NY-17: Jones Releases First Campaign Video

Democratic House candidate Mondaire Jones on Thursday released the first video of his campaign that highlights his biography, his family’s struggles against racism and the history-making nature of his candidacy.

“My grandfather used to tell me a story about how when he would walk to school growing up in Virginia, there were white students who got to take the bus,” he said in the video.

“And they would spit on him through the school bus windows as he was walking the dirt path on his way to school. I was raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs, and we still needed food stamps to get by. I didn’t come from money. I’m black, I’m gay, and so I don’t see people like me in office very often.”

The video was produced by WIN Media, which has been behind ads for campaigns including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Rep. Lauren Underwood and congressional candidate Randy Bryce.

Jones’s video was released the same day Allison Fine, a former NARAL board chairwoman, announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the suburban district to replace Rep. Nita Lowey. Sen. David Carluccci and Assemblyman David Buchwald previously announced their campaigns.

Democratic Party Chairman Says ‘Credible Parties’ Will Make Cut

“Credible” political parties will be able to meet a higher threshold for ballot access that could be set by a commission determining the future of how campaigns spend and receive money in New York, Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs in a radio interview on Thursday said.

Jacobs is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointee to the commission determining the guidelines for public campaign financing, and the commission may also take a broader purview of its role and raise the threshold number of votes needed in a gubernatorial race for ballot access.

The current threshold is 50,000 votes, which has been in place for nearly 90 years.

“We have to make sure that people who run for offices on these party lines are running from party lines that are actual credible parties that have some demonstrated level of support,” he said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom, adding that “parties that are active, real parties” will be able to meet the new, higher threshold.

The potential for changing ballot qualifications has led to fresh concerns the commission is potentially targeting the Working Families Party, a progressive ballot line that has feuded with Cuomo. But Jacobs, a Cuomo ally, said he did not consider the WFP a “sham party” like the Independence Party, the Serve America Movement or Women’s Equality Party ballot lines.

“They take their real estate, let’s call it what it is, their lease on real estate on the ballot and they monetize it through transactional negotiations with the major parties because it creates a billboard effect,” Jacobs said.

NY-17: Fine Launches Bid For Lowey Seat

Allison Fine, a former national board chairwoman for NARAL Pro-Choice America, announced her bid for the Democratic nomination in the 17th congressional district.

Fine, the founder of the Network of Elected Women who has written about technology for social impact, is running for the seat being vacated next year by retiring Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey.

“I want to lead us into the next chapter for our country; one that is prosperous and fair,” she said.

“Our democracy and economy need fixing. We need to create something new and better. The work of rebuilding our country begins right here at home. And this is my home. I know the issues people in our community face because I face them too. My husband and I pay for our own insurance and have no pensions. We work to put our kids through college, take care of our aging parents, and pay our taxes and bills. This is what keeps me up at night—and I know I’m not alone.”

Fine said she wants to build on the work Lowey has done for the suburban New York City district.

“Every century, Americans remake our democracy,” she said. “This is that time again. It’s time for new voices, especially in Congress where women are greatly underrepresented.”

Former Justice Department official Mondaire Jones, Sen. David Carluccci and Assemblyman David Buchwald previously announced their campaigns.

James, In Brief, Says Immigrants Without Health Care Should Not Be Denied Entry

From the Morning Memo:

Immigrants who do not possess health coverage or the ability to pay for care should not be barred entry into the United States, Attorney General Letitia James argued in an amicus brief as part of a coalition with 22 attorneys general and New York City.

The brief comes as President Donald Trump’s administration is being sued to challenge its Health Insurance Proclamation, which is meant to limit immigrants’ entry while they lack health care.

The concern is the move would significantly scale back the number of people who would normally qualify for visas in the United States.

“Trump’s new proclamation is just another thinly veiled attack on immigrants,” James said in a statement.

“Once again, his Administration is undermining the will of Congress and pushing an agenda driven by politics, not policy. Immigrants make great contributions to this country, and we will continue to fight and challenge policies that would inflict great harm to them and our states.”

The brief comes amid a broader debate launched by the Trump administration over the “public charge” rule, which would deny green cards to immigrants who receive forms of public assistance, including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. That provision is being challenged in court as well.

Brindisi Given Spot On House Armed Services Committee

Rep. Anthony Brindisi has been named to the powerful House Armed Services Committee, a prominent position for a freshman Democrat, his office announced on Wednesday.

“This is an honor and a big deal for Upstate New York,” Brindisi said. “Our district has a rich history of being at the forefront of our national defense and now we will have a bigger seat at the table. From the critical mission in Rome, to the groundbreaking research and manufacturing in the Southern Tier, and the defense jobs across our communities, I cannot wait to use Upstate innovation to continue to keep our country safe.”

The district, which stretches from the Mohawk Valley in central New York to the Southern Tier region, has defense assets that include the Air Force research laboratory Information Directorate.

“The work conducted at our defense installations in Rome and across our state is critical for our national security,” Brindisi said. “Protecting these installations is important for our regional economy. I look forward to working with stakeholders across upstate New York to find ways to grow the missions of our state’s defense installations.”

Brindisi is facing a potentially difficult re-election next year to a district President Donald Trump won in 2016. Brindisi last month announced he would support a resolution advancing impeachment hearings against the president.

Cuomo Signs Bill Aiding LGBTQ Vets Denied Honorable Discharge

LGBTQ veterans who were booted from the military without an honorable discharge due to their sexual orientation will have their benefits as veterans living in New York restored, based on a measure signed Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The new law is meant to aid LGBTQ veterans who were discharged under before they could serve openly in the military.

