Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/340 Tue, 16 Oct 2018 23:07:44 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Post-Primary Campaign Finance Filings Show Cuomo’s Already Spent $28 Million http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7957:post-primary-campaign-finance-filings-show-cuomo-s-already-spent-28-million http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7957:post-primary-campaign-finance-filings-show-cuomo-s-already-spent-28-million govandrewcuomo office

Photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat running for reelection to a third term, successfully claimed the Democratic Party nomination earlier this month after a bitter primary battle against actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon. But the victory came at significant cost as Cuomo spent more than $20 million this year alone, nearly ten times what Nixon spent in total as she attempted to unseat him.

Cuomo, who won with 64.4 percent of the vote to Nixon’s 34.4 percent in the September 13 primary, is headed into the general election with roughly $11.6 million at his disposal, according to the latest campaign finance disclosures filed with the State Board of Elections.

In the three weeks covered by the filing, between September 1 and September 21, Cuomo’s campaign spent more than $5 million and raised about $567,000. About $1.9 million was spent on television ads through the firm Media Fortitude Partners, and the campaign also transferred about $2.4 million to the New York State Democratic Committee, which Cuomo controls and which has been boosting his campaign with ads of its own, while also supporting Cuomo-aligned candidates, especially Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and attorney general nominee Letitia James, the New York City Public Advocate.

So far, in this four-year election cycle, Cuomo has raised more than $36 million and spent more than $28 million. Not all of Cuomo’s spending thus far went directly toward the primary alone -- even prior to defeating Nixon, he had begun spending on ads targeting Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive. Cuomo received a total of 964,883 votes, spending about $29 per vote, while Nixon got 508,125, spending roughly $4.4 per vote.

Nixon raised $2.7 million in total for her campaign and spent about $2.2 million in her first-time bid for office, as of this post-primary filing. Her relatively lean campaign relied mostly on small-dollar individual donors rather than wealthy corporate ones and LLCs, which funded Cuomo’s deep coffers. Nixon only ran ads in the last few days before the primary and was unable to overcome Cuomo’s significant incumbency advantages, any issues Democratic voters had with her candidacy, and the governor’s two-term resume.

Hochul, Cuomo’s running-mate who has now joined him on the general election ticket, also beat her own primary challenger, Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams. Though Williams had far fewer resources for his campaign, the race was fairly tight. Hochul won with 53.3 percent against Williams’ 46.7 percent.

Hochul spent about $318,000 in the last few weeks and raised $251,000. Her campaign has another $323,000 left. She raised a total of $2.3 million this cycle and has spent nearly $2.2 million of it.

Williams stumbled with his fundraising early on and only raised a total of $322,000 and spent about $278,000 over the entire campaign. He has just over $20,000 left in his account, which he could transfer to another city or state campaign account if he decides to run for another position before he is term-limited out of his current office in 2021.

Cuomo and Hochul will face the joint Republican ticket of Molinaro and lieutenant governor nominee Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council member and recent state senate candidate. Other general election contenders include the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Larry Sharpe, and Stephanie Miner, the former Syracuse mayor who is running as an independent, and their respective lieutenant governor running-mates.

In the four-way contest for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, James emerged as the victor, setting her up to face Republican Keith Wofford, Green Party nominee Michael Sussman, and the Reform Party’s Nancy Sliwa. The seat was vacated by former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after facing allegations of physical abuse by multiple intimate partners.

James raised $2.2 million and spent about $1.9 million in total for her successful campaign, which got her 40.6 percent of the vote in the primary. She had about $275,000 left for the general election as of the post-primary filing, but is heavily favored in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one and no Republican has won statewide since 2002.

Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout came in second in the race, with 31 percent, after running a grassroots campaign that also received the backing of several newspaper editorial boards. At times, Teachout’s opponents appeared to view her as the frontrunner rather than James, who had the backing of Cuomo and the state’s Democratic establishment. Teachout raised about $1.9 million and spent about $1.85 million in total.

Democratic Congressional Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney campaigned fairly lightly but doled out massive amounts of cash to blanket the airwaves with ads. Utilizing funds raised for his congressional reelection, Maloney raised nearly $3 million to run for attorney general and spent more than $5 million, but finished third with 25 percent of the vote.

Leecia Eve, a Verizon executive who has served as an aide to Cuomo, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, came in last with 3.4 percent. She raised about $408,000 and spent $417,000 on the campaign.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - This article has been updated to note the amount that Cuomo and Nixon spent per vote. 

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Post-Primary Campaign Finance Filings Show Cuomo’s Already Spent $28 Million Tue, 25 Sep 2018 20:47:05 +0000
A Closer Look at Democratic Primary Turnout, Margins and Geography http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7936:a-closer-look-at-democratic-primary-turnout-margins-and-geography http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7936:a-closer-look-at-democratic-primary-turnout-margins-and-geography cuomo voting 2018 primary

Gov. Cuomo voting in Thursday's primary (photo: @NYGovCuomo)


The Democratic gubernatorial primary between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon saw a significant surge in voter participation, but turnout still stood at only 27 percent of active registered Democrats.

Compared to the 2014 primary election, when Zephyr Teachout challenged Cuomo, who was then seeking a second term, turnout more than doubled, according to preliminary numbers. And, turnout spiked slightly more in New York City than elsewhere. Specifically, 28 percent of registered Democrats in New York City voted in the 2018 primary while 24.5 percent voted outside of the city — 2.8 and 2.3 times as many voted in 2014, respectively, when around 10 percent of those eligible cast a ballot.

“As far as the race for governor goes, turnout was greatly improved in the city and throughout the state. That was very impressive,” said Steven Romalewski, director of the Mapping Service at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research, in an interview Friday. “It wasn’t just a modest increase compared with the somewhat anemic turnout statewide in 2014.”

“The number of voters went from 575,000 to 1.5 million,” he added. There were 5,621,811 million active registered Democrats across the state as of April 1, according to the State Board of Elections. Turnout was likely aided by a number of factors, including the high number of competitive races, including three statewide positions and the challenges to former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference and Democrats’ post-Trump awakening.

Cuomo won this year’s primary with 978,138 votes to Nixon’s 512,585, as of the preliminary count, for 65.6 percent to 34.4 percent. In 2014, Cuomo received 361,380 votes (63 percent), and Teachout earned 192,210 votes (33.5 percent); comedian and activist Randy Credico picked up the remaining votes and about 3 percent.

In Cuomo’s win, he captured broad support across the state, earning about 67 percent of the vote in New York City and 64 percent outside the city, with the exception of a few geographic regions. He performed particularly well in majority-black areas of the city, especially in the Bronx — he won 83 percent in the borough overall — Harlem, and Central Brooklyn. Nixon, for her part, received a good share of votes in whiter, gentrified parts of Brooklyn, competed better with Cuomo in Manhattan, where she earned 41 percent of the vote, her best borough, and the Queens waterfront, posting her best numbers, like Teachout four years ago, in areas of the city home to many white progressives. Nixon also performed fairly well in some upstate areas, such as Albany County, and also beat Cuomo in counties surrounding it, along with Tomkins and Lewis counties to its west and north, respectively.

