Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/carl-paladino 2017-12-18T22:40:56+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Possible GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh Chances to Unseat Cuomo 2017-11-19T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-19T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7329:possible-gop-gubernatorial-candidates-weigh-chances-to-unseat-cuomo Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/gop-governor-candidates.jpg" alt="gop governor candidates" width="600" height="248" /></p> <p>L-R: Harry Wilson, John DeFrancisco, Marc Molinaro, Brian Kolb</p> <hr /> <p>The Republican pool of candidates exploring an attempt to unseat Governor Andrew Cuomo in the 2018 gubernatorial race appears to be shrinking. Now just four Republicans say they are exploring a run -- down from at least seven prior to this past Election Day -- with the potential candidates vowing to announce their decisions by Christmas.</p> <p>Targeting the well-funded Democratic governor seeking his third term would typically be a bold but calculated bet. On one hand, Cuomo has significant vulnerabilities going into 2018, but the outcome of Election Day 2017, which many are interpreting as a “blue wave” of Democratic wins in reaction to the presidency of Donald Trump, may give some Republicans more pause.</p> <p>A GOP gubernatorial win in New York, which has not happened since George Pataki won a third term in 2002, would require sizeable success in the New York City suburbs, but after voters handed GOP county executive seats in Westchester and Nassau to Democrats earlier this month, potential 2018 candidates must consider how the anti-Trump sentiment will play out next year.</p> <p>"What looked to be a very deep pool suddenly got ankle-deep shallow, with the water still going down. That's what a mini-tsunami election will do to anyone rationally thinking of running against a political tide,” said William O’Reilly, a Republican strategist who runs the November Team. That wave seems to have both unseated and knocked from 2018 contention Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, an O’Reilly client who lost to Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial race.</p> <p>Harry Wilson, a hedge fund manager from Westchester, is seen as a clear front-runner to become the GOP nominee next year, as he may be capable of coming closest to Cuomo’s immense fundraising capabilities and he performed well in his 2010 bid for state comptroller. The other three most-discussed potential GOP gubernatorial candidates are all current officeholders -- Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, and state Senator John DeFrancisco -- who would begin a race with a solid local base of support and some name recognition.</p> <p>“I would hope that Senator DeFrancisco or County Executive Molinaro will make the leap,” said O’Reilly, “but in the end the 2018 Republican candidate for governor may have to come down to a recruitment effort.”</p> <p>For his part, Cuomo is heading toward his reelection year facing criticism from the right and the left for New York City’s subway crisis. Among other issues, he is also maligned for high property taxes around the state, not to mention corruption trials about to begin involving his economic development initiatives, which involve some of his closest associates. Cuomo is not especially popular outside of New York City, where his favorability remains fairly high, and the second-term Democrat may very well face a tough primary of his own, as he did in 2014, given that many in the left flank of his party see him as too centrist.</p> <p>The New York State Republican Party has calculated that ideally it should avoid a primary to have a shot at victory -- assuming Cuomo is in the running -- so the four potential candidates are now courting GOP leadership for the nod. All four men say they are on good terms with each other and each is taking his own path to testing the waters. Molinaro and Kolb have discussed running <a href="http://auburnpub.com/blogs/eye_on_ny/kolb-molinaro-in-talks-to-form-gop-ticket-against-cuomo/article_6a553260-b2c1-11e7-9693-c7212e8e01d5.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on a ticket together</a> for governor and lieutenant governor, but both say that no such decision has been made (and it is not clear which would run for what).</p> <p>Publically, the party leadership is shrugging off the losses from Election Day, pointing to other victories like that of Republican Steve McLaughlin, an Assembly member elected county executive of Rensselaer. State Republican Party Chair Ed Cox, on Fred Dicker’s Focus on Albany radio show, chalked up Astorino’s loss to “third term-itis,” the same challenge now facing Cuomo, whereby it is notoriously difficult to win third terms in politics.</p> <p>Regarding the election of Democrat Laura Curran to the historically-Republican Nassau county executive seat, Cox <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/11/cox-blames-local-issues-and-con-con-for-gop-defeats/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pointed to</a> a Democratic voter base energized by opposition to the constitutional convention ballot question. Former County Executive Ed Mangano’s indictment last year on federal corruption charges also tainted the Republican Party and turned many independents, who make up a large segment of Nassau’s electorate, against GOP contender Jack Martins, he said.</p> <p>Wilson, who did well in his 2010 run for state comptroller, losing to Democrat Tom DiNapoli 49.7 percent to 47.2 percent and has had private sector success, may be willing to put in $10 million or more of his own money. Molinaro, Kolb, and DeFrancisco would each be able to kick off fundraising from their local supporters.</p> <p>With a governor that has $25 million and counting in the bank, and was recently in California courting major donors, Republican candidates might want to get an early start in fundraising, but that would require more commitment to exploring or declaring a run (on the Democratic side, for example, former state Senator Terry Gibson, considering a primary challenge to Cuomo, recently opened a campaign account so he could start raising money).</p> <p>Prior to his run for comptroller, Wilson flexed his business acumen and negotiating chops when he helped President Barack Obama execute the auto industry bailout early in Obama’s first term. One “prominent Republican county chairman” <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lovett-harry-wilson-cuomo-top-republican-article-1.3518232" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told The Daily News</a> that “If Harry Wilson says he wants to be the nominee, he’ll be the nominee.” Wilson’s bipartisanship could prove helpful in a general election against Cuomo, as could his New York City-focused criticisms of the governor.</p> <p>On Dicker’s show, on November 15, Wilson suggested that his current priority is raising his four daughters, two of whom are teenagers, and said he would decide over the holidays whether the timing was right for his family.</p> <p>“In four years from now two of our girls will be out of the house. In eight years from now, all our girls will be out of the house and I’ll still be a young man,” said Wilson, referring to the possibility of holding off this year and running in the future. “It’s a question of that tradeoff of where I can be most useful, most effective, and balancing my commitment to my family and helping others.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, Molinaro, a suburban county executive who felt the Nassau and Westchester losses close to home, said in an interview with Gotham Gazette that those outcomes would likely factor into his own decision-making.</p> <p>“What occurred certainly in the suburbs of New York City in 2017 should weigh on us,” said Molinaro. “I think what happened [on Election Day] is the result of an energized [Democratic] base, which is upset with the national politics -- no question -- and organized opposition to the constitutional convention question; those two things combined, with a few other local variables.”