Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/pamela-harris 2017-12-15T04:34:46+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Two Very Different Democratic Assembly Primaries in Brooklyn 2016-09-01T04:00:00+00:00 2016-09-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6507:two-different-democratic-assembly-primaries-in-brooklyn Milka Nissinen <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Pam_Harris_voting_via_Facebook.jpg" alt="Pam Harris voting via Facebook" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Harris votes (photo via Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Among the upcoming legislative primary elections, two Brooklyn State Assembly races with very different storylines are intensifying. Unusual electoral circumstances in the 44th and 46th Assembly Districts make the contests races to watch. Located in Downtown Brooklyn, the 44th seat, which is opening up due to the retirement of the longtime incumbent, is home to a short, frenzied primary race among three Democrats. In the 46th, an embattled short-term incumbent and an experienced Democratic challenger battle for the Southern Brooklyn seat.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 46th, former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny resigned in July 2015 to take a private sector job and Pamela Harris won the seat in a November special election. Now, with less than a year of experience in the Assembly, Harris faces Kate Cucco, who served as chief of staff for Brook-Krasny from 2008 to 2015. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 44th, Assemblymember James Brennan announced his sudden <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/mem/James-F-Brennan/story/70224/" target="_blank">retirement</a> from public office this past May, just eights days before the candidate filing deadline. He simultaneously backed the race&rsquo;s apparent frontrunner, Robert Carroll, who had been running for District Leader and eyeing an Assembly bid down the road. Two other Democrats, Troy Odendhal and Rob Curry-Smithson, announced their candidacy soon after.</p> <p dir="ltr">One primary features two women, the other three men. In one, the 46th, establishment Democrats are divided between the two candidates, while in the other, the 44th, most Democratic elected officials and clubs are coalescing behind one candidate.</p> <p dir="ltr">While these races show interesting decisions within the city&rsquo;s Democratic machinery, the two districts reflect the common socioeconomic contrasts of neighboring communities in New York City. District 44 includes both Park Slope, a neighborhood that, according to <a href="https://project.wnyc.org/median-income-nabes/" target="_blank">a 2010-2012 Census report</a>, had a median household income of $87,896, and Flatbush, at $42,144 per household. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">District 46 includes similar economic disparities, with communities like Bay Ridge, home to a median household income of $53,500, and Coney Island, at $29, 712.</p> <p><strong>Assembly District 46</strong><br />Cucco, who is from Ohio but has called Bay Ridge home for a number of years, says that all residents of the district raise similar concerns no matter their income.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Every group, whether you&rsquo;re in Dyker Heights or Coney Island or Sea Gate, everyone wants the same thing,&rdquo; she told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;They want to feel safe when they&rsquo;re walking outside, they want to know their kids and grandkids are going to the best school possible.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco says her experience working for the residents of the district as Brook-Krasny&rsquo;s chief of staff makes her a stronger candidate than the incumbent, Harris, the first black Assembly candidate to win a majority white district in New York City&rsquo;s history.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I worked for the Assembly, in this district, for almost nine years,&rdquo; Cucco said during an interview at the Bridgeview Diner, a Bay Ridge restaurant. &ldquo;I think that opens a lot of doors and a lot of connections in terms of knowing how to fight for legislation.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">If elected, Cucco says election reform remains at the top of her legislative to-do list.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For such a progressive state, we&rsquo;re so behind the curve on where we stand with elections,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I think we should make it easier for all constituents, members of the state, to vote.&rdquo; Despite New York&rsquo;s notoriously antiquated election and voting laws, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6295-there-is-a-long-list-of-voting-reforms-new-york-can-pass" target="_blank">little movement has been made on reform</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Like Cucco, Assemblymember Harris, who grew up in the district, says she finds the interests of residents to be similar in most neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There is such diverse groups of people who are all striving for the same thing,&rdquo; Harris said in a phone interview. &ldquo;Safety, affordable housing, good places for their kids to play and good school programs.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Harris, a former corrections officer at Rikers and native of Coney Island, said she represents all of her constituents and does not see the division between police and communities of color that has been the focus of much discussion.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know there was a divide, honestly,&rdquo; Harris said when asked about representing both constituencies. &ldquo;I think we just have to remember the need of the district. We have to make sure there is no need in the district and I was able to champion that in my first six months of office.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Harris said addressing personal issues about her family continues to be the most challenging part of the campaign. The Daily News <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/brooklyn-assemblywoman-owes-30g-back-taxes-article-1.2733474" target="_blank">reported</a> that Harris and her husband filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and there have been multiple reports detailing questions about the nonprofit she founded, the Coney Island Generation Gap, and its tax filings. Harris <a href="http://www.kingscountypolitics.com/46-ad-race-harris-releases-open-letter-explaining-financial-woes/" target="_blank">publicly responded</a> to the Daily News report and addressed the reasons behind her bankruptcy, including health issues for her and other family members.