Turnout was so much higher that Nixon earned 320,375 more total votes than Cuomo did in 2014, but still won about the same percentage as Teachout did that year.

Cuomo’s win was so solid, and the city’s share of the vote so significant, that the governor’s total votes from Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens eclipsed Nixon’s statewide total.

The other two statewide Democratic primaries, for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, followed a similar pattern, with incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul again winning the party’s nomination and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James prevailing in a four-way Attorney General race with no incumbent.

Specifically, James’ base was predictably in the city; Zephyr Teachout performed well in the Hudson Valley as well as parts of Brooklyn home to many white progressives, the Upper West Side, and Greenwich Village (places Nixon received a large share of votes); and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney performed best further upstate and in Western New York.

In total, James won 40.6 percent of the vote, Teachout 31, Maloney 25, and Eve 3.4.

Teachout’s and Maloney’s combined votes totalled 800,398 — 221,016 more votes than what James received, perhaps suggesting had only one of the candidates been in the race he or she would have had a strong chance. Given their similar voter base and James stranglehold on New York City, neither was likely to be able to pull off a victory given the other’s presence, as Gotham Gazette last week reported looked likely.

In the Lieutenant Governor race Hochul unofficially received 733,591 votes, or 53.3 percent, to Williams’ 641,631 votes, or 46.7 percent.

Williams received the lion’s share of his votes in New York City, particularly Brooklyn, where he is from and represents a City Council district. Twenty-six percent of his total votes were cast in his favor in Brooklyn, but he was defeated by Hochul nearly everywhere else save Manhattan, and Tompkins and Columbia Counties. In New York City, Hochul received more votes than Williams in the three other boroughs, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, and she did slightly better than Williams throughout most of the state.

Vote totals were slightly lower in both the Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor primaries than the race for Governor, as evidently some voters chose Cuomo or Nixon but left their ballots blank in one or more of the two other statewide races.

In unofficial totals, 1,375,222 votes were counted in the Lieutenant Governor race and 1,428,418 votes in the Attorney General race, compared to 1,490,723 in the gubernatorial race, leaving roughly 115,500 who voted in the Governor's race but did not pick either of the major candidates in the Lieutenant Governor race (some may have done write-ins), and about 62,300 who did the same in the Attorney General race.

But while Nixon lost by a large margin, and fellow insurgents Teachout and Williams lost as well, the progressive energy appeared to have a massive effect down-ballot, as six candidates challenging former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight breakaway Democrats who caucused with Republicans in the state Senate, ousted the incumbents, and another insurgent, leftist candidate unseated another sitting senator representing part of the city.

Challengers Alessandra Biaggi, Jessica Ramos, John Liu, Zellnor Myrie, Robert Jackson, and Rachel May defeated IDC Senators Jeff Klein, Jose Peralta, Tony Avella, Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara, and David Valesky, respectively. One-time IDC Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci fended off their challengers. Five of the districts where the incumbent IDC senators were beaten are fully or mostly in New York City. Julia Salazar also beat Senator Martin Dilan, who is not an IDC member, in Brooklyn. The progressive energy did not push Blake Morris to victory over Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who is a member of the Republican conference.

Turnout in those Senate primaries varied somewhat. Senate District 34, represented by IDC founder and former leader Jeff Klein, had 23.2 percent turnout for Biaggi’s win, while in District 22, where Salazar ran a scandal-plagued but winning race against Dilan, turnout was 24 percent. Biaggi won with an unofficial 53 percent to Klein’s 44.5 percent. She did very well in the western portion of the district, including Riverdale, while Klein did well in the eastern section, including parts that overlap with soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district.

Salazar, meanwhile, won with an unofficial 54 percent to Dilan’s 39 percent. She performed best in areas of the district that have seen widespread gentrification, like Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, while Dilan performed best in the comparatively lower-income eastern part of the district.

Myrie beat Hamilton by roughly 20 points in District 20 in central Brooklyn and parts of Park Slope, relying heavily on votes from areas home to more white progressive. In Queens, Liu received 53 percent of the vote to Avella’s 47 percent, reversing the outcome of their 2014 primary race, and Ramos earned 55 percent of the vote to Peralta’s 45 percent.

Jackson beat Alcantara on the west side of Manhattan with 53 percent of the vote to her 36 percent, while two other candidates combined for 5 percent. In that race, which includes parts of the always-active Upper West Side, turnout was an above-average 30 percent.

Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max contributed to this article.

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A Closer Look at Democratic Primary Turnout, Margins and Geography Sun, 16 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
2018 New York State Primary Results: Cuomo, Hochul, James Prevail While Senate Upsets Abound http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7931:2018-new-york-state-primary-election-results http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7931:2018-new-york-state-primary-election-results cuomo james hochul

(photo: @andrewcuomo)


Governor Andrew Cuomo won the Democratic nomination by a wide margin Thursday, with his running-mate Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul surviving a much closer race, Public Advocate Letitia James prevailing comfortably in a crowded Attorney General primary, and more than half a dozen upsets of sitting state Senators, including six of the eight former members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).

Additionally, voter turnout was significantly higher than 2014, the last gubernatorial election year, perhaps owing to the combination of the number and intensity of the challenges to incumbents as well as the awakening spurred by the election of Donald Trump, which itself contributed to those challenges being waged.

Cuomo, who spent more than $20 million in the campaign, defeated actor and activist Cynthia Nixon by about 30 percentage points; the governor seeking a third term earning more than 64% to Nixon’s 34.6%, with 96% of precincts reporting as of about 11:30 p.m. primary night.

Hochul beat Williams by about 53% to 47% in what was a hard-fought Lieutenant Governor primary.

James won the four-way Democratic primary for Attorney General, pulling in 40% to 31% for Zephyr Teachout, 25% for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who will now seek reelection to the House of Representatives, and 3% for Leecia Eve.

With the state party-backed candidates, including incumbents Cuomo and Hochul, winning those statewide primaries (Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was not challenged), perhaps the biggest storyline of the night was progressive upsets that occurred in state Senate primaries, including the complete demolish of the IDC, which had folded back into the mainline Democratic minority conference in April, in a deal brokered by Cuomo.

The former leader of the IDC, Senator Jeff Klein, was defeated by Alessandra Biaggi in the Bronx and Westchester seat, despite Klein spending well over $1 million in the race.

Other IDC races included Jessica Ramos unseating Senator Jose Peralta in Queens; Robert Jackson unseating Senator Marisol Alcantara in Manhattan; Zellnor Myrie unseating Senator Jesse Hamilton in Brooklyn; John Liu unseating Senator Tony Avella in Queens; and Rachel May unseating Senator David Valesky in the Syracuse area.

