Bernie Sanders

WFP’s 11th Hour Push for Fusion Voting

From the Morning Memo:

As state Democratic Party leaders make their way to Westchester this morning – weather permitting, as the Hudson Valley bore the brunt of the latest winter storm – the Working Families Party is making a last-ditch attempt to head off at the pass a resolution that would support the ban of fusion voting in New York.

The WFP is highlighting the fact that it received support over the weekend for its crusade to keep fusion voting from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who recently announced his second White House bid.

Sanders, who was backed by the New York WFP in his 2016 presidential bid, tweeted yesterday morning:

“We must preserve New York’s fusion voting system because it gives more voice to voters. I support the @WorkingFamilies Party’s efforts to protect this system, which gives voters a stronger voice in elections and in government.”

Another sign of support came from the state’s current progressive darling, Queens/Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who retweeted a tweet initially posted by Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who said a “fusion ban would only divide and weaken our movement.”

In addition, the WFP is circulating a letter signed by 340 elected officials from around the state, appealing to the governor and legislative leaders not to kill fusion voting.

“As Democrats, we especially note the role that the Working Families Party has played over the last two decades,” the letter reads. “Many of us have run and won our seats with their support. Moreover, WFP played an essential role in helping to end Republican-IDC control of the New York Senate in the 2018 election.”

As we reported last week, incoming (or rather, returning) state Party Chairman Jay Jacobs confirmed the party’s progressive caucus is pushing for a vote today on a resolution in favor of doing away with the practice of allowing minor parties to cross-endorse candidates, which are then able to tally all the votes they receive on any ballot line to count in the final results.

Frequently, minor party lines can mean the difference between winning and losing for candidates running in close elections.

New York is one of just a handful of states in the nation that allow fusion voting, and the practice has been challenged at one time or another by a variety of people for years – including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The WFP has made no secret of the fact that it believes Cuomo is behind this latest push to end fusion voting, and is doing so in retaliation for the fact that the party backed a failed primary challenger – actress/activist Cynthia Nixon – against him last September.

But Cuomo administration – and, FWIW, Jacobs himself – insist the governor has nothing to do with this effort.

Ultimately, it is the Legislature and the governor, not the party, that will decide whether fusion voting stays or goes by taking up a bill to address the matter. So far, noting has been formally put on the table at the state Capitol.

But the budget talks are just getting underway, and the WFP is worried something will be quietly slipped into the final deal at the last minute. Hence, this full court press effort.

NY Bernie Backers Stick With Teachout

The New York-based organization People for Bernie has continued its track record of backing Fordham Law School Prof. Zephyr Teachout, announcing over th weekend its endorsement of her state attorney general bid.

The co-founders of The People for Bernie – Kat Brezler Charles Lenchner Winnie Wong and Moumita Ahmed – worked on Zephyr’s unsuccessful gubernatorial run in 2014, in which she turned in a stronger-than-expected performance against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

The organization also backed Teachout in 2016, when she ran unsuccessfully for an open House seat, (vacated by former Republican Rep. Chris Gibson), against Republican John Faso. Sanders himself endorsed and campaigned with Teachout in that campaign, but she lost the general election to Faso in November.

“Zephyr Teachout literally wrote the book about corruption,” Brezler said. “We need her tenacity to fight back against corporate power.”

In true Sanders style, People for Bernie announced its support of Teachout in a tweet, saying it will focus on helping her petition her way onto the ballot after she failed to make the cut at the state Democratic Party convention in May.

NYC Public Advocate Tish James, who is supported by Cuomo, was selected by the party rank-and-file at the convention to be the official Democratic nominee.

Also seeking to petition onto the September ballot is Leecia Eve, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton and Cuomo who is on leave from her job as a lobbyist and top government affairs official for Verizon; and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who ran unsuccessfully for AG in 2006 – the year Cuomo won the four-way Democratic primary for that office, and went on to beat Republican Jeanine Pirro in the November election.

