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/idc 2018-07-16T09:02:33+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com New York Democrats’ Season of Choosing 2018-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7798:new-york-democrats-season-of-choosing Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/corey-johnson-jessica-ramos-robert-jackson-cityhall.jpg" alt="corey johnson jessica ramos robert jackson cityhall" width="600" height="475" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson endorses IDC challengers (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>As progressives aggressively attempt to wrest control of the Democratic Party from the hands of those they call centrists and establishment politicians, elected Democrats across New York find themselves in an unenviable position. Abiding by their self-professed progressive values to support insurgent Democratic primary challengers could mean bucking the state party establishment and its leader, Governor Andrew Cuomo, while, on the other hand, toeing the party line risks opening them up to accusations of hypocrisy and betrayal -- and perhaps even a future primary challenge -- levelled by an enraged and engaged base.</p> <p>A battle that played out during the 2016 presidential primary between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton has only intensified since Donald Trump’s victory. The 2018 election cycle is offering many opportunities across the country for Democrats, elected officials and otherwise, to decide between what is essentially two wings of the party. The Democrats’ season of choosing is easier for some than others, but many prominent party figures find themselves in uncomfortable situations. At stake is nothing short of political careers, the fate of activist organizations, the policy agenda and future of the Democratic Party, the outcomes of current and prospective elections, and their aftermaths in terms of government policies that affect millions.</p> <p>At the center in New York is Cuomo, his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, and the state Senate’s erstwhile Independent Democratic Conference, eight senators who chose power over party for as many as seven years by empowering Republican control of the legislative chamber, what has been the GOP’s only stronghold in state government. In April, the renegades returned to the fold with assurances from Cuomo, who long tolerated and allegedly enabled their infidelity, that their seats were secure, at least from other Democrats. Under the accord brokered by the governor just after a new state budget was passed, the state Democratic Party machinery, fellow state-level electeds, and prominent labor unions would support these former IDC members -- who were time and again blamed for obstructing the passage of progressive legislation -- and would refuse to aid their challengers.</p> <p>Though Cuomo and the former IDC members have professed support for progressive priorities -- voting, elections and campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, women’s reproductive rights, stronger rent regulations, immigrant protections, to name a few -- they have failed to pass legislation along those lines, blaming staunch opposition by Senate Republicans. Their progressive challengers instead say they have been the obstacles to progressive bills by empowering Republicans.</p> <p>Cuomo, at the top of the Democratic ticket, faces an aggressive challenge from actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in the primary. Nixon’s candidacy, from the left of Cuomo, parallels Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid four years ago, except it comes in a more heightened atmosphere of displeasure on the left following Trump’s election, amid disappointment with Cuomo’s relatively centrist record, and with increased awareness of the IDC. Nixon also has other advantages Teachout lacked, like name recognition and fundraising prowess, though Cuomo has worked over the past four years to make amends with some of his past critics, such as those in certain labor unions.</p> <p>A similar fight is being replicated in the race for lieutenant governor, between incumbent Democrat Hochul and her progressive challenger, Jumaane Williams, a City Council member from Brooklyn. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>All eight former IDC members face primary challenges ahead of the September 13 vote. Five of those districts fall squarely in New York City while another is split between the Bronx and Westchester, with two others upstate.</p> <p>In District 13, in Queens, Jessica Ramos is taking on Sen. Jose Peralta; in Brooklyn’s District 20, Zellnor Myrie is challenging Sen. Jesse Hamilton; on Manhattan’s west side, Robert Jackson is going up against Sen. Marisol Alcantara; in District 23, which spans Staten Island’s north shore and parts of Brooklyn, Jasmine Robinson is confronting Sen. Diane Savino; in District 11 in Queens, Sen. Tony Avella will again face former city Comptroller John Liu, who earned 47 percent in a losing 2014 bid to unseat Avella; and in District 34 that covers Westchester and the Bronx, Alessandra Biaggi is attempting to unseat the leader of the what was the IDC, Sen. Jeff Klein, who now serves as the deputy leader in the unified Senate Democratic Conference.</p> <p>Outside the city, in District 38 that spreads across Rockland and Westchester, Sen. David Carlucci faces a challenge from Julie Goldberg; and in District 53 covering Madison County and parts of Onondaga and Oneida, Sen. David Valesky faces Rachel May in the primary.</p> <p>For Cuomo and the state party, maintaining what Democratic seats they have in the Senate is paramount as they seek to flip the chamber by picking up more. Republicans have recently held control of the 63-seat chamber by a one-seat margin thanks to their own ranks and a single rogue conservative Senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who won his most recent reelection on the Democratic, Republican, and Conservative Party lines -- Felder is also facing a Democratic primary this year, from Blake Morris.</p> <p>But while they also want to see Republican seats flipped in November, many progressive activists insist that the party needs to elect better, “bluer Democrats” than Cuomo, Hochul, and the former IDC members. Nixon has explained that it is her motivation to run for governor, saying that in the age of Trump not any Democrat will do. Cuomo and his supporters argue that not only has the governor been a progressive powerhouse, but that Democratic energy of all kinds would be better spent working in concert to flip red seats to blue.</p> <p>That argument has largely fallen on deaf ears among those displeased with Cuomo, Klein, and other Democratic incumbents.</p> <p>The shiny veneer of the Senate Democrat reunification deal and its accompanying pact of nonaggression has seemed to be wearing off as challengers to the IDC senators pick up endorsements from top Democratic incumbents and, in one candidate’s case, from an influential labor union that helped broker the merger of the Senate Democrats. Meanwhile, Nixon and Williams have picked up far more support from elected officials and organizations than Teachout and her lieutenant governor running mate, Tim Wu, achieved in 2014.</p> <p>Democrats across the spectrum are taking sides, and others will be expected to do so over the next few months, in decisions that could be determinative for those they endorse, for their own political trajectories, and for the larger map of New York’s Democratic world currently dominated by one set of elected and appointed officials, consultants, labor leaders, and the networks of power they control.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Hopefuls</strong><br />On June 28, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced his endorsement of Biaggi, Jackson, Ramos, and Myrie, providing them a boost at a time when progressives were already feeling emboldened by the congressional primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earlier that week.</p> <p>A declared democratic socialist with a deeply progressive campaign platform, Ocasio-Cortez defeated Democratic giant Rep. Joe Crowley, a ten-term incumbent and the powerful boss of the Queens Democratic Party who was among the chief drivers of the Senate Democratic reunification and a possible next speaker of the House of Representatives. The stunning upset shook the foundations of the Democratic Party and undercut the conventional wisdom of the primacy of incumbents and machine politics, and its ramifications will likely be dissected for years. In New York, it’s immediate effects were quickly felt. Johnson, who had endorsed Crowley in the race, insisted the result did not affect his decision to endorse the four IDC challengers, which he said was in the works for months, but that did not stop observers from drawing a connection.</p> <p>“Whether it’s in Washington, D.C., or in Albany, the status quo isn’t working and that is why I’m here today in supporting four amazing candidates,” Johnson said at the steps of City Hall. “They are Democrats, they are progressive Democrats, they will caucus with the Democrats and they will support all the issues that Democrats support.” On Saturday, Johnson said on Twitter that he was ready to fully support Liu. At a Tuesday event in support of Biaggi, Johnson <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/1016874584489021440" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said</a>, “It feels really good to be able to tell the truth and for too long, people were not telling the truth about the IDC and the damage that they’ve done to the state of New York. And that damage was all in their own self-interest, putting their own self-interest above the entire state of New York.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement following Johnson’s endorsement, Barbara Brancaccio, a spokesperson for Klein, said, “Frankly we are surprised that our opponent would accept the endorsement of such a radioactive figure coming on the heels of his endorsement of Joe Crowley. We are sure that Johnson will do for this challenger, exactly what he did for Joe Crowley."</p> <p>At the same time, Johnson has also endorsed Governor Cuomo for reelection over Nixon, who continues to criticize the governor for supporting the IDC and whose platform largely resembles those of the IDC opponents. She shares stark similarities with Ocasio-Cortez and others seeking to upend incumbent Democrats who insurgents believe are too close to big-money interests and not in touch with their constituents who most need them. Nixon has begun to align herself more closely with those IDC challengers, cross-endorsing with Ramos earlier this week, for example.</p> <p>The same day as Johnson’s endorsement of the IDC challengers, 32BJ SEIU, the prominent building workers union, endorsed Biaggi, though their president Hector Figueroa had months ago been among those who proposed the Democratic reunification deal and the union is among several that have endorsed Cuomo and had also backed Crowley. “Jeff Klein and the IDC have empowered obstructionist Republicans set on blocking key reforms for too long,” Figueroa said <a href="http://www.seiu32bj.org/press-releases/32bj-seiu-endorses-biaggi/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in a statement</a> announcing the endorsement. “Never again.”</p> <p>And just one day prior, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer also endorsed Biaggi, a few months after he had already announced his support for Ramos and Jackson. The endorsements by Stringer, well before the Ocasio-Cortez win and its initial fallout, have won him much praise from liberal activists.</p> <p>Since his union came out for Biaggi, Figueroa has also addressed the Democratic split in New York, <a href="https://twitter.com/figue32bj/status/1016043465493372930" target="_blank" rel="noopener">writing on Twitter</a>, “Dems upset about IDC folks being primaried ‘for it may lead to the GOP winning a majority of NY Senate’ do not blame the ‘left’. The ones to be blamed are IDC incumbents themselves &amp; those STILL defending them. IDC betrayed voters creating a big political mess. Time to clean up.”</p> <p>Along with the number and strength of the progressive primary challengers to established incumbents and Ocasio-Cortez’s win, these endorsements, headlining still others, are the clearest cracks in the Democratic foundation that Cuomo and other state leaders have tried to set.</p> <p>“I think it’s fascinating because we do see a lack of cohesion as to whether or not people are going to support the IDC members or their challengers,” said Dr. Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University. “And I think this debate is sort of reflective of a larger debate that’s going on in the Democratic Party, for the soul of the Democratic party…‘Are we centrist, conservative-leaning Democrats or are we progressive?’”</p> <p>To some, these moves may smack of political opportunism, particularly in the case of Johnson, who is supporting progressives on the one hand while propping up establishment centrists like Crowley and Cuomo on the other. But in the New York political landscape, Greer said these endorsements are equally driven by philosophical considerations as they are by pragmatic ones. “These are politicians…I think that they can genuinely care about an issue and I think that they can also be calculating and strategic about it,” she said.</p> <p>For some, there is also a difference between backing a less experienced candidate for state Senate based on ideological reasons as opposed to the chief executive of the state.</p> <p>Both Johnson and Stringer are widely expected to run for mayor in 2021, the next city election cycle, when Mayor Bill de Blasio will be term-limited out of office, and tapping the progressive energy that Ocasio-Cortez rode to power, and that is now propelling Nixon, Williams, the IDC challengers, and others, would likewise boost their own political fortunes.</p> <p>“I think in the Democratic primary, the progressive energy in the city, that’s what you want to tap into if you’re running for mayor,” said Eric Koch, managing principal at Precision Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm, and former director of communications for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “So it makes sense to endorse the folks running against the IDC people because in terms of the activists and the people who are organizing against the IDC versus who is a Democratic primary voter in a mayoral election, there’s a pretty big overlap there.”</p> <p>It’s important to note that the IDC incumbents themselves have powerful backers, including unions like 1199 SEIU, many of which are in Cuomo’s corner as well.</p> <p>While Stringer and Johnson have decided to buck Cuomo and those involved in the unity deal, other likely 2021 mayoral candidates have not. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is a Cuomo ally and closely aligned with the Bronx Democratic Party apparatus, led by its chair, Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, and its former chair, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who signed onto the unity deal.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has been critical of Cuomo over the course of years, but has not made endorsements yet. His approach is complicated given his alliance with Senator Hamilton, formerly of the IDC. Adams did invite Nixon early in her campaign to tour a Brooklyn NYCHA complex and the two went to Albany Houses together. The Brooklyn borough president has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">voiced strong criticism of Cuomo</a>, but has not embraced Nixon beyond the NYCHA visit, nor has he weighed in on Williams’ challenge to Hochul or the IDC races.</p> <p>“They’re looking at these challengers and their districts, I’m sure, to sort of see what kind of coalition they would need to put together,” Greer said. “When they run for mayor, Andrew Cuomo may or may not still be in office...but a great campaign marketing slogan is, ‘We fight Albany. We fight Albany to make sure that New York City gets the money and resources we need.’”</p> <p>“Sure they care, but it’s also a very strategic move,” Greer said, “to make sure that they’re distancing themselves from the status quo to say that, ‘When tough decisions needed to be made, I didn’t just go along to get along.’”</p> <p><strong>Statewide Case</strong><br />Public Advocate Letitia James, who is running in the Democratic primary for attorney general (and had been a likely 2021 mayoral candidate), is charting a course similar to Diaz, Jr., but with a much higher profile given her bid for statewide office. James quickly jumped at the opportunity when Eric Schneiderman resigned the post after facing allegations of physical and emotional abuse by several intimate partners. Seen as an early frontrunner, with the blessing of the state Democratic Party and the governor, James rejected the possible endorsement of the progressive Working Families Party that had helped launch her political career as a City Council member.</p> <p>The WFP has been closely aligned with the IDC challengers, as well as Nixon and Williams, supporting their insurgent bids for office, while James has in the past supported at least one member of the IDC, Senator Alcantara, though she has come to criticize the IDC and called for reunification well before her attorney general bid.</p> <p>“I would essentially argue, if I were in these progressive groups that used to support Tish very openly, well what now gives you progressive bonafides?,” said Greer. “So her messaging has to be very clear for her supporters. Because they have progressive choices.”</p> <p>“Two days after Schneiderman resigned, it was essentially reported that Tish would be heir apparent and that’s the way much of the press is writing about the race...and I don’t necessarily see that to be the case anymore,” she added.</p> <p>James faces three other primary contenders: former Cuomo aide Leecia Eve, congressional Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, and Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary and lost, but managed to get a significant share of the vote, at 34 percent. Teachout, like Nixon, has been severely critical of the IDC and <a href="https://makenytrueblue.org/grassroots-coalition-formed-to-endorse-idc-challengers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsed</a> five IDC challengers as part of the TrueBlueNY coalition months before the attorney general position became available and she decided to run. When Schneiderman resigned, Teachout was at the time Nixon’s campaign treasurer, a position she has since vacated to run for attorney general.</p> <p>Among the four Democratic attorney general candidates, Teachout is undoubtedly furthest to the left. At the WFP nominating convention, delegates chose Nixon and Williams, and opted to install a placeholder for attorney general until, they hope, either James or Teachout emerges from the Democratic primary victorious and is offered the additional ballot line for the general election. James has expressed her love for the WFP despite initially shunning its endorsement and has said she believes everyone will coalesce again in the near future.</p> <p>While James has aligned herself with Cuomo and his unity deal, Teachout, who endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in May, is staunchly behind IDC challengers and has recently campaigned alongside Williams.</p> <p>Koch doesn’t believe her endorsements will give her a significant edge, however. “I do think that there might be some benefit in endorsing some of the folks against the IDC because that’s where the progressive energy is,” he said, “but at the end of the day, people who are voting for attorney general aren’t basing their votes on just the issue of the IDC, they’re coming at it from a much more holistic spectrum.”</p> <p>The experts who spoke with Gotham Gazette noted the significance of the ‘Ocasio effect.’ Both Teachout and Nixon had endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in the run up to the congressional primary and seized on her victory to emphasize that progressive challengers can defeat machine-backed incumbents. “There’s very much a movement that’s energizing the left and politicians who ignore it or who fall too far behind are really doing so at their own peril,” said a Democratic consultant who wished to remain unnamed so he could speak freely.</p> <p>“There’s certainly a lot of parallels between Cuomo and Crowley, you know, representing the old guard, like white-working class Democrats,” said the Democratic consultant. “But that being said, I wouldn’t read too much into the Ocasio win as portending a loss for Cuomo because Cuomo’s still extraordinarily popular among African-Americans, particularly African-American women, and Cynthia Nixon hasn’t to this point been able to show the ability to break into that base of support, which is really what you’re seeing here. It’s a combination of minority voters and very young, progressive voters.”</p> <p>For their part, top Nixon campaign aides cite Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in expressing their belief that public opinion polls can no longer be trusted to capture the progressive energy that has largely emerged since the 2016 election of Donald Trump.</p> <p>Koch said activist pressure against the IDC and its supporters has been building but “at the state level, people are gonna hedge their bets a little bit more because, one way or another, they’re gonna have to work with some of these folks.”</p> <p>Greer seemed more bullish about how far the momentum behind Ocasio-Cortez would carry into state elections. She conceded that Democrats across New York are not as progressive as they are in New York City, but that the win gave a much-needed confidence boost to IDC challengers as well as Nixon and Teachout, not to mention obvious opportunities to add volunteers and donors. “It’ll be fascinating to see if, all of a sudden, Cynthia and Zephyr can ride the coattails of Alexandria,” she said, a notion that, before the congressional primary, “would’ve sounded like crazy talk.”</p> <p>“But the reality here is...Alexandria’s getting national attention for the message that Cynthia and Zephyr have been championing,” she said.</p> <p><strong>Other Democrats Choose</strong><br />Virtually every elected Democrat in New York is expected to pick sides: Cuomo or Nixon; Hochul or Williams; James or Teachout or Eve or Maloney; Klein or Biaggi; and so on.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the most powerful Democratic officials in the state by virtue of his position, has so far stayed on the sidelines, regularly declining to comment on the 2018 New York elections, but promising to weigh in at some point. Given that Nixon was a fervent supporter during his winning 2013 campaign for mayor and again supported him for reelection in 2017, and his ongoing feud with Cuomo, de Blasio’s decision in the gubernatorial race is especially interesting. In 2014, before their feud had really escalated, de Blasio backed Cuomo for reelection, even helping broker him the Working Families Party nomination. He has indicated it did not work out as planned.</p> <p>Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, not facing a primary challenge himself, has backed Cuomo and Hochul, but says he’s likely staying out of the attorney general primary, even though the state party is behind James.</p> <p>While many Democratic officials have already or are expected to back Cuomo, there are local electeds who, beholden neither to the governor nor their respective Democratic machines, have chosen to break from the pack. New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca was the first of his colleagues to endorse Nixon’s bid for governor, and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Antonio Reynoso later followed suit. Williams, running for lieutenant governor, is also an apparent Nixon backer, but the two have not formally linked up as a ticket, so to speak (the two positions are elected separately in party primaries, but together in the general election).</p> <p>Reynoso and Menchaca, and Council Members Brad Lander, Adrienne Adams, and I. Daneek Miller have also backed Williams for lieutenant governor. Williams has also announced the backing of state Senator Kevin Parker, and across the state he has picked up endorsements from legislators in Albany and Syracuse, while Nixon was recently endorsed by more than a dozen Hudson Valley elected officials.</p> <p>Nixon’s most prominent recent endorsement came from the former City Council Speaker, Mark-Viverito, a progressive in the same vein who drew parallels between Nixon and Ocasio-Cortez. “These two boldly progressive women share the same values and priorities,” Mark-Viverito <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-why-i-back-cynthia-nixon-20180629-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wrote in the New York Daily News</a>. Nixon also cross-endorsed with Ocasio-Cortez the day before the congressional primary, and in the last week, has done so with Ramos, who is seeking to unseat Senator Peralta, formerly of the IDC, and Julia Salazar, a democratic socialist challenging Democratic state Senator Martin Dilan in northern Brooklyn.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Senator Hamilton's challenger, Myrie, announced four new endorsements from Assembly Members Walter Mosley, Diana Richardson, Jo Anne Simon and Robert Carroll, who represent Central Brooklyn. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Democratic Unity?</strong><br />“It goes back to the basic tenet: a house divided against itself can’t stand,” said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Democratic leader, in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7745-andrea-stewart-cousins-on-democratic-unity-and-the-value-of-primaries" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent appearance on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> hosted by Gotham Gazette and City Limits. The senator was addressing the Senate unity deal and whether Klein would be loyal to it. “How are we gonna do this?...I’m not gonna be sitting there having people somehow undermine the efforts that we have to be a team. That’s always been the case.”</p> <p>Sen. Michael Gianaris, the chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-idc-gianaris-breakaway-democrats-peralta-20180708-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has ruled out endorsing</a> the former IDC members, according to the Daily News -- Gianaris has had a long running feud with Klein, the IDC head -- and has been noncommittal on whether he may support their opponents. “Everyone seems to be on their best behavior on both sides and there seems to be genuine effort to work cooperatively and get to where we’re trying to go, so hopefully that continues,” Gianaris said in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7758:democratic-campaign-chief-even-a-blue-trickle-will-flip-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a separate Max &amp; Murphy interview</a>.</p> <p>Lieutenant Governor Hochul, in her own <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7768-hochul-divided-democratic-party-only-benefits-republicans" target="_blank" rel="noopener">appearance on the podcast</a>, said Democrats attacking each other only serve to polarize voters and that the party would be better off expending that energy against Republicans. “We can all be purists about everything when we have a Democrat in the White House, when we have the House and the Senate, and when we have New York State Legislature,” she said. “Then we can fight each other on the nuances.”</p> <p>Along with the decisions facing them now about who to back in the primaries, one major question for New York Democrats is what happens after September 13, and whether party members can coalesce for the general election. Republicans have completely avoided primaries for all four state-level statewide races of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general, and in virtually every state Senate district held by an incumbent.