All In For Altschuler

Anxious to avoid seeing history repeat itself, it appears the GOP and Conservative parties are lining up early behind a single contender in the NY-1 race for 2012.

A bitter three-way primary divided the traditional political allies last fall. The contest pitted self-funding businessman Randy Altschuler against attorneys George Demos, and Chris (Nixon) Cox.

Altschuler had the early support of Suffolk County GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle, who later switched allegiance to Cox and started slamming his erstwhile favorite.

There was widespread speculation that LaValle and state GOP Chairman Ed Cox had struck some sort of deal that boosted Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s failed pitch for the GOP line in the governor’s race and Chris Cox’s House run, but all parties denied that.

Altschuler landed the Conservative line and also won the GOP primary. He ended up losing a tight race to Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop, who remains in the NRCC’s crosshairs for 2012.

Now, all the chairs involved in this race have settled their differences and will host a fundraiser tomorrow in Manhattan for Altschuler, who is determined to try again to unseat Bishop next fall. Demos has already expressed his intention to run again, too, which means there could be another battle for the line – even if Altschuler has lined up institutional support.

That’s good news for Bishop, because as long as the Republicans are focused on whacking one another, they’re not beating him up.

Altschuler June 28 Final Cs-1

Grisanti Explains His Vote

Over the weekend, our colleagues at YNN Buffalo were able to do a phone interview with Senator Mark Grisanti who was the 32nd, or 33rd Senator to support same-sex marriage (depending on how you look at it). The Senator says he struggled with the decision, but had actually made up his mind a few weeks ago.

“About 2 or 3 weeks ago, I was reading books on both sides of the issue,” Grisanti said. “Legally I could find no reason why I should stand in the way, whether you are a taxpayer or worker, of having the same rights that I have with my wife.”

“And on the Catholic side, I am not here as just a Catholic senator. I am a senator that represents all of New York State and not everybody is Catholic. And, yeah I do practice Catholic religion and it was tough to separate it out.”

Grisanti also talked about the decision to bring the bill to the floor. He says the conference didn’t decide to bring the bill to the floor until Friday when the religious exemptions were complete, and members saw that there was an inseparability clause that says if one part of the bill is struck down, the whole bill becomes invalid.

Prison Closure Announcement Coming Soon, Cuomo Says

A plan to close near-empty and costly state prisons will be laid out soon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Talk 1300-AM this morning.

The prison closure plan, which was part of the 2011-12 state budget, was expected to be released earlier this year.

“Literally the next week or so,” Cuomo said when asked about when the prison list would be announced. “It’s within the next ten days or so. We can turn to more organizational matters and this is at the top of the list.”

Cuomo and the Legislature last week wrapped up an extremely productive legislative session that saw the legalization of same-sex marriage, the approval of the first-ever property tax cap and the passage of a siting law for power plants.

But there’s a lot that hasn’t gotten done.

The Republican-led Senate failed to approve a measure that would create the foundation for a health-insurance exchange marketplace after conservative lawmakers raised objections to “Obamacare” or the federal health-care overhaul passed in 2009.

Cuomo still presumably wants the Legislature to take up his less-generous Tier VI pension proposal. He also must negotiate a contract settlement with the Public Employees Federation, a union of white-collar state workers.

Cuomo and the Civil Service Employees Association announced a new contract last week, which provides for less generous health-insurance and a wage freeze.

PEF, however, remains unfinished as the union disagrees over the cuts to employee benefits.

“It’s all up to PEF, talk to PEF,” Cuomo said. “The reasonableness of our position, the reasonablness of our offer has been demonstrated by the CSEA acceptance.”

On Friday, the Department of Environmental Conservation is due to release its draft report on the safety of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting natural gas using a mixture of chemicals and water.

Cuomo has been hesitant to give a definitive stance on hydrofracking, saying that the economic benefits for upstate New York must be weighed with the environmental safety.

“As soon as they’re ready, Fred, I will be briefed and then it will be presented to the public,” Cuomo said o fthe plan. “I’ve heard a lot about it from both sides. I have a sense of the facts, of the energy behind it, pardon the pun.”

Cuomo Calls 2016 Talk Is ‘Silly’

Speaking on Talk 1300-AM this morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo dismissed talk of running for president in 2016 as silly and nearly ruled out running in five years before walking it back.