</p> <p>Molinaro, who has been <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/06/molinaro-serious-thought-to-running-for-governor/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a vocal critic</a> of Cuomo on social media and elsewhere, is especially critical of the administration’s failure to accompany the state’s property tax cap with adequate mandate relief, the heroin crisis, and failing schools, and has a good reputation as a county manager. Like Wilson, he has emphasized city metro area interests like fixing the subway system. He has also cited his young family, including a 6-month-old son, as one reservation about running.</p> <p>On the more conservative end of the spectrum are the two upstate legislators, DeFrancisco and Kolb, both of whom have extensive legislative experience and have not been shy about criticizing the governor and his policies.</p> <p>DeFrancisco, who has been representing the Syracuse area since 1992, says he recognizes Cuomo’s fundraising advantage and name recognition, but also sees many similarities between today and 1994, the year Pataki beat Cuomo’s father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, who was then seeking a third term amid buzz about presidential aspirations, like those that surround Andrew Cuomo now.</p> <p>“Back then people were leaving the state, exactly like it it is now. There was a deficit back then -- I remember it vividly -- of $5 billion. The Democratic comptroller is estimating that the budget deficit going into January is going to be $4 to $6 billion. Almost an identical situation,” said DeFrancisco. “And there was a feeling out there -- the same thing I’m hearing now -- that it’s ‘anybody but Cuomo.’ An individual by the name of George Pataki that nobody knew, the former mayor of Peekskill, a first-term senator, ends up being the nominee and beats him.”</p> <p>DeFrancisco regularly attacks Cuomo, and he hasn’t hid <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/11/defran-has-frustrations/#.WgyY5JnLoDM.twitter" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his frustration</a> with the fact that much of his legislation, including a bill to restore procurement oversight powers to the state comptroller, has not reached the Senate floor, even as the chamber is controlled by Republicans. “I believe the best way to make change and the fastest way to make substantial change is by having a Republican governor,” he said.</p> <p>Kolb, as leader of the minority conference in the Assembly, has had the liberty of taking principled stands, such as pushing for significant ethics reform and advocating for a “yes” vote on the constitutional convention. The Republican from Canandaigua has consistently voted against legislation that is controversial in upstate’s more conservative, rural areas, like Cuomo’s signature 2013 gun-control legislation, the SAFE Act.</p> <p>Kolb, who prior to taking office in 2000 was an entrepreneur and ran two manufacturing companies, Refractron Technologies and North American Filter Corporation, said he believes he has “the best blend of private sector and public sector experience.”</p> <p>“I’ve created jobs. I know the obstacles and how to fix them. I’m problem solver and I’ve done it in the public sector and the public sector and I’ve also shown I could work across the aisle,” he said.</p> <p>The Republican contenders all say they would work to capture the disillusionment in Cuomo’s policies felt on both sides of the aisle. In 2014, Cuomo endured a bruising primary amid criticisms from progressives that he empowers the Senate GOP alliance with rouge Democrats, impeding the state from moving in a more progressive direction, a rallying cry that has since picked up steam. Zephyr Teachout, a professor at Fordham’s law school, won a surprising 34 percent of the Democratic vote in that primary after running a truncated campaign that began with no name recognition or money. Another tough primary in 2018, which Cuomo has done some work to avoid by passing more progressive legislation, could hurt the governor in a general election, largely depending on the opponent.</p> <p>The potential GOP candidates said they plan to hold Cuomo accountable on issues like the subways, upstate’s crumbling infrastructure and outmigration, rising property taxes, his failure to tackle corruption in state government, and what they see as his failing economic development initiatives.</p> <p>A key initial step for those exploring the race and possibly seeking the GOP nomination is to appeal to Republican county chairs, who make up the party committee and meetings have been taking place, with candidates touring the state. A deal may be cut in advance in order to avoid a primary, but there have been years when the committee votes are split between two or three candidates and an open contest for the GOP nomination is held. Candidates unhappy with or outside the party establishment process can always petition themselves onto the ballot whether an intra-party deal is struck or not.</p> <p>Some watchers of state politics say that regardless of the GOP nominee, the math just doesn’t work for the Republican Party. “When you break it down arithmetically, they have to crack 35 percent in New York City to have a chance to win, and carry 57 percent of the vote of the Suburban downstate counties -- Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester and Rockland -- and then pass 60 percent upstate,” said Bruce Gyory, a former advisor to three Democratic governors and now a professor at Albany University. “That was the Pataki model for his three terms and particularly his third term, and boy-oh-boy the Republicans are nowhere close to meeting that challenge in any region.”</p> <p>In 2014, the Republican Party made strides from 2010 with Astorino as their candidate, grabbing 41 percent of the vote compared to Cuomo’s 57 percent. <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/11/cuomo_wins_ny_but_loses_upstate.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Astorino took 42 of 50 upstate counties</a>, compared to just 13 upstate counties won by 2010 GOP candidate Carl Paladino. In the suburbs, Astorino also gained ground, but ultimately did not crack 50 percent in the crucial Westchester, Nassau, and Rockland counties. He drew approximately 15 percent of the vote in the five boroughs.</p> <p>Cuomo’s approval rating <a href="https://www.siena.edu/centers-institutes/siena-research-institute/political-polls/governors-approval-ratings-trends/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">took a hit</a> earlier this year, apparently due to New York City’s ongoing subway woes, but his popularity has appeared to be on the rebound, with <a href="https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2489" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a Quinnipiac University poll</a> from October showing that 70 percent of city voters approved of the Democratic governor, including more than 50 percent of Republicans.</p> <p>Another threat to party-affiliated GOP candidates may be coming from Paladino, the Buffalo-area businessman and Donald Trump supporter. Paladino was reported to be mulling another run, but went silent after his removal from the Buffalo school board for allegedly leaking confidential information from executive board meetings. He also drew negative attention last year <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/27/nyregion/carl-paladino-michelle-obama.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for racist comments</a> sent to a Buffalo publication about former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. A Paladino entrance into the race could drag a prefered Republican establishment candidate to the right or cause other problems for the GOP, including additional focus on Trump or requiring Paladino's opposition to raise and spend significant money to win the primary. Paladino did not return a request for comment about whether he will run.