Smerlas For Congress?

What is it with Western/Central NY and former football players-turned-wannabe pols?


First there was the late former congressman/VP nominee and Bill quarterback Jack Kemp, who passed away in 2009.

Another ex-Bills quarterback, Jim Kelly, flirted with a run for elected office in 2006, but never pulled the trigger.

Tim Green, who played with the Atlanta Falcons and at Syracuse University was personally courted by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer to challenge Sen. John DeFrancisco in 2008, but ultimately opted out, too.

And now, enter Fred Smerlas.

Smerlas, who played Nose Tackle for the Bills, is mulling a run for Congress against Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter. Smerlas doesn’t live in New York anymore. In fact, he lives in neighboring Massachusetts (there’s no residency rule to run for Congress).

But he does have a radio show that airs here, and that’s where he first broached the topic of his nascent political career.

Last night, there were reports that Smerlas would be chatting with Monroe County GOP Chairman Bill Reilich about a possible House run. Reilich subsequently confirmed – both to me and YNN’s Casey Bortnick – that he had spoken with the ex-football great on the phone from his Albany office. (Smerlas was in Boston).
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Here And Now

Ex-Gov. George Pataki won’t challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, but will create a new national organization aimed at building support for repealing the new health care reform law. (Can anyone say 2012?)

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer became a regular Emperors Club client while he was still AG and eventually dropped $100,000 on call girls, Peter Elkind writes in his soon-to-be-released book, “Rough Justice.”

A prostitute who met regularly with Spitzer was privately cheering on his efforts to bust Wall Street, but didn’t like his brusque manner, Elkind reports.

Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Shaffer called County Executive Steve Levy’s party switch a “punch in the gut” and vowed to “kick his butt” this fall and next.

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox is scheduled to meet today with RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who reportedly isn’t pleased with the NY party’s backing of Levy’s gubernatorial run.

TGIT? A state prison system employee could face criminal charges for taking every Friday off every week for 17 years.

Another round of early retirement incentives for state employees might be in the offing.

Disturbed by GOP gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino’s e-mail scandal, the Paterson administration is scrambling to cut its contract ties to the Buffalo businessman.

The leader of the Tea Party Express called Paladino’s e-mails “absolutely incompatible with anything we stand for.”

Buffalo-area tea partiers are standing by their man.

The DN thinks Paladino should spend his fortune on counseling, not a campaign.
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The Insiders


The Capital Region GOP chairs have disinvited Carl Paladino from their forum for statewide candidates.

Jonathan Capeheart suggests, oh-so-politely, that Paladino is crazy.

CSEA filed a grievance over Gov. David Paterson’s withholding of 4 percent pay raises.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand remains vulnerable, Rasmussen says, if only some viable Republican was running against her.

Staffers to ex-Rep. Eric Massa made complaints about his advances that fell on deaf ears for a year.

Get your WFP WTF T-shirt here.

Sen. Craig Johnson wants pension fund embezzlers to lose their pension benefits.

Watch out Harry Wilson, GOP Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci is exploring a state comptroller run.

Doug Hoffman didn’t seek the Oneida County GOP endorsement anyway. So there.

Councilwoman Inez Dickens endorsed Sen. Eric Schneiderman for AG.

What’s in a name? A lot if you’re an Adam Clayton Powell IV.

Mayor Bloomberg beat out Rudy Giuliani in a new Marist poll.

There’s no clear frontrunner for the 2013 mayor’s race, although Rep. Anthony Weiner outpolls ex-Comptroller Bill Thompson.

GOP congressional hopeful Nan Hayworth (NY-19) loaned her campaign another $150K.

The Allegany GOP Chairman endorsed Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. (No link).

The Office of Taxpayer Accountability is Tweeting!

NARAL Pro-Choice NY’s Kelli Conlin is not headed to the Empire State Pride Agenda.

Dems’ New Plan of Attack

Charlie King, newly appointed executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, appeared on Capital Tonight Tuesday to talk about how they plan to defeat republicans this fall.
Heading into November, King says he’s forming a “truth squad” within the party to call out republican challengers on their track records and fight back against false and misleading information against democratic candidates.

