Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1951 Tue, 17 Oct 2017 07:49:53 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Malliotakis Banks on Fundraising Blitz to Be Competitive with De Blasio http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7170:malliotakis-banks-on-fundraising-blitz-to-be-competitive-with-de-blasio http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7170:malliotakis-banks-on-fundraising-blitz-to-be-competitive-with-de-blasio malliotakis catsimatidis crop

Nicole Malliotakis, left, with John Catsimatidis, center (photo: @NMalliotakis)


Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis does not need to worry about defeating a primary opponent, and running unopposed is cheap. That dynamic will very quickly change on September 12, primary day, after which the Staten Island Assemblymember will have all of 55 days to campaign against the winner of the Democratic primary, likely incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a city with roughly a 7-to-1 Democratic-to-Republican enrollment advantage.

In order to run a competitive campaign against de Blasio, Malliotakis will need to be well-funded, and while she’s been careful with her spending so far, she must kick her fundraising into another gear -- and soon -- in order to run the type effort that might reach not only the city’s Republicans, but also the many independent, or unaffiliated, voters and moderate to conservative Democrats who she would need to pull off an upset win in November.

To win the Bloomberg coalition, Malliotakis may not need Bloomberg money, but she will need a good haul from the series of fundraising events her campaign has scheduled over the coming weeks.

The financial picture painted by the Malliotakis campaign’s disclosures to the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) has not been especially powerful. She has raised just under $500,000 so far, a staggering sum in most municipalities, but not more than a decent haul in New York. Though she is a participant in the public matching funds program, which matches certain eligible donations at a 6-to-1 ratio, Malliotakis has not hit the matching claims threshold of $250,000 of qualifying funds needed to unlock the additional money, and her lack of a primary opponent would render her ineligible to receive funds yet even if she did hit it, leading her campaign to stress it is not a concern at this time.

The campaign has also pointed out that fundraising tends to slow down over the summer as big-money donors leave town. As the city’s more affluent denizens drift in from their tropical paradise of choice, the Malliotakis camp is betting on a series of big-ticket fundraisers to turn around their fortunes.

“We came into this race late, we ran into the problem, a lot of the heavy hitters, from July on, this person was out of town, that person was out of town,” said Rob Ryan, a spokesperson for the campaign.

The slowness in summer fundraising was evident last city election cycle. Joe Lhota, the Republican mayoral nominee in 2013, saw his fundraising dip during the disclosure periods including July and August of that year, even while he was in a tough primary fight with supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis. By early September of that year, Lhota had already raised a sum total of over $2.1 million, more than four times what’s flowed into Malliotakis’ coffers.

Prominent GOP consultant Jessica Proud of The November Team, who was involved with the Lhota campaign, does not believe comparing the two campaigns is particularly useful. “It’s a little bit of comparing apples to oranges. Lhota got into the race much earlier than she did,” Proud said, adding, “we not only had a primary, but a very competitive primary.”

Indeed, Lhota began his candidacy in January of 2013 – which at the time was actually considered a late start in the open seat mayoral race – while Malliotakis didn’t file papers until April of this year.

Lhota also enjoyed wider name recognition with the electorate and pre-established connections with the city’s deep-pocketed business community before he launched his mayoral campaign. Stints in the administration of former mayor Rudy Giuliani, including as deputy mayor for operations, and as an executive with Cablevision and the Madison Square Garden Company served to introduce Lhota to the city’s power brokers. His time at the helm of the Metropolitan Transit Authority post-Superstorm Sandy solidified his local prominence and helped spur his mayoral bid.

Malliotakis has not had that kind of exposure. “Either you have great personal relationships with people who are high donors, or you have a base of small donors. The difficulty here is when you’re an Assemblymember in Staten Island, you might not have access to either of them,” said Richard St. Paul, a lawyer and GOP consultant.

Though leading Republicans acknowledge the challenge at hand in unseating a Democratic incumbent, Malliotakis has reason to be optimistic. Not only has she been campaigning nonstop across the five boroughs and appearing on dozens of radio, television, and other media programs, but she is in the midst of a major fundraising push that promises to bear fruit.

An ongoing blitz of events will be an opportunity to reach donors and receive a significant injection of cash just as the general election season kicks into gear. These include a reception at the Empire Club in Manhattan to be hosted by the state GOP, which is led by Chair Ed Cox; an event to be hosted by Staten Island GOP Chair Ron Castorina; a reception held by hotelier Ted Conklin at his American Hotel in Sag Harbor; and receptions hosted by Vicki and Herb London at their Manhattan home; Sharon Handler Loeb at her Manhattan home; Liz Peek at her Manhattan home; and Caroline Hirsch at Caroline’s on Broadway.

The first of these, the reception hosted by Castorina, took place on Thursday. The events listed continue through September 18, after which there are sure to be more as the race will head into televised debates and the important month of October. Disclosure filings between now and primary day must be submitted to the CFB daily, and will show the extent to which the outreach to the Hamptons crowd and other GOP donors was successful.

As for de Blasio, the mayor has received almost $5 million in contributions so far, plus an additional $2.64 million in public funds, leaving him with a haul of over $7.6 million in total. He raised over $147,000 in the latest disclosure period, which went from August 8 to August 28.

