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Inside Attorney General Candidates’ July Campaign Finance Filings

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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (photo: @RepSeanMaloney)

The race for state Attorney General appears to be the most wide open in the 2018 New York election cycle, at least among statewide races. In the wake of former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s shocking resignation, four Democrats have jumped into a competitive primary that will be decided on September 13, with the winner automatically seen as the frontrunner to win the general election against Republican nominee Keith Wofford and Green Party nominee Michael Sussman.

Recently released campaign finance filings with the state Board of Elections shows candidates’ financial pictures heading into the crucial final week of the primary race. Funding numbers not only show what financial resources candidates have to spend to get their messages out, but give indication of the kind of support they are receiving from individuals, corporations, special interests, and so on.

Public Advocate Letitia James, endorsed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Democratic Party, leads the pack with $1.16 million raised for the attorney general race, and $991,000 cash on hand as of mid-July. On the other hand, Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial primary and won 34 percent of the vote, touted over 10,000 different donations as a show of grassroots support. She is also repeatedly reminding the public who and what she is not taking money from: corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), and calling on her competitors to do the same.

U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney is another candidate in the race, and while he has mostly been continuing with his work in Washington, D.C. as opposed to being on the campaign trail, he brought in a little more than $1 million for his attorney general campaign, and has about $3 million in his congressional campaign account, which he says he can use, but that interpretation is open to question.

Leecia Eve, a former aide to both Governor Cuomo and then-Senator Hillary Clinton, and the fourth candidate in the primary, has raised the least money of the group.

Candidates in the race have largely been promoting the percentage of the number of contributions they’ve received, not of their total hauls, that have come from small donors, typically meaning those giving under $250. In a similar vein, Cuomo came under fire this week for claiming that 57 percent of his contributions were from small, individual donors rather than the PACs and corporations he is known to solicit. Though the 57 percent number is accurate, the percentage of Cuomo’s total fundraising that the small donations constituted is just 1 percent. Cuomo has over $31 million in the bank, after raising and spending about $6 million over the past several months.

A closer look at the attorney general candidates’ campaign finance filings shows more about where their support is coming from.

Tish James
James, the New York City Public Advocate, has raised $1,165,897.55, and has $991,480.51 cash on hand as of the July filing. She has raised the most money and has the most cash on hand of any Democratic AG candidate, slightly edging out Maloney on each metric.

James’ largest contributors have been labor unions, with whom James has had a close relationship throughout her political career. Contributions include $65,100 from the New York State Conference of the International Union of Operating Engineers, $26,500 from the Transport Workers Union (both national and local), $25,000 from Communications Workers of America District 1, $22,500 from the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, $21,100 from the Hotel Trades Council and Unite Here Local 6, $21,000 each from the Teamsters’ DRIVE Committee, Mason Tenders, 1199 SEIU, and the New York State Laborers’ PAC, and $20,000 from 32BJ SEIU.

Other contributions include $15,000 from Cablevision, $15,000 from Opportunity Ed PAC, an education reform organization, and $21,000 from the MedMen Opportunity Fund, a cannabis venture capital firm. James also has received ample donations from real estate and law firm contributors, including $10,000 from Two Trees and $10,000 from Slate Property Group, and $5,000 from Renew New York, a PAC controlled by former Republican U.S. Senator and lobbyist Al D’Amato.

Last week, the James campaign told the New York Times that it had raised about $416,000 from individual donors, and about $555,000 from PACs, unions, and corporations. In a press release, James touted that 60 percent of her campaign’s donors gave $200 or less, with 50 percent giving $100 or less.

“I am deeply humbled and proud of the grassroots support I have received from New Yorkers from all walks of life - a true testament to the work we have accomplished and the power of our mission forward. As Attorney General, I will always put New Yorkers’ first and will never be afraid to challenge Donald Trump or anyone who tries to deny our fundamental rights,” James said in the statement.

Zephyr Teachout
Teachout, who also ran for Congress in 2016, losing narrowly to now-Rep. John Faso, has raised $551,347.94, and has $314,058.55 cash on hand.

Teachout, unlike the other candidates in the Democratic primary, has pledged not to take corporate donations, and her July disclosure lists only individual contributors, with no corporations, unions, or PACs listed as having contributed. Her largest donors are Philadelphia attorney Daniel Berger, tech investor Brad Burnham, and Boston venture capitalist Vincent Ryan, all of whom donated $21,000 to the Teachout campaign, which is just under the individual donor maximum for the primary.

Teachout has $148,675.59 in unitemized contributions, or about 27 percent of her fundraising total, far in excess of any other candidate. Contributions of under $99, or an aggregate of contributions from an individual totaling under $99, are not required by the Board of Elections to be itemized with the contributor’s name, address, and amount contributed.

In a press release, Teachout said that 97 percent of her contributors gave less than $200, and that her campaign has received more than 10,000 individual donations.

“This campaign is about people having a legal voice against powerful interests. I'm proud to be 100% corporate free, with the highest percentage of low dollar donors of any candidate for Attorney General. We do not have to accept the cynicism of the status quo, people can have the politics we deserve and demand,” Teachout said in the statement.

Sean Patrick Maloney
Maloney, who represents New York’s 18th Congressional District -- encompassing Orange and Putnam Counties, and parts of Dutchess and Westchester -- has raised $1,127,155.62, and has $981,385.86 cash on hand in his attorney general campaign account.

Maloney’s largest donor is the Lewis family, the founders of Progressive Insurance. The children of Progressive founder Pete Lewis -- Adam, Jonathan, and Ivy -- have donated a total of $135,200 to Maloney’s campaign, with Adam and Jonathan each donating $65,100 and Ivy donating $5,000. Adam’s wife Melony also donated $44,000.

Other donors include Indiana commercial real estate developer David Simon and his wife Jacqueline, who each donated $21,100 to the campaign. The Real Estate Board PAC donated $5,000. Several real estate LLCs donated to the campaign, with the largest being $20,000 from MHTC Development.

While Maloney’s haul is eclipsed slightly by James’, his campaign believes that it can transfer money from his federal congressional account into his state campaign account, which would boost his campaign coffers by up to $3.1 million. The legality of this maneuver is questionable. Maloney, who is simultaneously running for AG and reelection to Congress, won the Democratic primary for his seat last month with the intention of returning to Congress should he not win the AG race. Since the primaries on are different days, it is a move he could attempt.

Maloney ran for attorney general in 2006, losing the primary to Andrew Cuomo, who went on to win the general election as well.

In a press release, Maloney said that 90 percent of his donations were $200 or less, with more than 50 percent being $10 or less.

“I'm the only candidate with the experience and independence to be the AG our state needs - someone who will fight corruption in Albany, in Washington, and in corporate suites - and I'm proud that so many New Yorkers have joined my campaign,” Maloney said in the press release.

Leecia Eve
Eve, who serves on the Port Authority board and works as a governmental relations executive for Verizon, formerly helped lead Empire State Development under Cuomo, and has worked for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, has raised $299,416.14, and has $250,719 cash on hand for her attorney general bid.

Eve’s largest donors have been herself and her family. Eve has donated $35,656.59 to her campaign, in 95 separate donations, the largest of which was $10,000 and the smallest $5.43. Her father, former Assemblymember Arthur Eve, and her mother, Lee, each donated $10,000, while her brother Eric has donated $16,000 and her brother Malcolm has given $525.

