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Max & Murphy Podcast: Marc Molinaro, Republican Nominee for Governor


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


September 19, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Marc Molinaro, Republican Nominee for Governor

marc molinaro pod277Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro joined the show to talk about his background and his candidacy. In the interview, he touched upon aspects of his career, his critiques of Governor Cuomo, his plans for the MTA, his soon-to-be-released tax overhaul plan, his views on gun control, and much more. Molinaro, who also has the Conservative and Reform Party nominations this fall, is hoping to overcome some of Cuomo's advantages to become the first Republican elected statewide since Gov. George Pataki won a third term in 2002.

Listen to the conversation 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
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Primary Post-Mortem with Rebecca Katz, Top Cynthia Nixon Strategist


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


September 19, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Primary Post-Mortem with Rebecca Katz, Top Cynthia Nixon Strategist

rebecca katz 277Rebecca Katz was the chief strategist for Cynthia Nixon's campaign for governor. Katz, a principal at Hilltop Public Solitions and veteran of Bill de Blasio's 2013 campaign and 2014 City Hall, joined the show to recap and dissect the primary election between Nixon and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who prevailed by a wide margin against the first-time candidate. Katz described some of the strategies behind the campaign, working closely with Nixon, preparing for the lone Nixon-Cuomo debate, and much more.

Listen to the conversation 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.

Republican Slate Seeks to End Statewide Drought


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Molinaro, Killian, Wofford, Trichter (l-r)


With the primary election over and the Democratic statewide ticket in clear view, attention across the state shifts to the general election, with the November 6 vote fewer than 50 days away. Republicans fought no statewide primaries and have had a slate of candidates ready and raring to take on their Democratic opponents. Those GOP nominees have been raising money and campaigning but somewhat crowded out of the conversation as Democrats waged highly contested races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, with a good deal of intraparty fighting that now must be repaired and can offer some fodder for opponents in the weeks ahead.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, both incumbents up for reelection, won their separate primaries on Thursday and now form a ticket to face Republicans Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive, and his lieutenant governor running-mate, former Rye City Council Member Julie Killian.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli did not have a primary challenger but will now face Jonathan Trichter, who recently changed his registration from Democrat to Republican and is promising to run the office without political or ideological influence.

In the attorney general race, which will make history no matter the result, Public Advocate Letitia James beat three other Democrats to claim the party’s nomination and must now confront Keith Wofford, a Republican from Buffalo. Both of the major party candidates are African-American, meaning New York is all but assured to have its first black attorney general come January.

In all three statewide contests for state-level seats, there are smaller party candidates running as well, including gubernatorial candidates Howie Hawkins (Green), Larry Sharpe (Libertarian), and Stephanie Miner (Serving America Movement), their lieutenant governor running-mates, as well as candidates for comptroller and attorney general.

Though they face significant headwinds due to New York’s heavy Democratic enrollment advantage and apparent anti-Trump enthusiasm among Democrats, the Republican statewide candidates have been preparing for this roughly seven-week spring to Election Day.

An overview of the Republican statewide slate follows, with additional profiles of the candidates and coverage of their campaigns to follow as November approaches.

Marc Molinaro
Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, has served as Dutchess County Executive since 2012 and was a member of the State Assembly for five years before that. He was nominated unanimously at the State Republican Party convention in May, after Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and State Senator John DeFrancisco withdrew from the race as support of party leaders coalesced around Molinaro.

Molinaro has spent his entire adult career in politics, beginning with election to the Tivoli Board of Trustees in 1994. He was elected mayor of Tivoli one year later; at 19, he was the youngest mayor in America at the time. In 2000, he was elected to the Dutchess County Legislature, where he served for six years concurrently while also serving as mayor of Tivoli. In 2006, he stepped down as mayor and county legislator to run for the Assembly. Five years after that, he ran for County Executive and won with 62 percent of the vote.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, Molinaro has mostly eschewed conservative firebrand rhetoric in favor of criticizing Cuomo on a broad range of issues, including mismanagement of the MTA, taxes he says are too high, and a culture of corruption he says Cuomo is at the center of, highlighting the Buffalo Billion scandal in particular. Molinaro has outlined only a few detailed policy proposals, including regarding government ethics and the MTA, promising more to come soon, highlighted by a tax reform package he says will shake up the state.

The GOP nominee appears to mix moderate and conservative principles, while promising that his approach to government is a bipartisan one focused on bringing all voices to the table and finding solutions that make sense, no matter where they might fall on the ideological spectrum. He regularly promises that as governor he would only show allegiance to New Yorkers, not donors or political supporters.

Molinaro has called for term limits for elected officials, ending “pay-to-play” politics, and closing the LLC loophole, though he himself has taken LLC money in this election cycle, in conjunction with other campaign finance reforms. He also says that JCOPE has “no integrity,” and sued it this summer to find out whether it is investigating Cuomo for ethics violations. Molinaro has backed calls for public hearings on sexual harassment in Albany, calls that have been ignored by Cuomo and legislative leaders, including the Republican Senate majority leader, as those top officials designed new anti-harassment laws behind closed doors and passed them with no public review during the most recent budget.

On education, Molinaro has critiqued the culture of high-stakes standardized testing but nonetheless believes the SHSAT should remain in place for entrance to the city’s top high schools. In the Assembly, he voted against raising the cap on charter schools in 2010 along with other Republicans, but his current position on charter schools appears more open. Molinaro supports fracking, which Cuomo banned in the state in 2014, but is an issue that could play well in upstate communities with high unemployment. On the MTA, Molinaro backs New York City Transit President Andy Byford’s “Fast Forward” plan, but also thinks that the state needs to go after bloated union contracts and bring down construction costs.

Like most Republicans in the state, Molinaro lists one of his top priorities as reducing property taxes, which he says are driving away businesses and individuals who might otherwise locate in New York.

Molinaro has said he has changed his stance since he voted against marriage equality while in the Assembly and said he opposes expansion of abortion rights, but is not supportive of trying to overturn Roe v. Wade or undo current New York laws, which pre-date Roe and further limit choice. He has taken a somewhat vague stance on gun control, criticizing Cuomo’s signature SAFE Act as going too far, but hesitating to discuss what changes he would pursue if elected.