Throughout all of her political campaigns to date, Teachout has focused on campaign finance reform. That focus continued today, when she highlighted the fact that she is the only Democratic AG candidate to reject exploiting the LLC loophole to maximize her fundraising capability.

Teachout also took a swipe at James for being the beneficiary of a fundraiser big money fundraiser being headlined next week by Cuomo, who has raised $16.5 million since 2011 from LLCs alone.

“I accept no corporate PAC money, and no LLC money,” Teachout said. “This is not complicated: No attorney general should take money from corporations she is charged with overseeing and investigating and whose law breaking she may prosecute. When law enforcement candidates takes corporate money, it undermines trust in the law itself, and people get shut out.”

Though not getting the Democratic nod at the convention complicated things for Teachout, forcing her to expend time and resources to get onto the ballot, it also freed her, in a sense, to take positions far to the left of what the governor, (who basically runs the party), is comfortable with. That could prove problematic in a general election, but might help her eke out a victory in the primary.

NRCC Calls For Brindisi To Take A Stance On Sanders Healthcare Bill

The National Republican Congressional Committee has been quick to pounce on Democrats who support the Medicare for All healthcare bill Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced Wednesday. The NRCC launched a web video criticizing single-payer healthcare plans.

The committee points to a study from left-leaning Urban Institute which finds that the Sanders proposal would cost $32 trillion over the next decade. It’s clear healthcare will once again be a campaign focal point for the 2018 mid-terms with Republicans already targeting NY-22 challenger Anthony Brindisi.

“Does Anthony Brindisi plan to publicly stand with Bernie Sanders and national Democrats in support of the socialist pipe-dream known as single-payer healthcare?” NRCC Regional Press Secretary Chris Martin asked.

Martin said it would be hard for the current state Assemblyman to continue to paint himself as a moderate if he supports the proposal. He noted the similarities between Sanders bill and the single-payer bill Brindisi helped pass in the Assembly.

“Before we talk about a new national healthcare plan, Assemblyman Brindisi believes we must protect the healthcare now under attack by Claudia Tenney and her special interest friends — the one that prevents you from being kicked off for a pre-existing condition,” Brindisi’s Campaign Manager Ellen Foster said. “Claudia Tenney voted to strip away our current healthcare and throw millions of New Yorkers under the bus. Assemblyman Brindisi wants to protect what we have right now so we have a chance to improve it, bipartisanly.”

‘Buffalo For Bernie’ Gets A Name Change

A group of political activists who came together to support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid are keeping their word to maintain a permanent presence with a broader focus in Western New York. “Buffalo For Bernie” has officially changed its name to “Liberty Union Progressives.”

The new moniker is an homage to Vermont’s socialist Liberty Union Party which helped Sanders get his start in the seventies, although he later defected.

“We have built a group of like-minded individuals, many who have been disenfranchised by the state of political discourse and we want to keep them engaged in politics,” organizer Chuck Hess said.

The group announced its plans to stick around last month. Hess said it has not yet filed for non-profit status, and is not currently taking donations.

“Our plans are to grow a membership of our club using an all inclusive mentality,” he explained. “Any party affiliation, activists, elected officials. We will use the party mechanism in whatever way pushes the issues and agenda Sanders campaigned on.”

Buffalo For Bernie has made some endorsements this election cycle, including a slate of Democratic congressional candidates. The group had mixed success with its primary endorsements last week.

Assembly candidate Monica Wallace won handily, but the group’s preferred candidate for Erie County district attorney, Mark Sacha, finished last among three contenders.

“We hope that our shedding light on them made more people aware,” Hess said. “Our plans are to be picky with endorsing candidates and won’t be forcing it on every race. Our focus will be on the issues and when a candidate is issues-oriented they will be on our radar.”

Liberty Union Progressives also will consider recruiting candidates in the future, as opposed to simply endorsing existing major party contenders.

