Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/35 Tue, 23 Oct 2018 14:14:32 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Senate Republicans Leave Molinaro Out of Only Hope Messaging http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=8009:senate-republicans-leave-molinaro-out-of-only-hope-messaging http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=8009:senate-republicans-leave-molinaro-out-of-only-hope-messaging molinaro golden

Marc Molinaro & Senator Marty Golden campaign (photo: @marcmolinaro)


Republicans fighting to keep control of the state Senate this year have been adamant that their continued majority in the chamber is the only thing standing between New York and socialism. And with the party playing defense in a number of races, there’s a certain logic to motivating voters to come out based on the idea that their district could be the one that determines who controls the entire Senate, especially resonant given the one-seat margin the Republican conference holds.

But the rhetoric around preserving the GOP majority in its lone source of statewide power seems to leave out a major issue: the party also has a gubernatorial candidate in Marc Molinaro, whose election would guarantee a divided government in Albany thanks to the Democratic supermajority in the Assembly. Molinaro may be facing long odds, but to read much GOP messaging, one could easily think the party isn’t running a candidate against Governor Andrew Cuomo at all.

In the most glaring example of this trend, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, of Long Island, wrote an op-ed arguing for continued GOP control of the Senate, casting the majority as “the most important firewall in history between every taxpayers’ wallet and government coffers,” and hitting common themes of higher taxes and government-run health care if Democrats are victorious. While the editorial confidently predicted “when” and not “if” Republicans control the chamber again, it makes no mention of Molinaro’s campaign for governor on the same ticket.

In a pair of stories about the governor’s involvement in close state Senate races, Scott Reif, the Republican Senate conference spokesperson, kept up the messaging that the Senate GOP was the only chance to hold back Democratic ambitions, telling the Daily News that the governor was trying to “create one-man, one-party rule” and that “there will be no accountability, no checks and balances” if Cuomo successfully helps elect a Democratic Senate majority.

"What Andrew Cuomo really wants is absolute power in Albany, and we're the only ones who can stop it," Reif told the News, again leaving out any mention of Molinaro defeating the two-term incumbent. Reif did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Molinaro is of course facing an uphill battle in taking on Cuomo, especially in an environment seen as hostile to Republicans, and recent statewide polling saw him down 58-35 to Cuomo. Republican donors seem to believe his campaign is less of a wise investment than the state Senate, as Republican strategist Chapin Fay told the New York Times that “The funding class are investors, and they want to invest in something where they would see a return,” in a story about how the Senate GOP has greatly outraised Molinaro this year. The Business Council of New York’s PAC endorsed Cuomo over Molinaro at the same time as they endorsed only a single Democrat (of sorts) in Senator Simcha Felder, who has long-conferenced with Republicans, in an otherwise GOP set of state Senate endorsements.

Molinaro, for his part, said that he felt his campaign and the Senate Republicans were on the same page as far as messaging and working together. “Almost all of the members are helping to spread our message, we’re magnifying our resources, and working with Senator Flanagan,” Molinaro told Gotham Gazette following a Monday event in New York City. “The entire Republican conference has been good for us,” he said, favorably comparing the relationship his campaign has with the Senate GOP to the fraught one that the Rob Astorino campaign had in 2014. (Cuomo himself has been more actively campaigning for his party-mates to control the Senate, and Democrats are exceedingly optimistic they can flip the chamber.)

Currently the Dutchess county executive, Molinaro is a former member of the Assembly who was quickly endorsed by some of his former colleagues in the lower chamber of the state Legislature when he entered the race. Molinaro’s entrance fairly quickly led then-frontrunner Senator John DeFrancisco to drop out as Republican leaders from around the state coalesced behind Molinaro. DeFrancisco had been endorsed by Flanagan and several other senators before leaving the race, frustrated and headed toward retirement. Molinaro and Flanagan have not campaigned together.

But Molinaro, or his lieutenant gubernatorial running mate Julie Killian, have made campaign stops with a number of Republican state Senate candidates, like the Hudson Valley’s Annie Rabbitt, Long Island’s Jeff Pravato and Brooklyn’s Marty Golden, all of whom are in tight races for seats that could control the balance of the body.

Molinaro also brought his anti-corruption message to Syracuse in September for an appearance with Republican Bon Antonacci, who’s running to succeed DeFrancisco. Rabbit is a candidate who said she was “absolutely” motivated to run by the prospect of a Democratic Senate, and Antonacci has said a Democratic state Senate means tax hikes and increased state spending, a scenario that’s only possible if there’s a Democratic governor around to agree to them.

Molinaro, while admitting that “any one of us could lose,” also said he wasn’t bothered by the theoretical erasure of his candidacy by state Senate candidates, because there are other balances in the state Legislature to think about beyond the party balance. “I look forward to working with whomever, but I think the balance between the Senate and Assembly is important. The Senate Republican conference tends to focus its attention on upstate and Long Island, so this regional balance that’s created there, I think there’s an important benefit to that,” he said.

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Samar Khurshid and Ben Max contributed to this article.

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Senate Republicans Leave Molinaro Out of Only Hope Messaging Tue, 23 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
[Updated] Can Democrats win the state Senate? How progressive is Cuomo? New Yorkers are about to find out http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=8003:updated-can-democrats-win-the-state-senate-how-progressive-is-cuomo-new-yorkers-are-about-to-find-out http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=8003:updated-can-democrats-win-the-state-senate-how-progressive-is-cuomo-new-yorkers-are-about-to-find-out New York Democratic Party

Gov. Cuomo (photo via New York Democratic Party)


This op-ed is an updated version of a previously published column, now accounting for the October 32-day Pre-General Campaign Financial Disclosure and incorporating other new information, including reader feedback from the original version, previously published in Gotham Gazette October 2.

In the November 6 general election, New York Democrats have a historic opportunity to take control of the state Senate. If this happens, Democrats would control both houses of the state Legislature for only the third time in the last 100 years, unlocking years of bottled up progressive legislation passed by the Democratically-controlled Assembly but blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Assuming Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, wins reelection as he is expected to, a number of these bills may very well land on his desk, including those related to universal health care; election, voting and campaign finance reforms; reproductive health rights; equal education funding for city schools; equal protections for LGBT and disabled people; carbon emissions elimination; immigration protections, including making New York a sanctuary state; and criminal justice reforms.

Recent history might temper optimism, however. New York Democratic voters chose the status quo over the bold reforms represented by the Cynthia Nixon-Jumaane Williams-Zephyr Teachout slate in September’s primaries and in last year’s constitutional convention ballot referendum. In the 2016 state Senate races, 98% of incumbents were re-elected.

We’ll soon see how powerful New York’s blue wave really is, both on Election Day and in the legislative session that will follow beginning in January. A few key questions:

But didn’t progressives just defeat the IDC?
Sort of and it’s insufficient.

Before the primary, there were actually more “Democrats” in the state Senate than Republicans, even though the GOP conference held a 40-23, then 32-31 majority in the 63-seat chamber.

Nine Democrats were either part of the Republican conference or in a power-sharing agreement via the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), giving the GOP a majority for the recent two-year legislative session (and prior) and preventing progressive legislation from reaching the Senate floor. Eight of those senators were members of the IDC, which did rejoin the “mainline” Democratic conference in April, after a new state budget had been passed, which led to the 32-31 GOP majority for the final months of the session that ended in June.

In the September 13 primary, six former IDC members were defeated. The ninth rogue Democrat, Senator Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, has been part of the Republican Conference for multiple terms, and was even reelected in 2016 on both the Democratic and Republican ballot lines. He won his primary challenge last month.

Despite losing in the Democratic primary, all six defeated former IDC members are likely to remain on November’s ballot on other party lines, often the Independence Party and/or Women’s Equality Party. The October filings indicate that the six defeated IDC members did not have any meaningful campaign activity in the post-primary weeks, but Senator Tony Avella has declared he is campaigning to win in the general election, and neither Senator Jeff Klein nor Senator Jesse Hamilton has formally declared their intentions. Democratic Party leaders may try to reward defeated IDC members -- like former conference leader Klein and Hamilton -- with judgeships to keep them from actively campaigning.

Surviving former IDC Senators David Carlucci and Diane Savino, along with Felder, will almost certainly win re-election in November.  

What do Democrats really need to do?
Net one seat. If Democrats flip just one GOP-held Senate seat and hold onto those they currently have, then Democrats will have a real 32-31 majority heading into next year. Competitive Senate races exist on Long Island and upstate, including several districts where Democrats failed to run any candidate at all in 2016.

What’s possible?
Flipping ten seats. My most optimistic scenario has Democrats flipping ten GOP-held seats and holding onto their own, for a 41-22 majority.

If the primaries were any indicator, November turnout will be high, which will benefit Democrats due to their two-to-one registration advantage across the state. Primary turnout more than doubled since the last comparable election in 2014. In Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties, Democratic primary turnout actually tripled from 2014 to this year.

Democrats are mounting competitive races in the five GOP-held districts where the current officeholder is retiring. In 2012, Obama carried all of those districts; In 2016, Clinton carried one and Trump won by 6% or less in the other four. Democrats are also contesting several other races where the Republican incumbent is seen as beatable.

Below is my list for the best opportunities for Democrats to flip GOP-held Senate seats, categorized as “Most likely to flip,” “Highly competitive,” and “Long-shots.” You can see the full detailed spreadsheet here.

In compiling this list, I considered voter registration differential, popularity as measured by the number of individual campaign contributors, money including party funding, voting results by state Senate in the two most recent presidential elections, the power of incumbency, and signals of grassroots activism.

Senate District

Money matters -- to pay for campaign staff, advertising, get-out-the-vote efforts, and more. The table above includes the most recent Board of Elections campaign disclosures, filed by October 1. Grassroots support can certainly counteract big money, as IDC challenger Alessandra Biaggi demonstrated in her primary defeat of former IDC leader Klein, but it’s difficult to conceive how other candidates could overcome comparable odds. Klein outspent Biaggi nearly seven-to-one -- $2.8 million to Biaggi’s $414,457 -- but Biaggi raised money from 47 times the number of contributors that Klein had.

Past voter preferences matter, especially since they don’t necessarily follow in line with voter registration data. The 2012 presidential election was more reflective of deeply felt beliefs in these districts, which had with one exception solid pluralities for Obama. Democratic voters who stayed home may have contributed to the mixed results of the 2016 election. By this year, 2016’s GOP victories didn’t deter -- and perhaps motivated -- Democratic contributors and may have awakened Democrats who came out in droves to vote in this year’s primaries. In addition, changing demographics have also affected these districts in ways that potentially favor progressive Democratic candidates.