While the Cuomo camp has worked to tie Molinaro to President Donald Trump, referring to him as a “Trump mini-me,” the Republican nominee has tried to distance himself from the president, whom he says he did not vote for. Molinaro supports the president’s tax reform law but has criticized its slashing of the state-and-local tax deduction, and has taken a far less hostile tone toward immigrants. He called for an end to the Trump administration’s immigrant-family separation policy, though he is not in favor of New York becoming a “sanctuary state.”

In order to win, Molinaro will have to persuade a combination of Republicans, independents, and moderate Democrats to choose him over Cuomo and others on the ballot. No Republican has won statewide since Governor George Pataki won a third term in 2002.

Julie Killian
Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council member, became the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor shortly after losing a special election for State Senate in Westchester to Democrat Shelley Mayer. She had unsuccessfully challenged now-Westchester County Executive George Latimer in 2016 for the same Senate seat, which Latimer held at the time.

Like Molinaro and many Republicans in the state, Killian is focusing heavily on what she characterizes as the state’s burdensome taxes, which she says are causing a “brain drain” from New York to Connecticut and the south. Like Molinaro, Killian has been critical of the cultures of corruption and sexual harassment in state government.

Keith Wofford
A native of Buffalo with a working class background, Wofford is a Harvard-educated attorney and co-managing partner at Ropes & Gray, an international white-shoe law firm based in New York City. He previously worked as a senior securitization analyst at Moody's Corporation.

Wofford became the first African-American Republican nominee for attorney general at the May convention. “The first thing the next attorney general has to do is to get the corruption in government under control,” Wofford said in a campaign video released Monday. “The corruption we tolerate in our state government is holding us back.” Just last week, the night of the Thursday primary, Wofford’s campaign launched its first television ad, part of a $3.25 million ad buy which will air statewide. The ad buy is indicative of Wofford’s strong early fundraising, possibly helping him compete against James, the Democratic nominee, who had to spend much of her initial haul on a tough primary.

A first-time candidate with little name recognition across the state, Wofford indicated in Monday’s video that he wants to use the office of attorney general “to make sure that we have an environment, legally, that makes it possible for jobs and business to grow in this state.” He also wants the office to focus on “the big villains, the people who are doing real damage to citizens and taxpayers,” though he did not explain who those villains are.

Painting himself as an outsider to he political system, he said he doesn’t have to cut deals to be elected, which could be seen as a dig at James, who won her primary with help from Cuomo and the Democratic establishment. Wofford has also promised to tackle the opioid epidemic, leveraging the office’s power to investigate opioid manufacturers and distributors.

In interviews, Wofford has signalled a far different approach than the current office has taken to respond to federal policies under Trump. “The last attorney general [Eric Schneiderman, who resigned earlier this year amid domestic abuse allegations] talked about resisting the federal government and it was clear...that was motivated to establish a partisan political position,” he told the Watertown Daily Times last week.

On Tuesday Wofford announced his intention to, if elected, immediately begin investigating what his campaign called “systemic corruption involving state and local government officials across the state.” In doing so, Wofford sought to distance himself from James, who has said she will seek legislative approval of the authority to broadly investigate public corruption, which she and others have said the attorney general does not currently have.

“Unlike Democratic candidate Letitia James who has said she must receive the Legislature’s authorization to investigate corruption, the law is clear that the People’s Lawyer has both the constitutional and statutory duty and right to represent the people’s interests,” Wofford said in a press release. “From day one as New York State Attorney General, I will use every tool at my disposal to fight corruption and protect taxpayers.”

Jonathan Trichter
Trichter was until recently a registered Democrat who worked for Eliot Spitzer’s successful attorney general campaign in 1998. He had to obtain special permission from the state Republican Party to run on its line against Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli.

By trade an investment banker who once worked for JP Morgan, Trichter has been actively involved in government and politics, with broad experience. A public finance expert, he was the policy director for Harry Wilson, the Republican businessman who ran for state comptroller against DiNapoli in 2010. Trichter later worked for Wilson’s corporate restructuring firm, MAEVA.

In his campaign launch video, Trichter described the comptroller as a Superman of sorts, with “an office that could be more powerful in Albany than a locomotive and could leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

Trichter has pledged to release detailed policy papers laying out his positions. He has already published four papers that dive deep into the state’s pension system, which he believes has been underfunded and mismanaged while DiNapoli has been in office.

His strategy for victory, laid out on his campaign website, seems to also rely on linking DiNapoli to the disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who first led the appointment of the comptroller to his seat to fill a vacancy brought about by public corruption. Trichter has promised to bring a cold eye of data analysis and no political interests to the office, only focusing on what is best for taxpayers.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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How Insurgent Forces Activated, Educated and Brought the IDC Down


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Alessandra Biaggi celebrates (photo: @Biaggi4NY)


Hit the ground early. Educate the electorate. Reach new voters. Go viral.

Those are a few of the strategies that propelled insurgent candidates to victory in last week’s primary elections, wherein six challengers prevailed over sitting Democratic state senators who were once members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway faction that caucused with Republicans for seven years, creating or padding the GOP majority in the chamber.

The upsets in the state Senate races instantly shook up New York politics and painted a picture of a more engaged Democratic electorate that would no longer tolerate party officials who don’t pass a particular purity test imposed by a progressive base angered by the election of Donald Trump and a lack of action on favored legislation in Albany.

The eight-member IDC, which dissolved in April amid mounting criticism of its role in keeping the state Senate in Republican hands, saw six of their own defeated on Thursday despite outspending their opponents and leveraging broad institutional support. Their conventional campaign tactics failed to overcome a coordinated crop of candidates backed by a vast network of grassroots activists who employed guerilla tactics to get their message heard and were, in several instances, bolstered by key established players.

In early 2017, in the aftermath of Trump’s election, a disparate movement focused on the IDC had begun to take shape. Under a Trump presidency, the IDC members and their power-sharing agreement with Republicans became unacceptable to these activists, who insisted on being represented by “true blue” Democrats. After a raucous townhall in early February 2017 where IDC Senator Jose Peralta met the fury of some, one grassroots group, Rise and Resist, began to hold regular protests against IDC members. Then, in May 2017, the incipient anti-IDC movement held simultaneous rallies across New York City, protesting outside the offices of the senators. By then, only one candidate had emerged, Robert Jackson, who beat Senator Marisol Alcantara in Manhattan’s 31st District by a wide margin. “The beginning of the real grassroots energy behind getting rid of the IDC started then,” said Lisa DellAquila, an anti-IDC activist turned campaign manager for John Liu, the last of the challengers to declare and who handily defeated IDC Senator Tony Avella in the primary.