</p> <p>“I don’t think [the Democratic Party] fractures,” said the Democratic consultant who didn’t want to be named. “I think that’s the evolution of the party. That’s the direction that you’re seeing the party, and it’s largely driven by a local reaction to federal issues. It’s very largely a reaction to Trump on a number of things, on immigration, on labor, on health care, on taxes, on women’s rights.” &nbsp;</p> <p>The frustration with Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, the consultant said, means that Democrats want “a much more aggressive stance and debate” from their own leaders.</p> <p>Koch from Precision Strategies said the party will likely come together in the face of a larger enemy to sweep the major statewide races -- governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller. “The Democratic Party has always been a very big tent party, it’s always run the ideological spectrum from the progressive wing through to a more centrist wing,” he said, “and that’s why the party has been successful…After these primaries are done, Democrats will come together and unite because there are bigger threats and what unites us is definitely stronger than what divides us.”</p> <p>“I think the relationships will by and large repair themselves,” Koch added, “I suspect that after the primary, folks will get together and hash out whatever needs to be hashed out.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This story has been updated to include mention of endorsements received by Zellnor Myrie from four state Assembly members.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/corey-johnson-jessica-ramos-robert-jackson-cityhall.jpg" alt="corey johnson jessica ramos robert jackson cityhall" width="600" height="475" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson endorses IDC challengers (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>As progressives aggressively attempt to wrest control of the Democratic Party from the hands of those they call centrists and establishment politicians, elected Democrats across New York find themselves in an unenviable position. Abiding by their self-professed progressive values to support insurgent Democratic primary challengers could mean bucking the state party establishment and its leader, Governor Andrew Cuomo, while, on the other hand, toeing the party line risks opening them up to accusations of hypocrisy and betrayal -- and perhaps even a future primary challenge -- levelled by an enraged and engaged base.</p> <p>A battle that played out during the 2016 presidential primary between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton has only intensified since Donald Trump’s victory. The 2018 election cycle is offering many opportunities across the country for Democrats, elected officials and otherwise, to decide between what is essentially two wings of the party. The Democrats’ season of choosing is easier for some than others, but many prominent party figures find themselves in uncomfortable situations. At stake is nothing short of political careers, the fate of activist organizations, the policy agenda and future of the Democratic Party, the outcomes of current and prospective elections, and their aftermaths in terms of government policies that affect millions.</p> <p>At the center in New York is Cuomo, his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, and the state Senate’s erstwhile Independent Democratic Conference, eight senators who chose power over party for as many as seven years by empowering Republican control of the legislative chamber, what has been the GOP’s only stronghold in state government. In April, the renegades returned to the fold with assurances from Cuomo, who long tolerated and allegedly enabled their infidelity, that their seats were secure, at least from other Democrats. Under the accord brokered by the governor just after a new state budget was passed, the state Democratic Party machinery, fellow state-level electeds, and prominent labor unions would support these former IDC members -- who were time and again blamed for obstructing the passage of progressive legislation -- and would refuse to aid their challengers.</p> <p>Though Cuomo and the former IDC members have professed support for progressive priorities -- voting, elections and campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, women’s reproductive rights, stronger rent regulations, immigrant protections, to name a few -- they have failed to pass legislation along those lines, blaming staunch opposition by Senate Republicans. Their progressive challengers instead say they have been the obstacles to progressive bills by empowering Republicans.</p> <p>Cuomo, at the top of the Democratic ticket, faces an aggressive challenge from actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in the primary. Nixon’s candidacy, from the left of Cuomo, parallels Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid four years ago, except it comes in a more heightened atmosphere of displeasure on the left following Trump’s election, amid disappointment with Cuomo’s relatively centrist record, and with increased awareness of the IDC. Nixon also has other advantages Teachout lacked, like name recognition and fundraising prowess, though Cuomo has worked over the past four years to make amends with some of his past critics, such as those in certain labor unions.</p> <p>A similar fight is being replicated in the race for lieutenant governor, between incumbent Democrat Hochul and her progressive challenger, Jumaane Williams, a City Council member from Brooklyn. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>All eight former IDC members face primary challenges ahead of the September 13 vote. Five of those districts fall squarely in New York City while another is split between the Bronx and Westchester, with two others upstate.</p> <p>In District 13, in Queens, Jessica Ramos is taking on Sen. Jose Peralta; in Brooklyn’s District 20, Zellnor Myrie is challenging Sen. Jesse Hamilton; on Manhattan’s west side, Robert Jackson is going up against Sen. Marisol Alcantara; in District 23, which spans Staten Island’s north shore and parts of Brooklyn, Jasmine Robinson is confronting Sen. Diane Savino; in District 11 in Queens, Sen. Tony Avella will again face former city Comptroller John Liu, who earned 47 percent in a losing 2014 bid to unseat Avella; and in District 34 that covers Westchester and the Bronx, Alessandra Biaggi is attempting to unseat the leader of the what was the IDC, Sen. Jeff Klein, who now serves as the deputy leader in the unified Senate Democratic Conference.</p> <p>Outside the city, in District 38 that spreads across Rockland and Westchester, Sen. David Carlucci faces a challenge from Julie Goldberg; and in District 53 covering Madison County and parts of Onondaga and Oneida, Sen. David Valesky faces Rachel May in the primary.</p> <p>For Cuomo and the state party, maintaining what Democratic seats they have in the Senate is paramount as they seek to flip the chamber by picking up more. Republicans have recently held control of the 63-seat chamber by a one-seat margin thanks to their own ranks and a single rogue conservative Senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who won his most recent reelection on the Democratic, Republican, and Conservative Party lines -- Felder is also facing a Democratic primary this year, from Blake Morris.</p> <p>But while they also want to see Republican seats flipped in November, many progressive activists insist that the party needs to elect better, “bluer Democrats” than Cuomo, Hochul, and the former IDC members. Nixon has explained that it is her motivation to run for governor, saying that in the age of Trump not any Democrat will do. Cuomo and his supporters argue that not only has the governor been a progressive powerhouse, but that Democratic energy of all kinds would be better spent working in concert to flip red seats to blue.</p> <p>That argument has largely fallen on deaf ears among those displeased with Cuomo, Klein, and other Democratic incumbents.</p> <p>The shiny veneer of the Senate Democrat reunification deal and its accompanying pact of nonaggression has seemed to be wearing off as challengers to the IDC senators pick up endorsements from top Democratic incumbents and, in one candidate’s case, from an influential labor union that helped broker the merger of the Senate Democrats. Meanwhile, Nixon and Williams have picked up far more support from elected officials and organizations than Teachout and her lieutenant governor running mate, Tim Wu, achieved in 2014.</p> <p>Democrats across the spectrum are taking sides, and others will be expected to do so over the next few months, in decisions that could be determinative for those they endorse, for their own political trajectories, and for the larger map of New York’s Democratic world currently dominated by one set of elected and appointed officials, consultants, labor leaders, and the networks of power they control.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Hopefuls</strong><br />On June 28, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced his endorsement of Biaggi, Jackson, Ramos, and Myrie, providing them a boost at a time when progressives were already feeling emboldened by the congressional primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earlier that week.</p> <p>A declared democratic socialist with a deeply progressive campaign platform, Ocasio-Cortez defeated Democratic giant Rep. Joe Crowley, a ten-term incumbent and the powerful boss of the Queens Democratic Party who was among the chief drivers of the Senate Democratic reunification and a possible next speaker of the House of Representatives. The stunning upset shook the foundations of the Democratic Party and undercut the conventional wisdom of the primacy of incumbents and machine politics, and its ramifications will likely be dissected for years. In New York, it’s immediate effects were quickly felt. Johnson, who had endorsed Crowley in the race, insisted the result did not affect his decision to endorse the four IDC challengers, which he said was in the works for months, but that did not stop observers from drawing a connection.</p> <p>“Whether it’s in Washington, D.C., or in Albany, the status quo isn’t working and that is why I’m here today in supporting four amazing candidates,” Johnson said at the steps of City Hall. “They are Democrats, they are progressive Democrats, they will caucus with the Democrats and they will support all the issues that Democrats support.” On Saturday, Johnson said on Twitter that he was ready to fully support Liu. At a Tuesday event in support of Biaggi, Johnson <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/1016874584489021440" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said</a>, “It feels really good to be able to tell the truth and for too long, people were not telling the truth about the IDC and the damage that they’ve done to the state of New York. And that damage was all in their own self-interest, putting their own self-interest above the entire state of New York.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement following Johnson’s endorsement, Barbara Brancaccio, a spokesperson for Klein, said, “Frankly we are surprised that our opponent would accept the endorsement of such a radioactive figure coming on the heels of his endorsement of Joe Crowley. We are sure that Johnson will do for this challenger, exactly what he did for Joe Crowley."</p> <p>At the same time, Johnson has also endorsed Governor Cuomo for reelection over Nixon, who continues to criticize the governor for supporting the IDC and whose platform largely resembles those of the IDC opponents. She shares stark similarities with Ocasio-Cortez and others seeking to upend incumbent Democrats who insurgents believe are too close to big-money interests and not in touch with their constituents who most need them. Nixon has begun to align herself more closely with those IDC challengers, cross-endorsing with Ramos earlier this week, for example.</p> <p>The same day as Johnson’s endorsement of the IDC challengers, 32BJ SEIU, the prominent building workers union, endorsed Biaggi, though their president Hector Figueroa had months ago been among those who proposed the Democratic reunification deal and the union is among several that have endorsed Cuomo and had also backed Crowley. “Jeff Klein and the IDC have empowered obstructionist Republicans set on blocking key reforms for too long,” Figueroa said <a href="http://www.seiu32bj.org/press-releases/32bj-seiu-endorses-biaggi/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in a statement</a> announcing the endorsement. “Never again.”</p> <p>And just one day prior, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer also endorsed Biaggi, a few months after he had already announced his support for Ramos and Jackson. The endorsements by Stringer, well before the Ocasio-Cortez win and its initial fallout, have won him much praise from liberal activists.</p> <p>Since his union came out for Biaggi, Figueroa has also addressed the Democratic split in New York, <a href="https://twitter.com/figue32bj/status/1016043465493372930" target="_blank" rel="noopener">writing on Twitter</a>, “Dems upset about IDC folks being primaried ‘for it may lead to the GOP winning a majority of NY Senate’ do not blame the ‘left’. The ones to be blamed are IDC incumbents themselves &amp; those STILL defending them. IDC betrayed voters creating a big political mess. Time to clean up.”</p> <p>Along with the number and strength of the progressive primary challengers to established incumbents and Ocasio-Cortez’s win, these endorsements, headlining still others, are the clearest cracks in the Democratic foundation that Cuomo and other state leaders have tried to set.</p> <p>“I think it’s fascinating because we do see a lack of cohesion as to whether or not people are going to support the IDC members or their challengers,” said Dr. Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University. “And I think this debate is sort of reflective of a larger debate that’s going on in the Democratic Party, for the soul of the Democratic party…‘Are we centrist, conservative-leaning Democrats or are we progressive?’”</p> <p>To some, these moves may smack of political opportunism, particularly in the case of Johnson, who is supporting progressives on the one hand while propping up establishment centrists like Crowley and Cuomo on the other. But in the New York political landscape, Greer said these endorsements are equally driven by philosophical considerations as they are by pragmatic ones. “These are politicians…I think that they can genuinely care about an issue and I think that they can also be calculating and strategic about it,” she said.</p> <p>For some, there is also a difference between backing a less experienced candidate for state Senate based on ideological reasons as opposed to the chief executive of the state.</p> <p>Both Johnson and Stringer are widely expected to run for mayor in 2021, the next city election cycle, when Mayor Bill de Blasio will be term-limited out of office, and tapping the progressive energy that Ocasio-Cortez rode to power, and that is now propelling Nixon, Williams, the IDC challengers, and others, would likewise boost their own political fortunes.</p> <p>“I think in the Democratic primary, the progressive energy in the city, that’s what you want to tap into if you’re running for mayor,” said Eric Koch, managing principal at Precision Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm, and former director of communications for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “So it makes sense to endorse the folks running against the IDC people because in terms of the activists and the people who are organizing against the IDC versus who is a Democratic primary voter in a mayoral election, there’s a pretty big overlap there.”</p> <p>It’s important to note that the IDC incumbents themselves have powerful backers, including unions like 1199 SEIU, many of which are in Cuomo’s corner as well.</p> <p>While Stringer and Johnson have decided to buck Cuomo and those involved in the unity deal, other likely 2021 mayoral candidates have not. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is a Cuomo ally and closely aligned with the Bronx Democratic Party apparatus, led by its chair, Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, and its former chair, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who signed onto the unity deal.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has been critical of Cuomo over the course of years, but has not made endorsements yet. His approach is complicated given his alliance with Senator Hamilton, formerly of the IDC. Adams did invite Nixon early in her campaign to tour a Brooklyn NYCHA complex and the two went to Albany Houses together. The Brooklyn borough president has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">voiced strong criticism of Cuomo</a>, but has not embraced Nixon beyond the NYCHA visit, nor has he weighed in on Williams’ challenge to Hochul or the IDC races.</p> <p>“They’re looking at these challengers and their districts, I’m sure, to sort of see what kind of coalition they would need to put together,” Greer said. “When they run for mayor, Andrew Cuomo may or may not still be in office...but a great campaign marketing slogan is, ‘We fight Albany. We fight Albany to make sure that New York City gets the money and resources we need.’”</p> <p>“Sure they care, but it’s also a very strategic move,” Greer said, “to make sure that they’re distancing themselves from the status quo to say that, ‘When tough decisions needed to be made, I didn’t just go along to get along.’”</p> <p><strong>Statewide Case</strong><br />Public Advocate Letitia James, who is running in the Democratic primary for attorney general (and had been a likely 2021 mayoral candidate), is charting a course similar to Diaz, Jr., but with a much higher profile given her bid for statewide office. James quickly jumped at the opportunity when Eric Schneiderman resigned the post after facing allegations of physical and emotional abuse by several intimate partners. Seen as an early frontrunner, with the blessing of the state Democratic Party and the governor, James rejected the possible endorsement of the progressive Working Families Party that had helped launch her political career as a City Council member.</p> <p>The WFP has been closely aligned with the IDC challengers, as well as Nixon and Williams, supporting their insurgent bids for office, while James has in the past supported at least one member of the IDC, Senator Alcantara, though she has come to criticize the IDC and called for reunification well before her attorney general bid.</p> <p>“I would essentially argue, if I were in these progressive groups that used to support Tish very openly, well what now gives you progressive bonafides?,” said Greer. “So her messaging has to be very clear for her supporters. Because they have progressive choices.”</p> <p>“Two days after Schneiderman resigned, it was essentially reported that Tish would be heir apparent and that’s the way much of the press is writing about the race...and I don’t necessarily see that to be the case anymore,” she added.</p> <p>James faces three other primary contenders: former Cuomo aide Leecia Eve, congressional Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, and Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary and lost, but managed to get a significant share of the vote, at 34 percent. Teachout, like Nixon, has been severely critical of the IDC and <a href="https://makenytrueblue.org/grassroots-coalition-formed-to-endorse-idc-challengers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsed</a> five IDC challengers as part of the TrueBlueNY coalition months before the attorney general position became available and she decided to run. When Schneiderman resigned, Teachout was at the time Nixon’s campaign treasurer, a position she has since vacated to run for attorney general.</p> <p>Among the four Democratic attorney general candidates, Teachout is undoubtedly furthest to the left. At the WFP nominating convention, delegates chose Nixon and Williams, and opted to install a placeholder for attorney general until, they hope, either James or Teachout emerges from the Democratic primary victorious and is offered the additional ballot line for the general election. James has expressed her love for the WFP despite initially shunning its endorsement and has said she believes everyone will coalesce again in the near future.</p> <p>While James has aligned herself with Cuomo and his unity deal, Teachout, who endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in May, is staunchly behind IDC challengers and has recently campaigned alongside Williams.</p> <p>Koch doesn’t believe her endorsements will give her a significant edge, however. “I do think that there might be some benefit in endorsing some of the folks against the IDC because that’s where the progressive energy is,” he said, “but at the end of the day, people who are voting for attorney general aren’t basing their votes on just the issue of the IDC, they’re coming at it from a much more holistic spectrum.”</p> <p>The experts who spoke with Gotham Gazette noted the significance of the ‘Ocasio effect.’ Both Teachout and Nixon had endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in the run up to the congressional primary and seized on her victory to emphasize that progressive challengers can defeat machine-backed incumbents. “There’s very much a movement that’s energizing the left and politicians who ignore it or who fall too far behind are really doing so at their own peril,” said a Democratic consultant who wished to remain unnamed so he could speak freely.</p> <p>“There’s certainly a lot of parallels between Cuomo and Crowley, you know, representing the old guard, like white-working class Democrats,” said the Democratic consultant. “But that being said, I wouldn’t read too much into the Ocasio win as portending a loss for Cuomo because Cuomo’s still extraordinarily popular among African-Americans, particularly African-American women, and Cynthia Nixon hasn’t to this point been able to show the ability to break into that base of support, which is really what you’re seeing here. It’s a combination of minority voters and very young, progressive voters.”</p> <p>For their part, top Nixon campaign aides cite Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in expressing their belief that public opinion polls can no longer be trusted to capture the progressive energy that has largely emerged since the 2016 election of Donald Trump.</p> <p>Koch said activist pressure against the IDC and its supporters has been building but “at the state level, people are gonna hedge their bets a little bit more because, one way or another, they’re gonna have to work with some of these folks.”</p> <p>Greer seemed more bullish about how far the momentum behind Ocasio-Cortez would carry into state elections. She conceded that Democrats across New York are not as progressive as they are in New York City, but that the win gave a much-needed confidence boost to IDC challengers as well as Nixon and Teachout, not to mention obvious opportunities to add volunteers and donors. “It’ll be fascinating to see if, all of a sudden, Cynthia and Zephyr can ride the coattails of Alexandria,” she said, a notion that, before the congressional primary, “would’ve sounded like crazy talk.”</p> <p>“But the reality here is...Alexandria’s getting national attention for the message that Cynthia and Zephyr have been championing,” she said.</p> <p><strong>Other Democrats Choose</strong><br />Virtually every elected Democrat in New York is expected to pick sides: Cuomo or Nixon; Hochul or Williams; James or Teachout or Eve or Maloney; Klein or Biaggi; and so on.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the most powerful Democratic officials in the state by virtue of his position, has so far stayed on the sidelines, regularly declining to comment on the 2018 New York elections, but promising to weigh in at some point. Given that Nixon was a fervent supporter during his winning 2013 campaign for mayor and again supported him for reelection in 2017, and his ongoing feud with Cuomo, de Blasio’s decision in the gubernatorial race is especially interesting. In 2014, before their feud had really escalated, de Blasio backed Cuomo for reelection, even helping broker him the Working Families Party nomination. He has indicated it did not work out as planned.</p> <p>Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, not facing a primary challenge himself, has backed Cuomo and Hochul, but says he’s likely staying out of the attorney general primary, even though the state party is behind James.</p> <p>While many Democratic officials have already or are expected to back Cuomo, there are local electeds who, beholden neither to the governor nor their respective Democratic machines, have chosen to break from the pack. New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca was the first of his colleagues to endorse Nixon’s bid for governor, and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Antonio Reynoso later followed suit. Williams, running for lieutenant governor, is also an apparent Nixon backer, but the two have not formally linked up as a ticket, so to speak (the two positions are elected separately in party primaries, but together in the general election).</p> <p>Reynoso and Menchaca, and Council Members Brad Lander, Adrienne Adams, and I. Daneek Miller have also backed Williams for lieutenant governor. Williams has also announced the backing of state Senator Kevin Parker, and across the state he has picked up endorsements from legislators in Albany and Syracuse, while Nixon was recently endorsed by more than a dozen Hudson Valley elected officials.</p> <p>Nixon’s most prominent recent endorsement came from the former City Council Speaker, Mark-Viverito, a progressive in the same vein who drew parallels between Nixon and Ocasio-Cortez. “These two boldly progressive women share the same values and priorities,” Mark-Viverito <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-why-i-back-cynthia-nixon-20180629-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wrote in the New York Daily News</a>. Nixon also cross-endorsed with Ocasio-Cortez the day before the congressional primary, and in the last week, has done so with Ramos, who is seeking to unseat Senator Peralta, formerly of the IDC, and Julia Salazar, a democratic socialist challenging Democratic state Senator Martin Dilan in northern Brooklyn.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Senator Hamilton's challenger, Myrie, announced four new endorsements from Assembly Members Walter Mosley, Diana Richardson, Jo Anne Simon and Robert Carroll, who represent Central Brooklyn. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Democratic Unity?</strong><br />“It goes back to the basic tenet: a house divided against itself can’t stand,” said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Democratic leader, in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7745-andrea-stewart-cousins-on-democratic-unity-and-the-value-of-primaries" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent appearance on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> hosted by Gotham Gazette and City Limits. The senator was addressing the Senate unity deal and whether Klein would be loyal to it. “How are we gonna do this?...I’m not gonna be sitting there having people somehow undermine the efforts that we have to be a team. That’s always been the case.”</p> <p>Sen. Michael Gianaris, the chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-idc-gianaris-breakaway-democrats-peralta-20180708-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has ruled out endorsing</a> the former IDC members, according to the Daily News -- Gianaris has had a long running feud with Klein, the IDC head -- and has been noncommittal on whether he may support their opponents. “Everyone seems to be on their best behavior on both sides and there seems to be genuine effort to work cooperatively and get to where we’re trying to go, so hopefully that continues,” Gianaris said in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7758:democratic-campaign-chief-even-a-blue-trickle-will-flip-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a separate Max &amp; Murphy interview</a>.</p> <p>Lieutenant Governor Hochul, in her own <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7768-hochul-divided-democratic-party-only-benefits-republicans" target="_blank" rel="noopener">appearance on the podcast</a>, said Democrats attacking each other only serve to polarize voters and that the party would be better off expending that energy against Republicans. “We can all be purists about everything when we have a Democrat in the White House, when we have the House and the Senate, and when we have New York State Legislature,” she said. “Then we can fight each other on the nuances.”</p> <p>Along with the decisions facing them now about who to back in the primaries, one major question for New York Democrats is what happens after September 13, and whether party members can coalesce for the general election. Republicans have completely avoided primaries for all four state-level statewide races of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general, and in virtually every state Senate district held by an incumbent.</p> <p>“I don’t think [the Democratic Party] fractures,” said the Democratic consultant who didn’t want to be named. “I think that’s the evolution of the party. That’s the direction that you’re seeing the party, and it’s largely driven by a local reaction to federal issues. It’s very largely a reaction to Trump on a number of things, on immigration, on labor, on health care, on taxes, on women’s rights.” &nbsp;</p> <p>The frustration with Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, the consultant said, means that Democrats want “a much more aggressive stance and debate” from their own leaders.</p> <p>Koch from Precision Strategies said the party will likely come together in the face of a larger enemy to sweep the major statewide races -- governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller. “The Democratic Party has always been a very big tent party, it’s always run the ideological spectrum from the progressive wing through to a more centrist wing,” he said, “and that’s why the party has been successful…After these primaries are done, Democrats will come together and unite because there are bigger threats and what unites us is definitely stronger than what divides us.”</p> <p>“I think the relationships will by and large repair themselves,” Koch added, “I suspect that after the primary, folks will get together and hash out whatever needs to be hashed out.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This story has been updated to include mention of endorsements received by Zellnor Myrie from four state Assembly members.</p>