</p> <p>“I could see him coming to the conclusion that the only way to regain public prestige is to run again for governor and he could complicate the primary field a great deal because he could change the regional balance of power if he continues to have that hold on western New York,” said Gyory. “He's a man who, if you study him, his public person, he has a thin skin and great pride.”</p> <p><em>Correction: A previous version of this article mistated the totals for the 2010 New York Comptroller's race.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/gop-governor-candidates.jpg" alt="gop governor candidates" width="600" height="248" /></p> <p>L-R: Harry Wilson, John DeFrancisco, Marc Molinaro, Brian Kolb</p> <hr /> <p>The Republican pool of candidates exploring an attempt to unseat Governor Andrew Cuomo in the 2018 gubernatorial race appears to be shrinking. Now just four Republicans say they are exploring a run -- down from at least seven prior to this past Election Day -- with the potential candidates vowing to announce their decisions by Christmas.</p> <p>Targeting the well-funded Democratic governor seeking his third term would typically be a bold but calculated bet. On one hand, Cuomo has significant vulnerabilities going into 2018, but the outcome of Election Day 2017, which many are interpreting as a “blue wave” of Democratic wins in reaction to the presidency of Donald Trump, may give some Republicans more pause.</p> <p>A GOP gubernatorial win in New York, which has not happened since George Pataki won a third term in 2002, would require sizeable success in the New York City suburbs, but after voters handed GOP county executive seats in Westchester and Nassau to Democrats earlier this month, potential 2018 candidates must consider how the anti-Trump sentiment will play out next year.</p> <p>"What looked to be a very deep pool suddenly got ankle-deep shallow, with the water still going down. That's what a mini-tsunami election will do to anyone rationally thinking of running against a political tide,” said William O’Reilly, a Republican strategist who runs the November Team. That wave seems to have both unseated and knocked from 2018 contention Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, an O’Reilly client who lost to Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial race.</p> <p>Harry Wilson, a hedge fund manager from Westchester, is seen as a clear front-runner to become the GOP nominee next year, as he may be capable of coming closest to Cuomo’s immense fundraising capabilities and he performed well in his 2010 bid for state comptroller. The other three most-discussed potential GOP gubernatorial candidates are all current officeholders -- Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, and state Senator John DeFrancisco -- who would begin a race with a solid local base of support and some name recognition.</p> <p>“I would hope that Senator DeFrancisco or County Executive Molinaro will make the leap,” said O’Reilly, “but in the end the 2018 Republican candidate for governor may have to come down to a recruitment effort.”</p> <p>For his part, Cuomo is heading toward his reelection year facing criticism from the right and the left for New York City’s subway crisis. Among other issues, he is also maligned for high property taxes around the state, not to mention corruption trials about to begin involving his economic development initiatives, which involve some of his closest associates. Cuomo is not especially popular outside of New York City, where his favorability remains fairly high, and the second-term Democrat may very well face a tough primary of his own, as he did in 2014, given that many in the left flank of his party see him as too centrist.</p> <p>The New York State Republican Party has calculated that ideally it should avoid a primary to have a shot at victory -- assuming Cuomo is in the running -- so the four potential candidates are now courting GOP leadership for the nod. All four men say they are on good terms with each other and each is taking his own path to testing the waters. Molinaro and Kolb have discussed running <a href="http://auburnpub.com/blogs/eye_on_ny/kolb-molinaro-in-talks-to-form-gop-ticket-against-cuomo/article_6a553260-b2c1-11e7-9693-c7212e8e01d5.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on a ticket together</a> for governor and lieutenant governor, but both say that no such decision has been made (and it is not clear which would run for what).</p> <p>Publically, the party leadership is shrugging off the losses from Election Day, pointing to other victories like that of Republican Steve McLaughlin, an Assembly member elected county executive of Rensselaer. State Republican Party Chair Ed Cox, on Fred Dicker’s Focus on Albany radio show, chalked up Astorino’s loss to “third term-itis,” the same challenge now facing Cuomo, whereby it is notoriously difficult to win third terms in politics.</p> <p>Regarding the election of Democrat Laura Curran to the historically-Republican Nassau county executive seat, Cox <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/11/cox-blames-local-issues-and-con-con-for-gop-defeats/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pointed to</a> a Democratic voter base energized by opposition to the constitutional convention ballot question. Former County Executive Ed Mangano’s indictment last year on federal corruption charges also tainted the Republican Party and turned many independents, who make up a large segment of Nassau’s electorate, against GOP contender Jack Martins, he said.</p> <p>Wilson, who did well in his 2010 run for state comptroller, losing to Democrat Tom DiNapoli 49.7 percent to 47.2 percent and has had private sector success, may be willing to put in $10 million or more of his own money. Molinaro, Kolb, and DeFrancisco would each be able to kick off fundraising from their local supporters.</p> <p>With a governor that has $25 million and counting in the bank, and was recently in California courting major donors, Republican candidates might want to get an early start in fundraising, but that would require more commitment to exploring or declaring a run (on the Democratic side, for example, former state Senator Terry Gibson, considering a primary challenge to Cuomo, recently opened a campaign account so he could start raising money).</p> <p>Prior to his run for comptroller, Wilson flexed his business acumen and negotiating chops when he helped President Barack Obama execute the auto industry bailout early in Obama’s first term. One “prominent Republican county chairman” <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lovett-harry-wilson-cuomo-top-republican-article-1.3518232" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told The Daily News</a> that “If Harry Wilson says he wants to be the nominee, he’ll be the nominee.” Wilson’s bipartisanship could prove helpful in a general election against Cuomo, as could his New York City-focused criticisms of the governor.</p> <p>On Dicker’s show, on November 15, Wilson suggested that his current priority is raising his four daughters, two of whom are teenagers, and said he would decide over the holidays whether the timing was right for his family.</p> <p>“In four years from now two of our girls will be out of the house. In eight years from now, all our girls will be out of the house and I’ll still be a young man,” said Wilson, referring to the possibility of holding off this year and running in the future. “It’s a question of that tradeoff of where I can be most useful, most effective, and balancing my commitment to my family and helping others.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, Molinaro, a suburban county executive who felt the Nassau and Westchester losses close to home, said in an interview with Gotham Gazette that those outcomes would likely factor into his own decision-making.