Sliwa Abandons Paladino

Curtis Sliwa is just about as outspoken as they come, but even he has to draw the line somewhere. And he has done so with GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.

Curtis Sliwa

Sliwa, who appears regularly on NY1, has been a Paladino booster (recall the now-infamous 9/11-health care reform bill radio interview) and had agreed to introduce the Buffalo businessman tomorrow at an “Ask Carl” town hall meeting in Staten Island.

But that was before the world caught sight of the sexually and racially explicit e-mails forwarded by Paladino.

“Obviously, we were disappointed that Mr. Paladino didn’t use the delete button, but rather used the send button, and, as a result, we are deleting ourselves from any involvement with the introduction or any other phase of his campaign,” Sliwa told me this afternoon.

“…He says, ‘Well, it’s the result of a liberal blogger.’ I don’t care if it’s a liberal, conservative or apolitical, did you or did you not continue a chain of e-mails that were offensive to the president, had racial overtones…We just had two governors back-to-back that were losers, we’re looking for somebody who’s going to put their head above this personal flotsam and jetsam that has paralyzed the office.”

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Maloney Gets Her Obama Moment

Back when she was mulling a primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Carolyn Maloney got a call from VP Joe Biden, which was seen as something of a slight in certain circles, since her colleague and fellow would-be primary contender, Rep. Steve Israel, had merited a call from the Commander-in-Chief himself.


Maloney insisted Biden hadn’t asked her directly not to run against Gillibrand, but she nevertheless eventually followed Israel’s lead and declined to enter the race, opting to seek re-election instead.

Now that Maloney has graduated from challenger to challengee – she’s facing a primary from first-time candidate Reshma Saujani – she has received a nod from the big man himself (albeit in a statement).

“I’m proud to endorse Carolyn Maloney for re-election and to have her working with me for the change America needs,” the president said.

“New Yorkers are extraordinarily lucky to have her fighting for them in Congress – Carolyn has not only delivered again and again for New Yorkers, she’s written groundbreaking legislation that is making a lasting difference in the lives of millions of Americans.”

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Q & A with Paterson

Q: Status of budget, and why are you away from Albany.
A: Well, we are away from Albany for an hour to announce that the jets are continuing their training right here in Cortland. I think we can spend an hour away from here for a good cause. The religious services got with our budget negotiations. This is the week when we have to ramp it up… There have to be more meetings… I am going to ask lawmakers to stay longer in the week. We have got to get this done. I think this budget can be passed in two weeks if we put ourselves into it. But the most difficult part of passing the budget doesn’t involve time. IT involves understanding that you just can’t keep hesitating or dithering or ignoring the fact that the state is in dire financial state. There are tough decision, cuts that need to be made. Programs that have to be reduced. And a budget that needs to be balanced. It’s not time that creates that decision. It’s understanding. Commitment. And duty to the public…

Q: Gov. Have you arranged a meeting with the leaders.
A: I am going to be speaking to them today. I have tried to be understanding through the process at this point because the Assembly and the Senate don’t agree with each other. Normally by the time they start negotiating with the Governor they have a sense of what their budget looks like. Even without it, I think there will have to be some intervention right now. This state will run out of money in June, and we don’t know how to replace it. The state ran out of money in December and in March, and we were able to delay payments to close the gap. The gap is so wide in June, I couldn’t tell you what I would do. But I need the budget passed to give me the greatest number of options going forward.

Q: Will your next extender bill include infrastructure and capitol projects money?
A: I don’t imagine it would. Because it didn’t two weeks ago. That is an inconvenience. And it’s difficult. But right now, we want to save money. And until we get a commitment from the legislature that they want to save money too… we are going to have to say money through these appropriations.

Q: Won’t that cost jobs?
A: Well it could lay people off temporarily. Or they could continue the projects and get paid later. But the fact is if this state runs out of money, the consequences would be mammoth compared to the question you are asking.

Q: We had 100 layoffs in Cortland. If you know it’s going to be a long term battle would you consider adding it to the extenders.
A: If I believed it was going to be a long term battle. I wouldn’t want to create further harm for people being laid off. But it should be an incentive for all of us to get this done as quick as possible. Because we need to get people back to work, and we need a balance budget. But what I am not going to do is what happened year after year, budget’s went late, because we just extended payments from last year into this year, and so the process went on forever, sometimes as late as July and on two occasions August before we got our payments in. And I am not going to do that this year.

