Morelle Leads Big In Spectrum News/Siena NY-25 Poll

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle holds a 17-point lead over Republican Jim Maxwell in the NY-5 race with just weeks remaining before voters head to the polls, according to a new Spectrum News/Siena College Research Institute poll released this morning.

Siena surveyed 465 likely voters between Oct. 4 and Oct. 8.

Morelle’s lead, while considerable, has actually decreased by 7 points from the last poll in late August, but pollster Steve Greenberg said it remains significant nonetheless, and also difficult to surmount for a largely unknown Republican opponent.

According to Greenberg, Morelle’s success can be attributed to several factors – including the Democratic enrollment advantage in the district and name recognition. In addition, Morelle is a long-time state legislator with a considerable voting record, the current Assembly majority leader and former Monroe County legislator and county Democratic committee chairman.

“He’s campaigned many, many times throughout the district so voters know him. It’s not just that they know the name. A lot of voters in Monroe County know who he is,” Greenberg said.

“Morelle is continuing to do a much better job holding onto his base. Eighty-one percent of Democrats say they’re with  Morelle, compared to Maxwell, who only 64 percent of Republicans say they’re with Maxwell right now.”

Both candidates actually have a positive favorability rating. However, nearly half of those polled either hadn’t heard of Maxwell or didn’t know enough about him to have an opinion.

By contrast, more than three quarters of respondents had an opinion on Morelle.

Greenberg said the numbers aren’t particularly surprising in a district which, in general, is in favor of a Democratically-controlled House and against President Donald Trump.

“(Trump’s) not as badly under water in this district as in many of the other districts we’ve seen,” Greenberg said. “Right now, 40 percent approve of the president’s job performance 55 percent disapprove, 15 point margin.  Morelle leads in the congressional race by 17 points so it’s pretty consistent.”

There is no incumbent in the race because long-time Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter passed away earlier this year. Morelle won a four-way Democratic primary to succeed her in June.

Meanwhile, Maxwell announced his candidacy in January, prior to the congresswoman’s death.

Voters will actually vote twice in November, the second time for a special election which will allow the candidate to take office right away this year in Slaughter’s place, serving out the remainder of her term until the end of December.

Spectrum News/Siena Poll NY-25 by on Scribd

NY-25: Maxwell Campaign Releases New Ad

The campaign for Republican congressional candidate Jim Maxwell released its second advertisement Wednesday.

The ad, titled “Career Politicians,” subtly connects his Democratic opponent Joe Morelle to Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is currently appealing a seven-year prison sentence.

However, the spot focuses primarily on calling out the Albany power structure for creating a bad economic and business climate in New York and the Rochester region.

“As a Doctor, I’ve spent my life helping the people of Monroe County. I’ll fight to bring real jobs back home by lowering taxes, ending reckless spending, and cutting red tape for small business,” Maxwell said.

Morelle is a long-time member of the state Assembly and has been the body’s majority leader since 2013, often working closely with Silver and Cuomo. Both candidates are attempting to succeed long-time Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who died earlier this year, in the 25th District.

“It’s unfortunate that voters in this district are being subjected to these kind of negative campaign tactics — they deserve better from a candidate running to represent our community in the House of Representatives. The differences between Joe Morelle and Jim Maxwell couldn’t be more clear,” Morelle’s Communication Director Dana Vernetti said of Maxwell’s commercial.

She said Morelle, in contrast, has run a positive campaign focused on his record and offering real solutions to issues like health care and the economy.

NY-25: Morelle Leads Maxwell In Spectrum News/Siena College Poll

Democratic congressional candidate Joe Morelle holds a 24-percentage point lead over his Republican opponent James Maxwell, according to an exclusive Spectrum News/Siena College poll released Tuesday evening.

Morelle and Maxwell are vying for the 25th congressional district in the Rochester area. The race is technically a special election to fill the seat held by Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, who died in March.

The poll found Morelle with 55 percent to Maxwell’s 31 percent and 13 percent of voters registered no opinion.

Maxwell, a neurosurgeon, remains largely unknown in the district, with 71 percent of voters not knowing enough about him to have an opinion. By contrast, Morelle, a longtime Democratic member of the Assembly and the majority leader of the chamber, has a 53 percent favorable rating among voters, with 18 percent holding a unfavorable view of him.