Party money also matters. Both Democrats and Republicans have state Senate campaign committees, which have injected money into select races as shown on my chart. The full extent of Cuomo’s financial support remains to be seen.

What’s the rundown on the races?
James Skoufis vs. Tom Basile (SD-39): Assemblymember Skoufis has a solid lead in every respect that should offset the weak Democratic performance in the past presidential elections. The significant GOP support for Basile signals the party’s concern. Even after the GOP’s $288,300 investment, Skoufis had a commanding 9.5 times more money as of the most recent filing.

Jen Lunsford vs. Rich Funke (SD-55); Anna Kaplan vs. Elaine Phillips (SD-7), Karen Smythe vs. Sue Serino (SD-41): These three races occur in districts with vulnerable GOP incumbents. In all three, huge Democratic Party enrollment and presidential voting advantages could overcome GOP funding advantages. In SD-7, the GOP is concerned enough to invest $254,500 to prop up incumbent Senator Phillips.

Jeremy Cooney vs. Joseph Robach (SD-56): Jeremy Cooney has everything going for him -- but money. He’s in a heavily Democratic district that came out big for Obama and Clinton. His grassroots popularity is reflected in the number of individual donations. But his relatively low cash balance against a well-funded incumbent, Senator Robach, is so large that the GOP seems to have decided Robach doesn’t need additional help.

Jim Gaughran vs. Carl Marcellino (SD-5): This district may define the red-to-blue wave as it is one of the few in the country that flipped from voting Republican to Democrat between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, perhaps indicating a demographic shift. As of September, Gaughran and Marcellino had roughly the same balance remaining in their campaign accounts, motivating both parties to pony up for the final weeks of the campaign. GOP support gives Marcellino an edge in overall funding that Gaughran’s enthusiastic grassroots supporters can overcome, especially since Marcellino only won by 1.2% in 2016 over Gaughran.

Jen Metzger vs. Annie Rabbitt (SD-42) and Monica Martinez vs. Dean Murray (SD-3): Both of these districts were solid Trump districts in 2016 after having been solid Obama districts in 2012. Both enjoy large Democratic majorities and no incumbents. Metzger and Martinez are also winning the hearts and dollars of individual contributors over their GOP opponents. Metzger’s impressive overall campaign funding advantage of 1.8 times Rabbitt is solid; Martinez’s deficit to Murray of 1.4 times her fundraising can also be surmounted by a strong grassroots effort down the stretch.

Andrew Gounardes vs. Marty Golden (SD-22): This Southern Brooklyn seat represents why many GOP-held districts are vulnerable. Since 2012, when incumbent Republican Senator Golden won his last competitive race, the district’s demographics have changed dramatically. Today, 40% of residents are now people of color, especially Asian and Hispanic; and 43% are immigrants, primarily Asian, eastern European, and Mexican. Residents work in blue-collar industries like transportation, wholesale, and construction. Virtually every racial group earns less than the median for New York State. These changes create the setting for the red-to-blue opportunity for progressive Democrat Gounardes, Golden’s opponent in 2012.

In less than 30 days between the post-primary and the October filings, Gounardes has substantially narrowed the funding gap with Golden after having spent significantly during a hard-fought Democratic primary. Golden’s 7 times funding advantage shunk to 2.3 times with the help of the state Senate campaign fund. The lopsided Democratic registration advantage in the district is a red herring; some of the district’s constituents register as Democrats in order to have a say in New York City primaries, but vote GOP in the general election. Many registered Democrats in the district have voted Republican in mayoral and other elections for years. [Disclosure: I’m a member of Gounardes’ finance committee.]

Aaron Gladd vs. Daphne Jordan (SD-43): This district is a conundrum. The GOP enjoys a strong registration advantage but went for Obama in 2012 and narrowly chose Trump in 2016. Gladd’s advantage in contributors and overall funding sufficiently concerns the GOP enough to drop money to support Jordan.

Lou D’Amaro vs. Phil Boyle (SD-4) and John Mannion vs. Bob Antonacci (SD-50): In both races, the GOP is winning on number of contributors and overall funding balance going into the final weeks of the election. Mannion’s situation may be so bleak that the Democrats have thrown a pile of cash into this race, while the GOP, smelling a potential win, has also invested.

Kevin Thomas vs. Kemp Hannon (SD-6) and Pete Harckham vs. Terrence Murphy (SD-40): It’s very hard to imagine that Thomas and Harckham can overcome the massive campaign balance deficits as compared to their GOP opponents in the waning weeks of the election.

Aren’t there Democrats at risk?
Incumbent Democrats appear safe. John Brooks in Senate District 8 on Long Island is often mentioned as a potential risk, probably due to his narrow 214-vote (0.2%) win in 2016 over then-incumbent GOP Senator Michael Venditto. But now-incumbent Brooks has a solid fundraising lead over his GOP challenger, Jeff Pravato, in a district that went for Obama and Clinton and has a solid Democratic voter registration advantage.

Democrats need to ensure that primary victors Rachel May in SD-53 and Alessandra Biaggi in SD-34, both of whom beat IDC members, continue their momentum through November. The IDC incumbents they defeated are likely to appear on other ballot lines and have significant money. May’s opponent, David Valesky, reported a $340,038 post-primary balance to May’s $41,209, though he has recently declared that he will not campaign in the general. Biaggi’s opponent, former IDC leader Klein, reported a post-primary balance of $497,267 and has not indicated his plans for the general election.

On October 8, former IDC Senator Avella of Queens, who lost in the Democratic primary to John Liu, announced that he will actively campaign in a long-shot attempt to win the November election on the Independence Party and Women’s Equality Party lines. As of the recent filing, Liu had a 3.3 times funding advantage over Avella and an energized and active campaign operation.

So what’s going to happen?
On November 6, Democrats will take control of the New York State Senate with a solid majority that Republicans cannot hold back. This, along with holding onto a wide majority in the Assembly, will likely result in a steady stream of progressive legislation on the governor’s desk to sign, giving Cuomo the opportunity to make history New York has been waiting for.

***
Art Chang is a writer, thinker and strategist at the intersection of technology and government. He is a former board member of New York City’s Campaign Finance Board, where he led the creation of NYC Votes and Voting.NYC. On Twitter @achangnyc.

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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[Updated] Can Democrats win the state Senate? How progressive is Cuomo? New Yorkers are about to find out Wed, 17 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The Path Forward for Cuomo's 'One Real Answer,' Congestion Pricing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7999:the-path-forward-for-cuomo-s-one-real-answer-congestion-pricing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7999:the-path-forward-for-cuomo-s-one-real-answer-congestion-pricing gov cuomo congepric

Cuomo in the midst of his ABNY presentation


One major issue that hung over the 2018 state budget season was congestion pricing, a plan to charge a fee to all motor vehicles entering parts of Manhattan and diverting the revenue toward funding the beleaguered subway system. Governor Andrew Cuomo directed a panel to study the issue, which determined that a congestion pricing scheme should be implemented and offered options for what it could look like, including a three-year, three-phase proposal. Activist groups applied significant public pressure on the governor and the Legislature. Newspaper opinion pages endorsed the idea.

But in the end, only a small part of the plan came to fruition in the budget: a surcharge on for-hire vehicles, including traditional taxis and app-based rides, entering the Manhattan business district. New charges on other cars and trucks did not come to pass. Activists excoriated Cuomo, while the governor blamed the Legislature. Cuomo said that an important first step had been passed and that he would work on additional steps in the future. That process would be led by a budget-created advisory “workgroup” made up of appointees from various stakeholders, including the governor, legislative leaders, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Since the March budget deal, the chorus calling for congestion pricing -- both to reduce street traffic in Manhattan and to secure a steady revenue stream to help support repair of the faltering subways -- has only grown, in number and volume.

Now, supporters of congestion pricing, from activists to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and many others, want to ensure that it makes it into the next budget. They see a potentially more favorable environment, though a lot will be determined by the results of November’s elections, and by the pressure they put on those running.

“It's my impression that pretty much everyone running for office right now at least in the city supports congestion pricing, so I think that puts us in a position to win this year,” said Rebecca Bailin, the political director of the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, referring to candidates for state Assembly and Senate.

Riders Alliance is a part of a new coalition, announced earlier this month, consisting of a diverse group of advocacy organizations, including those focused on the environment, immigrants, social justice, low-income communities and communities of color, and others, organized to push congestion pricing over the finish line. Between now and budget season, the groups will engage in both public demonstrations and private meetings with legislators in an attempt to steer the Legislature and governor toward implementing a full congestion pricing plan.

“We are all so reliant on our subways and buses,” Bailin said. “It is a social justice issue because it can either be a barrier or an entryway to economic opportunity, to cultural access in this city, to all the things that the city has to offer.”

The results of the recent primary elections have renewed hope that 2019 could finally be the year.

Discussion of congestion pricing and funding and fixing the MTA was a centerpiece of the Cuomo-Cynthia Nixon primary, with the governor regularly pointing to congestion pricing and the new Fast Forward plan put forth by MTA leadership to upgrade the transit system. Six of the eight members of the recently-defunct Independent Democratic Conference of the state Senate were defeated by insurgent Democrats who largely staked out more strongly supportive positions on congestion pricing than the incumbents.

Some of those defeated, like Senators Jesse Hamilton and Jose Peralta, were supporters of the scheme and were replaced by other supporters; on the other hand, cautious supporter John Liu defeated a vocal opponent, Senator Tony Avella, who is continuing his run in the general election on the Independence and Women’s Equality lines. Even Republican Senator Martin Golden of Southern Brooklyn, a perennial foe of transit and street safety activists, calls himself a supporter of congestion pricing.

"The Senate, whether controlled by the Democrats or the Republicans, is always a complicated picture,” said Alex Matthiessen, the founder of the Move NY campaign, whose comprehensive congestion pricing plan has served as a model for legislative proposals since 2015, in an email. “But the replacement of the IDC and many of its members with a crop of progressive, hungry and decidedly pro-congestion pricing senators-in-waiting portends well for this effort. But regardless of partisan control of the legislature there’s one constant: city transportation is a disaster and it’s on lawmakers to act.”

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the likely majority leader if the Democrats take the Senate, represents a suburban district and does not have a clear position on congestion pricing. A report by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign found that only 3.9 percent of Stewart-Cousins’ constituents, those driving alone into Manhattan’s proposed congestion pricing zone, would be affected by the charge. Stewart-Cousins’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

In the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx is a supporter of congestion pricing, though some advocates criticized him last year for not pushing hard enough for the proposal. Heastie’s office also did not respond to a request for comment.

Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, who served as deputy minority leader prior to the reunification of the IDC and may return to a deputy leader role in January, was once a skeptic of congestion pricing, but is now a supporter. He also supports Mayor de Blasio’s millionaires’ tax proposal, which he says can help fill the gap left between what’s funded by congestion pricing and what a comprehensive transit fix will actually cost.

“A Democratic Senate would certainly prioritize the stability and funding of the MTA, which the Republican Senate has not done,” Gianaris said in an interview. “So I think it’s a prerequisite to get to a realistic end to have a Democratic Senate. As for whether the Senate would embrace congestion pricing, beyond those of us that already do, I can’t speak for others. We’re gonna have to have those conversations. I don’t even know which senators I’m going to be looking at, because we’re hoping to pick up a lot more senators in a couple weeks.”

Cuomo, too, has only attached himself more to congestion pricing. At an event hosted by the Association for a Better New York on October 4, Cuomo said that since neither God, the city, nor the state would cough up $33 billion needed for the Fast Forward plan, “the only realistic option is congestion pricing, we have to get it done, we have to get it done next year, I need your help.”

For now, Cuomo has activists somewhat convinced.

“I am optimistic based on what he said about the need to fund the MTA,” Bailin said of Cuomo’s ABNY remarks.

Cuomo’s FixNYC panel recommended, in a January report, a broad but “phased” congestion pricing program. The for-hire vehicle surcharge, phase 2, passed, but other parts and phases of the plan did not, leaving many boosters disappointed, and some accusing Cuomo of a “bait-and-switch.”

“The Governor single-handedly revived the idea of congestion pricing and succeeded in passing the first phase of the FixNYC plan including a fee on for-hire vehicles that will go into effect next year as well as empaneling a new MTA advisory group that will provide recommendations before end of year as we develop the executive budget proposal,” Cuomo spokesperson Peter Ajemian said in a statement. “The Governor has been clear congestion pricing is the most realistic way to help fund the NYCT modernization plan and will continue leading the charge to convince legislators to pass it next year.”

The new advisory group is the MTA Sustainability Advisory Workgroup, which formally met for the first time last month and is tasked with coming up with a comprehensive plan for funding a major transit overhaul plan like Fast Forward by December 31. Though created in the enacted budget that passed in March, the panel’s members were not named until August, after Riders Alliance publicly called for the appointments. The group’s fairly tight timeline is compounded by the sheer immensity of the task before it.

But, the workgroup represents a much broader array of perspectives than FixNYC, which was an entirely Cuomo-appointed panel. The panel consists of two Cuomo appointees: CEO of the Partnership for New York City Kathryn Wylde and Metro North Commuter Council member Rhonda Herman; two appointees of congestion pricing skeptic Mayor Bill de Blasio: former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Senator Gianaris; one appointee of MTA Chair Joe Lhota: Vice Chair Fernando Ferrer; two from the Senate: former City Council Member Andrew Eristoff and former DOT engineer Michael Shamma; and two from the Assembly: Assemblymembers Amy Paulin and Michael Benedetto.

“It is a group of well-meaning individuals who are trying to make recommendations to solve the MTA’s funding crisis,” Gianaris said. “And the MTA crisis in general, regardless of funding. I think efficiency is one of the other things we’re going to be looking at as well.”

Even de Blasio appears to be warming to the idea of congestion pricing, evidenced by his appointment of two supporters to the panel.

The panel has met three times so far, and Wylde, the chair, says that the meetings will occur weekly or biweekly until the end of the year, when a set of recommendations must be produced. The initial focus has been determining what the funding needs of the MTA are and how congestion pricing could form part of a solution, but the panel is empowered to go well beyond that in its recommended solutions.

“FixNYC was really focused on congestion pricing and how to implement it,” Gianaris said. “That is just one element of what this group is doing.”

Wylde elaborated on that point.

“It may be funding mechanisms, it may be reforms,” Wylde said in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “Structural and other reforms in how the MTA raises its own revenues. And then all the issues associated with congestion pricing: 1) to build support, and 2) to achieve the dual goals of new revenue generation and traffic reduction. So those have been the focus of the conversation so far.”

New York City Transit President Andy Byford’s much-talked about Fast Forward plan to modernize the subway system has been projected to cost roughly $40 billion over ten years, though Cuomo has used the $33 billion figure. Wylde said that unanimity on a true cost does not exist on the panel, and that part of the panel’s focus is in determining what it would be.

Congestion pricing remains the crux of the negotiations, and its status as a major part of the long-term transit solution appears to be agreed upon. But most analysts agree that congestion pricing would not alone cover the massive cost of fixing the transit system, and that other mechanisms are necessary as well. Estimates for annual congestion pricing revenue vary, and depend on what the program actually looks like, but have been in the $1 billion range.

The new advisory panel’s recommended solutions could, theoretically, include any of a variety of measures beyond congestion pricing -- including labor reforms, changes to the MTA’s budgeting process, an added surcharge to high-income earners’ taxes, fare hikes, or value capture -- to address long-term funding and spending issues.

“We will be careful about mission creep,” Wylde said. “The primary goal here is to identify the gap and make specific recommendations on how to deal with it, and most specifically, it’s to try and resolve an approach to congestion pricing. And so, I think that’s the focus, and to the extent that the gap exceeds the revenues that one can project from congestion pricing, looking at other sources of funding or cost reduction.”

The panel’s work will be informed by that of outside experts and advocates, and by previous plans such as FixNYC and Move NY, as well as by the expertise that the panel members themselves have from work on these issues. Political questions will come into consideration as well, especially considering the presence of three current and two former elected officials. The nature of the panel’s makeup -- that numerous stakeholders, rather than just one, appointed its members -- may allow for a broader consensus to be formed in such a way that is palatable to all parties.

“To date, I don't think party politics are playing a role,” Wylde said. “Obviously, the political sensibilities of all members of the group play into what they think is realistic and what can be accomplished. So, it's a politically sophisticated group, but not one that's just gonna be at the mercy of party politics.”

The November elections will, of course, hold significant influence over what happens in the next budget season, though Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive, does support congestion pricing. However, if Republicans maintain the majority in the State Senate, they may put the brakes on the momentum toward implementation.

Advocates are, at present, optimistic about the panel and prospects despite the initial hiccups.

“It’s important there’s a panel in place that represents the interests of various government entities whose constituents are affected by our transportation crisis,” Matthiessen said. “As long as the Workgroup delivers the report by the December 31 deadline, the group’s work will be worthwhile.”

And though the December 31 deadline may seem tight for such a complex assignment, the stakeholders are confident that it will get done.

“It may be a broad topic,” Wylde said, “but it’s not a new topic.”

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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The Path Forward for Cuomo's 'One Real Answer,' Congestion Pricing Tue, 16 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Democrats in Swing Districts Run On, Not From, Single-Payer Health Care http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7995:despite-lack-of-support-from-cuomo-democrats-in-swing-districts-run-on-not-from-single-payer-health-care http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7995:despite-lack-of-support-from-cuomo-democrats-in-swing-districts-run-on-not-from-single-payer-health-care andrewcuomo affor

Gov. Cuomo & Long Island Democratic Senate candidates (photo: @andrewcuomo)


Since the Affordable Care Act has failed to tame the beast that is America’s private health insurance system, and a new presidential administration is actively hostile to even that modest attempt at near-universal coverage, activists and many Democrats in New York have recently come to embrace a way forward. Single-payer, state-government-administered health care coverage has become something of a rallying cry for progressive activists in New York even as Governor Andrew Cuomo has argued it’s a program better-suited for the federal government to tackle.

While often thought of as a politically risky issue to embrace outside of solidly progressive areas, candidates in swing districts across the state are carrying the torch for single-payer and calling it a morally correct thing to do that will also save the state money. And with criticism of the proposal from Republicans, the issue has become a flashpoint in the battle for control of the New York State Senate, the GOP’s only source of power at the state level and the key for Democrats hoping to enact a long list of progressive goals.

The New York Health Act, the proposed law that would set up single-payer health insurance in New York, has gained momentum in the state Senate after years as an Assembly-focused effort. Every Democrat in the upper chamber of the state Legislature, where the party is in the minority by one seat, signed on to the bill last session.

The push saw added attention as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon made passing the bill a centerpiece of her campaign, although unlike on other issues like legalizing marijuana, Nixon didn’t appear to push Cuomo left on healthcare. But while Nixon and New York City Democrats -- the lead sponsors of the NYHA are Manhattan Assembly Member Dick Gottfried and Bronx Senator Gustavo Rivera -- have received the most attention for their embrace of the plan, Democratic state Senate candidates in the Hudson Valley and Long Island are also running on the passage of the bill despite the risk that an embrace of big government socialism could be a liability in their swing districts.

Conventional wisdom about the relative conservatism in many areas outside of New York City, and Cuomo’s own reluctance to embrace statewide single-payer (during his debate with Nixon he said it is a good idea “in theory,” but that it would double the state’s tax burden and he supports single-payer at the federal level), would suggest that Democrats in tight races would avoid the New York Health Act. Prominent Cuomo-led events where he’s endorsed suburban Democrats haven’t included mention the bill at all, instead focusing on issues like the continuation of the two percent property tax cap, the passage of the Reproductive Health Act and a “red flag” gun control law, and funding an effort to fight the MS-13 gang.

As Cuomo avoided the issue, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan brought up the specter of socialism and high taxes in an op-ed column arguing for the GOP’s continued control of the state Senate. “The Democrat Conference vows to enact single payer health care, and so do all the candidates they are running. Medicaid for All would double the state’s budget while taking away Medicare from our seniors. You cannot support a cap on spending and a permanent cap on property taxes, while supporting budget-doubling policies like socialized medicine.”

But for some suburban Democrats, single-payer is as much of a winning issue as any other. “There's definite support [for the New York Health Act],” said candidate Pete Harckham, running to unseat Republican Terrence Murphy in the Senate’s 40th District, in the Hudson Valley. “People are tired of fighting with insurance companies, hospitals are tired of fighting with insurance companies, doctors are tired of fighting with insurance companies. So I think there's a very high appetite for the discussion and the dialogue with the New York Health Act as the starting place.”

Jen Metzger, running against Ann Rabbit in the 42nd District for the retiring Senator John Bonancic’s Hudson Valley seat, also said that she’s heard support for the bill out on the trail. “I come right out and say I'm a supporter of the New York Health Act and no one has said yet that it's a terrible idea or a scary idea,” Metzger told Gotham Gazette. “People understand that this system is not working and that major change is needed.”