Andrew Cuomo’s Missing Endorsements 2018-04-15T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-15T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7615:andrew-cuomo-s-missing-endorsements Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/40049214155_bb58083d9c_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>On March 19, New York’s gubernatorial race intensified when actor and activist Cynthia Nixon declared her candidacy. The incumbent, Governor Andrew Cuomo, shifted into high gear, chasing down endorsements from all quarters. He got a few -- a Senator, some labor unions, an old rock star who doesn’t live in New York. All fine and good, but where are the endorsements from the New York City Council, the Public Advocate, City Comptroller and borough presidents? Even more curious, where are the endorsements from the 133 people who know him best?</p> <p>Who are these 133 people? They are the Democratic members of the New York State Assembly and Senate. They are the elected representatives who ostensibly share an agenda with the governor and, in theory, work with him to pass laws. But all 133 Democratic members of the Senate and Assembly have remained conspicuously silent when it comes to the leader of their party. What’s more, they haven’t criticized Nixon’s primary challenge. Instead, they remain in patient equipoise at a time that Cuomo seems increasingly anxious to secure support against a formidable primary opponent. Why?</p> <p>The Legislature is tired of Cuomo’s business as usual. First, lawmakers are no doubt angered by Cuomo’s repeated exclusion of the chosen leader of the Senate Democrats, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, from budget negotiations and policy pushes. Never has this been more glaring than this year, when he publicly promised to seek her feedback on sexual harassment laws, and then reneged -- but kept Senator Jeffrey Klein in these negotiations despite the accusations of sexual assault recently leveled against him. In a year where the #MeToo movement has flexed its considerable political power, Cuomo underestimated the impact of excluding women from negotiations (resulting in a sexual harassment package, and budget, that is not even close to as strong as it could have been).</p> <p>Second, Cuomo has mismanaged his preferred mechanism for excluding Senator Stewart-Cousins from the leadership, otherwise known the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). Albany’s worst-kept secret is that this rogue group of senators, Democrats who have empowered Senate Republicans to run the State Senate since 2011, has been supported by Cuomo. Seven years ago, Cuomo could get away with this. Now, in the age of Trump, enabling Republicans is untenable.</p> <p>It took Cuomo too long to realize his support of the IDC hurts him at the polls, as it has with fellow Democratic elected officials. In fact, in a miscalculation of epic proportions, he kept the IDC on during budget negotiations. He could have had a trifecta of Democrats (himself, Carl Heastie and Sen. Stewart-Cousins) build the budget, achieved if he had called special elections earlier in the year. Instead, he waited, calling them for April 24 so he could keep Sens. Jeff Klein and John Flanagan in budget negotiations with him instead. As a result, the budget left out major planks of the Democrats’ progressive platform, like early voting, the Child Victims Act, criminal justice reforms, and more. New Yorkers noticed. In particular, many Westchester voters (those suburban voters that Cuomo so eagerly courts) noticed because they went unrepresented in budget negotiations, and their empty Senate seat could have tipped the balance of the upper chamber to the Democrats.</p> <p>This budget fiasco caused Cuomo to scramble to solve his IDC problem. His promised “deal” to reunify the IDC with the mainline Democrats, originally scheduled for after the special elections, abruptly accelerated. In a hastily devised agreement, Cuomo forced Sens. Stewart-Cousins and Klein to shake hands for the cameras and work out most of the details later, without even the courtesy of a heads-up to Sen. Stewart-Cousins before the meeting where he exerted a unifying power he had not-that-long-ago said he did not possess.</p> <p>Democratic lawmakers across New York have good reason to doubt the veracity of this rushed reunification. (Progressives are also dubious.) Perhaps they recall 2014, when Cuomo, in order to secure the endorsement of the Working Families Party, promised to undo the IDC (that never happened). They see that the IDC continues to hold high-dollar fundraisers, with Cuomo in attendance, signalling that real unification has not happened at all, and the IDC’s return to the GOP is inevitable. Perhaps they are just tired of Democrats who need to be forced to work with their own party, who hold bills hostage in committee, and suck up an unfair share of legislative resources year after year. Whatever the reason, Cuomo’s after-the-fact “reunification” of the IDC with the mainline Democrats is truly a case of too little, too late.</p> <p>The governor wants to get these missing 133 endorsements, by hook or by crook. During the press conference announcing the “reunification” deal, Cuomo declared by fiat that the newly united Democrats will support one another, including his gubernatorial campaign. Yet, the 133 endorsements have still failed to materialize. Democratic lawmakers are resisting Cuomo’s machinations in the one way they can, and as they say, the silence is deafening.</p> <p>***<br />Lisa DellAquila is a co-leader of True Blue NY. Heather Stewart is an organizer with Empire State Indivisible.&nbsp;&nbsp;On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/makeNYTrueBlue" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@makeNYTrueBlue</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/es_indivisible" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@es_indivisible</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/40049214155_bb58083d9c_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>On March 19, New York’s gubernatorial race intensified when actor and activist Cynthia Nixon declared her candidacy. The incumbent, Governor Andrew Cuomo, shifted into high gear, chasing down endorsements from all quarters. He got a few -- a Senator, some labor unions, an old rock star who doesn’t live in New York. All fine and good, but where are the endorsements from the New York City Council, the Public Advocate, City Comptroller and borough presidents? Even more curious, where are the endorsements from the 133 people who know him best?</p> <p>Who are these 133 people? They are the Democratic members of the New York State Assembly and Senate. They are the elected representatives who ostensibly share an agenda with the governor and, in theory, work with him to pass laws. But all 133 Democratic members of the Senate and Assembly have remained conspicuously silent when it comes to the leader of their party. What’s more, they haven’t criticized Nixon’s primary challenge. Instead, they remain in patient equipoise at a time that Cuomo seems increasingly anxious to secure support against a formidable primary opponent. Why?</p> <p>The Legislature is tired of Cuomo’s business as usual. First, lawmakers are no doubt angered by Cuomo’s repeated exclusion of the chosen leader of the Senate Democrats, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, from budget negotiations and policy pushes. Never has this been more glaring than this year, when he publicly promised to seek her feedback on sexual harassment laws, and then reneged -- but kept Senator Jeffrey Klein in these negotiations despite the accusations of sexual assault recently leveled against him. In a year where the #MeToo movement has flexed its considerable political power, Cuomo underestimated the impact of excluding women from negotiations (resulting in a sexual harassment package, and budget, that is not even close to as strong as it could have been).</p> <p>Second, Cuomo has mismanaged his preferred mechanism for excluding Senator Stewart-Cousins from the leadership, otherwise known the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). Albany’s worst-kept secret is that this rogue group of senators, Democrats who have empowered Senate Republicans to run the State Senate since 2011, has been supported by Cuomo. Seven years ago, Cuomo could get away with this. Now, in the age of Trump, enabling Republicans is untenable.</p> <p>It took Cuomo too long to realize his support of the IDC hurts him at the polls, as it has with fellow Democratic elected officials. In fact, in a miscalculation of epic proportions, he kept the IDC on during budget negotiations. He could have had a trifecta of Democrats (himself, Carl Heastie and Sen. Stewart-Cousins) build the budget, achieved if he had called special elections earlier in the year. Instead, he waited, calling them for April 24 so he could keep Sens. Jeff Klein and John Flanagan in budget negotiations with him instead. As a result, the budget left out major planks of the Democrats’ progressive platform, like early voting, the Child Victims Act, criminal justice reforms, and more. New Yorkers noticed. In particular, many Westchester voters (those suburban voters that Cuomo so eagerly courts) noticed because they went unrepresented in budget negotiations, and their empty Senate seat could have tipped the balance of the upper chamber to the Democrats.</p> <p>This budget fiasco caused Cuomo to scramble to solve his IDC problem. His promised “deal” to reunify the IDC with the mainline Democrats, originally scheduled for after the special elections, abruptly accelerated. In a hastily devised agreement, Cuomo forced Sens. Stewart-Cousins and Klein to shake hands for the cameras and work out most of the details later, without even the courtesy of a heads-up to Sen. Stewart-Cousins before the meeting where he exerted a unifying power he had not-that-long-ago said he did not possess.</p> <p>Democratic lawmakers across New York have good reason to doubt the veracity of this rushed reunification. (Progressives are also dubious.) Perhaps they recall 2014, when Cuomo, in order to secure the endorsement of the Working Families Party, promised to undo the IDC (that never happened). They see that the IDC continues to hold high-dollar fundraisers, with Cuomo in attendance, signalling that real unification has not happened at all, and the IDC’s return to the GOP is inevitable. Perhaps they are just tired of Democrats who need to be forced to work with their own party, who hold bills hostage in committee, and suck up an unfair share of legislative resources year after year. Whatever the reason, Cuomo’s after-the-fact “reunification” of the IDC with the mainline Democrats is truly a case of too little, too late.</p> <p>The governor wants to get these missing 133 endorsements, by hook or by crook. During the press conference announcing the “reunification” deal, Cuomo declared by fiat that the newly united Democrats will support one another, including his gubernatorial campaign. Yet, the 133 endorsements have still failed to materialize. Democratic lawmakers are resisting Cuomo’s machinations in the one way they can, and as they say, the silence is deafening.</p> <p>***<br />Lisa DellAquila is a co-leader of True Blue NY. Heather Stewart is an organizer with Empire State Indivisible.&nbsp;&nbsp;On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/makeNYTrueBlue" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@makeNYTrueBlue</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/es_indivisible" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@es_indivisible</a>.</p> <p>

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Cuomo's Progressive Promises, Reminiscent of Four Years Ago, Received Differently 2018-04-13T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-13T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7613:cuomo-s-2018-progressive-promises-reminiscent-of-four-years-ago Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/26366806607_826c5d4075_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Klein IDC Stewart-Cousins" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Stewart-Cousins, Cuomo, and Klein at unity event (photo: Govenor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In May 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo attempted to earn the last-minute endorsement of The Working Families Party with a video address at its nominating convention. As Cuomo sought a second term that year, he made a series of promises demanded by WFP members and received the party’s backing and ballot line. The deal with frustrated progressive activists and labor union leaders, who make up the WFP, was in part brokered by Mayor Bill de Blasio after the WFP threatened to run Zephyr Teachout to Cuomo’s left.</p> <p>Cuomo, a Democrat, promised to back a series of progressive policies and a Democratic takeover of the state Senate -- including the reunification of mainline Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference -- where he acknowledged that many of those policies had been blocked.</p> <p>Nearly four years later and with little he had promised the WFP accomplished, Cuomo made similar pronouncements, this time weeks ahead of the planned WFP convention, while he is facing a challenge from the left by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon. Nixon won the endorsement of the WFP on Saturday, however, with the party losing union members loyal to Cuomo and being driven by activists disillusioned by the governor, though he has made attempts to win them over. Those activists pushed for an early endorsement vote and got one, with the progressive, activist wing of the party ready to move beyond past support for Cuomo.</p> <p>Last week, Cuomo announced from his Manhattan government office the end of the IDC, a group of eight breakaway Democrats that has often voted with and empowered Senate Republicans, as a legislative conference. Part of the motivation for his work brokering a deal between the IDC and mainline Democrats, Cuomo said, was to pass a progressive agenda that had not made it through the Legislature, including the Dream Act and campaign finance reform.</p> <p>The 2014 and 2018 announcements both served as olive branches to the left, where trust of Cuomo has been thin for many years. In 2014, there was much skepticism of his commitment to the WFP agenda and to flipping Republican-held Senate seats, and in 2018, many do not believe in his commitment to fully dissolving the IDC or fighting for a unified Democratic Senate that pushes a sufficiently progressive agenda. Without acknowledging he did not keep any prior promises, Cuomo, again seeking the WFP endorsement until it became clear he would not get it, has said this time will be different.</p> <p>But the relationship between Cuomo and progressive activists appears beyond repair, and with the WFP nearing a Nixon endorsement, two major unions and Cuomo allies -- 32BJ SEIU and CWA -- announced on Friday they are leaving the WFP, as first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/13/nyregion/cuomo-nixon-wfp-labor-governor-election.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported</a> by The New York Times.</p> <p>During his second term, even as he has tacked left on a number of issues, Cuomo has continuously been pilloried by many progressives for not enacting certain components of the Democratic agenda. This disappointment has been channeled by Nixon, who last month announced her gubernatorial bid and has repeatedly and forcefully criticized the governor from the left, outflanking him on issues from taxing the wealthy to marijuana legalization.</p> <p>Brokering the IDC deal, Cuomo insisted, is not a result of Nixon’s run. Instead, it was with the aim of unifying Democrats in the Senate and pursuing other seats to form a majority, which would allow unpassed parts of his agenda to move through the Legislature, he said. Nixon has organized her run around the idea that Cuomo is not a “real Democrat,” empowering Republicans and failing to fulfill key policy promises.</p> <p>The announcement came on the heels of the completion of the 2019 fiscal year budget, which <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7591-cuomo-turns-budget-failures-into-justification-for-democratic-unity" target="_blank" rel="noopener">omitted</a> many of those progressive policy items the governor has said he backs, also including early voting and bail reform. Acknowledging some of those failures, Cuomo has pointed to the Senate Republican majority, a group holding onto power by a thin margin, bolstered by the IDC, and, many on the left believe, Cuomo’s tacit consent. The governor also waited to call special elections for two vacant Senate seats previously held by Democrats until after the budget, angering many on the left.</p> <p>“We finished the budget. We did a lot of good things in the budget, but there are also things that we didn't pass that we need to pass,” he said at the unity press conference last week. “Child Victims Act, more gun safety, bail reform, the Dream Act, banning outside income, campaign finance reform, early voting - these are all progressive principles that were not passed in the budget and which we will not pass until we have a Democratic Senate.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking to the advantages of a Democratic Senate was among the several parallels between the WFP convention address and last week’s IDC announcement. “We must pass the DREAM Act, because we believe in immigration, and we are not threatened by differences, we are excited by diversity,” he said in 2014. “I told the Senate leadership coalition, the IDCs and the Republicans, that we needed a success in passing the DREAM Act, public finance, Women’s Equality Act this session, or they would’ve failed the people.“</p> <p>More broadly, the message of unity at last week’s announcement echoed what he said to the WFP convention attendees. “If we are unified, and if we are mobilized, and if we come together, we can take control of our government and we can make our agenda a reality,” he said in 2014. “But we have to do it together. We can seize this opportunity for historic change. I hope we can do it, I hope we can do it together.”</p> <p>“We have two goals,” Cuomo said at his Democratic unity announcement last week. “Number one, elect a Democratic Congress so we can stop the Washington agenda and stop the Washington agenda from further damaging our state. And secondly, to elect a Democratic Senate so we can protect ourselves with our own state laws here in New York.”</p> <p>He added, “Now in many elections, Democrats divide and they splinter their efforts and divide resources, time and energy.”</p> <p>There are key differences between the contexts surrounding the two sets of Cuomo promises.</p> <p>Teachout launched her 2014 challenge against Cuomo months later in the cycle than Nixon has this year, deciding to stick with a Democratic primary run after she did not get the WFP nomination. With little money or name recognition, she won 34 percent in what has roundly been regarded as an embarrassment for Cuomo that showed his unpopularity with the left.</p> <p>In recent years, the relationship between the governor and mayor has frayed, as the two have sparred over many issues. And while de Blasio worked to help Cuomo secure the WFP endorsement during the last election cycle, it appears almost impossible he’ll do so in the coming month. <a href="http://observer.com/2018/03/de-blasio-cuomo-cynthia-nixon-governor/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Asked by a reporter from The Observer</a> in March if he would help Cuomo receive the WFP endorsement, he laughed and said, “You are a creative thinker.”</p> <p>De Blasio has repeatedly said he is not ready to weigh in on the 2018 elections yet, but will at some point.</p> <p>Furthermore, the national political landscape has shifted a good deal since 2014. With a Trump administration hostile to Democratic legislative aims and values, Cuomo has used the president as a way to unite New York’s left behind him. “The State of New York, I don't think it's over dramatic to say, it is under attack,” the governor said last week. “It is under attack by the Trump Administration, working with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, which are trying to bring an extreme conservative ideology to this country and to this state.”</p> <p>But the Trump presidency has also energized an activist left, much of which does not like Cuomo, either. So four years after his WFP video address, which many have likened to a hostage tape, will Cuomo earn the Democratic nomination again? And if he does and subsequently wins reelection, will he fulfill his promises he’s made to New York’s left?</p> <p>Teachout, now Nixon’s campaign treasurer, does not believe that Cuomo can be trusted to do so. On Twitter Thursday, she reminded her supporters of what she regards as the governor’s shortcomings. “Andrew Cuomo has used his power to serve hedge fund and real estate donors and betray kids, working men and women, basic infrastructure, and the promise of New York State,” she wrote. “So, for all the WFP members out there who voted for me four years ago, AND all of you who didn't: vote for Nixon. Remember Cuomo's 2014 promises to you. His word isn't good. His budgets, his tax priorities, and his donors tell you everything you need to know.”</p> <p>Gerald Benjamin, a longtime SUNY New Paltz political science professor, told Gotham Gazette that the tide would soon turn in the Democrats’ favor. It’s a question of when, not if, the Democrats take control of the Senate, he said. “In my view, a Democratic Senate is inevitable. It’s a question of timing,” he said. “The demographics are what they are.”</p> <p>When Democrats take the Senate, Benjamin predicted that Cuomo would be maneuvering under different political realities. “The priorities are going to be made different. The balance of outcomes will change, that's for sure," he said.</p> <p>Still, he cautioned against expecting sweeping changes coming in Albany should Cuomo be re-elected, labeling Cuomo a “mainstream New York liberal Democrat.” &nbsp;“He's a centrist politician. He's not a left politician,” Benjamin said. “Having said that, he holds many of the values Democrats hold in New York."</p> <p>Benjamin added that this dynamic is also due to the responsibilities the governor has that advocates, activists, and other interest groups do not, such as tending to the state’s fiscal health. "Governors can't responsibly do all those things,” he said, referring to ambitious and often expensive initiatives. “They have considerations the advocates don't have, and they should.”</p> <p>In a brief phone interview on Thursday, WFP New York State Director Bill Lipton would not comment directly on what he expected from Cuomo moving forward, but told Gotham Gazette that he was optimistic about accomplishing the goal of a progressive Senate, which he said was “long overdue.”</p> <p>“I think with the strong WFP-backed candidates challenging IDC incumbents, and the resistance mobilized for November, we feel confident that we’re going to win the progressive majority this fall,” said Lipton.</p> <p>“We are committed to electing a truly Democratic state Senate that puts New York’s working families first,” said Dom Leon-Davis, WFP’s communications director. With the departure of the two unions, the WFP appears on the verge of endorsing Nixon on Saturday, Lipton told Gotham Gazette on Friday afternoon.</p> <p>Though its convention is not scheduled to take place for another month, WFP committee members are gathering in Albany Saturday -- WFP leadership has repeatedly stated that its state committee members will vote this time around without the influences of 2014.</p> <p>“The 233 members of the WFP state committee have an important decision to make tomorrow, things are certainly heating up," Lipton said on Friday. On Saturday Nixon received over 90 percent of the WFP vote at its meeting -- a previously scheduled party get-together that became an endorsement meeting when members of the party were itching to get behind Nixon and start campaigning on her behalf.</p> <p>Heather Stewart, an organizer for Empire State Indivisible, a progressive activist group, said among the many developments that have occured in the last four years is that frustration among activists with the IDC has grown. “I think things are different now. I think that the public’s opinion on the IDC has changed,” she said. “More people know what it is now.”</p> <p>The frustration with Cuomo has grown, too, Stewart said. “The activists who are doing the work on the state level are extremely tuned in to what’s happening. So they see the little nuances in how things don’t look right. Even by political standards it doesn’t look like what Cuomo is doing makes any sense,” she explained. &nbsp;“I don’t think people are buying what he’s saying.”</p> <p>“I think that Cuomo is very good at saying ‘Hey, look at what I’m doing right now.’ And then things don’t actually follow through,” Stewart continued. “He doesn't follow through.”