It was the first volley in a broader, longer game that crescendoed to a fever pitch ahead of primary day. In interviews, the organizers, activists, and strategists behind the effort portrayed a campaign that laid the groundwork long before other candidates had even emerged. “Our strategy from day one was run nine challengers against nine traitors,” said Gus Christensen, chief strategist for No IDC NY, a grassroots group, referring to the IDC senators and Senator Simcha Felder, a rogue Brooklyn Democrat who was not part of the IDC but votes with Republicans. The activists eventually coalesced into the True Blue coalition, made up of about 60 groups, many local ones based in the districts represented by IDC senators, where organizing and education efforts increased awareness of the IDC over the course of 2017 and into this year. The coalition marshalled its resources, encouraging candidates to run while informing voters more broadly about the existence of the IDC.

“What the IDC did violated the public trust in a visceral, almost biblical way,” Christensen said. “The cynics of the political establishment could never see that, because caucusing with the other party isn't illegal, while Albany is full of actual illegal activities about which voters don't seem to care. But once enough voters understood that the IDC really did caucus with the GOP, that it wasn't ‘fake news,’ they were revolted, and they voted that way.”

Hitting the ground running
“One really important piece of this was just good old-fashioned organizing,” said Heather Stewart, co-founder of Empire State Indivisible, who later went on to work for Liu’s campaign doing communications. Stewart said the coalition began educating voters about the IDC last year through town halls, leafleting, phone banks, and on-the-ground outreach. “So there was a good deal of tracks laid through the education piece. This was over a year ago...it was a coalescence of great candidates, good organizing, people who wanted more than anything from the bottom of their heart to oust the IDC.”

The groups gathered every month to discuss strategy, and began to circle possible candidates who had expressed interest while actively recruiting others such as Liu, who entered the fray at the eleventh hour after having lost to Avella four years ago but with stronger name recognition in his district than most of the other challengers had in theirs at the start of their campaigns.

The groups also partnered with The Creative Resistance, a volunteer collective of documentary filmmakers, and released a video, titled “Lulu Land” and narrated by actor Edie Falco, about the IDC and its highly scrutinized arrangement for its members to inappropriately receive extra stipends. The video raised much-needed awareness for their effort. “By and large, people were enraged about the IDC,” said Stewart, who has acknowledged she only learned of the IDC in recent years, spurring her to action. “They were mad that they had voted for a Democrat who wasn’t upholding Democratic values.”

Different groups were assigned to different districts under one umbrella. “We borrowed a strategy from Virginia activists who flipped the House of Delegates,” Stewart said, “which was basically that each group adopted a campaign and a candidate. So then, each group could begin to engage their members in one consistent campaign...It worked very well...There was essentially a captain who captained the grassroots efforts in each campaign that talked with other captains of the grassroots effort.”

The overall effort was bolstered by the likes of the Working Families Party, Make the Road Action, and Citizen Action of New York, some of the organized left’s longer-standing infrastructure, groups that share similar progressive goals and sent hundreds of volunteers into the nine districts, relying on a robust ground game to activate voters.

“We started working as far back as spring of 2017, way before there even were candidates running, to start organizing in the districts of the IDC members, doing really aggressive voter contact and community organizing to help people understand what was actually going on,” said Joe Dinkin, WFP’s campaign director. “That helped till the soil, build a grassroots base of anger and energy and a volunteer base from which it was a lot more appealing for candidates who would think about running to be able to get into the race.”

Dinkin said the WFP, which endorsed all the candidates, provided campaign expertise, helping them strategize, hire staff and consultants, and dispatch volunteers. By February and into March of this year, the WFP had endorsed the full slate of challengers to the IDC senators, establishing clear battle lines within the Democratic Party and setting the stage for the essential stretch of the primary campaign well in advance.

The WFP was also behind the two insurgent statewide candidates who failed in the primary -- Cynthia Nixon lost to Cuomo by a wide margin and City Council Member Jumaane Williams failed to unseat Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul in a closer race. Zephyr Teachout, who the WFP said it was supporting along with eventual winner Letitia James in the attorney general Democratic primary, was unsuccessful in her race but amplified anti-IDC sentiment. Nixon was vocal about the IDC and when Cuomo moved to reunite the faction with the mainline Senate Democratic Conference, she claimed credit.

“Cynthia Nixon was able to broadcast in a way that the entire media and the political class and voters noticed about the problems with the IDC and how they were roadblocking progressive legislation,” Dinkin said.

The candidates themselves had also been beating the anti-IDC drum in their districts. “Typically campaigns run a eight-week, sometimes 12-week field operation,” said Andre Richardson, campaign manager for Zellnor Myrie, who defeated former IDC Senator Jesse Hamilton in Brooklyn. “We’ve been canvassing, paid and volunteer, and candidate canvassing for eight months. In politics, folks have these archaic strategies of ‘this is too soon, this is too early.’ We proved all of that to be inaccurate and we proved that if you run a consistent and aggressive ground game, you can win.”

Each of the candidates managed fairly robust fundraising operations, and focused mostly on individual small donors throughout their campaigns as they critiqued their opponents for receiving funds from corporate donors. There was, of course, a fair share of spending by the coalition groups to augment each campaign’s own operations. No IDC NY formed its own multi-candidate campaign committee and tapped hundreds of small donors as well, and spent nearly $150,000, across the Senate races.

Depending on digital
In order to build name recognition against the IDC members, some of whom have been incumbents for several terms, the broader coordinated campaign, individual candidates, and activist groups decided to focus their efforts on digital and social media, hyper-targeted to specific populations within each district.

All the campaigns and their allies outspent the IDC senators on Facebook, said Jim Casteleiro, digital director for No IDC NY, who coordinated efforts with The Creative Resistance to craft ads across all the campaigns.

“We started early in the summer conceiving of a plan to run digital ads in all the districts that we were targeting,” Casteleiro said. “Our sort-of guiding principle in this whole process was, ‘Yes, people are outraged about what’s happening with Trump. Yes, people are outraged about the IDC. But if we don’t talk to them about what this actually means for their lives, then no one’s gonna care’...All of the content that we created, it was all issue-focused.”

