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.

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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.

Where’s Sen. LaValle?

That’s the question Senate Democrats are asking today.

Senate Dem Spokesman Austin Shafran released a statement this morning blasting LaValle, the chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, for not attending today’s joint hearings on Higher Education.

“Facing deep cuts to many of Long Island’s premier education institutions, including Stony Brook, it’s disappointing that Senator LaValle would choose to walk away from the difficult decisions we face instead of working with the Governor and Legislature on a successful outcome to the budget,” Shafran said.

“New Yorkers didn’t elect Senator LaValle to avoid the tough choices. Senator LaValle has an obligation to take a seat at the table and stand up for his community, but he can’t do that if he refuses to enter the room. We could say we saw Senator LaValle at his worst, but we did not see him at all – he was absent when it counted most.”

It appears Sen. LaValle is in the district. Senate Republican Spokesman Scott Reif just released this response.

“Senator LaValle was unable to attend today’s hearing due to a previously scheduled annual event in his district, but met with representatives of SUNY yesterday to review the Governor’s budget line by line. In addition, the Senator’s Higher Education Director attended the hearing on his behalf and will fully brief him following its conclusion. Even the Democrats know that no one works harder or is more passionate about issues related to higher education than Senator LaValle.”

Boehner: Lee Wasn’t Pushed To Resign

The AP is reporting that House Speaker John Boehner insists former Rep. Chris Lee’s decision to abruptly resign following his Craigslist scandal was his and his alone.

There has been considerable speculation that the scandal-sensitive House GOP leadership pushed the former congressman to jump ship to spare his party a prolonged Eric Massa-style embarrassment, particularly following a report that Lee was one of several younger members whose hard-partying ways had raised concerns in Washington.

More from the AP:

The Ohio Republican told reporters Thursday that he became aware of Lee’s shirtless pictures posted on Craigslist sometime the previous afternoon and of Lee’s resignation just after 6 p.m.

He said Lee’s decision to resign immediately was best for his family and for his Buffalo-area constituents. Boehner refused to go into further detail.

Lippman Backs Public ‘Trial For Judges’

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman told me on CapTon last night that he thinks the process through which judges are disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Conduct is “too secretive” and should be revamped.

Lippman said the system works well “in general,” but could use a little “fine-tuning.”

“I’ve supported for many years making the hearings of the particular judge before the conduct commission open to the public after charges are brought,” he added. “I fully support that. The public should see it, it shouldn’t be a secret.”

To be clear: The characterization of this as a sort of public trial for judges is mine, not Lippman’s.

Lippman said he would like to see the creation of an “intermediate sanction such as a suspension for a period of time rather than just removal or censure and admonition,” adding: “That’s something I think we ought to look at…there are arguments both ways.”

The commission has come under fire recently. Judges have never been big fans, but they may now have an ally, the Times reports, in the 77,000-member State Bar Association, which is to consider a sweeping proposal to restructure the commission that could make the prosecution of judges more difficult.

That doesn’t sound exactly like what Lippman has in mind…

The chief judge also talked to me about the judiciary’s budget battle with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the so-called “judges hotel” being built atop the Court of Appeals building in Albany. You can view the entire interview here.

Dems Not Writing Off NY-26 (Updated)

Despite the fact that the GOP has a 26,000+ voter enrollment edge in NY-26 and has held the seat with only one interruption (redistricting makes this somewhat hard to explain) since 1953, the Democrats are thinking of putting up a fight for the seat vacated by former Rep. Chris Lee.

A WNY Democratic source informs me a number of county leaders from the more rural parts of the district are pushing Kathy Konst to run if and when Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls a special election.

Konst, as you’ll recall, is a former Erie County legislator who joined GOP County Executive Chris Collins’ administration as planning commissioner back in August 2009.

She also ran an unsuccessful state Senate run (in the 59th) in 2008 against then-GOP Sen. Dale Volker, losing 56-44.

Konst’s position on running has been described to be as “noncommittal,” but the DCCC has, according to my source, approached her to have discussion.

The last time the Democrats really made a big push in NY-26 was 2008 when the seat was open thanks to former Rep. Tom Reynolds decision not to seek re-election (he survived the Mark Foley congressional page scandal in 2006, but then decided to retire and become a lobbyist).

There was a Democratic primary that year in which Jon Powers lost to Alice Kryzan, who went on to lose to Lee, who then cruised to an easy re-election bid last fall.

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