Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/188 Wed, 26 Sep 2018 12:48:23 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) The July Financial Picture for Former Breakaway Democrats and Their Primary Challengers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7813:the-july-financial-picture-for-former-breakaway-democrats-and-their-primary-challengers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7813:the-july-financial-picture-for-former-breakaway-democrats-and-their-primary-challengers liu and ramos via jessicaramos

John Liu and Jessica Ramos (photo: @JessicaRamos)


The deadline for candidates for state office to file their latest campaign finance disclosures with the state Board of Elections was Monday, July 16. The disclosures show candidate fundraising and expenditures from the last six months, from January to July.

All 213 seats in the state Legislature -- 150 Assembly and 63 Senate -- are on the ballot this year, but few incumbents face competitive races. The state Assembly is overwhelmingly composed of Democrats, most of whom do not have a primary challenger. The state Senate, however, has become a battleground for control between Democrats and Republicans, with Democratic conference members holding 31 seats and Republican conference members 32 seats. After a Democratic unity deal in April, bringing a rogue group of eight “independent” Democrats back into the mainline conference, Republicans continued to hold power over the chamber with the help of Senator Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat from Brooklyn who professes no loyalty to political parties and only votes on policies that he believes suit his district’s interests.

In eight races, incumbent Democratic Senators who were once part of the Independent Democratic Conference -- a breakaway group that caucused with Republicans and helped them hold the majority -- face primary contests from progressive challengers. Those challengers are buoyed by an increasingly aware, angry, and active Democratic base that is set on removing the former IDC members from office.

Those former IDC members, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, continue to face criticism over their alliance with Republicans and the progressive legislation and budgeting that it may have held up. The challengers and those supporting them have gained momentum following the recent victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated ten-term U.S. Representative Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th congressional district. Notably, Crowley had helped brokered the reunification of the Senate Democrats, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and other top party officials. Cuomo is himself facing a spirited primary challenge from actor and activist Cynthia Nixon.

The former IDC Senators include six representing parts of New York City: Tony Avella of District 11 in Queens, Jose Peralta of District 13 in Queens, Jesse Hamilton of District 20 in Brooklyn, Diane Savino of District 23 in Staten Island and Brooklyn, Marisol Alcantara of District 31 in Manhattan, and Klein of District 34 the Bronx and Westchester, as well as David Carlucci of District 38 and David Valesky of District 53, both north of the five boroughs.

While fundraising numbers only tell a portion of the story of a campaign or a race, campaign finance filings help indicate where candidate support comes from and what resources a candidate has to help get his or her message out to voters. Challengers to the IDC veterans were eager to tout their number of low-dollar donations as indicative of grassroots support, while the incumbents often posted healthy coffers, though possibly tainted by money transferred from a party account ruled in violation of election law.

District 11
Former New York City Comptroller John Liu launched a late-stage challenge against Sen. Avella, jumping into the race earlier this month in time to petition his way onto the ballot. Liu has yet to raise funds for the race but he has an open campaign account, likely from his previous attempt to unseat Avella in 2014, with a little more than $3,000 in cash on hand as of January. Liu won 47 percent of the vote that year, just after he had lost in the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City in 2013.

Avella, whose district covers who represents northeastern Queens, raised nearly $147,000 in the last six months, of which $68,000 was transferred from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee fund set up by the then-IDC and the Independence Party. A state court ruled last month that the joint fundraising arrangement was illegal, and the transfers could possibly even violate contribution limits established in election law. Avella spent about $80,000 over the filing period and has a balance of about $170,000 in his campaign account.

District 13
One of the Democrats likely most affected by Crowley’s loss is Sen. Peralta, who is relying on the support of the Queens Democratic Party -- chaired by Crowley -- to help him retain his seat in northern Queens. With the party having lost the sheen of immense power, some Queens Democratic insiders say it could affect the candidates who have received its endorsement.

Peralta has raised $322,000 and spent $297,000 of it since January. The SICC was more generous with him, transferring $113,500 to his campaign, with the most recent check having been sent just last week. He has about $182,000 remaining in his campaign account.

Peralta is being challenged by Jessica Ramos, a former aide to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Ramos raised $171,000 over the last six months and has spent $102,000 of it. She has just about $99,000 in cash on hand. In publicizing her haul, Ramos promoted the fact that she had raised most of the funds, about $129,000, from more than 1,400 individual donors, contrasting it with Peralta’s 238 individual donors who gave him about $69,000.

