Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2433 Sun, 23 Sep 2018 00:54:18 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) The July Financial Picture for Former Breakaway Democrats and Their Primary Challengers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7813:the-july-financial-picture-for-former-breakaway-democrats-and-their-primary-challengers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7813:the-july-financial-picture-for-former-breakaway-democrats-and-their-primary-challengers liu and ramos via jessicaramos

John Liu and Jessica Ramos (photo: @JessicaRamos)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jeff klein campaign kickoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Read: New York Democrats’ Season of Choosing]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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The July Financial Picture for Former Breakaway Democrats and Their Primary Challengers Wed, 18 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Staten Island Activist Eyes Primary Challenge to IDC Senator Savino http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7453:staten-island-activist-eyes-primary-challenge-to-idc-senator-savino http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7453:staten-island-activist-eyes-primary-challenge-to-idc-senator-savino jasmine robinson idc

photo: Jasmine Robinson


State Senator Diane Savino, a founding member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), may be facing a challenge in the Democratic primary this fall.

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.

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 group that formed out of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. -- and found it eye-opening, she said.

“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.”

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.

Currently, five of the eight IDC members appear to be facing at least one challenger. 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.

Senator David Carlucci, of Rockland and Westchester counties, and Queens Senator Tony Avella remain unchallenged.

Notably, anti-IDC candidates are forging ahead 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.

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, telling Politico, "The rationale was not there anymore.” Savino ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and the general election in 2016.

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.

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.

“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.”

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 urged Staten Islanders to respect the judicial process, but sponsored a bill, along with Staten Island Assemblymember Matthew Titone, requiring grand jury testimony to be made public.

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.

“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.

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.

“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.

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.

“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.”

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.

Olusoji Oluwole, a longtime member of the club, said that he believes Robinson’s potential candidacy would give progressives more visibility on Staten Island.

“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.

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.

"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.”

Correction: An earlier version of this piece misidentified the location of Senator David Carlucci's district.

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Staten Island Activist Eyes Primary Challenge to IDC Senator Savino Wed, 31 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000