Senate Democrats Hope Panepinto Can Unseat Grisanti (Updated)

Senate Democrats are looking toward attorney Marc Panepinto to unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Mark Grisanti in Buffalo.

In doing so, they point to his fundraising advantage over Grisanti, which is fueled in part by a $54,000 contribution from Panepinto himself to the campaign.

They also point recent endorsements from the statewide teachers union as well as 1199/SEIU, the latter of which endorsed Grisanti in 2012.

“I decided to run for State Senate because the residents of the 60th Senate District deserve real leadership and are not receiving the results they require from our current State Senator. For our regional and statewide economy to once again prosper we need raise the minimum wage, lift millions out of poverty and allow local governments to better address the needs of their constituents by providing municipalities with the ability to raise their own minimum wages. I am honored to receive the support of hardworking men and women throughout New York State and I will continue to fight to ensure the residents, families and businesses who call the 60th Senate District home receive the quality government services and support they deserve.”

That being said, Grisanti has been a top, but elusive target for Senate Democrats.

Grisanti first won his seat in 2010, defeating Democratic incumbent Antoine Thompson, and helping Republicans gain control of the Senate.

Two years ago, the Democratic effort to win the district back became bogged down in the fog of western New York politics, with the party’s preferred candidate, Chuck Swanick, running on the Conservative Party line.

Grisanti won the race handily.

In the interim, Grisanti supported the legalization of same-sex marriage and is one of only four Republicans who backed the 2011 measure to remain in office.

Grisanti has forged mutually beneficial ties with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration while also distancing himself from other liberal-supported bills, most notably taking a firm stand against the Dream Act.

Grisanti is once again running in a battleground district, but a Democratic victory there is far from a foregone conclusion.

Updated: Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif responds.

“Is this the candidate who Mike Gianaris and the New York City Democrats are supporting now, after they successfully pushed aside a woman who wanted to run for this seat as a Democat? If leftist New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the radical Working Families Party and the Senate Democrats are allowed to control this seat, hardworking Western New York taxpayers are going to get the shaft — just like they did when Democrats controlled the Senate in 2009-10 and raised taxes by $14 billion,” Reif said.

The Siena Poll’s Switch To Likely Voters Doesn’t Help Astorino

On the surface, the Siena College poll released this morning was not good news for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino.

It’s never good news when you’re down 37 percentage points, granted.

Last month’s poll showed Cuomo leading Astorino 57 percent to 21 percent. The chasm this month grew slightly between Cuomo and Astornio, 60 percent to 23 percent, with Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins scoring 6 percent.

But the poll today, which shifted in methodology from registered voters to “likely” voters contains shows a deeper hole for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s main challenger.

Consider the demographic differences of those polled between June and July.

The breakdown of those polled last month included 47 Democratic voters, 23 percent Republican voters.

This month survey of likely voters — those who expect to vote in the upcoming November elections — actually increased the number of Republicans to 27 percent of those polled, and decreased the number of enrolled Democrats to 45 percent.

Today’s poll also decreased the number of New York City voters surveyed last month: 39 percent in June versus 30 percent today. Upstate voters — a bloc that Astorino hopes to capture — were increased in representation in the poll: 44 percent in July versus 36 percent last month.

The result was basically the same: A large lead for Cuomo, and few voters having an opinion of Astorino.

Moody’s: ‘Anemic’ Sales Tax Growth For Counties

Revenue from sales tax collections grew slowly in the first six months of 2014, with nearly all of the gains coming New York City and nearby counties like Rockland, Dutchess and Columbia, according to an analysis released on Monday by Moody’s Investor Services.

Statewide, county sales tax revenue increased by 2.3 percent, Moody’s found.

But for most counties in the state, the growth was slow, increasing by 0.1 percent. Excluding the gains made from rate increases in four counties, revenue declined 0.04 percent.

Nassau County, hit hard by damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, recorded the largest year-to-year decline, 8.3 percent.

Moody’s attributed the decrease in Nassau for retail spending after the post-Sandy rebuilding largely tapering off. Nevertheless, the drop in revenue is problematic for Nassau County, which budgeted for a 2 percent increase in sales tax collections, making such a target difficult to hit, Moody’s found.