The ads focused on everything from the state’s housing crisis, immigrant protections, and health care to education funding and abortion rights, while introducing the slate of progressive challengers as individual people. Another round of more negative ads portrayed each of the IDC senators as a gas station tube man, full of hot air. All told, the 38 videos they created received more than a million views.

“Obviously, digital isn’t new necessarily,” Casteleiro said. “But what I say is kinda unprecedented is this: you have an all-volunteer organization that raises $250,000, we partner with an all-volunteer group of creative professionals who create agency-level content, and we deploy that across the state in a coordinated fashion…That has to be absolutely unprecedented in New York State.”

Activist Sean McElwee, writing in HuffPost, noted that grassroots group Vote Tripling got 474 volunteers to convince three friends each to vote for the IDC challengers, and national group Postcards to Voters sent 283,857 handwritten notes to get out the vote in those districts.

Eric Rockey, co-founder of The Creative Resistance and director of the “Hot Air” ads, said they were inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s viral campaign ad when she beat Democratic giant Joe Crowley in a June congressional primary that shocked the city, state, and country. The ad was like a “short documentary film about a candidate and less like a slick political ad,” he said, noting that his group skyped with the makers of that ad and also consulted with the team behind Cynthia Nixon’s campaign launch video.

“The strategy was really to find those unique issues that would be wedge issues between our candidates and IDC members and really hammer on those,” Rockey said. “It was really burnishing the progressive bonafides of these candidates. But also trying to show them as people.”

Convincing Candidates
No message is complete without its messenger and the anti-IDC movement was no different. The candidates they backed, most of them young progressives running for the first time, presented an alternative to the calcified establishment to a Democratic primary electorate that showed it was hungry for change.

By and large, the candidates were charismatic, energetic, and able to talk policy -- some with youthful exuberance, some with seasoned perspective.

Some were also backed by prominent elected officials, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Comptroller Scott Stringer, both of whom brought organizing and fundraising with them. Myrie, in particular, received tremendous support from city, state, and federal elected officials, including many in Brooklyn. The powerful labor union 32BJ also played a prominent role in a few races, especially where Alessandra Biaggi defeated Klein, who once led the IDC and was, until Thursday, one of the state's most powerful elected officials. Stringer and Johnson and their teams were also all-in for Biaggi.

“We proved through heart and hustle and just organizing that it was possible,” she said in a phone interview. “I worked tirelessly and I’m unrelenting, and also a fighter and I’ve always been that way. And every time that somebody told me ‘no’ I worked double as hard and every time somebody told me ‘yes’ I worked triple as hard.”

Klein spent more to try to push back Biaggi’s challenge than Nixon did in her statewide race against the governor. “This race proved that the political currency is people, not dollars,” Biaggi said.

“They were all really great. They were easy to work for and easy to get people excited about. And that’s where the magic was if you ask me,” said Empire Indivisible’s Stewart about the IDC challengers.

In July, once Liu declared he would challenge Avella, the district was ready to hear from him. “A lot of work had already been done in his district. We already had boots on the ground there who were really fiercely committed to the IDC resistance and so it was essentially bringing in a great candidate,” Stewart said.

While Liu, Jackson, Biaggi, Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Rachel May were successful in defeating former IDC members, other former IDC Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci held onto their seats. Felder defeated Blake Morris. (Another insurgent leftist, Julia Salazar, unseated Senator Martin Dilan, though that race was not a focus of the same progressive, anti-IDC coalition.)

The primary winners are all-but-certain to win their general elections, if they have an opponent. The main remaining question is whether the anti-IDC efforts that toppled rogue Democrats can now help flip Republican-held seats and give the next Senate Democratic Conference, infused with new blood, an elusive majority. That answer will be known on November 6.

Again in the general, candidates and campaigns will both matter greatly.

Richardson, from Myrie’s campaign, explained some of the energy behind his candidate’s success. “Zellnor is in the top five of the most fearless candidates I’ve ever worked for,” he said. “In terms of his aggressiveness to talk to a voter, to hear a problem, his ability to immediately respond or to follow through, is pretty phenomenal…We had a pool of over 400 volunteers. And some of that was outreach. A lot of that was just organic because Zellnor was such a great candidate. Folks would just walk in the door or read an article about him and just wanna help.”

“We were really inspired by these candidates,” said Rockey. “It wasn’t a stretch for us. We were genuinely inspired by them. It felt like something new in New York politics...It was really about these personal connections with these candidates and our passion for these candidates.”

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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 correct name of the True Blue coalition, which is distinct from True Blue NY, a grassroots group that is part of the coalition. 

Note- This article has been updated to reflect the early role of Rise and Resist, a grassroots groups, in the anti-IDC movement.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 17


New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will start with a lot of focus on continuing the primary election analysis and pivoting to the general election matchups for statewide and legislative seats. Some of the focus will surely be on how the winners pulled their victories off and why the losers lost, but also whether and how those who lost Democratic primaries but have other ballot lines for November will vacate those lines. Chief among them are Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams on the Working Families Party line, but also Jeff Klein and other former members of the Independent Democratic Conference who lost their Democratic primaries but have ballot lines from small parties like the Independence Party or Women’s Equality Party.

As the general election quickly swings into gear -- as of Sunday there were just 50 days until Election Day, November 6! -- the race for governor turns into a contest among Governor Andrew Cuomo, Republican nominee Marc Molinaro, Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, Libertarian Party nominee Larry Sharpe, and Stephanie Minor, running on her newly created Serve America Movement line. Nixon may also be on the ballot, but she is very likely not to campaign if she is. Or, she might be moved off the WFP line, possibly replaced by Cuomo if the warring factions can agree that they will work together to avoid creating a better path to victory for Molinaro or another candidate.

The governor and lieutenant governor nominees of the different parties now run as a ticket, so after Kathy Hochul survived her challenge from Jumaane Williams, she can now work with Cuomo to win in November. There were no statewide primaries beyond three in the Democratic Party, with the lone exception of a Reform Party primary for its Attorney General nominee, which will be Nancy Sliwa.