Cuomo And Sanders Chat

cuomobernieGov. Andrew Cuomo and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders met privately late this afternoon in New York City.

A photo released by top Cuomo advisor Melissa DeRosa shows the two men chatting, with a plate of cookies nearby and bottles of water.

They met for a little more than a half hour and discussed advancing a progressive agenda, according to an administration official. Cuomo gave Sanders some New York bagels and cheesecake from Junior’s, suggesting the lawmaker couldn’t get the more authentic articles in Washington, D.C.

The meeting comes as Sanders is due to appear at a fundraiser for the Working Families Party, the labor-aligned organization that backed his failed primary bid for the Democratic nomination against Cuomo’s endorsed candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Later, Sanders is due to appear on Friday at a rally in New Paltz for Zephyr Teachout, the Democratic congressional candidate in the Hudson Valley’s 19th district. Teachout unsuccessfully challenged Cuomo from his political left flank for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014.

During the lead up to New York’s presidential primary in April, Cuomo criticized Sanders’s gun control stance, suggesting it was less than robust support for certain measures.

Later, Sanders’s supporters jeered the appointment of Cuomo to become the honorary chairman of the New York delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

But Cuomo, seeking to temper any disunity within the New York Democratic Party, introduced Sanders at a breakfast meeting of the delegation. At the event, Sanders sought to encourage his supporters to vote for Clinton in November.

“There was a spirit of unity in that room that was overwhelming and that was undeniable,” Cuomo said, “And that’s what I was concerned about.”

In turn, Sanders praised Cuomo’s efforts on increasing the state’s minimum wage and 12 weeks of paid family leave.

“When you passed paid family and medical leave,” he said. “It means when a mom has a baby, she can stay home with that baby and not be forced to go to work.”

Buffalo For Bernie Focusing On Congressional Races This Fall

Bernie Sanders campaign organizers in Western New York are turning their focus toward New York’s congressional races. Thursday, Buffalo for Bernie announced the kickoff of a new initiative called Brand New Congress Buffalo.

The organization announced its support for three Democrats running in New York’s 19th, 23rd and 27th districts: Zephyr Teachout, John Plumb and Diana Kastenbaum. Buffalo for Bernie is urging Sanders supporters to donate to the congressional campaigns and plans to have volunteers help get out the vote in the fall.

They hope that’s just the beginning.

“What we’re looking to do is extend the group of people we have from working on the Sanders campaign into a permanent organization that’s working inside and outside of the Democratic party,” organizer Brian Nowak said.

Nowak said there’s a name change in the works and Buffalo for Bernie plans to file for not-for-profit status soon. By time the 2018 cycle comes around, it plans to be drafting, endorsing and fundraising for candidates as a political action organization.

“Everything that a candidate needs that’s running for office that helps that person win, we want to be able to do all of those things,” Nowak said.

He said Bernie campaign teams across New York are organizing similar groups, although each will have their own flare. The move falls in line with the message Sanders had for his supporters in a June address, when he urged them to continue the “political revolution.”

Sanders Campaign Slams Clinton On Immigrant Driver’s Licenses in NY

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is resurrecting an issue that rose from a state-level fight in New York to cause trouble for Hillary Clinton’s first White House run: The battle over whether undocumented immigrants should be eligible for driver’s licenses.

Several Sanders surrogates and campaign aides – including state Sen. Bill Perkins, of Harlem, who is one of the few New York Democratic elected officials to break ranks and endorse Sanders over Clinton – held a conference call with reporters today, calling Clinton out for waffling on the license issue, while also attacking Sanders’ own record on immigration reform.

Clinton has noted that Sanders voted against a 2007 immigration reform bill, saying he would concerned the guest worker provisions it contained would drive down wages. But Sanders’ national director for Latino Outreach, Bill Velazquez, said that’s merely a snapshot of a much larger picture, pointing out there was no unanimity among immigrant advocates about whether the ’07 bill was worthwhile. Sanders subsequently backed a different bill in 2013.