“We've got to put every option on the table, because we're coming to a breaking point,” John Mannion, running against Bob Antonacci in the race to replace retiring Senator John DeFrancisco in western New York’s 50th District, told Gotham Gazette.

Both Metzger and Harckham don’t hedge their support either; each candidate told Gotham Gazette that they view healthcare as a human right and believe in a single-payer insurance system. It’s a view that’s become common enough among Democrats that Andrew Gounardes, running against state Senator Marty Golden in a relatively conservative district in southern Brooklyn, said, “frankly I don’t think it’s out of the mainstream to talk about universal health care in the year 2018,” during a previous interview with Gotham Gazette. Cuomo has also endorsed Gounardes, at a rally in Brooklyn where there was no mention of single-payer healthcare.

Support for the bill, even in districts currently held by Republicans, may not be as much of a liability in a wave year for the candidates who’ve expressed their support for it. The 40th and 50th Districts went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by more than 5 points each, though the 42nd District went for Donald Trump by 5 points.

Gounardes and his primary opponent Ross Barkan were hardly the only New York City Democrats banging the drum for the New York Health Act this primary season. It was one of a slew of issues that challengers to the former members of the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) regularly used to explain how the incumbents had not represented progressive values while forming a power-sharing agreement with the Republican conference.

Jessica Ramos promoted single-payer on her website, Alessandra Biaggi explained her support for it using her own father’s Parkinson’s Disease as an example of how the current healthcare system was failing, and Zellnor Myrie promoted a recently-released RAND Corporation study that suggested the New York Health Act would save the state money over time -- all three of them defeated former IDC members in the primary.

Even John Brooks, a Long Island Democrat running a tough re-election campaign for his seat on Long Island states on his website that he supports the New York Health Act, and has called affordable health insurance “a right, not a privilege.” Harckham though, said that the bill has appeal outside of the city because “the economic and the healthcare hardship is the same in the suburbs as it is in the city.”

Just under 5 percent of New Yorkers lack health insurance, according to a recent report by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and 7 million New Yorkers are receiving Medicaid, the federal program administered by the state with localities. Beyond the rhetoric of health insurance as a right and not a privilege, these Democratic candidates are also insisting the move to a single-payer system would actually save taxpayers and businesses money in the long run. “Shifting to a single-payer system would actually reduce property taxes, because it would reduce the cost of local taxes and government costs from how they pay for their employees' health insurance,” Metzger, a member of the Rosendale Town Council, told Gotham Gazette.

This is of course disputed by state Senate Republicans, who have cast the possible change to a single-payer system as a big government takeover of the healthcare sector. “You can’t hold the line on taxes and spending when you’re calling for creation of a new government-run health care system that would double the size of the state budget and cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars more than they already pay,” Senate GOP spokesperson Scott Reif said in response to a Democratic pledge -- signed by Cuomo and Long Island Democratic Senate candidates -- that included a promise to keep property taxes low, but made no mention of single-payer health care.

The RAND Corporation study concluded the change to a single-payer system in New York could (if certain assumptions were made true) save the state money in the long run, as even the bill’s primary sponsor in the Assembly, Gottfried, has said, that payroll and other taxes would need to increase to pay for the new system. The New York Health Act legislation itself doesn’t provide an exact way to pay for the single-payer system, instead authorizing a commission to figure out how to fund the plan should the bill pass. But Mannion posited that it’s not as if health insurance costs are affordable or helpful at the moment.

“I spoke to someone, a small business owner in my district, who said the entire health insurance premium he paid was $300,000 for his employees six years ago, and this year alone it increased by $300,000,” Mannion said, in response to a question on whether he’s prepared to explain tax increases necessary for a single-payer system.

Still, some Democrats are wary to discuss their views on the issue, even if they list it as an issue they’re running on. Jim Gaughran, running against Republican Senator Carl Marcellino in Long Island’s 5th District, called healthcare a right and not a privilege on his website, but did not respond to a request for comment, even after he was reached on his cell phone and promised a return call that did not materialize. The same situation came up with candidates Karen Smythe, whose website calls for universal single-payer, and Pat Strong, who said she would pass the New York Health Act. In the case of Assembly Member James Skoufis, running to represent the 39th Senate District, he’s already voted for the bill more than once in his time in the Assembly, but doesn’t list is as one of his main issues on his campaign website. Skoufis released a campaign ad touting his a fight with insurance companies on behalf of a constituent, but his campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on whether or not he would support the New York Health Act in the Senate the way he did in the Assembly.

The candidates who spoke to Gotham Gazette did insist that even if they won and Democrats capture a majority in the state Senate, voters shouldn’t expect an immediate passage of the bill in the first budget session.

“During the gubernatorial primary, Cynthia Nixon said ‘Oh just pass [the bill] and pay for it,’ but that's not how you pass and craft legislation,” Harckham said, referring to when Nixon told the Daily News editorial board “Pass it and then figure out how to fund it” when its members asked her about the New York Health Act. “My starting point is New York Health, and let's sit down with the experts. The Assembly has passed this version, so it's pretty far along, but that doesn't mean the Senate can't alter it,” she continued. “Let's do our due diligence, with the goal of providing universal single-payer coverage for all New Yorkers.”

Harckham did say, though, that he felt “two years of legislative time” is long enough to debate and pass a bill, which he called a first-term priority on his website (state legislative terms are two years long).

“The Assembly bill has to be revamped, and we have get it right,” Mannion said. A spokesperson for Mannion later told Gotham Gazette that “getting it right” meant that Mannion believed “a transition from the current system to universal coverage as per the bill would likely require a transitional period in which purchasing into a Medicare-for-all like system would be a possible step, including offering that option on the NY State of Health exchange website.” That website is currently where New Yorkers can purchase health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.

And even though the governor has said he prefers single-payer on a federal level, Metzger said there might be hope of convincing him to embrace the New York Health Act by playing to his love of New York being first. “I think we can show that [single-payer] can be done, I think there's a lot of value in demonstration value,” Metzger said. “It's been these academic debates in this country for a long time. If anyone can do it, I think New York can do it.”

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

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Democrats in Swing Districts Run On, Not From, Single-Payer Health Care Mon, 15 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Is this the Election that Kills Fusion Voting in New York? http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7984:is-this-the-election-that-kills-fusion-voting-in-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7984:is-this-the-election-that-kills-fusion-voting-in-new-york govcuomo office pr

(photo via the Governor's office)


As New York lumbers out of its double primary season and rolls into a general election that’s being closely watched for its potential to give Democrats control of the state Senate and therefore the entire Legislature, another issue more central to the democratic process itself is being debated in pockets across the state.

Fusion voting, the practice of allowing one candidate to take multiple political party ballot lines in a single election and aggregate the votes received on each, is under the gun as both Democratic establishment figures and progressive activists are reaching the conclusion that the practice does more harm than good to New York’s democracy. Yet, this isn’t the first time in the Andrew Cuomo era fusion has faced a threat, much less the first time some in the state have looked to dismantle the practice, which continues to have its defenders.

New York put a dent in fusion voting in the mid-20th century with the Wilson-Pakula Law, passed largely in reaction to the victories of the suspected Communist-linked American Labor Party’s Representative Vito Marcantonio, who ran with multiple nominations including the Democratic and Republican lines on his way to victories in his East Harlem district. The law made it illegal for a candidate to run on the line of a party for which they weren’t registered, unless party leadership gave the candidate express permission through what is now commonly referred to as “a Wilson-Pakula.”

Smaller parties still exerted influence sometimes in New York though, as seen in John Lindsay’s successful re-election bid in 1969 on the Liberal Party line, undertaken after he lost the Republican primary. Decades later, Rudy Giuliani won his 1993 election thanks in part to the Liberal Party endorsement over incumbent Democratic Mayor David Dinkins. The party’s decision was largely seen as a power move by its leader, Ray Harding, and while it got Harding’s sons jobs in the new administration, the Giuliani endorsement also put into motion the eventual demise of the party, which lost its ballot line after endorsing Andrew Cuomo for governor in 2002 and failing to get 50,000 votes, and the rise of the Working Families Party, one of the most influential fusion parties in the state, along with the Conservative and Independence parties.

In the aftermath of the Liberal Party decision to endorse Giuliani, Dan Cantor, Bob Masters and Jon Kest convinced activism organization ACORN and several New York labor unions to join forces under the new Working Families Party umbrella and endorse Peter Vallone for governor in 1998. The endorsement, the beginning of the WFP’s blend of pragmatism and progressivism as American Prospect noted, worked as Vallone got just over the 50,000 votes on the WFP line the party needed to secure a statewide ballot line for at least the next four years. The party’s existence as a left flank with the Democrats allowed voters who wanted to express those left tendencies to have a voice in the Democratic firmament, and the WFP has managed to elect a City Council member, Letitia James, on their line and put their cross-endorsed stamp of approval on Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, James -- now the Public Advocate and likely next Attorney General -- and members of the City Council Progressive Caucus. Candidates have regularly secured thousands more votes on the WFP line than there are registered members of the WFP eligible, meaning many Democrats choose to vote WFP to indicate their support for the party and its efforts to move Democrats left. By having a ballot line to offer, the WFP is able to influence Democratic candidates on its issues.

But the WFP’s victories on a citywide level haven’t been replicated on the statewide level, at least in terms of influencing progressive bête noire Andrew Cuomo. From the start of his successful gubernatorial runs, Cuomo has had a fraught relationship with the party, though he’s now on its ballot line for the third straight election.

Unlike the previous two elections in which he got the WFP line, Cuomo and the WFP’s mutual frustration with each other boiled over into the party nominating Cynthia Nixon in an effort to either shock the world and have their chosen leftist as the Democratic nominee or at least push Cuomo leftward, and Cuomo allegedly threatening progressive organizations that had been critical of him. The feud between the two sides cooled down enough after the very heated primary to allow the WFP to offer Cuomo its line in November, though -- in an indication of the messiness of fusion voting -- having to move Nixon off the line and into an Assembly election spot has led to other headaches.

The party had a well-publicized argument with Joe Crowley over his refusal to leave its ballot line after it endorsed him over Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, since under New York State law candidates can only be removed from a ballot line if they transfer to another race, move out of their district, or die, a trio of options Crowley found unappealing. And while the WFP notched a series of victories in efforts to depose six the of eight members of the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference, some of those members are lingering or outright running in the general election on ballot on lines like those of the Independence Party and Women’s Equality Party.