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I now have to explain what happened to me,&rdquo; Harris said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m okay with talking about me, but I don&rsquo;t want to take the time out to do so. Yes, I did deal with Chapter 13. But unfortunately, I had breast cancer and I had a really bad strain. My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My husband got sick.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But you know, wait, don&rsquo;t worry about me,&rdquo; she continued, and asked rhetorically, &ldquo;What is it you need? What is it that you would like me to do?&rdquo; Harris said that she wants the focus of the campaign to be constituents&rsquo; needs, not her personal issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco recently released a <a href="https://gallery.mailchimp.com/0a3cec43339acb94cfc3d7253/files/Cucco_70Point_Policy.pdf" target="_blank">70-Point Policy plan</a> which focuses on election reform, in addition to free SUNY and CUNY tuition for students with at least a B average and improving access to affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">If re-elected, Harris said she hopes to continue to fight for the large senior population in District 46 through affordable housing and social engagement programs. A bill authored by Harris aimed at helping residents in naturally occurring retirement homes qualify for state funding was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month.</p> <p>A flashpoint in the race is the involvement of outside Super PACs, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6505-education-focused-super-pac-spends-on-additional-legislative-races" target="_blank">which have been spending</a> on behalf of both Cucco and Harris. The issue was at the center of contentious exchanges during <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/09/1/ny1-online--fight-for-the-46th.html" target="_blank">a Thursday evening debate</a> on NY1's Inside City Hall, with the main issue at hand a state bill for an education tax credit that would mainly benefit donors to private schools. Harris' nonprofit also came up during the NY1 debate.</p> <p dir="ltr">The winner of the 46th District Democratic primary will face Lucretia Regina-Potter, of the Republican Party, Mikhail Usher, of the Conservative Party, and Patrick Dwyer, of the Green Party, in the general election. In an overwhelmingly Democratic district, that candidate&rsquo;s party will be favored to win.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Assembly District 44<br /></strong>In State Assembly District 44, three Democrats fight for the seat being left vacant by Assemblymember James Brennan, who announced in May that after 32 years in office he will not seek re-election. Brennan announced his retirement and endorsed attorney Robert Carroll. Carroll, who identifies as a progressive and actively supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, dropped out of the District Leader race to pursue the open seat.</p> <p dir="ltr">The somewhat surprising vacancy and endorsement brought criticism from Troy Odendhal, a community developer and freelance journalist who is running for the seat in the Democratic primary. &ldquo;With such short notice on the vacancy of the seat, this was used as tactic by the democratic machine to overtly exclude potential candidates in the 44th Assembly District,&rdquo; reads a statement on Odendhal&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.troyodendhal2016.com/" target="_blank">website</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Odendhal filed an objection with the Board of Elections against his challenger regarding the signatures Carroll collected to get on the ballot. <a href="http://www.kingscountypolitics.com/44-ad-race-odendhal-carroll-cross-swords-petition-challenges/" target="_blank">According to</a>&nbsp;Kings County Politics, Odendhal&rsquo;s campaign found errors with the petitions, including signatures of individuals who live out of the district, without addresses listed or names written in illegible handwriting. Carroll filed more than 7,300 signatures; Odendhal 870 (the required number to get on the ballot is 500).</p> <p dir="ltr">A third candidate, Rob Curry-Smithson, a history teacher who, like Carroll, campaigned for Bernie Sanders, describes himself not only as a &ldquo;Berniecrat&rdquo; but as &ldquo;an educator, not the establishment,&rdquo; on his campaign&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.robcurrysmithson.com/" target="_blank">website</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Curry-Smithson channels Sanders&rsquo; rhetoric when talking about public education and healthcare. In an <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2016/8/11/sanders-supporter-hopes-shake-assembly-race" target="_blank">interview with the Brooklyn Eagle</a>, he explained the reason behind his reform campaign, and referred to the process by which Brennan was attempting to choose replacement.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I also was concerned that there seemed to be no competition, but a passing of the torch from someone who has been in office since I was two years old to a successor chosen by the party establishment,&rdquo; he wrote in an email to the Eagle. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Carroll not only has the backing of Brennan, but a long list of Democratic officials and organizations, including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, the Working Families Party, and the New York State United Teachers labor union.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to his campaign <a href="http://www.robertcarroll2016.com/issues" target="_blank">website</a>, if elected to office, Carroll hopes to improve ethics in Albany, institute paid sick leave as well as strengthen gun control laws.</p> <p dir="ltr">As expected, he leads in fundraising. Carroll has received $98,217 for his Assembly run as of July, according to his State Board of Elections <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/filer_contribution_details" target="_blank">filings</a>. Odendhal, who is self-funding his campaign, <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/EXPENSESA_county?ID_in=A21610&amp;date_From=&amp;date_to=&amp;OFFICE_in=ALL&amp;AMOUNT_From=&amp;AMOUNT_to=&amp;ZIP1=&amp;ZIP2=&amp;ORDERBY_IN=N" target="_blank">has spent</a> about $5446.00 on his campaign, as of late July filings, and Curry-Smithson has no fundraising recorded to date.</p> <p dir="ltr">The winner of the District 44 Democratic primary will face Republican candidate Glenn Nocera, president of the Brooklyn Tea Party, who has also the Conservative Party line on the ballot, in the November general election. If successful in the Democratic primary, Carroll is set to have the Working Families Party ballot line in November.