Nov 30th - 10:50 am
Democratic Sen. Antoine Thompson is poised to formally concede the 60th SD race to his Democra-turned-Republican opponent, Mark Grisanti, several Senate sources confirm.
UPDATE: And here’s Thompson’s statement, which is a little odd, since it mentions nothing at all about Grisanti, who has a 4 p.m. press conference scheduled in Buffalo:
“I thank the residents of the 60th Senatorial District for allowing me to serve them for four years – a duty that I took very seriously and an experience for which I am extremely grateful. ”
“I thank the many community partners who I’ve had the pleasure of working with side-by-side for a better 60th District. Together, we accomplished monumental successes in the areas of economic development, education and the environment.”
As recently as yesterday, Thompson said during a brief interview at the Capitol that it would be “premature” for him to stop fighting, noting that there are still some ballots yet uncounted.
There had been speculation that he would push for a full hand recount, but the Senate Democrats have made it clear they have no intention of continuing to pay the legal bills to fight a losing battle out in Buffalo.
The Democrats are increasingly coming to terms with the fact that they will return to the minority come January, although they’re holding out hope that some mid-year retirements by the older members of the GOP could spark a few special elections where they might be able to regain ground.
Thompson’s loss puts the Senate split at 29-31. The Democrats would have to win both the 37th and 78th SDs to deadlock the chamber, which is highly unlikely.
The safer bet is that while Suzi Oppenheimer holds off Bob Cohen in the 37th, Jack Martins will defeat Sen. Craig Johnson in the 7th, although Johnson has already reportedly made clear his intentions to run again in 2012 (a presidential year that would likely boost Democratic turnout in that closely-divided district).
UPDATE2: Now there’s a statement from Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, which appears in full after the jump. It includes a shout-out to Sen. George Maziarz, who briefly considered a leadership run, but then abandoned it to support Skelos; and a “thank-you” to Thompson for doing the “right thing.”
Nov 30th - 10:43 am
An analysis of Andrew Cuomo’s 27-day post-general election filing by NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney found that while the Democratic governor-elect spent less overall on his successful campaign than previous gubernatorial contenders, he spent more in the final days of his bid than all but self-funding candidate Tom Golisano.
Cuomo’s filing is now on-line. It shows he has jsut under $5 million on hand ($4.98 million, to be exact).
That’s slightly more than the $4 million he said his report would show. The governor elect has pledged to use that cash – and whatever else he can raise – to do battle with the state worker unions next year.
Nov 30th - 9:50 am
New York’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman pulled an all-nighter, but is nevertheless in a very good mood this morning after shepherding through the judicial compensation commission bill through both houses of the Legislature and creating a rare moment of accomplishment in this largely do-nothing lame duck session.
I just got off the phone with Lippman, who assured me the bill had indeed passed the Senate and the Assembly, with votes of 58-0 and 97-22, respectively.
The measure was the last thing the Senate did before calling it quits sometime sometime around 8 p.m. After appearing disinclined to take up the bill for most of the day, the Assembly followed suit around 3 a.m. this morning.
“I would say I am surprisingly pleased to be in the situation we’re in today,” Lippman told me.
“We certainly were not confident that we caould get this done. We did think our cause was certainly just,and everyone agreed it should be done. I think we gained momentum as the day went on.”
When I recorded an interview with Lippman late in the afternoon for last night’s CapTon, it was far from a foregone conclusion that the commission bill would pass. In fact, I suggested he had little chance of seeing lawmakers willingly decouple their own pay raises from the judicial salaries. (Shows you how much I know).
Lippman said he expects Gov. David Paterson will sign the bill into law, noting the governor signaled his support for the legislation by including it on the extraordinary session agenda.
The commission initially suggested by the judicial branch would have had 13 members. The one that passed would have seven: Three appointed by the governor, two by the chief judge and one each by the majority legislative leaders.
The first pay raises considered by the commission would not take effect until April 2012, and they would impact some 1,300 judges (everyone paid by the state, which includes all robe-wearers from City Court up).