The four counties that increased their sales tax — Lewis, Hamilton, Essex and St. Lawrence — recorded either flat or decreased revenue once the adjustments were netted out.

When taking those counties and New York City out of the equation, median statewide sales tax growth was only 1.7 percent.

Astorino And Hochul Blame Washington For Lack Of Immigration Reform

When it comes to immigration policy, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino an Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul agree that it’s Washington’s fault for pushing forward on any reform.

Hochul and Astorino on Sunday were both in Buffalo to participate in the Pulaski Day parade.

Hochul, a former Democratic congresswoman from western New York who took a hard line as Erie County clerk when it came to providing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, said she supports an effort by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner to invite migrant children at the border to stay in her city.

“I support what the mayor is doing,” she said. “Certainly she’s got the capability to embrace those young people.”

She added her former colleagues in Washington failed to tackle the issue, which is causing the current problems at the border.

“It is a disgrace at the federal level that they have not lived up to the responsibility they have,” she said.

Astorino, too, knocked Washington’s inability to reach any new agreement on overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.

He criticized Hochul for shifting her positions on immigration, though added he remains opposed to providing IDs to undocumented immigrants.

“There’s a complete break down,” Astorino said. “You can’t have 50 separate policies in 50 different states and then even policy changes within that. That’s chaos.”

Hochul: Not Up For Me To Say If Cuomo Should Debate (Updated)

Former Rep. Kathy Hochul on Sunday in Buffalo declined to weigh in when asked whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo should debate his Republican challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

“That’s certainly their call to make,” she said.

Asked again by reporters at the Pulaski Day Parade whether Astorino should be given at least one hour to debate the governor, Hochul again demurred.

“That’s for them to decide,” she said.

Asked a third time, Hochul said she was focused on traveling around the state, noting that she met with voters on Staten Island to discuss recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

“I’m not involved at that level I’m very preoccupied with meeting people around the state,” she said while adding, “I’m not going to get involved in those political questions.”

Astorino, who also participated in the parade, reiterated his call for debates with the incumbent.

Astornio has called for at least eight regional debates with the governor.

If anything, debating Cuomo would help Astorino, who trails 37 percentage points behind Cuomo in a Siena College poll released today as well as fundraising.

“I think it’s important Andrew Cuomo go mano-a-mano unless he’s a coward,” he said. “I’m not.”

And he remains opposed to having third-party candidates sharing the stage in a debate, saying Cuomo could potentially hide behind them.

“I think it’s important just Andrew Cuomo and me,” he said. “We’re the only two people who are going to win this election.”

Update: Cuomo campaign spokesman Peter Kauffmann responded to Astorino’s criticism.

“Rob Astorino has taken so many sides of various issues, he could hold 8 debates just with himself. Which Rob is going to show up — the candidate who promised to cut property taxes by 20 percent or the county executive of the highest taxed county in the nation?”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 10 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will address the Teamsters Conference, the Fort William Henry Resort and Conference Center, 48 Canada St., Lake George.

Also at 10 a.m., GOP gubernatorial candidate and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will attend the Chautauqua County Fair with candidate for sheriff Rusa Payne, 1089 Central Ave., Dunkirk.

At 1 p.m., the first meeting about the broadband availability enhancement component of the Smart Schools Initiative will be held, Blue Room, second floor, state Capitol.

At 2 p.m., Astorino will attend a Cattaraugus County meet and greet, Cutco Theatre at JCC, 250 North Union St., Olean.

From 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., a tourism workshop on “Becoming China Ready” takes place in Empire State Plaza’s Meeting Rooms 4 and 5, concourse, Albany.

At 6 p.m., Astorino will attend the Chautauqua GOP Annual Dinner, Lakewood Rod & Gun Club, 433 E. Terrace Ave., Lakewood.

Headlines…

Cuomo’s campaign operatives are being accused of dirty tricks for allegedly sponsoring a biased “push poll” to convince voters that the governor’s GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, holds politically unacceptable views.

The death of Eric Garner while in NYPD custody reveals the tensions between two of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s priorities: mending relations between the police and minority residents while fighting serious crime by focusing on petty offenses.

Eric Garner’s son, Eric Snipes, said he wants to see Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the plainclothes cop seen in a viral video putting Garner in a chokehold and refusing to let up even when the father of six repeatedly yelled he couldn’t breathe, behind bars.