</p> <p>“What occurred certainly in the suburbs of New York City in 2017 should weigh on us,” said Molinaro. “I think what happened [on Election Day] is the result of an energized [Democratic] base, which is upset with the national politics -- no question -- and organized opposition to the constitutional convention question; those two things combined, with a few other local variables.”</p> <p>Molinaro, who has been <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/06/molinaro-serious-thought-to-running-for-governor/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a vocal critic</a> of Cuomo on social media and elsewhere, is especially critical of the administration’s failure to accompany the state’s property tax cap with adequate mandate relief, the heroin crisis, and failing schools, and has a good reputation as a county manager. Like Wilson, he has emphasized city metro area interests like fixing the subway system. He has also cited his young family, including a 6-month-old son, as one reservation about running.</p> <p>On the more conservative end of the spectrum are the two upstate legislators, DeFrancisco and Kolb, both of whom have extensive legislative experience and have not been shy about criticizing the governor and his policies.</p> <p>DeFrancisco, who has been representing the Syracuse area since 1992, says he recognizes Cuomo’s fundraising advantage and name recognition, but also sees many similarities between today and 1994, the year Pataki beat Cuomo’s father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, who was then seeking a third term amid buzz about presidential aspirations, like those that surround Andrew Cuomo now.</p> <p>“Back then people were leaving the state, exactly like it it is now. There was a deficit back then -- I remember it vividly -- of $5 billion. The Democratic comptroller is estimating that the budget deficit going into January is going to be $4 to $6 billion. Almost an identical situation,” said DeFrancisco. “And there was a feeling out there -- the same thing I’m hearing now -- that it’s ‘anybody but Cuomo.’ An individual by the name of George Pataki that nobody knew, the former mayor of Peekskill, a first-term senator, ends up being the nominee and beats him.”</p> <p>DeFrancisco regularly attacks Cuomo, and he hasn’t hid <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/11/defran-has-frustrations/#.WgyY5JnLoDM.twitter" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his frustration</a> with the fact that much of his legislation, including a bill to restore procurement oversight powers to the state comptroller, has not reached the Senate floor, even as the chamber is controlled by Republicans. “I believe the best way to make change and the fastest way to make substantial change is by having a Republican governor,” he said.</p> <p>Kolb, as leader of the minority conference in the Assembly, has had the liberty of taking principled stands, such as pushing for significant ethics reform and advocating for a “yes” vote on the constitutional convention. The Republican from Canandaigua has consistently voted against legislation that is controversial in upstate’s more conservative, rural areas, like Cuomo’s signature 2013 gun-control legislation, the SAFE Act.</p> <p>Kolb, who prior to taking office in 2000 was an entrepreneur and ran two manufacturing companies, Refractron Technologies and North American Filter Corporation, said he believes he has “the best blend of private sector and public sector experience.”</p> <p>“I’ve created jobs. I know the obstacles and how to fix them. I’m problem solver and I’ve done it in the public sector and the public sector and I’ve also shown I could work across the aisle,” he said.</p> <p>The Republican contenders all say they would work to capture the disillusionment in Cuomo’s policies felt on both sides of the aisle. In 2014, Cuomo endured a bruising primary amid criticisms from progressives that he empowers the Senate GOP alliance with rouge Democrats, impeding the state from moving in a more progressive direction, a rallying cry that has since picked up steam. Zephyr Teachout, a professor at Fordham’s law school, won a surprising 34 percent of the Democratic vote in that primary after running a truncated campaign that began with no name recognition or money. Another tough primary in 2018, which Cuomo has done some work to avoid by passing more progressive legislation, could hurt the governor in a general election, largely depending on the opponent.</p> <p>The potential GOP candidates said they plan to hold Cuomo accountable on issues like the subways, upstate’s crumbling infrastructure and outmigration, rising property taxes, his failure to tackle corruption in state government, and what they see as his failing economic development initiatives.</p> <p>A key initial step for those exploring the race and possibly seeking the GOP nomination is to appeal to Republican county chairs, who make up the party committee and meetings have been taking place, with candidates touring the state. A deal may be cut in advance in order to avoid a primary, but there have been years when the committee votes are split between two or three candidates and an open contest for the GOP nomination is held. Candidates unhappy with or outside the party establishment process can always petition themselves onto the ballot whether an intra-party deal is struck or not.</p> <p>Some watchers of state politics say that regardless of the GOP nominee, the math just doesn’t work for the Republican Party. “When you break it down arithmetically, they have to crack 35 percent in New York City to have a chance to win, and carry 57 percent of the vote of the Suburban downstate counties -- Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester and Rockland -- and then pass 60 percent upstate,” said Bruce Gyory, a former advisor to three Democratic governors and now a professor at Albany University. “That was the Pataki model for his three terms and particularly his third term, and boy-oh-boy the Republicans are nowhere close to meeting that challenge in any region.”</p> <p>In 2014, the Republican Party made strides from 2010 with Astorino as their candidate, grabbing 41 percent of the vote compared to Cuomo’s 57 percent. <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/11/cuomo_wins_ny_but_loses_upstate.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Astorino took 42 of 50 upstate counties</a>, compared to just 13 upstate counties won by 2010 GOP candidate Carl Paladino. In the suburbs, Astorino also gained ground, but ultimately did not crack 50 percent in the crucial Westchester, Nassau, and Rockland counties. He drew approximately 15 percent of the vote in the five boroughs.</p> <p>Cuomo’s approval rating <a href="https://www.siena.edu/centers-institutes/siena-research-institute/political-polls/governors-approval-ratings-trends/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">took a hit</a> earlier this year, apparently due to New York City’s ongoing subway woes, but his popularity has appeared to be on the rebound, with <a href="https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2489" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a Quinnipiac University poll</a> from October showing that 70 percent of city voters approved of the Democratic governor, including more than 50 percent of Republicans.</p> <p>Another threat to party-affiliated GOP candidates may be coming from Paladino, the Buffalo-area businessman and Donald Trump supporter. Paladino was reported to be mulling another run, but went silent after his removal from the Buffalo school board for allegedly leaking confidential information from executive board meetings. He also drew negative attention last year <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/27/nyregion/carl-paladino-michelle-obama.