President Donald Trump remains unpopular with voters in the district: 57 percent hold an unfavorable view of the job he’s doing as president, with 34 percent approving.

Generically, 55 percent of voters want Democrats to win control of the House of Representatives this November.

The poll of 500 likely voters in the 25 congressional district was conducted from Aug. 15 to 16 and Aug. 19. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

NYCD250818 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Morelle Launches First TV Ad in NY-25 Race: ‘Family’

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle has released the first general election TV ad of his congressional run a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo called a special election in NY-25 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter this past March.

The special will be held on Nov. 6, Election Day, which makes things easier for voters, and also will enable whoever wins to be seated right away to fill out the remainder of Slaughter’s term, and not have to wait until the next Congress is officially seated in January.

The ad is a feel-good spot, focusing on Morelle’s personal life and dedication to family, as well as his professional life as a veteran member of the Assembly – something he is not shying away from, despite the fact that past members of the Legislature were hurt by their association with Albany when they tried to run for a House seat.

The Morelle family is a close-knit unit, as evidenced by this ad, and, though it’s not mentioned here, it experienced tragedy last summer when the assemblyman’s daughter, Lauren, lost a highly public and long-running battle with breast cancer at the age of 31.

Morelle won a four-way Democratic primary in June, receiving 45 percent of the vote. He’ll be facing Dr. Jim Maxwell, a Republican, in the November election.

Maxwell is a newcomer who is billing himself as a “fresh face” for the district, and seeking to cast Morelle as a career politician who is associated with gridlock and politics as usual.

NY-25 lies entirely within Monroe County, and has almost 60,000 more enrolled active Democratic voters than Republicans, and just over 111,000 “blanks” who are unaffiliated with any political party. Slaughter held the seat for three decades after the GOP held it for two.

Spectrum News and Siena will be unveiling an exclusive poll of this race this evening on Capital Tonight. Tune in at 8 p.m. to get the details.

In the meantime, here’s the transcript for the ad. The campaign did not provide details of how big the buy is, where the ad is running and for how long.

Joe Morelle: My dad was a pipefitter, my mom ran the house. Family was their priority; dinner at 6 was mandatory. Mom pushed me to do well in school, but the only grade my dad cared about was citizenship. Service was so important to them. The idea of community, of family… I live by those values – their values – for 28 years in the State Assembly, and as a husband, brother, father and grandfather. Every Sunday, my whole family gets together for breakfast at my house. That’s a tradition that my wife and I carry on.

Mary Beth Morelle, Joe’s wife: Joe cooks, he cleans… and he actually turns off his phone.

Joe Morelle: It’s the best part of my week, for sure. People see the division in Washington. It’s not helping anyone,” says Morelle. “Look, at the end of the day, families want the same things – good healthcare that’s affordable, caring for our loved ones when they’re older, giving kids a fair shot in life. If you see something you can do to help others, you have an obligation to do it. That’s why I’m running for Congress. I’m Joe Morelle, and I approve this message.

"Family" from Joe Morelle for Congress on Vimeo.

NY-25: GOP Candidate Maxwell Reintroduces Himself

The Republican candidate for New York’s 25th Congressional District has kept a pretty low profile over the last several months.

Admittedly, Dr. Jim Maxwell said the circumstances have changed since he announced his candidacy in January. Namely, long-time incumbent Louis Slaughter passed away in March at the age of 88.

In the aftermath, the Democratic party scrambled to find her replacement with four candidates ultimately coming forward for a primary. Tuesday night, current Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle convincingly won that election and his party is rallying behind him.

With his opponent now clear, Maxwell took the opportunity Wednesday to reintroduce himself and his platforms. The neurosurgeon said his priorities include fixing the health care system, federal funding for cancer research, taking steps to get the national debt under control and fighting public corruption.

He said despite the significant developments in this race, his campaign hasn’t changed for several reasons. First, he said he remains the same person who entered the fray earlier this year. Maxwell also doesn’t believe many voters see much of a difference between Slaughter and Morelle, both of whom he said would represent the status quo.