</p> <p>Despite Cuomo’s past broken promises or inability or unwillingness to move elements of a progressive agenda, some on the left do see hope for 2018 and beyond, given the circumstances and clear pressure being put on the governor and IDC members. While Cuomo has pointed to policy failures and the Senate Republicans, he has also been far more boastful about what he has accomplished over the past seven-plus years as governor, including marriage equality, gun control, a significant minimum wage increase, paid family leave, and more. He has also increased his standing with organized labor, key in any Democratic primary in New York.</p> <p>Stewart said activists in New York “want to fortify something legally that are our deepest-held values. We don’t want them threatened by what’s happening on a federal level.” Perhaps nothing signifies this sentiment more than the fact that Roe v. Wade abortion protections have not been enacted into state law, despite Cuomo calling it a priority.</p> <p>“We have a harmful person in the White House right now and activism has engaged citizens on a local, state, and national level,” Stewart said. “People are watching. The threat of primary challenges is more present than it was even in 2014. It’s not just for the governor now; it’s for the slate of IDC senators.”</p> <p>“In the wake of the Trump election,” Leon-Davis of the WFP said, “people are looking in their own backyards to see how to make progressive change and people are paying attention now more than ever to what’s happening and have been dissatisfied with the actions of the IDC and are looking for real Democratic leadership.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Note: this story has been updated to reflect the WFP endorsement decision.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/26366806607_826c5d4075_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Klein IDC Stewart-Cousins" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Stewart-Cousins, Cuomo, and Klein at unity event (photo: Govenor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In May 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo attempted to earn the last-minute endorsement of The Working Families Party with a video address at its nominating convention. As Cuomo sought a second term that year, he made a series of promises demanded by WFP members and received the party’s backing and ballot line. The deal with frustrated progressive activists and labor union leaders, who make up the WFP, was in part brokered by Mayor Bill de Blasio after the WFP threatened to run Zephyr Teachout to Cuomo’s left.</p> <p>Cuomo, a Democrat, promised to back a series of progressive policies and a Democratic takeover of the state Senate -- including the reunification of mainline Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference -- where he acknowledged that many of those policies had been blocked.</p> <p>Nearly four years later and with little he had promised the WFP accomplished, Cuomo made similar pronouncements, this time weeks ahead of the planned WFP convention, while he is facing a challenge from the left by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon. Nixon won the endorsement of the WFP on Saturday, however, with the party losing union members loyal to Cuomo and being driven by activists disillusioned by the governor, though he has made attempts to win them over. Those activists pushed for an early endorsement vote and got one, with the progressive, activist wing of the party ready to move beyond past support for Cuomo.</p> <p>Last week, Cuomo announced from his Manhattan government office the end of the IDC, a group of eight breakaway Democrats that has often voted with and empowered Senate Republicans, as a legislative conference. Part of the motivation for his work brokering a deal between the IDC and mainline Democrats, Cuomo said, was to pass a progressive agenda that had not made it through the Legislature, including the Dream Act and campaign finance reform.</p> <p>The 2014 and 2018 announcements both served as olive branches to the left, where trust of Cuomo has been thin for many years. In 2014, there was much skepticism of his commitment to the WFP agenda and to flipping Republican-held Senate seats, and in 2018, many do not believe in his commitment to fully dissolving the IDC or fighting for a unified Democratic Senate that pushes a sufficiently progressive agenda. Without acknowledging he did not keep any prior promises, Cuomo, again seeking the WFP endorsement until it became clear he would not get it, has said this time will be different.</p> <p>But the relationship between Cuomo and progressive activists appears beyond repair, and with the WFP nearing a Nixon endorsement, two major unions and Cuomo allies -- 32BJ SEIU and CWA -- announced on Friday they are leaving the WFP, as first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/13/nyregion/cuomo-nixon-wfp-labor-governor-election.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported</a> by The New York Times.</p> <p>During his second term, even as he has tacked left on a number of issues, Cuomo has continuously been pilloried by many progressives for not enacting certain components of the Democratic agenda. This disappointment has been channeled by Nixon, who last month announced her gubernatorial bid and has repeatedly and forcefully criticized the governor from the left, outflanking him on issues from taxing the wealthy to marijuana legalization.</p> <p>Brokering the IDC deal, Cuomo insisted, is not a result of Nixon’s run. Instead, it was with the aim of unifying Democrats in the Senate and pursuing other seats to form a majority, which would allow unpassed parts of his agenda to move through the Legislature, he said. Nixon has organized her run around the idea that Cuomo is not a “real Democrat,” empowering Republicans and failing to fulfill key policy promises.</p> <p>The announcement came on the heels of the completion of the 2019 fiscal year budget, which <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7591-cuomo-turns-budget-failures-into-justification-for-democratic-unity" target="_blank" rel="noopener">omitted</a> many of those progressive policy items the governor has said he backs, also including early voting and bail reform. Acknowledging some of those failures, Cuomo has pointed to the Senate Republican majority, a group holding onto power by a thin margin, bolstered by the IDC, and, many on the left believe, Cuomo’s tacit consent. The governor also waited to call special elections for two vacant Senate seats previously held by Democrats until after the budget, angering many on the left.</p> <p>“We finished the budget. We did a lot of good things in the budget, but there are also things that we didn't pass that we need to pass,” he said at the unity press conference last week. “Child Victims Act, more gun safety, bail reform, the Dream Act, banning outside income, campaign finance reform, early voting - these are all progressive principles that were not passed in the budget and which we will not pass until we have a Democratic Senate.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking to the advantages of a Democratic Senate was among the several parallels between the WFP convention address and last week’s IDC announcement. “We must pass the DREAM Act, because we believe in immigration, and we are not threatened by differences, we are excited by diversity,” he said in 2014. “I told the Senate leadership coalition, the IDCs and the Republicans, that we needed a success in passing the DREAM Act, public finance, Women’s Equality Act this session, or they would’ve failed the people.“</p> <p>More broadly, the message of unity at last week’s announcement echoed what he said to the WFP convention attendees. “If we are unified, and if we are mobilized, and if we come together, we can take control of our government and we can make our agenda a reality,” he said in 2014. “But we have to do it together. We can seize this opportunity for historic change. I hope we can do it, I hope we can do it together.”</p> <p>“We have two goals,” Cuomo said at his Democratic unity announcement last week. “Number one, elect a Democratic Congress so we can stop the Washington agenda and stop the Washington agenda from further damaging our state. And secondly, to elect a Democratic Senate so we can protect ourselves with our own state laws here in New York.”</p> <p>He added, “Now in many elections, Democrats divide and they splinter their efforts and divide resources, time and energy.”</p> <p>There are key differences between the contexts surrounding the two sets of Cuomo promises.</p> <p>Teachout launched her 2014 challenge against Cuomo months later in the cycle than Nixon has this year, deciding to stick with a Democratic primary run after she did not get the WFP nomination. With little money or name recognition, she won 34 percent in what has roundly been regarded as an embarrassment for Cuomo that showed his unpopularity with the left.</p> <p>In recent years, the relationship between the governor and mayor has frayed, as the two have sparred over many issues. And while de Blasio worked to help Cuomo secure the WFP endorsement during the last election cycle, it appears almost impossible he’ll do so in the coming month. <a href="http://observer.com/2018/03/de-blasio-cuomo-cynthia-nixon-governor/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Asked by a reporter from The Observer</a> in March if he would help Cuomo receive the WFP endorsement, he laughed and said, “You are a creative thinker.”</p> <p>De Blasio has repeatedly said he is not ready to weigh in on the 2018 elections yet, but will at some point.</p> <p>Furthermore, the national political landscape has shifted a good deal since 2014. With a Trump administration hostile to Democratic legislative aims and values, Cuomo has used the president as a way to unite New York’s left behind him. “The State of New York, I don't think it's over dramatic to say, it is under attack,” the governor said last week. “It is under attack by the Trump Administration, working with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, which are trying to bring an extreme conservative ideology to this country and to this state.”</p> <p>But the Trump presidency has also energized an activist left, much of which does not like Cuomo, either. So four years after his WFP video address, which many have likened to a hostage tape, will Cuomo earn the Democratic nomination again? And if he does and subsequently wins reelection, will he fulfill his promises he’s made to New York’s left?</p> <p>Teachout, now Nixon’s campaign treasurer, does not believe that Cuomo can be trusted to do so. On Twitter Thursday, she reminded her supporters of what she regards as the governor’s shortcomings. “Andrew Cuomo has used his power to serve hedge fund and real estate donors and betray kids, working men and women, basic infrastructure, and the promise of New York State,” she wrote. “So, for all the WFP members out there who voted for me four years ago, AND all of you who didn't: vote for Nixon. Remember Cuomo's 2014 promises to you. His word isn't good. His budgets, his tax priorities, and his donors tell you everything you need to know.”</p> <p>Gerald Benjamin, a longtime SUNY New Paltz political science professor, told Gotham Gazette that the tide would soon turn in the Democrats’ favor. It’s a question of when, not if, the Democrats take control of the Senate, he said. “In my view, a Democratic Senate is inevitable. It’s a question of timing,” he said. “The demographics are what they are.”</p> <p>When Democrats take the Senate, Benjamin predicted that Cuomo would be maneuvering under different political realities. “The priorities are going to be made different. The balance of outcomes will change, that's for sure," he said.</p> <p>Still, he cautioned against expecting sweeping changes coming in Albany should Cuomo be re-elected, labeling Cuomo a “mainstream New York liberal Democrat.” &nbsp;“He's a centrist politician. He's not a left politician,” Benjamin said. “Having said that, he holds many of the values Democrats hold in New York."</p> <p>Benjamin added that this dynamic is also due to the responsibilities the governor has that advocates, activists, and other interest groups do not, such as tending to the state’s fiscal health. "Governors can't responsibly do all those things,” he said, referring to ambitious and often expensive initiatives. “They have considerations the advocates don't have, and they should.”</p> <p>In a brief phone interview on Thursday, WFP New York State Director Bill Lipton would not comment directly on what he expected from Cuomo moving forward, but told Gotham Gazette that he was optimistic about accomplishing the goal of a progressive Senate, which he said was “long overdue.”</p> <p>“I think with the strong WFP-backed candidates challenging IDC incumbents, and the resistance mobilized for November, we feel confident that we’re going to win the progressive majority this fall,” said Lipton.</p> <p>“We are committed to electing a truly Democratic state Senate that puts New York’s working families first,” said Dom Leon-Davis, WFP’s communications director. With the departure of the two unions, the WFP appears on the verge of endorsing Nixon on Saturday, Lipton told Gotham Gazette on Friday afternoon.</p> <p>Though its convention is not scheduled to take place for another month, WFP committee members are gathering in Albany Saturday -- WFP leadership has repeatedly stated that its state committee members will vote this time around without the influences of 2014.</p> <p>“The 233 members of the WFP state committee have an important decision to make tomorrow, things are certainly heating up," Lipton said on Friday. On Saturday Nixon received over 90 percent of the WFP vote at its meeting -- a previously scheduled party get-together that became an endorsement meeting when members of the party were itching to get behind Nixon and start campaigning on her behalf.</p> <p>Heather Stewart, an organizer for Empire State Indivisible, a progressive activist group, said among the many developments that have occured in the last four years is that frustration among activists with the IDC has grown. “I think things are different now. I think that the public’s opinion on the IDC has changed,” she said. “More people know what it is now.”</p> <p>The frustration with Cuomo has grown, too, Stewart said. “The activists who are doing the work on the state level are extremely tuned in to what’s happening. So they see the little nuances in how things don’t look right. Even by political standards it doesn’t look like what Cuomo is doing makes any sense,” she explained. &nbsp;“I don’t think people are buying what he’s saying.”</p> <p>“I think that Cuomo is very good at saying ‘Hey, look at what I’m doing right now.’ And then things don’t actually follow through,” Stewart continued. “He doesn't follow through.”</p> <p>Despite Cuomo’s past broken promises or inability or unwillingness to move elements of a progressive agenda, some on the left do see hope for 2018 and beyond, given the circumstances and clear pressure being put on the governor and IDC members. While Cuomo has pointed to policy failures and the Senate Republicans, he has also been far more boastful about what he has accomplished over the past seven-plus years as governor, including marriage equality, gun control, a significant minimum wage increase, paid family leave, and more. He has also increased his standing with organized labor, key in any Democratic primary in New York.</p> <p>Stewart said activists in New York “want to fortify something legally that are our deepest-held values. We don’t want them threatened by what’s happening on a federal level.” Perhaps nothing signifies this sentiment more than the fact that Roe v. Wade abortion protections have not been enacted into state law, despite Cuomo calling it a priority.</p> <p>“We have a harmful person in the White House right now and activism has engaged citizens on a local, state, and national level,” Stewart said. “People are watching. The threat of primary challenges is more present than it was even in 2014. It’s not just for the governor now; it’s for the slate of IDC senators.”</p> <p>“In the wake of the Trump election,” Leon-Davis of the WFP said, “people are looking in their own backyards to see how to make progressive change and people are paying attention now more than ever to what’s happening and have been dissatisfied with the actions of the IDC and are looking for real Democratic leadership.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Note: this story has been updated to reflect the WFP endorsement decision.</p> Poll Targeting Brooklyn District Gauges Anti-IDC Sentiment 2018-03-07T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7526:poll-targeting-brooklyn-district-gauges-anti-idc-sentiment Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/img-4197.jpg" alt="Jesse Hamilton IDC" width="600" height="278" /></p> <p>Members of the IDC, including Sen. Hamilton (center), and others (photo: @IDC4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>A recent phone poll surveying residents of Senator Jesse Hamilton’s Brooklyn district asked residents to react to a number of statements associating the Independent Democratic Conference with President Donald Trump, among a variety of other questions, according to two residents of the district.</p> <p>The polling was conducted “on behalf of a Democrat regarding state Senate elections in September 2018” by the Florida-based Kalamata Group, one resident, who took meticulous notes during a February 10 phone call, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Kalamata Group is associated with Global Strategy Group, which works closely with IDC, indicating that the poll was funded by the conference. Hamilton is one of eight members of the IDC, which forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republicans, along with nominal Democrat Senator Simcha Felder. The alliance has been blamed for keeping Republicans in power in state government, effectively blocking the passage of key Democratic legislation, such as voting reforms, women’s reproductive health provisions, the Dream Act, and the Child Victims Act.</p> <p>The breakaway Democrats, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, are currently in talks to reunify with the mainline Democratic conference later this year, provided Democrats regain a total of 32 seats in the 63-seat chamber after a set of special elections in April, but that has not stopped a number of challengers, backed by a coalition of progressive activists, from launching primary challenges against IDC members.</p> <p>One of the residents of Hamilton’s district, who was polled, lives in Prospect Heights and asked to remain anonymous. He said he was asked to indicate whether he approved or disapproved of the IDC, Jesse Hamilton, Zellnor Myrie -- a lawyer who is running in the Democratic primary against Hamilton in the fall -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, and President Donald Trump.</p> <p>Several poll questions seem to evaluate whether Hamilton will be negatively impacted by criticisms that link him and his conference with Trump’s presidency, which appears to be hurting the Republican Party in New York. IDC challengers and their supporters have taken to calling IDC members “Trump Democrats.”</p> <p>The poll, for example, asks residents to rank how convincing they found a series of statements about Hamilton’s record, with the pollster telling saying that the statements were from Hamilton’s opponents.</p> <p>‘By aligning with the GOP in New York, Senator Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change,’ read one statement, according to the resident.</p> <p>The poll also tested several positive statements about the incumbent: ‘Hamilton secured $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called sanctuary cities,’ the pollster reportedly said, for example.</p> <p>The poll also tested for two potential criticisms of Myrie. One referred to a charity he founded in 2009 that had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS after he failed to file the paperwork, and another that he has no government experience and is linked to a local political machine.</p> <p>After each segment of the poll, the resident was asked a variation of "If the primary were held today, and the candidates Jesse Hamilton and Zellnor Myrie, who would you vote for?" (See full details of the poll below, as noted by the resident from Prospect Heights.)</p> <p>Barbara Brancaccio, a campaign spokesperson for Hamilton who works for Global Strategy Group, would not confirm that the IDC funded the poll, but as one political operative who Gotham Gazette briefed on the poll’s contents put it, “It's hard to imagine it not being the IDC. [Global Strategy Group] has a very long standing relationship with Jeff [Klein].”</p> <p>Brancaccio said the survey amounts to standard polling that is done whenever there is an election, and that the campaign does not make the results of its polling public.</p> <p><a href="https://govt.westlaw.com/nycrr/Document/I4fa8fe60cd1711dda432a117e6e0f345?viewType=FullText&amp;originationContext=documenttoc&amp;transitionType=CategoryPageItem&amp;contextData=(sc.Default)" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York State law </a>prohibits the partial release of political poll results, so candidates and campaigns often choose not to share their survey results.</p> <p>Still, the founders of No IDC NY, a political campaign <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7439-running-without-establishment-support-idc-challengers-show-initial-fundraising-strides" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that backs IDC primary challengers</a>, used the poll questions as an opportunity to take a swipe at the breakaway Democrats, noting that No IDC has conducted its own surveys through its collective phone-banking and text-messaging operations.</p> <p>In the 20th Senate District, home to the Hamilton-Myrie primary, phone-bankers spoke with 1,119 voters, 83 percent of whom are negative on the IDC, said Gus Christensen, chief strategist of No IDC NY.</p> <p>“The numbers are clear: the IDC has no base. Democratic voters are real Democrats, and real Democrats don't support turncoats who caucus with the Republicans. And I'm sure the only reason why the IDC won't release the results of their own polling is that it says the same thing, only in more detail,” said Christensen.</p> <p>Polling experts say phone-banking is generally not a reliable method to determine voter behavior, since phone-bankers likely have their own biases, and their questions may not be balanced. Political polling companies also take steps to ensure that the demographic make-up of subjects polled is reflective of the district.</p> <p>“It would be impossible for me to comment on any of these polls, not knowing the methodology behind them …but the key to making any survey scientifically accurate, is to ensure that you have a representative sample of the geography you are trying to poll,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.</p> <p>While overwhelmingly Democratic, Hamilton’s district is diverse and somewhat fragmented, including portions of Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and snaking down to South Slope, and Sunset Park.</p> <p>Myrie, in an interview with Gotham Gazette, said it was fair for critics to associate his opponent with President Trump.</p> <p>“In 2016, my opponent joined the Republican-friendly IDC within 24 hours of Donald Trump becoming the most regressive President our country has ever seen,” say Myrie. “Since that day, they both have pushed or supported the regressive Republican policies that have hurt my community...Republicans in the state Senate are lock and step with the Trump agenda, an agenda my opponent bolsters every single day as a member of the IDC.”</p> <p>___</p> <p><em>The following is lightly edited notes taken by one resident of the 20th State Senate District who was polled:</em></p> <p>Do you have favorable or unfavorable view of:<br />-The IDC<br />-Jesse Hamilton<br />-Zellnor Myrie<br />-Bill de Blasio<br />-Donald Trump</p> <p>If the primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?</p> <p>Do you approve or disapprove of the job Jesse Hamilton is doing?</p> <p>What are the two most important issues that will impact your vote?</p> <p>Would you prefer a a state senator who stands up to policies of Trump and Republicans in New York, or a state senator who addresses local issues?</p> <p>I am going to read profiles and ask if you find them favorable or unfavorable.<br />-Democrat Zellnor Myrie is an attorney and local Democratic party leader. He will be a true Democrat in the New York State Senate, an anti-Trump leader who will fight to fully fund schools, will focus on affordable housing, including protecting tenants who are being thrown out of their homes. He will help pave the way for Andrea Stewart-Cousins to become the first African-American woman Senate Majority Leader.<br />-Democrat Jesse Hamilton, current state senator, brought in $1 million for community land trusts that work to build affordable housing. He won tougher rent projections and a freeze on rent for seniors. He brought back $1 billion for public schools. He helped establish the nation’s first free college tuition program for families earning [amount unclear]. Jesse Hamilton will continue to stand up against Trump, protect women, immigrants, civil rights, and healthcare gains made by President Obama.</p> <p>If the primary were today, and candidates were Zellnor Myrie and Jesse Hamilton, for whom would you vote?</p> <p>I will now read statements from supporters of Jesse Hamilton - how convincing do you find them?<br />-Jesse Hamilton founded United Against Violence Task Force to develop new ways for communities to respond to violence. He funded organizations like Save Our Streets and Cure Violence. He is making a real difference in making our streets safer.<br />-Jesse Hamilton succeeded in securing $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called Sanctuary Cities.<br />(Side note: The woman on the phone didn’t know what “Dreamers” referred to. She said “Dreamers...it’s apparently an organization he is fighting to protect.” She added, “I’m not from New York.”)<br />-Jesse Hamilton is taking a strong stand against Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants and his attempts to roll back healthcare coverage, civil rights, marriage equality, and a woman’s right to choose, by writing protections against Trump into New York state law.<br />-Jesse Hamilton has been successful in bringing back hundreds of thousands of dollars for our school and community groups in need. Last year he secured funds for the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, Brooklyn Legal Services, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, and Youth Represent.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is pushing for the Rider Relief Plan that would repair funding by nearly $900 million to reduce delays and overcrowding for New York subways.<br />-Jesse Hamilton supports true low-income housing, not multi-million-dollar condos at Bedford Armory. He will make housing more affordable by expanding the number of seniors who qualify for homeowner exemptions, and expand the number of people qualified for rent freezes. He will fight for more affordable housing in New York and strengthen laws to give jail time to landlords who are illegally raising rents.</p> <p>Once again, if the NYS primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?</p> <p>Now I will read statements from opponents of Jesse Hamilton. How convincing do you find them?<br />-By aligning with the GOP in the New York State Senate, Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change.<br />-The IDC, of which Jesse Hamilton is a member, took tens of thousands of dollars from one of the biggest landlord groups in the city, called REBNY, which has been working to end rent regulations and eliminate tenant protections.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, a group of state senators who ran for office as Democrats, but then aligned with the GOP once elected. This has resulted in GOP control of the Senate, in spite of the GOP being in the minority, and has allowed the conservative GOP to stop or water down Democratic priorities.