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Heading to Albany<br /></strong>Democrats have a large majority in the state Assembly and winners of the 44th and 46th District Democratic primaries are likely to be part of that majority in Albany when the State Legislature reconvenes in January. The results of November&rsquo;s general elections will determine control of the state Senate, which has been led by Republicans over most of the past several decades, but where the balance of power is almost evenly split.</p> <p dir="ltr">Turnout for the September 13 primaries is not expected to be high, especially given that it is the third primary date of this election year in New York, after the April presidential primary and June congressional primary. November is likely to be a different story, though, with the presidential race drawing more voters to the ballot box.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco, running in the 46th AD, said the over-saturation of the presidential campaign may inspire residents to get more involved this election cycle.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think that everything that&rsquo;s happening on the national level this year, you know with both parties, people, whether they like or don&rsquo;t like the national candidates running for president, they&rsquo;re hyper aware of the sense of local government and its importance,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>

***
by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected regarding the timing of Brennan's retirement announcement and how much time there was for candidates to get on the ballot.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Pam_Harris_voting_via_Facebook.jpg" alt="Pam Harris voting via Facebook" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Harris votes (photo via Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Among the upcoming legislative primary elections, two Brooklyn State Assembly races with very different storylines are intensifying. Unusual electoral circumstances in the 44th and 46th Assembly Districts make the contests races to watch. Located in Downtown Brooklyn, the 44th seat, which is opening up due to the retirement of the longtime incumbent, is home to a short, frenzied primary race among three Democrats. In the 46th, an embattled short-term incumbent and an experienced Democratic challenger battle for the Southern Brooklyn seat.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 46th, former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny resigned in July 2015 to take a private sector job and Pamela Harris won the seat in a November special election. Now, with less than a year of experience in the Assembly, Harris faces Kate Cucco, who served as chief of staff for Brook-Krasny from 2008 to 2015. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 44th, Assemblymember James Brennan announced his sudden <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/mem/James-F-Brennan/story/70224/" target="_blank">retirement</a> from public office this past May, just eights days before the candidate filing deadline. He simultaneously backed the race&rsquo;s apparent frontrunner, Robert Carroll, who had been running for District Leader and eyeing an Assembly bid down the road. Two other Democrats, Troy Odendhal and Rob Curry-Smithson, announced their candidacy soon after.</p> <p dir="ltr">One primary features two women, the other three men. In one, the 46th, establishment Democrats are divided between the two candidates, while in the other, the 44th, most Democratic elected officials and clubs are coalescing behind one candidate.</p> <p dir="ltr">While these races show interesting decisions within the city&rsquo;s Democratic machinery, the two districts reflect the common socioeconomic contrasts of neighboring communities in New York City. District 44 includes both Park Slope, a neighborhood that, according to <a href="https://project.wnyc.org/median-income-nabes/" target="_blank">a 2010-2012 Census report</a>, had a median household income of $87,896, and Flatbush, at $42,144 per household. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">District 46 includes similar economic disparities, with communities like Bay Ridge, home to a median household income of $53,500, and Coney Island, at $29, 712.</p> <p><strong>Assembly District 46</strong><br />Cucco, who is from Ohio but has called Bay Ridge home for a number of years, says that all residents of the district raise similar concerns no matter their income.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Every group, whether you&rsquo;re in Dyker Heights or Coney Island or Sea Gate, everyone wants the same thing,&rdquo; she told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;They want to feel safe when they&rsquo;re walking outside, they want to know their kids and grandkids are going to the best school possible.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco says her experience working for the residents of the district as Brook-Krasny&rsquo;s chief of staff makes her a stronger candidate than the incumbent, Harris, the first black Assembly candidate to win a majority white district in New York City&rsquo;s history.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I worked for the Assembly, in this district, for almost nine years,&rdquo; Cucco said during an interview at the Bridgeview Diner, a Bay Ridge restaurant. &ldquo;I think that opens a lot of doors and a lot of connections in terms of knowing how to fight for legislation.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">If elected, Cucco says election reform remains at the top of her legislative to-do list.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For such a progressive state, we&rsquo;re so behind the curve on where we stand with elections,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I think we should make it easier for all constituents, members of the state, to vote.&rdquo; Despite New York&rsquo;s notoriously antiquated election and voting laws, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6295-there-is-a-long-list-of-voting-reforms-new-york-can-pass" target="_blank">little movement has been made on reform</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Like Cucco, Assemblymember Harris, who grew up in the district, says she finds the interests of residents to be similar in most neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There is such diverse groups of people who are all striving for the same thing,&rdquo; Harris said in a phone interview. &ldquo;Safety, affordable housing, good places for their kids to play and good school programs.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Harris, a former corrections officer at Rikers and native of Coney Island, said she represents all of her constituents and does not see the division between police and communities of color that has been the focus of much discussion.