That is formidable firepower to go up against, and potential major donors may think twice about opening up the checkbook to Malliotakis, who also trails in funds raised to independent mayoral candidate Bo Dietl, who claims nearly $890,000 raised as of August 28. Individuals can donate a maximum of $4,950 to a mayoral candidate. One way around that particular quandary might be to focus less on the big donors and chase small-dollar contributions of the sort that the matching funds program was meant to incentivize. This hasn’t been a traditional city GOP strategy, and doesn’t seem to be a particular priority for the Malliotakis camp so far, but Proud thinks it can have a meaningful impact.

“She’s a woman, she’s got the background as the daughter of the Greek and Cuban immigrants,” Proud said. “She can reach out to a broader and more diverse community.”

St. Paul agreed that the small donations could be a game-changer. “I think it’s going to depend a lot on whether the Malliotakis campaign can find that base of people that aren’t satisfied, that aren’t happy with the mayor and tap them for small donations and reach the matching funds thresholds,” he said.

Ryan, from the campaign, called pursuing the small-dollar donations the campaign’s “main focus,” but emphasized that it was important for the bigger donors to meet Malliotakis at the various events, often their first time meeting her.

“Over the next couple of weeks we’ve got an event almost every day,” said Ryan, characterizing the events as largely cocktail receptions, lunches, and even an event with live music. Over the past weekend, the campaign had various events in the Hamptons, including one with environmentalist Andy Sabin.

Part of what can make New York City mayoral campaigns so expensive is the need to hire well-connected consultants that can strategize and schmooze and raise more money. “A lot of times the people who don’t have that name recognition or the high donors hire consultants that have those relationships, but that takes money,” said St. Paul. Gotham Gazette’s analysis of campaign expenditures up to the previous filing period, which ended August 7, show that consultants had received the lion’s share of all spending.

Name recognition itself doesn’t come cheap. In a metropolitan area with the largest media market in North America, television advertising can run into the millions of dollars. Mailers, banners, and other promotion can cost hundreds of thousands more. De Blasio was recently reported to have spent $2 million on a new television advertisement, his first of the campaign.

Independent spenders – individuals and committees not technically affiliated with a campaign that spend to support or oppose candidates or policies – could also shift the dynamic of the race. Already, the Transport Workers Union, which has been engaged in bitter criticism of de Blasio over funding for an emergency Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) plan put forward by Lhota (again the agency’s chair), has spent $119,025 on a TV ad attacking the mayor (TWU is seen as an ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo, a consistent de Blasio foe with whom the union negotiates its major labor contracts).

It’s not clear yet what other independent spenders may jump in to support Malliotakis or oppose de Blasio. The Malliotakis campaign indicated to Gotham Gazette earlier this summer that it is hopeful IEs will become a factor in the race. A campaign spokesperson also indicated hope that the GOP establishment and donors would be more active in support of Malliotakis than they were in helping Lhota in the 2013 general election, when he was quickly dismissed by many after initial public polling showed de Blasio ahead by more than 40 points. The spokesperson said the help will be there if it is a competitive race and potential backers can see a path to victory for Malliotakis.

The most significant pro-Lhota independent spender in the last cycle was a political action committee named The New York Progress and Protection PAC, which spent over $180,000 in support of his candidacy. It was largely funded by the conservative megadonor David Koch, and established by D.C. lawyer Craig Engle. Reached by phone, Engle declined to comment on his potential involvement in the race going forward.

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Malliotakis Banks on Fundraising Blitz to Be Competitive with De Blasio Tue, 05 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Republican Citywide Candidates Hopeful Despite Slow Fundraising http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7091:republican-citywide-candidates-hopeful-despite-slow-fundraising http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7091:republican-citywide-candidates-hopeful-despite-slow-fundraising Faulkner

GOP Comptroller candidate Michel Faulkner


Ahead of the citywide elections, Republican candidates for Comptroller and Public Advocate -- Michel Faulkner and J.C. Polanco, respectively -- have struggled to raise funds for their campaigns, trailing their respective opponents by large sums.

With just over three months before Election Day, both Faulkner and Polanco need to significantly increase their fundraising prowess to run competitive races against Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, both Democrats.

Faulkner, a former New York Jet and reverend, has over $91,000 cash-on-hand as of the latest filing. Over the course of his campaign, he has received $157,875 in loans, $126,800 of which is his own money. Notably, former Republican candidate for mayor Paul Massey and his wife both donated $4,950 to his campaign in May, the maximum amount that is legally permitted. Massey and Faulkner had endorsed each other before Massey dropped out of the race.

A political consultant and aide in the state Assembly minority, Polanco has even less in the bank, with only $10,386 on-hand, though he only recently entered the race. Public Advocate James, meanwhile, has $309,720 cash-on-hand.

Similarly, Comptroller Stringer holds $1,663,140 in the vault as of the July filing, far surpassing Faulkner.

Polanco and Faulkner are both energetic campaigners, but it is unclear if they will be able to pick up the fundraising pace. In order to have a chance, they must be able to fund campaign activities, meet the Campaign Finance Board’s threshold to receive public matching funds, and qualify for the debates.

In a heavily Democratic town -- roughly 80% of New York City voters voted for Hillary Clinton this past Fall -- gaining traction as a Republican is always difficult. Still, the Faulkner and Polanco totals are particularly low, according to George Arzt, a long-time New York City journalism and communications professional. “That’s dreadful,” he said, reacting to a reading of the candidates’ fundraising totals. Arzt is a Democrat who worked for Mayor Ed Koch.