While only Tony Avella has announced his intention to mount a vigorous general election campaign, Democratic Party bosses were rumored to have dangled judgeships to Senators Jeff Klein and Jesse Hamilton in order to persuade them to step away from the ballots, blatantly undemocratic horse-trading that also would have rewarded a state Senator, Klein, who was accused earlier this year of forcibly kissing a staffer. Those moves have not been made, and neither Klein or Hamilton has officially declared their general election intentions.

Perhaps sensing an opportunity to assert their power, the Democratic establishment across New York is making noise about ending fusion.

“Call it CON-fusion voting” Democratic consultant Bob Liff wrote in the Daily News in the wake of the Crowley situation, calling the practice transactional as opposed to reformist as it exists in New York. The practice only exists as an avenue for patronage, wrote Joshua Spivak of the Hugh Carey Institute for Government Reform, and third parties could actually grow without fusion.

Norman Green, chair of the Chautauqua County Democratic Party, wrote that the practice encourages corruption on a local level and a tail wags the dog situation on a statewide level, and the Erie County Democratic Town Chairs Association called for an end to Wilson-Pakula because of what they said resulted in overstuffed ballots featuring the same candidates on a series of different ballot lines.

State Senator Diane Savino, one of the original founders of the Working Families Party and Independent Democratic Conference, who in an ironic twist saw the WFP’s organizing prowess help unseat six of her IDC allies, told the Daily News that a Democratic Senate majority should explore including ending fusion voting as part of electoral reform efforts because the practice pulls candidates too far left or right.

A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo, who cites election reform as a top 2019 priority, did not respond to a question on whether ending fusion voting would be on his agenda if he wins reelection this year.

So is fusion on the way out?

“It's nothing new,” Mike Long, the chair of the New York State Conservative Party, told Gotham Gazette. “The Conservative Party has been in business since 1962, I've heard those cries over the 50-some-odd years. I hear those cries every governor's race for sure, especially when independent parties nominate someone other than those who think they should be crowned.”

As it typically does, the Conservative Party has cross-endorsed the Republican nominee for governor, Marc Molinaro. Like the WFP on the left, the Conservative Party is seen on the right as an important seal of approval and a force that pulls away from the middle.

Recent history is on Long’s side. Governor Cuomo floated the idea of nixing Wilson-Pakula in 2013 in the wake of a bribery scandal involving Malcolm Smith attempting to buy his way onto the Republican ballot line for the New York City mayoral election.

The effort ran into resistance from the smaller parties and reform groups like Common Cause New York and the Brennan Center for Justice and never went anywhere. And Bill Lipton, the Working Families Party’s political director in New York, says current anti-fusion sentiment is misplaced, especially given there are other reforms the state can make.

“We think fusion is a good idea that allows a minority viewpoint to have a say, and that gives voters who don’t find their views fully represented by either major party a political home,” he told Gotham Gazette. “The real issue is the bizarre set of laws that govern how candidates can get off the ballot, and those do need to be fixed,” Lipton said, referring to the die, move, or change races stipulations that allow someone to come off a ballot.

But this year’s frustration with the practice among progressives and good government advocates doesn’t stop at ballot law shenanigans, and extends to critiques about third parties run like local fiefdoms and prominent but ideology-free parties using fusion to gain prominence.

“This isn't about pushing third parties and their values,” said Rachel Barnhart, a journalist turned politician who’s run for several offices in Rochester and is currently working on Stephanie Miner’s independent bid for governor, about fusion voting. “It's about keeping a place at the table, it's about power-brokering. The Working Families Party has given perfunctory interviews and then just given the nod to the person they already know. These parties that exist to just extract money from powerful parties, and it handicaps people trying to defeat the establishment.”

Barnhart had especially harsh words for the WFP-endorsed Joe Morelle, the Rochester Assembly member and current Democratic nominee to replace the late Louise Slaughter in Congress, and his relationship with the Conservative Party of Monroe County, suggesting there was some kind of agreement between the candidate and party to make sure he often ran unopposed in his Assembly races, a frequent circumstance in those races. Democrats have a big registration advantage in Morelle’s district, and he has run unopposed for years, while state campaign finance records show donations given to the Conservative Party of Monroe County by both Morelle and various local Democratic Party organizations.

“It might have been a personal donation or whatever, I know he was friendly with the party leader up there, but I can’t speak to why he gave money to the Conservative Party,” Long said when asked about the donations. Told that Morelle ran unopposed, Long said, “I guess two and two makes four, maybe that’s why he donated some money.”

Using local parties as a kind of personal fiefdom is enough of a concern for even some allies of groups that rely on fusion.

“The baseline position among [good government groups] is fusion voting is a bad thing,” said Gus Christensen of the organization No IDC, which helped lead campaign efforts against the former IDC members. “Forgetting whether it benefits Democrats or Republicans in whatever election, it empowers some deeply corrupt and non-representative individuals who run these parties and small groups.”

Even fusion advocates see the occasional weakness in the system. “You can look at the Conservative Party and get a platform from us and know where we stand on all the issues,” Long said, when asked about the issue of minor parties and ideology. “You can look at the Working Families Party, our philosophical opposite, and see where they stand. No one knows where the Reform Party stands or what issues are important to them. It's pretty hard when a party endorses far left and in the next breath they support very conservative candidates. Certainly the Independence Party doesn't have a whole host of issues or an agenda they're trying to promote.”

New York’s Independence Party has come under criticism for years due to what critics say is a membership driven more by confusion from voters who think they’re registering merely as “independent” -- the party boasts over 436,612 active registered voters, outpacing all the other parties in New York except Democrats and Republicans. It has also been run by fringe political figures who’ve gotten the ear of mainstream candidates banking on the almost half a million people registered with the party, prominence that inspired a weeklong Daily News investigation into the party.

And while Christensen dismissed the chances of any of the former IDC members mounting a successful challenge on a third party line, he said when it comes to statewide offices, the WFP’s clout was neutralized by the existence of these other third parties.

“The pull of the Independence and Reform parties for the more right-wing members of our party, they pull people like Andrew Cuomo to the right in a way that's much more significant to the lives of New Yorkers because he can't stop hearing the siren song of the Independence and Reform endorsements. So I think there's an emerging view that it's a net-negative for progressive politics in New York State. That as much as there's a benefit from the WFP getting to use fusion voting, it’s more than offset by the damage done by the Independence Party and the Reform Party.”

It’s a weakness in the coalition-building attempts that has some people demanding more wholesale change. The WFP’s endorsement of Cuomo crossed from pragmatism to cynicism for some, including Green Party gubernatorial nominee Howie Hawkins, who issued a statement calling the WFP’s attempt the pull the Democratic Party left a “futile effort” and invited socialist and progressive voters to fill in the circle for him instead.

Barnhart is also challenging third parties to stand on their own. “New York State has kept this because keeping fusion voting means you're keeping both [major] parties strong. They don't want to have to deal with a strong independent candidate. You never know what could happen with a third party, and that's why New York State makes it so difficult to establish a ballot line and that's why they do fusion voting. Because these third parties just wind up being cogs of a party machine.”

It’s not as simple as that, though, according to Lipton, who said the realities of America’s electoral system are what make fusion necessary. “Our first-past-the-post electoral system doesn’t exist in most countries,” he said. “It’s arguably undemocratic, because even a party that gets 49 percent of the vote sees no representation. Fusion is good for democracy because it gives minority viewpoints a fair shot to participate in the electoral process.”

And that current reality of an electoral system that lays out the choice between being an unheard minority or a spoiler means that fusion as practiced by the Working Families and Conservative parties can also come in for praise by good government activists.

"I think that the Working Families Party and the Conservative Party are the best example of how fusion can work and is beneficial,” Alex Carmada, the senior policy adviser for Reinvent Albany, told Gotham Gazette. “They're true in their beliefs, they've existed for a long time, and they don't play the role of spoilers."

The relatively new Reform Party in New York has indeed endorsed a strange mix of candidates, including Molinaro and Democratic Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, but it does have several clearly outlined principles, mostly focused on government reform, like term limits for elected officials. The party, which is not formally affiliated with the national Reform Party by the larger group’s choice, was only created in 2014 by then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, who launched the Stop Common Core Party, earned 50,000 votes on the line, then changed its name to Reform after the election. It has just 1802 active voters registered as Reform across the entire state, but it has a ballot line.

Something somewhat similar took place with Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Party, which he created in 2014 as an election gimmick and to hurt the WFP, even as he appeared on both ballot lines, along with the Democratic and Independence party lines. Cuomo earned just over 50,000 on the WEP line and will again appear on it this year, though he does not appear to have mentioned it yet this year on the campaign trail (he has loaned it some money, however, from his campaign account).

Carmada said it’s all life under fusion.

"The Stop Common Core Party is the equivalent of the WEP, an of-the-moment election issue that becomes a party and then its usefulness diminishes by the next election. Especially for Stop Common Core, the original message was not sustainable, but the system we have in New York encourages the creation of these of-the-moment parties," Carmada said.

If the end of fusion is near though, Long at least was copacetic about the future of the Conservative Party.

“Just because the insiders do away with fusion voting, doesn't mean the minor parties go out of business,” he said. “We’ll run our own candidates for governor, United States Senate. We did that in the beginning and we can do it again. The Conservative Party has done that off and on quite often.”

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

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Note - this article has been updated. 

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Is this the Election that Kills Fusion Voting in New York? Thu, 11 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Larry Sharpe, Libertarian nominee for Governor http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7986:max-murphy-podcast-larry-sharpe-libertarian-nominee-for-governor http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7986:max-murphy-podcast-larry-sharpe-libertarian-nominee-for-governor mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


October 10, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Larry Sharpe, Libertarian nominee for Governor

larry sharpe wbai 277Larry Sharpe, the Libertarian nominee for Governor, joined the show do discuss his platform, which includes decentralizing government, slashing the state budget, and overhauling the state's education system. He discussed his views on gun control, funding the MTA, and more.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Larry Sharpe, Libertarian nominee for Governor Wed, 10 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Governor Cuomo Must Fulfill His Own Expressed Commitment to Lifting Wages for Struggling Workers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7981:governor-cuomo-must-fulfill-his-own-expressed-commitment-to-lifting-wages-for-struggling-workers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7981:governor-cuomo-must-fulfill-his-own-expressed-commitment-to-lifting-wages-for-struggling-workers govcuomo portauthority

Gov. Cuomo pushes for a higher Port Authority minimum wage (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)


Last week, Governor Cuomo publicly called on Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's Board of Commissioners to pass a higher minimum wage for airport workers. While I, other elected officials, and numerous nonprofit advocates were pleased to see this increase approved, Governor Cuomo has still not fulfilled his commitment to another vital workforce in our state, the human services sector.