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know there was a divide, honestly,&rdquo; Harris said when asked about representing both constituencies. &ldquo;I think we just have to remember the need of the district. We have to make sure there is no need in the district and I was able to champion that in my first six months of office.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Harris said addressing personal issues about her family continues to be the most challenging part of the campaign. The Daily News <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/brooklyn-assemblywoman-owes-30g-back-taxes-article-1.2733474" target="_blank">reported</a> that Harris and her husband filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and there have been multiple reports detailing questions about the nonprofit she founded, the Coney Island Generation Gap, and its tax filings. Harris <a href="http://www.kingscountypolitics.com/46-ad-race-harris-releases-open-letter-explaining-financial-woes/" target="_blank">publicly responded</a> to the Daily News report and addressed the reasons behind her bankruptcy, including health issues for her and other family members.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I now have to explain what happened to me,&rdquo; Harris said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m okay with talking about me, but I don&rsquo;t want to take the time out to do so. Yes, I did deal with Chapter 13. But unfortunately, I had breast cancer and I had a really bad strain. My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My husband got sick.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But you know, wait, don&rsquo;t worry about me,&rdquo; she continued, and asked rhetorically, &ldquo;What is it you need? What is it that you would like me to do?&rdquo; Harris said that she wants the focus of the campaign to be constituents&rsquo; needs, not her personal issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco recently released a <a href="https://gallery.mailchimp.com/0a3cec43339acb94cfc3d7253/files/Cucco_70Point_Policy.pdf" target="_blank">70-Point Policy plan</a> which focuses on election reform, in addition to free SUNY and CUNY tuition for students with at least a B average and improving access to affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">If re-elected, Harris said she hopes to continue to fight for the large senior population in District 46 through affordable housing and social engagement programs. A bill authored by Harris aimed at helping residents in naturally occurring retirement homes qualify for state funding was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month.</p> <p>A flashpoint in the race is the involvement of outside Super PACs, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6505-education-focused-super-pac-spends-on-additional-legislative-races" target="_blank">which have been spending</a> on behalf of both Cucco and Harris. The issue was at the center of contentious exchanges during <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/09/1/ny1-online--fight-for-the-46th.html" target="_blank">a Thursday evening debate</a> on NY1's Inside City Hall, with the main issue at hand a state bill for an education tax credit that would mainly benefit donors to private schools. Harris' nonprofit also came up during the NY1 debate.</p> <p dir="ltr">The winner of the 46th District Democratic primary will face Lucretia Regina-Potter, of the Republican Party, Mikhail Usher, of the Conservative Party, and Patrick Dwyer, of the Green Party, in the general election. In an overwhelmingly Democratic district, that candidate&rsquo;s party will be favored to win.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Assembly District 44<br /></strong>In State Assembly District 44, three Democrats fight for the seat being left vacant by Assemblymember James Brennan, who announced in May that after 32 years in office he will not seek re-election. Brennan announced his retirement and endorsed attorney Robert Carroll. Carroll, who identifies as a progressive and actively supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, dropped out of the District Leader race to pursue the open seat.</p> <p dir="ltr">The somewhat surprising vacancy and endorsement brought criticism from Troy Odendhal, a community developer and freelance journalist who is running for the seat in the Democratic primary. &ldquo;With such short notice on the vacancy of the seat, this was used as tactic by the democratic machine to overtly exclude potential candidates in the 44th Assembly District,&rdquo; reads a statement on Odendhal&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.troyodendhal2016.com/" target="_blank">website</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Odendhal filed an objection with the Board of Elections against his challenger regarding the signatures Carroll collected to get on the ballot. <a href="http://www.kingscountypolitics.com/44-ad-race-odendhal-carroll-cross-swords-petition-challenges/" target="_blank">According to</a>&nbsp;Kings County Politics, Odendhal&rsquo;s campaign found errors with the petitions, including signatures of individuals who live out of the district, without addresses listed or names written in illegible handwriting. Carroll filed more than 7,300 signatures; Odendhal 870 (the required number to get on the ballot is 500).</p> <p dir="ltr">A third candidate, Rob Curry-Smithson, a history teacher who, like Carroll, campaigned for Bernie Sanders, describes himself not only as a &ldquo;Berniecrat&rdquo; but as &ldquo;an educator, not the establishment,&rdquo; on his campaign&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.robcurrysmithson.com/" target="_blank">website</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Curry-Smithson channels Sanders&rsquo; rhetoric when talking about public education and healthcare. In an <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2016/8/11/sanders-supporter-hopes-shake-assembly-race" target="_blank">interview with the Brooklyn Eagle</a>, he explained the reason behind his reform campaign, and referred to the process by which Brennan was attempting to choose replacement.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I also was concerned that there seemed to be no competition, but a passing of the torch from someone who has been in office since I was two years old to a successor chosen by the party establishment,&rdquo; he wrote in an email to the Eagle. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Carroll not only has the backing of Brennan, but a long list of Democratic officials and organizations, including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, the Working Families Party, and the New York State United Teachers labor union.