“I want to focus on the real issues and how we can use these accomplishments to grow this state,” Cuomo told Fred Dicker. “I’m not going to engage in this conversation. I’m not going to engage or fuel this speculation. I’m going to focus on this job.”

Cuomo was so insistent that he wasn’t running for president that he nearly ruled out running outright in 2016, only to somewhat walk it back after being pressed by Dicker.

Following the successful passage of same-sex marriage legalization Friday night, speculation has turned to the first-term governor running in five years.

The thinking, which is laid out in this Politico piece, goes that Cuomo, with a mix of austere fiscal measures and liberal social policies could give him an opening, especially if the economy recovers by that point.

Cuomo said the speculation was due to the passage of the bill, which made New York the sixth and largest state to approve gay marriage.

“Obviously 2016 is silly,” Cuomo said. “But I think what that’s saying is how profound an accomplishment marriage equality is.”

Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, considered running for president in 1988 and 1992. In 1992, Cuomo considered entering a relatively weak Democratic field.

Political lore tells of a plan fueling up for the elder Cuomo to travel to New Hampshire, only to back out at the last moment.

Cuomo At NYC Pride Parade

Here are Governor Cuomo’s comments from the Pride Parade yesterday. Also interviews with City Speaker Christine Quinn, and Senator Tom Duane.

Here And Now

The Capitol will be a ghost town from here on out – at least compared to last week. The Legislature split ASAP after passing the big ugly, SUNY 2020, gay marriage and a host of other, albeit less high profile, legislation.

One caveat: The Senate did not pass the health care exchange bill, which has a mid-summer deadline attached to it, so it’s possible the upper house will return to Albany briefly in a few weeks to address unfinished business. Other controversial issues looming: Hydrofracking (a report is due July 1) and prison closures.

The drama is all down in D.C. this week, as the president gets engaged in budget talks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Westchester County and NYC with no public schedule today. Here are the headlines…

The Post compares Mayor Bloomberg to Cuomo and decides he’s “Mayor Mouse.”

Ex-Assemblyman Michael Benjamin thinks Cuomo’s first six-month agenda read like “Paterson 2.0,” and wonders what the next six will bring.

Paterson marched behind his successor at the Gay Pride Parade in NYC yesterday, he carried a sign that said: “Thank you, Gov. Cuomo!”

Cuomo was hailed as a hero at the event, and said: “I’ve been to this parade many times, and there’s always a lot of energy and I’ve always had a ball, but this was special. People were so excited, people were so proud, literally.”

Advocates hope the same-sex marriage victory in New York will jump-start efforts in other states, but that’s an uphill battle.

Thanks to New York, gay marriage could be a wedge issue in the 2012 presidential race.

North Carolina, home of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is weighing whether voters should take up a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Cuomo moved swiftly to put the kibosh on all the 2016 talk, instructing his staff to turn down invitations for him to appear on national TV shows after the marriage vote. But that didn’t stop people – including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – from making predictions.

Bob Shrum is firmly on the Cuomo 2016 bandwagon and says the governor “as demonstrated a courage of conviction that many doubted, a remarkable economic stewardship in a troubled time, and legislative skills almost reminiscent of LBJ.”

The Times wants to know why President Obama is so reluctant to come out for same-sex marriage and thinks he missed an opportunity last week in NYC.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was hailed as a hero at today’s Gay Pride Parade in NYC, and said he wants to see NY’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage “resonate all across the country now.”

“People were crying and screaming ‘thank you’ and just screaming the governor’s name and everybody’s name. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay. She marched next to Cuomo at the parade.

Dress-crazed Quinn plans to wed her partner, Kim Catullo, next spring.

Semi-First Lady Sandra Lee, who has a gay brother, repeatedly reminded her live-in boyfriend that she wanted to see gay marriage legalized.

Cuomo’s strategy with reluctant “yes” voters was to tell them: “I can help you. “I am more of an asset than the vote will be a liability.”

GOP consultant Ed Rollins thinks Cuomo will be the biggest star in the national Democratic Party.

Trending in political circles: Cuomo 2016.

Michael Powell takes a little air out of that balloon.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie said he would not have signed the marriage bill into law had he been in Cuomo’s shoes.