Former IDC members who beat back challengers were Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island and Brooklyn, who defeated Jasmine Robinson, and Senator David Carlucci of Rockland, who defeated Julie Goldberg.

In another upset, Julia Salazar unseated Senator Martin Dilan in Brooklyn.

Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who has been part of the Republican conference, giving the GOP a one-seat majority, defeated challenger Blake Morris.

In a Democratic primary to see who will take on Republican Brooklyn Senator Martin Golden in the general election, Andrew Gounardes defeated Ross Barkan.
There were far fewer storylines in Assembly races, but Catalina Cruz did unseat Assemblymember Ari Espinal in a Democratic primary in Queens. Democratic Assemblymember Brian Barnwell held off a challenge from Melissa Sklarz; As of Friday morning, votes were still being counted in the 46th Assembly district in Brooklyn where Mathylde Frontus is leading with 40.68 percent against Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, who has 39.75 percent of the vote; and Michael Reilly won the primary in the Republican Assembly stronghold on the South Shore of Staten Island, where no incumbent is running.

Additionally, Nancy Sliwa won a three-candidate race for the Reform Party nomination for Attorney General.

All of the primary winners will now move on to the general election, where a statewide slate of Republican nominees has been waiting -- the GOP strategically avoided any statewide primaries -- along with some minor party candidates. Along with the statewide races, the focus for the general election will be on which party can win the requisite seats to control the state Senate (the Assembly is overwhelmingly Democratic and will remain so), and battleground House races where New York swing seats could factor into whether Democrats can take control of that congressional chamber.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note- This article has been updated to clarify that Ethan Lustic-Elgrably has not been declared the winner in Brooklyn's 46th Assembly district. Votes were still being counted as of Friday morning. 

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2018 New York State Primary Results: Cuomo, Hochul, James Prevail While Senate Upsets Abound Thu, 13 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Cuomo and Hochul Win Primaries, Again Form Democratic General Election Ticket http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7933:cuomo-and-hochul-win-primaries-again-form-democratic-general-election-ticket http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7933:cuomo-and-hochul-win-primaries-again-form-democratic-general-election-ticket cuomo primary podium

Gov. Cuomo (photo: @andrewcuomo)


Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, won his party’s nomination for a third term on Thursday, after a bruising primary battle against actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon, who challenged him from his left. Cuomo won with about 65 percent of the vote against Nixon’s 35 percent. Joining Cuomo on the Democratic ticket is Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who won the party nomination over her own primary challenger, New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams. Hochul received 53 percent against Williams’ 47 percent.

Thursday’s result was hardly a surprise, though turnout was much higher than four years ago. Cuomo consistently led Nixon in public polling over the last few months, and spent more than $20 million to beat back the insurgent first-time candidate, blanketing the airwaves with advertisements across the state. Nixon ran a far leaner campaign, spending barely $2 million as she attempted to unseat the incumbent, who was running on achievements of his two terms and his pledge to fight President Trump.

Nixon touted her experience as a long-time activist on education, LGBT issues, and women’s reproductive rights as she sought to be the state’s first female and first openly queer governor. Though Nixon was hoping that a wave of progressive energy would carry her down what she had admitted was a “narrow path” to victory, relying mostly on digital and social media to get her message out, her lack of government experience hampered her electoral chances, as several newspaper editorial boards noted when they endorsed Cuomo for reelection.

The power of incumbency and the support of the State Democratic Party, not to mention several prominent labor unions and wealthy donors, propelled the governor’s campaign. He has another $16 million at his campaign’s disposal for the general election, and will easily add millions more to his coffers. With New York home to two registered Democratic voters for every Republican, Cuomo is widely expected to prevail against Republican Marc Molinaro and smaller party challengers.

Cuomo, by all accounts, took Nixon’s challenge more seriously than he did the 2014 challenge he won in the Democratic primary against Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who was briefly Nixon’s campaign treasurer before running for the Democratic attorney general nomination that she lost on Thursday. In 2014, Teachout pulled 33.5 percent of the vote against Cuomo’s 63 percent (Randy Credico received about 3.5 percent), almost exactly the same vote shares as Thursday’s primary. Teachout got a total of 192,210 votes that year to Cuomo’s 361,380; Nixon pulled 443,014 to Cuomo’s 833,616, with 86 percent of precincts reporting.

Nixon ran an unabashedly progressive campaign, advocating a raft of proposals that she said Cuomo has refused to support or had done little to pass. She accused him of governing like a Republican, and for enabling the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, which caucused with Republicans in the majority for years before rejoining their own party conference in April. Cuomo’s move to reunify the conference was largely attributed to Nixon posing a primary challenge. Most of the former members of the IDC lost their own primaries on Thursday in a rousing series of upsets.

At an election night watch party hosted by the Working Families Party in Brooklyn, a packed room cheered Nixon as she took the stage. “We took on one of the most powerful governors in America,” she said. “It wasn’t easy.”

Nixon claimed a measure of success, emphasizing how she pushed Cuomo to the left and shifted the state’s political landscape and said her campaign was part of an ongoing effort to take the Democratic Party from those too close to corporations and big donors. “We have changed what is expected of a Democratic candidate running in New York and what we can demand from our elected leaders...Ours isn’t just a symbolic victory. This campaign forced the Governor to make concrete commitments that will change the lives of people across this state,” she said.

For his part, Cuomo put forth his marquee accomplishments, such as passing marriage equality, strict gun control measures, a $15 mimum wage program, paid family leave, and a multitude of infrastructure projects. He ran on his experience, government know-how, and early efforts to fight Trump with new laws and lawsuits, as well as programs to step in where the federal government has failed, such as Puerto Rico hurricane recovery. He tried to sidestep questions about corruption in his economic development programs and his mismanagement of the MTA.

It was a rocky race at times for both sides. Nixon struggled to articulate an in-depth knowledge of issues at times or to clearly explain her policy plans, which were extensive. Cuomo’s campaign surrogates and spokespeople made light of her inexperience, at times using gendered language to denigrate her candidacy. Cuomo chose to focus his own attacks on Trump, pitching himself as the candidate best poised to stand firm against a Republican-led federal government.

Nixon and Cuomo only faced each other once, at the sole televised debate in the race, hosted by WCBS at Hofstra University. Both sides proclaimed victory after the hour-long face off, though neither was given time to present a cogent vision and discussion of substantive policy issues was sparse.

The last week of the race was its ugliest, with the Cuomo campaign scrambling to contain the fallout from two scandals in quick succession. In the first, more benign of the two instances, Cuomo announced the opening of the new span of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo bridge -- formerly the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge -- only to reverse after safety concerns emerged about the old bridge that could have impacted the new one. Cuomo denied having sped up the opening for political purposes but a New York Times report cast doubts on the story.

