Abortion-Rights Groups Endorse DiNapoli

Two groups that support abortion rights on Tuesday endorsed Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The groups, Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York and NARAL, issued a joint endorsement, calling DIanpoli a “tireless advocate for women and families.”

The groups sought to link women’s health with the decidedly fiscal focus of the comptroller’s office.

“Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli understands that birth control and preventive care are economic issues and has always fought for economic equality to ensure all women had access to critically needed reproductive healthcare, both as a member of the Assembly and as our Comptroller,” said Tracey Brooks of Planned Parenthood Advocates. “Our state has a reputation for ensuring fairness and equality for all its citizens and, thanks to the efforts of our New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, this legacy has continued. This endorsement is confirmation of Comptroller DiNapoli’s work on behalf of New York State’s women and families.”

DiNapoli, like the other statewide Democratic candidates, is running on the Women’s Equality Party ballot line, one that was created with the backing of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign to both promote the 10-point women’s agenda as well as garner more women voters.

“Throughout the course of Tom DiNapoli’s distinguished career in public office, he has remained steadfast in his support for women’s health, safety and equality. Tom’s record on choice is impeccable and his commitment, unwavering,” said NARAL Pro-Choice New York President Andrea Miller. “As with every year Tom DiNapoli has run for public office, NARAL Pro-Choice New York is privileged to endorse him.”

NYT Declines To Endorse In Primary Race

The New York Times editorial board declined to endorse in the Democratic primary for governor.

In an editorial posted on the newspaper’s website Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo lost the Times’ support because “state government remains as subservient to big money as ever.”

Nevertheless, the Times declined to endorse Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham law professor running an insurgent Democratic primary against Cuomo (Not mentioned by the paper was Randy Credico, the comedian and activist who is also on the primary ballot).

The editorial board writes that Cuomo is likely to win the general election this November, but a vote for Teachout on Sept. 9 could amount to a “power message” or protest vote against the incumbent governor.

Realistically, Governor Cuomo is likely to win the primary, thanks to vastly greater resources and name recognition. And he’ll probably win a second term in November against a conservative Republican opponent. In part, that’s because issues like campaign finance rarely have been a strong motivator for most voters. Nonetheless, those who want to register their disappointment with Mr. Cuomo’s record on changing the culture of Albany may well decide that the best way to do that is to vote for Ms. Teachout. Despite our reservations about her, that impulse could send a powerful message to the governor and the many other entrenched incumbents in Albany that a shake-up is overdue.

There is little love lost between the moderate Democrat Cuomo and the liberal New York Times editorial board, which has been highly critical of his fiscal policies, as well as his decision to close the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, which is now the subject of a federal inquiry.

Still, the editorial is a rebuke of not just Cuomo’s efforts on ethics law changes in Albany, but also his push to control spending in Albany.

New Law Allows NYSUT Leaders To Accrue Pension Time

State lawmakers in June quietly approved a measure that would expand an existing law to allow the leaders of the statewide teachers union to accrue pension time while working for the umbrella labor group.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on July 22, is considered revenue neutral: The New York State United Teachers union reimburses school districts for the cost.

NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said the law clarifies an existing measure that’s been on the books since 1972, which applied to local teachers unions. The law approved in June added the words “statewide affiliate.”

“It was a technical bill to clear up an ambiguity,” he said, adding he’s unsure if any of NYSUT’s board members will take advantage of the new law, though it’s likely some will.

NYSUT elected a new slate of leaders, including a new president, in April.

It’s also not unusual for public labor leaders to accrue hours towards their pension while working for their union. PEF, CSEA and Council 82 have similar arrangements.

It’s unclear why the statewide union didn’t qualify earlier for such an arrangement.

The measure sailed through both the Senate and Assembly with only a handful of votes opposed. Introduced on June 9 in the Assembly, the bill cleared both chambers by June 20.

Its passage came at the same time changes to the state’s teacher evaluation measure — which slowed aspects of the implementation of Common Core standards in New York — were negotiated. Union officials insisted the evaluation agreement and the pension bill’s passage were not linked.

The pension change has gone more or less unnoticed, save for advocate teachers blogs, though not all union members agree this is a give-away to the organization’s leadership.

E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for New York State Policy said that even while the law is revenue neutral, it’s still troubling.

“This is big favor,” he said. “It may not be unprecedented to have such an arrangement, but in fact it’s a huge gift to the unions.”

He added the state’s pension system remains backed up by taxpayers, saying it sets an example for other labor groups.

“The last thing we need to be doing by fact or example is expanding access to the pension system whether it’s quote-un-quote paid for or not,” McMahon said.

Asked About Debates, Cuomo Again Demurs To Campaign

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a politician not exactly known for delegating authority, again on Tuesday said he’ll delegate the decision on debating his election-year rivals to his campaign.