Their struggle raising money, particularly from Republican and Conservative groups and individuals, comes as no surprise to Arzt, though. “Would you put money into their campaigns knowing that they have about under a 5 percent chance of winning?” he asked rhetorically. “Would you waste your money if you were the organization?”

However, in interviews with Gotham Gazette, both Faulkner and Polanco expressed optimism about their campaign’s ability to gain traction in the coming months. Both candidates believe they have a crossover message that doesn’t fit neatly into a typical Republican box. (They also have significant differences, given that Faulkner is a strong proponent of President Donald Trump, while Polanco is a longtime critic of Trump.)

Faulkner pointed to his heterodox message on social services: “People ask me, ‘well are you going to cut services?’ The answer is no, we need more services.” And on unions: “I’m not a union buster, I believe in labor, I was a member of the Teamsters union.” He also sports a more conventional urban conservative message backing charter schools and on policing. “My biggest challenge is my party affiliation,” he said.

More true to the job of comptroller, Faulkner has a harsh assessment of his opponent’s history holding Mayor de Blasio accountable. “He’s a tame, weak watchdog, who’s only watching. He’s not barking, he’s not biting, he’s not growling,” Faulkner said of Stringer, who has been tough on de Blasio but did endorse the mayor for a second term. “He’s part of the problem,” Faulkner said, insisting Stringer is too complacent with an unacceptable status quo. “The reason I’m becoming concerned about Stringer is he campaigned as an activist,” he said. However, Faulkner alleged Stringer “has become complicit in everything that's wrong with government.” “He’s a government bureaucrat who’s worse than de Blasio,” he added.

Faulkner said he is unfazed by Stringer’s fundraising advantage. “He has more money, but he doesn't have a fundraising advantage because he doesn’t have Michel Faulkner’s heart,” he said. “I don’t need his money; I need enough money,” Faulkner said. “I don’t need as much as he needs to run a campaign. I don’t have to, I’m a whole different breed of cat.”

Still, Faulkner acknowledged he needs to get the ball rolling with his fundraising efforts. “Do I have enough money now? No, but I believe I will have enough.”

He went on to explain why he has gotten off to a slow start in fundraising, pointing to his short-lived mayoral campaign, which he ended to run for comptroller, where there was no Republican candidate. “To say that it’s been a challenge is a real understatement,” he said. “Because I tried so much stuff for the mayoral campaign, the pivot is very difficult to getting back on track.” Faulkner said he is going to add more “call times,” periods spent on the phone talking to potential donors.

“We actually had a very exciting call [recently] and Ed Cox is helping,” Faulkner said of the New York State Republican Party Chair. “The county leaders are going to get behind us and work with us, we’re putting the pedal to the metal,” Faulkner said.

Polanco, a self-described “Never Trump Republican” who strives to be an independent voice willing to speak out against wrongdoing regardless of party, is focusing his campaign on political and ethics reform. He also promises to be a stronger watchdog of the mayor than the current officeholder he is seeking to unseat.

In the interview, Polanco described how difficult the fundraising component has been for him during his short campaign. “There's no question that fundraising is the toughest part of this campaign,” Polanco said. “The two hardest things to do are losing weight and getting financial contributions for a public advocate’s race. I’m convinced of those two things” he said in his typical upbeat tone. “But I’m working at it.”

“When I got into the race,” he continued of his early June launch, “I had to go through all this paperwork so that I could qualify to be able to fund-raise. From the moment I got the OK to the moment of the first [campaign finance] filing was only about three weeks. I’m continuously calling to try to make it happen, to generate excitement so that I could have a respectable race and show some credible fundraising numbers.”

Polanco expects the bulk of his donations to come from small-dollar donors and cited complications with getting large dollars from the Republican Party apparatus. In a prior interview with Gotham Gazette, around the time of his campaign launch, Polanco said he wouldn’t be campaigning full-time for a while, given the need to support his family.

“That's exactly what you want to be doing is focusing on individual, small-dollar donations to qualify for the match program,” said Republican consultant and communications professional Jessica Proud. “For the city, the mayor’s race tends to get the focus of the attention when it comes to earned media,” she said. “J.C [Polanco] got into the race a little bit late so I think he’s just getting started now.”

“It takes a little time to build up an organization,” Proud added. “It's not like you’re flipping the switch and they give you a big check,” she said of the matching funds program, wherein the public money supplements small-dollar donations to political campaigns.

Arzt argues it is not good timing for Republicans to win citywide, including mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis, a Staten Island Assembly member and the presumptive GOP nominee. While Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg had success running city-wide, times have changed, according to Arzt. He noted that Giuliani succeeded a troubled Dinkins administration and Bloomberg came in just after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The current Republican candidates, he said, currently lack any evident “catastrophic event that could propel them into office,” though one could occur at any time. “Its tough to go up against an incumbent unless the incumbent is tainted by scandal or misjudgement,” Arzt added.  

Proud, who does communications for Cox and the state GOP, expressed support for Polanco and Faulkner, and their non-ideological positioning. “There's no Democrat or Republican way to pick up the trash,” she said. “And I think that's the kind of positioning you need to have as a Republican in New York City.”

