Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1930 Mon, 23 Oct 2017 15:16:21 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) In Race to Replace Espaillat, Ramifications for Senate Control, His Power, and More http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6492:in-race-to-replace-espaillat-ramifications-for-senate-control-his-power-and-more http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6492:in-race-to-replace-espaillat-ramifications-for-senate-control-his-power-and-more Espaillat Alcantara

Espaillat, center, & Alcantara, right of center (photo: @Espaillat4NY)


Marisol Alcantara, a labor organizer who ran a successful insurgent campaign for district leader in 2010, is seen by many in her Uptown district as a liberal firebrand. As Alcantara now pursues election to the New York State Senate, she is also fighting a proxy war for Senator Adriano Espaillat, who is about to be elected to Congress and Alcantara hopes to replace. The hotly contested Democratic primary for Espaillat’s Senate seat is becoming a test of his power and that of his top allies.

Alcantara’s candidacy is also backed by the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, which she has pledged to join if elected, a scenario that may enable Senate Republicans to keep control of the chamber in a year when mainline Democrats believe they have the best chance to take power and see all major parts of state government run by the party.

In other words, the race to replace Espaillat, along with several Senate races around the state, could have significant implication for billions of dollars in state budget money and major policies of all kinds - these decisions are currently made among Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, the Democratic leader of the state Assembly, and the Republican leader of the state Senate, with some input from the IDC.

On Tuesday, Alcantara was endorsed by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. who is an ally of IDC head Jeff Klein, senator from the Bronx, and of Cuomo, who has encouraged the IDC’s ruling coalition arrangement with Senate Republicans in the past.

“From organizing voter registration drives, to helping tenants facing eviction navigate city bureaucracy, to standing with workers on the picket line, to passionately advocating for education funding, Marisol Alcantara has spent her career fighting for the issues that New Yorkers care about,” Diaz Jr. said in a press release.

According to five sources involved in the race, Espaillat is flexing his new-found muscle after his Democratic primary win to replace retiring Rep. Charles Rangel in Congress. Espaillat, set to become the first Dominican-American elected to Congress during a formality of a November general election, has called in favors and is lobbying other electeds to back Alcantara. In the state Senate primary set for September 13, she is facing former City Council Member Robert Jackson; Micah Lasher, former chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; and Luis Tejada, a community activist.

The 31st Senate District runs from the Upper Manhattan neighborhoods of Inwood and Washington Heights, down the West Side to Hell’s Kitchen.

“This is a lady who stands on her own two feet,” Espaillat said of Alcantara last week as she received the endorsement of the Transit Workers Union Local 100. “I listen to her and I know that we will not always agree, because she is her own person, as she should be, because leadership is about that.”

Jackson, who has been running since February, is allied with Assembly Member Keith Wright, who Espaillat defeated in the Congressional primary. Jackson challenged Espaillat for his Senate seat two years ago, winning about 43 percent of the vote, when Espaillat was losing to Rangel for the second cycle in a row.

Lasher, who has been running since April, is a first-time candidate but is known as an expert political strategist and has deep political connections to many top city and state politicians, such as Schneiderman and city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

There is concern in Espaillat’s camp that a Jackson or Lasher victory could create a ready-made primary challenger for Espaillat two years from now, when it is assumed he’ll be seeking re-election to Congress. Neither Lasher’s nor Jackson’s campaign returned requests for comment.

In efforts to elect Alcantara, the candidate, Espaillat, and others also hope to tap into enthusiasm in the Dominican and larger Hispanic communities over Espaillat’s congressional victory. Meanwhile, Alcantara has received the financial backing of the IDC which is looking to expand its membership before negotiating a deal to control the Senate with either the Democrats or Republicans.

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez switched his endorsement from Lasher to Alcantara when Alcantara declared her candidacy on July 20. It also appears Alcantara has picked up labor endorsements that were expected by Jackson and Lasher, one of which is that of Transit Workers Union Local 100.

Espaillat is featured heavily in Alcantara mailers that are funded by the IDC. Espaillat also recorded a robocall for Alcantara. “As an immigrant to our country just like me, Marisol Alcantara knows the importance of standing up for those without a voice,” Espaillat says on the call before asking voters to “make history” with him again by electing Alcantara. Alcantara immigrated from the Dominican Republic when she was a child.

While in the Senate, Espaillat has been a member of the mainline Democrat conference, not the IDC.