District 20
Sen. Hamilton, who represents parts of central Brooklyn, pulled in about $295,000 for his reelection bid and spent $202,000. As with the other IDC senators, the SICC gave him a major boost with $109,700 transferred to his account. He has about $212,000 left to spend.

Hamilton’s challenger is Zellnor Myrie, an attorney from Brooklyn. Myrie raised $163,000 in this filing period and spent about $96,000. He has just under $156,000 left in cash on hand. Myrie had more than 4,400 individual donors accounting for 98 percent of his fundraising haul, a fact he highlighted while pointing out that Hamilton had only 243 individual donors.

District 23
The district covers Staten Island’s northern shore and parts of southern Brooklyn and is represented by Sen. Savino. The senator hauled in $451,000, of which $270,000 was transferred from an earlier campaign account to a new one. She spent $193,000 in the same period and has $259,000 left in her campaign account.

Savino’s primary challenger, community activist Jasmine Robinson, has not yet filed her disclosure with the BOE. She said in an email that her campaign received an extension and will file the report next week.

District 31
Sen. Alcantara, who is running for a second term, represents a district that covers long stretches of the west side of Manhattan. The incumbent, who narrowly won a tight three-way race in 2016, raised $116,000, which was outpaced by her $130,000 in expenditures. She also had the benefit of receiving $66,000 from the SICC. She has about $132,000 in cash on hand.

Alcantara is facing Robert Jackson, a former City Council member who unsuccessfully challenged her in the 2016 primary for District 31. Jackson raised more than $156,000 and spent about $103,000. He has $157,000 remaining in his account.

District 34
District 34 spans across Westchester and parts of the Bronx, and is currently held by Sen. Klein. As the former leader of the IDC, Klein played a powerful role in the state Legislature for more than seven years and was one of the proverbial ‘four men in a room’ who decide the state budget, along with the governor, Senate majority leader, and Assembly speaker. As part of the Democratic reunification deal, Klein assumed the position of deputy to the Democratic conference leader Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

jeff klein campaign kickoff

Klein raised nearly $740,000 -- $200,000 from the SICC -- between January and July and spent $613,000. He has a whopping balance of $2.1 million, having built up his campaign warchest over the last several years.

Alessandra Biaggi is the upstart candidate taking on Klein in the primary. Biaggi’s latest filings were not available on the BOE website but her campaign said she had raised $260,000 and had about $50,000 in expenditures.

District 38
Sen. Carlucci, who represents Rockland County and parts of Westchester, raised $114,000 for reelection and spent only $32,000. He received $26,000 from the SICC. He has a balance of more than $440,000.

Carlucci’s opponent is Julie Goldberg, whose disclosures were not available with the BOE. Goldberg’s campaign manager, Susanne Kernan, pointed to technical issues with the submission and provided the filings to Gotham Gazette. They showed nearly $17,000 in contributions and and about $4,000 in expenditures, leaving her a balance of under $13,000.

District 53
The district spans Madison County and parts of Onondaga and Oneida, and is represented by Sen. Valesky. He raised $126,000 and spent about $74,000 in the last six months. The SICC gave him $36,000. He has $665,000 remaining in his campaign account.

Valesky’s opponent, Rachel May, raised $84,000 and had expenses worth about $38,000. She has $81,000 in cash on hand.

[Read: New York Democrats’ Season of Choosing]

Other Senate Primaries To Watch
District 22
Democrats see an opportunity this year to unseat Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden, one of the few Republican elected officials in New York City. His district is situated in southern Brooklyn covering the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, and Gerritsen Beach. Golden raised about $32,000 and has spent more than $125,000 since January. But he maintains a healthy campaign account, with $485,000 in cash on hand.

Two Democrats are competing in the September 13 primary -- Andrew Gounardes, who was an aide to former City Council Member Vincent Gentile, and Ross Barkan, a journalist-turned-candidate. The winner will take on Golden in the general election.

Gounardes raised $124,000 and spent $47,000, and had a closing balance of $181,000. Barkan raised about $71,000 and spent $66,000. He has about $59,000 remaining.

District 17
Felder’s role in propping up the Senate Republicans has prompted a primary challenge from attorney Blake Morris.

Felder represents the neighborhoods of Borough Park, Midwood, and parts of Flatbush, Kensington, Sunset Park, and Sheepshead Bay. The senator is well resourced, having raised more than $430,000 since January and having spent about $110,000. He has a balance of $637,000, far surpassing his opponent.

Morris had raised $41,000 by the Monday deadline and had spent $31,000 of it. He has a little over $10,000 in his campaign account with under two months till the primary.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - This article has been updated to more accurately reflect Sen. Jeff Klein's fundraising and expenditure over the last six months. The numbers previously included were from his latest disclosure report which only showed his campaign finance activity since May. 