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, some of whose members have been exposed for taking extra salary or better office space in exchange for aligning with the GOP in the State Senate. This scheme has involved making false statements, and has led to inquiries by the office of the New York State Attorney General and the United States Attorney in Brooklyn.</p> <p>If the primary were today, who would you vote for?</p> <p>I will now read statements from opponents of Zellnor Myrie. How convincing do you find them?<br />-Zellnor Myrie started a charity that critics said he launched simply to promote himself. He promptly lost interest and the charity had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS, for failing the simple task of failing to file the proper forms.<br />-Zellnor Myrie has no government experience, but is relying on his political connections in the local party machine to get elected, and would serve their interest, not ours.</p> <p>If primary were today, who would you vote for?</p> <p>Then there were demographic questions at the end:<br />-Last grade of school completed?<br />-Anyone in household a member/retired from union?<br />-In politics, are you very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative, very conservative.<br />-Religious background - protestant, catholic, muslim, jewish, something else?<br />-Race?<br />-Hispanic?<br />-Do you receive more calls on landline or cell phone<br />-Can I use your first name?</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/img-4197.jpg" alt="Jesse Hamilton IDC" width="600" height="278" /></p> <p>Members of the IDC, including Sen. Hamilton (center), and others (photo: @IDC4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>A recent phone poll surveying residents of Senator Jesse Hamilton’s Brooklyn district asked residents to react to a number of statements associating the Independent Democratic Conference with President Donald Trump, among a variety of other questions, according to two residents of the district.</p> <p>The polling was conducted “on behalf of a Democrat regarding state Senate elections in September 2018” by the Florida-based Kalamata Group, one resident, who took meticulous notes during a February 10 phone call, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Kalamata Group is associated with Global Strategy Group, which works closely with IDC, indicating that the poll was funded by the conference. Hamilton is one of eight members of the IDC, which forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republicans, along with nominal Democrat Senator Simcha Felder. The alliance has been blamed for keeping Republicans in power in state government, effectively blocking the passage of key Democratic legislation, such as voting reforms, women’s reproductive health provisions, the Dream Act, and the Child Victims Act.</p> <p>The breakaway Democrats, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, are currently in talks to reunify with the mainline Democratic conference later this year, provided Democrats regain a total of 32 seats in the 63-seat chamber after a set of special elections in April, but that has not stopped a number of challengers, backed by a coalition of progressive activists, from launching primary challenges against IDC members.</p> <p>One of the residents of Hamilton’s district, who was polled, lives in Prospect Heights and asked to remain anonymous. He said he was asked to indicate whether he approved or disapproved of the IDC, Jesse Hamilton, Zellnor Myrie -- a lawyer who is running in the Democratic primary against Hamilton in the fall -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, and President Donald Trump.</p> <p>Several poll questions seem to evaluate whether Hamilton will be negatively impacted by criticisms that link him and his conference with Trump’s presidency, which appears to be hurting the Republican Party in New York. IDC challengers and their supporters have taken to calling IDC members “Trump Democrats.”</p> <p>The poll, for example, asks residents to rank how convincing they found a series of statements about Hamilton’s record, with the pollster telling saying that the statements were from Hamilton’s opponents.</p> <p>‘By aligning with the GOP in New York, Senator Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change,’ read one statement, according to the resident.</p> <p>The poll also tested several positive statements about the incumbent: ‘Hamilton secured $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called sanctuary cities,’ the pollster reportedly said, for example.</p> <p>The poll also tested for two potential criticisms of Myrie. One referred to a charity he founded in 2009 that had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS after he failed to file the paperwork, and another that he has no government experience and is linked to a local political machine.</p> <p>After each segment of the poll, the resident was asked a variation of "If the primary were held today, and the candidates Jesse Hamilton and Zellnor Myrie, who would you vote for?" (See full details of the poll below, as noted by the resident from Prospect Heights.)</p> <p>Barbara Brancaccio, a campaign spokesperson for Hamilton who works for Global Strategy Group, would not confirm that the IDC funded the poll, but as one political operative who Gotham Gazette briefed on the poll’s contents put it, “It's hard to imagine it not being the IDC. [Global Strategy Group] has a very long standing relationship with Jeff [Klein].”</p> <p>Brancaccio said the survey amounts to standard polling that is done whenever there is an election, and that the campaign does not make the results of its polling public.</p> <p><a href="https://govt.westlaw.com/nycrr/Document/I4fa8fe60cd1711dda432a117e6e0f345?viewType=FullText&amp;originationContext=documenttoc&amp;transitionType=CategoryPageItem&amp;contextData=(sc.Default)" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York State law </a>prohibits the partial release of political poll results, so candidates and campaigns often choose not to share their survey results.</p> <p>Still, the founders of No IDC NY, a political campaign <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7439-running-without-establishment-support-idc-challengers-show-initial-fundraising-strides" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that backs IDC primary challengers</a>, used the poll questions as an opportunity to take a swipe at the breakaway Democrats, noting that No IDC has conducted its own surveys through its collective phone-banking and text-messaging operations.</p> <p>In the 20th Senate District, home to the Hamilton-Myrie primary, phone-bankers spoke with 1,119 voters, 83 percent of whom are negative on the IDC, said Gus Christensen, chief strategist of No IDC NY.</p> <p>“The numbers are clear: the IDC has no base. Democratic voters are real Democrats, and real Democrats don't support turncoats who caucus with the Republicans. And I'm sure the only reason why the IDC won't release the results of their own polling is that it says the same thing, only in more detail,” said Christensen.</p> <p>Polling experts say phone-banking is generally not a reliable method to determine voter behavior, since phone-bankers likely have their own biases, and their questions may not be balanced. Political polling companies also take steps to ensure that the demographic make-up of subjects polled is reflective of the district.</p> <p>“It would be impossible for me to comment on any of these polls, not knowing the methodology behind them …but the key to making any survey scientifically accurate, is to ensure that you have a representative sample of the geography you are trying to poll,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.</p> <p>While overwhelmingly Democratic, Hamilton’s district is diverse and somewhat fragmented, including portions of Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and snaking down to South Slope, and Sunset Park.</p> <p>Myrie, in an interview with Gotham Gazette, said it was fair for critics to associate his opponent with President Trump.</p> <p>“In 2016, my opponent joined the Republican-friendly IDC within 24 hours of Donald Trump becoming the most regressive President our country has ever seen,” say Myrie. “Since that day, they both have pushed or supported the regressive Republican policies that have hurt my community...Republicans in the state Senate are lock and step with the Trump agenda, an agenda my opponent bolsters every single day as a member of the IDC.”</p> <p>___</p> <p><em>The following is lightly edited notes taken by one resident of the 20th State Senate District who was polled:</em></p> <p>Do you have favorable or unfavorable view of:<br />-The IDC<br />-Jesse Hamilton<br />-Zellnor Myrie<br />-Bill de Blasio<br />-Donald Trump</p> <p>If the primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?</p> <p>Do you approve or disapprove of the job Jesse Hamilton is doing?</p> <p>What are the two most important issues that will impact your vote?</p> <p>Would you prefer a a state senator who stands up to policies of Trump and Republicans in New York, or a state senator who addresses local issues?</p> <p>I am going to read profiles and ask if you find them favorable or unfavorable.<br />-Democrat Zellnor Myrie is an attorney and local Democratic party leader. He will be a true Democrat in the New York State Senate, an anti-Trump leader who will fight to fully fund schools, will focus on affordable housing, including protecting tenants who are being thrown out of their homes. He will help pave the way for Andrea Stewart-Cousins to become the first African-American woman Senate Majority Leader.<br />-Democrat Jesse Hamilton, current state senator, brought in $1 million for community land trusts that work to build affordable housing. He won tougher rent projections and a freeze on rent for seniors. He brought back $1 billion for public schools. He helped establish the nation’s first free college tuition program for families earning [amount unclear]. Jesse Hamilton will continue to stand up against Trump, protect women, immigrants, civil rights, and healthcare gains made by President Obama.</p> <p>If the primary were today, and candidates were Zellnor Myrie and Jesse Hamilton, for whom would you vote?</p> <p>I will now read statements from supporters of Jesse Hamilton - how convincing do you find them?<br />-Jesse Hamilton founded United Against Violence Task Force to develop new ways for communities to respond to violence. He funded organizations like Save Our Streets and Cure Violence. He is making a real difference in making our streets safer.<br />-Jesse Hamilton succeeded in securing $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called Sanctuary Cities.<br />(Side note: The woman on the phone didn’t know what “Dreamers” referred to. She said “Dreamers...it’s apparently an organization he is fighting to protect.” She added, “I’m not from New York.”)<br />-Jesse Hamilton is taking a strong stand against Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants and his attempts to roll back healthcare coverage, civil rights, marriage equality, and a woman’s right to choose, by writing protections against Trump into New York state law.<br />-Jesse Hamilton has been successful in bringing back hundreds of thousands of dollars for our school and community groups in need. Last year he secured funds for the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, Brooklyn Legal Services, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, and Youth Represent.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is pushing for the Rider Relief Plan that would repair funding by nearly $900 million to reduce delays and overcrowding for New York subways.<br />-Jesse Hamilton supports true low-income housing, not multi-million-dollar condos at Bedford Armory. He will make housing more affordable by expanding the number of seniors who qualify for homeowner exemptions, and expand the number of people qualified for rent freezes. He will fight for more affordable housing in New York and strengthen laws to give jail time to landlords who are illegally raising rents.</p> <p>Once again, if the NYS primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?</p> <p>Now I will read statements from opponents of Jesse Hamilton. How convincing do you find them?<br />-By aligning with the GOP in the New York State Senate, Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change.<br />-The IDC, of which Jesse Hamilton is a member, took tens of thousands of dollars from one of the biggest landlord groups in the city, called REBNY, which has been working to end rent regulations and eliminate tenant protections.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, a group of state senators who ran for office as Democrats, but then aligned with the GOP once elected. This has resulted in GOP control of the Senate, in spite of the GOP being in the minority, and has allowed the conservative GOP to stop or water down Democratic priorities.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, some of whose members have been exposed for taking extra salary or better office space in exchange for aligning with the GOP in the State Senate. This scheme has involved making false statements, and has led to inquiries by the office of the New York State Attorney General and the United States Attorney in Brooklyn.</p> <p>If the primary were today, who would you vote for?</p> <p>I will now read statements from opponents of Zellnor Myrie. How convincing do you find them?<br />-Zellnor Myrie started a charity that critics said he launched simply to promote himself. He promptly lost interest and the charity had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS, for failing the simple task of failing to file the proper forms.<br />-Zellnor Myrie has no government experience, but is relying on his political connections in the local party machine to get elected, and would serve their interest, not ours.</p> <p>If primary were today, who would you vote for?</p> <p>Then there were demographic questions at the end:<br />-Last grade of school completed?<br />-Anyone in household a member/retired from union?<br />-In politics, are you very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative, very conservative.<br />-Religious background - protestant, catholic, muslim, jewish, something else?<br />-Race?<br />-Hispanic?<br />-Do you receive more calls on landline or cell phone<br />-Can I use your first name?</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Conflict Escalates Between Working Families Party and Independent Democratic Conference 2018-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7512:conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/myrie_idc_opponents.png" alt="IDC opponents" width="600" height="318" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie, center, and other IDC challengers</p> <hr /> <p>The Working Families Party is escalating its efforts to unseat members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate. The WFP, a progressive political party that regularly cross-endorses Democrats, is rolling out additional endorsements of candidates challenging IDC members in this year’s elections, which include all the seats in the state Legislature.</p> <p>The IDC has a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans that helps keep the GOP in control of the upper chamber of the Legislature, Republicans’ only stronghold in state government.</p> <p>Awareness of the eight-member IDC has grown recently and anti-IDC organizing has increased dramatically since the election of Donald Trump as president and a corresponding increased recognition of the importance of state governments, and specifically party control of the state Senate in New York.</p> <p>The WFP -- which offers organizing and fundraising help to its candidates -- recently announced the endorsement of three IDC challengers: Jessica Ramos; Alessandra Biaggi, and Rachel May. On Wednesday, the WFP endorsed three others: Zellnor Myrie, John Duane, and Jasmin Robinson. On Thursday night, the party endorsed a seventh candidate, Robert Jackson.</p> <p>These candidates are challenging IDC Senators Jose Peralta, Jeff Klein, Dave Valeski, Jesse Hamilton, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, and Marisol Alcantara, respectively. The WFP does not yet have an announced candidate to take on Senator David Carlucci.</p> <p>On Sunday, the WFP is holding a rally in Brooklyn to bring its endorsed state Senate candidates together, as well as to formally back United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The event, to be held at Medgar Evers College, is being billed as the 2018 “campaign kickoff rally” of the “progressive insurgence,” according to the WFP event listing. “This is the first time these Working Families Democrats will share a stage,” said an email from the WFP encouraging people to attend. “[W]e need all hands on deck to elect a progressive majority to the State Senate.”</p> <p>The rally is being co-hosted by several groups that have sprung up in recent months with a focus on local politics, defeating IDC members, and moving New York leftward. These include True Blue NY, No IDC NY, New York Progressive Action Network, Empire State Indivisible and local “Indivisible” chapters. These groups held a press conference at City Hall on Thursday to back an initial handful of the IDC challengers. It was headlined by Zephyr Teachout, who ran a grassroots Democratic primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 (without WFP support).</p> <p>An added element of conflict -- and intrigue -- for Sunday is a rally being organized by Senator Hamilton’s office, set for outside Medgar Evers College at the same time participants will be arriving for the WFP rally. Hamilton has a district office nearby, and his team has put together what is billed as a “Black Minds Matter Rally.” Purportedly, the rally is “in support of black history education” and Hamilton’s bill that seeks to build a path toward the mandated teaching of black history in New York schools.</p> <p>However, the Hamilton-led rally, organized by his government office, is being called a fairly obvious response to the WFP campaign event. Hamilton’s office had asked Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) to participate, and its leadership agreed, but that changed when the apparent but unsaid motives for the rally became clear.</p> <p>"While NAN strongly supports badly needed efforts to bolster black history education, organizers of the Black Minds Matter Rally on March 4th neglected to inform us that their event was a thinly veiled counterprotest of the Working Families Party's rally on behalf of a number of their endorsed candidates,” said Kirsten John Foy, northeast regional direction for NAN, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>“Given our strong collaboration with WFP and other grassroots groups in the resistance against Trump's attacks on people of color and working people everywhere, we want to clarify that we do not support this counter-protest," Foy said.</p> <p>Past and current flyers for the Hamilton rally show NAN as a partner and not.</p> <p>Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Hamilton responded with a clarifying question, but, once it was answered, did not offer any clarity about the event or response to Foy’s assertion.</p> <p>The WFP describes the IDC as “a group of 8 turncoat Democrats who empower Republican senate leadership.” Candidates seeking to unseat IDC members regularly refer to them as “Trump Democrats.” They say that the IDC is part of what is holding New York back from enacting a sweeping progressive agenda including more school aid, more stringent rent regulations, universal health care coverage, codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections, and more. IDC members, led by Klein, say that they are able to influence legislation and budgetary priorities in the Senate and also bring home added spoils to their districts because of the power-sharing agreement.</p> <p>“The Working Families Party is proud to support this slate of progressive challengers,” said Bill Lipton, director of the New York Working Families Party, in a statement to Gotham Gazette about the IDC challengers. “Unlike the incumbents who voted to install a Trump loyalist as leader of the state senate, these Working Families Democrats are committed to supporting the progressive leadership of Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on day one. Only when progressives hold the gavel can we actually deliver on the progressive agenda working families demand: fair funding for public schools and universities, stronger rent laws, real criminal justice reform and so much more.”</p> <p>While the progressive backers of the IDC challengers are rallying and preparing for a big push through primary day in September, a tentative Democratic unity deal hangs in the background. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat who has had an up-and-down relationship with the WFP and other progressives, has helped orchestrate an agreement for mainline Senate Democrats and the IDC to join forces based on a number of factors, starting with Democrats winning two special Senate elections taking place April 24 to fill vacant seats.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/myrie_idc_opponents.png" alt="IDC opponents" width="600" height="318" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie, center, and other IDC challengers</p> <hr /> <p>The Working Families Party is escalating its efforts to unseat members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate. The WFP, a progressive political party that regularly cross-endorses Democrats, is rolling out additional endorsements of candidates challenging IDC members in this year’s elections, which include all the seats in the state Legislature.</p> <p>The IDC has a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans that helps keep the GOP in control of the upper chamber of the Legislature, Republicans’ only stronghold in state government.</p> <p>Awareness of the eight-member IDC has grown recently and anti-IDC organizing has increased dramatically since the election of Donald Trump as president and a corresponding increased recognition of the importance of state governments, and specifically party control of the state Senate in New York.</p> <p>The WFP -- which offers organizing and fundraising help to its candidates -- recently announced the endorsement of three IDC challengers: Jessica Ramos; Alessandra Biaggi, and Rachel May. On Wednesday, the WFP endorsed three others: Zellnor Myrie, John Duane, and Jasmin Robinson. On Thursday night, the party endorsed a seventh candidate, Robert Jackson.</p> <p>These candidates are challenging IDC Senators Jose Peralta, Jeff Klein, Dave Valeski, Jesse Hamilton, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, and Marisol Alcantara, respectively. The WFP does not yet have an announced candidate to take on Senator David Carlucci.</p> <p>On Sunday, the WFP is holding a rally in Brooklyn to bring its endorsed state Senate candidates together, as well as to formally back United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The event, to be held at Medgar Evers College, is being billed as the 2018 “campaign kickoff rally” of the “progressive insurgence,” according to the WFP event listing. “This is the first time these Working Families Democrats will share a stage,” said an email from the WFP encouraging people to attend. “[W]e need all hands on deck to elect a progressive majority to the State Senate.”</p> <p>The rally is being co-hosted by several groups that have sprung up in recent months with a focus on local politics, defeating IDC members, and moving New York leftward. These include True Blue NY, No IDC NY, New York Progressive Action Network, Empire State Indivisible and local “Indivisible” chapters. These groups held a press conference at City Hall on Thursday to back an initial handful of the IDC challengers. It was headlined by Zephyr Teachout, who ran a grassroots Democratic primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 (without WFP support).</p> <p>An added element of conflict -- and intrigue -- for Sunday is a rally being organized by Senator Hamilton’s office, set for outside Medgar Evers College at the same time participants will be arriving for the WFP rally. Hamilton has a district office nearby, and his team has put together what is billed as a “Black Minds Matter Rally.” Purportedly, the rally is “in support of black history education” and Hamilton’s bill that seeks to build a path toward the mandated teaching of black history in New York schools.</p> <p>However, the Hamilton-led rally, organized by his government office, is being called a fairly obvious response to the WFP campaign event. Hamilton’s office had asked Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) to participate, and its leadership agreed, but that changed when the apparent but unsaid motives for the rally became clear.</p> <p>"While NAN strongly supports badly needed efforts to bolster black history education, organizers of the Black Minds Matter Rally on March 4th neglected to inform us that their event was a thinly veiled counterprotest of the Working Families Party's rally on behalf of a number of their endorsed candidates,” said Kirsten John Foy, northeast regional direction for NAN, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>“Given our strong collaboration with WFP and other grassroots groups in the resistance against Trump's attacks on people of color and working people everywhere, we want to clarify that we do not support this counter-protest," Foy said.</p> <p>Past and current flyers for the Hamilton rally show NAN as a partner and not.</p> <p>Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Hamilton responded with a clarifying question, but, once it was answered, did not offer any clarity about the event or response to Foy’s assertion.</p> <p>The WFP describes the IDC as “a group of 8 turncoat Democrats who empower Republican senate leadership.” Candidates seeking to unseat IDC members regularly refer to them as “Trump Democrats.” They say that the IDC is part of what is holding New York back from enacting a sweeping progressive agenda including more school aid, more stringent rent regulations, universal health care coverage, codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections, and more. IDC members, led by Klein, say that they are able to influence legislation and budgetary priorities in the Senate and also bring home added spoils to their districts because of the power-sharing agreement.</p> <p>“The Working Families Party is proud to support this slate of progressive challengers,” said Bill Lipton, director of the New York Working Families Party, in a statement to Gotham Gazette about the IDC challengers. “Unlike the incumbents who voted to install a Trump loyalist as leader of the state senate, these Working Families Democrats are committed to supporting the progressive leadership of Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on day one. Only when progressives hold the gavel can we actually deliver on the progressive agenda working families demand: fair funding for public schools and universities, stronger rent laws, real criminal justice reform and so much more.”</p> <p>While the progressive backers of the IDC challengers are rallying and preparing for a big push through primary day in September, a tentative Democratic unity deal hangs in the background. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat who has had an up-and-down relationship with the WFP and other progressives, has helped orchestrate an agreement for mainline Senate Democrats and the IDC to join forces based on a number of factors, starting with Democrats winning two special Senate elections taking place April 24 to fill vacant seats.