Although officially banned by the NYPD, the chokehold can often be effective in subduing a person resisting arrest and has been tough to eliminate its use by officers.

Four emergency responders have been placed on desk duty as prosecutors investigate the Garner case. The two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians, employed by Richmond University Medical Center, can’t respond to 911 medical calls until the investigation is complete.

The head of the NYC police union asked the public and elected officials to give officers involved in the incident that led to Garner’s death “the benefit of the doubt.”

De Blasio and his family kicked off an eight-day summer vacation on Sunday standing with Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino on a balcony overlooking the Roman Forum, the city’s birthplace. The family is scheduled to spend less than 48 hours in Rome before heading to Capri, once an island vacation hideaway of Roman emperors and now a favorite hangout for the glitterati.

Italian journalists referred to de Blasio as “the cool mayor,” and were impressed by his willingness to handle his own baggage.

The NYT gives the de Blasio vacation its stamp of approval: “You can’t blame Mr. de Blasio for leaving town. He is the city’s chief executive, but he is also a husband and dad, and surely has an acute sense of the fleeting preciousness of time with family.”

A spokesman for Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice called sexist and racially insensitive tweets by her congressional campaign staffer “stupid…attempts at sarcasm and parody,” and said the staffer has been disciplined.

State lawmakers spent $300,000 over the past six months from their campaign accounts to cover legal fees stemming from multiple scandals — bringing the total to $7.5 million since 2004

The Democrat & Chronicle says its difficulty in getting information on a Cuomo TV ad campaign “reflects a culture of secrecy that continues to permeate Albany nearly four years into an administration that promised to be ‘the most transparent and accountable in history.’”

Florida’s treasurer is accusing Cuomo of running a misleading ad campaign about START-UP NY that’s aimed at luring business to New York from the Sunshine State, saying: “We know a huckster when we see one.”

More >

Siena: Jobs, Taxes And Education Top Issues For Voters

With less than five months to go before the November general election, likely voters in New York rank jobs, taxes and education as their top issues, a Siena College poll released this morning found.

The poll shows 13 percent of likely voters believe jobs is the top issue in the campaign, with taxes and education each receiving 12 percent.

Other issues – such as the 2013 gun control law known as the SAFE Act, budget concerns and the state’s minimum wage – did not register as the top concern for more than 10 percent of voters polled by Siena.

“When it comes to which issues are motivating voters, they are largely economic. Thirteen percent of voters say jobs is the single most important issue in determining their vote, followed by taxes and education at 12 percent each, economic issues generally at nine percent, and fiscal/budget issues and gun/SAFE act at five percent each,” Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said. “Almost half of voters identified an economic issue as number one.”

Nevertheless, the poll found strong support for the state pulling out of the controversial education standards known as Common Core.

A near majority – 49 percent to 39 percent – want to see the state stop Common Core rather than continue to implement the standards.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers this year slowed aspects of the implementation of the standards for student testing and later teacher evaluations.

Cuomo, meanwhile, continues to enjoy a wide lead over his Republican challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who remains largely unknown to most voters.

Cuomo has a 37 percentage point lead over Astorino among likely voters, 60 percent to 23 percent. Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins received 6 percent.

Cuomo has broad support throughout the state, with an especially wide lead in New York City, the poll found.

His spread in the city is 76 percentage points and 29 percentage points in the downstate suburbs. In upstate New York, vital to any chance of success for Astorino, Cuomo leads by 15 percentage points.

Fifty-nine percent of voters believe Cuomo has made the state a better one to live in, with 15 percent who say it’s worse and 21 percent who believe it’s about the same.

Voters, however, aren’t as bullish about New York remaining on the “right track” – with 49 percent believing that’s case versus 40 percent who say it’s heading in the wrong direction.

Both state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who faces Republican opponent John Cahill, and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who is being challenged by Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci, would be handily re-elected this fall, the poll found.

The poll of 774 likely voters was conducted from July 13 through July 16. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

SNY0714 Crosstabs Final by Nick Reisman

The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Vermont counterpart, Peter Shumlin, reportedly tied in the second annual Adirondack Rafting Challenge on the Indian River.