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The July Financial Picture for Former Breakaway Democrats and Their Primary Challengers Wed, 18 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
2016 A Far Different Election Year for Independent Democrats http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6454:2016-a-far-different-election-year-for-independent-democrats http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6454:2016-a-far-different-election-year-for-independent-democrats John Nilson

Sen. Jeff Klein (photo: John Nilsen/Governor's Office)


The five-member Independent Democratic Conference was under siege. Mainstream Democrats, liberal activists, and the Working Families Party were out to punish IDC members for having empowered Senate Republicans and for preventing a progressive agenda from advancing in the New York State Senate. In 2014, the groups fielded candidates to challenge Bronx Senator Jeff Klein, head of the IDC, and newly-minted IDC member Tony Avella, senator of Queens, in party primaries. It began as an aggressive attempt to oust two of the five members of the IDC, including its leader.

Leading up to the September elections, pressure mounted as former City Council Member Oliver Koppell raised cash in his bid to defeat Klein and former city Comptroller John Liu lashed into Avella for his “betrayal.”

“Let’s help a real Democrat defeat a fake one,” read the Daily Kos’ June 2014 endorsement of Liu.

But on June 26 of that year, Klein issued a joint statement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat dealing with his own challenge from the left, pledging that the IDC - made up of Sens. Klein, Avella, Diane Savino, David Valesky, and David Carlucci - would partner with mainline Democrats for a new governing coalition.

“Therefore all IDC members are united and agree to work together to form a new majority coalition between the Independent Democratic Conference and the Senate Democratic Conference after the November elections in order to deliver the results that working families across this state still need and deserve,” Klein said in the statement.

Dean Skelos, the Republican Senate majority leader at the time, didn’t buy it. He issued a statement saying, “This ‘agreement’ is nothing more than a short-term political deal designed to make threatened primaries go away.”

The Working Families Party and mainline Democrats dropped their support for Koppell and both he and Liu were defeated.

In 2015, Klein and the IDC continued their deal to empower Senate Republicans and carve out as much power for themselves as possible. In the following months the IDC pushed its agenda more forcefully, inserting issues like paid family leave into the Senate Republican budget proposal and advocating for a larger minimum wage increase. In the waning months of the 2015 legislative session in Albany, Klein’s push for those issues seemed to irk Cuomo, but, in retrospect, may have helped him evolve his position on the issues.

In 2016, paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage seemed to suddenly become Cuomo’s top priorities despite his having dismissed them the year before. Both issues passed with bipartisan support with the new state budget on April 1.

Now, Klein and the IDC face a strikingly different election year than in the previous cycle, even while control of the state Senate - and with it, full control of state government by Democrats - remains at stake.

The 63-seat Senate is currently made up of 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans. However, Republicans maintain control and are able to appoint Sen. John Flanagan as majority leader thanks to the support of Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who caucuses with Republicans, and the five members of the IDC, who have a coalition agreement with the GOP.

Heading toward this year’s elections, The Working Families Party has not made much noise in opposition to the IDC. Senate Democrats, even those with the most resentment toward the IDC, admit relations with the IDC have improved drastically and hold out hope that Klein will switch sides in 2017. The general perception of the IDC as obstructionists has all but dissipated. Bad feelings still fester and trust is hard to come by, but this year two IDC members may face challenges only from Republican candidates.

“Last time I was approached a year before by Senator [Michael] Gianaris and the Working Families Party, but both pulled their support along with the mayor and governor after Klein pledged he'd go back to the Democrats,” Koppell told Gotham Gazette in a recent interview, referring to the head of the mainline Democrats’ Senate campaign committee, Gianaris, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo. “No one approached me this time,” Koppell added, noting that he would not have run anyway.

Asked about their relationship with the IDC, the WFP sent Gotham Gazette a statement from state director Bill Lipton. "Given that the IDC and [mainline] Dems share views on so many issues, it's always been our hope that Democrats could unite to better represent working families in the State Senate,” it says.

The Senate Democratic Conference did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Savino, an IDC member who represents parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island, said she thinks advocates and Senate Democrats “took a step back and asked ‘what are they trying to accomplish, and what did they accomplish? What was the IDC advocating?’ and they saw it is for things like medical marijuana, dealing with the foreclosure crisis, paid family leave, and increasing the minimum wage.”

Klein told Gotham Gazette that the last two years have proven out his rationale for the IDC as it successfully achieved major progressive victories through bipartisan negotiation.