The Attorney General race is now among Democratic nominee Letitia James, Republican Keith Wofford, Green candidate Michael Sussman, and Sliwa of the Reform Party. The Comptroller race features incumbent Democrat Tom DiNapoli, who did not face a primary challenge, as well as Republican nominee Jonathan Trichter, and Green nominee Mark Dunlea.

Control of the state Senate will be on the ballot this November, with races in New York City and elsewhere determining which party has the majority come next year. And, competitive New York races for the House of Representatives will help determine which party controls that chamber come January. There is also the race between New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and her Republican challenger Chele Farley, as well as various state Assembly race, though that house of the Legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic and will remain so regardless of how a few competitive races may go.

There’s also government happening this week, as well as other interesting events not directly related to this year’s elections. For example, the 2019 Charter Revision Commission held its first public hearing this past week and has two more this week, and the City Council has a variety of hearings this week. See our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
On Monday morning, Mayor de Blasio will speak at at the Fifth Annual Brooklyn Dems Post Primary Breakfast Reception at Junior's. In the evening, the Mayor will appear on NY1’s Inside City Hall in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

At the City Council on Monday:
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Technology will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to agency data, including the “digitization of historic data,” as well as laws relating to protections for cable subscribers.
--The Committees on Immigration and Youth Services will meet jointly at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “LGBTQ immigrant youth in New York City,” as well as a proposed law requiring the city to “create a plan of action to protect children who qualify for special immigrant juvenile status.”
--The Committee on For-Hire Vehicles will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss several proposed laws relating to, among other things, benefits for FHV and taxi drivers, “addressing the problem of medallion owner debt,” financial education for drivers, creating an “Office of Inclusion” in the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and “deductions from certain for-hire driver earnings.” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will deliver opening remarks.
--The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses will meet at noon.
--The Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “the state of the City’s jointly operated playgrounds.”
--The Committee on Fire and Emergency Management will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “EMS respond to the opioid epidemic,” as well as to discuss a proposed law relating to “creating online applications for fire alarm plan examinations.”
--The Committees on Aging and Civil & Human Rights will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “age discrimination in the workplace.”
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 2 p.m.

The New York State Board of Regents will meet on Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday morning, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will release his annual report on Wall Street performance and compensation.

At 10 a.m. Monday in City Hall Park, “Two New York City unions representing more than 4,700 Emergency Medical Service professionals will stand in the shadow of City Hall...to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio support unlimited sick leave for EMS responders who suffered health ailments as a result of serving at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. Local 2507, which represents 4,200 Uniformed Emergency Medical Technicians, Paramedics, and Fire Inspectors, and Local 3621, which represents 505 Uniformed EMS Officers, including Captains and Lieutenants, then will testify at a hearing at 250 Broadway about the need for State legislation that will grant affected EMS workers unlimited sick time due to their work in the recovery operation after 9/11.”

At 10 a.m. Monday, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will deliver remarks at a Vital Brooklyn playground opening, at The Winthrop Campus School. At 2 p.m., Hochul will announce the recipients of the New York State Police Officer of the Year Award at Yonkers City Hall.

At 11 a.m. Monday at City Hall, “First Lady Chirlane McCray, Chair of the Mayor’s Fund, Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Bitta Mostofi and Commissioner of the Department of Social Services Steven Banks will be joined by the City employees who have returned from volunteering to provide pro bono assistance to immigrant children and families in detention in Dilley, Texas. The delegation, which was made possible by funding from the Mayor’s Fund, includes lawyers and licensed clinical social workers. This event is open press. There will be Q-and-A.”

At 11 a.m. Monday on Long Island, “Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan...will be joined by the Senate Majority’s Long Island Delegation at a press conference...at the Bethpage Train Station to call for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to put any proposed 2019 fare hike on hold until it makes measurable improvements in service, equipment failures and delays. The press conference will introduce legislation sponsored by Senator Elaine Phillips...and Assemblyman Dean Murray...to protect commuters from facing even more disruptions due to the LIRR’s loss of any revenue. The delegation, led by Senator Phillips, has also established a petition drive that enables their constituents to voice their disgust that the LIRR would increase fares while they continue to suffer from delays and cancelled trains.”

At 11 a.m. Monday, the state Senate Standing Committee on Civil Service and Pensions will hold a public hearing “to investigate the use of 9/11 line of duty sick leave, to determine whether the program is working and to discuss any changes that need to be made to the program.” The hearing will take place at 250 Broadway in Manhattan.

At noon Monday, the New York City Economic Development Corporation will host the “Development Finance Conference 2018” at Convene in Midtown. Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will deliver keynote remarks. Other speakers will include EDC President James Patchett, City Planning Commission Chair Marisa Lago, Citigroup vice-chairman Raymond McGuire, and Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball.

At 6 p.m. Monday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will be honored at Vocal-NY’s annual gala at Roulette in Boerum Hill. Also being honored will be Emcon Pharmacy in Park Slope, and Vocal-NY leader Asia Betancourt.

At 6 p.m. Monday, the 2019 Charter Revision Commission will meet in Brooklyn at Medgar Evers College to hear public testimony.

At 6 p.m. Monday, the governor’s Regulated Marijuana Workgroup will hold a listening session at the South Bronx Community Charter High School in Morrisania on the legalization of marijuana in New York.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, NYCT President Andy Byford and City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg will hold a town hall meeting at Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village, discussing the upcoming shutdown of the L train. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will deliver remarks.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, City & State will host its “Westchester Power 50” reception at the Radisson Hotel in New Rochelle. County Executive George Latimer will give keynote remarks.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, the Museum of the City of New York will host historians Terry Golway and Peter Quinn for a discussion on the rocky relationship between Al Smith and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, two of New York’s most famous governors.

At 7 p.m. Monday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer will hold a public hearing on the city’s lead crisis at the Frederick Samuel Community Center in Harlem. He will be joined by U.S. Rep Adriano Espaillat, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brian Benjamin, Assemblymembers Inez Dickens, Robert Rodriguez, Al Taylor, and Carmen de la Rosa, and Council Members Bill Perkins, Ydanis Rodriguez, Diana Ayala, and Mark Levine.

Tuesday
Yom Kippur will begin on Tuesday evening and end on Wednesday evening.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Association for a Better New York will host U.S. Reps Hakeem Jeffries, Carolyn Maloney, and Grace Meng for a discussion on the midterm elections at the Roosevelt Hotel. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki will moderate.