“I am a fresh face, no political baggage. My opponent on the other hand, Joe Morelle, is a career politician steeped in the ways of party division and coming from an Albany filled with corruption and gridlock,” he said.

In general though, Maxwell did not focus on criticizing his opponents, current or former, during the press conference. He congratulated all of the Democrats who participated in the primary and spoke respectfully of Slaughter’s career.

“Although we sometimes disagreed, we shared the same dedication to Monroe County and the same appreciation for science and research. We also shared the same passion for women’s rights. I am a staunch supporter of the #MeToo movement and I will advocate for women when I am in Congress,” he said.

The candidate said he has no intention of “going to Washington to toe the party line” and that he would stand up to anyone who hurt Monroe County, even if that were the president. Maxwell said he supports President Donald Trump and believes his ability to connect with disenfranchised voters and his focus on business are good things.

However, he said Trump needs to be “called to task” for some things including his attitude toward women and his tit-for-tat social media style.

“When I get to Washington and I meet him, the first thing I’m going to do is ask him for his cell phone and I’m not going to give it back,” Maxwell said.

He said he does not expect the president, who has offered his support to many mid-term Republican congressional candidates, to be involved in his campaign.

NY-25: Barnhart Campaign Releases Internal Poll

Democratic congressional candidate Rachel Barnhart released an internal poll Thursday morning indicating the primary for New York’s 25th district may still be up for grabs. According to the poll, 35.5 percent of respondents said they plan to vote for the party-endorsed candidate Joe Morelle.

Barnhart, a former television reporter who has run in the past for state Assembly and Rochester Mayor, sits 15 points back at 20.5 percent. Current Rochester City Council Member Adam McFadden and Brighton Town Board Member Robin Wilt round out the poll with 9.5 percent and 6.5 percent respectively.

The results clearly point to Morelle, the Deputy Majority Leader of the state Assembly, as the early favorite. However, Barnhart said it’s notable that 28 percent of those who answered remain undecided.

“This poll shows that contrary to conventional wisdom, voters know that spending 27 years in the backslapping, dysfunctional donor-fueled Albany machine does not prepare you to be the fighter we need in Congress,” she said. “I look forward to continuing my campaign, spreading my message, and listening to the voters over the coming weeks.”

The poll was conducted by Gravis Marketing in consultation with Advanced Idea Data Science Consulting and has a ±4.5 percent margin of error. The interview of 599 Democratic voters was done by phone and the firm weighted 410 likely voters who participated.


NY-25 Voters File Lawsuit To Force Special Election

Seven voters in New York’s 25th Congressional District have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, for failing, so far, to call a special election. The seat has been vacant since long-serving Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter died on March 16.

The plaintiffs said because the governor has not issued a Proclamation of Election in a “reasonably timely manner,” they have been denied their constitutionally-protected rights to vote and to representation. The suit claimed Cuomo is required to call the election and should have been prepared to do so promptly after Slaughter died.

“The refusal of the Defendant Governor to call a special election and the resulting disenfranchisement is even more egregious when one considers the fact that an election is already scheduled for June 26, 2018.”

The complaint noted, in the past, state election authorities have conducted special elections at the same time as Federal primaries and one such instance happened two years ago.  It called for Cuomo to be required to stop “unnecessarily” delaying, denying or refusing to issue the proclamation, or for the court to provide the special election take place on June 26.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs represent a sample of roughly 750,000 voters in the district. It pointed out they are Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated voters and also represent an array of races, creeds, ethnicities and genders.

The state and Monroe County boards of election are named as defendants as well, because they are “certainly interested parties and may be determined to be necessary parties.”

We’ve reached out to the governor’s office for a response.

NY 25 Lawsuit by Ryan Whalen on Scribd

Reporting On A Rochester Icon

Covering the late Rep. Louise Slaughter was the most challenging and frustrating task I ever had as a journalist. Now, there are a lot of reasons for that, but the most prominent is because she was just too darn well liked.

As reporters, it’s our job to hold elected officials accountable. but during interviews with this particular politician, the phrase, “let me play devil’s advocate,” was pretty common.

