Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo: Cabán’s Success In Queens A Product Of Low Turnout

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday pointed to low voter turnout following the apparent victory of Queens district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán in a Democratic primary Tuesday.

Cabán leads Cuomo’s endorsed candidate in the race, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and the race is likely coming down to a paper ballot count.

“What was troubling to me was the low turnout,” he said. “Voter turnout was very, very low. I believe my election just last year had over double the turnout.”

This was the first year the state held its local primary in June, consolidating state and federal races that had been cleaved due to a court order to comply with a federal law governing access to overseas and military ballots.

Cabán’s lead over Katz on Wednesday was cheered by the range of progressive groups that endorsed her bid against Katz, who largely received establishment backing in the race.

Cuomo touted his own primary victory statewide last year in his primary against Cynthia Nixon, noting he received more votes in the primary and general elections in history.

Still, the success for progressive candidates in local-level races could further shake incumbents.

“There is no doubt a political force — a dynamic change,” Cuomo said. “Change for the sake of change. I’m unhappy, so I want change. The question is who votes? Who votes, right? I won election last year with the greatest number of votes in the primary in history, with the greatest number of votes in history. I was not change on a simplistic level, I was running for re-election.”

About 85,000 Democrats on Tuesday voted in Queens out of 766,117 active voters. For comparison’s sake, 189,072 voters turned out in Queens during the September 2018 gubernatorial primary.

Cuomo Criticizes Ocasio-Cortez’s Concentration Camp Comparison

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday criticized Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for comparing the situation at the southern border to “concentration camps” as “wholly inappropriate” when asked about the controversy at a news conference.

“There is no comparison to the Holocaust, period,” Cuomo said, “and to draw an equivalency suggests one does not understand what happened in the Holocaust.”

Cuomo added the conditions at the border for migrants is “repugnant” and should be fixed.

Ocasio-Cortez earlier this month stirred controversy when she compared the detention of migrants at the border to concentration camps in an Instagram video and said, “‘Never again’ means something.”

Cuomo is traveling to Israel today as part of a solidarity and trade mission trip, which in part will include efforts to entice Israeli companies to enter into contracts with the MTA.

Cuomo pointed to recent acts of anti-Semitism in the United States, including the recent attack at a Synagogue in San Diego.

New York is not immune, Cuomo added.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in New York,” he said. “We will not tolerate it. We will prosecute it when we find it.”

David To Depart Cuomo Administration

Alphonso David, the top counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the last four years, will depart the administration, the governor’s office on Tuesday announced.

He is joining the prominent LGBTQ advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, as its president.

David has worked for Cuomo in various capacities over the last 12 years, stretching back to Cuomo’s tenure as attorney general.

“For the last 12 years, Alphonso David has fought day and night to create a better New York, helping to enact real change and increasing rights for all residents of this great state,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“As a key member of this administration and before that as part of my staff at the Attorney General’s office, he had always served with compassion, dignity, intelligence, and a virtually unrivaled work ethic. Make no mistake New Yorkers are better off today because of his years of public service and we will miss him tremendously. I wish him the best on this new and exciting chapter and am proud to consider him always a part of Team Cuomo.”

Prior to serving as counsel, David worked as a deputy secretary for civil rights and served as a staff attorney at Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“It’s been the pleasure of a lifetime to serve this administration with the most dedicated, hardest working elected official in the State and in the nation,” David said.

“I was fortunate enough to start working with Governor Cuomo in the Attorney General’s office and to continue our work together in the Governor’s office, where I had the privilege of working on the marriage equality law and several other important pieces of legislation. The Governor has been a true leader on so many progressive issues in this state, and I am proud to have been a part of it. I know he will continue this unprecedented progress to move this state forward. I will miss him and everyone in the administration tremendously, and I thank him for this extraordinary opportunity.”

Cuomo Questions Whether Session Was ‘Progressive Enough’

The legislative session over the last six months produced a laundry list of Democratic goals longer than your arm.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on Monday morning question whether it was “progressive enough.”

He pointed to a lack of progress, as it were, on issues like closing the jail at Rikers Island and a shelved plan he proposed that would spread more money to poorer school districts.