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to his campaign <a href="http://www.robertcarroll2016.com/issues" target="_blank">website</a>, if elected to office, Carroll hopes to improve ethics in Albany, institute paid sick leave as well as strengthen gun control laws.</p> <p dir="ltr">As expected, he leads in fundraising. Carroll has received $98,217 for his Assembly run as of July, according to his State Board of Elections <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/filer_contribution_details" target="_blank">filings</a>. Odendhal, who is self-funding his campaign, <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/EXPENSESA_county?ID_in=A21610&amp;date_From=&amp;date_to=&amp;OFFICE_in=ALL&amp;AMOUNT_From=&amp;AMOUNT_to=&amp;ZIP1=&amp;ZIP2=&amp;ORDERBY_IN=N" target="_blank">has spent</a> about $5446.00 on his campaign, as of late July filings, and Curry-Smithson has no fundraising recorded to date.</p> <p dir="ltr">The winner of the District 44 Democratic primary will face Republican candidate Glenn Nocera, president of the Brooklyn Tea Party, who has also the Conservative Party line on the ballot, in the November general election. If successful in the Democratic primary, Carroll is set to have the Working Families Party ballot line in November.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Heading to Albany<br /></strong>Democrats have a large majority in the state Assembly and winners of the 44th and 46th District Democratic primaries are likely to be part of that majority in Albany when the State Legislature reconvenes in January. The results of November&rsquo;s general elections will determine control of the state Senate, which has been led by Republicans over most of the past several decades, but where the balance of power is almost evenly split.</p> <p dir="ltr">Turnout for the September 13 primaries is not expected to be high, especially given that it is the third primary date of this election year in New York, after the April presidential primary and June congressional primary. November is likely to be a different story, though, with the presidential race drawing more voters to the ballot box.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cucco, running in the 46th AD, said the over-saturation of the presidential campaign may inspire residents to get more involved this election cycle.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think that everything that&rsquo;s happening on the national level this year, you know with both parties, people, whether they like or don&rsquo;t like the national candidates running for president, they&rsquo;re hyper aware of the sense of local government and its importance,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>

***
by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected regarding the timing of Brennan's retirement announcement and how much time there was for candidates to get on the ballot.</p>
Education-Focused Super PAC Spends on Additional Legislative Races 2016-08-31T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-31T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6505:education-focused-super-pac-spends-on-additional-legislative-races Milka Nissinen <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Cabrera_Rivera_NY1_screenshot_2.png" alt="Cabrera Rivera NY1 screenshot 2" width="600" height="354" /></p> <p>screenshot of CM Cabrera, left, &amp; Sen. Rivera from NY1</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">A Super PAC backed by the education reform lobby and a number of wealthy out-of-state donors has earned the enmity of establishment Democrats by pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into races in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Long Island in an effort to unseat Democrat incumbents. The group, New Yorkers for Independent Action, now appears to be adjusting its strategy by supporting some incumbents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PAC is at least partially focused on passing an education tax credit proposal through Albany that would provide tax breaks to those who donate to private and charter schools. It is currently spending, largely in mailings - some of which attack candidates and some that are supportive of candidates - six state Assembly and Senate races. Opposed by the majority in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, the education tax credit proposal has been stuck in Albany despite prior lobbying efforts.<br /><br />&ldquo;This group and its funders are sadly mistaken if they think this will do anything to further their issue,&rdquo; said Michael Whyland, spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. A number of Heastie&rsquo;s allies in the Bronx have been targeted by the PAC&rsquo;s spending.</p> <p dir="ltr">New Yorkers for Independent Action has been attacked by liberal activist groups and incumbent Democrats as the work of hedge-fund profiteers looking to advance their agenda by involving themselves in local races they have no real investment in or knowledge of. Teachers unions decry the measure as siphoning tax dollars away from public schools to reward wealthy donors, who it is assumed will monopolize the tax breaks by donating large sums to applicable private institutions. The PAC of the state teachers union has upped its spending in response to that of New Yorkers for Independent Action.<br /><br />The group initially targeted for defeat Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera, Assemblymember Phil Ramos of Long Island, and Assemblymembers Latrice Walker and Pamela Harris of Brooklyn, all Democrats. Now, it is spending in support of Sen. Roxanne Persaud of Brooklyn and Assemblymember Victor Pichardo of the Bronx, both incumbent Democrats.</p> <p dir="ltr">Recent filings show that in late June the group allocated $2,000 a piece to support Persaud and Pichardo. Those expenditures pale in comparison, though, to what the PAC has spent on mailers and canvassers in other races. It is unclear exactly what the $2,000 went towards as it is unlikely it could have funded the kinds of district-wide mailers that have popped up in the Rivera, Ramos, Harris, and Walker races. <br /><br />Future disclosures will show how committed the PAC is to those races, but the spending is meant to influence the outcomes of the quickly-approaching September 13 primaries for all state legislative seats. As of mid-July, New Yorkers for Independent Action reported spending $1,295,672 and raising $2,780,000.<br /><br />NYFIA&rsquo;s treasurer, Thomas Carroll, is former president of The Foundation for Education Reform &amp; Accountability, did not return requests for comment.</p> <p dir="ltr">The money spent so far by New Yorkers for Independent Action has mainly gone in large sums to help four candidates, each of whom has seen at least $300,000 spent by the PAC in their race. Council Member Fernando Cabrera is being aided in his rematch with Sen. Gustavo Rivera; Council Member Darlene Mealy is getting support in her challenge to Assemblymember &nbsp;Latrice Walker; Giovanni Mata is being backed in his second challenge to Assemblymember Phil Ramos and Kate Cucco is being bolstered in her bid to oust Assemblymember Pamela Harris.