Cuomo, in Upper Jay to speak at a rebuilt firehouse that had been damaged by Hurricane Irene, told reporters there his campaign will be speaking to the other campaigns about a debate.

“I’m going to leave that to the campaigns to work through and my campaign will be talking to my rivals’ campaigns and they’ll figure it out, I’m sure,” Cuomo said.

Asked if he’ll debate potentially after the Sept. 9 primary, Cuomo again demurred to his campaign.

“More than anything, I’m leaving it to the campaigns to have that conversation,” said the famously hands-on governor.

Time Warner Cable News and NY1 have invited Cuomo and his Democratic primary rival, Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout, to a televised debate, along with a TV debate with their running mates, former Rep. Kathy Hochul and Columbia professor Tim Wu.

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino has also called for debates with Cuomo and is holding a radio debate with Teachout on WNYC on Sept. 4.

Antonacci Calls For Debates With DiNapoli

Republican candidate Bob Antonacci wants to debate his Democratic rival, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, challenging him to two debates in different regions of the state.

“I don’t care where the debates are held,” Antonacci said. “I really don’t care how many we have. I think the state of New York and taxpayers deserve — I’m not going to crazy here because it’s the comptroller’s race — I think they deserve at least two debates, preferably at least one in the downstate region and one in the upstate region.”

Antonacci, Onondaga county comptroller, is required to participate in any debate.

The candidate is accepting matching funds under the state’s public financing system, which runs only for this year and applies only to the state comptroller’s race. Under the requirements of participating in the program, any candidate accepting public matching dollars must appear in a debate.

“I think it’s important for Comptroller DiNapoli and I to debate our visions for New York state,” Antonacci said, adding a debate would provide “a sharp contrast between our two candidacies.”

DiNapoli, a supporter of public financing, has been critical of the program approved in the state budget for being enacted in the middle of an election cycle.

Antonacci, in Albany on Tuesday to issue the debate challenge, told reporters at the state Capitol that the public financing program is a challenge, if only because it’s so new.

“It’s been a tough process because we have to explain to the voters and the taxpayers of this state a very, very new system,” Antonacci said, but added, “It’s also giving us an opportunity to talk about our campaign.”

A debate would likely serve to raise the profiles of both candidates in a relatively sleepy race, but an important one: In addition to auditing authority, the state comptroller manages the state’s $180 billion pension fund.

De Blasio For Espaillat

Citing his support for pre-Kindergarten funding and affordable housing programs, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday endorsed Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s re-election.

“I am proud to support State Senator Adriano Espaillat for re-election,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “From fighting hard for universal pre-kindergarten funding, to standing up for affordable housing and tenant protections, to pushing for critical pedestrian safety measures, Adriano Espaillat has represented his constituents with energy and determination. I am wholly committed to working with him to move our city forward.”

Espaillat is running in a Democratic primary against former city Councilman Robert Jackson, an ally of Rep. Charlie Rangel, who was victorious in his June primary against Espaillat and several other candidates.

De Blasio’s endorsement is interesting considering his push for a friendlier state Senate in Albany. The mayor, along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, helped broker an agreement between the Independent Democratic Conference and the mainline conference of Democrats in the Senate.

De Blasio’s backing for Democrats taking full charge of the chamber has been a Republican talking point in various Senate elections, especially in the upstate regions.

Espaillat, in a statement, noted he backs “advancing” de Blasio’s agenda in Albany.

“I am committed to advancing Mayor de Blasio’s progressive vision for New York City at the state-level,” Espaillat said. “We have been able to achieve incredible gains this year, including the successful push for pre-kindergarten funding, and the speed limit reduction that will save lives in Upper Manhattan and on the West Side. In the coming year, we can build on these achievements, and fight for New York City students, tenants, pedestrians, and low-income families.”

State Dems Up In Arms Over Astorino’s Gun Comments

Over the weekend, Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino appeared a firearms festival in Sullivan County and made supportive statements of the organizers’ efforts to teach marksmanship and firearms training for kids.

Time Warner Cable News, which covered the event, has Astorino on tape saying, “Fishing and hunting has always been a part of our culture in America and very strongly here in New York. And because some bad people do some very bad things with guns doesn’t mean we should change our whole society and way of life.”

But for the state Democratic Committee, Astornio’s appearance at the event was far more troubling, seizing on his support for gun-training programs in schools, especially when it comes to providing training to kids with discipline problems:

“When New Yorkers think about ‘back to school’ shopping, guns are not what come to mind. With these shocking comments, Republican Rob Astorino has proven once again that his ultraconservative views are dangerously out of step with mainstream New Yorkers. The people of this state have the right to know why a candidate for Governor thinks we need more guns in our schools,” said NYSDC spokesperson Peter Kauffmann.