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Republican Citywide Candidates Hopeful Despite Slow Fundraising Thu, 27 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
With De Blasio Appearing Vulnerable, Heightened Examination of Paths to Defeat Him http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6480:with-de-blasio-appearing-vulnerable-heightened-examination-of-paths-to-defeat-him http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6480:with-de-blasio-appearing-vulnerable-heightened-examination-of-paths-to-defeat-him de blasio balcony

Mayor Bill de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)


Mayor Bill de Blasio often says he doesn’t put much stock in public opinion polls; he believes they’re about as accurate as weather predictions. When asked, he didn’t express much concern after a Quinnipiac University poll released August 1 showed that 51 percent of New York City voters don’t think he deserves to be re-elected in 2017. But even if de Blasio didn’t care, his critics and potential opponents surely did, and are likely buoyed in their belief that there is a way to beat an incumbent Democrat who has been arguably the most progressive mayor in the city’s history and overseen dropping crime, growing jobs, and a record tourism.

As polls show de Blasio’s relative weakness, some voices have grown louder calling for his ouster, and potential opponents weigh jumping into the race, one key question is the best path to defeating him. In an overwhelmingly Democratic city that saw 20 years of Republican dominance of the mayoralty before his election, it’s not immediately clear where de Blasio is most vulnerable.

As can be expected, political consultants are divided on the prospect of de Blasio’s re-election. Republican consultants believe he can be beaten if an opponent uses the right strategy, aptly highlighting the mayor’s weaknesses, while many Democrats are certain the chances of that are negligible at best.

“[De Blasio’s opponents] need to make it a referendum on his competence and his management,” said Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist. “That includes Democrats, especially in the primaries.”

“An incompetent mayor can lose,” he added.

It is the competence argument that is already being made by the loudest voice to thus far openly declare intention to defeat de Blasio in 2017 - that of consultant Bradley Tusk, who ran former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third successful mayoral campaign, in 2009. Tusk has said, though, that he believes the most likely path to defeating de Blasio in 2017 is through the Democratic primary. He’s currently waging a public relations campaign to damage the mayor while he attempts to recruit the strongest candidate possible.

As Tusk and others, even Republicans, acknowledge, the voter registration numbers don’t lie. They also see that while de Blasio’s approval rating is low, he still has fairly strong support among Democrats, especially African-Americans.

In order to beat de Blasio, “Republicans and independents will have to appeal to disaffected Democrats and have to bring in pretty much every constituency,” said Siegfried. “Bill de Blasio is absolutely beatable only if you run a good and strong campaign with a solid candidate...They should aim to peel off the pork from where de Blasio is strong, particularly the African-American community.”

On the Republican end, there are already a few candidates who’ve indicated they may run against the mayor, including Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich; billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, who lost in the 2013 Republican primary; real estate developer Paul Massey; and former professional football player and Harlem pastor Michel Faulkner. The latter two have officially declared their runs.

Republican campaign consultant Jessica Proud of The November Team, who is working for Massey’s campaign, believes there is a path to victory against the incumbent mayor. “Clearly de Blasio has not been able to inspire the confidence of voters,” she said. “He has not shown himself to be a good manager of the city.” Proud said Massey’s appeal is that he’s not a politician. “He’s not an ideologue, his approach would be one of good management,” she said, with an implicit nod toward a Bloomberg-esque technocrat and citing Massey’s top priorities in the campaign: public safety and quality of life issues, housing, and improving city schools.

The management issue is a common refrain and relates directly to competence. Even though crime is down, Republican consultants point to polls that show the perception of crime remains skewed. Many people believe other quality of life issues, like street cleanliness, are getting worse even if there is evidence to the contrary. The Quinnipiac poll released August 1 showed that 49 percent of New York City voters disapproved of how the mayor is handling crime, compared to 42 percent who approved.

George Arzt, a Democratic consultant, said, “[De Blasio is] vulnerable to a challenge but not from a Republican.” He said that contenders like Massey or Catsimatidis don’t have the same level of resources as Bloomberg did, and that they definitely don’t have the political skills or organization. “There were circumstances that cannot be duplicated as we see now,” he said of Bloomberg’s election as a Republican candidate. “It’s doubtful that anyone even with money can make a go of it.”

Another Democratic strategist, Hank Sheinkopf, said a Republican candidate could only be elected if the city were to undergo a serious crisis, say a crime wave, massive corruption, or another recession. De Blasio's administration and campaign allies are being investigated on multiple fronts by state and federal law enforcement officials - the results of those investigations could shift political dynamics drastically, of course. Short of major indictments, Sheinkopf did point out early indicators of problems -- certain crimes have increased, like rape, but overall the crime rate is at historic lows; school test scores may be improving but the schools are underperforming in general; violence in the city’s jails; and future budget deficits despite the city being flush with cash.

Even with those considerations, Sheinkopf said, “A fusion candidate will have a better chance,”  referring to a candidate who runs on multiple party lines. “They have the Republican line and other lines which makes it easier for people to vote for them.” An effective Republican challenger would have to draw crossover votes from traditionally Democratic voting sections of the population, as Siegfried also suggested and any Republican candidate or consultant must understand.

Democrats’ immense voter registration advantage is simply a reality that all involved in New York City political campaigns must recognize. However, one caveat to the voter registration numbers are the voter turnout numbers, which are often quite low. If a certain candidate, incumbent or otherwise, can motivate more people to vote in a significant mass, an election can be swung.

As of April 1, there are more than 4 million active registered voters in the city, of which 2.75 million are Democrats and only 414,478 are Republicans. However, that advantage isn’t necessarily borne out by history, a fact pointed to by Steven Romalewski, director of the mapping service at the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center. In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Romalewski said, “The enrollment advantage doesn’t necessarily tell you much. It matters less than personality of the candidates and the issues. If everyone turned out to vote who is registered to vote and voted the party line, a Democrat would win. But that doesn’t always happen.”