“I think it’s disingenuous to keep honing in on one bill that didn’t pass and not point out the other bills that did pass that were much better,” Velazquez said.

Velazquez and others on the call accused Clinton of helping tank an effort to let undocumented immigrants get driver’s licenses in New York. Then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was pushing the issue in 2007 and 2008, recently said that Clinton’s presidential campaign had urged him to withdraw his license proposal, adding: “I thought the issue was a metaphor for her vacillation.”

Actually, immigrants without documentation once were allowed to hold licenses in the Empire State, but then-Republican Gov. George Pataki rescinded that right through an executive order issued in 2002. Immigrant advocates say some 100,000 people lost their licenses as a result, and were thrust back into the shadows, making everything from getting to work to getting access to health care more difficult.

The advocates worked with then-state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who argued that this was actually an issue of security, not only because unlicensed – and therefore uninsured – people were driving on New York roads, but also because issuing people identification would make it easier for officials to know who is in the state and where they (purportedly) live.

When he ran for governor in 2006, Spitzer pledged to re-visit the license question. He did so not long after he took office by issuing an executive order that reversed Pataki’s previous order.

This sparked a massive outcry from Republicans, and the governor subsequently rescinded the order, and instead started pushing the Legislature to sign a bill that would accomplish the same thing. The Senate GOP defeated the bill, and Spitzer then sought again to circumvent the Legislature by issuing an administrative order to the DMV. That, too, was later withdrawn after a massive outcry that reached the national stage, thanks largely to CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, who railed against the proposal on a nightly basis.

A question about the driver’s license fight taking place in her home state was put to Clinton during a Democratic presidential primary debate in October 2007. Though she had previously said Spitzer’s proposal made “a lot of sense,” she walked that statement back during the debate, saying: “I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Gov. Spitzer is trying to do it.”

Clinton’s opponents, including then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, pounced, accusing her of being unclear and trying to have it both ways. Two weeks later, she clarified her position, issuing a statement that said: “As president, I will not support driver’s licenses for undocumented people,” adding that she would push for broader immigration reform.

Since then, Clinton has changed her views on whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to get licenses, and firmly supports the idea.

But Perkins suggested she came around too late, accusing her of being motivated purely by “politics,” and saying on the conference call:

“Senator Sanders views immigration as a human right. Unfortunately, by contrast, Senator Clinton has had a very difficult time coming around to understanding that undocumenteds should even be eligible for a driver’s license…clearly such actions are not representative of the kind of leadership this state needs.”

Sanders: ‘No Fracking Anywhere’

Another day, another TV ad from Sen. Bernie Sanders, this time with a focus on fracking – a hot topic in New York not that long ago, which galvanized a group of advocates (AKA, the fracktvists), many of whom remain active in politics and are now Sanders supporters.

The ad maintains Sanders is the only presidential candidate who would ban the controversial natural gas drilling technique “everywhere.” He focused on this issue while appearing earlier today for a campaign event in Binghamton in New York’s Southern Tier, which was ground zero in the fracking debate.

“The growing body of evidence tells us that fracking is a danger to our water supply, our most precious resource,” Sanders told some 5,000 supporters who packed the Veterans Memorial Arena to hear him speak. “It is a danger to the air we breathe. It has resulted in more earthquakes. It is highly explosive. And it is contributing to climate change.”

Sanders’ home state of Vermont has adopted a fracking ban, as has New York – after more than five years of heated debate and foot-dragging by the Cuomo administration. In Binghamton, Sanders applauded Cuomo for finally coming down on the side of the fracktivist community against big oil, but he also said that if we are “serious” about combatting climate change and protecting the environment, then federal officials will ban fracking across the nation.

Sanders noted that his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, promoted fracking overseas while she was serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration. Sanders and his supporters have been pressuring Clinton for her campaign cash ties to big oil. (Remember this incident?)