“I think I said all along since we formed six years ago that we wanted to use the IDC as a vehicle for change and the only way we would be able to achieve it is in a bipartisan fashion,” Klein said in an interview. He pointed to the gridlock in Washington and noted that there are “sit-ins” in Congress over gun control while “We passed the SAFE Act here in New York with bipartisan support.”

Klein noted that it took time and consistent advocacy to move not only the $15 minimum wage increase and paid family leave but other IDC priorities like the zombie properties bill, which gives homeowners more rights to fight foreclosure while expediting the foreclosure process on abandoned properties, and legislation to stop the sale of synthetic drugs.

Koppell said he thinks the passage of the minimum wage and family leave changed perceptions of the IDC. “I think it reduces blame the IDC faces for being obstructionists. The Republicans stopped blocking some things and it helps the IDC,” he said.

Just before the primary election in September 2014, Koppell, reeling from the loss of WFP and mainline Democratic support, told Gotham Gazette that if he was victorious it would mean the IDC was “dead.”

"I will tell them they can come back as full-fledged Democrats and if not, I will tell them: 'as far as I am concerned, you will have a primary opponent and I will finance it,’” Koppell said at the time.

Five members and staffers of the mainline Senate Democratic Conference told Gotham Gazette that relations between their conference and the IDC are significantly better now and that lines of communication have been established ahead of possible Democratic victories in the fall elections. Democrats are hoping that a presidential election year surge in voter turnout will help them retake the chamber.

Asked about an improving relationship, Klein was quick to praise Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “I said early on that the IDC is not an exclusive club and it isn’t about us, it is about governing. It is hard to say we didn’t get things done this year. It’s been fantastic working with Senator Flanagan. He has been more focused on policy than any other Republican leader.”

Klein also noted that he worked well with Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in efforts to pass the $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and other priorities. “I worked extremely well this year with Senator John Flanagan and yes, this session we were able to work well with Andrea Stewart-Cousins - it is a much better relationship, but I think the Republican Conference has been even better and a lot of credit has to go to the relationship with Senator Flanagan, again.”

Asked to comment on Flanagan’s relationship with Klein, a spokesperson for Flanagan, Scott Reif, said, “People want Democrats and Republicans to work together to get results, and that's exactly what Senate Republicans and the IDC have been able to achieve for the citizens of New York. Senator Flanagan enjoys a strong working relationship with Senator Klein, and he has tremendous respect for him as a legislator and as a leader."

Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, said Democrats should temper their hopes that Klein will bring the IDC in their direction. “I’d be very wary about any deal. This is politics, don’t assume anything is based on principle, it’s based on ‘What am I gonna get?’,” Muzzio said.

Savino agreed that relationships with Senate Democrats have improved. “The rhetoric between the IDC and Senate Democrats has been toned down,” she said. “You don't see the same nasty comments. There’s been a softening of hardline stances across the board. But tell me who would have predicted that a $15 minimum wage increase and paid family leave would have gotten done while Senate Republicans control the Senate?”

With all the successes and warm feelings toward Flanagan, Klein did note that one of the IDC’s top priorities for last session and next, campaign finance reform, was blocked by Senate Republicans. Klein said he is “optimistic” that Republicans might be willing to move campaign finance legislation next year.

Earlier this month, the IDC worked with the Independence Party to create a campaign committee that will allow the IDC to funnel cash to their candidates. Klein said that this year the focus will be on defending IDC members Avella and Carlucci from general election challenges, but in the future it could be used to advance new IDC members and political positions. “I really want to try to use this campaign committee as a vehicle for change,” Klein said, adding that he may create a ten-point litmus test for candidates who seek the IDC’s support. He said backing campaign finance reform would be a part of any test.

As the battle for control of the Senate plays out, Democrats say they will continue to keep open lines of communication with Klein and the rest of the IDC in hopes that they will be inclined to rejoin the fold. There is no doubt that major resentment still exists - it appears Minority Leader Stewart-Cousins has led the communications with the IDC while Sen. Gianaris, chair of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, has remained on the sidelines. Gianaris and Klein have a notoriously bad relationship.

Savino said she isn’t sure how things will play out in November. “A week is a lifetime in politics. I think the Democrats will win some seats, but I don’t think anyone can predict what is going to happen this election cycle,” she told Gotham Gazette. “I think the things that happened nationally during this election cycle have made experts throw out what they think they know about politics. There is a lot of middle class anger and I’m not sure how that trickles down into local races.”

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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2016 A Far Different Election Year for Independent Democrats Mon, 25 Jul 2016 04:00:00 +0000