“Countless service members were discharged from the military simply because of who they are. Adding insult to injury, they were then denied the services and benefits they earned as members of our armed forces who fought to protect our country and defend our ideals,” Cuomo said. “With this measure we are righting that wrong and sending a message to LGBTQ veterans that we have their backs, just as they had ours.”

The measure allows affected LGBTQ veterans in New York to access state VA services and pension credits, among other benefits that had been previously denied them.

The measure was sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Didi Barrett. Hoylman in a statement pointed to the more than 50 benefits for New York veterans denied to LGBTQ individuals who served, but did not receive honorable discharges because of military policy at the time.

“Even as gay and lesbian Americans have been able to openly serve in the military for nearly a decade, generations of LGBTQ Americans are still unable to access many veterans’ benefits due to the status of their military discharge,” Hoylman said. “We are finally addressing this injustice by passing the Restoration of Honor Act, thanks to a new Senate majority led by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins that stands resolutely in favor of LGBTQ rights.”

New York’s Loss Of Clout In The House

Tenure does not matter in Congress like it once did in the days of, say, Lyndon Johnson.

But putting time in the House of Representatives still matters, and New York is losing three long-tenured lawmakers at the end of the current term: Reps. Nita Lowey, Jose Serrano and, most recently, Peter King.

Put their political affiliations aside for a moment. All three lawmakers have the kind of influence and clout that comes in Washington only by putting in the decades of service.

With Democrats in power, Lowey and Serrano have been handed powerful roles. When Republicans rule the roost, King is seen as a key lawmaker for New York.

Congress is not as tenure-bound as it once was, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to loosen the informal rules surrounding the practice. Media exposure and savvy in this day and age, which tend to gravitate toward younger, newer lawmakers, also is a new form of clout.

But tenure still counts for something, and New York is losing nearly a century of it by the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, New York is likely to lose at least one seat after the upcoming Census as the state’s population has not grown as fast as the rest of the country.

Judge Partially Rejects Trump’s Tax Return Lawsuit

A federal judge on Monday dismissed part of President Donald Trump’s lawsuit against a New York law that allows congressional committee leaders to access his state tax filings.

The law, known as the TRUST Act, became law in July and was almost immediately challenged by the president.

But U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols wrote in a ruling denying jurisdictional discovery that the “plaintiff may not use jurisdictional discovery to ‘conduct a fishing expedition in the hopes of discovering some basis of jurisdiction.’”

The development is a victory for Attorney General Letitia James, who defended the measure in court.

“We have said all along that this lawsuit should be dismissed and we are pleased with the court’s conclusion,” she said.

“The TRUST Act is an important tool that will ensure accountability to millions of Americans who deserve to know the truth. We have never doubted that this law was legal, which is why we vigorously defended it from the start and will continue to do so.”

And the result is a victory for the lawmakers in the Legislature who sponsored it.

“We have said all along that this lawsuit should be dismissed and we are pleased with the court’s conclusion. The TRUST Act is an important tool that will ensure accountability to millions of Americans who deserve to know the truth. We have never doubted that this law was legal, which is why we vigorously defended it from the start and will continue to do so.”

For now, however, lawmakers in Congress have not sought Trump’s tax records from New York officials, arguing more information can be gleaned from his federal filings. A suit against the House Ways and Means Committee filed by Trump continues.

NY-2: Sini, Grechen Shirley Eyed For King Seat (Updated)

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini is a potential Democratic candidate for House district being vacated by Republican Rep. Peter King, a source on Monday morning said.

Sini, elected in 2017, is considered a rising star in Suffolk County Democratic politics and is close with the newly re-elected county executive, Democrat Steve Bellone.

For Sini supporters, his candidacy would rest on an anti-corruption and law enforcement background for a district that King has held for the last 14 terms.

Liuba Grechen Shirley, a Democrat who challenged King last year and narrowly lost, may also run again after achieving some national prominence in the race. Grechen Shirley successfully pushed the FEC to allow campaigns to use funds for child care, a move that was later adopted by state elections officials as well.

Updated: Grechen Shirley in a statement said she is considering another run for the seat.

“As a mother, grassroots activist, and national childcare advocate, I know how much is at stake in the upcoming elections,” she said in a statement.

“The issues I focused my campaign on last year—from paid family leave and affordable healthcare to climate change and a woman’s right to choose—are still very much at the forefront of today’s political debate. I’ve heard from many encouraging supporters across the district, and with so much on the line for our community, I am seriously considering another run for Congress.”

Democrat Jackie Gordon, a combat veteran and teacher, declared her plans to run earlier this year.

WFP Versus Bloomberg

From the Morning Memo:

Sometimes it feel a lot like 2007 these days.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat is running for president, jumping into a crowded and unsettled primary field.

Bloomberg has money and has name recognition and he benefits from being from the media capital of the world.

But he’s also polling at 4 percent. And he has significant skepticism from progressives.

The Working Families Party, which tussled with Bloomberg frequently when he was mayor over three terms, released a fundraising email after he formally filed to run.

The WFP in September endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president in the Democratic primary.

“Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg were never going to just go along with a wealth tax. They’ve enjoyed being part of the richest 0.0002% club and the access that level of unimaginable wealth has entailed for too long,” the WFP wrote in its fundraising appeal seeking $3 contributions.

“It doesn’t even matter that Warren’s two-cent wealth tax won’t change their billionaire status, nothing scares billionaires more than having to relinquish their power to level the playing field for everyone else.”