Also participating: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and DSCC Chairman Mike Gianaris.

At a rally in Harlem on Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said the death of Eric Garner as he was being arrested by NYPD officers would test the commitment of the de Blasio administration to police reforms.

The NYPD has taken away the gun and badge of Officer Daniel Pantaleo as the department and prosecutors investigate his use of an apparent chokehold on Garner, of Staten Island. Patrick Lynch, the president of the PBA, said that decision was “absolutely wrong.”

After delaying their departure briefly, the de Blasio family has arrived in Italy with his family for the start of an 8-day summer vacation that includes a mix of meetings with government officials and sightseeing in the mayor’s ancestral homeland.

Jon Bon Jovi and the Toronto-based group interested in buying the Buffalo Bills reportedly want to keep the team in Buffalo.

The tentative contract agreement to avert a shutdown of the LIRR was far from scripted, people close to the tense labor negotiations say. Unions representing the employees were so close to walking off the job that Long Island lawmakers had quietly taken steps to draft federal legislation to forestall or halt a strike.

DeVry Education Group Inc. said AG Eric Schneiderman’s office is investigating whether the for-profit education company’s marketing violates laws against false advertising.

Former Clinton strategist James Carville mocked the new Bill and Hillary-bashing book “Blood Feud,” saying “a Bugs Bunny comic book has more reality to it.”

The reunification between the IDC and the so-called “regular” Senate Democrats does not – at this point – appear to extend to a merging of their campaign cash.

The NYC Medical Examiner’s Office is a mess — plagued with errors, including bodies being lost, mistakenly cremated or wrongly donated to science — while millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on plans and equipment useful only in a mass disaster, the Post reports.

Volunteer firefighters and officials will urge Cuomo to sign a proposed law, which would allow volunteer fire departments to check if prospective members are convicted sex offenders.

Chris Churchill: “If a casino is built on the Rensselaer waterfront, we can thank (or blame) Joe Bruno.”

Astorino called the “New York is Open for Business” TV ad campaign a “swindle of historic proportions” and said Cuomo should halt it ASAP.

Although the locavore movement caught fire about a decade ago, it has gotten a push during the past year in New York, where Cuomo has made it part of his economic policy.

The TU cheers US Attorney Preet Bharara for picking up where Cuomo’s Moreland Commission left off.

A year after then-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed to “destroy” the yellow-cab industry, his allies and surrogates are pouring energy and cash into ride-sharing ventures fiercely opposed by New York’s hacks and medallion owners.

A day after blaming the Albany political establishment for its decision to yank a $186 million bond financing deal that cost the city nearly $2 million, officials at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany are now saying it’s the news media’s fault.

The head of the City Council’s powerful Finance Committee, Julissa Ferreras, once ran a taxpayer-funded, not-for-profit that routinely issued checks to her and her parents.

Republican congressional candidate Bruce Blakeman is calling for his opponent, Democratic Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, to fire a campaign staffer who had posted a joke to Twitter about domestic violence.

In a dramatic shift of momentum, none of the key power brokers in Syracuse are publicly pushing today for the Interstate 81 viaduct to be replaced by a new elevated highway that bisects the city.

Bob McCarthy keeps track of the rapidly changing political landscape in WNY.

Prominent members of the Jewish community ripped Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout for hiring an anti-Israel consultant: Robert Akleh, a former field director for the Working Families Party.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says pet owners could save millions of dollars on prescriptions for their animals if they could buy the drugs at ordinary pharmacies.

Rep. Brian Higgins had more than 25 times as much campaign cash on hand on June 30 as did his Republican rival, former radio personality Kathy Weppner. And while Rep. Chris Collins had $561,973 to spend, the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Orchard Park police officer Jim O’Donnell, is $656 in debt.

According to FEC filings, Elise Stefanik has only $152,103 on hand after spending more than $680,000 on her GOP primary campaign against Matt Doheny. Democrat Aaron Woolf, who did not face a primary opponent, has $757,834 on hand.

Georgina Bloomberg is relieved her father never ran for president.

Paladino Calls Maziarz ‘Poster Child For Term Limits’

Several Western New York Republicans have come to the defense of retiring New York State Senator George Maziarz in recent days; former GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Carl Paladino is not one of them.