Additionally, a consulting firm called Ichor Strategies, of which Eric Eve is CEO, has donated $20,000 (Eric Eve is serving as Leecia’s campaign manager).

Other donations include $21,000 from attorney Patrick Dunican and $5,000 from the Real Estate Board PAC. In a statement, the Eve campaign said that the filing portended good news for the campaign.

“Today’s filing shows we are well positioned to communicate our message throughout all corners of New York State. We are inspired by the level of grassroots support that we have received, and we look forward to continuing to share Leecia’s vision for how she will be a fearless and effective champion for all New Yorkers,” said Maggie McKeon, a spokesperson for the Eve campaign.

Keith Wofford
Keith Wofford, the Republican nominee for AG, has raised $1,048,801.38 and has $1,023,847.76 cash on hand.

His largest donor is the New York Republican State Committee, which has given Wofford $150,000. Other large contributions include $20,000 from consulting firm Simier and Partners LLC, $44,000 from New York State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, and $44,000 each from Jonathan Gill, Stephen Moeller-Sally, and Mark Somerstein, all of whom are partners at the law firm Ropes & Gray, which Wofford is managing partner of.

Wofford has spent $25,000 on the campaign trail thus far. He has no primary challenger, and is facing an uphill battle in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, pending the winner of the Democratic primary, as well as Green Party nominee Michael Sussman, who has raised about $14,000.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Experts Confident in New York Election Security, Though Risk of Temporary ‘Chaos’ Remains

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Gov. Cuomo voting (photo via the Governor's office)

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday new measures to enhance the security of the state’s elections. They include “comprehensive risk assessments, intrusion detection devices, and managed security services for all county boards of elections,” as well as training for election staff on cyber security.

The initiatives make use of $5 million allocated in the 2019 state budget for enhanced cybersecurity related to elections, which included the creation of an “election support center” and an “election cyber security toolkit,” provides “cyber risk vulnerability assessments” for state and local Boards of Elections, and requires BOEs to report data breaches to the state.

The announcement comes in the wake of the indictment of 12 Russian nationals for interference in the 2016 presidential election, involving the theft and release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. A news release from the governor’s office said that the state would solicit contracts in the coming days for the risk assessments, intrusion detection devices, and security services for county boards of elections.

The broader issue of election security has become increasingly prominent in the wake of the 2016 election and the allegations of Russian interference. Cuomo’s announcement of new election security measures came just a few hours after a Tuesday panel at City & State’s Protecting NY Summit, moderated by Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max, where panelists discussed the issue as it relates to state and local elections in New York. New York is in the midst of a busy election year that features races for all of its statewide state-level positions, all of its state legislative seats, one U.S. Senate seat, and all of its House of Representative seats, among others.

The panel consisted of State Senators Todd Kaminsky and Liz Krueger; Assemblymember David Buchwald; Michael Ryan, executive director of the New York City Board of Elections; Eric Hodge, of cybersecurity firm CyberScout Solutions; and Eva Guidarini, a member of Facebook’s U.S. Politics and Government Outreach team.

In something of a twist from how New York’s dysfunctional elections are usually discussed, the state’s election security measures in the wake of the 2016 election were highly praised by the panelists. Unlike many states, New York never abandoned paper ballots so as always to leave a “paper trail” in the event of a hack. New York’s voting machines are also not “networked,” but rather are all independent machines. This makes it impossible to hack the entire system or even the machines.

“The election results are stored on the device, on two separate -- they look like flash drives, we call them portable memory devices, PMDs -- one is for unofficial results, the other remains with the machine itself for the official results,” said Ryan. “And, in addition to that, there is paper ballots. So if there was ever a really catastrophic event, we still have the paper to make sure that even though the mischief occurred, the outcome and the integrity of the outcome, which is all we could ultimately preserve, is maintained.”

Still, in the event of a hack, the city and state may still be underprepared. Ryan suggested that the BOE may be due for an increase in staffing to supplement its monitoring services.

Senator Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, ranking member of the Senate finance committee and a member of the elections committee, said that the focus should be not just on whether the 2016 elections were meddled with, but when and how it would happen again, in 2018 and beyond.

“Rather than talk about the fact that, apparently, they are hacking our elections, and we have to assume we’ll have future elections hacked, I think the lesson from yesterday, I agree, the timing was perfect for this discussion, was if you don’t have any faith that your elected officials are going to follow the law and uphold their duties and responsibilities, we are in serious trouble as a state, a city, or a country,” Krueger said, in reference to the press conference held by President Donald Trump alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Twice during the hour-long discussion, Krueger stressed that New York has never adopted electronic-only voting systems, instead opting to leave the paper trail to ensure votes are counted. She explained that she had been part of the fight to ensure paper ballots were still used as many other states were moving to digital-only, which has come back to haunt them.

Ryan noted that the 2016 election-related hacking led the BOE to conduct, for the first time, election security exercises and simulations meant to quickly and efficiently identify and neutralize threats.

“We did our first tabletop exercises in the lead-up to Election Day,” Ryan said of November 2016. “Tabletop exercises are the way that agencies keep the muscles limber, reenacting real world scenarios in a serious way, and we did a tabletop exercise on the Thursday before a presidential election for almost seven hours. Shows you the seriousness with which everyone took that.”

Asked whether New Yorkers should stop expecting immediate and secure election results, Ryan demurred. Kaminsky said he would love to see Long Island election night results come in more quickly, like New York City is able to do.

Ryan indicated that if there was a vulnerability to hacking it would be in the uploading of results from polling places to the BOE, and that if a bad actor was intent on causing some "chaos" they would possibly be able to do that for a short period of time, but that systems, while expensive, are in place to mitigate any effects fairly quickly. There may be some temporary confusion, he said, but it would be quickly corrected.

“If there is a problem,” Ryan said, “we have backup systems in place. We can leverage police department personnel to shut down the uploading of the results from the poll sites, and shift that to the local police precincts.” Ryan said that BOE sytems are now constantly monitored throughout the year through work with New York City's technology department.

Krueger kept to her admittedly skeptical theme by recounting an anecdote of first-year computer science students successfully breaking into voting machines in Ohio within an hour-and-a-half.

“When everyone who takes the college computer class can do it in the first hour and a half, you should be very, very worried,” she said.

Hodge, whose firm is hired by governments to sure up their cyber security and election systems, said that along with the voting machines and election results, the voter databases and rolls should be protected and secured as well. He also said that policymakers should prioritize being able to detect problems immediately, and that New York carefully vet election vendors to ensure that security is prioritized.

"Thankfully," Assemblymember Buchwald said early in the program, "we've had a fairly proactive approach here in New York, not to toot my subcommittee's own horn, or the entire Assembly election committee, but we've actually had already two public hearings on election security, the most recent of which was this past November after the local elections. And if you were at the hearing, if you watched it online, you would have heard the words 'Cambridge Analytica' four months before they became national news."