</p> <p dir="ltr">While NYFIA spends big money to defeat Rivera, backing his challenger, City Council Member Fernando Cabrera, in a twist, it is now spending to buoy Pichardo, who previously worked as director of community affairs for Rivera and won his Assembly seat with major guidance from Rivera and his allies.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PAC has already spent over $356,000 to back Cabrera, with flyers attacking Rivera, others boosting Cabrera, and teams of canvassers carrying the literature.</p> <p dir="ltr">Asked about NYFIA&rsquo;s support during a <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/08/30/ny1-online--rivera-and-cabrera-square-off-in-contentious-democratic-primary-debate-for-33rd-state-senate-district.html?cid=twitter_InsideCityHall" target="_blank">debate</a> on NY1&rsquo;s Inside City Hall on Tuesday night, Cabrera pointed out that Rivera had endorsed Pichardo and Assemblymember Jose Rivera, who both back the EITC, and said that Rivera had a &ldquo;double standard.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Cabrera went on to say, &ldquo;With this PAC we are working to pass the educational tax credit.&rdquo; He added that he felt it was &ldquo;fair to provide this tax credit to parents.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Rivera responded that the PAC is supported by people who are &ldquo;anti-choice, anti-gay and anti-labor.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">It is illegal for candidates to coordinate with Super PACs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Pichardo&rsquo;s office did not return requests for comment; it is unclear if his re-election campaign welcomes the independent spending on his behalf.</p> <p dir="ltr">Karen Scharff, head of Citizen Action NY, is also part of the anti-hedge-fund group Hedge Clippers, which often <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/321913433/Hedge-Clippers-Report-on-Hedge-Funds-and-Private-Equity-Manipulating-NY-Elections-August-23-2016#from_embed" target="_blank">criticizes</a> the education reform movement and its wealthy backers. Scharff said that Super PAC spending of this type in primaries is a new development, and she fears it is just a preview of the kind of outside spending that will occur in the general election when control of the State Senate will be contested.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The problem with this flood of cash from outside billionaires is that it impacts who gets elected in these communities that billionaires have no interest in. It is doubly disempowering the community, because they lose their voice in local matters and then have electeds who are more dedicated and accountable to the billionaires who elected them.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Most of the candidates targeted by New Yorkers for Independent Action are not going unaided. Fund for Great Public Schools, a Super PAC controlled by Andrew Pollotta, the vice president of the New York State United Teachers union (NYSUT), was recently aided by a $4 million transfer from New Yorkers For a Brighter Future. The group has begun spending on mailers and advertisements to support Ramos, Walker, Rivera, and Harris, and attacking their opponents. &nbsp;As of the last <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/ind_exp_report?filerID_in=A21662&amp;type_in=E&amp;e_year_in=2016" target="_blank">campaign filing report</a>, on August 26, they appear to have spent a little over $80,000 on the four candidates.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 46th Assembly District, Kate Cucco, a former Assembly aide, is challenging Harris. Residents of the Southern Brooklyn district have been bombarded with flyers and polls from both independent groups. The race feels to many to be a proxy war for the education reform and union movements. <br /><br />Asked whether Cucco supports the involvement of New Yorkers for Independent Action in her race, a spokesperson sent Gotham Gazette a statement: &nbsp;<br /><br />"Kate Cucco has long been on record urging for the overturn of Citizen's [sic] United and has been a staunch advocate for major reforms to campaign finance laws. Kate is in favor of public financing of campaigns that put hard limits of the amount of money a candidate can raise/spend, she is in favor of closing the LLC loophole, increasing the disclaimer requirements so voters know exactly who paid for campaign ads, as well as easing barriers to voting such as having one primary in June, allowing mail in voting, same day voter registration, and allowing for party enrollment changes right up until 60 days before an election."<br /><br />Cucco is a supporter of a version of the Education Investment Tax Credit that NYFIA wants to see passed. <br /><br />The PAC has used a similar theme for some of its mailers; in both the Rivera and Ramos races the mailer focuses on a New York Times editorial that accuses legislative leaders of failing to act on ethics reform in the wake of major scandals. Neither Ramos nor Rivera were at the center of the negotiations surrounding ethics reforms. There appear to have been about seven or eight mailers sent out in both districts, with varying themes.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a statement, Assemblymember Ramos decried NYFIA, describing its donors as &ldquo;millionaires and billionaires from Manhattan&rsquo;s Upper East Side.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Why are they investing so heavily in a Brentwood Central Islip and Bay Shore Assembly race?&rdquo; the statement says. &ldquo;Because I stood up for my community and said NO to a million dollar tax break that they are pitching as an education opportunity for poor kids. I will stand up and fight anyone who tries to exploit our community. We deserve better.&rdquo; Ramos also said that the Super PAC has &ldquo;no grassroots&rdquo; and that &ldquo;Anyone that actually lives here knows we can't be bought. That's why I'm confident this multi-million dollar plan will fail, I trust my neighbors and they trust me."<br /><br />Some candidates insist that NYFIA is interested only in passing the EITC and has no further political agenda. Scharff scoffs at the idea, pointing out that billionaire non-New Yorkers like Alice Walton, the Wal-Mart heir and Arkansas resident, and some donors who have traditionally given to conservative Christian causes have donated heavily to the PAC. <br /><br />Hedge Clippers has also highlighted that the incumbents targeted by NYFIA were major advocates for a $15 minimum wage and other progressive issues.