The second, more enduring scandal, extended from the weekend before the primary to the night before, over an 11th-hour mailer sent by the state Democratic Committee, which Cuomo controls, seeking to paint Nixon as anti-Semitic. Again, repeated denials from Cuomo and State Party executive director Geoff Berman that the mailer was a mistake and neither of them were aware of it didn’t seem to pass muster. On Wednesday, it emerged that the culprit was Larry Schwartz, a former top Cuomo aide and campaign advisor, who claimed the mailer was accidentally sent out without being properly proofread despite reported emails from another Cuomo campaign aide that undercut the denials.

For the waning days of the primary, Cuomo avoided the press, jetting around the city and state without releasing a public schedule. On election night, the governor was in Albany while the state Democratic Party held a celebration in Manhattan.

In the lieutenant governor race, Williams posed a credible threat to Hochul, with strong name recognition in Brooklyn, a borough with a concentration of Democratic primary voters. Polls showed them somewhat close though Hochul consistently had a lead. Williams sought to redefine the role of lieutenant governor, labelling his opponent a “rubber stamp” on the governor’s policies and failures. He said, rather, that he would act as a check on the governor.

Hochul, an upstate Democrat, likely recognized her electoral weakness in the city and spent significant time courting African-American and Hispanic voters, essential to winning a statewide Democratic primary. At the same time, her campaign received criticism for her racially tinged attacks on Williams’ financial struggles, stemming from a failed business and large loans that he owed. Otherwise, she ran as a partner to Cuomo, touting her work on a task force on the opioid epidemic and economic development programs upstate -- often seeking to avoid discussion of the corruption scandals that have marred them -- and her advocacy for survivors of sexual assault.

She also repeatedly pointed to Williams’ conservative personal positions on abortion and marriage equality. The Council member had to justify those opinions throughout the campaign, explaining that they are his own personally held views and that he has never and would never vote against the rights of women and the LGBTQ community.

Williams similarly brought up Hochul’s own conservative past, including her relationship with the National Rifle Association and her outright opposition to granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, both positions on which she has distanced herself and expressed regret.

In the November general election, Cuomo and Hochul will run on a joint ticket against Dutchess county executive Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, and his running mate, Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council Member who recently ran unsuccessfully for state Senate, as well as the tickets of the Green and Libertarian parties, among others, like former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and her running mate, who have created their own independent ballot line.

The general election is November 6.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Cuomo and Hochul Win Primaries, Again Form Democratic General Election Ticket Fri, 14 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Get Ready to Vote in the Hochul-Williams Lieutenant Governor Primary http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7921:get-ready-to-vote-in-the-hochul-williams-lieutenant-governor-primary http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7921:get-ready-to-vote-in-the-hochul-williams-lieutenant-governor-primary hochul williams ltg 2

Jumanne Williams, left, & Kathy Hochul (photos: @JumaaneWilliams & @KathyHochul)


New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams in January announced that he was running for lieutenant governor, posing a Democratic primary challenge to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. While doing so, Williams took aim at both Hochul and her partner in government and running-mate, Governor Andrew Cuomo. Williams criticized from the left Cuomo’s policies and management, while saying that Hochul has done little to hold the governor accountable, and promised to if elected transform the role of lieutenant governor into something of a public advocate at the state level.

Williams’ vision for the role is in stark contrast to Hochul’s. The incumbent, finishing her first term in the statewide post, argues that the lieutenant governor’s job is to work hand-in-hand with the governor. The two positions are decided together as a ticket in the general election, of course. But for primary nominations, candidates are selected separately by voters. So as Cuomo faces a challenge from his left by Cynthia Nixon, Hochul is attempting to fight off Williams, who has cross-endorsed with Nixon.

Hochul is running on what she cites as a record of accomplishment over nearly four years working with Cuomo, who is seeking a third term. Cuomo’s first-term lieutenant governor was Robert Duffy. Along with a variety of policy achievements under Cuomo, Hochul also cites her work on several issues, including economic development and fighting the opioid epidemic. Williams is running on not only his vision to reinvent the role, but his record of activism and legislation in the City Council, especially on housing and criminal justice reform.

Throughout the race, which appears to be wide open, (though a Siena poll released Monday shows Hochul with a 43-21 percent lead), with more than a third of likely voters undecided, the two candidates have attacked each other on several fronts, debated Cuomo’s record and outlines diametric visions for the office. Hochul and Williams participated in just one televised debate, hosted by Manhattan Neighborhood Network, while Hochul backed out on a promise to debate on NY1. (She has appeared at a variety of forums and made several media appearances to answer media questions).

With the Thursday September 13 primary vote fast approaching, a guide to the hotly-contested Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor:

Role of the Lieutenant Governor
Jumaane Williams seeks to reimagine the lieutenant governor role as one akin to that of New York City’s public advocate. In addition to presiding over the state Senate, one of the lieutenant governor’s constitutional powers, Williams thinks the lieutenant governor should hold the governor’s feet to the fire.

Too often, Williams says, the lieutenant governor “does what the governor says to do,” as he said during the lone debate of the primary. Cuomo, Williams claims, has “put on a progressive cloak,” while not truly pursuing a progressive agenda and governing as a “corporate Democrat.” He wants what he views as mostly a ribbon-cutting, ceremonial position to be one that takes the governor to task when the lieutenant governor sees that “the emperor has no clothes.”

“I believe the lieutenant governor should be the eyes, the ears, and the voice of the people of the state of New York,” he said at the debate, as opposed to the eyes and ears of the governor.

Hochul, however, says she is proud of partnering with the governor — a role she says should be carried on through the next term and not to be reinvented in Williams’ image. “This state is better served when you have the two executive officials, the governor and lieutenant governor, working in partnership,” she told reporters after the debate.

She also believes she is better qualified to step in as governor if needed due to the governor’s departure from office. “The role of lieutenant governor is to be experienced and prepared to step in as governor should the need arise,” she said during the debate, arguing that she is “uniquely” ready having served with Cuomo for the current term.  

Williams has criticized Hochul for traveling the state to do ribbon-cutting ceremonies, while Hochul said ribbon-cuttings mean something “new and good” is happening for New Yorkers, and argues her role has been more full-scale than what the Council members describes.

[Watch the only Kathy Hochul-Jumaane Williams primary debate]

Resume and Accomplishments
The son of Grenadian-born immigrants, Williams comes from an activists background — something he speaks about often on the campaign trail. After working at a local school, he served as executive director of New York State Tenants & Neighbors — a group that advocates for tenants, helping them “build and effectively wield their power” to fight for their rights and preservation of affordable housing. In 2009, Williams was elected to the City Council, representing Brooklyn’s District 45, which includes neighborhoods such as Flatbush, East Flatbush, and Midlands. During the last Council term, 2014-2017, Williams was its most prolific lawmaker, enacting 15 bills, second only to then-speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Williams’ top legislative achievements include a bill to rein in the New York City police department use of stop-and-frisk and create the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD, and a “ban the box” policy forbidding employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history until an initial offer is made. He also chaired the committee on Housing and Buildings and has been frequent critic of the city’s relatively new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy, arguing that the numbers it sets do not create affordable enough housing for low-income people. Last month, Williams told Jacobin he now characterizes himself as a democratic socialist.  