Governor Cuomo’s announcement of new measures comes on the heels of a new law aimed at securing the state’s elections passed earlier this year. The law prohibits foreign entities from forming independent expenditure (IE) committees to buy ads on social media, requires ad buyers on social media to register as IE committees and for the name of the IE that bought the ad to be clearly displayed, and requires the State BOE to make political communications more transparent and accessible.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Facebook Rep Calls New York Ad Transparency Law a National Model, Points to Next Steps

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Gov. Cumo signs ad transparency bill (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)

The recent federal indictments of 12 Russians involved in the country’s interference campaign in the 2016 United States presidential election comes at a time of already heightened interest in election security given other previously known facts and allegations about Russian meddling in the election, the promulgation of “fake news,” attempted hacking of state elections systems, and questionable practices by social media platforms like Facebook. Though election security and integrity at the federal level has dominated people’s attention, it is also an issue at the state and local levels.

For the past two years, policymakers, security companies, and members of the tech and media industries have engaged in more fulsome debate over how to combat issues like “fake news” -- meaning fabricated news stories pushed off as actual news -- and false or misleading ads on social media, not to mention ensuring the security of election infrastructure.

In April, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill, passed in a new state budget agreement that prohibits foreign entities from buying political ads “in order to influence New York elections,” requires political ad buyers on social media to register as independent expenditure committees, requires independent expenditure ads to clearly display that the independent spender, not a candidate, paid for the ad, and requires the state Board of Elections to “create an online archive of all political communications for a set period.”

Some say that while these are important measures, there is more to do to secure New York elections, both in terms of hardening security systems to prevent hacking and reducing the influence of malicious actors in other, “softer” ways. Facebook itself, while the subject of much scrutiny and criticism during and after the 2016 election, is making some reforms to the ways it does business. On Tuesday, a representative for the social media giant called the New York political ad transparency law a model for the rest of the country, while also pointing toward transparency into voter targeting on the platform as a next frontier.

During a panel discussion at City & State NY’s “Protecting NY Summit,” moderated by Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max, Eva Guidarini of Facebook said the company is encouraging users to report questionable content, has begun working with “third party fact-checkers” when potential fake news is flagged, and, if determined to be fake news, posts will receive a tag noting it as such, and be “down-ranked,” meaning it will show up less frequently in people’s feeds, while an explanation of the fact-checking will also be provided. She defended the practice of not removing content unless it is deemed “misinformation,” saying that there can be too many gray areas in defining misleading content. Misinformation would include things like fake news.

Facebook’s actions come after widespread criticism of its platform as a venue for the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories, as well as inappropriate user-data sharing.

Guidarini, a member of the U.S. Politics and Government Outreach team for the company, said Facebook should be the subject of government regulations, but indicated there is a line to ensure that the platform still serves its users. When asked, she also indicated that users must take some responsibility for evaluating content, and said the company is working to help educate people. She also praised the new New York law that applies to Facebook and other online services, which was sponsored in the state Senate by another panelist, Senator Todd Kaminsky.

“We worked really closely with New York and Maryland,” Guidarini said. “We’re really excited about these ad transparency laws that you passed, and we’re now sort of rolling that out to the whole country even though it’s only law in a couple of states. We think that that’s important. The law lagged behind, right? It’s ridiculous that you didn’t have to say who’s paying for a political ad online, even though you did on TV and in newspapers. And we should change that.”

The panel on election integrity included Guidarini; Kaminsky; state Senator Liz Krueger; Assemblymember David Buchwald; Michael Ryan, the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections; and Eric Hodge of CyberScout Solutions, a company that works with government to prevent hacking and other security breaches.

Ryan said that the BOE’s concern has moved from tampering with results towards the manipulation of social media to alter election results.

“We were concerned in the lead-up to election day that people would put out false information that poll sites were on fire or that no voting is happening at particular locations,” Ryan said. “Real misinformation causing chaos as opposed to manipulation of results.”

Sen. Kaminsky, a Democrat representing parts of Long Island, said that he combatted fake news himself in his 2016 election campaign, which led to an extremely close race where one was not expected. He said that the events made him prioritize publicizing the issue as being a state and local issue, not just one related to Donald Trump and Russia.

“There would be a Facebook group that would pop up in someone’s feed called Long Islanders for Clean Drinking Water,” Kaminsky said. “They would then have an ad saying ‘last year, Todd Kaminsky voted to deprive Long Island of $10 million of clean drinking water. And if you liked it, all your friends would see it, it would go up to their feeds. And if you commented on it, all your friends would see it. If you commented something like, ‘this is not true,’ your comment would be removed in, like, ten minutes.”

Kaminsky said that the law passed as part of the budget was a major focus for him in the previous two years. He also criticized the press, claiming that members of the media ran with the Facebook posts without fact-checking them. He said that there are not enough ameliorative pathways for combatting false political information, such as mailers claiming support for Kaminsky from “undocumented aliens” or Mayor Bill de Blasio. The former prosecutor indicated that there is not enough punishment for bad actors, but that his new law would at least change that for those that may try to anonymously post political advertising on social media.

Asked about next steps in regulating social media platforms, Guidarini of Facebook said that, while microtargeted ads are a powerful tool, that “voters should know if the African-American community is receiving a totally different message, or the Hispanic community is receiving a totally different message from the white community from a specific candidate.”

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Letitia James & the Attorney General Primary

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

July 18, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Letitia James & the Attorney General Primary

On Wednesday, July 18, the Max & Murphy podcast moved to the airwaves of WBAI radio, 99.5FM and wbai.org, where the hosts will weekly interview guests, discuss key issues, and take calls from listeners -- every Wednesday 5-6 p.m. The first show focused on the Democratic primary for Attorney General, with guest Letitia James, the New York City Public Advocate now seeking to become the AG. James joined the show to discuss her candidacy, how she stands out from her competition -- Zephyr Teachout, Leecia Eve, and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney -- her relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo, how she would fight public corruption, and much more. James also took a couple of listener calls. The show additionally included discussion of the race by the hosts, a short clip of last week's conversation with Teachout, and a couple of other listener calls for the hosts.

Listen to the full 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 the show on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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The Cynthia Nixon-Working Families Party Back-up Plan

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Cynthia Nixon and the WFP (photo: @CynthiaNixon)

If Cynthia Nixon is unsuccessful in her attempt to defeat Governor Andrew Cuomo in the September 13 Democratic primary, she is likely to vacate the Working Families Party ballot line for the general election in order to avoid playing “spoiler” by pulling votes from Cuomo and helping elect another candidate, such as Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro.

While Nixon has been endorsed by the Working Families Party, in a move that has put the WFP’s existence at risk, the party has arranged a back-up plan to move Nixon off its gubernatorial ballot line and onto its line in the state Assembly race in Nixon’s home district on Manhattan’s west side. The 66th Assembly District, which includes neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Tribeca, is currently represented by long-time Democratic Assemblymember Deborah Glick, whom the WFP informed of its plans before the party filed ballot petitions for a placeholder candidate to occupy the ballot line in anticipation of its possible use by Nixon.

The broad contours of the arrangement were first reported this weekend by The New York Post. However, The Post indicated that Nixon may run against Glick for the Assembly seat if she moves to that ballot line, something that both the Nixon campaign and WFP told Gotham Gazette would not occur.

According to spokespeople for the Nixon campaign and the WFP, both have high hopes for a Nixon upset victory over Cuomo in the Democratic primary, at which time Nixon would remain on the WFP line for the general election and have two ballot lines.