Romalewski noted that a 2013 general election analysis showed that in certain districts, de Blasio received fewer Democratic votes than the total votes cast by registered Democrats, indicating that some may have voted for his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota. In other districts, de Blasio received more votes than the total Democratic votes cast, meaning he had support from outside the Democratic party as well. There were six major qualified parties and 14 minor parties on the general election ballot, with de Blasio holding the Democratic and Working Families Party lines.

The city also has nearly 800,000 unaffiliated voters, often called “independents,” which adds another facet to the Democrat-Republican enrollment imbalance.

“In 2017, I think the same kind of analysis holds,” Romalewski said in an email. “If none or just a small number of Democrats vote for de Blasio's opponent, he'll do ok.  But if his challenger can persuade enough Dems to "defect," he'll be in trouble.”

But de Blasio’s great strength, as Romalewski pointed out, is that he “not only did well and much better than the prior three Democratic candidates [for mayor] but also did well in areas where Bloomberg did well. He kinda combined the traditional Democratic base -- Black and Hispanic areas -- with liberal white areas.” De Blasio won a dominant 73 percent of the general election vote against Lhota in 2013.

Critics point to the fact that only 26 percent of registered voters cast ballots in that election, which indicates some combination of apathy, recognition that de Blasio had a huge polling advantage heading toward Election Day, and limited enthusiasm for Lhota from Republicans and independents.

A Republican would have to have a “cache” of progressive politics combined with the skills of a good manager, Romalewski said, to cut into de Blasio’s voter base. “The conventional wisdom is that it’s unlikely [de Blasio will] have effective challengers,” he said.

Most observers assume that the mayor will only face a stiff challenge in the Democratic primary, due to the aforementioned factors and no obvious other big name Republican or independent waiting in the wings. And a tough Democratic primary is only possible, some say, if a single strong candidate runs against de Blasio instead of multiple candidates who could split the anti-de Blasio vote. “If two or three Democrats challenge the mayor, he’s going to win,” said Bill Cunningham, managing director at DKC and former communications director for Bloomberg. “If only one runs, there’s a chance to coalesce the people who view [de Blasio] unfavorably and give them a place to go vote.”

One other path some experts float would be for a strong African-American candidate to enter the race - someone like Congressional Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, for example - who would chip away at de Blasio’s deep African-American base, and one strong white candidate - someone like Comptroller Scott Stringer - who could pick up as many other disaffected Democrats as possible.

Cunningham said for a competitive race, “You need a message, a messenger and you need to be able to deliver that to the public. There’s no mystery to what the recipe is. The trick is finding a candidate who is intelligent and can campaign effectively and has the money to deliver the message to the voters.” Bloomberg had those qualities, he pointed out, but the current crop of contenders don’t. Along with Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is currently seen as the other most likely Democratic challenger to the mayor.

When asked about potential opponents, de Blasio has repeatedly said he’s ready to take on all comers, at times mentioning the pillars of his term: universal pre-kindergarten, affordable housing, and low crime. At one point last year de Blasio discussed his "record of achievement" and said of potential 2017 opponents, "come one, come all."

A spokesperson for de Blasio’s campaign, Dan Levitan, emailed a statement about the prospects for 2017, saying, “Crime just hit another all-time low, jobs are at record highs, the City is building and preserving affordable housing at a record pace, while graduation rates and test scores continue to improve. That is Mayor de Blasio's record and that is what next year's election will be about.”

Even Tusk, who is arguably de Blasio’s most vocal opponent right now, acknowledges that he’ll be hard pressed to find a candidate who fits the bill of a Democrat with appeal among Republican voters. He recently indicated to the New York Times that a successful candidate could run on a third-party line in the general even if they lost the Democratic primary; or a candidate could possibly skip the Democratic primary altogether and run on an independent line.

As CUNY’s Romalewski notes, in the 2009 general, Bloomberg did well in areas where he consistently won votes in the prior two elections -- much of Queens, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Downtown Manhattan, South Brooklyn, and almost all of Staten Island. His Democratic opponent at the time, Bill Thompson, made it a close race, losing by less than five points. Thompson, who is black, won large blocks in Southeast Queens, Central Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx. Unfortunately for him, though, turnout wasn’t as high in these areas as he needed for a victory. De Blasio upended the pattern in 2013, pulling votes from constituencies that voted for both Bloomberg and Thompson in ‘09.

Romalewski’s analysis of the 2013 election also notes areas de Blasio lost to Lhota, including the traditionally Republican-leaning Upper East Side, Middle Village and other areas in northeast Queens, a few orthodox Jewish communities in Southern Brooklyn, and most of Staten Island. In general, these areas were dominated by white New Yorkers who have been increasingly critical of de Blasio. The mayor overwhelmingly won communities dominated by African-Americans and Hispanics, who continue to support him. The Quinnipiac poll noted as much, finding that in hypothetical match-ups whites largely favored Comptroller Scott Stringer and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn over de Blasio, who maintained huge margins among African-Americans and Hispanics. (The poll did not include possible Republican candidates.)

In terms of approval rating, 63 percent of black voters and 50 percent of Hispanic voters approve of de Blasio’s handling of the job, while only 25 percent of white voters felt the same. The Democrat-Republican divide is even greater, with 55 percent of Democrats giving de Blasio a thumbs up and only 9 percent of Republicans doing so. Among independents, 30 percent approved of the mayor.