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for racist comments</a> sent to a Buffalo publication about former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. A Paladino entrance into the race could drag a prefered Republican establishment candidate to the right or cause other problems for the GOP, including additional focus on Trump or requiring Paladino's opposition to raise and spend significant money to win the primary. Paladino did not return a request for comment about whether he will run.</p> <p>“I could see him coming to the conclusion that the only way to regain public prestige is to run again for governor and he could complicate the primary field a great deal because he could change the regional balance of power if he continues to have that hold on western New York,” said Gyory. “He's a man who, if you study him, his public person, he has a thin skin and great pride.”</p> <p><em>Correction: A previous version of this article mistated the totals for the 2010 New York Comptroller's race.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Could Trump & Sanders Populism Fuel Constitutional Convention Approval? 2016-11-10T05:00:00+00:00 2016-11-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6620:could-trump-sanders-populism-fuel-constitutional-convention-approval Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/bernie_hat_handshakes_1.jpg" alt="bernie hat handshakes 1" width="600" height="424" /></p> <p>Senator Bernie Sanders (photo: @BernieSanders)</p> <hr /> <p>With the 2016 presidential election over, can the populist fervor surrounding the candidacies of Senator Bernie Sanders and President-elect Donald Trump be harnessed into a new kind of revolution on a state level here in New York?</p> <p>A year from now, next Election Day, New Yorkers will have the chance to vote on a referendum to call a Constitutional Convention, an opportunity to rewrite state laws that comes around once every 20 years. Proponents of the convention — at this point mostly academics and government reform groups like Citizens Union, but also Gov. Andrew Cuomo — are already pushing for New Yorkers to vote “yes” on the November 7, 2017 ballot question, saying it is a rare opportunity to take control of government, hold Albany leaders accountable, and enact ethics, elections, and other government reforms on specific issues like campaign finance, redistricting, voter registration, term limits, home rule, and more.</p> <p>Sanders and Trump, both of whom won most New York counties in their respective April <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/new-york" target="_blank">primaries</a>, highlighted what they called the corrosive influence of wealthy interests and corporations on the political system and promised new kinds of people-powered government. They called the system rigged and broken, the government controlled by special interests, and spoke to the concerns of many voters who’ve lost faith in their elected representatives. They called for revolution, albeit with some essential differences.</p> <p>But what will become of these movements in the aftermath of this Election Day? A New York Constitutional Convention -- or ConCon, as it is often called -- provides a chance to engage these constituencies and their sense of marginalization to literally “take back the government" by rewriting any and all aspects of the state constitution. This, at a time when legislators seem unable or unwilling to police themselves, reform democratic systems, and address long-standing problems.</p> <p>A June <a href="https://www.siena.edu/news-events/article/by-two-to-one-voters-say-new-ethics-reform-legislation-will-not-reduce-corr" target="_blank">Siena College poll</a> showed that most New Yorkers do not trust the latest reform bills to stem corruption in Albany, and 68 percent said they’d support a Constitutional Convention. However, in the same poll, two-thirds of New Yorkers responded that they had read or heard nothing about a Constitutional Convention, and another quarter said they had heard “very little.”</p> <p>The last time a ConCon was on the ballot, in 1997, it was voted down by a two-to-one margin. With scant public awareness of the issue, and powerful interests lining up in opposition, voters’ views could easily shift against the idea as the next election nears -- as was the case during the last vote. Whether or not a populist fervor can be whipped up around a ConCon vote is one major 2017 question awaiting New York.</p> <p>One pro-ConCon group that has tried to capitalize on Sanders energy is the New Kings Democrats (NKD), a progressive reform political club in Brooklyn that voted almost unanimously to make ConCon <a href="http://www.newkingsdemocrats.com/concon" target="_blank">part of its platform</a> earlier this year. An officer of the group said NKD reached out to the Sanders campaign ahead of the New York primaries about the issue, but was rebuffed.</p> <p>“It kind of never got off the ground,” said Brandon West, the group’s vice president of policy and political affairs. “The response we got was, ‘We’re trying to get Bernie elected president; let us know if you want to help.’”</p> <p>A representative from Team Bernie New York declined to comment on a Constitutional Convention, saying before Election Day that while the team is aware of the ballot measure, it was focused electing Sanders-aligned candidates like Zephyr Teachout for Congress. (Teachout lost, but could be a powerful pro-ConCon voice if so inclined.)</p> <p>Local chapters of major and minor political parties Gotham Gazette spoke with — including the Working Families Party — have yet to take a public position on ConCon.</p> <p>Meanwhile, organized opposition to a Constitutional Convention is coming <a href="http://newyorkstateara.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/constitutional-convention-article-2015-gavin.pdf" target="_blank">from labor unions</a> and some environmental advocates who fear a nuclear approach to constitutional reform could put at risk workers’ pensions and environmental protections — such as <a href="http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/55849.html" target="_blank">a mandate</a> that the Adirondacks Mountains be kept “forever wild.”</p> <p>Those fears are echoed by many New York progressive reformers including Democratic State Assemblymember-elect Robert Carroll, whose political club Central Brooklyn Progressive Democrats (CBID) endorsed Sanders in the primary.</p> <p>"My worry is that there are lots of worker protections, environmental protections and a whole host of other progressive safeguards in the New York State constitution, and I want to make sure those are preserved," Carroll said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Carroll, and others, have noted that the ConCon delegate selection process is a main concern. The larger process would begin with ConCon approval through the ballot question on November 7, 2017. If approved, New Yorkers would then vote in 204 convention delegates on the following Election Day; the convention would commence the first Monday in April 2019; and New Yorkers would vote to ratify any proposed changes to the constitution as early as November 2019. (All proposed changes to the constitution that come from a ConCon are presented to voters for approval or disapproval.)</p> <p>While technically anyone can run as a ConCon delegate, in practice, those with power and name recognition -- including state lawmakers themselves -- are typically elected, resulting in little change to the system, as was the case at a rare government-initiated ConCon in 1967.</p> <p>“We don't know who is going to be in that convention or what the makeup will be,” said Carroll, warily of the hypothetical ConCon.</p> <p>J.H. Snider, a ConCon expert, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5753-preparing-for-new-yorks-next-constitutional-convention-referendum-cuomo-snider" target="_blank">has written in Gotham Gazette</a> that a truly fair and democratic ConCon vote would require legislators to be barred from running as convention delegates, and in fact, plural office-holding -- which is banned in other states -- is one of the issues a constitutional convention could address.