The Buffalo-born Hochul began her career as an aide to then-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was a member of Hamburg’s Town Board and went on to be the County Clerk of Erie County Clerk and after that as a member of Congress. Representing a heavily-Republican western New York district in the House for one term, Hochul has touted votes on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to advance women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights as evidence of her ability and willingness to take bold, courageous action to stand up for her beliefs regardless of political ramifications. She believes that her votes for Obamacare, as the ACA is known, cost her the seat in Congress, something she says she wears as a badge of honor.

After her losing her congressional seat, Hochul took a job at M&T Bank as a lobbyist. Not long after, Andrew Cuomo's first-term lieutenant governor, Bob Duffy, decided against running again, and Hochul was added to the ticket.

During her time as lieutenant governor, Hochul has touted her efforts in economic development programs, particularly in struggling parts of upstate New York, heading advocacy for the governor’s “Enough is Enough” program to prevent sexual assault on college campuses, and, as chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, fighting the opioid epidemic. Throughout the campaign, she has boasted of the impacts of the Cuomo administration's economic development investements, while distancing herself and the governor from the corruption convictions that have involved those programs and two top Cuomo aides.

“Today, as the only woman in statewide office, I feel a special responsibility to continue using this platform to fight on these issues because I’ve done it before,” Hochul said on the Max & Murphy podcast of her work on women’s issues.

Additionally, Hochul says she helps get certain programs over the finish line and then travels the state to promote them and help with their implementation. She has called herself the “advancer in chief” for her role moving Cuomo administration programs forward.

Lines of attack and controversies
During the campaign Williams’ past statements on same-sex marriage as well as reproductive rights have been criticized in Hochul’s campaign commercials and beyond. While he did tell Politico New York in 2013 that he is “personally not in favor of abortion" and “[I] personally believe the definition of marriage is between a male and a female” (though he added the “government has to recognize everybody's relationships as equal”), he has for years stressed that he has no legislative record of opposing women’s reproductive rights or LGBT rights.

In August, the race heated up, featuring a roughly week-long back-and-forth over a Hochul ad pointing out Williams’ past financial troubles — he is in foreclosure over a home mortgage that ballooned to over $600,000 after he had leveraged the original loan in part to help him open a restaurant that failed, and he owes back state business taxes of roughly $10,000 — in turn sparking accusations from the Williams camp and others that the ad was racially insensitive and classist. Williams said the ad reflected that Hochul was out of touch with cash-strapped New Yorkers, and argued that his struggles have helped him become a better legislator. Hochul’s ad questioned whether Williams was fit to help oversee the state’s massive budget given his personal financial issues.

Williams, for his part, has levied his broader attacks on Hochul as an out-of-touch establishment Democrat, and has specifically pointed to her record on gun control and her opposition to the state’s efforts to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers last decade, when she was Erie County Clerk and pledged to report undocumented immigrants to the authorities if they came to her clerk’s office for a license.  

On the Max & Murphy podcast earlier this year, Hochul said she regretted how she handled the matter.  

“I wish I had not gone that route at the time, I really do, because I realize it was hurtful to people and that was not my intent,” she said. “I don’t think you can question my commitment to [immigrants] in a larger context.”

During an appearance on Max & Murphy last week, Hochul said she has disavowed her prior pro-gun positions.

“My position changed, I’m very proud that when I ran for lieutenant governor, the NRA was working against my race. I have today an F rating. I wear that proudly. And I have supported the SAFE Act from the very beginning, since its inception,” she said. “So I took positions way back. I said I rejected those and I’m very proud to say I stand with the governor and protect the SAFE Act, and even enhance the SAFE Act.”

Endorsements
Overall, Hochul has been endorsed by many major and minor establishment figures, while more a number of left-leaning candidates and officeholders are backing Williams. Cuomo has endorsed Hochul and Nixon has endorsed Williams. Hochul is also linked up with Letitia James, who is running for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, while Williams and AG candidate Zephyr Teachout have cross-endorsed. Williams has garnered the backing of many of his City Council colleagues, though some in the body are behind Hochul or sitting it out.

Hochul has a long list of labor unions and political clubs behind her, as well as women’s rights groups, while Williams has several progressive groups, highlighted by the Working Families Party. On Monday, Williams received the support of Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Hochul has received the backing of the editorial boards of the Buffalo News and Newsday, while Williams is backed by the New York Times editorial board.

[Watch the only Kathy Hochul-Jumaane Williams primary debate here]

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Get Ready to Vote in the Hochul-Williams Lieutenant Governor Primary Tue, 11 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Final Days of the Lieutenant Governor Primary http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7913:max-murphy-podcast-final-days-of-the-lieutenant-governor-primary http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7913:max-murphy-podcast-final-days-of-the-lieutenant-governor-primary mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


September 5, 2018 - Final Days of the Lieutenant Governor Primary between Kathy Hochul & Jumaane Williams

podcast hocul williams 277Just eight days before their Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor will (most likely) be decided by voters, incumbent Kathy Hochul and challenger Jumaane Williams joined the show to discuss their candidacies and the race.

Listen to the conversation with the two candidates and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Final Days of the Lieutenant Governor Primary Wed, 05 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Statewide Candidates File Final Pre-Primary Campaign Finance Disclosures http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7916:statewide-candidates-file-final-pre-primary-campaign-finance-disclosures http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7916:statewide-candidates-file-final-pre-primary-campaign-finance-disclosures gov cuomo rail road longisland

(Photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


The primary election is next Thursday, September 13, and candidates for statewide office filed another round of campaign spending and fundraising reports this week, the final disclosures due before primary day.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a two-term Democrat, has been, for the most part, publicly nonchalant about his primary challenger, actor and activist Cynthia Nixon. But his campaign finance filings show he is spending far more to beat back her insurgent bid than he did four years ago, when he faced a primary challenge from Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout (who is running for attorney general this year).

Cuomo’s campaign spent $8.5 million and raised $184,000 between August 9 and August 31, the latest filing period. But the governor began the campaign with a massive war chest and still has $16 million left to spend, though only some of it is eligible for spending during the primary due to campaign finance rules. In total, this election cycle, he has raised $35.6 million and spent $25.6 million, far outraising and outspending any other candidate for any race, including Nixon.