It’s not unusual for politicians or their staffers to push back against a critical line of questioning or a story, but I quickly learned that criticizing Slaughter in Rochester was as sacrilegious as criticizing a Nick Tahou’s garbage plate. I mean, yeah, the plate is a little too spicy or a little too greasy for some, but keep your mouth shut if you don’t like it, because….well, it’s Rochester.

(I love garbage plates, by the way).

I came to Rochester in 2006 as a field reporter. I went to college not far from there, and since my brother lived in a nearby suburb, I already knew the city pretty well.  When asking the more seasoned members of the newsroom about the major players on the political scene, I quickly learned of the congresswoman simply known by members of the media as “Weezy.”

I heard stories of reporters who, when seeking a sound bite on a Bush Administration policy, were welcomed into Slaughter’s Fairport home and offered lemonade or cookies. It was common to hear colleagues tell me: “It’s like interviewing my grandma.” Needless to say, she was a local media favorite.

Not long after the Democrats took back control of the House, Slaughter’s feistiness and creative criticism of the GOP made her a national figure. As her star rose, the charming Democrat increasingly found herself in the middle of bitterly partisan fights.

The new chair of the House Rules Committee came under attack for proposing a constitutionally questionable procedural maneuver to pass the controversial Affordable Care Act in 2010, refused to hold town hall meetings during the height of the Tea Party movement, and compared Republicans to Nazis during a fight over abortion access in 2011.

While my bosses always encouraged me to cover these situations and to press the congresswoman and her staff, viewer comments on my voicemail and my political blog were always pro-Slaughter. It wasn’t uncommon to hear, “That’s not what she meant,” or “Her staff was behind that,” or my favorite, “That’s just how she talks, and I love that.”

To be fair, Slaughter never pretended to be a moderate. Her voting record and policies fell more in line with the left wing of the Democratic Party than the middle.  But despite the fact she was a proud liberal, she routinely enjoyed broad-based support from Republican voters

Slaughter’s Monroe County-based congressional district was redrawn a few times over the years as population shifted. At one point, she represented the infamous headphone-shaped district – aka the “earmuff” district – which ran from Rochester all the way west to Niagara Falls.

She may have had a slight Democratic voter enrollment edge in most races, but her margin of victory showed Republicans were crossing over and presumably voting against their core policy beliefs to support her. As someone relatively new to covering the news in Rochester, I found that baffling.

In 2012, Slaughter’s district was further redrawn within the borders of Monroe County. The county to this day has a Democratic Party enrollment edge, but is still controlled, in most cases, by elected Republicans.

That’s why when Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks decided to challenge Slaughter in 2012, conventional wisdom was that Republican voters, who overwhelmingly elected Brooks three times in a countywide race, would support her for Congress. It was seen by some as a changing of the guard and perhaps, after 26 years, time for Slaughter to step aside.

What ensued was the most contentious race I ever covered. There were months of negative campaign ads, bolstered by outside money on both sides. Slaughter’s campaign even took the unusual step of going after Brooks’ husband.

Slaughter’s team pulled out all the stops, even using an on-air clip of a story I put together about how the Democrats might try to attack Brooks. They used, what I felt at the time, was some questionable editing. I took it personally. But looking back, I’m not sure it was as big of a deal as I thought it was then.

Then it happened…an early October press conference that featured Slaughter in full dungeon, bringing fiery to a whole new level. Standing in front of the Genesee River, Slaughter angrily announced that Karl Rove’s Crossroads Super PAC was spending $1.4 million to take her out.

The Brooks campaign called the complaint hypocritical and the overall tone of the event “unhinged.” Since it seemed this Rove effort was in response to Slaughter’s colorful and highly publicized attacks on Republicans, I couldn’t help but think the voters might agree with Brooks.

I was wrong. Her constituents didn’t find her reaction hypocritical, they found it authentic. What her detractors called “unhinged,” everyone else saw as proof she still had fire in her belly.

Even as the polls leading up to election night showed Slaughter in the lead, conventional wisdom kept telling me Republican voters would vote the party line. I thought such a divisive campaign might take some bloom off the rose, so to speak.

Wrong again. While turnout among Democrat voters in the City of Rochester was high in the presidential year, it was Slaughter’s win in the Republican-dominated suburbs that was truly remarkable. A right-leaning county turned left for the 14th time.