</p> <p>Gov. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, said during his January State of the State that, “a constitutional convention that is properly held – with independent, non-elected official delegates – could make real change and re-engage the public.”</p> <p>But, the $1 million that Cuomo proposed to include in the state budget to fund a preparatory committee for a potential ConCon did not appear in the spending plan approved a few months later.</p> <p>During the general election, Sanders urged his supporters to embrace Clinton, and his movement has splintered into different factions, some reluctantly embracing the Democratic nominee, another segment backing the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and still other organizations — like Team Bernie New York — pushing for candidates in local races that aligned with Sanders’ message.</p> <p>Every pro-Sanders group Gotham Gazette spoke to said that the ConCon referendum is not a priority on its post-primary agenda. It is quite early, but if 2016 momentum is not captured and continued, it may be gone for good.</p> <p>Michael Blecher, a former Sanders activist who now runs a grassroots organization called <a href="https://politicsreborn.org/" target="_blank">Politics Reborn</a>, said his group is currently focused on democratizing New York City’s district leader and county committee races, and that he is cynical of ConCon’s potential delegate selection process. However, he noted that attitudes among his fellow Sanders supporters might shift following the presidential election.</p> <p>“[Sanders organizers] are about to have this existential crisis — after November 8 —&nbsp;as far as whether certain progressive leaders are willing to put it front and a center,” said Blecher of ConCon during an October interview.</p> <p>For example, he said, Politics Reborn might consider informing the public about the ballot question as part of its canvassing efforts. Reforming how district leaders and county committee representatives are chosen could be a serious plank at a ConCon, but Blecher’s cynicism about the prospects for true reform appear fairly widespread, at least at this point and among those who know about a ConCon.</p> <p>Political scientist and SUNY New Paltz professor Gerald Benjamin said Constitutional Convention advocates like himself face an uphill battle in reaching voters and expressed frustration at the lack of political organization.</p> <p>“Where is the organized effort? It’s a year out and where are the resources? The people who want people to know about this are out there giving speeches — including me — but we are talking about telling millions of people that this is an opportunity to participate in major legislative reform,” he said.</p> <p>In contrast to the tepid response from Sanders organizers, ahead of the election, New York Trump supporters told Gotham Gazette that regardless of its outcome, a ConCon would be a crucial part of their strategy to gain more citizen control over state government. Trump surrogate Carl Paladino — a Buffalo businessman who ran for governor in 2010 and has a history of Trump-like rhetoric — said he hoped a ConCon would dismantle the old power structures crippling Albany.</p> <p>"Our state has decayed so much from the control of the progressive liberals; it has to happen, and I would want very much to be a part of it,” said Paladino. A ConCon would allow the public to pass laws without going through a Legislature “controlled by a dictator like Sheldon Silver,” he added, referencing the disgraced former Assembly Speaker, a Manhattan Democrat now convicted on public corruption charges.</p> <p>Both Republicans and Democrats have an interest in enacting term limits and other governmental reforms, but if they fail to form an organized coalition, extreme voices like Paladino’s have the potential to scare voters off, according to Benjamin.</p> <p>“It can only work if the reasonable and responsible people organize, but if the Paladinos come forward as a force for change, it’s going to fail for sure,” said Benjamin.</p> <p>New York City, which makes up 40 percent of the statewide electorate, is likely to be weighted significantly more heavily in the upcoming vote, since it coincides with the city’s 2017 mayoral and other municipal elections. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat running for re-election next year, has expressed skepticism about a ConCon. In a recent interview <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/askthemayor-10616" target="_blank">with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer</a>, de Blasio suggested the convention would be corrupted by big money interests.</p> <p>“If corporations were banned and wealthy individuals were banned from dominating the political process, I would be very interested in the Constitutional Convention that could actually fix a lot of problems in the state constitution,” de Blasio said, in response to a question from a caller to the show, “but my hesitation has always been – we’re literally talking about a rigged economy.”</p> <p>If the mayor decides to take a more decisive and forceful position on the convention, it could sway the vote. Conversely, as John Kenny, publisher of New York True, <a href="http://www.newyorktrue.com/trump-concon-effect/" target="_blank">points out</a> there remains the possibility that a Republican mayoral challenger — <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6590-ulrich-starts-raising-funds-on-message-of-beating-de-blasio-in-2017" target="_blank">Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, perhaps</a> — would come out in favor of a convention and drive a “yes” vote.</p> <p>Political scientist and Hunter College professor Kenneth Sherrill, who is pushing for a ConCon, says the power of big money to derail the convention has been overstated.</p> <p>“It’s a difficult political process to get on,” he said. “There are lots of big money interests, but they are countervailing interests. While the Koch brothers might give their interests, for example, they will have no interest in ‘forever wild.’ It's not as if big money is going to be a unified force in this.”</p> <p>One issue wealthier interests, which can include labor unions, will likely be unified on, though, is preventing limitations on campaign contributions. A Republican state Senate has prevented the passage of campaign finance reform in Albany, even closure of the notorious LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations from entities who set up multiple limited liability corporations. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6409-cuomo-appears-to-give-up-on-legislature-closing-llc-loophole" target="_blank">Cuomo has said</a> that it appears the only way the LLC loophole will be closed is if “the people do it.” Some <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6283-a-post-budget-test-of-the-governor-s-commitment-to-a-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">do question</a> Cuomo’s commitment to a ConCon since the money did for the preparatory committee for a ConCon <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6283-a-post-budget-test-of-the-governor-s-commitment-to-a-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">did not make it into</a> the final 2017 budget, indicating little support from top state electeds. Cuomo did stump for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate, which would lead to closure of the loophole and other campaign finance reform, but that effort appears to have failed. The GOP retained its Senate majority on Tuesday, perhaps giving Democrats more impetus to pursue change through a convention.</p> <p>The New York State constitution -- which dates back to 1777 -- was mostly rewritten at a 1894 convention, with significant changes made at the 1937 convention. While several amendments have been made since, parts are outdated, and some argue that a Constitutional Convention is necessary simply to update the lengthy, convoluted document. However, if Bernie Sanders supporters in this overwhelmingly Democratic city and state choose not to jump on board with the convention soon, pro-ConCon Trump voices may spook many New Yorkers, reinforcing the fears that it would endanger hard-won progressive measures, leaving the decision up to the next generation of voters — in 2037.