“How do you have a discussion of criminal justice reform and not insist that you close Rikers Island, the worst jail in the United States of America, which we’ve been talking about closing for years and nothing has happened,” Cuomo said.

“It’s pure government apathy, but because they’re minorities and they’re in Rikers, they don’t get the kind of government action. Why don’t we really say we’re going to fund poor public schools – poor. Not fund all public schools, so we trickle down to the poor school, but take the political bull by the horns and say, ‘No, the rich schools don’t need more money. We’re going to fund the poor schools.’ These kinds of issues. I call myself an aggressive progressive.”

Statements like these are likely to rankle Democrats, who hold control of both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in a decade, after a session and budget that largely ended with much of what they had sought.

Cuomo Says ‘Many’ New York City Dems Fearful Of ‘Ultra-Left’

Democrats who represent districts in New York City are “fearful” of primary challenges to their left, Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on Monday said.

Cuomo faced his own challenge from the left last year against Cynthia Nixon, defeating her in a gubernatorial primary and heavily outspending her.

But while progressive advocates have not been able to, as of yet, scale their campaigns statewide, they were successful in unseating incumbent Democrats in the state Senate. And, next year, could turn their focus on the state Assembly.

On Tuesday, another test is expected for the establishment as Tiffany Cabán, a public defender, vies for the Queens district attorney nomination. Cabán has the backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Cuomo is backing Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

Handicapping that race, Cuomo said much of it depends on the level of turnout, which was low last year when Ocasio-Cortez defeated incumbent Joe Crowley.

“I think many of the New York City Democrats are afraid of the ultra-left or a product of the ultra-left in the last primary,” Cuomo said in the interview on WAMC. “See, when you have a very low turnout primary, Joe Crowley, it was only, I want to say she won with like 15,000 votes or something. I won that district against Cynthia Nixon by 37 points. How does Crowley lose and I win by 37 points? It’s the turnout.”

Cuomo added there is “a dual tension” for Democrats outside of New York City: Facing Republicans in competitive general elections as well as opponents on the left. That, in part, explains why issues like the legalization of marijuana stalled in the Legislature.

“They’re afraid of getting hit from the left and they’re afraid of getting hit from the right,” Cuomo said. “So, they are in a precarious political position. New York City – you’re never going to lose a general election in New York City. Or if you do, you really deserved to. So, they’re only afraid about an attack from the left, and that’s what you see play out during the legislative session.”

Cuomo’s Israel Trip Begins Wednesday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s third trip as governor to Israel will begin Wednesday, he said in a radio interview this morning.

The trip, in part, is meant to promote economic development for New York. Cuomo intends to drum up business for upstate New York’s burgeoning drone industry, as well as entice Israeli companies to seek contracts for building the subway of the future.

“​We’re going to go to Israel and do a trade mission basically talking to businesses that are there specifically on our economic development agenda — drone technology, which we’re investing in very heavily, especially in central New York,” Cuomo said in the interview on WAMC. “We’re also going to talk to software companies in Israel, basically they have some of the leading tech companies on the globe.”

Cuomo suggested he wanted to build relationships with Israeli companies that could help further automate subways in New York City.

The trip will also be to show solidarity with Israel as he has done in the past, Cuomo said. He shrugged off the close relationship between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, noting the alliance is broader than the politics of the moment.

4 Takeaways From The Legislative Session

From the Morning Memo:

The session is over, and it was perhaps one of the most consequential six months for New York in a very long time. 

Bills were moved that touch on nearly every facet of life in New York — from the means in which we get our food, to how it’s bagged in supermarkets and how, one day, the car we use to get to the store will be powered. 

Here are four takeaways from the legislative session. 

1. Progressive flex

Elections do indeed have consequences. Voters swept Democrats into power last year in the state Legislature, giving the party a comfortable majority in the state Senate and sustaining the seemingly endless advantage in the state Assembly.

This time around, Democrats signaled little desire to squander one party rule in Albany, pushing through bill after bill the base of the party had long sought to strengthen abortion rights and labor rights for farm workers, gun control, fight climate change, enhance LGBTQ rights and expand and bolster rent control laws.