“I think George is probably a poster child for term limits,” Paladino said. 

Maziarz has served in the Niagara County based 62nd state senate seat for two decades.  It’s a tenure Paladino believes was too long.

“After a while they start to feel like a king, you know King George,” said Paladino. 

It’s a characterization the Buffalo businessman has repeated over the years, and one that now appears to be gaining traction.  At about the same time Maziarz announced his retirement, reports surfaced the U.S. Attorney’s Office was looking into his campaign spending.

What started as a Moreland Commission report that showed $140,000 in unspecified campaign expenditures continues to expand.  The Albany Times Union reported Friday Federal investigators are now examining unitemized checks that were made out to cash, but never reported to the state board of elections.

The latest questions center on funds from the Maziarz campaign account that were reportedly given to a youth softball team and thousands of dollars in purchases from a WNY business.  Maziarz Campaign Treasurer, Laureen Jacobs, has been asked to turn over documents but her attorney wouldn’t provide any further details.

And although charges have not been filed, Paladino isn’t giving Maziarz the benefit of the doubt. 

“In my book, he was the guy that held Niagara County down,” Paladino said. 

Paladino believes the investigation into Maziarz campaign spending is nothing compared to what he didn’t do.  That criticism has to do with what Paladino describes as more than $1 Billion from the New York State Power Authority’s budget. 

That money, according to Paladino, was generated through the sale of unused allocated power.  Money that Paladino insists should have been spent on development in Western New York.

“George turned the other way as Cuomo was sweeping the account for the last four years.  He never ensured that that money would stay here for Western New York’s benefit.  That’s the kind of stuff that bothered me about George.”

It may take some time before Maziarz’s legacy is clear.  While the jury is still out in the court of public opinion, Paladino made up his mind long ago.  

“George is going to walk away with a million, one hundred thousand dollars in his campaign account and Western New York is no further ahead today than it was when George originally took office,” Paladino added.

 

Member Discipline

In politics, deals need to hold. Sometimes facts change, and that forces a re-evaluation of an earlier agreement, but for the most part either both sides hold up their end of the bargain, or it’s tough to trust one another moving forward.

After the legislative session ended in June, a deal was made to end the current leadership agreement in the State Senate with a new commitment from The IDC and the Senate Democrats to form a new Democratic Majority. This was a very big deal, and I mean that literally. The labor unions, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo and Democartic elected officials including Jeff Klein in the IDC all vowed to work together for that new majority in the Senate ( I’d say “work together for the first time in years,” but actually it was the “first time ever,” since de Blasio is a relatively new Mayor ).

So, the deal was set. It was fragile, however, since there is still some lingering bad blood between IDC members and mainline Democrats over the IDC’s decision to form a governing coalition with Republicans the last two years. That’s now over. And as part of the “New Deal” ( hehe ), both Democratic factions agreed to pull their support from threatened primaries against each other’s members. Former City Councilman Oliver Koppell is challenging IDC leader Jeff Klein, in one of the more notable races. Koppell who once had the support of Senate Democrats, no longer does.

But does that extend to all the members?

A spokesman for the Senate Democrats Mike Murphy says, “We have made it abundantly clear that we are not supporting Oliver Koppell.”

But on July 11th, according to the latest campaign finance disclosure, “Friends of Liz Krueger” ( as in, ya know, Senator Liz Krueger ) gave Koppell a $3,500 donation. If I am not mistaken, July 11th was long after that deal was reached. But like a cease fire during a time of war, not everyone abides. Initially, a Spokesman for Liz Krueger said the Senator had endorsed Koppell months ago. but when asked to produce some paper on that, since this reporter has no memory of that endorsement, none was provided. Krueger was also the one who said a few months ago that she was confident there would be no deal between the IDC and the Democrats. Hmmm.

In a statement, IDC Spokeswoman Candice Giove said,

The IDC kept its word and did not support State Senator Gustavo Rivera’s challenger. This is an unfortunate development when so many Democrats have worked hard towards putting a coalition together.

*Update** Andrew Goldston, spokesman for Liz Krueger says,

Sen. Krueger continues to support Oliver Koppell. She had earlier committed these funds to him from her committee, but a check got lost in the mail, so a new one was issued.