"We are very confident that Cynthia will win the Democratic primary, but if she does not, as we have said many times before, she will decide at that time if she will continue on the WFP line or not,” said Lauren Hitt, a Nixon campaign spokesperson, in a Monday statement to Gotham Gazette. “And as we told the Post, Cynthia has no intention whatsoever of running against Glick and will in fact campaign for her. The only questions that remain unanswered are what the Governor will do when he loses - as he is on the WEP [Women’s Equality Party] and Independence Party Lines."

A WFP spokesperson said the party had explained the precautions to Glick and indicated the party has no intention of running Nixon, or the placeholder, Doug Seidman, against her in the general election. There are a handful of ways that a candidate can be removed from a ballot line, one of which is to be nominated for another race.

"WFP has put everything on the line for Cynthia because we believe in her, and from the start, we've known she could win,” said Working Families Party New York Director Bill Lipton, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “Over the last few weeks, the path to that win is getting clearer. We're creating a placeholder as a precaution that we take in almost every contested primary, in case our candidate wants to remove themselves from the ballot.”

Like Hitt, Lipton also noted that if Nixon wins the Democratic primary, there will be questions about Cuomo’s status on the two general election ballot lines he has secured.

Glick, meanwhile, told Gotham Gazette that she plans to be successful in winning another term this November, no matter who is on the ballot against her.

"I didn't speak to the Nixon campaign,” Glick said in a brief Monday phone call. “I spoke with Working Families Party representatives shortly before they were going to be filing petitions for Doug Seidman for the November election. And I fully expect to win that general race, regardless of who is on the line, whether it's Mr. Seidman or Cynthia Nixon. And, the explanation as to what their machinations are, should really be discussed with the Working Families Party, not me."

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Ben Brachfeld contributed reporting.

In Retrial, Dean Skelos Again Convicted of Corrupt Acts

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Dean Skelos, middles, with Silver and Cuomo (photo via the Governor's Office)

The once-powerful Dean Skelos, former Republican majority leader of the New York State Senate, and his son Adam were found guilty on federal corruption charges on Tuesday after a month-long trial in federal court in Manhattan. Skelos and his son had been similarly found guilty on all charges in late-2015 but their convictions were vacated after a Supreme Court ruling changed the definition of public corruption, precipitating a retrial that began last month.

Prosecutors charged Skelos with using his official position as leverage over companies that had business with the state, pressuring them to give his son more than $200,000 in payments. In turn, Skelos took actions to benefit those firms.

“Yet again, a New York jury heard a sordid tale of bribery, extortion, and the abuse of power by a powerful public official of this State,” reads a statement from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which brought the prosecution. “And yet again, a jury responded with a unanimous verdict of guilt, in this case of Dean Skelos and his son Adam – sending the resounding message that political corruption will not be tolerated.”

The Skelos verdict is just the latest in a series of corruption convictions that have rocked state government, the Legislature, and the executive branch. Just last week, Alain Kaloyeros, a prominent ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo, was found guilty of bid-rigging state contracts under the Buffalo Billion economic development program. In May, former Democratic state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was similarly found guilty of misusing his office for personal gain (Silver faced a retrial just like Skelos). And in March, Joe Percoco, a former top aide and campaign manager to the governor, was also found guilty of federal corruption.

Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District who brought all four of those cases, tweeted Tuesday, “More congratulations to the fine team at SDNY, who just convicted — again — former NY senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam on all counts. Skelos and Silver will both be resentenced.”

In a statement, State Senator Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor who won Skelos’ vacant Long Island seat after the first trial, called on the state Legislature to pass stronger anti-corruption laws. “[T]his trial once again laid bare how broken and dirty Albany has become, and how far we have to go to reform it,” he said. “People want their faith in government restored, and they have been let down by years of inaction. It is time for a change.”

Since the multiple scandals broke, state government has taken no significant action to alter the playing field on which Silver, Skelos, Percoco, Kaloyeros, and others committed their misdeeds.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Statewide Candidates File July Fundraising Numbers

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Gov. Cuomo at a funding event (photo: The Governor's Office)

With less than two months till the September 13 primary election, candidates running for state office filed campaign financial disclosure reports with the New York State Board of Elections by the Monday deadline, showing fundraising and expenditures from a six-month period between January 16 and July 16.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, the two-term incumbent Democrat who is running for reelection, continues to maintain an overwhelming funding advantage with more than $31 million in his campaign coffers. Cuomo raised more than $6 million since January and spent about $5.3 million in the same period.

Cuomo’s campaign attempted to tout the number of small-dollar donations it received, likely a response to criticism of the governor’s reliance on wealthy donors and contributions from Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). The campaign said 57 percent of the number of donations received were for less than $250. But those donations only added up to less than $64,000, eliding the fact that nearly 99 percent of the total value of the fundraising came from big donors, including $500,000 in corporate donations and $2.5 million from LLCs and PACs. Cuomo also received 69 separate contributions from the same individual, Christopher Kim of Long Island City, which his primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, the actor and education activist, called an attempt to “astroturf” his campaign (New York Times reporter Shane Goldmacher found that Kim shares an address with a Cuomo aide; several other Cuomo aides, relatives of aides, and long-time associates gave Cuomo small donations in an apparent attempt to inflate his small-dollar numbers).

Nixon, who has staked her campaign on small donors, has been issuing scathing critiques of Cuomo’s fundraising practices that she says are a symptom and cause of a pay-to-play culture in state government. Nixon brought in about $500,000 in the last six months, paling in comparison with Cuomo’s haul, and spent about $274,000. Her campaign has noted that she received more than 30,000 individual contributions since she launched her campaign, and that 97 percent of those were small-dollar contributions. She has just under $658,000 in cash-on-hand.

Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor who doesn’t have a primary challenger, raised more than $1.1 million and has spent $250,000, leaving him with $887,000 with four months to go until the November 7 Election Day. Molinaro’s general election competition will become more clear after the Democratic primary is settled, but there are several smaller party and independent candidates running. His running-mate, Julie Killian, does not appear to have filed her discloure yet, but Molinaro's campaign filing shows a $45,000 loan from Killian herself, as reported by Nick Reisman of Spectrum News.

Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins brought in $24,000 and spent $7,000 in the filing period, leaving him just under $17,000 in his campaign account.

Former Democratic Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who only jumped into the governor’s race last month and is running as an independent, and her running mate Republican Michael Volpe, the mayor of Pelham, together raised $409,000, spent $247,000 and have $162,000 in cash on hand. The two plan a general election ticket on the Serve America Movement ballot line, for which they are petitioning with the help of the organizers of the new movement.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe, who, like Miner, is petitioning his way onto the general election ballot, has raised $115,000, but his expenditures amounted to $154,000, leaving him with a negative balance of just above $13,000.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat seeking a second term alongside Cuomo, faces New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams in the primary, which will be Thursday, September 13. Hochul reported an intake of $1.25 million and had only spent $150,000 in the same time. She has about $1.24 million at her disposal. Williams’ fundraising report was not available on the BOE website as of Tuesday afternoon, something Hochul criticized him for.

"Our campaign's financial disclosure report was filed on time Monday evening but there were technical issues that we are working with the Board of Elections to immediately address," said William Gerlich, a spokesperson for Williams' campaign, in a statement. Gerlich said Williams had raised nearly $200,000.

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in a primary and on a joint ticket in the general.

Four candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, in a spirited race that has seen several of them posting strong fundraising numbers.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James was chosen as the Democratic Party’s designee at its state convention. James’ disclosure reports were not available with the BOE but the campaign claimed it has raised more than $1.1 million in just two months, and nearly 60 percent of those contributions were from donors who gave $200 or less.

Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law professor who unsuccessfully challenged Governor Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary, is running for attorney general, pledging to refuse corporate, LLC, and PAC donations. Teachout showed about $551,000 in fundraising from more than 10,000 individual donors -- 97 percent of her funds came from donors who gave less than $200 -- and has spent about $284,000. She has $314,000 in cash on hand.

Former Cuomo and Hillary Clinton aide Leecia Eve raised $300,000 in total for her bid for attorney general and spent about $50,000. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney reported a $1.1 million haul and spent $145,000, but his campaign told The New York Times last week that he has another $3.1 million in funds raised for his congressional reelection that he believes he can use in the statewide race. He is running for both offices simultaneously, with the state AG primary set to determine whether he stays on the November ballot for congressional reelection.

The latest filings also revealed that former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after facing accusations of physical abuse by several romantic partners, triggering the Democratic primary, returned $982,000 to campaign contributors. He still has several million dollars in the bank.

Keith Wofford, the Republican nominee for attorney general, raised more than $1 million in total and has only spent about $25,000 since entering the race. He is not facing a primary.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, an incumbent Democrat, isn’t facing a primary opponent this year either. He reported raising $683,000 since January and spent $351,000. He has about $2.6 million in his campaign account, eclipsing his two opponents.

John Trichter, until recently a registered Democrat, received the Republican Party’s nomination for comptroller. Trichter has only raised $156,000 and spent $18,500. He has about $138,000 in his campaign chest. The Green Party’s Mark Dunlea is also running for comptroller and has $5,000 in campaign cash.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Note - This article has been updated with comment from a spokesperson for Jumaane Williams' campaign.  

Amid Primary Fights, Cuomo and Hochul Increase Frequency of Joint Governmental Events

cuomo hochul bus stop

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

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul have increased the frequency of their public appearances together in recent months, perhaps a reaction to the Democratic primary challenge against Hochul by City Council Member Jumaane Williams, not to mention Cynthia Nixon’s parallel attempt to unseat Cuomo.

Between the close of state budget season at the end of March and mid-July, Cuomo and Hochul appeared together at 17 separate public government events, eight more than their nine joint events in the same period of 2017. And, ahead of the September 13 primary, the pace of Cuomo-Hochul events has picked up in June and July, with 14 events together as of July 13, compared to four such events last year through the same period.

Many of these events have revolved around two hot-button issues, women’s reproductive rights and gun control. Notably, these are not only high-profile national issues, but also topics already important to both the Cuomo-Nixon and Hochul-Williams races. They represent strong and weak points for Hochul and Williams: in their Democratic primary, Williams is strong on guns and vulnerable on reproductive rights, while Hochul is strong on reproductive rights and vulnerable on guns.

Meanwhile, Nixon has attacked Cuomo for a failure to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade abortion rights into New York state law and he has expressed support for but pointed to refusal to pass it by Republicans who control the state Senate. Nixon, in turn, accuses Cuomo of having long tolerated, if not propped up, that Republican control of the upper house of the Legislature. On guns, however, Cuomo continues to run on his aggressive Safe Act, which he pushed through the Legislature in the months after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

At recent events, all billed as official government rallies and press conferences, Cuomo and Hochul have regularly praised each other, at times appearing to blur campaign lines with talk of the upcoming November elections and their shared mission to help flip the U.S. House of Representatives and the state Senate to Democrats.

“I would guess that the optics of the team is stronger when together, particularly when the governor’s opponent is a woman,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, in an email. “Also, the lieutenant governor is facing a contested primary of her own. By appearing with the governor, it helps build her visibility among voters.”

Williams, a New York City Council Member from Brooklyn, has aligned himself with the Working Families Party and activist organizations, and is running to Hochul’s left on many issues, like rent regulations. He is also building his campaign around the notion that the lieutenant governor should not simply be a booster for the governor, but a check on the state’s chief executive. He is seen as a significant threat to Hochul given his New York City base (she is from the Buffalo area), the progressive energy within the Democratic Party, and his ability to appeal to people of color and white progressives who make up a sizeable total share of the primary electorate (Williams is black, Hochul is white).

Williams, who describes himself as an “activist-elected official,” criticized Hochul’s characterization of her office as “advancer-in-chief.” "I don't think that that is what people want to see in a lieutenant governor now,” Williams told Gotham Gazette in an interview. “They do want to see the type of leadership which is working with the governor, he or she, to advance projects, policies, that is helping the people of the state.”

The lieutenant governor’s office told Gotham Gazette that the increased frequency of Cuomo-Hochul events is because the actions out of Washington, D.C. bring increased urgency to policy-making in New York.

“Now more than ever they're working together standing up for protections against gun violence and fighting for the rights of women and immigrants that are under attack by the federal government,” said Haley Viccaro, a spokesperson for Hochul, in an email.

On the campaign trail, Williams is regularly lambasting Hochul’s record on issues such as guns and immigration, calling her conservative. “With that kind of record,” Williams said in an interview, “my guess is that you would have to try to tack on to someone, in this case Cuomo, who has his own questionable record.” Williams noted Hochul’s 2011 vote in Congress for a concealed carry “reciprocity” bill, allowing individuals licensed to carry concealed weapons in one state to legally bring it to another state without legal concealed carry. Hochul, who was a one-term representative, has said that she regrets voting for the bill, and has been strongly behind the “red flag” gun control bill that she, Cuomo, and others have been pushing this year, to no avail in the GOP-held state Senate.

In the state budget deal reached in March, Cuomo was able to convince Senate Republicans to back a measure to strip guns from those convicted of domestic violence.

Hochul, meanwhile, recently released a campaign video accusing Williams of not being committed to women’s reproductive rights, given his history of personal opposition to abortion. “Mr. Williams has been socially conservative and has not consistently supported a woman’s right to choose,” Hochul said, adding that New York’s leaders need to be “100 percent personally committed” to upholding Roe v. Wade.

Williams said that he was “better” on both gun control and reproductive rights than Hochul “in terms of achievement.” “It was strange to me when I watched that ad, what the lieutenant governor seemed to imply is that any person has to choose to have an abortion in order to personally support a woman’s right to have a safe, legal abortion,” Williams said, claiming that he has always been in support of a woman’s right to choose.

“If you have no real record of achievement as an elected official, what else do you have,” Williams said. He told Gotham Gazette that he would like to debate Hochul on an issue of her choice, and on her terms. Hochul has said she is happy to engage in debates, though none have been scheduled at this time.

Nixon has repeatedly challenged Cuomo to debate, and the governor at one point said there would be a debate, but there has been no further public movement on the topic in months.

The second-term governor, who added Hochul to the ticket four years ago after his first-term lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, declined to seek another term, has been focusing his attacks on Trump and Congressional Republicans, as well as Republicans in the state Senate, while largely ignoring Nixon. His campaign and governmental spokespeople have regularly criticized her, however, while she has gone on the attack against Cuomo over his management of the MTA, corruption in state economic development programs, and more.

While touting his record over two terms, Cuomo has sought to train the public focus on his fight for abortion rights and gun control. And, he has apparently sought to raise Hochul’s profile. The lieutenant governor, meanwhile, is closely aligning herself with a governor who remains well ahead in the polls, including among New York City voters and voters of color. While the two positions are voted on separately in party primaries, they form a party ticket for the general election.

