Common Cause: BOE Acknowledges Non-Independence Of Redistricting Commission

The opponents of a ballot proposition that would create a new process for redistricting argue that the state Board of Elections in court documents filed this month acknowledged the new structure isn’t independent as claimed by supports.

Common Cause’s Susan Lerner, along with other opponents of the redistricting ballot language, are challenging the wording in state Supreme Court. Oral arguments were heard today in Albany.

For Common Cause, the problem stems from the language in the ballot proposition describing the proposed commission that would drive the next round of redistricting in 2022 as “independent” when it is appointed by state lawmakers.

Proponents of the change, including the good-government group Citizens Union, argue that the process will be independent, considering no state lawmakers are actually sitting on the panel drawing the boundaries.

But Susan Lerner, Common Cause’s executive director, along with other plaintiffs challenging the language, points to court filings from the Board of Elections that suggests the panel isn’t meant to be free of legislative influence:

“they admit that the purpose is to protect the minority party in each house,” the opponents argued this week in a court filing. “By definition, favoritism towards the minority party is not independent. Thus, if Respondents want the commission approved, voters are entitled to know, and Respondents are required by law to share, the true purpose of the Redistricting Amendment.”

State Supreme Court Judge Patrick McGrath is expected to issue an order next week in the Article 78 proceeding.

Voters are due to vote on the redistricting amendment to the state constitution in November.

Reply Memorandum of Law in Support of Petition 2 2 by Nick Reisman

Last Night and What’s Ahead

We release the results of an exclusive Time Warner Cable News/Siena Poll on the 19th Congressional District. Find out how Eldridge is doing against incumbent Rep. Chris Gibson. Also, find out what PEF’s next move is after the Teachout-Wu Loss — and Cuomo’s working with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie? What’s that all about? Here are highlights from last night and what’s coming up at 8 p.m.



Full Show

Steve Greenberg Interview

Kevin Stocker Interview

Susan Kent Interview

Mike Durant Interview

NARAL Pro-Choice NY Endorses Schneiderman

NARAL Pro-Choice New York on Friday endorsed Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s re-election to a second term.

The group — which is one of the point organizations hoping to drive turn out for the Women’s Equality Party this November — cited Schneiderman’s “lifelong commitment” to abortion rights.

“We are exceptionally proud to support Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s re-election this November,” said NARAL Pro-Choice New York President Andrea Miller. “Eric has been a lifelong supporter of women’s rights, especially reproductive freedom, and his advocacy for and commitment to enforcing the existing buffer zones around reproductive health clinics will ensure the safety of New York women, doctors and health workers. It is critical that New Yorkers re-elect Attorney General Eric Schneiderman so he can continue taking on the tough fights necessary to protect and advance the rights, health and well-being of New York women and families.”

The endorsement comes after Schneiderman received a series of endorsements through a coalition dubbed “Women for Schneiderman” that includes prominent Democratic officeholders like Reps. Nita Lowey, Carolyn Maloney and Carolyn McCarthy and Sen. Liz Krueger.

Democrats this year are placing a special emphasis on women’s issues ahead of the November elections, with the new women-theme ballot line aimed at promoting the 10-point women’s agenda, which has stalled in the Legislature.

The abortion component in that package — which is aimed at codifying Roe v. Wade in state law — has become a particular point of contention in the state Senate.

“I am honored to have the support of NARAL Pro-Choice New York as I seek re-election this fall,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “It’s been an honor working with NARAL to protect reproductive choice and ensure safe access to the full range of family planning options. Recent attacks on women’s rights around the county remind us that we need to be vigilant in ensuring our laws apply to all New Yorkers equally. I promise to continue fighting alongside NARAL to protect women and families throughout New York.”

Schneiderman’s Republican opponent is John Cahill, a former top aide to Gov. George Pataki.

Venditto Releases 2nd Ad Slamming Denenberg (Updated)

For the second time this week, Republican state Senate candidate Michael Venditto is out with a new TV ad slamming his Democratic opponent and fellow Nassau County legislator, Dave Denenberg, as the battle for the Long Island seat vacated by former GOP Sen. Chuck Fuschillo heats up.

