Democratic AG Contest Still Wide Open

Take II from today’s Q poll: With just two weeks remaining until the Sept. 14 primary, a whopping 77 percent of Democrats still can’t answer a generic question about which of the five candidates vying to replace AG Andrew Cuomo they would vote for.

That’s little changed from the 81 percent who said the same thing in late July, in spite of the fact that there have been countless AG debates and all but one of the candidates (Eric Dinallo) have released TV ads.

Adding insult to injury, eight percent of those polled said they would vote for someone whose name won’t even be on the ballot. That’s more support than any of the candidates whose names actually WILL be on the ballot received. The breakdown:

- Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice: 4 percent.
- Sen. Eric Schneiderman: 3 percent.
- Assemblyman Richard Brodsky: 1 percent.
- Sean Coffey: 1percent.
- Dinallo: –
- Won’t vote: 2 percent.
- Refused to answer: 5 percent.

“The five-candidate Democratic primary for attorney general is still way up in the air,” said Q pollster Mickey Carroll.

“It’s a big job, folks. Look what happened to the last New York State attorneys general. But only 9 percent of Democrats have named a candidate who is on the ballot.”

The AG’s office is now viewed as a stepping stone to the executive mansion, thanks to the success (relatively speaking) of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Cuomo.

Until yesterday, all the AG contenders but Rice had pledged not to run for governor if they’re elected to be the state’s top attorney. After being attacked by Coffey during the WAMC debate for refusing to rule out a run for higher office, Rice repeatedly insisted she has no “plans” to do anything but serve as AG if she wins the primary and the general.

Q Poll: Lazio’s ‘Shaky’ 12-Point Lead Over Paladino

Today’s Q poll is a mixed bag for GOP/Conservative gubernatorial designee Rick Lazio, showing him with a double-digit lead over his primary opponent, Carl Paladino, but with 49 percent of Republicans who have a favorite in the race saying they’re open to changing their minds before the Sept. 14 election.

The former Long Island congressman leads the Buffalo businessman, 47-35, among likely GOP primary voters, with 18 percent still undecided.

A Siena NY poll in mid-August found Paladino trailing Lazio by 13 percentage points, down from 20 points in July and 27 points in June.

This Q poll seems to indicate Paladino hasn’t, in fact, managed to gain any ground on Lazio, in spite of defections by GOP county chairs and elected officials and perception that momentum is on his side. However, Paladino’s support looks a little stronger as 62 percent of his voters say their mind is made up, compared to 42 percent of Lazio backers.

“ith many of his supporters open to changing their minds, Rick Lazio has a shaky lead,” said Q pollster Mickey Carroll.

“The people who like Carl Paladino are more likely than Lazio’s voters to have made up their minds to stick with him. But an awful lot of voters don’t know much about him. Can he convince enough voters that he’s the Republican to run against Andrew Cuomo with a big TV blitz in the next two weeks? We’ll have to wait and see.”

A Paladino source told me the campaign is planning a “blitzkrieg” of last-minute media – TV, radio and direct mail – leading up to the primary, but we have yet to see evidence of that. If the candidate goes through with that plan, he might be able to push past Lazio – but it’s going to be an uphill climb.

A lot depends on turnout, which is expected to be low across the state with small pockets of activity in state Senate and congressional districts that have active GOP primaries.

The NY-1 race on Long Island could benefit Lazio. Paladino is going to have a strong showing in his native Western NY, but it’s unlikely that alone would win him the race.

Here And Now

Democratic state Senate candidate Dave Mejias (challenging GOP Sen. Kemp Hannon) was arrested and detained overnight.

Nassau County police said charges are pending because they’re still investigating Mejias’ case; a source says he’ll likely face several misdemeanor charges – including one for road rage. (No link).

The Cook Political Report now lists 68 Democratic House seats as being at “substantial risk,” up from 62 in July and 58 in June, and the group plans to raise the figure to more than 70 this week.

Rick Lazio’s Conservative primary challenger is representing a strip club owner trying to get his liquor license back after the FBI charged his exotic dancers were prostitutes.

Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV says he’ll return campaign contributions from a strip club owner who pleaded guilty to insider trading and has been sued for both racial and sexual harassment.

The state pension fund is routinely papering over a shortfall that is worth tens of billions of dollars, GOP/Conservative state comptroller candidate Harry Wilson charges.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky made his “people’s prosecutor” case to the Law Journal.

The five Democratic AG contenders are struggling to differentiate themselves from one another.

What is an outsider, and who, exactly, fits the bill?

Sen. Eric Schneiderman’s four foes took advantage of his absence at a WAMC debate to attack him as soft on crime.

Staten Island DA Dan Donovan’s office is now handling Sen. Kevin Parker’s assault case.

More >

Extras

Mayor Bloomberg insisted only “total incapacitation” or death would prevent him from serving all four years of his third term.

Rep. Charlie Rangel was the lone elected official at a City Hall rally of Muslim leaders in favor of the Park51 project.

This sign was spotted at a Seneca protest of the governor earlier today.

CT SOP 0901 cigs

Rangel on his primary challenger, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV,: “He’s a good-looking guy. His dad was really one of the best. And that’s all I can say. I don’t see that much of him to be honest with you.”

On the heels of yesterday’s federal court order, a state appellate judge today ordered the state not to collect the $4.35 per-pack tax on cigarettes sold to non-Indians on Indian land. More here.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind is scheduled to endorse Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice for AG tomorrow. (No link).

Manhattan BP Scott Stringer, “fund-raising beast.”