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Senate Candidates Outline Primary Campaigns Against ‘Trump Democrats’ 2018-02-27T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-27T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7504:senate-candidates-outline-primary-campaigns-against-trump-democrats Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/jackson-ramos-presser.jpg" alt="jackson ramos presser" width="600" height="515" /></p> <p>Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson</p> <hr /> <p>The eight-member Independent Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate has drawn increasing ire from Democrats around the state, especially in New York City. Democratic senators who have broken away from their colleagues in the regular Democratic conference, IDC senators form a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans, helping the GOP enhance its razor thin majority. The Senate is the only current Republican stronghold in state government.</p> <p>Several factors, including the election of Donald Trump as President, have led to increased awareness about the IDC, and most IDC members are now facing primary challenges from the left in this election year where all seats in the state Legislature are on the ballot.</p> <p>Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson are two candidates taking on IDC members: Jose Peralta of Queens and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan, respectively. On Monday, Ramos and Jackson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7494-max-murphy-podcast-idc-challengers-robert-jackson-jessica-ramos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">joined the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits to discuss their candidacies, why they are taking on the “Trump Democrats” of the IDC, and more.</p> <p>“I’m running for state Senate because the Queens I was born in, the Queens that I’m raising two sons in, the Queens I love, isn’t being represented in the state Senate,” Ramos said, indicating that the anti-IDC push is aimed at ensuring “real” Democrats occupy seats in the Legislature, not “turncoat” elected officials, as Jackson put it. Both candidates agreed that the IDC was helping Republicans stand in the way of a more progressive state.</p> <p>They called discretionary funding that IDC members bring back to their districts “blood money,” the spoils of a rotten power grab.</p> <p>Jackson, a former City Council member, is running in the Democratic primary for the 31st State Senate District against incumbent Sen. Alcantara, who was first elected to the seat in 2016, narrowly defeating Jackson and Micah Lasher, who came in second and is backing Jackson this time around, in a contentious primary. The district encompasses much of the west side of Manhattan, from Hell's Kitchen to Inwood.</p> <p>Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, is a first-time candidate, running against Sen. Peralta, who was first elected in 2010 to represent the 13th State Senate District, which includes communities of Jackson Heights, Corona, and East Elmhurst in central and northwestern Queens.</p> <p>While the IDC has claimed it is able to work with Senate Republicans to pass more progressive legislation than would otherwise be passed, Ramos, Jackson, and other IDC critics have sought to debunk that claim. The legislation has been “watered down,” Jackson said, referring to things like the state’s relatively new minimum wage program, and Ramos agreed.</p> <p>“They're eating crumbs off the Republican plates,” Jackson said of IDC members.</p> <p>Ramos describes funding IDC members get -- often significantly more than mainline Democratic senators and even some members of the Republican conference -- as “payment that they are receiving in exchange for supporting the Republican majority, and lest we forget that that discretionary funding is actually our very own taxpayer dollars.” The funding, she says, is more about politics than really serving the district.</p> <p>“Every single district that has New Yorkers that pay taxes should be receiving the same amount of funding,” Ramos said.</p> <p>“The bigger picture,” Jackson said, “is all of the legislative stuff that can be done, that’s where our people are going to benefit from.”</p> <p>Both Ramos and Jackson said that replacing IDC members with true Democrats would help lead New York in a more progressive direction. In total, they listed more than half a dozen bills or programs that they believe a Democratic majority in the Senate could deliver, including more education funding, single-payer health care, codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections into state law, and more.</p> <p>The two candidates touted early endorsements they’ve received, such as Ramos getting the backing of The Working Families Party.</p> <p>During the podcast the candidates answered questions about their records on particular issues, whether they have a path to victory, and other tougher subjects than simply going on the attack against the incumbents they hope to unseat.</p> <p>Ramos, for example, worked for de Blasio, and has to navigate how she approaches the mayor during her campaign. She discussed her work at City Hall whether she expects the mayor to campaign for her leading up to September’s primary vote.</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7494-max-murphy-podcast-idc-challengers-robert-jackson-jessica-ramos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to the full Max &amp; Murphy episode with Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson here</a>, or find Max &amp; Murphy wherever you get your podcasts.</em></p> <p>

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by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/jackson-ramos-presser.jpg" alt="jackson ramos presser" width="600" height="515" /></p> <p>Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson</p> <hr /> <p>The eight-member Independent Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate has drawn increasing ire from Democrats around the state, especially in New York City. Democratic senators who have broken away from their colleagues in the regular Democratic conference, IDC senators form a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans, helping the GOP enhance its razor thin majority. The Senate is the only current Republican stronghold in state government.</p> <p>Several factors, including the election of Donald Trump as President, have led to increased awareness about the IDC, and most IDC members are now facing primary challenges from the left in this election year where all seats in the state Legislature are on the ballot.</p> <p>Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson are two candidates taking on IDC members: Jose Peralta of Queens and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan, respectively. On Monday, Ramos and Jackson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7494-max-murphy-podcast-idc-challengers-robert-jackson-jessica-ramos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">joined the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits to discuss their candidacies, why they are taking on the “Trump Democrats” of the IDC, and more.</p> <p>“I’m running for state Senate because the Queens I was born in, the Queens that I’m raising two sons in, the Queens I love, isn’t being represented in the state Senate,” Ramos said, indicating that the anti-IDC push is aimed at ensuring “real” Democrats occupy seats in the Legislature, not “turncoat” elected officials, as Jackson put it. Both candidates agreed that the IDC was helping Republicans stand in the way of a more progressive state.</p> <p>They called discretionary funding that IDC members bring back to their districts “blood money,” the spoils of a rotten power grab.</p> <p>Jackson, a former City Council member, is running in the Democratic primary for the 31st State Senate District against incumbent Sen. Alcantara, who was first elected to the seat in 2016, narrowly defeating Jackson and Micah Lasher, who came in second and is backing Jackson this time around, in a contentious primary. The district encompasses much of the west side of Manhattan, from Hell's Kitchen to Inwood.</p> <p>Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, is a first-time candidate, running against Sen. Peralta, who was first elected in 2010 to represent the 13th State Senate District, which includes communities of Jackson Heights, Corona, and East Elmhurst in central and northwestern Queens.</p> <p>While the IDC has claimed it is able to work with Senate Republicans to pass more progressive legislation than would otherwise be passed, Ramos, Jackson, and other IDC critics have sought to debunk that claim. The legislation has been “watered down,” Jackson said, referring to things like the state’s relatively new minimum wage program, and Ramos agreed.</p> <p>“They're eating crumbs off the Republican plates,” Jackson said of IDC members.</p> <p>Ramos describes funding IDC members get -- often significantly more than mainline Democratic senators and even some members of the Republican conference -- as “payment that they are receiving in exchange for supporting the Republican majority, and lest we forget that that discretionary funding is actually our very own taxpayer dollars.” The funding, she says, is more about politics than really serving the district.</p> <p>“Every single district that has New Yorkers that pay taxes should be receiving the same amount of funding,” Ramos said.</p> <p>“The bigger picture,” Jackson said, “is all of the legislative stuff that can be done, that’s where our people are going to benefit from.”</p> <p>Both Ramos and Jackson said that replacing IDC members with true Democrats would help lead New York in a more progressive direction. In total, they listed more than half a dozen bills or programs that they believe a Democratic majority in the Senate could deliver, including more education funding, single-payer health care, codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections into state law, and more.</p> <p>The two candidates touted early endorsements they’ve received, such as Ramos getting the backing of The Working Families Party.</p> <p>During the podcast the candidates answered questions about their records on particular issues, whether they have a path to victory, and other tougher subjects than simply going on the attack against the incumbents they hope to unseat.</p> <p>Ramos, for example, worked for de Blasio, and has to navigate how she approaches the mayor during her campaign. She discussed her work at City Hall whether she expects the mayor to campaign for her leading up to September’s primary vote.</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7494-max-murphy-podcast-idc-challengers-robert-jackson-jessica-ramos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to the full Max &amp; Murphy episode with Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson here</a>, or find Max &amp; Murphy wherever you get your podcasts.</em></p> <p>

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by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: IDC Challengers Robert Jackson & Jessica Ramos 2018-02-26T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-26T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7494:max-murphy-podcast-idc-challengers-robert-jackson-jessica-ramos Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>February 26, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: IDC Challengers Robert Jackson &amp; Jessica Ramos<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/ramos-jackson-podcast-277.jpg" alt="ramos jackson podcast 277" width="277" height="114" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson have launched Democratic primary challenges to two state senators who are members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of eight breakaway Democrats that forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republican majority. Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Jackson, a former City Council member, joined the podcast to explain their reasons for running, their criticisms of the IDC, and what they would hope to bring to Albany and their districts if elected this fall.</p> <p>Ramos is taking on Senator Jose Peralta in their Queens district, while Jackson is taking on Senator Marisol Alcantara in their Manhattan district. The two challengers did not hold back in criticizing the IDC members, saying the "Trump Democrats" had turned their back on voters and that propping up a GOP majority is bad for the city and the state overall when it comes to policies like rent regulations, education funding, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>, with guests Robert Jackson (<a href="https://twitter.com/RJackson_NYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RJackson_NYC</a>) &amp; Jessica Ramos (<a href="https://twitter.com/jessicaramos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JessicaRamos</a>). You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/405469155&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>February 26, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: IDC Challengers Robert Jackson &amp; Jessica Ramos<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/ramos-jackson-podcast-277.jpg" alt="ramos jackson podcast 277" width="277" height="114" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson have launched Democratic primary challenges to two state senators who are members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of eight breakaway Democrats that forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republican majority. Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Jackson, a former City Council member, joined the podcast to explain their reasons for running, their criticisms of the IDC, and what they would hope to bring to Albany and their districts if elected this fall.</p> <p>Ramos is taking on Senator Jose Peralta in their Queens district, while Jackson is taking on Senator Marisol Alcantara in their Manhattan district. The two challengers did not hold back in criticizing the IDC members, saying the "Trump Democrats" had turned their back on voters and that propping up a GOP majority is bad for the city and the state overall when it comes to policies like rent regulations, education funding, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>, with guests Robert Jackson (<a href="https://twitter.com/RJackson_NYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RJackson_NYC</a>) &amp; Jessica Ramos (<a href="https://twitter.com/jessicaramos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JessicaRamos</a>). You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/405469155&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Staten Island Activist Eyes Primary Challenge to IDC Senator Savino 2018-01-31T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-31T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7453:staten-island-activist-eyes-primary-challenge-to-idc-senator-savino Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/jasmine_robinson_idc.jpg" alt="jasmine robinson idc" width="600" height="564" /></p> <p>photo: Jasmine Robinson</p> <hr /> <p>State Senator Diane Savino, a founding member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), may be facing a challenge in the Democratic primary this fall.</p> <p>Jasmine “Jasi” Robinson, 38, a legal secretary and community activist from Port Richmond, told Gotham Gazette she is mulling a run for the 23rd Senate District that encompasses the North Shore of Staten Island and a sliver of southern Brooklyn, citing the anti-IDC movement among progressives as her inspiration.</p> <p>Robinson, who has lived in the district her entire life, learned about the ruling coalition between the breakaway Democrats and Senate Republicans during an information session organized by “No IDC NY” in Manhattan in January. She was invited to the event with Staten Island Women Who March -- <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/2018/01/staten_island_womens_groups_st.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a group that formed</a> out of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. -- and found it eye-opening, she said.</p> <p>“I wanted to educate myself more about the IDC. I had heard [Savino’s] side; I wanted to hear another side,” said Robinson. “They were very fair, they showed both sides of the coin…I was informed about the different issues facing the different communities and how the progressive voice is being silenced in Albany and that can’t be.”</p> <p>Robinson has not yet formed a campaign committee, saying she is considering her options and will make a decision about whether to run for office in the next few weeks.</p> <p>Currently, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7439-running-without-establishment-support-idc-challengers-show-initial-fundraising-strides" target="_blank" rel="noopener">five of the eight IDC members </a>appear to be facing at least one challenger.&nbsp;IDC leader Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, has two declared opponents and three anti-IDC candidates have announced their intentions to unseat Jose Peralta, of Queens. Senator Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn, Senator Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan, and Senator David Valesky of Oneida are each facing one challenger. Robinson’s candidacy against Savino would bring the number of IDC members facing primaries to six.</p> <p>Senator David Carlucci, of Rockland and Westchester counties, and Queens Senator Tony Avella remain unchallenged.</p> <p>Notably, anti-IDC candidates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7439-running-without-establishment-support-idc-challengers-show-initial-fundraising-strides" target="_blank" rel="noopener">are forging ahead</a> with their candidacies despite a tentative Senate Democratic reunification plan on the table and lack of support from much of the Democratic establishment. A number of these contenders have shown significant initial fundraising strides, primarily from small individual donors (as opposed to corporations, unions, or political groups), over a short period of time. The party primaries are in September.</p> <p>Progressives remain skeptical of reunification deal, which has been orchestrated by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a second-term Democrat who is also up for reelection this year. Four years ago, when there were five IDC members, several announced challengers dropped their bids, citing a potential Senate Democratic reunification deal that ultimately did not materialize, while others forged ahead without establishment support and lost. Staten Island lawyer and M.T.A. board member Allen Cappelli, who briefly sought Savino’s seat in 2014, withdrew his campaign, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2014/07/savino-challenger-withdraws-from-senate-race-014071" target="_blank" rel="noopener">telling Politico</a>, "The rationale was not there anymore.” Savino ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and the general election in 2016.</p> <p>The current deal would only be implemented if Democrats hold the 32 seats necessary to retake the majority after a special election for two vacant Senate seats, which is expected to be called by the governor for April 24, and relies Senator Simcha Felder, a nominal Democrat who caucuses with the GOP conference, returning to the Democratic fold.</p> <p>The anti-IDC backlash appears to have been stoked in part by the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, which energized the grassroots and is putting renewed pressure on the Democratic factions to reunite. A number of progressive anti-IDC groups have formed, like No IDC NY, which aim to make IDC a household phrase and educate voters about the structures in Albany that block the passage progressive legislation.</p> <p>“The difference is Trump,” said No IDC spokesperson Sean McElwee. “There’s just an incredible salience to politics right now that is going to make a difference. The grassroots resistance to Trump is also resisting the machine-style politics that has been practiced in New York City over the past few decades.”</p> <p>On Staten Island’s North Shore, many were mobilized to activism following the death of North Shore resident Eric Garner at the hands of a police officer, with Garner’s final words, “I can’t breathe,” becoming a rallying cry in police accountability protests across the nation. After a grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed Garner in a deadly chokehold, there was much criticism over the lack of transparency in the grand jury proceedings. At the time, Senator Savino <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/12/eric_garner_decision_staten_is.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urged Staten Islanders</a> to respect the judicial process, but sponsored a bill, along with Staten Island Assemblymember Matthew Titone, requiring grand jury testimony to be made public.</p> <p>Robinson, who lives down the block from Eric Garner’s mother and had met him a few weeks before his death, said that Savino’s actions were not sufficient in making North Shore communities of color feel heard.</p> <p>“We have not seen Diane Savino taking the lead or even lending a voice or a hand in the case of Eric Garner. There was a vigil for his daughter [Erica Garner, who passed away in late 2017] and she was not there. You can’t pick and choose what issues you are going to be involved in,” said Robinson.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Savino noted that after Garner's death, Savino stood alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Debi Rose as they commemorated his life and acknowledged the need for a change in community-police relations.</p> <p>“Senator Savino is up for re-election every two years and looks forward to the opportunity for a rigorous debate on issues that are important to her District,” the campaign spokesperson, Jennifer Blatus, added.</p> <p>If she becomes a candidate, Robinson says she hopes to change the public’s perception of Staten Island, which is seeing a lively and growing progressive wave.</p> <p>“Staten Island is not just Trump land,” she said. “It’s a coalition of so many different people; of progressives, of immigrants, of Latinos, of blacks -- it’s just a melting pot of people who want and need change in their communities. I want to be part of that new wave of politics that is changing Staten Island.”</p> <p>Robinson has been active in local politics, working as a coordinator for the local Board of Elections and canvassing for a number of political campaigns, including that of former City Council Member Vincent Gentile and Staten Island Borough President candidate Tom Shcherbenko. She was recently elected to the executive board of the Staten Island Democratic Association, which touts itself as one of Staten Island’s oldest and most progressive Democratic clubs.</p> <p>Olusoji Oluwole, a longtime member of the club, said that he believes Robinson’s potential candidacy would give progressives more visibility on Staten Island.</p> <p>“For too long, some members of the Democratic Party have just played it safe and didn't want to alienate some of the moderates and conservatives on the Island, so I think some of the progressives in Staten Island are taken for granted,” said Oluwole.</p> <p>While she may not have the support of the Democratic establishment, Robinson would have the backing and support of No IDC NY, which runs a multi-candidate campaign committee that has raised more than $20,000, in mostly small donations, according to its most recent Board of Elections filings. The group seeks to create a Democratic majority by unseating all of the breakaway Democrats and replacing them with “real Democrats” who are committed to caucusing with the mainline conference. According to No IDC’s chief strategist, Gus Christensen, Robinson fits the bill.</p> <p>"Jasmine is off to a great start in building her support among progressive activists on Staten Island, in south Brooklyn and all around New York State. She has amazing potential -- she is extremely bright and charismatic,” he said in a statement. “Even more importantly, she really knows the people, and their issues and their problems, right in her community.”</p> <p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this piece misidentified the location of Senator David Carlucci's district.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/jasmine_robinson_idc.jpg" alt="jasmine robinson idc" width="600" height="564" /></p> <p>photo: Jasmine Robinson</p> <hr /> <p>State Senator Diane Savino, a founding member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), may be facing a challenge in the Democratic primary this fall.</p> <p>Jasmine “Jasi” Robinson, 38, a legal secretary and community activist from Port Richmond, told Gotham Gazette she is mulling a run for the 23rd Senate District that encompasses the North Shore of Staten Island and a sliver of southern Brooklyn, citing the anti-IDC movement among progressives as her inspiration.</p> <p>Robinson, who has lived in the district her entire life, learned about the ruling coalition between the breakaway Democrats and Senate Republicans during an information session organized by “No IDC NY” in Manhattan in January. She was invited to the event with Staten Island Women Who March -- <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/2018/01/staten_island_womens_groups_st.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a group that formed</a> out of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. -- and found it eye-opening, she said.</p> <p>“I wanted to educate myself more about the IDC. I had heard [Savino’s] side; I wanted to hear another side,” said Robinson. “They were very fair, they showed both sides of the coin…I was informed about the different issues facing the different communities and how the progressive voice is being silenced in Albany and that can’t be.”</p> <p>Robinson has not yet formed a campaign committee, saying she is considering her options and will make a decision about whether to run for office in the next few weeks.</p> <p>Currently, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7439-running-without-establishment-support-idc-challengers-show-initial-fundraising-strides" target="_blank" rel="noopener">five of the eight IDC members </a>appear to be facing at least one challenger.&nbsp;IDC leader Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, has two declared opponents and three anti-IDC candidates have announced their intentions to unseat Jose Peralta, of Queens. Senator Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn, Senator Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan, and Senator David Valesky of Oneida are each facing one challenger. Robinson’s candidacy against Savino would bring the number of IDC members facing primaries to six.</p> <p>Senator David Carlucci, of Rockland and Westchester counties, and Queens Senator Tony Avella remain unchallenged.</p> <p>Notably, anti-IDC candidates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7439-running-without-establishment-support-idc-challengers-show-initial-fundraising-strides" target="_blank" rel="noopener">are forging ahead</a> with their candidacies despite a tentative Senate Democratic reunification plan on the table and lack of support from much of the Democratic establishment. A number of these contenders have shown significant initial fundraising strides, primarily from small individual donors (as opposed to corporations, unions, or political groups), over a short period of time. The party primaries are in September.</p> <p>Progressives remain skeptical of reunification deal, which has been orchestrated by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a second-term Democrat who is also up for reelection this year. Four years ago, when there were five IDC members, several announced challengers dropped their bids, citing a potential Senate Democratic reunification deal that ultimately did not materialize, while others forged ahead without establishment support and lost. Staten Island lawyer and M.T.A. board member Allen Cappelli, who briefly sought Savino’s seat in 2014, withdrew his campaign, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2014/07/savino-challenger-withdraws-from-senate-race-014071" target="_blank" rel="noopener">telling Politico</a>, "The rationale was not there anymore.” Savino ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and the general election in 2016.