Christie, a Republican, said he’s “not a fan” of gay marriage.

The Democrat and Chronicle calls Cuomo’s achievements this session “historic,” but doesn’t like how he got them done.

Steve Martin (jokingly) proposed to Alec Baldwin on Twitter after gay marriage passed the Senate.

Neal Patrick Harris (not jokingly) announced his engagement to his partner, David Burtka. (Also on Twitter).

Archbishop Timothy Dolan did not mention Friday’s historic events during his homily this morning, though he did discuss the issue with reporters.

Maureen Dowd wonders why the first black president is letting fellow Democrat Cuomo hog the spotlight on the “civil rights issue of our time.”

More >

Cuomo on Passage of Same-Sex Marriage

Here’s Governor Cuomo’s complete remarks on the passage of the same-sex marriage bill.

Weekend Open Thread

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the same-sex marriage bill into law at 11:55 p.m. last night, which means it will take effect in 30 days. July 24, I believe is the date.

It was an historic night – and a huge win for the governor, who swept the table in his first six months on the job. Not only did he get an on-time budget, but he realized all three of his post-budget policy priorities: Ethics reform, gay marriage and a property tax cap – with extension of the rent laws thrown in for good measure.

With the exception of the marriage bill, which was a straight up yes-or-no situation, Cuomo had to compromise to realize his other priorities.

The ethics reform deal was far from perfect. Even good government advocates who worked on and hailed the agreement readily admit that. The cap is offset by mandate relief that critics say doesn’t go nearly far enough. Downstate tenant advocates and their allies in the Black and Latino legislative caucus (a very important political constituency for Cuomo going forward) are unhappy with the rent deal. But, then again, the landlords aren’t thrilled with it, either.

Still, it’s an amazing record of achievement for a newly-minted governor – particularly in a town like Albany, with its reputation of inaction and dysfunction.

The gay marriage win elevates Cuomo still further on the national stage, coming at a time when President Obama is under pressure from the LGBT community to change his position from support of civil unions to full marriage equality as he heads into the 2012 election.

The governor had already been speculated to harbor White House aspirations himself – an effort that would enable him to surpass the the record of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who contemplated, but never went for, a presidential run.

Last night’s vote in the Senate, and Cuomo’s deft maneuvering to succeed where two others – Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson – had failed, has catapulted him into the national spotlight. Expect the 2016 chatter – and the scrutiny – to only intensify from here.

It has been a long two weeks for us here at CapTon. We’re all taking a bit of a break. I’ll be back with you tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to discuss whatever it is that strikes your fancy – same-sex marriage, the big ugly, SUNY 2020, ethics, Obama, the weather. Enjoy your weekend, and be well.

P.S. If you haven’t already, read this tick-tock by NYTimes scribe Michael Barbaro, it lays out in detail how Cuomo got the Senate to yes.

Paterson Praises Cuomo For ‘Extraordinary’ Victory

Former Gov. David Paterson has issued a statement praising his successor (and onetime potential primary opponent), Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for succeeding where he failed in 2009.

Paterson also couldn’t help but give himself a little pat on the back. Here’s his statement.

“What Governor Cuomo has done is nothing short of extraordinary and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for finally providing
common-sense equality to all New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo has already brought landmark reform through the budget process, a property tax cap, and rational tuition for SUNY and CUNY. And now, he has found a way to bring marriage equality to our state and restore New York’s position as a beacon of civil rights for the nation and the world.”

“I want to particularly commend my former Republican senate colleagues – Senators Stephen Saland, James Alesi, Roy McDonald and Mark Grisanti– who acted with courage tonight by voting their conscience. Tonight, I am ecstatic, I am elated, and I am proud to be a New Yorker.”

“Throughout my tenure as Governor and a public servant, I put forward and advocated for a series of reforms aimed at ending discrimination against same-sex couples in New York State. As Senate Minority Leader, I helped the landmark SONDA bill get passed. And upon taking office as Governor, I issued a memorandum directing State agencies to afford recognition to same-sex couples legally married outside of New York to the full extent permitted by law.

“I worked to enact a law that would bring marriage equality to New York. Ultimately, while we were able to get a vote in the senate, that vote failed. But as I said on the Senate floor that day, the night is darkest before the dawn. Tonight, the sun is rising.”