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Gotham Votes 2013

Hours Before Debate, GOP Mayoral Candidate Takes Swing at Rival


It might be hours before the first televised Republican debate, but candidate George McDonald is preemptively swinging at one of his two GOP rivals.

The Doe Fund founder took to Twitter and linked to a post on an employment law firm’s blog on how a court affirmed that Catsimatidis is personally liable to his supermarket chain’s employees for lost overtime wages.

Despite McDonald’s attempt to revive the issue, the Catsimatidis campaign argued today that the particulars of the case and back pay were settled years ago.

"It’s sad," Catsimatidis spokesman Rob Ryan said. “George McDonald is losing this race and he’s grasping at straws trying to make news.

As owner of the Gristedes and Red Apple supermarkets, Catsimatidis had appealed a suit originally filed in 2004 when employees didn’t receive pay due to them.

The Second Circuit Court reaffirmed the lower court’s decision, tossing out the supermarket mogul’s argument that he wasn’t involved in the day-to-day decision making that led to the withheld wages.

Tonight’s debate airs at 7 p.m. on NY1, and will be streamed for free on www.ny1.com.

— Chester Soria

Event Of The Day: Republican Mayoral Debate


The Republican candidates for mayor are expected to participate in an hour-long debate tonight.

The debate is being held and televised by NY1. It is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and will be streamed live on NY1.com.

Former Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota and businessman John Catsimatidis and George McDonald are expected to attend the debate.

NY1 political anchor Errol Louis will be the moderator.

For more mayoral forums and other events visit Gotham Gazette’s calendar.

 

—Daniel Stein-Sayles

Queens Election Roundup: BP Candidate Against Soccer Stadium; Sustainability Forum


An influential councilman who happens to be running for Queens borough president is opposed to building a Major League Soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. BP candidate and City Council member Leroy Comrie told the Daily News that building a stadium at the park won’t be of any benefit to Queens’ residents.

Comrie’s statement against the proposed $340 million  stadium came around the same time that he and fellow Queens Borough President candidate and City Council member Peter Vallone Jr. announced their opposition to the current $3 billion Willets Point mall proposal.

Comrie chairs the City Council’s land use committee.

Queens borough president candidates tackled sustainability issues at a forum Monday night. But that’s not what got the most attention from the media. Candidate Tony Avella accused fellow candidate Peter Vallone Jr. of cheating during the debate, according to DNAinfo New York. Former state Sen. Avella called out Councilman Vallone in the middle of the forum for using his phone during the debate. Avella said that Vallone staffers were texting him answers to questions. Vallone claimed he was merely texting his daughter and tweeting.

After discussing issues such as Sandy recovery and protecting Queens parks, Vallone shot back at Avella, implying he was out of touch.

"[Avella] doesn’t understand Twitter, apparently," he said. “I don’t even think he has Twitter."

On Tuesday, the Daily News reported that Rep. Grace Meng endorsed Melinda Katz for Queens borough president. Meng’s popularity among Queens’ residents makes this a nice pickup for Katz.

“Melinda understands that every Queens resident must be treated equally, and will work to give every community a voice as leaders make decisions on important issues," Meng was quoted as saying in the Daily News.

Katz leads the race in endorsements, but she is running second to Peter Vallone Jr. in the money race, according to the Campaign Finance Board, Vallone has more than double what Katz has raised.

In addition to Katz and Vallone Jr., Leroy Comrie, Tony Avella and Everly Brown are running as Democrats; Tony Arcabascio is the lone Republican running.

Daniel Stein-Sayles

Scramble For Signatures As Candidates Seek To Get On Ballot


It’s not just Eliot Spitzer who is facing a deadline to get on the ballot for the primary election in September.

Candidates across the city are racing to get petitions signed and delivered to the city’s Board of Elections before the deadline on Thursday.

City Council candidates must collect a minimum of 450 signatures to get on the ballot, and candidates running for citywide office must collect a minimum of 3,750 signatures.

A common trick is that candidates will petition with other candidates who endorse them. For example, Comptroller John Liu, who is running for mayor, is also on 48th Council District candidate Ari Kagan’s petition forms. That means anyone who signs Kagan’s petition is also signing John Liu’s petition. Voters can only sign one petition for each office.

Once the signatures are all collected, candidates then must file the signatures with the BOE, which has set dates and times when they will accept signatures from candidates starting July 8 at 9 a.m.

Signatures can then be contested.

"Anyone could object to signatures," said BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vasquez. “Someone could object because a particular voter’s signature doesn’t match. Or they could object because the person was not registered to vote at the date of the signature."

The last date to file objections is July 15.

A panel of 10 people — five Republicans and five Democrats — will then assess the objections.

Hypothetically speaking, Vasquez said, if someone running for mayor has 4,000 votes — and someone objects to 500 signatures and it turns out those signatures are not valid — the candidate is then “below the threshold" and won’t make it on the ballot.

Once a candidate files his or her petitions, they then become public information. Anyone can look through the petitions and object to the signatures.

The primary is on September 20.

Latima Stephens

Election Roundup: Spitzer Hogs All The Attention


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A sweaty, grinning, energized Eliot Spitzer made his first public appearance in Union Square as a candidate for comptroller and was immediately swamped by reporters and heckled by New Yorkers.

Unsurprisingly, his mere reappearance yesterday as a political force sucked all the attention away from the other candidates in the city’s election. He grabbed front pages and was the talk of blogs and news websites.

The former governor, whose political career ended in a prostitution scandal in 2008, brought back his brash style of politics to the streets of New York as the city’s political elite responded with dismay.