Wednesday
There are no Wednesday events on our radar as of Sunday evening.

Thursday
At the City Council on Thursday:
--The Committee on Juvenile Justice will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding an “update on New York City’s implementation of raising the age of criminal responsibility.”
--The Committee on Women will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “abortion and reproductive rights,” as well as to discuss a resolution calling for the legislature to pass, and the governor to sign, the Reproductive Health Act.
--The Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding an “update on the City’s organics collection program.”
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.
--The Committees on Education and Public Safety will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “school emergency preparedness and safety,” as well as to discuss several related laws.
--The Committee on Small Business will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding business improvement districts.
--The Committees on General Welfare and Mental Health will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “shelter accommodations and services for those with disabilities.”

At 8 a.m. Thursday, U.S. Reps Hakeem Jeffries and Jerrold Nadler will join Crain’s New York Business for a “Business Breakfast Forum” at the New York Athletic Club, discussing “how New York is faring under Trump, their take on the midterm election and their agendas in Washington.”

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the 2019 Charter Revision Commission will meet at Queens Borough Hall to hear public testimony.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the governor’s Regulated Marijuana Workgroup will hold a listening session at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on the legalization of marijuana in New York.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, there will be a public scoping meeting at PS 133 in Gowanus to discuss the mayor’s plan to place a new jail in Brooklyn, as part of the replacement plan for Rikers Island.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Panel for Educational Policy will hold a public meeting at the High School for Fashion Industries in Chelsea.

Friday and the weekend
Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday at 10 a.m.

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, the New York Civil Liberties Union will host “The Museum of Broken Windows,” a “pop-up” museum dedicated to documenting the history of broken-windows policing in New York City. The pop-up will stand at 9 West 8th St in Greenwich Village until September 30.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

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by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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.

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.

James Eyes Statewide History as Democratic Attorney General Nominee


tish primary night win

Letitia James (photo: @TishJames)


New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, much of the rest of the state’s political establishment, and New York City voters, on Thursday won the Democratic attorney general primary, successfully fending off competitors Zephyr Teachout, Sean Patrick Maloney, and Leecia Eve.

James, who pitched herself as having the best track record to become "the people's lawyer," was declared the victor of what appeared to be a wide open, three-way race, at around 10:30 p.m., when most precincts had reported their results and she had 42 percent of the vote, Teachout trailed with 30 percent, Maloney had 23 percent, and Eve had 3 percent. A joyous Brooklyn venue of supporters rejoiced and awaited James’ arrival, as elected backers of her campaign lavished praise on the public advocate and thanked those who worked on and supported her campaign.

With 99 percent of precincts in as of about 1 a.m., James sat at just over 40 percent of the vote, with Teachout at 31 percent, Maloney at 25 percent and Eve at 3 percent.

During her roughly 15-minute victory speech to several dozen supporters, James was surrounded on stage by elected officials, union leaders, and political operatives. She hit her campaign themes, promising independence, to stand up for all people, and to fight President Trump, while also striking a unifying message among her fellow Democrats, with kind words for her competitors after a race that had its share of insults and criticism.

"We’re all in the same boat now. And so I hope that all of the individuals who did not support me, who did not vote for me, will give me a chance…to earn your respect,” she said, going on to promise to fight for women, immigrants, and other often disadvantaged or marginalized groups.

Among those in attendance were State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Assemblymember Latrice Walker, City Council Members Vanessa Gibson, Chaim Deutsch and Alicka Ampry-Samuel, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who may be interested in running for James’ current seat if the public advocate is victorious in November and vacates her citywide position for a statewide role.

“To be honest with you,” James said, “this campaign was really not about me, or the other candidates who ran. It was about the people, but it was about that man in the White House, who can't go a day without threatening our fundamental rights.”

James went on to say that she would stand up for those adversely affected by Trump’s policies, and help New York present a contrast with the president’s vision.

James, a former City Council member, recognized the milestones that she can reach after a November general election win, which she is favored to achieve: the first woman attorney general and first black woman to hold the office, as well as the first woman of color to hold any statewide elected position. James is now the first woman of color nominated by one of the two major parties to seek a statewide office.

“I am dedicating this victory to every little girl who has been told she cannot change the world, told you got to stay in your lane, stay in your corner, stay in your neighborhood. And every little girl who has consistently and repeatedly overachieved,” said James. “And to all the little girls out there, I believe in you.”

Earlier in the day, after voting at her polling place in Brooklyn, James told Gotham Gazette about her initial agenda, if elected in November:

“If we win, the first 100 days we’ll be focusing on making sure that we get original jurisdiction to investigate corruption in the state of New York, it’s fortunate that the attorney general be in a position to investigate corruption and not have to ask for the governor to do so. Two, that we focus on the pardon loophole, that we pass that pardon loophole as soon as possible. I’ve already spoken to the [Assembly] speaker, I’ve spoken to some members of the state Legislature, it’s important that we pass that pardon loophole."

"Three, that we strengthen all of our laws in the state of New York because right now it’s really about states' rights. We’re on our own, we know that the federal government has basically closed down so we’ve gotta focus on consumer protection and strengthen that, environmental laws and strengthen that. We’ve gotta focus on regulation, particularly as it relates to banks and make sure that the next crisis that’s around the corner, that is the unfortunately the default of so many student loans. We need to focus on bad actors and unscrupulous individuals who are engaging in a pattern and practice of preying upon students in the state of New York. and we need to focus on those servicers of mortgage loans. We are still suffering from the foreclosure crisis. We’ve got a number of zombie homes, not only in the city of New York but all throughout the state of New York. We need to make sure that we address this foreclosure crisis here in the state of New York, we need to provide them with settlement funds, and that’s also an issue that I’m going to have a discussion with the governor of the state of new york, that settlement funds should not be diverted into the general fund but they should be used for its original purposes, particularly when you are seeing a significant number of zombie homes in our state. And as the next AG, I can’t wait to go to work. I can’t wait to wake up each and every day, go to the office, sue somebody and then go home."

Though she has in recent years been criticized by many for too infrequently taking on Mayor Bill de Blasio on key issues — and in recent months taken heat for her closeness with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who handily bested Cynthia Nixon Thursday evening — James has nevertheless made the case that she's consistently been independent. And, James said during her victory speech, she has always been, and continues to be, an advocate for the downtrodden, taking on the powerful when the need arises.