Hundreds of thousands of human service employees – the vast majority of whom are contracted by the state – remain unbelievably underpaid, making approximately $23,000-$29,600 per year, with no wage increases since 2010. These rates fall well below the $19 hourly wage the governor called for at the Port Authority, and are also below the average income required to meet the basic living needs of a family. The human services sector is a group comprised of approximately 332,000 New Yorkers – 80% of whom are women, and 50% individuals of color – who provide life changing services to New Yorkers from all walks of life, and are essential to our communities.

These are workers who care for our children, assist those with mental health issues, ensure survivors of domestic violence can rebuild their lives, and care for our aging relatives. Yet they are left with a wage that does not provide economic security of their own. For years, the work of employees in the nonprofit sector has been undervalued; the salaries in the sector are lower than comparable positions in other fields, many of the positions require a college degree but do not compensate accordingly, and stagnant wages result in high turnover.

Not only have state contracts failed to fully fund the wages of these employees, but Governor Cuomo refuses to include common-sense cost of living adjustments (COLA) that would allow these employees to earn a livable wage.

We have fought every single year since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011 for a statutory cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for human services employees. To this end, our chief executive has consistently and uncompromisingly deferred from providing any support in this initiative. This inaction has cost the human services workforce almost $500 million in lost wages. We have seen a largely consistent public commitment from the governor in his support of raising wages across New York. This was demonstrated in his remarks last week, in his championing of the $15 minimum wage, and through his outspoken support of pay equity for women. In light of these strong positions, we expect Governor Cuomo to apply this effort to increase the very limited salaries of human service workers.

When this wage increase for Port Authority workers was enacted, the governor stated that “it is paramount that we have a well-trained, secure, stable workforce…Invest in your most important asset, which is your workforce. Fairness, diligence, good business practices all bring one to the same obvious conclusion. Invest in the workforce, raise the minimum wage to $19 over five years. It is the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do."

We agree, Governor Cuomo. It is time for our state’s leader to make good on his own words, and fund the human services COLA in the next state budget to ensure living wages for this workforce which we our state depends on so heavily in order to build strong communities.

The governor said it best himself: “It is the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do.”

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Andrew Hevesi is a member of the New York State Assembly, representing parts of Queens in Assembly District 28. On Twitter @AndrewHevesi.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Governor Cuomo Must Fulfill His Own Expressed Commitment to Lifting Wages for Struggling Workers Tue, 09 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Cuomo Challengers Level Critiques; Will Anything Stick? http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7983:cuomo-challengers-levy-critiques-will-anything-stick http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7983:cuomo-challengers-levy-critiques-will-anything-stick Cuomo made in the shade

Gov. Cuomo (photo: Mike Groll/Govenor's Office)


With less than a month till voters go to the polls on November 6, it appears Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has little cause for worry as he seeks a third term. His favorability among voters may have dropped but public polling has shown him holding consistently wide leads over his opponents. His campaign war chest, though massively depleted by a bruising primary battle, still remains formidable at $9 million-plus, dwarfing his four general election competitors. And he is instantly recognizable to most voters, unlike his challengers.

Though Cuomo saw some of his weaknesses -- including a crumbling subway system and an epidemic of corruption in state government -- exposed and prodded in the primary by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, a first-time candidate who managed to get more than half a million votes, he nonetheless came through it in relatively good shape, albeit with some egg on his face, defeating Nixon by 30 points with nearly a million votes of his own as primary turnout surged.

Despite several gaffes and scandals, questionable use of his government powers for apparent campaign purposes, and an egregious mailer that falsely smeared Nixon as anti-semitic, Cuomo emerged after primary day with an emboldened sense of his accomplishments, support, and chances at a third term. He also turned the corner in a campaign already geared largely toward opposing President Donald Trump, now with the opportunity to directly tie his main competitor to the president who remains unpopular in his home state.

With few signs that voters, at least Democratic ones, will punish him for a litany of troubles associated with his administration and his failure to have passed progressive legislation urgently demanded by an energized base, he is surging ahead in a race that is his to lose. While Cuomo has said little directly to make amends with those 500,000-plus Democrats who voted for Nixon, one major step he has taken is to begin following through on a pledge to help flip the New York State Senate to Democratic control, and help flip New York seats in the House of Representatives as part of a national effort to give the chamber a Democratic majority.

As Cuomo woos the state’s 6.2 million Democratic voters and its 2.6 million independents, among others -- including some of the 2.8 million Republicans who may like aspects of his moderate record -- the governor’s opponents have been leveling attacks against the incumbent with the hopes of taking him down a notch while building their own stature. Polling indicates those efforts have not yet borne fruit, and as the election rapidly approaches, a governor with significant achievements and vulnerabilities appears to be deflecting, dodging, and defusing criticisms of his record on corruption, jobs, taxes, the MTA, and more.

In the latest Siena College poll, the first of the general election, released October 1, Cuomo held a 22-point lead among likely voters over his main rival, Republican nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive. Cuomo received 50 percent of the vote to Molinaro’s 28 percent. Ten percent said they would vote for Nixon if she stayed on the Working Families Party line, which has since gone to Cuomo, paving the way for him to capture a higher percentage, while 4 percent said they would vote for other “third party” candidates, who include Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins, Libertarian nominee Larry Sharpe, and independent Stephanie Miner; and 8 percent were undecided.

“Electorally, barring something unexpected, a month out now, it’s hard to imagine that he’s going to do anything except walk away with this thing,” said Dr. Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science at Iona College, in a phone interview. “I’m not sure that that speaks as much to the governor as it does to the fact that Republicans in the state are in a very, very difficult position.”

As Molinaro runs uphill against an anti-Trump wind, Miner, the former Democratic mayor of Syracuse now with the new Serve America Movement, has struggled to gain traction with her message of experience and bipartisanship. Hawkins, who received 5 percent of the vote in the 2014 gubernatorial race, says he hopes to beat that this year, but is severely underfunded, and Sharpe, who has kept an especially active campaign schedule, does not appear to have broken through.

Some of the major criticisms levelled by the challengers are similar to Nixon’s own volleys against Cuomo, that he has allowed corruption to fester in government, catered to wealthy donors at the expense of everyday New Yorkers, largely mismanaged a multi-billion-dollar economic development program, and let New York City’s subway system slide into chaos.

There are of course more specific critiques. Molinaro and Miner, for instance, have both stressed that taxes are far too high and living in the state has become increasingly unaffordable, blaming Cuomo for the resulting exodus of New York residents, especially from distressed upstate areas. Hawkins has condemned Cuomo’s environmental policies for not going far enough, laments that the governor does not support state-funded single-payer health care (Cuomo believes the federal government should pass it and pay for it) and argues that the state has yet to fund the foundation aid formula for fair student funding across the state as required by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision. Sharpe wants to repeal the SAFE Act, Cuomo’s signature gun control measure passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, and significantly reduce the size and scope of state government in other ways, returning more power to localities.

Besides the seemingly insurmountable advantages  of incumbency, Cuomo has largely chosen to ignore his opponents and focus on Trump, in a year where Democrats are seeing the signs of a “blue wave” across the country. He has sought to paint Molinaro and nearly every New York Republican as a “Trump mini-me” who supports what he says are harmful policies of a Republican-led federal government and the retrogressive outlook of a platform based on the president’s pledge to “Make America Great Again,” which, to Cuomo and many others, includes racial and ethnic prejudice.

“Molinaro is vastly, in almost every way, he is on the losing end of this,” said Zaino. “From name recognition, to funding, to party registration, I mean up and down this is a very tough year for Republicans.”

Besides taxes, Molinaro’s campaign is largely built on highlighting the corruption scandals that have marred Cuomo’s two terms in office, and on painting Cuomo as an incompetent leader who relies on intimidation tactics.

“Andrew Cuomo has no credibility,” said Katy Delgado, a Molinaro campaign spokesperson, in a statement. “The people of New York are suffering from high taxation and corruption has stained the Governor’s office. It’s time for New Yorkers to have the leadership we deserve. A Governor who will cut taxes by 30% and show this corrupt administration the door on January 1, 2019.”

In fact, in the Siena Poll, likely voters said that by a 41-36 percent margin, Molinaro would do a better job of tackling corruption (a majority said Cuomo is better on infrastructure, public education and job creation). Cuomo came into office in 2011 promising to clean up state government, and has failed to do so, with recent federal convictions resulting in members of his inner circle headed to prison, along with a long list of state legislators who have been removed from office for abusing the public trust. But those results appear to have done little to sour voters on Cuomo.

Zaino said the trifecta of corruption, the MTA, and taxes are areas where Cuomo could see some disaffection among voters. “He is very vulnerable on corruption,” she said. “He’s made the case obviously that it’s not him, but it has been people very, very close to him. And he hasn’t done enough to put a stop to it, as he promised eight years ago.”

Government corruption has not proved to be a major voter motivator, however.

The issue of the MTA also “strikes very close to home for some voters,” Zaino said. “The MTA is something that people deal with on a daily basis, and that is his, and he owns it.”

On taxes, she said Cuomo is between a rock and a hard place -- a progressive left movement that wants to see higher taxes on the wealthy and Cuomo’s own predilection for fiscal moderation. “I think he’s going to be caught in between this progressive left, and obviously Republicans, but also more importantly, the moderate Democrats, and I think it’s really going to highlight some of the upstate-downstate tensions as well,” she said.

Dr. Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University, also pointed to the governor’s strengths in the general, chiefly the campaign cash at his disposal. “Money in many ways can elevate his narrative and drown out his opponents’ narrative,” she said in a phone interview. “I think he’ll use it strategically. I think Molinaro has an uphill battle because he doesn’t have name recognition and he doesn’t seem to be inspiring voters as of yet.”

New York City is the most expensive media market in the country and Cuomo’s millions in campaign cash can buy him ample air time, in the city and beyond. “Cuomo certainly has vulnerabilities,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “He can have a vulnerability but if the voters don’t know about it, it’s sort of the tree in the forest.” On corruption, for instance, he said Molinaro would have to work hard to make it a “salient” campaign issue among undecided voters who aren’t already pledged to either of the two major party candidates.

“[Molinaro] has to worry about the folks in the middle,” Greenberg said. “Independent voters, those soft Democrats, those moderate Democrats, those moderate Republicans, the folks in the middle, the folks who decide elections. But that costs money.” Molinaro’s latest campaign finance disclosure from this week showed he had only about $210,000 in cash on hand.

Greenberg also noted that a Republican has not prevailed in any statewide race since George Pataki won a third term as governor in 2002.