Both ads are negative, which offers some insight into the Republicans’ outlook on this race (and maybe their internal poll numbers?) They very much want to hold onto this seat – really, they need to retain if if they are to have any shot at taking back the majority. And the calculus has changed, with the Long Island contests now gaining higher importance, since Buffalo Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti’s surprise loss in Tuesday’s primary to attorney Kevin Stocker.

Ad No. 1 resurrected Denenberg’s 2005 guilty plea on petition fraud charges, saying he would “fit right in” with the culture of corruption in Albany. Ad No. 2, which is also running on cable stations in the district, is a bit more traditional, focusing on a tried-and-true GOP line of attack to which over-taxed Long Island residents are no doubt extra sensitive.

You can view the ad below. Here’s the script:

“Dave Denenberg was the deciding vote to raise property taxes 42 percent, to pass a multi-year plan to hike taxes an additional 16 percent, and to pass a tax on home heat and electricity, Deneberg think this qualifies him to be state senator. We already have too many state legislators who think higher taxes are the answer. We don’t need another one. Tell Dave Denenberg ‘no,’ because the last thing we need are higher taxes.”

This also seems like a response to the Denenberg campaign’s response to Venditto’s first ad, which accused the Republicans of trying to district voters from the “real issues” of property taxes, fee increases and budget deficits that – according to the Democrats – Venditto and his fellow Republicans both “supported and created.” They’re also playing the anti-woman card, which is the gameplan for pretty much all the Democratic state Senate candidates this fall.

Capital NY noted this morning that the Republicans are on the offensive and dredging up old convictions not just in this race, but also in the 60th SD (Grisanti’s seat), where they are reminding voters that the Democrat who emerged from Tuesday’s primary, Marc Panepinto, had his law license suspended for 30 days in 2001 after pleading guilty to falsely saying he witnessed voters sign nominating petitions.

Panepinto’s case was actually cited four years later by a Long Island court that suspended Denenberg’s law license after he pleaded guilty to a similar charge.

UPDATE: Venditto’s campaign manager Jeff Friedman emailed this statement:

“Michael Venditto is trying to distract voters from the fact that, on his first day in office, only weeks after Super Storm Sandy, he voted for unprecedented fee increases which were a back door tax hike on Nassau’s struggling families and small business owners who were not yet back in their homes and businesses.”

“No one in history raised fees/taxes more than Michael Venditto did on his first day in office. The reality is Venditto has allowed the county budget to be mired in debt to record amounts, forcing jobs off Long Island and making it even harder for South Shore families to remain here. The voters of this district can’t afford Michael Venditto in Albany.”

Watch Here >>

Hamilton Wasn’t Always Playing IDC Footsie

Jesse Hamilton, the Brooklyn Democrat who was victorious in his Senate primary to take the district vacated by now-Borough President Eric Adams, is not ruling out joining the Independent Democratic Conference.

And IDC members, including Staten Island Sen. Diane Savino, expect Hamilton to join their conference once the new legislative session is seated come January.

Hamilton’s spokesman, Nathan Smith, told City and State in a statement that a decision was yet to be made on which conference Hamilton will join.

“After November, Jesse will sit down with these partners and figure out how best to move forward in Albany on the issues that matter most to Brooklyn families: affordable housing, education, and stopping gun violence. One thing that should be crystal clear to everyone, Jesse Hamilton will certainly never vote for a Republican for Senate Majority Leader or any other Senate leadership position.”

But that wasn’t always the case.

In debates during his Democratic primary, Hamilton — who received support from the IDC during his campaign — ruled out joining the IDC.

“Definitely not,” he said during a debate on our sister station, NY1.

Hamilton also kept the IDC’s political action committee’s aid during the campaign at arm’s length.

“I’m not taking any money from the IDC,” he said, adding, “that was independent expenditure. We had nothing to do with that.”

And according to Capital New York, Hamilton pledged to the Tenant’s PAC he’d join the mainline conference.

It’s an interesting development that the IDC and mainline conference are still trying to make grabs for incoming members, considering the deal struck in June that would form a new majority coalition between the two Democratic factions in the state Senate, ending the agreement that kept Senate Republicans in power.

Of course, that agreement still needs to shake out after Election Day, when the composition of the Senate is more clear.