On Monday, the Cuomo campaign announced that the governor had raised another $6 million in the latest state campaign finance filing period, spending almost the same amount, and maintaining about $31 million in the bank, far outpacing Nixon's roughly $1 million cash-on-hand. The Cuomo campaign noted that of the governor's disbursements, he had maxed out to Hochul's campaign committee, with a $21,000 donation, helping her bring in about $1.2 million over the filing period, which is about the same amount that she now has on-hand to spend.

Last month, Cuomo and Hochul held twin events around the “red flag” gun control bill, including in the Bronx and Westchester, and Hochul appeared at other related events without the governor. Cuomo said he did not expect that Senate Republicans would return to a special session in Albany to pass the measure, but that he wanted to apply public pressure and that voters should remove Republicans from power in the fall.

Then, the Cuomo-Hochul events increased in frequency after the announcement by Donald Trump of his Supreme Court pick, elevating the status of Roe v. Wade in the national and state conversation. In July, Cuomo and Hochul appeared at events centered around reproductive rights on five consecutive days, July 9-13. Hochul has introduced Cuomo at the events while noting that she and Cuomo are responding to “the onslaught of attacks on women’s rights coming out of our nation’s capital,” as she said on July 13.

In contrast, their joint events last July included the 2017 Adirondack Challenge and the announcement of a neighborhood stabilization initiative for Buffalo.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Ben Max contributed to this article.

Assembly Race Poses Another Test for Queens Machine

catalina cruz parade Queens

Catalina Cruz (photo: @CatalinaCruzNY)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley last month in New York’s 14th congressional district sent shockwaves throughout the country and signalled a monumental shift in Queens politics, where the Crowley-led county party has held significant sway in local elections for many years. The effects of Ocasio-Cortez’s win and Crowley’s loss, both nationally and locally, are still developing, but reverberations are certainly being felt in the already-competitive Democratic primary for New York Assembly District 39, where a county-backed incumbent is facing an independent challenger.

The district -- part of the 150-seat lower house of the state Legislature, all of which are on the ballot this fall, first in September 13 primaries -- covers the immigrant-heavy neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, and large parts of those fall within Crowley’s congressional district. It is currently represented by Assembly Member Ari Espinal, who was elected in a low-turnout special election barely three months ago, with fewer than 800 votes. Espinal was previously an aide to Francisco Moya, who held the Assembly seat before being elected to the New York City Council last year.

Espinal’s challenger in the primary is Catalina Cruz, an attorney with government experience who most recently served as chief of staff to former City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Espinal, whose cousin is Brooklyn City Council Member Rafael Epsinal, ran unopposed for the Assembly seat, having been endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party, which is chaired by Crowley and has played an influential role in not just Queens, but city and state elections for decades, as well as the selection of the powerful City Council speaker and a variety of other appointed positions. For a special election to the state Legislature, there are no party primaries, instead the party county committee selects its candidate for what is a singular public vote. In a heavily Democratic district like most in New York City, the party’s nominee is virtually  assured victory in a special election, and therefore gains at least some of the benefits of incumbency ahead of any subsequent intra-party challenges.

But the power of the Queens County Democrats’ endorsement is under question following Crowley’s landslide defeat to Ocasio-Cortez as he finishes his tenth term in the House. Queens Democratic insiders say Cruz is in important ways a stronger candidate than Espinal and that the Queens county machine -- a descriptor some take issue with -- is playing a minimal role in the race and has a far less threatening presence in the immediate aftermath of last month’s election. Some also point to the fact that the Queens county party has been defeated in a number of elections over the years by strong insurgent candidates, such as the victories of current City Council Members Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, as well as Ferreras-Copeland’s first win. Moya, meanwhile, helped orchestrate Espinal’s ascension and is actively campaigning on her behalf in an area where he has won several recent elections.

For her part, Espinal is confident about the race. “I welcome any challenge,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m from Corona, Queens. I was raised in this neighborhood. I welcome any challenge and it’s exciting. I feel like it’s the Democratic process, too. Why wouldn’t you want a challenge? You would want your voters to get engaged. This is how they get engaged more when they have to pick, to choose and say, ‘Who’s going to represent me the way I want to be represented?’”

Having been in office just under three months, Espinal has been prime sponsor on one bill that was passed by both legislative chambers, to extend a labor law relating to unemployment insurance proceedings, and another, called Carlos’ Law, which enacts punishments for developers that put workers at risk of injury or death, which passed only the Assembly. Espinal has also allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to her community, she said. She signed on to the Dream Act, which aims to provide state financial aid to undocumented immigrants seeking higher education. She’s received support for her reelection bid from Moya, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano, and the Working Families Party.

Espinal is relying on her experience as a longtime community organizer and former Democratic district leader, promising voters that she will bring resources back to her community. She has pledged to fight for immigrant protections, affordable housing, school funding, small businesses, and workers rights, and other locally-important issues. And she pushed back against the notion that she is the establishment candidate in the race. “Quite so often you have politicians who are not from the area and just want to run for office because they just want the power. I’m not looking for the power,” she said. “What I’m looking for is to actually engage my community and tell them, ‘I’m here. I’m here for you because I’ve lived here and I know the issues...because I’m your neighbor.’”

Cruz, Espinal’s opponent, strikes a similar chord with her campaign pitch. “My entire life is a spectrum of the people of Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst,” she said in a phone interview. But one thing that sets her far apart from Espinal is that Cruz herself is a “Dreamer,” a child of undocumented immigrants who came to New York at the age of nine and who only recently gained permanent resident status in 2009. “I went from being an undocumented child who picked cans in the street with her mom to survive, to being a Dreamer who was going to undergrad and paying for school for herself to a working poor lawyer...to being a middle-class New Yorker, which is basically the spectrum of the people who are here in our community,” she said.

After graduating law school and working as a housing attorney, Cruz joined the Attorney General’s office, then headed by Andrew Cuomo, before he was elected governor. Cruz served afterwards in the Department of Labor as counsel in the division of immigrant affairs. She worked with former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito -- who has endorsed her -- to write the legislation that kicked ICE agents off Rikers Island. She also returned to working for Cuomo, heading up his Exploited Workers Task Force, after which she joined Council Member Ferreras-Copeland’s staff. Her former boss has endorsed her, as have Council Members Dromm and Van Bramer, Helen Rosenthal, and Margaret Chin.

“We’re a people-driven campaign,” Cruz said of her approach to the race. “We start with people and we end with people. We start with the idea that all of our policies should be informed by people.” Though her policy platform largely resembles Espinal’s, Cruz says she sets herself apart by virtue of her independence, experience, her focus on the residents of the district who cannot vote, and her pledge to refuse corporate and luxury developer money (the latter a promise like one made by Ocasio-Cortez, who attacked Crowley for the large corporate donations he received).

“We are running a campaign that’s very much driven by people that live in the district and we’re independent from any ties to a political organization,” Cruz said.

Those ties or the lack thereof may not be determinative in the Assembly race that does again put the power of the Queens County Democrats in the spotlight, observers who spoke with Gotham Gazette said. One former Assembly candidate from Queens said the path to victory lies in a robust ground game and organization. “You knock on enough doors, you meet enough people, and you raise enough money, and the barriers to entry are very low,” the former candidate said. “How many people are gonna vote in an Assembly race? A few thousand? How much money do you need to raise for an assembly race? $100,000? How many doors are you gonna knock on?...You put your walking shoes on and you can do it. So I think party power is very limited and Ari and Catalina will win or lose on the strengths of their own organic, local operation.”