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this story has been corrected to remove menton of NYPIRG and League of Women Voters as having endorsed a Constitutional Convention.</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/bernie_hat_handshakes_1.jpg" alt="bernie hat handshakes 1" width="600" height="424" /></p> <p>Senator Bernie Sanders (photo: @BernieSanders)</p> <hr /> <p>With the 2016 presidential election over, can the populist fervor surrounding the candidacies of Senator Bernie Sanders and President-elect Donald Trump be harnessed into a new kind of revolution on a state level here in New York?</p> <p>A year from now, next Election Day, New Yorkers will have the chance to vote on a referendum to call a Constitutional Convention, an opportunity to rewrite state laws that comes around once every 20 years. Proponents of the convention — at this point mostly academics and government reform groups like Citizens Union, but also Gov. Andrew Cuomo — are already pushing for New Yorkers to vote “yes” on the November 7, 2017 ballot question, saying it is a rare opportunity to take control of government, hold Albany leaders accountable, and enact ethics, elections, and other government reforms on specific issues like campaign finance, redistricting, voter registration, term limits, home rule, and more.</p> <p>Sanders and Trump, both of whom won most New York counties in their respective April <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/new-york" target="_blank">primaries</a>, highlighted what they called the corrosive influence of wealthy interests and corporations on the political system and promised new kinds of people-powered government. They called the system rigged and broken, the government controlled by special interests, and spoke to the concerns of many voters who’ve lost faith in their elected representatives. They called for revolution, albeit with some essential differences.</p> <p>But what will become of these movements in the aftermath of this Election Day? A New York Constitutional Convention -- or ConCon, as it is often called -- provides a chance to engage these constituencies and their sense of marginalization to literally “take back the government" by rewriting any and all aspects of the state constitution. This, at a time when legislators seem unable or unwilling to police themselves, reform democratic systems, and address long-standing problems.</p> <p>A June <a href="https://www.siena.edu/news-events/article/by-two-to-one-voters-say-new-ethics-reform-legislation-will-not-reduce-corr" target="_blank">Siena College poll</a> showed that most New Yorkers do not trust the latest reform bills to stem corruption in Albany, and 68 percent said they’d support a Constitutional Convention. However, in the same poll, two-thirds of New Yorkers responded that they had read or heard nothing about a Constitutional Convention, and another quarter said they had heard “very little.”</p> <p>The last time a ConCon was on the ballot, in 1997, it was voted down by a two-to-one margin. With scant public awareness of the issue, and powerful interests lining up in opposition, voters’ views could easily shift against the idea as the next election nears -- as was the case during the last vote. Whether or not a populist fervor can be whipped up around a ConCon vote is one major 2017 question awaiting New York.</p> <p>One pro-ConCon group that has tried to capitalize on Sanders energy is the New Kings Democrats (NKD), a progressive reform political club in Brooklyn that voted almost unanimously to make ConCon <a href="http://www.newkingsdemocrats.com/concon" target="_blank">part of its platform</a> earlier this year. An officer of the group said NKD reached out to the Sanders campaign ahead of the New York primaries about the issue, but was rebuffed.</p> <p>“It kind of never got off the ground,” said Brandon West, the group’s vice president of policy and political affairs. “The response we got was, ‘We’re trying to get Bernie elected president; let us know if you want to help.’”</p> <p>A representative from Team Bernie New York declined to comment on a Constitutional Convention, saying before Election Day that while the team is aware of the ballot measure, it was focused electing Sanders-aligned candidates like Zephyr Teachout for Congress. (Teachout lost, but could be a powerful pro-ConCon voice if so inclined.)</p> <p>Local chapters of major and minor political parties Gotham Gazette spoke with — including the Working Families Party — have yet to take a public position on ConCon.</p> <p>Meanwhile, organized opposition to a Constitutional Convention is coming <a href="http://newyorkstateara.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/constitutional-convention-article-2015-gavin.pdf" target="_blank">from labor unions</a> and some environmental advocates who fear a nuclear approach to constitutional reform could put at risk workers’ pensions and environmental protections — such as <a href="http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/55849.html" target="_blank">a mandate</a> that the Adirondacks Mountains be kept “forever wild.”</p> <p>Those fears are echoed by many New York progressive reformers including Democratic State Assemblymember-elect Robert Carroll, whose political club Central Brooklyn Progressive Democrats (CBID) endorsed Sanders in the primary.</p> <p>"My worry is that there are lots of worker protections, environmental protections and a whole host of other progressive safeguards in the New York State constitution, and I want to make sure those are preserved," Carroll said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Carroll, and others, have noted that the ConCon delegate selection process is a main concern. The larger process would begin with ConCon approval through the ballot question on November 7, 2017. If approved, New Yorkers would then vote in 204 convention delegates on the following Election Day; the convention would commence the first Monday in April 2019; and New Yorkers would vote to ratify any proposed changes to the constitution as early as November 2019. (All proposed changes to the constitution that come from a ConCon are presented to voters for approval or disapproval.)</p> <p>While technically anyone can run as a ConCon delegate, in practice, those with power and name recognition -- including state lawmakers themselves -- are typically elected, resulting in little change to the system, as was the case at a rare government-initiated ConCon in 1967.</p> <p>“We don't know who is going to be in that convention or what the makeup will be,” said Carroll, warily of the hypothetical ConCon.</p> <p>J.H. Snider, a ConCon expert, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5753-preparing-for-new-yorks-next-constitutional-convention-referendum-cuomo-snider" target="_blank">has written in Gotham Gazette</a> that a truly fair and democratic ConCon vote would require legislators to be barred from running as convention delegates, and in fact, plural office-holding -- which is banned in other states -- is one of the issues a constitutional convention could address.</p> <p>Gov. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, said during his January State of the State that, “a constitutional convention that is properly held – with independent, non-elected official delegates – could make real change and re-engage the public.”</p> <p>But, the $1 million that Cuomo proposed to include in the state budget to fund a preparatory committee for a potential ConCon did not appear in the spending plan approved a few months later.