Albany

(Unannounced) Destito Raising

Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito has yet to announce whether she will seek re-election to her seat in the 116th AD, but perhaps the fact that she is holding a fundraiser in Utica next month is an indication of her plans.

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The event, which runs from $300 (contributor) to $1,000 (blue sponsor) a head, will be held on a Friday (May 7) from noon to 2 p.m. (The assemblywoman is throwing caution to the wind on this one, since there still is no budget deal in sight, although the Legislature is not officially scheduled to be in session that day).

Destito’s Republican challenger, businessman Greg Johnson, formally announced his candidacy at the Fort Stanwix Tea Party yesterday. The local Democratic Party chairman, Bill Barry, expressed hope that Destito will “announce soon and run” and said no other Democrat has indicated an interest in running in her place.
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Espada Primary Challenger Hunter Hires BerlinRosen, Prepares Launch

Activist Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter will officially announce her primary challenge to Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. at 11 a.m. tomorrow outside the Bronx Library Center, and she has retained a firm that is intimately familiar with the Senate and the Democratic conference to help her try to unseat an incumbent many in her party love to hate.

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Pilgrim-Hunter, described in the press release touting her impending announcement as a “community organizer and president of Fordham Hill Cooperative Apartments,” is being repped by BerlinRosen, a firm started by Valerie Berlin and Jonathan Rosen – two veterans of the DSCC. The duo struck out on their own after the 2004 election cycle in which the Democrats won three seats from the GOP in what was the start of a successful push to wrest control of the majority for the first time in more than three decades.

The Democrats did not accomplish that feat until 2008, and even then only managed to claim the majority by a slim two-seat margin.
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Gillibrand, Rice Stick With Global

At least two Democrats seeking statewide office this fall will not be heeding calls to dump Global Strategy Group in spite of the firm’s involvement in the pay-to-play state pension fund scandal.

The campaign of one of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Republican opponents, David Malpass, said the junior senator should dump the consulting firm “immediately,” calling this choice a “real test of (her) priorities.”

Malpass was interviewed this afternoon by YNN’s Steve Ference for this evening’s “Capital Tonight,” and said:

“She has to make a decision on who she hires, who she associates with in the campaign. I want to run a very issue based campaign. My frustration is that we have an inside ballgame kind of mentality going on in Washington, D.C. and in Albany that keeps making mistakes. It’s not working on behalf of taxpayers and that is what I want to change.”

You can tune in at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. to see the entire Malpass interview.

Gillibrand’s campaign declined to comment, but said it would be sticking with Global, which has been with her since the beginning of her political career when she ousted then-GOP Rep. John Sweeney in 2006.

Meanwhile, the campaign of Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, one of five Democratic AG contenders, confirmed that it recently hired Global’s Jef Pollock and intends to keep him.

“Jefrey Pollock is a new, trusted member of our campaign team and we look forward to his consultation in the year ahead,” said Rice campaign spokesman Eric Phillips. “We hired Jef to provide the campaign with polling and statistical research.”

NYLCV Deploys A Roosevelt

The New York League of Conservation Voters has launched a fundraising campaign to refill the coffers of its Climate Action PAC in hopes of rebuilding “environmental leadership in state government,” according to an e-mail sent to the group’s supporters by board member Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt V.

“Protecting New York State’s natural treasures is a time-honored family tradition,” Roosevelt writes.

“It’s also a bi-partisan principle for a long line of New York governors (including my great-great grandfather) and courageous legislators who had the foresight to protect the Adirondacks, to save the Hudson River and to create the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).”

“I am, like many New Yorkers, deeply troubled by the state’s budget proposal to close our parks, raid the EPF and gut our environmental enforcement agencies. Budget cuts in these tough times are necessary, but the environment is being asked to bear a disproportionately large burden – one that threatens our drinking water, air and quality of life.”

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Under Fire, Perkins Launchs Re-election Effort

Sen. Bill Perkins, whose outspokenness has so angered some fellow Democrats and charter school advocates that they’re shopping for a primary challenger to run against him, will formally kick off his campaign this Sunday.

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The event at Gran Piatto d’Oro on Fifth Avenue is a combination announcement/fundraiser and birthday party, according to an invite that landed in my in-box earlier today. Tickets are going for $100 (friend) to $5,000 (sponsor) a head.

Perkins holds the Harlem seat that used to belong to Gov. David Paterson, which is why his call for the governor not to seek re-election and step down if, in fact, allegations that he had meddled in David Johnson’s domestic violence case were true, were all the more potent – and hurtful, in the eyes of Paterson’s allies.

Those same allies (read: protectors of the old Democratic Harlem power base) have been none too pleased with Perkins’ flirting with a potential primary challenge to another veteran Democratic lawmaker: Rep. Charlie Rangel.
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DSCC Staffs Up, Revamps

The state Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has a new staffing line-up and a new-and-improved Web site – complete with blog! – in preparation for the upcoming campaign season (assuming the budget ever gets passed).

The hires are as follows:

– Eric Blankenbaker, press secretary. Worked for former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign, on Sen. Joe Lieberman’s 2006 re-election campaign, and led a PR firm (Strauss Radio Strategies) in Washington, D.C.

– Michelle Gross, finance director. Worked for veteran Democratic fundraiser Cindy Darrison on, among other things, Eliot Spitzer’s 2006 campaign for governor.