Democratic insiders pointed out that the Queens Democratic Party’s endorsement comes with political validation but not necessarily the resources to bolster a campaign, such as funding or boots on the ground. It’s why they disputed the characterization of the county party as a machine that can determine the course of campaigns. The party does, however, pressure potential contenders against considering a challenge to an incumbent and often brings with its endorsement a slew of loyal elected officials who coalesce around the county’s candidate and use their own resources and networks to boost them. The party also has connections at the Board of Elections and often attempts to knock challengers off the ballot and at times activates a network of district leaders and county committee members to help with ballot petition signature-gathering, door-knocking, and flyering.

“It seems like [Cruz] has real momentum and...everyone’s going to attest the strength of her campaign to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but I think the reality of it is the dynamics of that race were shaped well before the congressional race,” said a Queens Democratic operative who asked to remain anonymous to discuss things freely.

“I think people have an impression of the Queens county organization as a faulty machine,” the operative said, insisting that a loss by a county-backed candidate did not mean the so-called machine is faltering. “I think the reality is that’s not what the organization is...In my experience, they support somebody and their support will provide the significant assistance of validation from other elected officials. That’s very helpful...but it was never designed to overcome bad campaigns or great opposing candidates.”

If the incumbent candidate backed by the Queens Democrats loses to an independent challenger, the optics are far from ideal coming so close on the heels of Crowley’s loss. But the county has invested little in the race, said another Democratic insider from Queens who knows both Espinal and Cruz and who decried the term “machine” as a “loaded expression” for a county party that simply tries to elect its own members to office.

But the Queens county organization is undoubtedly powerful. The “machine” moniker stems from the fact that the party holds sway over more than just candidate endorsements -- its backing often also means a candidate will not receive a primary challenger. The county organization selects judicial nominees, and allies of Crowley have made hefty profits from being appointed as guardians in Surrogate’s Court. The party’s executive secretary is Michael Reich, whose partner Gerard Sweeney in the law firm Sweeney, Reich and Bolz, has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Surrogate’s Court business. The county also selects one of the ten commissioners on the New York City Board of Elections, who decide which candidates qualify to appear on the ballot.

The City Council speaker’s race has more often than not also been decided by the influence of the Queens and Bronx county parties; Council central staffers are frequently picked from the county’s ranks; and Council committee chairs are influenced by county allegiances. And though Crowley may no longer represent the House next year, City & State reported that he’s expected to be reelected county chair by district leaders for another two-year term in September. The county organization did not return a request for comment for this article about its support for Espinal.

“I don’t think it would be a fair characterization to say this is a test of the county organization because I’m not sure they have all hands on deck for this one,” the insider said. The insider insisted that neither candidate needs the county party’s help to win the race, which would be won on the merits of their candidacies, and that Crowley’s fall is more likely to have an effect on the state Senate District 13 race, where Jessica Ramos is challenging Senator Jose Peralta, formerly of the rogue Independent Democratic Conference, which empowered Republicans. “I don’t think the Catalina-Ari race is affected by the Crowley result as much,” the insider said. “I just don’t get the sense that that changed everything...They weren’t dependent on Crowley for the win. Peralta was kinda depending on the county guys propping him up, keeping him strong and I feel like that has turned and now Ramos, if I had to bet, will win that race.”

Cruz herself drew a parallel with Ocasio-Cortez’s win, noting that voters turned out in higher numbers for the progressive challenger than Crowley in his own backyard, which encompasses large parts of the Assembly district, to vote out the incumbent. “[Ocasio-Cortez] believed in the everyday person and the everyday person believed in her so much that they went out and overwhelmingly voted for her,” she said. “And that’s where we find ourselves, in the exact same situation.”

But even she denied that she was poking the bear through her candidacy. “I wouldn’t call it testing their power because I never said I’m running against the machine,” Cruz said. “I’ve always said I’m running for the people. We have an organization that was just shown what people powered campaigns can do and we’re about to show them a second time.”

If anything, the race may show that the Queens party’s once-coveted support has turned sour, seen by some as a signal of establishment politics that has been too out of touch with regular voters. “I think it definitely suffered,” said the Democratic insider of the county party’s endorsement. “It’s very raw and very recent, the whole Joe thing...I don’t know if this is a permanent problem or just a temporary one. But the timing right now is bad for those people.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 16

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

We’re less than two months from primary day, September 13, in the 2018 races for state-level seats. The entire state Legislature is on the ballot this fall, as well as the statewide offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, and Attorney General. There are far more Democratic than Republican primaries given that the GOP has few, if any, sitting state legislators being challenged and the party ensured that its four statewide candidates would not be challenged. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election since Gov. George Pataki won his last term in 2002.

On the Democratic side, there are intense, possibly damaging primaries happening in the races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, where incumbents Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul are being challenged by Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, respectively. The open Attorney General primary is a contentious four-way race. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is not facing a primary challenger. And, there are spirited, intense campaigns being run against all eight state senators who made up what was the Independent Democratic Conference, six of whom represent parts of New York City.

There are other intraparty fights happening, including three in Brooklyn where Julia Salazar is challenging Senator Martin Dilan, Blake Morris is challenging Senator Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who has conferenced with Republicans, helping ensure them a slim majority, and the Ross Barkan-Andrew Gounardes primary to see who will try to unseat Senator Marty Golden. There are also a few Assembly primaries worth watching, though that chamber is less interesting in election season because of Democrats’ significant majority.

So this week we’re watching candidate fundraising totals that are made public through Board of Election filings; to see if there are any new polls in the statewide races; for any news of whether Cuomo will accept a debate challenge from Nixon (he has said there would be a debate) and when there might be one or more Hochul-Williams or AG candidate debates (the AG candidates have been participating in candidate forums, but not debates as of yet), and how things progress in some of the aforementioned legislative primaries. Nixon's campaign got a boost this past week when additional Cuomo associates were convicted on federal corruption charges related to the governor's Buffalo Billion economic development program. It is the second trial this year involving Cuomo aides and donors to result in convictions.

It’s not all elections, of course, as there is action this week at the City Council, a few panel events to be aware of, and more happening -- see our day-by-day rundown below. We're also watching for the announcement of a federal monitor to oversee the city's NYCHA consent decree, which could come as early as this week, and for any news of a possible special legislative session in Albany to address issues such as speed cameras around city schools and the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade abortion protections in New York law.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
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The run of the week in detail:

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

At 8:45 a.m. Monday, city schools Chancellor Richard Carranza will deliver remarks at the 21st Annual National Principals Leadership Institute, at Lincoln Center.

On Monday at 11 a.m. in Brooklyn, "Lieutenant Governor candidate Jumaane Williams will announce his endorsement Julia Salazar, a progressive candidate running for New York State Senate today in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Salazar will also announce her support for Williams, and both will be endorsed by the Jewish Vote, a grassroots organization focused on organizing the people-powered wing of the Democratic Party."