On Tusk’s “NYC Deserves Better” podcast, Democratic consultant and pollster Jefrey Pollock pointed out that despite the mayor’s weakening numbers, he has enough support among African-Americans and Hispanics for a strong showing in the Democratic primary. Pollock noted, and Tusk reiterated, that popular adage that almost every political expert and consultant says of the mayoral race -- “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” Pollock said independent groups support an opponent of de Blasio, if an effective one were to emerge.

“That is the great challenge,” Tusk said.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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With De Blasio Appearing Vulnerable, Heightened Examination of Paths to Defeat Him Sun, 14 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000
New Yorkers, Including the Presidential Nominees, Head to the National Party Conventions http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6439:new-yorkers-including-the-presidential-nominees-head-to-the-national-party-conventions http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6439:new-yorkers-including-the-presidential-nominees-head-to-the-national-party-conventions RNC banner

The RNC approaches (image via @GOPconvention)


The next two weeks will see the formal nominations of the two major party candidates in the contest to succeed Barack Obama as President of The United States. First, this week, Republicans are expected to nominate Donald J. Trump, who on Saturday morning introduced Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate. On Saturday, Trump promised “we’re going to have an incredible convention.” The theme of the convention is "Make America Great Again," which has been Trump's campaign slogan.

All eyes will be on Cleveland Monday through Thursday as the Republicans convene, with New York delegates front and center at the convention given that the presumptive nominee calls the Empire State home. Americans are also bracing for protests and many are hoping that there is no violence outside or inside Quicken Loans Arena.

The same goes for Philadelphia, where the following week, that of July 25, the Democrats are set to name Hillary Clinton their nominee for President.

Clinton also calls New York home, and there are many New York angles to the upcoming Republican and Democratic national conventions. These include the delegations traveling to Cleveland and Philadelphia, which for the Democrats will include both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, among many other high-profile New Yorkers.

Aside from officially nominating their presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the conventions will also see formal adoption of the official party policy platforms. These decisions are being made by the thousands of delegates from across the country who attend each convention - an assortment of current and former elected officials, prominent party members, activists, businesspeople, and others - in part as dictated by the voting that occurred in each state.

As the Republican convention kicks off, it appears that any last-ditch efforts from within the party to keep Trump from the nomination have been scuttled. The speakers list for the convention fit with Trump’s campaign as an anti-establishment outsider and is largely devoid of major party figures - there will be no appearance by prior presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, or a variety of Republican governors, senators, and others who are prominent in the party. Home-state Governor John Kasich, of Ohio, one of Trump’s rivals for the nomination, is not scheduled to be part of the proceedings.

There will be a full slate of speakers, of course, including Trump’s four adult children, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Gov. Chris Christie, Senator Ted Cruz, Gov. Scott Walker, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, GOP Chair Reince Priebus, and others. Pence will be the headline speaker on Wednesday night, while Trump will give the convention's final words on Thursday evening.

With some time still before the Democratic convention, the big news everyone is waiting for is Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee. Many are calling Virginia Senator Tim Kaine the frontrunner, but nothing official has been announced. Unlike Trump’s convention, Clinton’s will feature a ‘who’s who’ of major party names - Democratic National Convention speakers will include President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and others. Like Trump, Clinton will see her adult child, Chelsea, speak.

As the conventions kick off there is much to watch for over the next two weeks; they also signal the start to the final three-and-a-half months of the campaign, leading to Election Day on November 8: the final stretch of speeches, platforms, polls, ads, debates, and more.

Here’s what New Yorkers need to know and should be watching for as the national conventions arrive:

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION, July 18-21

When and Where is the RNC?
The 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) will be held July 18-21 (Monday-Thursday) in Cleveland, Ohio at the Quicken Loans Arena. After a tough and controversial primary season, the RNC is an opportunity for more party healing and unity. In the lead up, most discussion of a coup to replace Trump with another nominee has quieted. Trump said on Saturday that one reason he chose Pence as his running mate is “party unity.”

Trump, who has been a media and reality TV star, told the Washington Post that he intends to put his own “showbiz” spin on the convention’s proceedings, though the official list of speakers is looking lighter on sports and entertainment legends than at one time thought.

Who Are the Delegates?
Though the exact process varies by state party rules, delegates to the RNC generally fall within three categories. Each state gets ten at-large delegates, plus delegates awarded based on that state’s Republican electoral success in the past (for instance, having a Republican Governor). Each state is allocated delegates based on congressional districts and each state’s Republican National Committeeman, Committeewoman, and State Chair all attend as delegates.

Following this formula, New York will have a total of 95 delegates, including 27 from New York City, 54 from around the rest of the state, and 14 at-large. In a change of long-time state party rules, New York’s GOP delegates this year were selected by the State Republican Committee and several mini-committees for each of New York’s twenty-seven congressional districts, rather than having many determined by the presidential candidates on the ballot. The switch was intended to reward long-time party loyalists over the candidates’ friends and family, who were often favored in the past, according to Syracuse.com.

Jessica Proud, spokesperson for the State Republican Party, considers the new delegate selection process a welcome shift from a “top-down” to “bottom-up” approach.

“It's considered a coveted role to be a delegate,” she said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette, “so this was a way to help reward the people that have really been the stalwarts of the party, helping to elect our candidates and grow our party every year. They were really pleased with it.”