At my first reporting job in Jamestown, Republican Rep. Jack Quinn told me something that really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing here, but he basically said when the election is over, it really is about service. He said you represent people that voted for you and against you, and a lot of people who didn’t vote at all. Quinn was a Republican who ironically represented a left-leaning district.

Slaughter’s fingerprints may be on a few controversial pieces of legislation, but she brought home a lot funding for infrastructure, medical research, technology and programs for the poor. Her constituents didn’t always agree with her, but they felt like her heart was in the right place.

I mean we all have a family member or close friend we don’t always see eye to eye with, right? What’s important is do they believe what they’re saying? Are they authentic? Do they fight for what they believe is right? Twelve years of coverage later, when it comes to Louise Slaughter, I have to say the answer is yes.

now, as accolades pour in from all sides in memory of a southern transplant who transformed into one of Rochester’s most popular figures, Slaughter’s secret was simple: People just liked her.

Republican Assini Withdraws From NY-25 Consideration

Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini, R, elaborated Thursday on his surprise announcement not to run for New York’s 25th Congressional District for a third time. Four years ago, Assini nearly pulled off an upset bid against long-time incumbent Democrat Louise Slaughter.

He was the Republican nominee again in 2016, although his margin of defeat was wider. Assini said he had felt good about his chances this year.

“I did have every intention Wednesday night, this past evening, to announce my candidacy for Congress. My campaign team was already in place. We were already working in the district.”

The Gates supervisor said everything changed for him on Sunday night when Monroe County Republican Committee chairman Bill Reilich hand-delivered a letter to him. It was from the county’s Conservative Party indicating they plan to back another Republican, local doctor Jim Maxwell.

“The Conservative Party has every right to do what they think is in the best interest of the district. I respect that. I may not agree with their decision but I respect it,” Assini said.

Assini said he was not expecting the letter but believed potentially having two Republicans on the ballot would provide an easy path to victory for Slaughter. He said he had reached out to hundreds of committee members and believed if the Republican nomination went to a convention, he would have been the candidate selected.

“There’s no question that we had the rank and file Republican people behind us and we had overwhelming support and we were getting community support,” he said.

As for whether he’ll run again in the future or if he’s considering a job in the private sector, Assini said his only plan right now is finishing his term as supervisor.

Assini Hopes Third Time’s Charm In NY-25 But Faces Potential Primary

For the third time, Republican Mark Assini plans to challenge veteran Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in New York’s 25th Congressional District. Assini hinted in a tweet Monday he’ll make his formal announcement at the Italian American Community Center in Gates next Wednesday.

“We’ll make it official on the 24th but I think you can read between the lines,” he said. “I will be laying out specifics on programs and efforts that don’t take an act of Congress that could improve our community very quickly.”

Assini has served as Gates Town Supervisor since 2010. He first challenged Slaughter in 2014 and came within 1,000 votes of the long-time incumbent.

The Republican’s second attempt in 2016 was less successful. With turnout much higher for the presidential election, Slaughter ultimately won by about 40,000 votes, capturing roughly 56 percent.

Despite those losses, Assini remains confident this could be the year he breaks through.

“Newt Gingrich ran three times. He lost the first two times in very difficult races, very similar to the pattern I went through. On the third time, he won and went on to become the Speaker of the House,” he said.

There’s no guarantee Assini will get the Republican nomination. This weekend, Rochester-area neurosurgeon Jim Maxwell announced his candidacy.

The doctor said he’s passionate about healthcare and wants to focus on fixing the system. Maxwell said he can be a strong voice and advocate for the patients.

“Go figure, a doctor who knows something about healthcare. I think we should be in the lead when it comes to crafting a better system for our patients,” he said.

Maxwell said he has met Assini and applauded his efforts in the past but believes the district needs not just a new representative but new candidates. Assini said he welcomed the potential primary challenge.

“I don’t know what I’m going to hear from Dr. Maxwell,” he said. “I know what I will be talking about and it will be the opioid crisis. It will be the homelessness and poverty that is impacting our community and the efforts that I have made personally as an elected official to address those issues.”