– Jebel Bennett, deputy finance director. Has worked in NYC and Washington as a political and institutional fundraiser.

– Michael Connery, new media director. Is a political blogger and on-line maven. He has been writing the DSCC’s new blog.

– Jeremy John, political director. Coming to the political side from the government side. Has managed and/or worked field for a number of recent campaigns, including Sen. Joe Addabbo and Sen. Brian Foley.

The DSCC has been slowly remaking itself as Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson settles ever more comfortably into spearheading the majority’s political operation – a job once performed by Senate President Malcolm Smith.

In February Sampson announced he had tapped Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein to chair the DSCC, while Sens. Liz Krueger, Smith and Antoine Thompson to serve as co-chairs.

The DSCC’s first hire in the Sampson era was Executive Director Josh Cherwin, a longtime operative for former VP Al Gore.

Gov To Lawmakers: Voters Won’t Be Fooled

A budget deal could be a lot further away that you think.

Gov. David Paterson did not sound in a negotiating sort of mood this morning when he essentially accused state lawmakers of being more concerned about keeping their jobs than actually doing them.

While chatting with WOR’s John Gambling, Paterson rejected the notion that a budget agreement might be as little as a week away, saying: “When a budget is a week away, you actually pretty much know what the terms of the budget are going to be. And we do not.”

Paterson noted the Senate and Assembly have been stuck at $3.2 billion apart in their efforts to close the $9.2 billion budget deficit for well over a week.

“Right now, I’m not hearing the kind of conversation that makes me think we’re going to get any closer,” the governor said.

“I’m hearing about property tax rebates in an election year…Do you think that anybody is going to be fooled if you borrow money to send checks to senior citizens in the middle of an election year? That’s not solving the problem.”

(I neglected to mention that the STAR rebate restoration is being pushed by the Senate Democrats, with the support of some Republicans – particularly those on Long Island – for whom property tax relief has long been a signature issue).

Paterson went on to say it would be “suicidal” to add to the state’s already significant debt burden, and pledged he would not saddle the next governor – “or even the governor who comes after that” – with a situtation similar to the one he encountered when he succeeded former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in March 2008.

State Assets On The Auction Block?

Gov. David Paterson this morning raised the possibility that the state might have to consider selling some of its assets if its financial troubles and budget deadlock continue apace.

During an interview with WOR’s John Gambling, Paterson chided the Legislature for departing Albany yesterday without passing a bailout plan for the bankrupt city OTB.

The downstate gambling operation is now on track to shut its doors this Sunday – laying off some 1,300 people and negatively impacting the cash flow of other racing operations around the state.

Paterson insisted his proposal to rescue the NYC OTB was not a taxpayer-funded bailout, but would have floated a loan to NYRA to keep that cash-strapped operation in the black until the state inks a new deal with a VLT developer/operator for Aqueduct sometime in June.

Gambling asked Paterson why the state would not consider simply selling Aqueduct, and the governor replied:

“Well, John, we’re getting to the point where those are the types of decisions we’re going to have to consider.”

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Parsing The Search For Skyler’s Replacement

A thoughtful reader wrote in to note the individuals to whom Mayor Bloomberg reached out recently to discuss potential replacements for outgoing Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler have strong Albany ties and wondered if this is a sign that the mayor is re-thinking his traditionally combative relationship with the Legislature.

The Post’s David Seifman reported Monday that Bloomberg sent out “feelers” to Marc Shaw and Bruce Bender, seeking their input on a potential Skyler successor.

Shaw, who was first deputy mayor in the initial incarnation of the Bloomberg administration, has had a long career working at a variety of government posts – including a stint with the Senate Finance Committee. He also served as the executive director of the MTA, and some speculated he might again he headed in that direction when he joined the Paterson administration as a senior adviser in November 2008.

Shaw quietly left his post with Paterson – there was nary a public word about his departure – and resurfaced as interim chief financial officer at CUNY.

Bender served as chief of staff to former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and is now executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.
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Charter Advocates To Albany: ‘Right The Wrong’

Education Reform Now, a coalition of groups pushing for changes that would improve New York’s chances at landing “Race to the Top” funds, launched a statewide TV ad that blasts the teachers union for the state’s Round I failure.

The ad calls for state lawmakers to raise the charter school cap before applying for Round II of federal cash.

New York’s eleventh-hour failure to pass cap-lifting legislation has been widely cited as one of the key contributors to the state’s second-to-last placement among RttT competitors in the first go-round. (There were, of course, other problems, too).

Gov. David Paterson has said he would like lawmakers not to leave things to the last minute for Round II.

(The deadline is June 1; at the rate budget talks are going, the Legislature might still be in Albany by then).

Some states are taking another look at RttP, raising questions about the criteria with which the first winners (Delaware and Tennessee) were chosen and saying they’re not sure if they want to participate in competition.

As it turns out, state Ed Commissioner David Steiner is scheduled to appear on “Capital Tonight” this evening to discuss RttP, what tanked New York’s Round I application and how he’s approaching Round II. Tune in at 8 p.m. and again at 11:30 p.m. to catch that.

In the meantime, here’s the 30-second ad, which is running statewide on broadcast and cable stations. The script for “RIGHT THE WRONG” appears after the jump.


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