The assumption is the commission would bring judicial pay in line with the federal level (a federal district court judge is making somewhere in the neighborhood of $167,000 while most state judges make $136,700 – a level that has been frozen for 12 years).
I asked Lippman if this action signals the end of the lawsuits challenging the tradition of linking legislative and judicial pay.
“At this point, certainly I’m awaiting signature on the bill, but we certainly feel it addresses, from a long-range perspective, the issues that we raised,” he responded.
“This year, first and foremost, the priority was to get a permanent mechanism by which judges can get pay adjustments and we can attract and retain a quality judiciary. I think we’re well on our way to creating a strong and independent judiciary in the years ahead, and that this is absolutely essential to the well-being of the juduciary.”
Nov 30th - 9:37 am
The official spin on last night’s surprise leadership vote that kept John Sampson as head of the Democratic conference was a one-for-all and all-for-one, united front sort of thing.
What actually happened in that members-only meeting apparently was considerably messier than that.
According to a Senate source briefed on the closed-door confab, the vote on Sampson was not, in fact, unanimous, as some other sources had claimed. Sen. Dave Valesky, a Syracuse-area Democrat who survived a spirited challenge this fall from Republican Andrew Russo, abstained. (It was a hand count vote).
In addition, there was considerable consternation that not all of the incoming freshmen were in the room for the vote.
I’m told at least one – Tony Avella – was missing, although Carlucci had been in town earlier in the day. Several others were on hand: Adriano Espaillat and Mike Gianaris, both of whom were at he Capitol until very early this morning, working in their current jobs as members of the Assembly.
Two other freshmen – David Carlucci and Gustavo Rivera – had been on hand earlier in the day, but I’m not sure if they stuck around long enough for the leadership vote, which took place around 10 p.m.
UPDATE: Rivera was indeed on hand and voted, but I’m still unclear about Carlucci. Avella knew about the meeting, but was on vacation.
The man Rivera defeated in the September primary, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr., whom aides insisted all day was on his way to the Capitol for the lame duck session, ended up a no-show. That might have been the first time he was marked officially “absent” in two years.
Nov 30th - 8:33 am
Posted by Liz Benjamin in [...]
Today is D-Day for Rep. Charlie Rangel.
Rangel is hoping his punishment comes in writing, and not in public.
A history of censure…and it’s not pretty.
As threatened, the NYC OTB immediately began shutdown procedures after state lawmakers failed to reach a bailout deal yesterday.
The downstate gambling operation will officially shut its doors Friday.
“Gov. David Paterson’s swan song ended up sounding like a cacophony of lame ducks,” say Jimmy Vielkind and Rick Karlin.
Paterson even failed in trying to get a longtime aide appointed to the Parole Board.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Minority (?) Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson were all re-elected by their respective conferences yesterday.
The vote on Sampson was done quietly and with little warning.
Mayor Bloomberg won the waiver battle on incoming NYC Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, but at what cost?
Nov 30th - 7:53 am
It could all come down to the 7th SD.
WGRZ-TV Buffalo is reporting that the Senate Democrats will not contest the results of the 60th SD race in which Democrat-turned-Republican Mark Grisanti is leading Sen. Antoine Thompson by 527 votes when the two sides appear at 11 a.m. in a Niagara County courtroom today.
A source within the Democratic party told the station that no one from the party will be in court to contest the results, effectively “putting an end to the election… no challenge is expected.” That report was confirmed by a Grisanti source.
During a brief interview at the Capitol yesterday, Thompson insisted it would be “too premature” for him to concede, adding:” “There’s still a lot of ballots out there and some people want us to do a hand count and we’ll see.”
Democrats are very confident that Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer will retain her several hundred vote lead over her GOP challenger, Bob Cohen, in the 37th SD, although Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos told me yesterday he’s still holding out hope for a come-from-behind win.
Assuming the seat holds for the Democrats, control of the chamber will come down to the race between Democratic Sen. Craig Johnson and Republican Jack Martins in Long Island’s 7th SD. Yesterday, Johnson’s campaign asked for a full hand recount, saying there have been discrepancies with the new electronic voting machines.