Per-Vote Cost Correction

Last item from (a very full) Morning Memo:

There have been multiple reports that Cuomo’s primary win this past Tuesday came at a steep price – both literally and figuratively.

The cost-per-vote calculation that has been widely cited was initially reported by The Washington Post’s “Fix” blog, which said the Cuomo-Hochul campaign spent $60.62 for each vote it received to Teachout-Wu’s $1.57.

But, as the Fix’s Phillip Bump readily acknowledged, that figure is based on all $20 million worth of campaign cash the governor has spent since 2011 – presumably with an eye toward this year’s elections.

The per-vote cost goes down to $42.64 if you use the amount Cuomo has spent in 2014 (about $14 million).

That’s still pretty high. And the governor’s campaign maintains it’s also still inaccurate.

By Team Cuomo’s calculation, it’s unfair to include non-primary spending – on ads slamming Astorino, for example – in the final tally.

According to the campaign, the governor spent $2.6 million on the primary, while his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, dropped about $800,000, bringing their total to $3.5 million – about $1 million of which was spent on TV ads.

That also accounts for spending by the state Democratic Party, which, as we know, acts as an extension of the governor’s political operation. (Note: This has been corrected from the Morning Memo version, which said the $3.5 million total did NOT include state party spending).

Using the Cuomo campaign’s numbers, the per-vote cost was closer to $10.69 – still a lot more than Teachout-Wu spent, but considerably less than $60.62.

In Two House Districts, Bad Numbers For Cuomo

Two Siena College polls that surveyed Congressional races in the North Country and Hudson Valley found voters do not give Gov. Andrew Cuomo high marks.

In the 21st congressional district — a race that the poll found Republican Elise Stefanik leading Democrat Aaron Woolf and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello — 51 percent of voters polled have an unfavorable view of the governro.

In the 19th district — where GOP Rep. Chris Gibson leads Democratic candidate Sean Eldridge — 60 percent of voters view Cuomo unfavorably, the TWC News-Siena poll found.

In head-to-head matchups with Republican candidate Rob Astorino, Cuomo still wins, but the lead is tenuous.

Cuomo leads Astorino by nine percentage points in the North Country district, while he has a 3 percentage-point lead in the NY-19.

Granted, Astorino still has some work to do: His favorable rating in both districts is upside down and a plurality of voters have not heard of him to form an opinion.

In both districts, Green Party candidate for governor Howie Hawkins receives 12 percent of the vote.

The poll comes after Cuomo faced a surprisingly strong challenge from the little-known Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout in a Democratic primary on Tuesday.

Teachout, who receive 34 percent of the vote ultimately, won upstate counties in the Capital Region, Hudson and Mohawk valleys and the North Country.

NRCC Hits Airwaves With Anti-Maffei Ad

The National Republican Congressional Committee has been ramping up its spending in New York in recent weeks, buying air time on behalf of GOP candidates in several contested House races.

Today, the committee is adding NY-24 to its list.

The first ad in $1.2 million worth of air time reserved in the district by the NRCC to assist John Katko, the former prosecutor challenging Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei, is going up today, and will run through the election.

You can view the ad here, and here’s the script:

“Announcer: The definition of a Washington politician – Dan Maffei. Maffei used our tax dollars like his own. Giving his Washington staff $200,000 in bonus pay right after losing re-election.

Now Maffei is back at it, voting to allow first class travel for Congress.

John Katko’s different. He took on violent gangs and crooked cops. Earning bipartisan praise for putting families first.

John Katko for Congress.”

After Teachout-Wu Loss, No Endorsement By PEF

Also from the Morning Memo:

The Public Employees Federation went out on a limb prior to the primary and endorsed the insurgent team of Teachout and Tim Wu – the only labor union to do so.

Now that the primary is over and Team Cuomo-Hochul has emerged victorious, PEF is joining several other unions in sitting out the general election, declining to pick a favorite between the Democratic ticket and the Republicans, Astorino and his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss.

“I don’t foresee that the Public Employees Federation will do an endorsement in the general election,” union President Susan Kent said during a CapTon interview lat night.

“I think we looked at all candidates prior to making our recommendation for the Zephyr-Wu ticket, and I think now that the primary’s over we will not be making an endorsement.”