"Marisol is a longtime labor and community activist who's worked closely with elected officials, faith leaders, and non-profits across the district to fight for tenants, seniors, immigrants and working families,” said Jonathan Davis, a spokesperson for Alcantara, in a statement. “Voters know how hard she'll fight to strengthen tenant protection laws, increase education funding, pass the DREAM Act, fix New York's broken campaign finance system, and protect our environment and parks. It's no surprise she's built such a diverse and impressive coalition in a short amount of time, and she's only getting started."

Both Lasher and Jackson have criticized Alcantara for aligning herself with the IDC. Mainline Senate Democrats worry that Alcantara will simply serve to strengthen Klein’s hand when it comes time to negotiate a governing deal. They note that while some major liberal issues have passed the Senate under Republican and IDC control, like a minimum wage increase and paid family leave, other major issues like criminal justice reform, the DREAM Act and ethics reform have foundered.

Klein, in an interview with Gotham Gazette earlier this summer, said, “I worked extremely well this year with Senator John Flanagan and yes, this session we were able to work well with [Democratic Minority Leader] Andrea Stewart-Cousins -- it is a much better relationship, but I think the Republican Conference has been even better and a lot of credit has to go to the relationship with Senator Flanagan, again.”

Alcantara defended her alliance with the IDC in a statement released last week: “I witnessed an increase in the minimum wage twice, paid family leave, and Universal Pre-K for NYC–all possible because of the IDC’s influence. When I am elected I look forward to going to Albany to continue to push for progressive legislation critical to the people of the 31st district.” She added that she will remain an independent voice for “tenants and families” throughout her district, where rent regulation and affordable housing are top concerns.

Sources within Alcantara’s camp insist she will be a vocal proponent of liberal issues and likely clash with Senate Republicans regardless of which conference she sits with, while noting it is likely that the IDC will caucus with Democrats as Republicans are facing the potential negative impact a Trump candidacy may have on turnout.

Alcantara and her allies dismiss criticism from Lasher and Jackson and point to their histories as evidence that they have worked across party lines. Jackson voted in favor of extending term limits in 2008 when then Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted to run for a third term. Lasher worked as a top state government lobbyist for Bloomberg and also served as executive director of pro-charter school group StudentsFirstNY, a group that has worked to defeat Democrats.

Jackson’s major endorsements include powerful unions the United Federation of Teachers and DC37, and former Mayor David Dinkins. Lasher is backed by Attorney General Schneiderman, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Jerry Nadler, Comptroller Stringer and State Sens. Jose Peralta and Jose Serrano.

A win by Alcantara wouldn’t just give the IDC more leverage during negotiations this fall, it would also add diversity to its ranks as the conference is currently made up of only white members, four men and one woman. They’ve come under heavy criticism for taking a seat at the negotiating table with Gov. Andrew Cuomo while mainline Senate Democrats - who are represented by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a black woman, and represent the majority of city residents - are excluded.

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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In Race to Replace Espaillat, Ramifications for Senate Control, His Power, and More Tue, 23 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Rangel’s Replacement Decided, Other Uptown Races Take Shape http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6423:with-rangel-s-replacement-decided-other-uptown-races-take-shape http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6423:with-rangel-s-replacement-decided-other-uptown-races-take-shape espaillat wright presser june 30 2016

Espaillat & co at unity press conference (photo via @EspaillatNY)


After 46 years and 23 terms, voters in the 13th Congressional District in Harlem have chosen someone other than Rep. Charles Rangel to represent them. The retiring 86-year-old, a legendary figure in Harlem’s political scene, appeared to want to extend his legacy by keeping the seat he had held for decades in the hands of an experienced politician of his choosing, but changing community demographics, a 2012 redistricting, and a crowded 2016 Democratic primary field seem to have thwarted his efforts.

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who lost to Rangel in the 2012 and 2014 Democratic primaries, appears to have edged out a 1,200-vote win over his closest challenger and Rangel’s prefered successor, Assemblymember Keith Wright. After initially refusing to concede, calling for every vote to be counted, and demanding a federal investigation into voter suppression, Wright declared Espaillat the winner on Thursday. Rangel, Espaillat, and Wright held a unity meeting and press conference, with Espaillat saying he expected to have Rangel as a mentor.