In context, Astorino is backing programs that teach kids how to handle guns safely. TWC News reporter Eva McKend — whose story the state committee linked to in its news release — found people at the event who emphasized proper training.

Nevertheless, Democrats feel they have a trump card of sorts with Astorino’s anti-SAFE Act stance. In this heavily Democratic state, gun control legislation remains broadly popular, and the SAFE Act, controversial though it may be for gun owners and Second Amendment supporters, is one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature legislative achievements in his first term.

Astorino faces a Catch-22 in that regard: He needs these conservative voters to support his candidacy for governor, but also needs to move a broader electorate that is not attuned to a firearms culture to back him over the better-funded, better-known Democratic incumbent.

Updated: Astorino campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud responded.

“County Executive Astorino said he would support marksmanship programs in communities that want them,” she said. “These programs have taught proper rifle safety to youngsters in rural communities for generations. Mr. Cuomo should lay off the hyperbole and stop attacking the sportsman culture.”

Sierra Club Endorses Avella

Another environmental organization has endorsed Sen. Tony Avella’s re-election.

The Queens Democrat on Tuesday received the endorsement of the Sierra Club — a nod that comes after the lawmaker got the backing of the New York League of Conservation Voters, who are making his campaign a top priority this cycle.

“The Sierra Club is proud to endorse Tony Avella and help return his leadership to the Senate”, said Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “Avella has stood apart as the Senate’s leading voice in protecting New York’s environment and has played a key role in building the movement that has held fracking at bay in the Empire State. Anyone who appreciates clean air and water owes Senator Tony Avella a debt of gratitude.”

Avella, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, faces former city Comptroller John Liu in a Democratic primary.

“The Sierra Club has been a leader among environmental organizations, from keeping New York’s drinking water clean to leading the fight against hydrofracking, they have been a crucial partner in protecting New York’s environment. For all these reasons and more, it is my honor to accept their endorsement. I look forward to continuing to stand side-by-side with them in the battle to defend New York State’s vital water resources,” Avella said in a statement.

Sierra Club this week endorsed Zephyr Teachout’s campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Sept. 9 primary.

Gibson And Eldridge Agree To Debate

Republican Rep. Chris Gibson and his Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge have agreed to a debate on Time Warner Cable News set for Oct. 22.

The debate, to be held at the TWC News studio in Albany, will put a spotlight on one of the more expensive and competitive congressional races in the state this year.

The NY-19 is a district that comprises the Hudson Valley region.

Gibson is a two-term incumbent and retired Army colonel. Eldridge is a wealthy investor and husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.

Republicans have sought to cast the first-time candidate Eldridge as an inexperienced carpetbagger, while Democrats have pointed to Gibson’s support from large business PACs and his ties to the tea party.

In other words, should be an interesting debate.

Hawkins: Me Too

From the morning memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at this point, doesn’t appear to be close to agreeing to any debates in the race for governor.

Far ahead of his nearest rival, Republican Rob Astorino, in both fundraising and the public opinion polls, Cuomo also enjoys the trappings of an incumbent governor: Name recognition and the ability to travel the state at any time.

Nevertheless, Astorino, along with Cuomo’s Democratic primary rival Zephyr Teachout, are calling for a series of debates with Cuomo — events that could do well to raise their own name recognition at his expense.

Astorino and Teachout plan their own debate — a Sept. 4 radio event on WNYC — without Cuomo.

But there is at least one candidate feeling left out: Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins.

He achieved automatic ballot status this cycle when Hawkins gained more than 50,000 votes.

This time around, his campaign hasn’t let up on opportunities for fundraise and organize, especially off of slights like not being included in a debate.

Hawkins’s campaign this morning released a fundraising email in an effort to garner contributions from the debate diss.

“The debate will be covered by the mainstream media and papers for weeks to come,” Hawkins said. “This is a great opportunity for our campaign to reach out to millions of voters who are clamoring for real change. We want to put ads on radio and TV so that voters hear about our progressive message.”

Of course, the 2010 gubernatorial debate was a major farce, with Cuomo and his Republican opponent Carl Paladino appearing on stage with a variety of characters, including the Rent Is 2 Damn High candidate Jimmy McMillan (who has petitioned his way on to the statewide ballot yet again).

In addition to McMillan, there are a host of minor-party candidates ranging from Albany-area activist Michael Carey, Libertarian candidate Sam Sloan and a filing for the Sapient Party, which appears to have a collage of ideological policies.

Astorino doesn’t want to include Hawkins in a statewide debate with Cuomo, preferring to have it be a one-on-one affair.

But if the polls hold heading into the fall, Cuomo may very well call for debates, just with every candidate appearing on the ballot as he did four years ago.