“For a Republican to win statewide is a very difficult proposition…How do they do it? They win upstate. They either win or hold their own in the downstate suburbs and they find a way to cut the deficit in New York City...Marc Molinaro can put out statements every day, he can do events every day, but the vast majority of voters don’t see those statements or know about those events. You gotta get on TV, you gotta be on radio, you gotta do mailings, you gotta do phone calls, you gotta have the volunteers to go door-to-door and talk to voters. All of that is expensive.”

Greer, however, doesn’t believe Molinaro has made an effective argument against Cuomo. “I don’t know if Molinaro has the message to sway voters. Cuomo has an advantage because all he has to say is ‘Molinaro is a Republican’ and that will turn off many Democrats,” she said. “That’s a strong card to have in this moment.”

But, she noted, there is likely to be some voter fatigue with Cuomo having been in office for nearly eight years. “He’s asking people for a third term and I think some folks just don’t feel like he deserves it,” Greer said. “Based on temperament, based on lack of productivity in particular areas that they’re interested in.”

The challengers themselves are confident of breaking through to voters, noting what they see as Cuomo’s weaknesses, his lack of a coherent vision for a third term, and the fact that more than 500,000 voters cast a ballot for Nixon in the primary.

“Governor Cuomo’s entire campaign is based on his fear of Donald Trump alone,” said Sharpe, the Libertarian candidate, in a statement. “There is no plan to actually help any New Yorker in any way, shape or form. It is only a fear-based platform.”

Sharpe said Cuomo has focused on “the crown jewel” of $22,000 in per-pupil education funding, which the governor repeatedly cites as the highest in the nation. But Sharpe says the state ranks below 30th in education outcomes. “This crown jewel is actually a cubic zirconia. The current educational system is an expensive and bloated embarrassment for which he should be ashamed. Everything else of value he has abandoned, including economic development, the family courts, the MTA and infrastructure overall. His 8 years can be summed up in one statement, ‘One million New Yorkers have voted with their feet by leaving the state since his majesty took the throne.’”

Hawkins of the Green Party is banking on progressives being dissatisfied with the governor, and thinks he is the logical choice for Nixon voters in the general. “He talks progressive but he governs to the right,” Hawkins said of Cuomo in a brief phone interview. He pointed out, for example, that the governor’s much-vaunted $15 minimum wage isn’t in effect upstate, where the minimum wage is set to increase to $12.50 by the end of 2020. He criticized Cuomo for hesitating on extending the state’s millionaires tax, his handling of issues at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), and lead poisoning issues in upstate communities in Syracuse, Buffalo, and Ithaca.

“I think it resonates but the question is, do we have the reach to reach all the progressives who I think on these issues are the majority of people in New York State,” Hawkins said.

He recognized Cuomo’s many advantages. “The only way we can overcome it is if the media narrative changes,” he said, noting for instance that though the Green Party received more than twice the votes the Working Families Party did in 2014 (with Cuomo on its line), the WFP’s political moves tend to get more attention. “That would make a big difference...It’s not just what Cuomo’s got, it’s the way he’s being treated by the media, which is frustrating for us.”

One way Cuomo's challengers could earn a boost and the governor could potentially fall in favorability is through a debate, but Cuomo has yet to agree to one, and while he may, the odds of such an event having a drastic impact on the race are small. Cuomo survived a contentious, high-stakes one-on-one debate with Nixon in the primary; if he agrees to a general election debate, he's likely to insist all five candidates are present, diluting his exposure.

In a phone interview, Miner reiterated her three-part criticism. “The state government is mired in corruption, money is being wasted, and problems are not being solved,” she said. Miner believes that though Cuomo had a decisive primary victory, the general electorate is likely to more accurately reflect and vote on statewide issues. “I think you’re gonna have a much broader and more representative population across the state that’s gonna vote,” she said. She believes Cuomo will continue to spend massively in the general because “he has to try to distract people from the fundamental problems that are happening in New York state under his administration and his tenure.”

It’s unclear what the general electorate will look like, though trends including Democratic enthusiasm appear to be to Cuomo’s advantage. Nixon’s move from the WFP line to make way for Cuomo and eliminate any chance of her being a spoiler also works toward his securing a third term. But, a Cuomo win is not necessarily a complete given.

“Anything can happen in the real world,” said Greenberg of Siena. “So is it a foregone conclusion? No. Is he the prohibitive favorite? Would you go to Vegas and place a bet on it? Absolutely.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Cuomo Challengers Level Critiques; Will Anything Stick? Tue, 09 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Cuomo Begins Push to Flip State Senate and House of Representatives http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7969:cuomo-begins-push-to-flip-state-senate-and-house-of-representatives http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7969:cuomo-begins-push-to-flip-state-senate-and-house-of-representatives cuomo li senate candidates

Cuomo & Long Island candidates (photo: @andrewcuomo)


Having resoundingly won the Democratic Party nomination for a third term last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo is now directing the enormous campaign and party machinery that propelled his victory to focus its efforts on the New York State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. In a break from past cycles when he has been criticized for doing too little for his party and its candidates, Cuomo has pledged to leverage the significant resources, financial and human, at his fingertips to help Democrats flip control of the two legislative chambers, one each at the state and federal levels, to better counter what he says are harmful policies of the Trump administration and Republican-led Congress.

On Monday, Cuomo stood alongside several state Senate candidates at LIU Post on Long Island, unveiling a nine-point Long Island-focused pledge to regain Democratic control of the legislative chamber -- Democrats need to pick up a net of one seat in the Senate, while in the Assembly they enjoy an overwhelming majority. Alongside a slate of Democratic Senate candidates, Cuomo signed the pledge, which includes measures he’s already put into place and others he has said he supports but hasn’t been able to get through the Republican-led Senate.

Cuomo and the battleground candidates promised to continue the state’s 2 percent property tax cap, which he says will protect Long Island residents from the federal government’s reduction of state and local tax (SALT) deductibility; he called for more funding for the MTA from New York City; he touted his $150 billion infrastructure plan, which includes modernizing the Long Island Rail Road; pledged to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law; backed ethics and voting reforms; promised to continue investing in combating the MS-13 gang; and pushed his proposal for a red flag gun protection bill. He also spoke of providing more funding to public schools and protecting access to clean water.

“We need the New York State Senate, because the only security we’re going to have are the laws of the State of New York as they are tearing down our rights and values in Washington,” Cuomo said.

On Tuesday, the governor made a brief stop at the Stars & Stripes Democratic Club in southern Brooklyn to publicly endorse Andrew Gounardes, the Democrat challenging State Senator Marty Golden in one of the few New York City districts represented by a Republican. Cuomo repeated many of the same talking points from his Monday speech, which he has honed for his own campaign, warning of the ills of Republican control of government at the state and federal level and painting himself and New York State as the bulwark against Trump and the many threats his administration has levelled -- against women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, Puerto Ricans, for instance.

“Elections matter. This one really, really matters,” Cuomo said, speaking of a broad disaffection among the electorate, on both sides of the aisle. The governor and Gounardes also signed a pledge, mostly similar to the one from Monday but including a focus on New York City issues such as a promise to pass speed camera legislation for school zones and expanding rent stabilization, and not including Long Island-focused planks like the LIRR and demanding more MTA funding from the city.

The September 13 primary saw a massive increase in turnout among Democratic voters, which many have cited as evidence of an ongoing and growing “blue wave” that is similarly boosting Democratic candidates across the country and expected by some to come crashing down upon Republicans on Election Day, November 6. But Cuomo’s own interpretation has differed somewhat, including when he dismissed the notion of a progressive wave the day after he won his primary, despite the fact that his under-funded opponent received more than 500,000 votes (to Cuomo’s nearly 1 million).

“I don’t like the expression the ‘blue wave’, because the ‘blue wave’ suggests its partisan,” Cuomo said at Tuesday’s rally in Bensonhurst, “that it’s Democrats who are offended. It’s not just Democrats who are offended...What this president is doing is not anti-Democratic, it’s anti-American...This is not a blue wave, my friends. This is a red, white, and blue wave.”

Last month, in the immediate aftermath of his primary win, just as he had done a few months after Donald Trump assumed office, Cuomo rallied the troops, but to his tune. “[T]he truth is this president and his extreme conservative colleagues have declared war on the State of New York. They are attacking our rights, our values, and our economy,” Cuomo said at a September 18 Democratic rally billed as an effort to relaunch the general election campaign to swing the state Senate and help flip the U.S. House. For nearly 20 minutes, Cuomo, newly invigorated from his primary win, inveighed against the “extreme conservative freight train” from Washington running roughshod over New Yorkers, and promised “more organizing, more mobilizing” to capture the energy of the Democratic base.

“[W]e’re gonna take this energy that we now have and we’re going to build on this energy,” he said. “It’s not going away...There’s a whole new Democratic movement. They’re responding to what we did and they’re responding to what they want to do by stopping this threat in Washington. And we have to build on that energy.”

A spokesperson for Cuomo’s campaign said he plans to personally raise funds and campaign for ten Democratic candidates running against sitting Republican congressional representatives -- he’s already sent each of them a maximum donation of $2,700 through a federal political action committee, Cuomo NY Take Back the House. The candidates include Perry Gershon, Liuba Grechen Shirley, Max Rose, Antonio Delgado, Tedra Cobb, Anthony Brindisi, Tracy Mitrano, Dana Balter, Joe Morelle and Nate McMurray. Politico New York reported last month that the broader effort Cuomo had promised had yet to materialize as he seemed more preoccupied with his own primary challenger, actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon. He has so far only held a fundraiser for Brindisi.

Among the Democratic state Senate candidates who have Cuomo’s support are some who are challenging incumbents and others running for open seats. He is also bolstering two Democratic Senators facing Republican challengers. They include Monica Martinez who is challenging Dean Murray in District 3; Lou D’Amaro, who is challenging Sen. Phil Boyle in District 4; Jim Gaughran, who is challenging Sen. Carl Marcellino in District 5; Anna Kaplan, who is challenging Sen. Elaine Phillips in District 7; Peter Harkham, who is challenging Sen. Terrence Murphy in District 40; Karyn Smythe who is challenging Sen. Sue Serino in District 41; Gounardes challenging Golden in District 22; and Democratic Senators John Brooks, who is being challenged by Massapequa Park Mayor Jeff Pravato in District 8, and Todd Kaminsky, who is being challenged by former Nassau lawmaker Francis Becker Jr. Cuomo’s campaign has donated the maximum primary limit of $7,000 to all those candidates, save for Gounardes and Kaminsky. If he decides to do so, Cuomo could direct another $11,000 to each candidate’s campaign for the general election.