”Nothing has changed,” she said. “I will continue to fight on behalf of tenants and marginalized individuals and vulnerable populations…Nothing is going to change about Tish. I’m still just a girl from Brooklyn."

James will face Republican Keith Wofford and other smaller party candidates in the general election.

This article has been updated.

2018 New York State Primary Results: Cuomo, Hochul, James Prevail While Senate Upsets Abound


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. 

Cuomo Gives Limited Insight Into Third Term Agenda


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


As Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks a third term in office, facing actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon in the primary on Thursday, he has pitched himself as a man of action, a chief executive who gets things done with little regard for politicking. But as even Nixon acknowledges Cuomo as a heavy favorite and Cuomo remains the likeliest winner in November, the Democratic incumbent has largely run on his accomplishments, perceived, exaggerated, and real, while downplaying his actual tendency for political gamesmanship, and has proposed few new ideas about what he will deliver for the state if re-elected.

Nor has Cuomo given much attention to even the long-standing policies and programs that he has supported in the past that would appear to form the foundation of a rationale for another term. His campaign website, perhaps the easiest place for a candidate to outline his or her proposals, offers virtually no mention of forward-looking policy, instead touting the governor’s two-term record on several high-profile issues, like marriage equality, the minimum wage, and gun control.

In their only debate of the race, hosted by WCBS, Cuomo and Nixon were not afforded time to give opening or closing statements to lay out their respective visions for the state -- a format that Cuomo is said to have held great sway over in agreeing to the one debate -- and Cuomo is notoriously averse to taking questions from reporters both at campaign and government events, though he does take a handful of questions after some appearances. He has done no sit-down TV or radio interviews to discuss his re-election bid, and has spoken with one print reporter at length, Chris Smith of New York Magazine. The governor has largely centered his pitch around fighting President Donald Trump.

But in April, when Cuomo brought together a split Democratic conference in the state Senate, he came closer than he has since to articulating a legislative agenda for his third term, listing off priorities that he has long expressed support for but that he said Republican senators had shown they will not pass. A Cuomo campaign spokesperson said the governor typically outlines new proposals in his January State of the State address, which is a government event.

Cuomo’s critics have derided him as a Clintonian centrist who has, for two terms, triangulated with Republicans and members of his own party to deliver a mixed record of achievement. He has undoubtedly ushered progressive policies through the state Legislature, such as marriage equality and significant gun regulations, while conceding to popular demand for others, including a $15 minimum wage program, paid family leave, and raising the age of criminal responsibility.

But Cuomo has failed in the eyes of many progressives who say he has shown only performative support for their various priorities. The state’s campaign finance and ethics laws remain woefully anaemic, with Cuomo taking full advantage of loopholes and seeing top aides convicted of corruption; while voting and elections laws are considered archaic and even suppressive. The governor has not enacted speedy trial reform or done away with cash bail. Activists believe he hasn’t provided equitable funding for under-resourced schools and hasn’t paid enough attention to environmental justice issues. They critique him for largely ignoring a housing affordability crisis across the state, only paying attention to public housing when it fit his political needs, and channeling billions to economic development programs rife with corruption and conflicts of interest and showing lackluster results. He has also raised the ire of many on the left by not winning codification of the abortion protections of Roe v. Wade or the Dream Act, and hasn’t pushed for state-funded single-payer healthcare or driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

And perhaps the biggest black eye of all that cuts across political ideologies and allegiances, he has let New York City’s subway system fall into crisis while refusing to rightfully take ownership of the state authority that controls it.

Cuomo has said he can achieve most, if not all of those agenda items in a third term if Democrats win full control of the state Legislature, which would require only a net gain of one seat in the state Senate (the Assembly is overwhelmingly Democratic). Here again, Cuomo has been criticized for tolerating -- some say enabling -- an eight-member rogue Democratic faction in the Senate called the Independent Democratic Conference that caucused with Republicans to either create or bolster the GOP majority.

After years of insisting he was helpless to bring them back into the mainline Democratic conference -- and blaming Republicans for not moving legislation he says he supports -- he did just that in April, promising that New York can yet again be a progressive leader on legislation across the country once Democrats pick up more seats to get a numerical majority in the 63-member Senate. The Republican conference currently holds 32 seats including conservative Brooklyn Democrat Senator Simcha Felder, who Cuomo has also apparently left alone in his movement across the aisle.

When Cuomo announced he had brokered the Democratic “unity” deal in April, wherein all involved pledged not to support primary challengers to the others, he provided something of an agenda for 2019, if not beyond, briefly rattling off priorities that he has long-backed but that he said Republicans senators had shown they will not pass.

“We did a lot of good things in the budget, but there are also things that we didn't pass that we need to pass,” Cuomo said at the April news conference announcing the newly united Democratic conference that came just after a new state budget was agreed upon. “Child Victims Act, more gun safety, bail reform, the Dream Act, banning outside income, campaign finance reform, early voting - these are all progressive principles that were not passed in the budget and which we will not pass until we have a Democratic Senate.”

In response to an inquiry from Gotham Gazette two days before the primary, Cuomo’s campaign provided a list of the items that make up his third-term vision, including proposals he has supported but failed to pass for years, including from his first term, and initiatives already under way that he plans to build on.

They include voting reform (early voting, automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration); criminal justice reform (related to bail, discovery, speedy trials and asset forfeiture, closing Rikers Island, passing the Child Victims Act and legalizing the recreational use of marijuana); passing the DREAM Act; strengthening rent regulations; funding the MTA’s Fast Forward plan and passing congestion pricing; strengthening the Excelsior program to make college affordable; closing the per-pupil funding gap; ensuring access to quality, affordable healthcare; and ethics and campaign finance reform (closing the LLC loophole and banning outside income for legislators chief among them); gun control; and infrastructure.

“The Governor has led the way in making New York the progressive capital of the nation — from $15 minimum wage to paid family leave to marriage equality to first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship to the toughest and strongest gun laws in the country,” said campaign spokesperson Abbey Collins, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “While Washington tries to take us backward, the governor will continue to build on this unmatched record of accomplishment by winning a Democratic Senate Majority to pass ethics, voting, and criminal justice reform, make college affordable, invest $150 billion in our infrastructure, strengthen our gun laws, protect immigrant families and achieve universal healthcare for all New Yorkers.”