If the Democrats hold onto the 37th and win the 7th, the chamber will be deadlocked at 31-31. There’s also some rumblings starting about possible early retirements on the GOP side, which would spark additional special elections (although I might be jumping the gun a bit here).
If that happens, it looks like the Republicans are in better shape, financially speaking. The SRCC’s 27-day post general election report came out yesterday, revealing the GOP is in the black. (The report shows a balance of $398,620, but I’ve been told that’s a typo, and the actual number is $183,620).
That’s pretty low, but it’s a far sight better than the Democrats are expected to do. The DSCC’s 27-day report isn’t on-line yet, but prior to the general elections, the Dems had just over $2 million worth of debt.
Since then, they’ve been trying to raise campaign cash – ostensibly to fuel the recount effort – and that has led the Republicans to accuse them of stalling in the three (well, now two, apparently) cliffhanger races to use them as fundraising tools.
Nov 30th - 7:41 am
An update on the not-so-extraordinary lame duck session called by Gov. David Paterson yesterday:
The Senate passed the judicial compensation commission bill last night and called it quits shortly before 9 p.m., departing without taking up any budget cuts.
The Democrats placed the blame for that on the governor, basically saying he had sent up the bills too late for them to consider. (Because really, the idea that anyone might vote on a bill they haven’t read is simply shocking, right?) Paterson, unsurprisingly, wasn’t buying that, releasing the following statement through his spokeswoman, Jessica Bassett:
“In recent weeks, the governor’s senior staff and Budget Director have been in extensive discussion with Legislative leadership and members on the substance of the proposals put forth in Special Session.”
“The Legislature was provided drafts of each bill last week, the Governor met face-to-face with Legislative leaders today and both the Senate and the Assembly accepted the final drafts of the bills prior to the start of session. ”
“It appears that, once again, the Legislature is making excuses to push this year’s responsibility further into the future by adding to the deficit that will greet Governor-elect Cuomo when he arrives in Albany.”
The Assembly, meanwhile, toiled late into the night. Just before 1 a.m., the hydrofracking moratorium that had already passed the Senate earlier in the year was approved, 94-44.
I received a text from WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor, who was babysitting that measure (the labor-backed party had teamed up with MoveOn.org and others to advocate in favor of it). “First legislative body in the world to turn the drillers down,” Cantor wrote.
Shortly after 4 a.m., a source sent an e-mail on some other developments on the Assembly side of the Capitol.
According to this source, the NYC OTB bailout bill, which the Senate did not take up and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver suggested might move as a one-house measure, was taken up but failed to receive sufficient support to pass. The judicial compensation commission bill did pass. I’m told the prevailing wage bill will possibly be on tap today.
The Assembly is due back in session around 3 p.m. today. The Senate is now talking about returning for yet another lame duck session – perhaps on Dec. 20 – to make a second attempt at the NYC OTB bill, among other things.
Of course, if the Legislature does return one more time, speculation will hinge on the possibility that lawmakers will try to raise their own pay for the holidays.
The idea that Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo would let that happen as he faces a $9 to $10 billion deficit next year seems pretty far-fetched to me, however, especially since pay raises are usually used as bargaining chips for something else – a big something else.
Cuomo has been using a fairly light hand during this lame duck session, but I’m told he has been making it quietly clear what he would prefer NOT to see pass. The governor-elect is scheduled to lunch with the Assembly Democrats at the Crowne Plaza today.
Nov 29th - 9:41 pm
Senate Democrats have just emerged from a closed-door conference committee meeting where they consolidated their leadership, electing John Sampson as their leader for 2011 despite the fact that the question of who will control the chamber going forward remains unanswered.
UPDATE: Here’s Sampson’s statement:
“Today, it was my honor to win the support of our members as Leader of the Senate Democratic Conference for the upcoming legislative session.”
“It is with deep humility and profound purpose that I accept this responsibility to work with our members, and colleagues across the aisle to move our state forward and get the people’s business done.