The governor’s campaign transferred more than $2.5 million to the New York State Democratic Committee, of which Cuomo is the de facto head. The state committee has been spending large amounts of its funding to run ads in favor of the governor’s reelection, even as Cuomo’s own campaign spent nearly $3 million to buy ads in this latest period through Jersey City-based firm Media Fortitude Partners. The Cuomo campaign also doled out nearly $1.2 million to Bully Pulpit Interactive, a communications firm.

Just Wednesday morning, the state committee released its latest ad featuring Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is running for reelection, and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general and is the state party’s official designee for the post. “They are our team to take on Trump and win,” the ad states, in line with the governor’s tactic of making the race about the Republican president rather than his upstart opponent.

“The Governor has proudly delivered unprecedented support to elect the entire Democratic ticket – proven leaders Cuomo, Hochul, and James – on Thursday, Sept. 13 because he believes this is the strongest possible team to fight back against Trump’s destructive agenda," said a Cuomo campaign spokesperson in an email. "The governor will continue to lead the way with his aggressive coordinated campaign as we work to take back the U.S. House , State Senate and build the Party’s infrastructure moving forward." The spokesperson also noted that the governor has made a six-figure ad buy targeting Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro in order to get a leg up on the general election (Molinaro sought to have the ads pulled, accusing the Cuomo campaign of disinformation.)

Nixon’s numbers are paltry in comparison to Cuomo’s, though her campaign is banking its longshot on a very different type of strategy than the incumbent’s. Over the course of the race, she has raised a total of $2 million and spent about $1.3 million. She has not yet run any television ads, insisting that her campaign’s digital and social media operation is far more effective to reach the voters she is targeting. On Wednesday, her campaign released a new ad dinging Cuomo on his mishandling of the crisis affecting the city’s subway system. The campaign told Gotham Gazette it will be pushed out on social media including a Facebook ad buy.

Nixon also said in an NY1 interview on Monday that she does not plan on infusing her own personal funds into her campaign. She raised about $475,000 in this filing and spent just over $450,000. She had about $467,000 in cash on hand for the final two weeks of the campaign. Having rejected corporate and LLC donations, Nixon’s fundraising came mostly from small donors who gave less than $200, a fact her campaign has repeatedly touted while pointing out Cuomo’s propensity for raising money from wealthy donors and through the LLC loophole (which allows obscured donors to circumvent contribution limits).

“We are seeing an unprecedented level of grassroots momentum from New Yorkers,” said Nixon’s campaign manager, Hayley Prim, in a statement Wednesday. “There is a real hunger in New York to elect a real progressive who is beholden to the people, not corporations and millionaires. And since the debate, we’re seeing that momentum build like never before.”

Nixon’s campaign paid the Working Families Party $58,800 from her campaign coffers. The WFP has endorsed Nixon and has been mobilizing volunteers to canvas on her behalf. In fact, the in-kind contributions from the WFP to Nixon’s campaign -- in the form of phone banking, texting and canvassing efforts -- amounted to nearly $86,000, according to filings.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat running for a second term, also faces a primary challenge, hers from New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams. Hochul’s filings show she raised $356,000 and spent more than $1.5 million in the latest disclosure period, leaving her with about $389,000 in cash on hand. Hochul also availed of the services of Media Fortitude Partners, using $1.4 million of that spending on television ads. So far, Hochul has raised a total of more than $2 million and spent about $1.9 million on her reelection.

Williams continues to struggle to raise funds for his campaign but has shown stiff competition to Hochul in a race that increasingly looks as if it could be close. Williams raised only $62,000 and spent about $38,000 in this latest filing, and filed just under $72,000 in cash on hand. In total, he has raised $270,000 -- he was forced to refund tens of thousands of dollars in over-the-limit contributions -- and spent $177,000. Williams said during a recent debate with Hochul, the only of the campaign, that he is still making payments to return the over-the-limit donations and pledged to be in full compliance by the end of the campaign.

There is no Republican primary in any of the statewide races. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in a primary and on a joint ticket in the general election. The winners of the Democratic primary will face Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive, and his running mate Julie Killian, a recent state Senate candidate.

Besides Letitia James and Zephyr Teachout, two other candidates -- Congressional Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Leecia Eve, a former Verizon executive who has been an aide to Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Cuomo -- are vying for the Democratic attorney general nomination. The winner will go on to face Republican Keith Wofford and others in the general. The four-way contest was triggered by the resignation of Eric Schneiderman after allegations reported in May by The New Yorker that he had physically abused several romantic partners. The race to replace him has turned into the most competitive on the statewide level, though James is backed by Cuomo and the state Democratic Party.

James raised $428,000 and spent $767,000 in the latest filing period, giving her just over $867,000 for the remainder of the race. She has raised more than $2 million over the course of the campaign and shelled out $1.1 million so far. Most of her latest expenditures went to the Hamilton Campaign Network, a consulting firm working for her campaign that has also been purchasing digital and television ads and sending out mailers to voters.

James’ campaign has been beset with criticism over her perceived lack of independence from the governor, and momentum has been building behind Teachout’s campaign, while Maloney remains a formidable opponent as a sitting member of Congress with significant funds. Teachout was endorsed last month by the New York Times editorial board and, just on Tuesday, by New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, with the Daily News editorial board in between. Then, on Wednesday, New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer rescinded his earlier endorsement of James and backed Teachout instead, telling the New York Daily News, “I believe that her independence from all of the power brokers, including the governor, is something that we should all want in an attorney general.” This echoed a somewhat similar recent decision made by Council Member Ritchie Torres, who changed his endorsement of James to a co-endorsement with Teachout, while also declaring he prefers Teachout and plans to vote for her.

Teachout raised about $545,000 and spent $617,000 between August 9 and 31, and she had a balance of just under $500,000 left. She has raised $1.46 million for her campaign so far, spending a total of $981,000, and is the only candidate in the race refusing donations from corporations and LLCs.

Maloney has been flush with cash since the start of the race, and has raised a total of $2 million while spending nearly $3 million. He raised almost $1.7 million in the latest filing period -- $1.4 million came in transfers from his congressional campaign account -- and spent $1.9 million at the same time, leaving him about $490,000. A significant amount of money went to media buys through Canal Partners Media, a firm based in Atlanta. Maloney is also up for reelection to his current seat and has said he will drop his name from the November congressional ballot if he wins the attorney general primary.

Eve has trailed the pack in fundraising and name recognition, though she was recently endorsed by the Albany Times Union and was even the New York Times’ second pick in the race behind Teachout. She raised $139,000 and spent $255,000 in the latest filing, and had less than $43,000 left to spend. In total, she has raised $382,000 and spent $351,000 since entering the race. She also loaned herself $100,000 in personal funds in this filing.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - This article has been updated with comment from the Cuomo campaign.