On Monday at 11:15 a.m. at City Hall, advocates and elected officials will rally to raise issues related to zoning and development of “megatoweres” on the Upper East and Upper West Sides, with a particular focus on a Tuesday hearing at the Board of Standards and Appeals related to two planned megatowers that are said to be exploiting zoning loopholes. “Join Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger (rep.), and Council Member Ben Kallos, together with FRIENDS, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, Landmark West! and others in calling for a comprehensive solution now, not six months from now.”

On Monday at 11:30 a.m. at Brooklyn Army Terminal, “New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and City officials plan to unveil Freight NYC, an action plan that includes various strategies to modernize and strengthen the City’s freight distribution network. This plan is a major component of the City’s NY Works initiative to create 100,000 good-paying jobs by 2027.” The announcement will feature Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen; James Patchett, NYCEDC President and CEO; Congressional Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez; City Council Member Carlos Menchaca; Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz; and others.

At 1 p.m. Monday at City Hall, the City Council “Committee on Standards and Ethics will hold a meeting on a matter regarding section 10.80 of the Council Rules.” Section 10.80 relates to the code of conduct and “disorderly behavior,” which can include sexual harassment and using a government for office for political work -- there is no other information available at this time on what matter the committee may be dealing with or who may be involved.

At 1 p.m. Monday outside City Hall, Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro, with lieutenant governor candidate Julie Killian and City Council Member Joe Borelli, "will call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to keep his hands off New York tip wages."

At 1 p.m. Monday outside Kings County Supreme Court, “Housing Rights Initiative (HRI) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams will announce a $10 million, 19-plaintiff lawsuit, filed by the Law Offices of Jack Lester in Kings County Supreme Court, based on a comprehensive investigation by HRI that has found that Kushner Companies appears to have employed a deliberate campaign to systematically harass rent-stabilized tenants in a 338-unit building out of their apartments using illegal, destructive, and dangerous construction practices. According to an independent lab analysis, families, including children and babies, were exposed to highly toxic and cancer-causing substances, including, but not limited to, the lung carcinogen crystalline silica and lead.”

At 5 p.m. Monday, the City Council’s Charter Revision Commission will hold its first public meeting since its members were named, at the Council Chambers in City Hall. The commission, separate from the mayor’s ongoing charter revision commission, will work toward ballot proposals for November 2019.

Mayor Bill de Blasio will make his weekly appearance on NY1’s Inside City Hall on Monday in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Criminal Justice will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to telephone services for inmates in city jails and prisons, and to “requiring the department of correction to report on use by department staff of any device capable of administering an electric shock.”
--The Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet at 10:30 a.m. to discuss proposed laws related to “disclosure of premium or compensation charged by bail bond agents” and to “requiring that bail bond agents make certain disclosures.”
--The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses will meet at noon to discuss the landmarking proposal for the Coney Island Riegelmann Boardwalk.
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 2 p.m.

"On Tuesday, the First Lady Chirlane McCray will travel to Oakland, California to participate in the Well Being Legacy Convening." She will return on Friday.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Association for a Better New York will host John Miller, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism, for a “Power Breakfast” at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, City & State will host its “Protecting New York Summit” at Baruch College, discussing “New York’s security strategy from elections to community policing.” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and Roger Parrino, Commissioner of the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, will deliver keynote addresses. Other speakers will include Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice; Michael Ryan, executive director of the New York City Board of Elections; State Senators Todd Kaminsky and Liz Krueger; Assemblymember David Buchwald; City Council Member Donovan Richards; and others. Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max will moderate a panel on election integrity at 11:15 a.m.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James will be among those to deliver remarks at a rally against hate at the Annual Amazon Web Summit, at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

At 11:30 a.m., Stringer will host a press conference outside of City Hall Park. At 3 p.m., James will hold a press conference at her office at 1 Centre Street. At 11:30 a.m., Johnson will delivers remarks at Judith White Senior Center, and at 6 p.m. Johnson will deliver remarks at the LGBTQ Memorial Launch, at the LGBT Center.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the State Senate Standing Committees on Labor and Economic Development will meet at the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown, Jefferson County, for a public hearing regarding the state’s MWBE program.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the mayor’s Charter Revision Commission will hold a public meeting to discuss the “preliminary staff report” at the Pratt Institute’s Manhattan campus.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, TransitCenter will host “Access Delayed” at One Whitehall Street, discussing how New York became the “least accessible subway system in the country” for people with disabilities, and strategies for remedying it. Panelists will include NYC Transit President Andy Byford, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Monica Bartley of the Center for Independence of the Disabled NY, and Emily Seelenfreund of Disability Rights Advocates. City Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver opening remarks.

On Tuesday at 6 p.m. at LaGuardia Community College, the "Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Office of Labor Policy & Standards (OLPS), in partnership with the City Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), will hold a public hearing on the state of workers’ rights in New York City. “The State of Workers’ Rights in NYC: Advances and Setbacks in Turbulent Times” public hearing will include panels of workers who will testify on issues they face in today’s workplace, followed by an open session for testimony from low-wage and immigrant workers, advocacy groups, labor unions, nonprofits, and community-based organizations on topics including access to paid safe and sick leave, scheduling problems, freelancer payment issues, wage and hour, immigrant worksite enforcement issues and more. The hearing will inform DCA’s future efforts to protect workers, particularly low-wage and vulnerable workers." Participants will include Lorelei Salas, DCA Commissioner, Carmelyn Malalis, CCHR Commissioner, Bitta Mostofi, MOIA Commissioner, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Council Member I. Daneek Miller, and "dozens of workers."

The Working Families Party is holding its 20th anniversary gala on Tuesday evening in Brooklyn. The event will include the WFP's endorsed candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, as well as other WFP candidates, supporters, and allies.

The City Council will hold a stated meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. There is expected to be the usual pre-stated press conference led by Speaker Corey Johnson at 12:30 p.m.

Also at the City Council on Wednesday:
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “regulation of short-term residential rentals.”
--The Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss the distribution of funds to organizations in the new city budget.

Just ahead of the Council’s stated meeting, at 1 p.m. outside City Hall, “Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Steve Levin will join with advocates to rally for the passage of Intro 157, a bill to cap the amount of waste handled by overburdened communities.” Along with Reynoso, Levin, and other Council members, including those in the Progressive Caucus, participants will include Teamsters Joint Council 16, Teamsters Local 813, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, The Natural Resources Defense Council, and other community groups and environmental justice advocates.

Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. will be the first weekly Max & Murphy show on WBAI radio (listen at 99.FM or stream at WBAI.org). Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max and City Limits’ Jarrett Murphy are moving their weekly podcast to the radio -- the show will still consist of interviews with newsmakers and analysts that will be made available as podcasts, and it will include listener calls! The first episode will include a conversation with Public Advocate Letitia James, who is running for Attorney General.

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s Voter Assistance Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting at the CFB’s headquarters at 100 Church Street.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver will deliver a two-year update on the “Parks Without Borders” initiative at the Museum of Natural History’s Kaufmann Theater.

At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Citizens Budget Commission will host New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood as a guest speaker at its annual trustee breakfast at the Harvard Club. The Attorney General will discuss “the U.S. Supreme Court nomination; the Attorney General's lawsuits to protect New Yorkers, such as on family separation, the 2020 Census, and more; and the ways in which New York State can lead to protect New Yorkers' rights.”

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, City & State will unveil its Queens Power 50 list at the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will speak.

Friday and the weekend
There are no Friday or weekend events of note on our radar as of Sunday evening.

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).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

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