Gun control may be the one area where Cuomo has consistently led the way. After successfully passing the SAFE Act in his first term, Cuomo proposed a red flag bill earlier this year, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, that would allow courts to order the temporary seizure of firearms from individuals and the homes of individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others. He has also pushed for a ten-day background check waiting period and raising the age for buying a gun to 21.

On some issues like recreational marijuana, Cuomo has been pulled to the left. Last year, Cuomo called marijuana a “gateway drug” but then, in January this year, he announced a task force to analyze the legalization of recreational use for adults. Though it came a few months before Nixon entered the race, some, including Nixon herself, have attributed the governor’s movement on the issue, which has since accelerated, to her primary challenge.  

“This is the classic tale of the third term,” said Douglas Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College’s School of Public and International Affairs. “It’s the running for the third term playbook. After two terms, you’ve spent your energy and your thinking. You get most of the stuff done in your first term and then it tails off, and that was true of Governor [George] Pataki, it was true of the first Cuomo, it was true of Ed Koch [as mayor]. If you think of New York executives who have run for third terms, they haven’t been very successful third terms, and they’ve won them.”

Cuomo’s biggest bet, however, is infrastructure, with a promised $150 billion five-year plan set to begin in 2019, apparently subsuming and adding to an ongoing $100 billion investment in infrastructure around the state that Cuomo has repeatedly touted. “We’re going to show the nation how to build a state that is the epitome of the infrastructure and transportation of the next century,” Cuomo said at a news conference last week, announcing the construction of a new entrance to Penn Station.

“There are no new detailed policy ideas with some kind of numbers attached. And if there are discrete pieces, there’s no coherence to it, there’s no vision to hold it together,” Muzzio said.

The inevitable result, he said, is voter fatigue. “You’ve run through all your ideas in the first two terms, and then on top of that, you’ve made two terms worth of enemies and people who are dissatisfied,” he said. “So the number of dissatisfieds rises dramatically and there’s an urge to throw the bums out, whether they’re bums or not. And it becomes an ‘anybody but’ election.”

What remains to be seen, of course, is whether Cynthia Nixon has galvanized enough of that Cuomo fatigue, especially around the subways, and provided a vision to voters that will carry her to what would be one of the most shocking political upsets in history. Public polls, however questionable they may be, have shown a Cuomo blowout is likely on Thursday, though the governor has been at the center of several last-minute controversies and continues to spend millions to ensure victory.

The Penn Station announcement was one of several Cuomo has held in recent weeks, and some, including his primary and general election opponents, have criticized him for holding a long series of recent government events to bolster his reelection. Case in point, on Friday, the governor held a grandiose event featuring Hillary Clinton to open the new span of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (called the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee bridge before it was renamed this year) and just a day later, was forced to acknowledge that it would remain closed due to safety concerns arising from the old span. It opened late Tuesday night.

Asked if Cuomo has presented a third-term vision, Ted Hamm, associate professor and chair of journalism and new media studies at St. Joseph’s College, said, “I think the short answer is ‘no.’”

“I guess if you say that his infrastructure projects are his vision, then maybe you could make the case that he needs to see those through,” he added. “But given what happened with the Tappan Zee, who knows how he’ll politicize those projects. Also, he still hasn’t accomplished much with the subways as an essential infrastructure project...So if that’s his main vision, it’s got holes, particularly the subway.”

“The Governor has given New Yorkers nothing to vote for,” said Lauren Hitt, a Nixon campaign spokesperson, in an email. “His whole campaign strategy has been to get them to see him as anti-Trump, which is tough considering he won't return the $64,000 Trump gave to his campaign - and the many other similarities between them.”

Though Nixon is new to running for office, she has issued detailed policy platforms on a raft of issues to make up for what she lacks in government experience, though she has at times stumbled in discussing the specifics or outlining the details of her vision when asked. Nixon’s plans also pull mostly from existing proposals, both before the Legislature and put out by various advocacy groups, though together they present an unabashed progressive direction for the state that the candidate has herself aligned with democratic socialism.

“The Governor hasn't presented a plan to fix the subways, he refuses to hold hearings on sexual harassment, he won't support single payer, or promise to end cash bail. All these issues are so important to New Yorkers and progressives across the country, and he won't stand up for one of them,” Hitt added. (Cuomo has said he supports single-payer healthcare, also known as Medicare for All, but has insisted that it must be funded by the federal government rather than the state.)

“In terms of policy, there’s no comparison, at least from a progressive perspective,” Hamm said. “You can get into the questions of how do we pay for this type of stuff, but that’s pretty much the case of what you have to do when you’re a challenger against a long time incumbent. The corruption stuff only goes so far politically. But she’s put forth the agenda of the progressive wing, the Bernie Sanders wing of the party.”

Hamm noted, though that Nixon lacks the government experience that various editorial boards cited in endorsing Cuomo while acknowledging his failures. “Mr. Cuomo is flawed. When he allows petty enmity and political grievance to distract him from his commitment to public service, he is his own worst enemy. But when he confronts a real problem and gets down to work, he is a very capable governor,” the New York Times editorial board wrote. The board said Nixon’s “lack of experience in government or management of any sort do not inspire confidence that she could overcome the old guard in Albany to fulfill her promises and run the state.”

Muzzio echoed that view, expecting that Cuomo will get reelected and govern as he always has. “Very strategically, very Machiavellian in the best sense of the word,” he said. “There’s this clear-headedness of the Machiavellian leader. Even though he often times has a fatal flaw -- It’s ego and paranoia...He’s a tough force to work for and he’s a tough person to deal with.”

“His father once said, ‘You campaign in poetry and you govern in prose.’ And he is a master at his prose,” Muzzio said.

But there are early signs that New York may not become the progressive bastion people expect if -- and it’s a big if given Republicans’ abilities to win state Senate seats -- Democrats are no longer hamstrung in the Legislature. Cuomo himself tempered those expectations when he was interviewed by the New York Daily News editorial board, which endorsed him over Nixon. “It will still be hard,” he said. “Whoever is in the minority, it’s always easy to say ‘I’ll vote for that.’ But as we learned painfully, when the minority becomes the majority, they often change their tune.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max and Victor Porcelli contributed to this article.



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