New York is now firmly in the column of a vanguard of progressive states controlled by Democrats like California that are enacting liberal policies in the era of President Donald Trump. Indeed, it’s easy to see much of what happened in Albany over the last six months as a direct reaction to Trump’s election nearly three years ago.

2. Activists hold sway

In a related development, activism in state government has never been more intense — or effective. Lawmakers listen to the activists who show up — be it on issues like criminal justice reform, affordable housing or marijuana legalization — there is a palpable sense at the Capitol that elected officials don’t want to anger the people who are showing up to demonstrate and command what is likely outsize influence over the legislative process. They are the ones engaged in the process, being able to spread their message on social media like never before.

At the same time, the activism is also driving primary threats next year for Democratic incumbents, especially in the state Assembly.

As one lawmaker put, lawmakers once reacted to the editorial boards; now they’re reacting to the activism.

3. Heastie’s leadership

The Democratic majority in the state Senate is new. Heastie’s speakership is not. And this year Heastie demonstrated a degree of command over the budget process and legislative negotiations like never before. The job of Assembly speaker — riding herd over more than 100 members from vastly different regions of the state — is perhaps the hardest job in Albany. But this year, Heastie demonstrated an ability to both count votes on nail-biting outcomes like a measure to end the religious exemption for vaccinations, while also allowing Democratic no votes on measures like extending driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Heastie also set his sights early on a major rent control deal, striking one with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, seemingly to the surprise of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, successfully negotiating one of the most consequential housing policy developments in recent history.

On top of that, he remains one of the more accessible legislative leaders in Albany.

4. Cuomo’s influence

Much has already been said about whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s influence is waning in Albany after a legislative session that saw lawmakers seemingly acted independently of the governor on major issues. And this session could very well mark a major shift in the relationship between a newly emboldened Legislature and a governor in his third term.

Still, Cuomo’s legislative prowess should not be napped on: He muscled through an appointment of his budget director to the board of the MTA, he held sway over the Capitol Projects budget bill until the very end, and, as he was happy to point, lawmakers could not get a deal done on full marijuana legalization outside of the state budget.

The job of governor remains a powerful one in state government. The Legislature is only now really waking up to the power it holds against him, but Cuomo’s experience in the process remains an advantage.

In Op/Ed, Cuomo Defends The Policy, And The Politics, Of The Session

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an op/ed published this weekend by The Daily News touted the successes of the legislative session.

And he began to defend the underlying political implications of two key issues lawmakers took up this year that he signed into law: Strengthening abortion rights and allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses.

“The Republican Party has already started the drumbeat of ‘we moved too far left.’ After the inarguable success of this session, it is their only retort,” Cuomo wrote. “In truth, the social progress we enacted would be supported by a moderate Republican Legislature if they were not paralyzed by the extreme conservatives.

“Our accomplishments may have been blocked by the previously Republican-controlled Senate, but they are overwhelming supported by the public.”

Abortion rights are generally supported by a majority of voters in New York, but the driver’s licenses issue remains unpopular, according to a Siena College poll this month.

Both issues — reproductive rights and immigration — are national flashpoints for both parties as President Trump continues a hardline approach to immigration and Republicans in GOP-controlled states move to restrict access to abortions.

Cuomo also reiterated in the op/ed what he’s said before in public: The driver’s license law will be challenged in the courts — a challenge Attorney General Letitia James says she can defend.

“Driver’s licenses for the undocumented is essentially an issue that will be immediately challenged in the courts and will also be litigated in the presidential campaign as the centerpiece of the far right’s vitriol on immigration policy,” the op/ed states.

“President Trump ran on ‘the wall’ and, unsurprisingly, he is returning to his xenophobic, divisive policies as he prepares for 2020.”

State Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs earlier this month confirmed he had raised concerns with Democratic senators that a vote for the driver’s license bill could lead to electoral consequences, potentially reversing gains made by Democrats on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley.

Ultimately, seven Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate — all of whom represent formerly Republican-held seats — voted against the bill.