<br /><br />&ldquo;The problem with this kind of money being poured into these districts by billionaires is that it drowns out the voices of voters,&rdquo; said Scharff. She said she expects a number of progressive issues to be at the center of the next legislative session and that those issues will be in jeopardy if NYFIA gets its candidates in place. &ldquo;If this spending continues into the general election it really could shift balance of power.&rdquo; <br /><br />This is how New Yorkers for Independent Action has allocated its <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/reports/rwservlet?cmdkey=efs_sch_report+p_filer_id=A21080+p_e_year=2016+p_freport_id=K+p_transaction_code=R" target="_blank">spending</a> on candidates through its July 11 filing: <br />$302,878.91 to support Giovanni Mata, who is challenging Assemblymember Phil Ramos. <br />$358,235.33 to support City Council Member Fernando Cabrera in his second attempt to defeat Sen. Gustavo Rivera. <br />$309,404.25 on Kate Cucco, who is challenging Assemblymember Pamela Harris.<br />$321,153.54 on City Council Member Darlene Mealy, who is challenging Assemblymember Latrice Walker.<br />$2,000 on Sen. Roxanne Persaud, who is facing a challenge from Mercedes Narcisse.<br />$2,000 on Assemblymember Victor Pichardo, who is engaged in a rematch with Hector Ramirez.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected to accurately reflect Thomas Carroll's former position as past president of The Foundation for Education Reform &amp; Accountability, not president of The Center for Education Reform as was stated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Cabrera_Rivera_NY1_screenshot_2.png" alt="Cabrera Rivera NY1 screenshot 2" width="600" height="354" /></p> <p>screenshot of CM Cabrera, left, &amp; Sen. Rivera from NY1</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">A Super PAC backed by the education reform lobby and a number of wealthy out-of-state donors has earned the enmity of establishment Democrats by pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into races in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Long Island in an effort to unseat Democrat incumbents. The group, New Yorkers for Independent Action, now appears to be adjusting its strategy by supporting some incumbents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PAC is at least partially focused on passing an education tax credit proposal through Albany that would provide tax breaks to those who donate to private and charter schools. It is currently spending, largely in mailings - some of which attack candidates and some that are supportive of candidates - six state Assembly and Senate races. Opposed by the majority in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, the education tax credit proposal has been stuck in Albany despite prior lobbying efforts.<br /><br />&ldquo;This group and its funders are sadly mistaken if they think this will do anything to further their issue,&rdquo; said Michael Whyland, spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. A number of Heastie&rsquo;s allies in the Bronx have been targeted by the PAC&rsquo;s spending.</p> <p dir="ltr">New Yorkers for Independent Action has been attacked by liberal activist groups and incumbent Democrats as the work of hedge-fund profiteers looking to advance their agenda by involving themselves in local races they have no real investment in or knowledge of. Teachers unions decry the measure as siphoning tax dollars away from public schools to reward wealthy donors, who it is assumed will monopolize the tax breaks by donating large sums to applicable private institutions. The PAC of the state teachers union has upped its spending in response to that of New Yorkers for Independent Action.<br /><br />The group initially targeted for defeat Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera, Assemblymember Phil Ramos of Long Island, and Assemblymembers Latrice Walker and Pamela Harris of Brooklyn, all Democrats. Now, it is spending in support of Sen. Roxanne Persaud of Brooklyn and Assemblymember Victor Pichardo of the Bronx, both incumbent Democrats.</p> <p dir="ltr">Recent filings show that in late June the group allocated $2,000 a piece to support Persaud and Pichardo. Those expenditures pale in comparison, though, to what the PAC has spent on mailers and canvassers in other races. It is unclear exactly what the $2,000 went towards as it is unlikely it could have funded the kinds of district-wide mailers that have popped up in the Rivera, Ramos, Harris, and Walker races. <br /><br />Future disclosures will show how committed the PAC is to those races, but the spending is meant to influence the outcomes of the quickly-approaching September 13 primaries for all state legislative seats. As of mid-July, New Yorkers for Independent Action reported spending $1,295,672 and raising $2,780,000.<br /><br />NYFIA&rsquo;s treasurer, Thomas Carroll, is former president of The Foundation for Education Reform &amp; Accountability, did not return requests for comment.</p> <p dir="ltr">The money spent so far by New Yorkers for Independent Action has mainly gone in large sums to help four candidates, each of whom has seen at least $300,000 spent by the PAC in their race. Council Member Fernando Cabrera is being aided in his rematch with Sen. Gustavo Rivera; Council Member Darlene Mealy is getting support in her challenge to Assemblymember &nbsp;Latrice Walker; Giovanni Mata is being backed in his second challenge to Assemblymember Phil Ramos and Kate Cucco is being bolstered in her bid to oust Assemblymember Pamela Harris.</p> <p dir="ltr">While NYFIA spends big money to defeat Rivera, backing his challenger, City Council Member Fernando Cabrera, in a twist, it is now spending to buoy Pichardo, who previously worked as director of community affairs for Rivera and won his Assembly seat with major guidance from Rivera and his allies.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PAC has already spent over $356,000 to back Cabrera, with flyers attacking Rivera, others boosting Cabrera, and teams of canvassers carrying the literature.</p> <p dir="ltr">Asked about NYFIA&rsquo;s support during a <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/08/30/ny1-online--rivera-and-cabrera-square-off-in-contentious-democratic-primary-debate-for-33rd-state-senate-district.html?cid=twitter_InsideCityHall" target="_blank">debate</a> on NY1&rsquo;s Inside City Hall on Tuesday night, Cabrera pointed out that Rivera had endorsed Pichardo and Assemblymember Jose Rivera, who both back the EITC, and said that Rivera had a &ldquo;double standard.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Cabrera went on to say, &ldquo;With this PAC we are working to pass the educational tax credit.&rdquo; He added that he felt it was &ldquo;fair to provide this tax credit to parents.