The campaign is currently in the process of scheduling fundraisers for the congressional candidates and has already set up eight events to support the state Senate contenders, starting on Wednesday, October 3, with a fundraiser for Smythe. Fundraisers are scheduled to support Gounardes and D’Amaro on October 9; for Martinez on October 12; for Brooks and Kaminsky on October 15; for Harckham on October 21; and for Kaplan on October 22.

But it’s not only campaign cash that Cuomo will corral for the candidates. His campaign infrastructure and the State Democratic Party’s assets are being put to use to raise name recognition for the candidates and to get voters to the polls. Some of the congressional seats also overlap with the competitive Senate districts, giving Cuomo the ability to kill three birds with one stone as he also campaigns for his own reelection, perhaps without making it too obvious. The governor is facing a handful of challengers led by Republican nominee Marc Molinaro.

According to the Cuomo campaign spokesperson, there are more than 25 state party staffers in the field, training and engaging Democrats on the ground and leading Get Out The Vote efforts across the state. In congressional districts 1, 11, 19, 22 and 24 -- the five identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee under their ‘Red to Blue’ campaign effort -- the state party has sent campus organizers to rally young people, and in major metropolitan regions, organizers are recruiting volunteers to aid in those battleground districts. The party is also using digital and social media and data analytics to bolster outreach.

There’s also the tried-and-tested method of campaign mailers, in which the State Democratic Party has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars, the campaign spokesperson said, urging voters to support candidates including Rose, Brindisi, Gershon, and Delgado. (At this point there have been no other controversies with such mailers beyond the one that has dogged Cuomo and the party that sought to falsely tie Cynthia Nixon to anti-semitism in the final weeks of the primary.)

The party and campaign together spent millions on its statewide primary ticket -- to set up field offices and organizers -- and the campaign spokesperson said they would expand on that infrastructure for the general election.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who prevailed in last month’s primary over challenger Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn City Council member, is also leading her own parallel effort to support female candidates for Congress and State Senate. “Republican control of Congress and the New York State Senate has been a disastrous disappointment for all New Yorkers, especially women and middle class families,” Hochul said in a September 28 statement, launching the general election effort. She announced her support for four Congressional candidates -- Grechen Shirley, Cobb, Mitrano and Balter -- and five State Senate candidates -- Martinez, Kaplan, Smythe, Jen Metzger and Jen Lunsford.

On Sunday, Hochul was scheduled to meet voters alongside Alessandra Biaggi, who defeated Democratic State Senator Jeff Klein in the September 13 primary, but the event was cancelled because Biaggi was sick, according to Hochul’s campaign. The planned event appeared to be a signal to Senator Jeff Klein, who Biaggi defeated in the primary, to publicly concede and bow out of the race on the other ballot lines he has for the general election. Election Day is November 6.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Cuomo Begins Push to Flip State Senate and House of Representatives Tue, 02 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Can Democrats win the state Senate? How progressive is Cuomo? New Yorkers are about to find out http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7967:can-democrats-win-the-state-senate-how-progressive-is-cuomo-new-yorkers-are-about-to-find-out http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7967:can-democrats-win-the-state-senate-how-progressive-is-cuomo-new-yorkers-are-about-to-find-out govandcuomo moynihan

Gov. Cuomo (photo via the Governor's office)


In the November 6 general election, New York Democrats have a historic opportunity to take control of the state Senate. If this happens, Democrats would control both houses of the state Legislature for only the third time in the last 100 years, unlocking years of bottled up progressive legislation passed by the Democratically-controlled Assembly but blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Assuming Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, wins reelection as he is expected to, a number of these bills may very well land on his desk, including those related to universal health care; election, voting and campaign finance reforms; reproductive health rights; equal education funding for city schools; equal protections for LGBT and disabled people; carbon emissions elimination; immigration protections, including making New York a sanctuary state; and criminal justice reforms.

Recent history should temper optimism, however. New York Democratic voters chose the status quo over the bold reforms represented by the Cynthia Nixon-Jumaane Williams-Zephyr Teachout ticket in September’s primaries and in last year’s constitutional convention ballot referendum. In the 2016 state Senate races, 98% of incumbents were re-elected, though one good sign for Democrats in their quest to take over the chamber is the handful of retirements in the GOP conference.

We’ll soon see how powerful New York’s blue wave really is, both on Election Day and in the legislative session that will follow beginning in January. A few key questions:

But didn’t progressives just defeat the IDC?
Sort of and it’s insufficient.

Before the primary, there were actually more “Democrats” in the state Senate than Republicans, even though the GOP conference held a 40-23, then 32-31 majority in the 63-seat chamber.

Nine Democrats were either part of the Republican conference or in a power-sharing agreement via the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), giving the GOP a majority for the recent two-year legislative session (and prior) and preventing progressive legislation from reaching the Senate floor. Eight of those senators were members of the IDC, which did rejoin the “mainline” Democratic conference in April, after a new state budget had been passed, which led to the 32-31 GOP majority for the final months of the session that ended in June.

In the September 13 primary, six former IDC members were defeated. The ninth rogue Democrat, Senator Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, has been part of the Republican Conference for multiple terms, and was even reelected in 2016 on both the Democratic and Republican ballot lines. He won his primary challenge last month.

Despite losing in the Democratic primary, all six defeated former IDC members are likely to remain on November’s ballot on other party lines, often the Independence Party and/or Women’s Equality Party. There’s no guarantee they won’t actively campaign if for no other reason than as spoilers, though most appear unlikely to do so. Democratic leaders may try to reward defeated IDC members -- like former conference leader Senator Jeff Klein and Senator Jesse Hamilton -- with judgeships to keep them from actively campaigning. Klein, along with Senators Jesse Hamilton and Tony Avella, is one of three former IDC members who were defeated in the primary and have not yet declared that they won’t campaign in the general.

Surviving former IDC Senators David Carlucci and Diane Savino, along with Felder, will almost certainly win re-election in November.  

What do Democrats really need to do?
Net one seat. If Democrats flip just one GOP-held Senate seat and hold onto those they currently have, then Democrats will have a real 32-31 majority heading into next year. Competitive Senate races exist on Long Island and upstate, including several districts where Democrats failed to run any candidate at all in 2016. There’s also a seat in Southern Brooklyn that represents why many GOP-held districts are vulnerable.

Since 2012, when incumbent Republican Senator Marty Golden won his last competitive race, the district’s demographics have changed dramatically. Today, 40% of residents are now people of color, especially Asian and Hispanic; and 43% are immigrants, primarily Asian, eastern European and Mexican. Residents work in blue collar industries like transportation, wholesale, and construction. Virtually every racial group earns less than the median for New York State. These changes create the setting for the red-to-blue opportunity for progressive Democrat Andrew Gounardes, Golden’s opponent in 2012.

What’s possible?
Flipping nine seats. My most optimistic scenario has Democrats flipping nine GOP-held seats for a 40-23 majority.

If the primaries were any indicator, November turnout will be high, which will benefit Democrats due to their two-to-one registration advantage across the state. Primary turnout more than doubled since the last comparable election in 2014. In Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties, Democratic primary turnout actually tripled from 2014 to this year.

Democrats are mounting competitive races in the five GOP-held districts where the current officeholder is retiring. In 2012, Obama carried all of those districts; In 2016, Clinton carried one and Trump won by 6% or less in the other four. Democrats are also contesting several other races where the Republican officeholder is seen as beatable.

Here is my list for the best opportunities for Democrats to flip GOP-held Senate seats. In compiling this list, I considered voting results by state Senate in the two most recent presidential elections, fundraising, the power of incumbency and signals of grassroots support.

best opportunies for Democrats to flip the Senate

Past voter preferences matter. The 2012 presidential election was more reflective of deeply felt beliefs in these districts, which had with one exception solid pluralities for Obama. Democratic voters who stayed home may have contributed to the mixed results of the 2016 election. By this year, 2016’s GOP victories didn’t deter -- and perhaps motivated -- Democratic contributors and may have awakened Democrats who came out in droves to vote in this year’s primary. In addition, changing demographics have also affected these districts in ways that potentially favor progressive Democratic candidates.

Money matters -- to pay for campaign staff, advertising, get-out-the-vote efforts, and more. The table above includes the most recent Board of Elections campaign disclosures, filed by September 24, and showing money in the bank as of the filing. Some candidates benefited from the lack of a primary, which means they have more funds for the general election, but may not have benefited from public exposure without opposition.

The New York Daily News reports that Cuomo intends to fund-raise for several Senate candidates, including Gounardes, D’Amaro, Kaplan, Skoufis, Smythe, and Metzger. The two other Democratic candidates mentioned in the Daily News story -- Monica Martinez in SD-3 and Pete Harckham in SD-40 -- don’t appear to be currently competitive based on funds raised and the lack of time before Election Day.

Aren’t there Democrats at risk?
Incumbent Democrats largely appear safe. John Brooks in Senate District 8 on Long Island is often mentioned as a potential risk, probably due to his narrow 214-vote (0.2%) win in 2016 over then-incumbent GOP Senator Michael Venditto. But now-incumbent Brooks has a solid fundraising lead over the current GOP candidate, Jeff Pravato, in a district that went for Hillary Clinton and Obama and has a solid Democratic voter registration advantage.

Democrats need to ensure that primary victors Rachel May in SD-53 and Alessandra Biaggi in SD-34, both of whom beat IDC members, continue their momentum through November. The IDC incumbents they defeated are likely to appear on other ballot lines and have significant money. May’s opponent, David Valesky, reported $340,038 post-primary to May’s $41,209, though he has recently declared that he will not campaign in the general.

Biaggi’s opponent, former IDC leader Klein, reported $957,827 just before the primary to Biaggi’s post-primary balance of $172,909. As of this writing, Klein’s post-primary filing still hadn’t been published and he had not indicated his general election plans.

So what’s going to happen?
On November 6, Democrats will take control of the New York State Senate with a solid majority that Republicans cannot hold back. This, along with holding onto a wide majority in the Assembly, will likely result in a steady stream of progressive legislation on the governor’s desk to sign, giving Cuomo the opportunity to make history New York has been waiting for.

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Art Chang is a writer, thinker and strategist at the intersection of technology and government. He is a former board member of New York City’s Campaign Finance Board, where he led the creation of NYC Votes and Voting.NYC. On Twitter @achangnyc.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Can Democrats win the state Senate? How progressive is Cuomo? New Yorkers are about to find out Mon, 01 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000