</p> <p>During the general election, Sanders urged his supporters to embrace Clinton, and his movement has splintered into different factions, some reluctantly embracing the Democratic nominee, another segment backing the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and still other organizations — like Team Bernie New York — pushing for candidates in local races that aligned with Sanders’ message.</p> <p>Every pro-Sanders group Gotham Gazette spoke to said that the ConCon referendum is not a priority on its post-primary agenda. It is quite early, but if 2016 momentum is not captured and continued, it may be gone for good.</p> <p>Michael Blecher, a former Sanders activist who now runs a grassroots organization called <a href="https://politicsreborn.org/" target="_blank">Politics Reborn</a>, said his group is currently focused on democratizing New York City’s district leader and county committee races, and that he is cynical of ConCon’s potential delegate selection process. However, he noted that attitudes among his fellow Sanders supporters might shift following the presidential election.</p> <p>“[Sanders organizers] are about to have this existential crisis — after November 8 —&nbsp;as far as whether certain progressive leaders are willing to put it front and a center,” said Blecher of ConCon during an October interview.</p> <p>For example, he said, Politics Reborn might consider informing the public about the ballot question as part of its canvassing efforts. Reforming how district leaders and county committee representatives are chosen could be a serious plank at a ConCon, but Blecher’s cynicism about the prospects for true reform appear fairly widespread, at least at this point and among those who know about a ConCon.</p> <p>Political scientist and SUNY New Paltz professor Gerald Benjamin said Constitutional Convention advocates like himself face an uphill battle in reaching voters and expressed frustration at the lack of political organization.</p> <p>“Where is the organized effort? It’s a year out and where are the resources? The people who want people to know about this are out there giving speeches — including me — but we are talking about telling millions of people that this is an opportunity to participate in major legislative reform,” he said.</p> <p>In contrast to the tepid response from Sanders organizers, ahead of the election, New York Trump supporters told Gotham Gazette that regardless of its outcome, a ConCon would be a crucial part of their strategy to gain more citizen control over state government. Trump surrogate Carl Paladino — a Buffalo businessman who ran for governor in 2010 and has a history of Trump-like rhetoric — said he hoped a ConCon would dismantle the old power structures crippling Albany.</p> <p>"Our state has decayed so much from the control of the progressive liberals; it has to happen, and I would want very much to be a part of it,” said Paladino. A ConCon would allow the public to pass laws without going through a Legislature “controlled by a dictator like Sheldon Silver,” he added, referencing the disgraced former Assembly Speaker, a Manhattan Democrat now convicted on public corruption charges.</p> <p>Both Republicans and Democrats have an interest in enacting term limits and other governmental reforms, but if they fail to form an organized coalition, extreme voices like Paladino’s have the potential to scare voters off, according to Benjamin.</p> <p>“It can only work if the reasonable and responsible people organize, but if the Paladinos come forward as a force for change, it’s going to fail for sure,” said Benjamin.</p> <p>New York City, which makes up 40 percent of the statewide electorate, is likely to be weighted significantly more heavily in the upcoming vote, since it coincides with the city’s 2017 mayoral and other municipal elections. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat running for re-election next year, has expressed skepticism about a ConCon. In a recent interview <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/askthemayor-10616" target="_blank">with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer</a>, de Blasio suggested the convention would be corrupted by big money interests.</p> <p>“If corporations were banned and wealthy individuals were banned from dominating the political process, I would be very interested in the Constitutional Convention that could actually fix a lot of problems in the state constitution,” de Blasio said, in response to a question from a caller to the show, “but my hesitation has always been – we’re literally talking about a rigged economy.”</p> <p>If the mayor decides to take a more decisive and forceful position on the convention, it could sway the vote. Conversely, as John Kenny, publisher of New York True, <a href="http://www.newyorktrue.com/trump-concon-effect/" target="_blank">points out</a> there remains the possibility that a Republican mayoral challenger — <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6590-ulrich-starts-raising-funds-on-message-of-beating-de-blasio-in-2017" target="_blank">Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, perhaps</a> — would come out in favor of a convention and drive a “yes” vote.</p> <p>Political scientist and Hunter College professor Kenneth Sherrill, who is pushing for a ConCon, says the power of big money to derail the convention has been overstated.</p> <p>“It’s a difficult political process to get on,” he said. “There are lots of big money interests, but they are countervailing interests. While the Koch brothers might give their interests, for example, they will have no interest in ‘forever wild.’ It's not as if big money is going to be a unified force in this.”</p> <p>One issue wealthier interests, which can include labor unions, will likely be unified on, though, is preventing limitations on campaign contributions. A Republican state Senate has prevented the passage of campaign finance reform in Albany, even closure of the notorious LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations from entities who set up multiple limited liability corporations. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6409-cuomo-appears-to-give-up-on-legislature-closing-llc-loophole" target="_blank">Cuomo has said</a> that it appears the only way the LLC loophole will be closed is if “the people do it.” Some <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6283-a-post-budget-test-of-the-governor-s-commitment-to-a-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">do question</a> Cuomo’s commitment to a ConCon since the money did for the preparatory committee for a ConCon <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6283-a-post-budget-test-of-the-governor-s-commitment-to-a-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">did not make it into</a> the final 2017 budget, indicating little support from top state electeds. Cuomo did stump for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate, which would lead to closure of the loophole and other campaign finance reform, but that effort appears to have failed. The GOP retained its Senate majority on Tuesday, perhaps giving Democrats more impetus to pursue change through a convention.</p> <p>The New York State constitution -- which dates back to 1777 -- was mostly rewritten at a 1894 convention, with significant changes made at the 1937 convention. While several amendments have been made since, parts are outdated, and some argue that a Constitutional Convention is necessary simply to update the lengthy, convoluted document. However, if Bernie Sanders supporters in this overwhelmingly Democratic city and state choose not to jump on board with the convention soon, pro-ConCon Trump voices may spook many New Yorkers, reinforcing the fears that it would endanger hard-won progressive measures, leaving the decision up to the next generation of voters — in 2037.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this story has been corrected to remove menton of NYPIRG and League of Women Voters as having endorsed a Constitutional Convention.</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>