</p> <p>The current deal would only be implemented if Democrats hold the 32 seats necessary to retake the majority after a special election for two vacant Senate seats, which is expected to be called by the governor for April 24, and relies Senator Simcha Felder, a nominal Democrat who caucuses with the GOP conference, returning to the Democratic fold.</p> <p>The anti-IDC backlash appears to have been stoked in part by the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, which energized the grassroots and is putting renewed pressure on the Democratic factions to reunite. A number of progressive anti-IDC groups have formed, like No IDC NY, which aim to make IDC a household phrase and educate voters about the structures in Albany that block the passage progressive legislation.</p> <p>“The difference is Trump,” said No IDC spokesperson Sean McElwee. “There’s just an incredible salience to politics right now that is going to make a difference. The grassroots resistance to Trump is also resisting the machine-style politics that has been practiced in New York City over the past few decades.”</p> <p>On Staten Island’s North Shore, many were mobilized to activism following the death of North Shore resident Eric Garner at the hands of a police officer, with Garner’s final words, “I can’t breathe,” becoming a rallying cry in police accountability protests across the nation. After a grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed Garner in a deadly chokehold, there was much criticism over the lack of transparency in the grand jury proceedings. At the time, Senator Savino <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/12/eric_garner_decision_staten_is.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urged Staten Islanders</a> to respect the judicial process, but sponsored a bill, along with Staten Island Assemblymember Matthew Titone, requiring grand jury testimony to be made public.</p> <p>Robinson, who lives down the block from Eric Garner’s mother and had met him a few weeks before his death, said that Savino’s actions were not sufficient in making North Shore communities of color feel heard.</p> <p>“We have not seen Diane Savino taking the lead or even lending a voice or a hand in the case of Eric Garner. There was a vigil for his daughter [Erica Garner, who passed away in late 2017] and she was not there. You can’t pick and choose what issues you are going to be involved in,” said Robinson.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Savino noted that after Garner's death, Savino stood alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Debi Rose as they commemorated his life and acknowledged the need for a change in community-police relations.</p> <p>“Senator Savino is up for re-election every two years and looks forward to the opportunity for a rigorous debate on issues that are important to her District,” the campaign spokesperson, Jennifer Blatus, added.</p> <p>If she becomes a candidate, Robinson says she hopes to change the public’s perception of Staten Island, which is seeing a lively and growing progressive wave.</p> <p>“Staten Island is not just Trump land,” she said. “It’s a coalition of so many different people; of progressives, of immigrants, of Latinos, of blacks -- it’s just a melting pot of people who want and need change in their communities. I want to be part of that new wave of politics that is changing Staten Island.”</p> <p>Robinson has been active in local politics, working as a coordinator for the local Board of Elections and canvassing for a number of political campaigns, including that of former City Council Member Vincent Gentile and Staten Island Borough President candidate Tom Shcherbenko. She was recently elected to the executive board of the Staten Island Democratic Association, which touts itself as one of Staten Island’s oldest and most progressive Democratic clubs.</p> <p>Olusoji Oluwole, a longtime member of the club, said that he believes Robinson’s potential candidacy would give progressives more visibility on Staten Island.</p> <p>“For too long, some members of the Democratic Party have just played it safe and didn't want to alienate some of the moderates and conservatives on the Island, so I think some of the progressives in Staten Island are taken for granted,” said Oluwole.</p> <p>While she may not have the support of the Democratic establishment, Robinson would have the backing and support of No IDC NY, which runs a multi-candidate campaign committee that has raised more than $20,000, in mostly small donations, according to its most recent Board of Elections filings. The group seeks to create a Democratic majority by unseating all of the breakaway Democrats and replacing them with “real Democrats” who are committed to caucusing with the mainline conference. According to No IDC’s chief strategist, Gus Christensen, Robinson fits the bill.</p> <p>"Jasmine is off to a great start in building her support among progressive activists on Staten Island, in south Brooklyn and all around New York State. She has amazing potential -- she is extremely bright and charismatic,” he said in a statement. “Even more importantly, she really knows the people, and their issues and their problems, right in her community.”</p> <p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this piece misidentified the location of Senator David Carlucci's district.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Running Without Establishment Support, IDC Challengers Show Initial Fundraising Strides 2018-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7439:running-without-establishment-support-idc-challengers-show-initial-fundraising-strides Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/zellnor_myrie_event.jpg" alt="zellnor myrie event" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie at a campaign event (photo: @zellnor4ny)</p> <hr /> <p>Despite a tentative unity deal between the Senate Democratic conference and the breakaway Democrats in the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a number of progressives are pushing forward in their bids to unseat the so-called “turncoat Democrats.”</p> <p>Challengers of the eight-member IDC, which forms a ruling coalition government with Senate Republicans, say they have drummed up broad grassroots support, as evidenced by pulling impressive fundraising numbers over a short period of time, with the bulk of the campaign funds raised from small donations.</p> <p>They argue that Democrats are energized to unseat defectors who are empowering Republicans and blocking essential progressive legislation from moving through the Legislature; the Assembly is overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats, who often pass bills that die in the upper house.</p> <p>Elections for every seat in the state Legislature are on the ballot this fall. While IDC challengers may have some solid initial money in the bank, without the support of the Democratic Party establishment -- members of which are behind the precarious Senate Democratic unity deal -- the candidates are looking at an uphill battle.</p> <p>Two candidates have emerged to take on IDC Leader Jeff Klein, a Bronx senator. Lewis Kaminski, a Bronx attorney, has raised $11,075, while Alessandra Biaggi, a former aide in the Cuomo administration, has raised $8,042 and spent around $2,000 in the early going. Klein, who has well over $2 million in his campaign account and access to a great deal more money in broader IDC campaign accounts, will be an especially difficult figure to unseat. He easily survived a primary challenge in 2014 from former City Council Member Oliver Koppel, though some activists and candidates argue that circumstances in 2018 are far different, in part shifted by both awareness of the IDC and the election of Donald Trump as president.</p> <p>Other members of the IDC may have a harder time beating back primary challenges.</p> <p>Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn native and community activist who is challenging Brooklyn IDC Senator Jesse Hamilton, for example, began fundraising in late October and has since secured over 650 donations totaling $93,577, according to his January filings with the state Board of Elections (BOE). Seventy-five percent of the campaign’s contributions were $100 or less and 100 percent of contributions came from individuals, Myrie said.</p> <p>“This is a people driven campaign,” said Myrie in a statement. “This early success shows that this community is ready for a real Democrat to bring real change. I am the only real Democrat in this race who can say they will fight back against the Trump-Democrats in Albany and truly represent working families and the middle class residents of central Brooklyn when elected.”</p> <p>Hamilton has pulled $99,525 in receipts since July, $20,000 of which is a transfer from the Senate Independent Campaign Committee, a fundraising arm of the IDC, and has about $119,600 in the bank, according to his January filings. In a statement, Myrie noted that “an alarming sixty-six percent of my opponent’s contributions come from Corporations and GOP friendly donors, and he only received 36 individual contributions.”</p> <p>IDC Senator Jose Peralta, of Queens’ 13th Senate District, also holds a small but comfortable initial fundraising lead over his two challengers, raising $79,460 and holding $157,006 in the bank. LGBTQ activist Andrea Marra has pulled in $47,630 in contributions and has $46,043 in the bank, while Jessica Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, received $30,997 and has $29,687 in the bank after a short early fundraising period since she left City Hall and declared her intention to unseat Peralta.</p> <p>“More than half of those contributions came from residents of Senate District 13. 94% of donations were $100 or less,” Ramos said by email. “This filing shows a groundswell of support to elect a real Democrat who represents the progressive values of our communities.”</p> <p>A third Peralta challenger, Tahseen Chowdhury, a 17-year-old high school student, had $895 in July 2017, but has not completed a January filing.</p> <p>Senator Marisol Alcantara, of the 31st district in Manhattan, is facing a challenge from former City Council Member Robert Jackson, who lost to the incumbent in 2016, coming in third. This time, Jackson has the support of the second place finisher in that race, Micah Lasher, former chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The 2016 Democratic primary to replace senator-turned-congressman Adriano Espaillat was close; Alcantara pulled in 32.43 percent of the vote, compared to Lasher's 30.19 percent and Jackson's 29.72 percent.</p> <p>Per his January filing with the state BOE, Jackson has raised $81,971 since July from thousands of individual donors and has a little over $105,000 in the bank. A source from the IDC noted that Jackson has spent funds from an old 2016 campaign account. Jackson's 2016 account reports $268.88 spent, apparently due to automatic cellphone app payments linked to a campaign credit card, a problem that has since been rectified, according to Jackson's spokesperson. Alcantara has raised $106,323, including a $10,000 transfer from the IDC, and has a little over $120,000 in the bank, according to her BOE filings.</p> <p>Syracuse University administrator Rachel May, who recently announced a challenge against IDC Senator David Valesky, has netted $34,799 in donations since she opened her campaign committee in late November. In an apparent attempt to undercut the initial haul, an IDC source noted that a large chunk of May’s money has come from family and friends outside the district.</p> <p>Valesky, of Oneida County, has raised $66,309 and has $612,761 in the bank. He <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/12/ny_sen_david_valesky_unfazed_by_growing_pressure_to_rejoin_mainstream_democrats.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the Syracuse Post Standard</a> he is unfazed by the competition.</p> <p>Currently, no challenger has declared candidacy for the seats of IDC Senators Tony Avella of Queens, Diane Savino of Staten Island, or David Carlucci of Rockland and Westchester Counties.</p> <p>A number of high profile New York Democrats, from Governor Andrew Cuomo to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, have thrown their support behind the potential unity deal, which would preclude IDC challengers from receiving the potentially critical backing of the Senate Democrats’ fundraising apparatus, the state Democratic Party controlled by Cuomo, or Democratic Party leadership. &nbsp;</p> <p>“There is a deal in place with the Independent Democratic Conference. Therefore, we will not support any primaries,” said Mike Murphy, spokesperson for the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.</p> <p>Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lovett-dems-deal-charge-n-y-senate-article-1.3690163" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has said</a> that the deal will only be on the table if the Democrats regain 32 seats in the 63-seat chamber, which would have to happen through a special election to fill currently vacant Senate seats. Mainline Democrats led by Stewart-Cousins would have to follow through on the deal with Klein and the IDC, while also convincing rogue Democrat Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who conferences with the Senate Republicans, to join them as well.</p> <p>Cuomo has not yet indicated whether he will call the special election to fill two Senate and nine Assembly vacancies before the session ends in June. A source from the mainline Democratic conference said that if the unity deal falls through, IDC challengers will be backed by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), which is <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/efs_summary_page?comid_in=A01540&amp;rdate_in=16-JAN-2018&amp;reportid_in=J&amp;eyear_in=2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sitting on</a> more than $1 million and raising more as the election year heats up.</p> <p>For Queens Democratic Party boss and Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, the deadline for reunification is even sooner. In <a href="http://www.qchron.com/editions/central/idc-could-suffer-the-consequences/article_145399eb-5b50-5fbd-ae32-5394e4720fcc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent comments to the Queens Chronicle</a>, he warned wayward Democrats to return to the fold by April -- when the budget process is complete -- or see a “head-on primary by everyone.”</p> <p>Peralta and Avella are the two Queens IDC members, though Crowley’s reach extends beyond the borough. Crowley had a stern warning for Peralta in particular.</p> <p>“If [Peralta] comes back then, we’ve agreed that he would have the support of the apparatus,” he said. “If he comes back earlier, that I think is better for him...if he doesn’t, he will have a primary sanctioned by me and the state apparatus, as well as working with our friends in labor.”</p> <p>Currently, IDC challengers are supported by a number of grassroots progressive groups, including NO IDC NY, which since opening a multi-candidate campaign committee in August, has raised more than $20,000, mostly from small donations of $5 or $10. Since the summer, NO IDC has spent more than $8,500 in support for May, Biaggi, Zellnor, and Ramos, according to Board of Elections records.</p> <p>While a number of progressive groups oppose the IDC, those organizations tend to support a host of progressive issues, but NO IDC is focused exclusively on unseating the breakaway Democrats, according to the group’s treasurer, Jim Casteleiro.</p> <p>“We make the commitment of saying this is a very important issue and regardless of what happens, we cannot take our eye off the ball,” said Casteleiro. “We exist because there is no institutional body that has stood up to say, unconditionally, ‘We are going to get rid of these people who are blocking us from having a majority.’”</p> <p>Meanwhile, IDC members have additional support from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC), which has $1.2 million in the bank. In addition to transferring money to Alcantara and Hamilton, records show the SICC has sent $25,000 to Avella, who may face another challenge from former City Council Member, Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu.</p> <p>An IDC spokesperson dismissed the notion that any of the anti-IDC candidates pose a serious threat. "The Independent Democratic Conference and all eight members demonstrated they have the resources necessary to communicate with voters and are all well positioned to win reelection," said conference spokesperson Candice Giove.</p> <p><em>Clarification: The article has been updated with an explanation from Robert Jackson's campaign for payments made from a 2016 campaign account.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/zellnor_myrie_event.jpg" alt="zellnor myrie event" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie at a campaign event (photo: @zellnor4ny)</p> <hr /> <p>Despite a tentative unity deal between the Senate Democratic conference and the breakaway Democrats in the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a number of progressives are pushing forward in their bids to unseat the so-called “turncoat Democrats.”</p> <p>Challengers of the eight-member IDC, which forms a ruling coalition government with Senate Republicans, say they have drummed up broad grassroots support, as evidenced by pulling impressive fundraising numbers over a short period of time, with the bulk of the campaign funds raised from small donations.</p> <p>They argue that Democrats are energized to unseat defectors who are empowering Republicans and blocking essential progressive legislation from moving through the Legislature; the Assembly is overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats, who often pass bills that die in the upper house.</p> <p>Elections for every seat in the state Legislature are on the ballot this fall. While IDC challengers may have some solid initial money in the bank, without the support of the Democratic Party establishment -- members of which are behind the precarious Senate Democratic unity deal -- the candidates are looking at an uphill battle.</p> <p>Two candidates have emerged to take on IDC Leader Jeff Klein, a Bronx senator. Lewis Kaminski, a Bronx attorney, has raised $11,075, while Alessandra Biaggi, a former aide in the Cuomo administration, has raised $8,042 and spent around $2,000 in the early going. Klein, who has well over $2 million in his campaign account and access to a great deal more money in broader IDC campaign accounts, will be an especially difficult figure to unseat. He easily survived a primary challenge in 2014 from former City Council Member Oliver Koppel, though some activists and candidates argue that circumstances in 2018 are far different, in part shifted by both awareness of the IDC and the election of Donald Trump as president.</p> <p>Other members of the IDC may have a harder time beating back primary challenges.</p> <p>Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn native and community activist who is challenging Brooklyn IDC Senator Jesse Hamilton, for example, began fundraising in late October and has since secured over 650 donations totaling $93,577, according to his January filings with the state Board of Elections (BOE). Seventy-five percent of the campaign’s contributions were $100 or less and 100 percent of contributions came from individuals, Myrie said.</p> <p>“This is a people driven campaign,” said Myrie in a statement. “This early success shows that this community is ready for a real Democrat to bring real change. I am the only real Democrat in this race who can say they will fight back against the Trump-Democrats in Albany and truly represent working families and the middle class residents of central Brooklyn when elected.”</p> <p>Hamilton has pulled $99,525 in receipts since July, $20,000 of which is a transfer from the Senate Independent Campaign Committee, a fundraising arm of the IDC, and has about $119,600 in the bank, according to his January filings. In a statement, Myrie noted that “an alarming sixty-six percent of my opponent’s contributions come from Corporations and GOP friendly donors, and he only received 36 individual contributions.”</p> <p>IDC Senator Jose Peralta, of Queens’ 13th Senate District, also holds a small but comfortable initial fundraising lead over his two challengers, raising $79,460 and holding $157,006 in the bank. LGBTQ activist Andrea Marra has pulled in $47,630 in contributions and has $46,043 in the bank, while Jessica Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, received $30,997 and has $29,687 in the bank after a short early fundraising period since she left City Hall and declared her intention to unseat Peralta.</p> <p>“More than half of those contributions came from residents of Senate District 13. 94% of donations were $100 or less,” Ramos said by email. “This filing shows a groundswell of support to elect a real Democrat who represents the progressive values of our communities.”</p> <p>A third Peralta challenger, Tahseen Chowdhury, a 17-year-old high school student, had $895 in July 2017, but has not completed a January filing.</p> <p>Senator Marisol Alcantara, of the 31st district in Manhattan, is facing a challenge from former City Council Member Robert Jackson, who lost to the incumbent in 2016, coming in third. This time, Jackson has the support of the second place finisher in that race, Micah Lasher, former chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The 2016 Democratic primary to replace senator-turned-congressman Adriano Espaillat was close; Alcantara pulled in 32.43 percent of the vote, compared to Lasher's 30.19 percent and Jackson's 29.72 percent.</p> <p>Per his January filing with the state BOE, Jackson has raised $81,971 since July from thousands of individual donors and has a little over $105,000 in the bank. A source from the IDC noted that Jackson has spent funds from an old 2016 campaign account. Jackson's 2016 account reports $268.88 spent, apparently due to automatic cellphone app payments linked to a campaign credit card, a problem that has since been rectified, according to Jackson's spokesperson. Alcantara has raised $106,323, including a $10,000 transfer from the IDC, and has a little over $120,000 in the bank, according to her BOE filings.</p> <p>Syracuse University administrator Rachel May, who recently announced a challenge against IDC Senator David Valesky, has netted $34,799 in donations since she opened her campaign committee in late November. In an apparent attempt to undercut the initial haul, an IDC source noted that a large chunk of May’s money has come from family and friends outside the district.</p> <p>Valesky, of Oneida County, has raised $66,309 and has $612,761 in the bank. He <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/12/ny_sen_david_valesky_unfazed_by_growing_pressure_to_rejoin_mainstream_democrats.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the Syracuse Post Standard</a> he is unfazed by the competition.</p> <p>Currently, no challenger has declared candidacy for the seats of IDC Senators Tony Avella of Queens, Diane Savino of Staten Island, or David Carlucci of Rockland and Westchester Counties.</p> <p>A number of high profile New York Democrats, from Governor Andrew Cuomo to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, have thrown their support behind the potential unity deal, which would preclude IDC challengers from receiving the potentially critical backing of the Senate Democrats’ fundraising apparatus, the state Democratic Party controlled by Cuomo, or Democratic Party leadership. &nbsp;</p> <p>“There is a deal in place with the Independent Democratic Conference. Therefore, we will not support any primaries,” said Mike Murphy, spokesperson for the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.</p> <p>Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lovett-dems-deal-charge-n-y-senate-article-1.3690163" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has said</a> that the deal will only be on the table if the Democrats regain 32 seats in the 63-seat chamber, which would have to happen through a special election to fill currently vacant Senate seats. Mainline Democrats led by Stewart-Cousins would have to follow through on the deal with Klein and the IDC, while also convincing rogue Democrat Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who conferences with the Senate Republicans, to join them as well.</p> <p>Cuomo has not yet indicated whether he will call the special election to fill two Senate and nine Assembly vacancies before the session ends in June. A source from the mainline Democratic conference said that if the unity deal falls through, IDC challengers will be backed by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), which is <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/efs_summary_page?comid_in=A01540&amp;rdate_in=16-JAN-2018&amp;reportid_in=J&amp;eyear_in=2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sitting on</a> more than $1 million and raising more as the election year heats up.</p> <p>For Queens Democratic Party boss and Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, the deadline for reunification is even sooner. In <a href="http://www.qchron.com/editions/central/idc-could-suffer-the-consequences/article_145399eb-5b50-5fbd-ae32-5394e4720fcc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent comments to the Queens Chronicle</a>, he warned wayward Democrats to return to the fold by April -- when the budget process is complete -- or see a “head-on primary by everyone.”</p> <p>Peralta and Avella are the two Queens IDC members, though Crowley’s reach extends beyond the borough. Crowley had a stern warning for Peralta in particular.</p> <p>“If [Peralta] comes back then, we’ve agreed that he would have the support of the apparatus,” he said. “If he comes back earlier, that I think is better for him...if he doesn’t, he will have a primary sanctioned by me and the state apparatus, as well as working with our friends in labor.”</p> <p>Currently, IDC challengers are supported by a number of grassroots progressive groups, including NO IDC NY, which since opening a multi-candidate campaign committee in August, has raised more than $20,000, mostly from small donations of $5 or $10. Since the summer, NO IDC has spent more than $8,500 in support for May, Biaggi, Zellnor, and Ramos, according to Board of Elections records.</p> <p>While a number of progressive groups oppose the IDC, those organizations tend to support a host of progressive issues, but NO IDC is focused exclusively on unseating the breakaway Democrats, according to the group’s treasurer, Jim Casteleiro.</p> <p>“We make the commitment of saying this is a very important issue and regardless of what happens, we cannot take our eye off the ball,” said Casteleiro. “We exist because there is no institutional body that has stood up to say, unconditionally, ‘We are going to get rid of these people who are blocking us from having a majority.’”</p> <p>Meanwhile, IDC members have additional support from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC), which has $1.2 million in the bank. In addition to transferring money to Alcantara and Hamilton, records show the SICC has sent $25,000 to Avella, who may face another challenge from former City Council Member, Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu.</p> <p>An IDC spokesperson dismissed the notion that any of the anti-IDC candidates pose a serious threat. "The Independent Democratic Conference and all eight members demonstrated they have the resources necessary to communicate with voters and are all well positioned to win reelection," said conference spokesperson Candice Giove.</p> <p><em>Clarification: The article has been updated with an explanation from Robert Jackson's campaign for payments made from a 2016 campaign account.