Labor Launches Indpt Campaign For Schneiderman

After maxing out to Sen. Eric Schneiderman’s AG campaign, two of the Manhattan Democrat’s biggest labor supporters – SEIU 1199 and 32 BJ – have ponied up $25,000 apiece to start a new political committee that will spend independently in a last-minute bid to help him win next Tuesday’s primary.

According to the state Board of Elections 24-hour notices list, both unions gave the cash to an entity called the New York Community Independent Campaign on Sept. 2. The NYCIC’s 11-day pre-primary filing shows no action (it was due last Friday, Sept. 3, but the cut-off date was Sept. 1).

In other words, we won’t have any idea how the cash is spent until well after the Sept. 14 election.

The maximum legal contribution for unions, which are treated under the Election Law as individuals, is $37,800. SEIU 1199 hit that mark prior to Schneiderman’s July 25 filing, and 32 BJ gave $30,000 in the first go-round, adding another $7,500 slightly later.

(There’s also another $50,000 in Schneiderman’s kitty from something called SEIU PEA State Fund, which doesn’t sound familiar to me).

The troika of 1199, HTC and 32 BJ, which make up a significant chunk of the so-called “progressive” arm of the Working Families Party (which tapped a placeholder in both the AG and gubernatorial races as the US attorney’s office wound down its probe), have been all in for Schneiderman.

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Levine Robos Times Nod He Didn’t Receive

Several savvy residents in the 31st Senate District were surprised to receive a robocall from one of the four Democrats vying for Sen. Eric Schneiderman’s seat, Mark Levine, that touted praise he had received from the Times in its endorsement editorial yesterday.

The only problem: The Times didn’t endorse Levine. It backed one of his opponents, Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, who just so happens to also be the preferred candidate of the man he’s seeking to replace, whom the paper recently endorsed for AG.

Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, an Espaillat backer, received a recording of the call from one of his constituents, and he played it for me earlier today. The script:

“Good afternoon. In today’s endorsement editorial, the New York Times said Mark Levine has ‘impressive credentials and workable proposals for orchestrating the kind of reform we keep pushing for in New York.'”

“So, remember if you want real reform in Albany, support Mark Levine, Democrat for state Senate on September 14 Also, Mark Levine is endorsed by former Borough President Ruth Messinger, former City Council Member Ronnie Eldridge and City Council Member Robert Jackson. Thank you and have a great day.”

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Hughes: Labor’s Ready For A Fight

AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes sat down with me this afternoon for a “Capital Tonight” interview and insisted the labor movement will present a united front if AG Andrew Cuomo goes to war with the public employee unions next year, despite the fact that the federation endorsed his gubernatorial bid.

Hughes played down Cuomo’s effort to make a distinction between public and private unions, playing up his support of the trades, for example, while proposing a wage freeze, property tax cap and other policy initiatives that are not supported by the publics.

The AFL-CIO, as you’ll recall, was not united in its support of Cuomo when members met for their endorsement convention in Colonie last month.

NYSUT stayed on the sidelines, but also didn’t actively oppose the AG – a pragmatic approach, since it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for Cuomo to get the AFL endorsement had NYSUT voted “no”.

Hughes said labor has experience dealing with governors who go on the warpath during tough economic times. (His interview with me will air in full at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. tonight).

“We’ve been through this a lot with different governors over the years,” Hughes said. “All of the governors that were governor when there was an economic downturn make these pronouncements. We’ve been with them through these things…and we know how to get through it, we’ve done it before.”

“From the city fiscal crisis in the 70s, through the previous governor Cuomo, Mario Cuomo’s problems in the late 80s, to George Pataki’s problems twice with downturns in the stock markets and then the 9/11 collapse. We’ve seen this happen. We know how to be helpful. We know how to get in it, and we we know how to preserve benefits, rights of working men and women, whether they’re public or private sector.”

Skelos Dances On Dems’ Grave

CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross caught up at the Capitol yesterday with Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, who couldn’t quite contain his pleasure at the troubles besetting the Democrats on his native Long Island at a time when the battle for control of the chamber is heating up.

Skelos called the “domestic violence” charges against Dave Mejias, whom the Democrats had hoped would oust GOP Sen. Kemp Hannon and help grow their majority, “troublesome” and “unfortunate,” but also insisted that Sen. Hannon would have run on his own record.”

The senator also took the Democrats to task for what he called Regina Calcaterra’s “invalid candidacy” saying her residency issues should have prevented her from running against Sen. Ken LaValle and likely would have – had the majority done its “homework.”