President Obama is a natural gas booster, though his administration did issue tighter fracking rules in 2015, which were immediately challenged in court by the gas industry. Environmentalists weren’t thrilled with the new rules, either.

Sanders’ new ad – the third her has released in as many days in New York as the April 19 primary draws near – is narrated by actress Susan Sarandon. The candidate also has the support of actor Mark Ruffalo, an outspoken anti-fracking activist who made numerous lobbying trips to the state Capitol during the drilling debate.

Sanders Releases 2 NY TV Ads

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders released two new TV ads over the weekend to join his rival, Hillary Clinton, on the New York airwaves as the state’s April 19th primary rapidly approaches.

According to the campaign, the first ad was produced by director Spike Lee, who endorsed Sanders in February.

It features testimonies in favor of the candidate by singer Harry Belafonte; Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, who was killed in a 2014 chokehold incident with the NYPD: preacher and civil rights activist Shaun King, and Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.

All of these Sanders backers emphasize the candidate’s inclusiveness, and seek to appeal to voters of all ethnicities and religious beliefs. Belafonte, for example, says: “People of color have a deeply vested interest in what Bernie Sanders brings to us in this election” – an appeal to Africa-Americans, who have been turning out in high numbers for Clinton.

The second ad, called “Bolder,” emphasizes Sanders’ Empire State roots, noting he’s a Brooklyn “native,” and says he has “values forged in New York” – a slight to one of the Republican candidates, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has repeatedly denigrated “New York values” in an effort to take down his top target, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

The ad also underscores Sanders’ push for a higher minimum wage and tuition-free college, as well as his support for “justice that works for all,” and a “middle-class that must be saved.”

President Clinton Checks In With Miner

Not surprisingly, Bill Clinton is again playing an active role in his wife’s effort to return the family to the White House, hitting the campaign trail hard on her behalf, with plans to appear at organizing rallies tomorrow at Rochester and Buffalo.

The former president is apparently also working the phones, touching base with key Democratic players in New York in advance of the state’s April 19 primary, which is a must-win for the former U.S. senator/first lady/secretary of state.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who has a long-standing relationship with both Clintons and is a super delegate for the candidate this year, said she received a check-in phone call from Bill Clinton last night. The 20-miute conversation between the two Democrats focused both on basketball (Final Four, March Madness, SU etc.) and politics, the mayor said.

“He asked how I thought Hillary was doing, looking for a sense of perspective on the ground,” Miner recalled. “…He said: How do you think it’s going in (New York City)? In the suburbs? We pride ourselves on organizing and out-working the other side. I told him: You don’t have anything to worry about in Syracuse because that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

“…they’re famous for this,” the mayor said of the Clintons. “They’re touching the bases that should be touched, not letting any stone go unturned. He wanted a deep dive into it all.”

A Q poll released last week showed Hillary Clinton’s Democratic primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, trailing her by just 12 percentage points – a fairly comfortable double-digit lead for Clinton, but perhaps not the wide margin she would be hoping for from her adopted home state.

But Miner insisted Clinton has nothing to worry about, and is going to be “fine” come primary night. She pointed as proof to the well-attended rally Clinton held in Syracuse last week, which attracted more people than could be accommodated by the venue. She also said Clinton was “thronged” during a surprise stop at Varsity Pizza, an SU mainstay that is very popular with students. (In other words, with the selfsame young voters who make up Sanders’ base).

“These kinds of Democratic primaries always tighten,” Miner said. “…She’s going to be the designee; the question is: How soon that can happen? I think she’s going to do well in New York, in my congressional district. Having spent all day Friday with her, the response to her was genuine excitement. We didn’t have to build a crowd. The pizza thing was off record; nobody knew and throngs of people were there and they cheered. If there were a problem, that’s the place we would have sensed it because as everybody knows, Bernie does well with young people. Up at the campus that was not what we experienced.”