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Statewide Candidates File Final Pre-Primary Campaign Finance Disclosures Wed, 05 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
WATCH: Lieutenant Governor Democratic Primary Debate Between Kathy Hochul and Jumaane Williams http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7907:watch-lieutenant-governor-democratic-primary-debate-between-kathy-hochul-and-jumaane-williams http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7907:watch-lieutenant-governor-democratic-primary-debate-between-kathy-hochul-and-jumaane-williams race to represent 2018 kathy hochul v jumaane williams democratic lt governor primary debate

Jumaane Williams and Kathy Hochul (Photo: MNN)


Watch the Lieutenant Governor Democratic primary debate between incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and her challenger, City Council Member Jumaane Williams. The debate was hosted by Manhattan Neighborhood Network and moderated by Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max ahead of the September 13 primary vote.

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WATCH: Lieutenant Governor Democratic Primary Debate Between Kathy Hochul and Jumaane Williams Fri, 31 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Hochul Asserts Previously Unmentioned Role in Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7905:hochul-asserts-previously-unmentioned-role-in-anti-sexual-harassment-laws http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7905:hochul-asserts-previously-unmentioned-role-in-anti-sexual-harassment-laws Kathy Hochul

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (photo: The Governor's Office)


Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday said she was “very much involved” in the recently signed laws aimed at combating sexual harassment in the workplace — a claim that comes in stark contrast to all prior indications that the legislation had been determined exclusively by four elected men and no elected women.

“I was used as a resource, as someone who has lived this experience personally, which is why I’m so passionate about standing up for women,” Hochul said while debating her Democratic primary challenger, City Council Member Jumaane Williams.

“I was there helping chart the course that the state ended up adopting,” she added, responding to a question from Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max, who moderated the debate hosted by Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

Following the debate, Hochul told a group of reporters that her “views were taken into consideration” in the legislation, adding context to the apparent debate revelation, which came after months of criticism aimed at Governor Andrew Cuomo, Hochul’s running-mate, and legislative leaders, over a lack of public hearings and female input on the legislation.

Throughout the race and the debate, Hochul has fended off criticism from Williams — an insurgent running to the lieutenant governor’s left on most issues while promising to reinvent the position if elected — who argues her role has in practice been merely a ceremonial ribbon-cutting one. She said Wednesday that not only has she had a hand in a variety of policy work, but that ribbon-cuttings should not be denigrated, given that they show something positive happening that benefits constituents.

Although the state’s new anti-sexual harassment laws have been heavily touted by Cuomo, Hochul and their allies, there has been ongoing criticism that they were passed without the direct input of elected women or harassment victims. Instead, the behind-closed-doors negotiations involved four elected men: Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Senator Jeff Klein, then-leader of the now-defunct Senate Independent Democratic Conference, who has been accused by a former staffer of forcibly kissing her.

In the lead-up to those final negotiations before the larger state budget deal of which the anti-harassment bills were a part, Cuomo’s office had said that Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat and the only woman leader of a legislative conference, would be included in the talks on harassment prevention. But she was not. Amid criticism, neither the governor nor anyone from his team publicly indicated that Hochul had been involved.

Chief among the critics of the process and product was the Sexual Harassment Working Group — a new coalition of seven women who have alleged facing sexual harassment or abuse while working in state government. One of the women, Rita Pasarell, told Gotham Gazette on Thursday that she had “not heard of Lieutenant Governor Hochul's involvement until her recent statements.” Pasarell said she “would like to hear more about what specific parts of the law she advocated for and how she believes these will help workers.”

“I would also like to know if she has spoken to any victims who have reported sexual harassment at work, including government workers,” she added. “While the 2018 laws make some progress, there is much room for improvement.”

She said, extent of Hochul’s role in the process aside, it would be no substitute for a “transparent public vetting for legislation.”

“We need to create victim-informed laws by listening to workers across industries, in public hearings,” Pasarell said.

For her part, Senator Stewart-Cousins, who was briefed on discussions but not included in them, said in June on the Max & Murphy podcast that it was “strange” to her that she did not have a seat at the table when the legislation was being drafted.

“As the only elected woman leader, and the only elected woman leader that has led a conference in the history of New York State, during this #MeToo moment, you would have thought you would have been able to get in a room and at least let her say something,” she continued. “Never happened.”

This line of criticism prompted pushback from some in the governor’s office, who noted that there were female aides who had a hand in crafting the sexual harassment legislation.

“Actually, I am in the room-along w other top female aides to the Senate & Assembly,” Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, tweeted in late March, attempting to throw cold water on the assertion that no women were involved in the legislative process. “It’s sad, though not entirely surprising, that even when a woman like me is in the room helping to lead the charge, some only see a room full of men.”

There was no mention of Hochul.

Asked for more explanation the day after the Hochul-Williams debate, Haley Viccaro, a spokesperson for Hochul, described the lieutenant governor’s role in informing the anti-sexual harassment legislation.

"The Lieutenant Governor often meets with women across New York and discusses issues important to them. Of course in the #MeToo era, sexual harassment is a topic that's unavoidable,” she said Thursday in a statement. “As she said, she was used as a resource as someone who has lived with this experience personally, which is why she is so passionate about standing up for women all across this country who have been silenced by men who have abused their power.”

Viccaro went on to say that Hochul was “most focused” on ensuring that the sexual harassment policy applied to both public and private employers.

“The Lieutenant Governor feels strongly that all New Yorkers deserve to have a safe and harassment-free workplace, and she has been very vocal that there must be a standard that reflects our seismic societal shift to a culture that treats men and women equally," she said.

In a statement, Dani Lever, a spokesperson for Governor Cuomo, echoed the sentiment expressed by the lieutenant governor during Wednesday’s debate.

“The Lieutenant Governor’s leadership and partnership in advocating for causes important to women across the state has been indispensable,” she said, “including her strong advocacy for extending the state’s sexual harassment model policies to private employers which will make workplaces safer for all New Yorkers.”

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Hochul Asserts Previously Unmentioned Role in Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws Thu, 30 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Hochul, Williams Outline Drastic Differences in Lieutenant Governor Debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7899:hochul-williams-outline-drastic-differences-in-lieutenant-governor-debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7899:hochul-williams-outline-drastic-differences-in-lieutenant-governor-debate lt gov

Jumaane Williams and Kathy Hochul (photo: Gotham Gazette)


New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams on Wednesday pledged to remake the lieutenant governor position he is seeking, as Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul defended her record and approach to the job, as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s tenure. The two Democrats were appearing in their only scheduled televised debate ahead of the September 13 vote.

The 30-minute debate, hosted by Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) and moderated by Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max, aired Thursday evening on MNN, while also being live-streamed on the MNN website and posted on YouTube.

The two candidates not only discussed their differing views of the position they are seeking to fill, but also corruption in state government during the Cuomo-Hochul administration, economic development and their respective records as elected officials. Williams repeatedly criticized Hochul and Cuomo, while the incumbent touted major accomplishments of the last four years and beyond, saying she is proud of her partnership with Cuomo and what they have achieved.