“This wasn’t about ‘find a candidate to run against the governor,’” Kent insisted. “This was about Zephyr and Tim, who were candidates that matched up with us very well and our members were excited about it…This was really something that was really a positive movement for candidates that were aligned very well with our goals.”

Four years ago, PEF broke ranks with its fellow public sector unions – CSEA and NYSUT – and backed Cuomo for governor. This time around, Cuomo is running without the support of all three, and he doesn’t have the backing of the AFL-CIO, either.

Kent said the union’s focus will now move to contract negotiation preparation, noting that PEF has to return to the bargaining table next year – a year ahead of its fellow public sector unions.

I asked Kent if she’s concerned that Cuomo (assuming he’s re-elected in November) might retaliate against PEF for its support of Teachout-Wu.

“I’m not going to choose to believe that because the governor cannot get his own way with absolutely everything that he would be someone who would take that out at the contract table,” Kent replied. “…that’s not something I would put up with, as a union president.”

Business Community Hedges on Cuomo

From today’s Morning Memo:

Four years ago, the state Business Council broke with tradition and made an endorsement in the governor’s race for the first time in its 30-year history, backing then-state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic frontrunner, over his Republican challenger, Carl Paladino.

The decision, made while Ken Adams (now a member of the Cuomo administration) headed the Council, wasn’t that big of a stretch, despite the fact that the business community traditionally trends toward the Republican side of politics.

Paladino, despite his own considerable prowess as a businessman, wasn’t considered a viable candidate. His strategy of bringing a baseball bat to Albany to more or less blow up the establishment didn’t sit terribly well in the risk-averse business world.

But this time around, things are different.

The state’s business community has fared fairly well under Cuomo – perhaps not as well as its members would have liked, and too well in the eyes of liberals, which arguably makes things about even.

This year, however, Cuomo’s rhetoric has taken a decidedly leftward turn – especially given his public support of a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate.

All the talk of progressive policies like another minimum wage hike and establishment of a public campaign finance system and a formal fracking ban makes business leaders very nervous.

Also, the Republican challenging Cuomo in the November election, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, is no Carl Paladino, though he is unknown and under-funded and highly unlikely to win.

So that puts the business community in a bit of a fix.

Should they back Astorino, whose policies are more in line with their way of thinking, compared to this new, progressive version of Cuomo (provided his words aren’t just empty campaign promises)? Or should they play it safe, politically speaking, and either remain neutral or support Cuomo outright?

State Business Council spokesman Gary Hughes told me yesterday that whether the organization will choose a favorite in the governor’s race “hasn’t been determined at this time.” He didn’t provide much more in the way of specifics, and couldn’t give me a timeline.

It’s worth noting that Astorino is on the schedule to speak Thursday night at the Council’s annual meeting at The Sagamore in Bolton Landing next week – site of the infamous Paladino-Dicker smackdown.

Cuomo has received multiple invites to attend, but has no far not replied to a single one, Hughes said.

Other candidates – including Democratic state AG Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and their respective GOP challengers, John Cahill and Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci – are all scheduled to attend.

It’s worth noting that the Council didn’t announce its support for Cuomo in 2010 until early October, so there’s certainly still plenty of time for it to act this year.

Also, Cuomo didn’t attend the Council’s 2010 conference, sending his running mate, then-Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy, in his place.

The organization that represents the state’s small businesses, NFIB, hasn’t weighed in on the governor’s race yet, either.

NFIB released its legislative endorsements yesterday, and its state director, Mike Durant, came onto CapTon to discuss the list.

On the governor’s race question, he said:

“We have a major concern with the governor’s agenda for the next four years with the Working Families Party, talking about minimum wage, talking about a progressive Senate.”

“We’ve seen today labor leaders feel like they’re owed favors now. (New York City Mayor) Bill de Blasio feels he has chits. And that should make the business community and taxpayers feel very concerned.”

“That said, it’s still on the table, we’re still looking at that race, and we hope to have a decision in the coming days.”

I asked Durant if he was concerned that backing Astorino would make him an enemy of the Cuomo administration. He (surprisingly) channeled the governor’s failed primary challenger, Zephyr Teachout, recalling her advice for anyone contemplating a run future run for political office: Be brave.