There’s also an accompanying Website for the so-called “keep great teachers” campaign.

Cuomo has said he’s open to discussing modifications to LIFO, which is a top priority for Bloomberg as the city schools – along with the rest of the districts in the state – faces deep education aid cuts.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said at Crain’s this morning that he thinks LIFO should be negotiated as part of the budget, but Cuomo has so far indicated he wants that, along with pension reform – another big Bloomberg priority – to be handled outside the budget process.

Education Reform Now, as you’ll recall, was a player in the push to lift the charter school cap during the “Race to the Top” battle. This isn’t the first time the organization has attacked seniority-based layoffs.

Special Election Alert! Assemblyman Lands Cuomo Post (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just announced he has tapped Brooklyn Assemblyman Darryl Towns to serve as commissioner and C.E.O. of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), sparking yet another special election – this time in the Assembly.

Under Cuomo’s proposed consolidation of state housing programs the commissioner also serves as chief executive of all the major housing and community renewal agencies, including the Housing Finance and Mortgage agencies.

Towns has served in the Assembly since January 1993. He currently chairs the Assembly Standing Committee on Banks and the Black, Puerto Rican/Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus (a post he has held since 2007).

“I have always said that I would reach out to the best and the brightest to join my administration. Assemblyman Towns is a dedicated public servant who certainly fits the bill,” Cuomo said in a press release.

“He has served the people of New York State with integrity and pride, and I look forward to working with him in the future.”

UPDATE1: Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto informs me this appointment does not require Senate confirmation. Also, as per Vlasto, Towns’ salary will be $150,000, which is a considerable decrease from the previous compensation of $225,000.

The 54th AD is solidly Democrat-dominated, so I don’t foresee another pick-up for the GOP in this one, but there could be a squabble among the Democrats over who gets to run to succeed Towns.

More >

Legislature Shooting For An On-Time Budget

There was much criticism from Republicans last year when the legislature failed to hold joint budget hearings. What a difference a year makes. Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Speaker Sheldon Silver just announced an updated schedule for the budget which, if they can stick to it, would put them on track for an on-time budget.

Here’s the schedule:

  • February 28: Senate/Assembly Fiscal Committee Economic & Revenue Reports Released
  • February 28: Consensus Economic and Forecasting Conference
  • March 1: Revenue Consensus Report
  • March 15: Senate & Assembly budget actions
  • March 15: Joint Senate/Assembly budget conference committees commence
  • March 28: Final Report of Joint Conference Committees
  • March 28 – 31: Joint Legislative budget bills taken up by Senate & Assembly

“I am pleased that we are returning to the joint, public budget negotiation process that is set in law,” said Skelos. “This model resulted in passage of an on-time budget in 2008 and I’m hopeful it will help us enact a budget by April 1 that meets the fiscal challenges we face and addresses the needs of the people.”

“The Legislature has already moved forward with an aggressive schedule of joint public hearings on the governor’s proposed budget. The schedule we are unveiling today provides a clear roadmap for the path we will take as a collective body to achieve a sound budget for New York State that recognizes the divergent needs of our communities and the fiscal reality of our state,” said Silver.

Andrew Cuomo has said on multiple occasions he wants a budget passed on time, and has hinted that he’d use budget extenders to get parts of his spending plan passed if lawmakers don’t get their work done by April 1st.

Corwin To Decide On NY-26 Run ‘In A Couple Of Days’

Assemblywoman Jane Corwin has just released a statement opening the door for a potential run for the 26th Congressional District. She says she is going to be making an official decision in a few days. But the statement reads like someone who is preparing for a run.

“People in this part of the State deserve a Representative who knows not only what it takes to create jobs but has actually done it. That’s why we need a Representative who will fight to cut taxes, stop reckless Washington spending and create job opportunities for folks in Western New York. Those have been my guiding principles my entire career.

“Because the stakes are so high for area taxpayers, I will be discussing a possible Congressional campaign with my family and Republican leaders throughout the 26th Congressional District and will have a decision in a couple of days.”

“I know that with a Special Election looming in weeks, time is of the essence. Should I decide to run for Congress, I can assure all concerned that my campaign would have the resources to win and keep this seat in Republican hands.”

Many people feel Corwin is the most likely GOP candidate. In part because she is not a member of the State Senate, where Republicans hold a small 32-30 edge. Also, she could also self-fund the campaign – a huge plus in the rapid timetable of special elections.