Q: Study says Upstate schools are impacted unfairly. Comment.
A: Every area of financing comes up with a study saying they are the worst affected As long as they are all saying they are the worst. Then I feel confident that we are sharing the sacrifice. Schools over the last, uh, Since I have been governor have been cut about 950 million while healthcare has been cut 4.1 billion dollars. So I know that that is wrong.
So the reality is that it is hard to compare cuts because education is the most important area we can be funding. But the reality is that a great percentage of the funding doesn’t go into classrooms, it goes to administrative costs. Rather than comparing who is getting more cuts than who, which is remarkably self-absorbed, we should be thinking about how we should all sacrifice, and tighten our belts, so we can be a part of the small group of states that can escape the recession at the end of this year, and go back into prosperity. As opposed to the 30-35 states that are being threatened with default…

Q: Do you think the other legislative leaders aren’t taking this as seriously as you?
A: It’s not my desire to cast judgment on what other people are thinking. I think the leaders are working hard, I think the members are working hard. But I don’t think they have Not crossed that threshold of understanding, that the fastest way to solve a problem is immediate action. And the best way to move back into prosperity is to make the tough decisions now. My reference in trying to persuade them is New York Families. {They have cut back, they have to choose between payments or Christmas presents, blah blah}

Q: Do you support borrowing to spend.
A: To be honest I don’t support spending {think he meant to say borrowing} 2 billion. I think we may have to borrow, but just because $2 billion was put as a limit in the LG’s plan… it was supposed to be a ceiling, and now, people are trying to make it a floor. I don’t think we should be spending $2 billion. I mean, I don’t think we should be borrowing $2b. At this point, I am not ruling it out, because the situation is so dire. But I don’t think we should be borrowing the amount of $2b.

Cuomo’s Attack Dog

Newly-minted state Democratic Party Executive Director Charlie King said today the organization will act as a “truth squad” for the 2010 ticket, pushing back on the Republicans when they “distort, micharacterize or talk in code.”

King settled quickly into his new role, unleashing on Rick Lazio (for accepting a Wall Street bonus), Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy (for “pay-to-play”), Carl Paladino (’nuff said), and even state GOP Chairman Ed Cox (for giving Levy “a pass” for jokes about black people and “anchor babies,” while taking Paladino to task).

In a brief interview this afternoon, I asked King if he is going to be serving as presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo’s attack dog, essentially buying the AG more time before he has to announce his candidacy and start throwing bombs himself.

” What I’m going to do is when Republicans decide to distort, mischaracterize or talk in code, I’m not going to be shy about pointing that out or having the state party point that out,” King responded. “The party gets to take on the attack dog position, OK you can say that.”

While stressing that his arrival at the party does not herald the imminent departure of Chairman Jay Jacobs, who was installed by Gov. David Paterson, King did say more changes are in the offing. He plans to establish a “full-fledged coordinated campaign,” which will entail hiring a party spokesperson, political director and field operation manager, among others.

Espada Challenger Ramps Up

Activist Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, who has been mulling a primary challenge to Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr., is putting the pieces in place for a full-fledged campaign by hiring a fundraiser.

Lisa Hernandez Gioia confirmed she has been in talks with Pilgrim-Hunter for about a month and has agreed to sign on to help her raise money.

“It’s important to have good people in Albany and it seems to me that right now not everyone up there in a good person,” Hernandez Gioia told me this afternoon in a brief telephone interview.

Hernandez Gioia, who is married to former Councilman Eric Gioia, said she believes Pilgrim-Hunter is “great” and has done a lot of good things for the community (she was involved in the effort to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory – a very controversial issue in the Bronx).

Pilgrim-Hunter also had discussions with Red Horse Strategies, a consulting firm headed by Doug Forand, Marc Lapidus and Nathan Smith – three DSCC veterans who were involved in the successful 2008 push by the Democrats to take control of the Senate majority from the GOP.

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