The surprise decision by former Governor Spitzer to run for citywide office startled and galvanized the city’s political establishment, which worried aloud about handing the TV-savvy and self-financed candidate a new megaphone.

In candid conversations, some of the leaders expressed acute regret over their failure to swiftly undercut the mayoral campaign of former Representative Anthony D. Weiner, another scandal-scarred candidate for citywide office, and said they would not make the same mistake twice.—The New York Times. 

While no one seemed to question his ability to be the city’s financial chief, they did question whether Spitzer was pursuing the office for personal gain rather than his stated goal of getting back into public service.

"So we will have a far-left politician seeking glory and political advancement looking to make as many waves as possible," wrote Greg David, of Crain’s New York Business, in an editorial headlined “Save us from Comptroller Spitzer."

Others wondered what Spitzer (once known as the “Sheriff of Wall Street") could do with the powers of the office of comptroller — which he said he would strengthen as a watchdog over public policy.

New York Magazine writes under the headline "How Comptroller Eliot Spitzer Could Be a Nightmare for Wall Street and New York’s Next Mayor":

What is Spitzer planning? Well, as comptroller, he would have oversight of the city’s five public pension funds, which hold the retirement money of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public employees. They’re big piles of money — about $140 billion in total — and managing them would give Spitzer the ability to be a huge pain in the ass for anyone else hoping to get a piece of the pension pie.

As for the other candidates for comptroller? Well, the Democratic frontrunner who had gone unchallenged until Spitzer’s re-emergence, Scott Stringer, signaled he would play to his strengths in his response to the threat: marshaling the organization of his union supporters, his wife and progressives.

A Republican candidate for comptroller, John Burnett, said he welcomed the challenge while chiding Spitzer for his past behavior.

Kristin Davis, aka the Manhattan Madam who claimed to have supplied Spitzer with prostitutes, announced she would run for comptroller, too. “Bring it on,” she told Politicker.

With all this intrigue, some welcomed the energy that Spitzer’s candidacy would bring to the race. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote:

He’s done a good deed for me and all the other writers covering this year’s mayoral elections, turning an obscure fight on the undercard into a bizarre three-sided slugfest involving a disgraced ex-governor, the ex-madam who says she supplied him with hookers (Kristin Davis), and the experienced but little-known Borough President Scott Stringer. Who’s going to miss that televised debate? Not I.

While still others wondered why scandal-plagued former politicians keep returning to the public sphere. Politico writes of Weiner and Spitzer:

Their comebacks come embedded in claims of contrition and deep self-reflection, but their fundamental personalities — driven, flamboyant, possessed at least on the outside of exceedingly high self-regard — seem basically unchanged. This has led many people to believe that the emotional makeup that drives their comebacks is very similar to what drove their scandals.

GOP Comptroller Candidate Welcomes Spitzer Challenge


All eyes are on Eliot Spitzer today, but Republican candidate John Burnett chided the former governor and current media darling’s last-minute jump into the comptroller race.

"The comptroller’s office is too important to be used to rehabilitate a political career," Burnett wrote today. “In America, anyone can run for public office, it is part of democracy, but today’s news about a disgraced former Governor is the latest example of why the public is disappointed by politicians."

A career businessman and longtime Wall Street executive with Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, Burnett has long lauded his own qualifications as an outsider to city politics.

"Nobody has their hands in my pocket, unlike other politicians that are career politicians, everyone has their hands in their pockets," Burnett told reporters at a press conference two weeks ago when he announced his campaign.

Spitzer is challenging current Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the Democratic primary.

Spitzer and Burnett in the fray brings a new level of intrigue to what was once thought of as a one-horse race — especially after the months lead time Stringer had to build a long list of supporters and endorsements.

John Liu, the sitting comptroller, is a Democratic candidate for mayor.

—Daniel Stein-Sayles

Event Of The Day: Queens Borough President Candidates


All of the candidates for Queens Borough President are expected to attend a forum tonight to answer questions about post-Hurricane Sandy rebuilding and sustainability issues.

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, a group that engages and educates New Yorkers on environmental issues, is sponsoring the forum. It is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

The sponsor has confirmed the following attendees: Democrats Peter Vallone Jr., Melinda Katz, Tony Avella, Everly Brown and Leroy Comrie; and Republican Tony Arcabascio.

The event will be held at Community Methodist Church located at 81-10 35th Avenue, Jackson Heights. Admission is free.

For more mayoral forums and other events visit Gotham Gazette’s calendar.

—Daniel Stein-Sayles

Election Roundup: Spitzer Running For Comptroller; Stringer Responds; Thompson’s Donors


Eliot Spitzer wants to get back into the political game. The former governor made the surprise announcement yesterday that he is running to be the city’s chief financial officer. Spitzer made his announcement to the The New York Times. He told the paper he hoped the public would forgive him for the prostitution scandal that lend him to exit politics in 2008. “I love public service," he told the Daily News in a separate interview. “I believe in it and hope I will be given a second chance."

Scott Stringer, who until now was expected to walk away with the comptroller seat, is expecting a fierce fight for the job now that Spitzer has entered the race. Stringer spokesman George Arzt tells The Wall Street Journal that he doesn’t think the Spitzer run “will fly." “All the people he’s ever worked with don’t like him. Probably that’s an understatement. And there’s a reason for that. He just can’t get along with anyone," Arzt continued. 

The Daily News reports that mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is receiving candidate donations from a financier linked to Bernie Madoff. The News reported yesterday that Seymour Zises has given $3,000 to Thompson for his 2013 bid for mayor.

Front page from Capital New York.



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