Currently, 89 of New York’s delegates are pledged to Trump, while 6 remain bound to Kasich (who won Manhattan), though the Ohio governor officially suspended his campaign on May 4.

The New York Angle
“In a lot of ways, New York was the catalyst to help Trump seal in the nomination,” Proud recalls.

“It was the first time he had gotten over 50 percent of the vote, and then right after that was Indiana, and then Cruz and Kasich both dropped out,” Proud said. “So it all came together in New York; he won every demographic. It was the first time he really proved that he could go outside a larger box than he had in previous primaries and caucuses.”

Trump came out of New York’s April 19 primary with a large lead over Kasich and Cruz and the writing was all but on the wall. While Kasich did squeak out New York County (aka Manhattan), Trump dominated the rest of the state, winning 60.4 percent of the total vote.

This success, plus Trump’s extensive New York networks, both personal and professional, means this year’s RNC will be dominated by New Yorkers.

At-large delegates include Chair of the state GOP Ed Cox, state party Finance Chair Arcadio Casillas, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, and Wendy Long, who is challenging Senator Charles Schumer in November.

On Friday, Cox released a statement praising Trump’s choice of Pence as a running mate, saying, in part, that "Mr. Trump has once again demonstrated the leadership skills required to make the changes necessary to put America on the right track."

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been publicly backing Trump and is set to speak at the convention. He is a delegate to the convention, pledged to Kasich. City Council Member Joseph Borelli, of Staten Island, is a Trump delegate. Borelli has been a frequent Trump surrogate on TV for many months. He travelled to Ohio with his successor in the state Assembly, Ron Castorina, and former Council Member Vincent Ignizio.

Other prominent GOP delegates include Alfonse D’Amato, former U.S. Senator; Carl Paladino, honorary co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign and 2010 gubernatorial candidate; Tom Dadey, first vice chairman of the state GOP and co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign; and state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan - several other state senators will be in attendance: Golden, DeFrancisco, O’Mara, Croci, though DeFrancisco is the only delegate among them (he is pledged to Kasich). Assembly members Kolb and DiPietro are delegates. Assembly Member Bill Nojay, an upstate Republican who in the past played a significant role in attempting to push Trump to run for New York Governor and helped lay the groundwork for Trump’s presidential bid, will not be attending.

New York State Senators are hoping to maintain or expand their slim majority through the November elections and Trump’s candidacy may pose challenging for some candidates running in more moderate districts.

Rubye Wright will also attend to vote for Trump - at 94 years of age, she is the oldest delegate heading to the convention, according to amNewYork. A Harlem native and lifelong Republican, Wright has attended every national convention except one since 1968. A complete listing of New York GOP delegates can be found on Ballotpedia.

According to the New York Post, the State GOP has considered offering Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., the ceremonial role of announcing New York’s 95 delegate votes. Trump Jr. will be attending the convention as one of Manhattan’s high-profile district delegates, and has been actively involved in his father’s campaign. Convention organizers may also position Trump Jr.’s announcement so that the New York delegation’s votes send Trump over the majority threshold to secure the nomination. Both details have yet to be confirmed.

“We certainly would love to have him in that role,” Proud said of Trump Jr., who will speak at the convention, “but the logistics are being worked out between the campaign and the State Committee.”

New York City’s only Republican member of its House of Representatives delegation, Daniel Donovan, will attend the convention. In an interview with the Staten Island Advance, Donovan said, "It's going to be exciting for our state.” Looking ahead to November, he said, "Traditionally, Republicans don't win New York, but we have a New Yorker as the Republican nominee for the first time in a very long time."

Role of the Delegates
Unlike the Democratic Party’s superdelegates, most of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC are technically bound to vote for a certain candidate. According to the Associated Press, only 95 delegates are unbound and can vote for whomever they choose. Trump amassed 1,542 pledged delegates, which puts him over the majority threshold of 1,237 to secure the nomination. According to Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party and a New York congressional district delegate, Trump’s nomination is nothing short of guaranteed; “We're having an infomercial kind of convention, not a brokered convention. Everyone's going as a Trump delegate.”

With calls for a “Dump Trump” movement subsiding, the 112-member Convention Rules Committee finished its business without changing things to aid the naming of a different nominee. At least a few opposing Trump may continue fighting. "Whether you supported Donald Trump along the way or not: He. Is. Our. Nominee," said RNC Rules Committee Chairman Bruce Ash on Tuesday, according to CNN.

Delegates at the convention must vote on the party’s official policy platform. Members of the Platform Committee finished the draft platform while Trump himself took a hands-off approach, according to the New York Times, which cites discrepancies between the conservative language of the Republican platform and Trump’s more moderate views on issues such as LGBT rights.

According to the Times, moderate Republicans pushing for amendments to be made “secured enough signatures on Tuesday to demand a vote on their proposals from all 2,475 delegates,” so there may be some concessions made on the convention floor Monday before the final vote.

See You in Cleveland
For all aspects of the convention, New York will be front and center. “There'll be a big spotlight on us,” Proud noted, referring to the New York delegation as a whole.

“New York is already prominently featured, but the fact that our nominee is from the state really adds a whole other level of excitement and anticipation. It's definitely evidenced by the volume of requests that the state party has had of people wanting to attend. We've had way more requests than tickets that were given to us. The downside is you can't accommodate everyone, but from a party standpoint, it’s very encouraging that so many people wanted to be there and that people are very excited.”

DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, July 25-28

When and Where is the DNC?
The Democratic National Convention will take place July 25-28 (Monday through Thursday) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Though Brooklyn was seriously considered to host the convention amid a strong push from Mayor Bill de Blasio and others, Philadelphia won the honor.

How are the Delegates Allocated?
There are three types of delegates for the Democrats: pledged delegates, who petitioned in order to get on the ballot and become a delegate, and are legally bound to support a particular candidate; at-large delegates, chosen by the state Democratic Party, who pledge to vote for a particular candidate; and unpledged delegates, otherwise known as superdelegates, who are prominent party leaders not bound to any candidate. There are 345 representatives of the New York State Democratic Party heading to the convention, according to the party.

There is no drama expected at the Democratic convention in terms of delegate allocation as Bernie Sanders has conceded and endorsed Hillary Clinton, so the types of delegates are unlikely to be a factor.

As more signs were pointing to a Clinton win by a solid margin, she won her home state of New York on April 19. Throughout the race, Clinton accumulated an overwhelming majority of the superdelegates, known party insiders always supportive of her over Sanders, who has not been an establishment Democrat. This led to some of the calls from Sanders and his supporters of a ‘rigged system.’

The Democratic Party Platform
Sanders and his supporters, plus the national Democratic tilt leftward, have had a significant influence on the party platform being adopted this year -- progressive influence throughout the primary season as well as recent, more explicit demands. Two issues are emblematic: calling for a $15 per hour minimum wage and standing against capital punishment in all circumstances. The party platform has stepped to the ideological left of Clinton, who has spoken in favor of a $12 federal minimum wage (with states going higher per their judgement) and capital punishment for certain crimes.

Dr. David Birdsell, a professor and dean at Baruch College, does not believe that Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton is enough to dissipate all of the tension within the Democratic Party.

“The Sanders endorsement – and he did use the word ‘endorse’ – of Clinton will go a long way toward reducing contention and controversy in Philadelphia,” Birdsell said in an interview. “[However,] there will still be some tension; Hillary Clinton is too polarizing a figure to expect an entirely smooth process. But chances are good at this point that Democrats will come together and unite for the fall campaign - barring further repercussions from the FBI’s decision not to prosecute [Clinton, regarding her email scandal], but that’s a general election problem, not a convention problem.”

Birdsell also believes that the concessions that the Democratic Party has made will be the only ones for a while.

“I suspect the concessions made to date are the end of the story, at least through the convention. Could there be a rear-guard effort to get TPP language in the platform? Yes, but given the deep affront that would pose to the sitting President, who is and will remain through November the Party’s principal asset, I think anything public highly unlikely.”

The New York Angle
Basil Smikle, executive director of the New York State Democratic Committee, is excited about the amendments to the party’s platform. Smikle sees them as an expansion of New York values to the rest of the nation. “I think New York has been in this conversation and led it for a long time,” he said.

“I think the state and the party has had a tremendous impact on the platform itself, and going to the convention with the leadership of the Governor is certainly carrying the work that Hillary Clinton has done for New York and the Senate, and what she's been able to accomplish and discuss on the campaign trail,” Smikle continued. “Those are New York values, and we are thankful that they've been able to influence other states, other delegates, and certainly the platform itself."

The Democrats released only the headline speakers as of Sunday, July 17, which includes the top-level names mentioned earlier: both Obamas, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders. It is unclear whether Gov. Cuomo or Mayor de Blasio will have a speaking role.

Smikle, a Cuomo appointee, confirmed that Cuomo has not yet been selected to speak at the convention. “We haven't gotten a schedule of speakers from the DNC yet, so that may still be discussed by the folks at the DNC at this point...I would love for [Cuomo] to have a speaking role. I hope he does."

“I’m sure I’ll have some role, but I’m also sure it’s not about me,” Cuomo said in late June, according to New York State of Politics.

Cuomo has been selected to chair New York state’s delegation at the DNC - a choice that caused Sanders supporters to protest. Delegates backing Sanders have refused to recognize Cuomo’s authority as the chair, and have said they will “file a legal challenge to the nomination of Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the chair of New York’s delegation.” It’s unclear if this controversy has subsided in the wake of Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton and the approach of the convention itself.

Other notable New York Democratic superdelegates include former President Clinton, Senators Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Mayor de Blasio. De Blasio said on Wednesday that nothing around his speaking role had been decided. The same was true for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has been a frequent Clinton surrogate and campaigner this election season and will be part of the delegation to Philadelphia.

Other members of the New York Democratic delegation include Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, much of the state’s Democratic House delegation; City Council Members Jumaane Williams, Rafael Espinal, and Richie Torres, Public Advocate Letitia James, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

According to Smikle, this year’s delegation “brings a tremendous sense of pride for us as New Yorkers.” He cited work New York leaders have done to move progressive policy and their impact on national politics.

“I think what New York broadly and the delegation specifically brings is that a lot of what's in the platform has been discussed and implemented in New York for quite some time, so I do think members of our delegation have had an incredible impact,” he said.

A complete list of the 345 New York DNC delegation is available here, courtesy of the State Democratic Committee.

See You in Philadelphia
Asked on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show if he was attending the DNC, Mayor de Blasio said on June 29, “Of course. I’m a delegate, and I’m looking forward to going there and voting for Hillary.”

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by Amanda Sherwin and Rebecca Oh
@GothamGazette

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New Yorkers, Including the Presidential Nominees, Head to the National Party Conventions Sun, 17 Jul 2016 04:00:00 +0000