Hochul, who became Cuomo’s running mate in 2014, is seeking a second term while the governor seeks a third. (Robert Duffy served during Cuomo’s first-term as lieutenant governor, and declined to seek a second term). The governor and lieutenant governor are nominated separately in party primaries, but run as a ticket in the general election.

During the debate, Williams critiqued Hochul, previously a one-term member of Congress from the Buffalo area, as a political insider and tied her to broader qualms about “establishment Democrats” like he said she is, repeating the “any blue just won't do” slogan Williams has used on the campaign trail to signify that Democrats must elect candidates from the progressive wing of the party. But the debate largely centered on the approach a lieutenant governor ought to adopt, especially vis-à-vis the governor.

Williams, allied with fellow insurgent candidate Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo from the left, said he holds a “fundamentally different vision” of the position than Hochul, lamenting the current iteration of the lieutenant governor job as one in which the official “does what the governor says to do.”

“I reject that,” he continued. “I believe the lieutenant governor should be the eyes, the ears, and the voice of the people of the state of New York.”

“The role of lieutenant governor is to be experienced and prepared to step in as governor should the need arise,” Hochul said in her first remarks of the debate, several times describing herself as a steady-handed leader who knows government and “gets things done.”

She also defended acting in lockstep with Cuomo, and wouldn’t — or couldn’t — name a time at which she had disagreed with him or changed his mind on a policy.

“This state is better served when you have the two executive officials, the governor and lieutenant governor, working in partnership,” she told reporters after the debate. She said during the debate and after it that she has had private conversations with the governor that she is keeping private, but that she is not afraid to speak up when she has something to say.

On a host of issues, Williams said Cuomo’s administration had mishandled policy while Hochul was missing in action. As in the past, he said that should he be elected governor, he’s play role akin to New York City's public advocate — a contrast to what Williams said has in recent years been purely ceremonial, giving Cuomo a “rubber stamp” on his agenda and traveling around the state cutting ribbons.   

“When a ribbon is cut that means something good is happening,” Hochul said in response, going on to reference the act of opening up a drug treatment facility.

Hochul said lieutenant governors were meant to partner with the governor and the Legislature, not act as a thorn in their sides. And Hochul said she has not merely followed Cuomo’s orders during her tenure.

"As a strong woman, I do not do what men tell me to do,” she said.

But when asked by the moderator for examples of changing the governor’s mind on an issue, Hochul did not cite any, saying her views have largely been in line with Cuomo’s.

During the debate the lieutenant governor highlighted accomplishments like a law that will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in many areas of the state and a paid family leave law, as well as efforts to create jobs, and to fight the opioid epidemic and sexual assault on college campuses. When Williams said that activists like himself had pushed Cuomo, Hochul, and others to the “Fight for $15” campaign, she countered that government is where things get done, and she’s proud of what has been passed, especially given Republican control of the state Senate.

Under Cuomo, Hochul’s portfolio has included high-profile economic development programs, some of which have been plagued by corruption. Williams made multiple references to these scandals, which have recently seen close allies and donors to the governor convicted of federal crimes.

“Too many of those have been actually massive failures," Williams said of economic development programs. "What's sad is the lieutenant governor's office hasn't been used to highlight that."

Hochul countered, including with reference to Buffalo, where the Cuomo administration has made its largest investments, some of which were taken advantage of.

“We've empowered the local people to chart their own vision…and it has been an overwhelming success,” Hochul said, in apparent reference to the Regional Economic Development Councils and other programs she has helped shepherd. “By any metric, Governor Cuomo’s economic development programs have been successful.”

She added that there have been measures put in place to prevent against corruption and cronyism in economic development initiatives. "We have zero tolerance for anyone who abuses the trust that they have been given," she said, though she did not express direct support for additional anti-corruption measures related to economic development for which watchdogs and some legislators have called, dismissing some as sought by Republican legislators who want to be able to hand out more pork spending to their districts.

Hochul, when asked by the moderator about her apparent lack of involvement as the governor negotiated new anti-sexual harassment policy with other male elected officials behind closed doors, said she did play a meaningful role as the state passed new laws. Those laws, included in the state budget agreement reached in March, passed amid criticism from survivors of workplace sexual harassment for not including women in the legislative process and a lack of public hearings.

“I was very involved in those conversations,” Hochul said. “I was there helping chart the course that the state ended up adopting.”

Williams was asked about promising to be a bold, tell-it-like-it-is lieutenant governor, yet abstaining on more than 200 votes in the City Council, not choosing to vote yes or no, despite no apparent conflicts of interest. He said that many had been land use decisions that he wanted to register his discomfort about while being “collegial” with his Council colleagues.

While neither candidate used as fodder certain high-profile, contentious campaign issues — such as Williams’ past personal financial troubles or prior stated personal opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage; Hochul’s role in thwarting an effort to give driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers or past support from the National Rifle Association (NRA) — the debate did include litigation of recent campaign trail controversies, with Williams accusing Hochul’s campaign of employing racially insensitive and classist tropes about him and his past financial struggles, which have included a home foreclosure and failed restaurant.

In addition, Williams referred to former state Democratic Party chair Judith Hope, who in a fundraising email for Hochul labeled Williams a “young charismatic black man,” and the Hochul campaign’s advertisements that he said depicted him as an “angry black man.” Hochul denied her campaign played a part in writing the email and said she can’t control what supporters say.

Hochul also denied her campaign has made use of race and class to attack Williams. “I don’t believe there are [racial overtones]. I believe that we’re running our race that talks about our records and that is what I’m going to continue to do.”

In her closing statement, Hochul made the case the administration's accomplishments earned her a second term so that she and Cuomo can continue to serve as a “check” on President Donald Trump, and lead the “resistance” against him.

“I’m going to continue what I’ve done, helping elect Democrats to the New York State Senate, but also to Congress,” she said. “We, as New York State, have a special responsibility — a moral obligation — to stand up and fight back.”

For his part, Williams emphasized in closing that it was not only his race and ability to bring diversity to state government that made him worthy of voters’ support, but also the issues he would champion if elected and how he would approach the role of lieutenant governor.  

"Identity politics is important,” he said. “But that cannot be the only thing. That's the gravy. We have to have a meal.”

Toward the end of his post-debate talk with reporters, Williams expressed willingness to participate in another televised debate ahead of the September 13 primary, and criticized Hochul for not agreeing to additional debates. Hochul, who on NY1 said she wanted to debate Williams on the network, backed out of that debate, leaving Williams with the alloted time to appear with anchor Errol Louis in a segment that aired last week.

[Watch the Hochul-Williams debate on YouTube]

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Hochul, Williams Outline Drastic Differences in Lieutenant Governor Debate Wed, 29 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000