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Rivera responded that the PAC is supported by people who are &ldquo;anti-choice, anti-gay and anti-labor.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">It is illegal for candidates to coordinate with Super PACs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Pichardo&rsquo;s office did not return requests for comment; it is unclear if his re-election campaign welcomes the independent spending on his behalf.</p> <p dir="ltr">Karen Scharff, head of Citizen Action NY, is also part of the anti-hedge-fund group Hedge Clippers, which often <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/321913433/Hedge-Clippers-Report-on-Hedge-Funds-and-Private-Equity-Manipulating-NY-Elections-August-23-2016#from_embed" target="_blank">criticizes</a> the education reform movement and its wealthy backers. Scharff said that Super PAC spending of this type in primaries is a new development, and she fears it is just a preview of the kind of outside spending that will occur in the general election when control of the State Senate will be contested.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The problem with this flood of cash from outside billionaires is that it impacts who gets elected in these communities that billionaires have no interest in. It is doubly disempowering the community, because they lose their voice in local matters and then have electeds who are more dedicated and accountable to the billionaires who elected them.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Most of the candidates targeted by New Yorkers for Independent Action are not going unaided. Fund for Great Public Schools, a Super PAC controlled by Andrew Pollotta, the vice president of the New York State United Teachers union (NYSUT), was recently aided by a $4 million transfer from New Yorkers For a Brighter Future. The group has begun spending on mailers and advertisements to support Ramos, Walker, Rivera, and Harris, and attacking their opponents. &nbsp;As of the last <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/ind_exp_report?filerID_in=A21662&amp;type_in=E&amp;e_year_in=2016" target="_blank">campaign filing report</a>, on August 26, they appear to have spent a little over $80,000 on the four candidates.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 46th Assembly District, Kate Cucco, a former Assembly aide, is challenging Harris. Residents of the Southern Brooklyn district have been bombarded with flyers and polls from both independent groups. The race feels to many to be a proxy war for the education reform and union movements. <br /><br />Asked whether Cucco supports the involvement of New Yorkers for Independent Action in her race, a spokesperson sent Gotham Gazette a statement: &nbsp;<br /><br />"Kate Cucco has long been on record urging for the overturn of Citizen's [sic] United and has been a staunch advocate for major reforms to campaign finance laws. Kate is in favor of public financing of campaigns that put hard limits of the amount of money a candidate can raise/spend, she is in favor of closing the LLC loophole, increasing the disclaimer requirements so voters know exactly who paid for campaign ads, as well as easing barriers to voting such as having one primary in June, allowing mail in voting, same day voter registration, and allowing for party enrollment changes right up until 60 days before an election."<br /><br />Cucco is a supporter of a version of the Education Investment Tax Credit that NYFIA wants to see passed. <br /><br />The PAC has used a similar theme for some of its mailers; in both the Rivera and Ramos races the mailer focuses on a New York Times editorial that accuses legislative leaders of failing to act on ethics reform in the wake of major scandals. Neither Ramos nor Rivera were at the center of the negotiations surrounding ethics reforms. There appear to have been about seven or eight mailers sent out in both districts, with varying themes.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a statement, Assemblymember Ramos decried NYFIA, describing its donors as &ldquo;millionaires and billionaires from Manhattan&rsquo;s Upper East Side.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Why are they investing so heavily in a Brentwood Central Islip and Bay Shore Assembly race?&rdquo; the statement says. &ldquo;Because I stood up for my community and said NO to a million dollar tax break that they are pitching as an education opportunity for poor kids. I will stand up and fight anyone who tries to exploit our community. We deserve better.&rdquo; Ramos also said that the Super PAC has &ldquo;no grassroots&rdquo; and that &ldquo;Anyone that actually lives here knows we can't be bought. That's why I'm confident this multi-million dollar plan will fail, I trust my neighbors and they trust me."<br /><br />Some candidates insist that NYFIA is interested only in passing the EITC and has no further political agenda. Scharff scoffs at the idea, pointing out that billionaire non-New Yorkers like Alice Walton, the Wal-Mart heir and Arkansas resident, and some donors who have traditionally given to conservative Christian causes have donated heavily to the PAC. <br /><br />Hedge Clippers has also highlighted that the incumbents targeted by NYFIA were major advocates for a $15 minimum wage and other progressive issues.<br /><br />&ldquo;The problem with this kind of money being poured into these districts by billionaires is that it drowns out the voices of voters,&rdquo; said Scharff. She said she expects a number of progressive issues to be at the center of the next legislative session and that those issues will be in jeopardy if NYFIA gets its candidates in place. &ldquo;If this spending continues into the general election it really could shift balance of power.&rdquo; <br /><br />This is how New Yorkers for Independent Action has allocated its <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/reports/rwservlet?cmdkey=efs_sch_report+p_filer_id=A21080+p_e_year=2016+p_freport_id=K+p_transaction_code=R" target="_blank">spending</a> on candidates through its July 11 filing: <br />$302,878.91 to support Giovanni Mata, who is challenging Assemblymember Phil Ramos. <br />$358,235.33 to support City Council Member Fernando Cabrera in his second attempt to defeat Sen. Gustavo Rivera. <br />$309,404.25 on Kate Cucco, who is challenging Assemblymember Pamela Harris.<br />$321,153.54 on City Council Member Darlene Mealy, who is challenging Assemblymember Latrice Walker.<br />$2,000 on Sen. Roxanne Persaud, who is facing a challenge from Mercedes Narcisse.<br />$2,000 on Assemblymember Victor Pichardo, who is engaged in a rematch with Hector Ramirez.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected to accurately reflect Thomas Carroll's former position as past president of The Foundation for Education Reform &amp; Accountability, not president of The Center for Education Reform as was stated.</p>