“Whether it is addressing the state budget, property tax relief, government consolidation, or other issues of importance, New York faces extraordinarily difficult times. We need to put people back to work, grow our economy, and ease the burden on families and businesses.
“As we embark on the New Year, I look forward with renewed hope in the potential for our state to achieve the greatness New York has reached in its past and the greatness New York deserves for its future.”
Following the coup in June of 2009, Democrats had divided their leadership and titles among a handful of members. Malcolm Smith was President Pro Tem, Pedro Espada Jr. was majority leader, John Sampson was conference leader, Jeff Klein as deputy majority leader, and Dave Valesky was vice president pro tempore.
But, for all intents and purposes Sampson was the leader of the conference with Klein serving as his No. 2.
Over the past few weeks, we have asked several incoming Democratic senators – all of whom ran on reform platforms – if they would be supporting Sampson for leader, and some wouldn’t commit 100 percent to backing him.
In the wake of the IG’s scathing AEG report, at least one newcomer – Senator-elect David Carlucci – said flat out that he wouldn’t be voting for Sampson. A number of insiders suggested Sampson should have considered stepping aside – at least temporarily – to reduce the strength of the AEG bomb the GOP used against the Democrats during the fall campaigns, but he refused.
UPDATE2: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported Klein was re-elected as deputy last night. I (Liz) have since been informed by staffers and senators that there was no vote on, and no discussion about, keeping the Bronx/Westchester lawmaker who has often been mentioned as a potential rival to Sampson as leader in his supporting role.
Also, the Republicans yesterday elected Sen. Dean Skelos for a two-year term as majority leader….clearly expecting that control of the chamber will be returning to their hands.
Nov 29th - 6:43 pm
Sen. Roy McDonald says there’s a “strong possibility” the Legislature will return to Albany in two weeks to take up the NYC OTB bailout.
The Budget Blues Boys are bidding farewell to outgoing Assemblymen Bill Parment and Richard Brodsky.
The Senate managed to approve some of Gov. David Paterson’s judicial appointments today.
NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and the Rev. Al Sharpton will dance for charity.
Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. wrote to legislative leaders in support of the judicial compensation commission.
Sen. Antoine Thompson says it’s “too premature” for him to concede to Mark Grisanti.
Common Cause NY is poised to announce a “citizens redistricting commission.”
Outgoing Assemblyman Michael Benjamin opines on the need for bipartisanship.
Benjamin is a big fan of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
LG Richard Ravitch bid the Senate chamber adieu.
Mayor Bloomberg insisted NYC Chancellor-in-waiting Cathie Black will be in charge, no matter who her No. 2 is.
Bloomberg’s reaction to Black’s waiver: “Today’s decision was the right one for our kids and our schools. It is now time to put politics aside and recognize that it is in the best interest of our children for Cathie Black to succeed as chancellor.” (No link).
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries’ reaction to Black’s waiver: “Commissioner Steiner has done a grave disservice to the children of the New York City public school system…Commissioner Steiner has violated the law and we are prepared to challenge this ill-advised decision in court.” (No link).
Anti-Black teachers will apply to work at Hearst.
Here’s Ravitch discussing his post-Dec. 31 plans. He says he’s going to write, do some research, spend some time with his family and play some golf.
Nov 29th - 6:43 pm
The Senate Democats are not going to be taking up the $315 million worth of mid-year budget cuts that were the main focus of Gov. David Paterson’s lame duck session today, and they’re blaming the outgoing governor for this loss.
Conference spokesman Austin Shafran released the following statement:
“While Senate Democrats were prepared to take action to bring New York’s budget into balance, the Governor failed to submit legislation in time for thoughtful consideration and review – delivering a final bill two hours after the start of the extraordinary session he called two weeks ago.”
“Budget cuts to health care, education, and social and senior services require thorough deliberation, not a rushed process that hurts the state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
“We look forward to continuing an open dialogue about how best to resolve the extraordinary budget issues confronting New York this year and in the years to come.”