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Tales From The Sausage Factory

By request, I’m posting my CapTon interview from last night with former Assemblyman Dan Feldman and Poli. Sci. Prof. Gerald Benjamin (who also happens to be my dad) about their new book, “Tales From the Sausage Factor: Making Laws in New York State.”

The book, which came out this week, takes the unusual stance that the infamously dysfunctional state Legislature can actually work – and even does from time to time, albeit more so when Feldman was in office than these days (particularly in the Senate).

It’s remarkably readable for an academic book. And I’m not just saying that because one of the authors is my father. It’s also highly unusual to hear a defense of Albany at a time when anti-incumbent and anti-Legilature sentiment is at an all-time high.

Breslin: Diaz Sr. Has To Go

Sen. Neil Breslin, who, as I mentioned earlier today, is facing an active primary challenger in Luke Martland, has been striving to put some distance between himself and the dysfunction of his Democratic conference at a time when voter disgust with Albany – and incumbents in general – is running very high.

This moment came during last night’s debate:

“Do I think that there are people who have been there too long? Well, you know, Pedro Espada hasn’t been there too long, but he‘s been there way too long for my purposes,” Breslin said.

“We have to rid ourselves of people like Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate and Reverend Diaz, Senator Reverend Diaz, people who don’t take their responsibilities either ethically seriously or legislatively seriously.”

The Delmar Democrat is not a newcomer to the anti-Espada movement.

He was part of a group of reform-minded senators who advocated against accepting Espada and Monserrate back into the conference after the ’09 Senate coup.

Several months after the stalemate had ended – not the way he had hoped it would – Breslin said at a church in his hometown that the majority leader was a “crook” who “should be in jail.” This is the first I’ve heard of him lumping Diaz Sr. in with his erstwhile amigos, but I can’t say it’s surprising.

Goodbye Long Island

Long Island was supposed to be a battleground again this fall in the fight for control of the Senate, but the Democrats have suffered such serious setbacks there in recent weeks that they’re now left playing DEFENSE. (Yeah, I’m obviously not a sports person).

First the Democrats lost one of their top challengers, Regina Calcaterra, after she failed to live through a legal residency challenge brought by the Republicans.

Calcaterra was one of several women candidates the Democrats were running against male GOP incumbents statewide in hopes of capitalizing on the whole “year of the woman” boom taking place across the nation at the moment.

(She was running against Sen. Ken LaValle. Others in this category include – but are not limited to – Sue Savage against Sen. Hugh Farley in the 44th SD and Joanne Yepsen against Sen. Roy McDonald in the 43rd SD).

Now comes the news that former Nassau County Legislator Dave Mejias, who the Democrats had hoped would bring a strong challenge to Sen. Kemp Hannon this fall, spent the night in jail and was arraigned today on charges of stalking and reckless endangerment.

Police said Mejias followed his ex-girlfriend in his car, forced her off the road in Matinecock, screamed at her and then chased her when she tried to get away.

There’s no word yet as to whether Mejias will be ending his campaign, but this isn’t exactly the kind of thing a candidate bounces back from – particularly not in the post-Hiram Monserrate era.

There is a Democratic challenger to Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos (George Sava), but both sides acknowledge he’s a long-shot – at best.

Now the Democrats have to worry about defending freshman Sen. Brian Foley, who is being challenged by Republican Lee Zeldin, and – albeit somewhat less so – protecting Sen. Craig Johnson against his GOP opponent, Jack Martins.

Needless to say, none of this is good news for the Democrats’ effort to grow their majority, which can’t be done unless they can make deeper in-roads into traditional GOP territory in the NYC suburbs and upstate.

Bothering Breslin

Sen. Neil Breslin is not on the Democrats’ endangered members list heading into the Sept. 14 primary, but that’s not for lack of effort by his opponent Luke Martland.

Martland, who has pressured the incumbent lawmaker at every turn, just released a new Web ad slamming the senator for raising taxes and increasing spending.

He’s referring to Breslin’s budget votes, which were required in large part because the Republicans generally refused to play ball, forcing the 32 Democrats to vote together to pass anything – even if it might be harmful to them in the fall elections.

Breslin hasn’t done himself any favors in this campaign, flubbing details on a prior approval insurance bill he sponsored during a recent interview with WRGB CBS 6 and then slamming Gov. David Paterson in a TU editorial board meeting as an “absolute, total failure.”

While it’s true the governor is not a sympathetic figure these days, kicking him when he’s down might not sit well with black voters in the Albany part of Breslin’s district.

‘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.

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