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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2018 Will Be a Busy, Contentious Election Year in New York 2018-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7434:2018-will-be-a-busy-contentious-election-year-in-new-york Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/26473316189_c59edbb89b_z.jpg" alt="election polling place Brooklyn" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>a polling place (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>This year will be another busy, contentious election year for New Yorkers. While 2017 saw the majority of elections confined to local government, 2018 will see three election days and races for state-level offices, including five of six statewide positions and all of the state Legislature, as well as all of the state’s delegation to the House of Representatives.</p> <p>A fourth election day <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7483-the-11-special-elections-set-for-april-24" target="_blank" rel="noopener">will occur</a> in some districts after Governor Andrew Cuomo called special elections to fill 11 vacant state Senate and Assembly seats. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7483-the-11-special-elections-set-for-april-24" target="_blank" rel="noopener">That election day is Tuesday April 24</a>. Cuomo could have called the special election weeks earlier, but waited to do so, leaving those 11 districts with less than full representation throughout budget negotiations in Albany.</p> <p>Aside from those special elections and depending on political party affiliation, New Yorkers will be able to vote in the federal primaries on Tuesday June 26; the state primaries in September (the date is likely being moved from Tuesday September 11 to Thursday September 13 because of Rosh Hashanah); and Election Day, Tuesday November 6. Only those registered with a party can vote in party primaries in New York, but the November general elections are open to all registered voters. So-called “independent” voters -- those registered to vote but not with a party -- cannot participate in party primaries, nor can those registered with parties wherein primaries are not being decided.</p> <p>In 2016 there was an unsuccessful push to combine the congressional and state primaries to a single date, which ensured four election days given it was a presidential year and that primary was in April. There is a good chance there will be a similar push this year to combine primary dates, but while Democrats have sought to move the state primaries to June, Republicans have suggested an August date, leaving the sides at an impasse.</p> <p>Along with all the 27 New York House seats, which are elected every two years, one of New York’s two United State Senate seats, elected every six years, is on the ballot this year -- the one currently held by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. At the state government level, the four statewide posts of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller are all on the ballot in their four-year cycle, as well as the every-two-year elections of all 150 seats in the state Assembly and all 63 seats in the state Senate.</p> <p>In New York, this year’s deadlines for candidates to file for federal office is April 12 and for state offices, July 12.</p> <p>Another macro issue to watch ahead of this year’s elections is voting reform in New York. There is an ongoing push to see early voting passed, among other reforms like same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting. While Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled Assembly support such reforms, Republicans who control the state Senate do not.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7483-the-11-special-elections-set-for-april-24" target="_blank" rel="noopener">11 Special Elections Set for April 24</a>]</p> <p><strong>2018 Federal Elections in New York</strong><br /> While Gillibrand is up for reelection this year, New York’s other U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer, won reelection in 2016 and won’t be on the ballot again until 2022. Gillibrand served in the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009 before being appointed to the Senate in 2009, and winning a special election in 2010, to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant seat when she was appointed Secretary of State. Gillibrand went on to win the regularly-scheduled 2012 election for the seat as well and is now running for her second full term as a senator. She is rumored as a possible 2020 presidential candidate. It is unclear who Republicans will run against her this year in New York.</p> <p>In the House, New York and national Democrats are eyeing several seats to help flip control of the chamber through the 2018 elections. As of January 2018, the House is composed of 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 4 vacancies.</p> <p>Given Republican President Donald Trump’s record unpopularity, which is especially acute in his home state of New York; recent Democratic electoral wins in New York and elsewhere; and historical trends whereby a new president’s party loses congressional seats in the midterm elections, many are expecting a Democratic wave in 2018, with the potential for flipping the House and possibly the Senate.</p> <p>Democrats’ “red to blue” campaign across the country will include multiple New York districts while local party activists may target others. Governor Cuomo, himself seeking a third term this year, has promised a campaign to flip six New York House seats after their officeholders have supported legislation Cuomo deems detrimental to New York. Cuomo joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats at a June 2017 rally in Manhattan to kick off a campaign to unseat Reps. Lee Zeldin (CD1), Chris Collins (CD27), John Faso (CD19), Elise Stefanik (CD21), Claudia Tenney (CD22), and Tom Reed (CD23).</p> <p>The national Democratic Party is currently <a href="https://redtoblue.dccc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prioritizing</a> two of those New York Congressional Districts, the 11th and the 22nd. Rep. Donovan currently represents the 11th, which includes all of Staten Island and some of Brooklyn. Max Rose is seen as the Democrats’ best chance to unseat Donovan in November, though Donovan also must first survivie a primary challenge by former Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges. Rep. Tenney represents the 22nd, sitting just east of Syracuse and including Binghamton, Cortland, and Utica, and the Democratic Party is apparently behind Anthony Brindisi, a state Assembly member.</p> <p>New York’s 19th Congressional District, currently represented by Faso, is expected to be a toss up. Faso won a hotly contested 2016 race against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. The Hudson Valley seat is likely to again be home to a great deal of political spending.</p> <p>The 24th Congressional District may also be home to a strong challenge to a sitting Republican. Syracuse’s recently-former mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat, has hinted at potentially challenging current Rep. Katko. The Democratic Party’s “red to blue” campaign lists the district in its efforts as well but has not found a candidate to support yet.</p> <p>In the other direction, in early February 2017 the National Republican Congressional Committee released it’s Democratic targets for the 2018 elections. The list contained references to two New York Democrats: Tom Suozzi, who represents Congressional District 3 in the north and western portion of Nassau County, Long Island and Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the 18th Congressional District containing Poughkeepsie, Woodbury, and Newburgh.</p> <p>Aside from the Grimm-Donovan primary, there may be a handful of other intraparty challenges to sitting representatives worth watching. Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens, for example, is being challenged from the left by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While Ocasio-Cortez faces very long odds, she may be able to at least make Crowley pay more attention to his home district than his larger ambitions and agenda.</p> <p><strong>State-Level Special Elections</strong><br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7483-the-11-special-elections-set-for-april-24" target="_blank" rel="noopener">11 Special Elections Set for April 24</a></p> <p><strong>2018 State-Level Elections in New York</strong><br /> As mentioned, 2018 is an election year for the four state-level statewide positions of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller. All four posts are held by Democrats expected to seek another term.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo was first elected to the position in 2010 and won reelection in 2014. While Bob Duffy was Cuomo’s first-term Lieutenant Governor, he declined to run for reelection in 2014 and Cuomo chose Kathy Hochul as his running mate. She has said she is running again. Candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor can run as a slate, but they are elected separately in party primaries, then together in the general election. Cuomo and Hochul may have to each survive Democratic primary challengers before they can rejoin as a ticket for the general election.</p> <p>The Lieutenant Governor’s role is similar to the Vice President of the United States. The LG is President of the State Senate and acts as Governor in the Governor’s absence from the state, in the case of severe disability, death, impeachment, or resignation from office. Otherwise it is a largely ceremonial position often seen as a cheerleader for the governor and the administration’s policies. Hochul often represents the Cuomo administration at events across the state, and has taken the lead on certain issues, such as co-chairing a recent task force put together by Cuomo on women’s opportunity.</p> <p>It is unclear who Republicans will nominate for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, but GOP leadership has indicated it wants to avoid a primary. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has launched a gubernatorial campaign on the Republican side. Meanwhile, several minor parties will also put forward candidates. Democratic challengers to Cuomo and Hochul have begun to emerge, with former State Senator Terry Gibson aggressively testing the gubernatorial waters and New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams opening an exploratory committee to run for LG.</p> <p>New York State’s Attorney General is also up for election in 2018. Eric Schneiderman first won election to the office of Attorney General in 2010. He would go on to win reelection in 2014. The Attorney General will be running for his third term in 2018 should he seek reelection. Schneiderman has been in the news a lot lately for his frequent lawsuits on behalf of New York against the Trump Administration and its policies.</p> <p>Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is also expected to run for reelection this year. Dinapoli was first appointed to the position in 2007 after the resignation of Alan Hevesi. He would go on to win election to the Comptroller’s Office in 2010 and 2014. The Comptroller is tasked with managing the state’s enormous pension fund, auditing state agencies and local governments, and reviewing state and local budgets.</p> <p>All 63 seats in the state Senate will be on the ballot this fall. Unlike the Assembly, control of the Senate will be at stake, with several swing districts at play. There is currently a complicated and contentious breakdown of power in the Senate, where Republicans hold 31 seats, but have a majority because of nine Democrats -- Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder conferences with the GOP while the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with that Republican conference.</p> <p>Mainline and Independent Democrats reached a tentative deal in late 2017 to begin to work together in the State Senate, but only on a number of conditions, including winning the two special elections for currently vacant seats. The empty seat in the Bronx is all but a lock, while the empty Westchester seat will be closer to a toss-up. Felder’s status is not completely clear in terms of what he will do -- he has always maintained he’ll take the best deal for him and his constituents.</p> <p>Complicating things is grassroots anger at members of the IDC, whereby several if not all IDC members will be facing primary challenges. IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx (SD34), Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn (SD20), Jose Peralta of Queens (SD13), and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan (SD31) are among those members already facing primary challenges.</p> <p>Meanwhile, there are somewhere around a half-dozen swing districts to watch outside New York City, and one potential swing district within the five boroughs -- the Brooklyn seat currently held by Senator Martin Golden. The expected Democratic wave could lead to several seats switching hands, though local races can turn on different issues and long-time incumbents like Golden can be very difficult to beat. Districts on Long Island and in the suburbs just north of New York City are often more likely to change hands, while New York City and other large cities around the state are overwhelmingly represented by Democrats and upstate areas outside of other major cities are heavily Republican.</p> <p>All 150 state Assembly seats are up for election in 2018. The chamber is heavily Democratic, with a current partisan split of 103 Democrats, 37 Republicans, one Independence Party member, and the nine vacancies.</p> <p>With all that is happening in other races, especially those for Governor and in key House and state Senate swing districts, there will likely be little attention paid to most Assembly races this year.</p> <p>There will be other local elections in 2018, including local school board and trial court judicial elections, among others.</p> <p>

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by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/26473316189_c59edbb89b_z.jpg" alt="election polling place Brooklyn" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>a polling place (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>This year will be another busy, contentious election year for New Yorkers. While 2017 saw the majority of elections confined to local government, 2018 will see three election days and races for state-level offices, including five of six statewide positions and all of the state Legislature, as well as all of the state’s delegation to the House of Representatives.</p> <p>A fourth election day <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7483-the-11-special-elections-set-for-april-24" target="_blank" rel="noopener">will occur</a> in some districts after Governor Andrew Cuomo called special elections to fill 11 vacant state Senate and Assembly seats. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7483-the-11-special-elections-set-for-april-24" target="_blank" rel="noopener">That election day is Tuesday April 24</a>. Cuomo could have called the special election weeks earlier, but waited to do so, leaving those 11 districts with less than full representation throughout budget negotiations in Albany.</p> <p>Aside from those special elections and depending on political party affiliation, New Yorkers will be able to vote in the federal primaries on Tuesday June 26; the state primaries in September (the date is likely being moved from Tuesday September 11 to Thursday September 13 because of Rosh Hashanah); and Election Day, Tuesday November 6. Only those registered with a party can vote in party primaries in New York, but the November general elections are open to all registered voters. So-called “independent” voters -- those registered to vote but not with a party -- cannot participate in party primaries, nor can those registered with parties wherein primaries are not being decided.</p> <p>In 2016 there was an unsuccessful push to combine the congressional and state primaries to a single date, which ensured four election days given it was a presidential year and that primary was in April. There is a good chance there will be a similar push this year to combine primary dates, but while Democrats have sought to move the state primaries to June, Republicans have suggested an August date, leaving the sides at an impasse.</p> <p>Along with all the 27 New York House seats, which are elected every two years, one of New York’s two United State Senate seats, elected every six years, is on the ballot this year -- the one currently held by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. At the state government level, the four statewide posts of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller are all on the ballot in their four-year cycle, as well as the every-two-year elections of all 150 seats in the state Assembly and all 63 seats in the state Senate.</p> <p>In New York, this year’s deadlines for candidates to file for federal office is April 12 and for state offices, July 12.</p> <p>Another macro issue to watch ahead of this year’s elections is voting reform in New York. There is an ongoing push to see early voting passed, among other reforms like same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting. While Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled Assembly support such reforms, Republicans who control the state Senate do not.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7483-the-11-special-elections-set-for-april-24" target="_blank" rel="noopener">11 Special Elections Set for April 24</a>]</p> <p><strong>2018 Federal Elections in New York</strong><br /> While Gillibrand is up for reelection this year, New York’s other U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer, won reelection in 2016 and won’t be on the ballot again until 2022. Gillibrand served in the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009 before being appointed to the Senate in 2009, and winning a special election in 2010, to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant seat when she was appointed Secretary of State. Gillibrand went on to win the regularly-scheduled 2012 election for the seat as well and is now running for her second full term as a senator. She is rumored as a possible 2020 presidential candidate. It is unclear who Republicans will run against her this year in New York.</p> <p>In the House, New York and national Democrats are eyeing several seats to help flip control of the chamber through the 2018 elections. As of January 2018, the House is composed of 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 4 vacancies.</p> <p>Given Republican President Donald Trump’s record unpopularity, which is especially acute in his home state of New York; recent Democratic electoral wins in New York and elsewhere; and historical trends whereby a new president’s party loses congressional seats in the midterm elections, many are expecting a Democratic wave in 2018, with the potential for flipping the House and possibly the Senate.</p> <p>Democrats’ “red to blue” campaign across the country will include multiple New York districts while local party activists may target others. Governor Cuomo, himself seeking a third term this year, has promised a campaign to flip six New York House seats after their officeholders have supported legislation Cuomo deems detrimental to New York. Cuomo joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats at a June 2017 rally in Manhattan to kick off a campaign to unseat Reps. Lee Zeldin (CD1), Chris Collins (CD27), John Faso (CD19), Elise Stefanik (CD21), Claudia Tenney (CD22), and Tom Reed (CD23).</p> <p>The national Democratic Party is currently <a href="https://redtoblue.dccc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prioritizing</a> two of those New York Congressional Districts, the 11th and the 22nd. Rep. Donovan currently represents the 11th, which includes all of Staten Island and some of Brooklyn. Max Rose is seen as the Democrats’ best chance to unseat Donovan in November, though Donovan also must first survivie a primary challenge by former Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges. Rep. Tenney represents the 22nd, sitting just east of Syracuse and including Binghamton, Cortland, and Utica, and the Democratic Party is apparently behind Anthony Brindisi, a state Assembly member.</p> <p>New York’s 19th Congressional District, currently represented by Faso, is expected to be a toss up. Faso won a hotly contested 2016 race against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. The Hudson Valley seat is likely to again be home to a great deal of political spending.</p> <p>The 24th Congressional District may also be home to a strong challenge to a sitting Republican. Syracuse’s recently-former mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat, has hinted at potentially challenging current Rep. Katko. The Democratic Party’s “red to blue” campaign lists the district in its efforts as well but has not found a candidate to support yet.</p> <p>In the other direction, in early February 2017 the National Republican Congressional Committee released it’s Democratic targets for the 2018 elections. The list contained references to two New York Democrats: Tom Suozzi, who represents Congressional District 3 in the north and western portion of Nassau County, Long Island and Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the 18th Congressional District containing Poughkeepsie, Woodbury, and Newburgh.</p> <p>Aside from the Grimm-Donovan primary, there may be a handful of other intraparty challenges to sitting representatives worth watching. Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens, for example, is being challenged from the left by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While Ocasio-Cortez faces very long odds, she may be able to at least make Crowley pay more attention to his home district than his larger ambitions and agenda.</p> <p><strong>State-Level Special Elections</strong><br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7483-the-11-special-elections-set-for-april-24" target="_blank" rel="noopener">11 Special Elections Set for April 24</a></p> <p><strong>2018 State-Level Elections in New York</strong><br /> As mentioned, 2018 is an election year for the four state-level statewide positions of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller. All four posts are held by Democrats expected to seek another term.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo was first elected to the position in 2010 and won reelection in 2014. While Bob Duffy was Cuomo’s first-term Lieutenant Governor, he declined to run for reelection in 2014 and Cuomo chose Kathy Hochul as his running mate. She has said she is running again. Candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor can run as a slate, but they are elected separately in party primaries, then together in the general election. Cuomo and Hochul may have to each survive Democratic primary challengers before they can rejoin as a ticket for the general election.</p> <p>The Lieutenant Governor’s role is similar to the Vice President of the United States. The LG is President of the State Senate and acts as Governor in the Governor’s absence from the state, in the case of severe disability, death, impeachment, or resignation from office. Otherwise it is a largely ceremonial position often seen as a cheerleader for the governor and the administration’s policies. Hochul often represents the Cuomo administration at events across the state, and has taken the lead on certain issues, such as co-chairing a recent task force put together by Cuomo on women’s opportunity.</p> <p>It is unclear who Republicans will nominate for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, but GOP leadership has indicated it wants to avoid a primary. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has launched a gubernatorial campaign on the Republican side. Meanwhile, several minor parties will also put forward candidates. Democratic challengers to Cuomo and Hochul have begun to emerge, with former State Senator Terry Gibson aggressively testing the gubernatorial waters and New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams opening an exploratory committee to run for LG.</p> <p>New York State’s Attorney General is also up for election in 2018. Eric Schneiderman first won election to the office of Attorney General in 2010. He would go on to win reelection in 2014. The Attorney General will be running for his third term in 2018 should he seek reelection. Schneiderman has been in the news a lot lately for his frequent lawsuits on behalf of New York against the Trump Administration and its policies.</p> <p>Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is also expected to run for reelection this year. Dinapoli was first appointed to the position in 2007 after the resignation of Alan Hevesi. He would go on to win election to the Comptroller’s Office in 2010 and 2014. The Comptroller is tasked with managing the state’s enormous pension fund, auditing state agencies and local governments, and reviewing state and local budgets.</p> <p>All 63 seats in the state Senate will be on the ballot this fall. Unlike the Assembly, control of the Senate will be at stake, with several swing districts at play. There is currently a complicated and contentious breakdown of power in the Senate, where Republicans hold 31 seats, but have a majority because of nine Democrats -- Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder conferences with the GOP while the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with that Republican conference.</p> <p>Mainline and Independent Democrats reached a tentative deal in late 2017 to begin to work together in the State Senate, but only on a number of conditions, including winning the two special elections for currently vacant seats. The empty seat in the Bronx is all but a lock, while the empty Westchester seat will be closer to a toss-up. Felder’s status is not completely clear in terms of what he will do -- he has always maintained he’ll take the best deal for him and his constituents.</p> <p>Complicating things is grassroots anger at members of the IDC, whereby several if not all IDC members will be facing primary challenges. IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx (SD34), Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn (SD20), Jose Peralta of Queens (SD13), and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan (SD31) are among those members already facing primary challenges.</p> <p>Meanwhile, there are somewhere around a half-dozen swing districts to watch outside New York City, and one potential swing district within the five boroughs -- the Brooklyn seat currently held by Senator Martin Golden. The expected Democratic wave could lead to several seats switching hands, though local races can turn on different issues and long-time incumbents like Golden can be very difficult to beat. Districts on Long Island and in the suburbs just north of New York City are often more likely to change hands, while New York City and other large cities around the state are overwhelmingly represented by Democrats and upstate areas outside of other major cities are heavily Republican.</p> <p>All 150 state Assembly seats are up for election in 2018. The chamber is heavily Democratic, with a current partisan split of 103 Democrats, 37 Republicans, one Independence Party member, and the nine vacancies.</p> <p>With all that is happening in other races, especially those for Governor and in key House and state Senate swing districts, there will likely be little attention paid to most Assembly races this year.</p> <p>There will be other local elections in 2018, including local school board and trial court judicial elections, among others.</p> <p>

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by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

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</p>