As ICE Plans Roundup, Cuomo And James Point To Legal Services For Undocumented Immigrants

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James on Friday pointed to legal resources for undocumented immigrants amid a coming crackdown by federal authorities for migrants facing deportation.

The enforcement action, set to begin Sunday morning, was revealed earlier in the week by President Donald Trump.

Officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency are expected to begin sweeps in U.S. cities for undocumented immigrants who have told to leave the country, the Trump administration has said.

New York officials say there are legal resources available for those who are facing potential arrest and deportation.

“This is the latest example of the federal administration’s ongoing, un-American assault on our immigrant communities, and I am directing the State Liberty Defense Program’s Rapid Response team to be on high alert and immediately assist any family in need of legal services across the state this weekend,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I urge anyone in need of assistance to contact the Liberty Defense Team at 1-800-566-7636 or liberty@dos.ny.gov.”

James also provided the number to the Immigration Court Information System’s automated number at 1-800-898-7180 so people with undocumented status can check to see if there is a potential enforcement action against them.

“The president has threatened to begin raids in New York and across the country this weekend in an effort to round up thousands of migrant families,” James said.

“This is an immoral and unconscionable act by a president and an Administration hell-bent on dividing our country, and, as New York’s top law enforcement officer, I can assure New Yorkers we will do everything in our power to fight back against these inhumane policies.”

Did Cuomo Get What He Wanted?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, perhaps on a lack of sleep and feeling a bit punchy, bristled a bit when asked if there was anything else he wanted out of the legislative session.

“We did 99.9 percent, right?” Cuomo said.

He then took a glass of water in front of him and filled another glass with it. Not satisfied, he took a bottle of water in front of his counsel, Alphonso David, and filled the glass with it to the brim.

“This year, we are at this point, alright?” he said, holding the glass aloft. “We are at 99.9 percent.”

Bleary eyed lawmakers wrapped up the 2019 legislative session early this morning in Assembly just as the sun was rising on the first day of summer. The session, which begins in January and last six months, saw a raft of long-sought Democratic goals approved over the last half year.

A partial list: Rent control was strengthened and expanded potentially outside of New York City. Abortion laws were strengthened. New gun control measures were approved. Early voting will be made available for the first time this year. A ban on plastic bags was included in the state budget. Undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for driver’s licenses and state tuition assistance.

Was this what Cuomo wanted?

Last year at this time, Cuomo was being challenged to his left flank in a Democratic primary by Cynthia Nixon, an actress who had the support of a rogue’s gallery of Cuomo antagonists — the Working Families Party and public education activists among them.

Cuomo ultimately prevailed in the primary and the general election. But while the progressive tide did not extend statewide, longtime incumbents, including those who had allied themselves with Republicans are now gone.

In their stead, a group of progressive Democrats who were not accustomed to Albany negotiations that Cuomo has excelled at. And in the first weeks of the new year, the dam broke on the long-sought progressive goals — seemingly with Cuomo at the periphery.

The process seemingly replayed itself when lawmakers passed a rent control package that reversed 25 years of housing policy and a bill allowing undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses.

Now in his third term, Cuomo retains experience, which he used during the budget process to get his agenda through. At the same time this week, lawmakers stumbled on some items. A bill that would create a system of automatic voter registration was yanked due to major flaws in its language when it came to non-citizens voting. And lawmakers had to do a cleanup bill for the rent control package, with language that seemingly re-regulated all rental units that had been de-regulated.

The flaws weren’t just this month. Lawmakers proposed a bill this year that was meant to outlaw 3-D printed guns, but the provision was initially written that, in effect, nearly all firearms would have been outlawed.

Cuomo seemed to relish the rookie errors, even as he said at the news conference on Friday that he understood them.

“That’s part of the transition,” Cuomo said. “When you’re in the minority, you get a bill from the advocacy group, and you put it in. There’s virtually no consequence, but that’s OK, because it’s a political statement.”

“A lot of these bills as proposed had flaws or unintended consequences or just didn’t think through the issue thoroughly,” he added.

A perception Cuomo may continue to fight is that he is no longer the all-powerful Oz he was during terms one and two. That could be a miscalculation, however, for a governor who still knows and understands the angles of Albany.