Espaillat would be the first Dominican and the first formerly undocumented member of Congress. His win gives a boon to Hispanic political power, in New York City and elsewhere, while also showing a decline the strength of black political power in Harlem and nearby. In this heavily Democratic district, the winner of the party primary is a lock to win the November general.

The outcome has other implications, too, especially around the state Legislature, with a game of musical chairs appearing to commence.

While every vote in the NY-13 race is indeed counted, Espaillat’s apparent congressional victory lends clarity to the race for his state Senate seat and raises questions about Wright’s political future.

Wright, who chairs the powerful Assembly housing committee, pledged in early June not to seek reelection to his Assembly seat should he lose and challenged Espaillat to promise not to run for his Senate seat should his bid fall short. Espaillat’s camp dismissed the pledge as “desperate.” State legislative primaries are in September.

Contenders have lined up for both seats. Micah Lasher, a former chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, launched a campaign last month with the caveat that he would drop out if Espaillat lost his congressional bid and sought reelection to the Senate. With Espaillat’s victory Lasher now seems locked in for a primary battle against former City Council Member Robert Jackson, who challenged Espaillat in 2014. Jackson endorsed Wright in the congressional primary and attended Thursday’s press conference.

So far that race has featured Jackson attacking Lasher for his previous work for education reform group StudentsFirstNY, a pro-charter school group that has campaigned against Senate Democrats. Lasher’s camp has in turn pointed out that Lasher has personally supported Democratic candidates. Lasher has been consolidating support among many elected Democrats, though the race will gain even more clarity now that Espaillat's future is clear.

Less clear is the future of Wright’s Assembly seat. Wright endorsed City Council Member Inez Dickens to replace him (she was also at Thursday’s press conference), but with his loss many Harlem insiders wonder if Wright could renege on his promise. Wright may decide, though, to run for the Council seat Dickens is said to be leaving. There is plenty of chatter about Wright positioning himself to challenge Espaillat in two years, especially if he can work to ensure that there are fewer other black candidates in the running.

On Wednesday, Wright’s campaign invited reporters to an event featuring Wright and Rev. Al Sharpton, who had held a fiery rally condemning Wright’s opponents last weekend. Wright didn’t appear at the event and Sharpton struck a conciliatory tone, asking the district to come together to support Espaillat - which is what happened on Thursday.

“We need to have a climate of coming together, and not of acrimony and rancor that pits communities against communities inside the district,” Sharpton told reporters. Espaillat’s statement on Wednesday echoed Sharpton’s pleas for unity. “To those who voted for one of my worthy opponents - I pledge to work my heart out to represent you, knowing that our district is not a Latino or black or Asian district. It's a district that belongs to all of us, and we simply cannot succeed unless all of us are moving forward together," Espaillat said.

According to The Observer, Charlie King, Wright’s top advisor, who did attend the event on Wednesday, appeared to dismiss the possibility of Wright positioning himself for a future congressional run. “I either see him in Congress, or I see him hanging out with me in the private sector, having fun and going to the beach,” he said. “I would anticipate that whoever wins this race will likely hold the seat for years to come.”

What Wright does about his Assembly seat is the next shoe to drop as the Lasher-Jackson Senate race heats up. Dickens was an active supporter of Wright’s congressional campaign and appears keen to move to the Assembly. She will be term-limited out of the Council at the end of 2017. There are no term limits for state legislators, Wright has served in the Assembly since 1992. Neither Wright’s nor Dickens’ representatives responded to requests for comment for this story.

The practice of trading City Council and state legislative seats is fairly common and easily achievable due to the facts that almost all races in New York City are decided during the Democratic primary and city and state elections do not occur in the same years. Current Council Member Inez Barron ran for her husband Charles Barron’s Council seat after he was term-limited out of office - he then successfully ran for her Assembly seat the following year.

The practice has an extremely high success rate because the Democratic County Committees have major sway in who runs and gets political and financial backing. Wright is the head of the Manhattan Democrats and would likely be able to maneuver himself into an easily winnable race should he choose to do so.

If he does indeed decline to seek re-election, his replacement will be chosen in September’s primary (agian, by virtue of the fact that there is virtually no Republican presence in Upper Manhattan). If Dickens were to win the seat, she would leave the Council and Wright could then run in the special election to replace her.

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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Rangel’s Replacement Decided, Other Uptown Races Take Shape Thu, 30 Jun 2016 04:00:00 +0000