Rep. Scott Murphy, centrist?

Reshma Saujani launched a (rather negative) on-line “quiz” about Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

This guy really doesn’t like Sen. Eric Schneiderman.

Josh Benson thinks Sean Coffey stands to benefit from AG Andrew Cuomo’s “almost-public desire” to hedge on his initial support of Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has a nuanced position on the mosque.

Rep. Anthony Weiner deftly changed the subject when asked about the mosque, which he says has been a “classic distraction” tractic employed by the GOP.

Gabriel Sherman explains why Sarah Palin won’t run for president in 2012.

Chris Gibson is now a “Young Gun”.

Condi reportedly declined “Dancing With the Stars.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s primary opponent, Gail Goode, loaned her own campaign $365,000.

Transport Workers Union Local 100 endorsed Democratic Queens Sen. Joe Addabbo. (No link).

Cuomo’s Sausage Sandwich Moment

The Democratic frontrunner can officially check the State Fair sausage sandwich off his “campaign to-do” list, although he didn’t appear to enjoy it nearly as much as Rick Lazio did.

In fact, the AG seems to be trying to walk off the sandwich as he’s consuming it (with Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner by his side). There must be some political points off for that.

‘We Must Stand Together’

Technically speaking, this is a public service announcement for the Sept. 9 immigration forum being co-hosted by Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson and Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.

But it looks awfully like an endorsement to me – especially that smiley handshake at the 20-second mark.

And, as a reader pointed out, it was produced and posted by the Senate Democrat-controlled (and taxpayer-funded) media services unit just two weeks before Espada faces off against his two primary opponents: Gustavo Rivera (who is being backed by a number of the majority leader’s colleagues and labor unions) and Dan Padernacht.

Another Latina Secretary Of State

Gov. David Paterson just announced he has tapped Ruth Noemi Colon as acting Secretary of State, effective today, to replace Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, a Spitzer administration appointee who is departing her post to return to the private sector.

“Ruth has been a dedicated public servant, acting as special counsel and advising the secretary on a range of legal, business, licensing and local government issues,” Paterson said in a press release.

“The Department of State is a critically important agency to our State, as it comprises a diverse range of services for New Yorkers, from real estate licensing to business incorporation to local government services.”

Cortes-Vazquez has been the highest-ranked Hispanic state government official, and her departure would have left an already woefully under-represented ethnic group even more so. So, it stands to reason that Paterson went this route.

Considering how Paterson has just four months remaining in his tenure, Colon’s time in office could be very fleeting indeed.

More >

Partying Against Espada

Tonight is the first in a series of house party fundraisers the Working Families Party is throwing as part of its campaign to oust Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.

As you can see from the invite below, these are low-dollar affairs that are being held as much to whip up grassroots support as they are to raise cash to help the labor-backed party’s effort on behalf of its preferred Democratic primary candidate against Espada, Gustavo Rivera.

WFP spokesman Dan Levitan informs me organizers have been on the ground for weeks and have already knocked on over 10,000 doors. The goal is to double that by primary day.

Espada Fundraiser Shapiro

Stachowski: ‘I Wasn’t Part Of The Coup’

Sen. Bill Stachowski, who is battling for his political life as the Sept. 14 primary approaches, insisted at a press conference in Buffalo earlier today he had nothing to do with the now-infamous ’09 Senate coup that has become synonymous with everything that is wrong with the upper house.

The endangered Democrat, who’s right now locked in a four-way primary (the winner will have to face GOP Assemblyman Jack Quinn in November), also sought to put some distance between himself and the “status quo” in Albany, with which today’s Q poll demonstrated voters are fully fed up.

“What you do is you gotta separate from the overall picture of Albany, and look at the individual members, and I think I separate myself from some of the mass confusion in Albany,” the senator said.

“For example, when the coup took place, I wasn’t part of the coup. I was invited to be part of the coup, but I wasn’t. And what that caused was seven weeks of turmoil, and that’s part of the reason people are so dissatisfied. I made sure that I stay clear of things like that.”

“What I do is work hard for the people in the 58th District. I only have one special interest that I answer to, and that’s the people of the 58th District.”

This from the man who essentially held the Legislature – not to mention the entire state – hostage for weeks while he refused to vote on the budget in hopes of getting a SUNY empowerment/UB 20-20 deal and then caved – a move for which he’s now being lambasted by local labor unions.

Kolb to Bloomberg: Apologize To Indians

Here’s Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb telling me during an interview that will air this evening on “Capital Tonight” that Mayor Bloomberg – a major donor to the Assembly GOP – should consider apologizing for his cowboy hat and shotgun comment that so enraged upstate Native Americans.

Kolb said he agreed with Gov. David Paterson that Bloomberg’s comment was “totally inappropriate.” The mayor has so far refused to heed calls for him to apologize, even though he has been lambasted and protested on his home turf by the Indians.

“You know, the mayor is sort of a free-wheeling, free-thinking sort of guy, and sometimes he, I think maybe, was trying to be funny, and I don’t think that was a funny or appropriate comment whatsoever,” Kolb told me.

“You’re not going to resolve really, these emotional issues by making further emotional statements, and that’s why I’m saying that everybody needs to calm down.”

So, an apology would be in order then?

“If it would help calm, shall we say, the sensitive, the sensitivity of people, yes,” the minority leader said. “It doesn’t hurt to say: ‘Hey,, I shouldn’t have probably said that. I’m sorry.’ And then we could move forward. I don’t think that would hurt one bit.”