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Stephanie Miner Diagnoses What’s Wrong with New York Politics


stephanie miner podcast

Stephanie Miner (photo: Ben Max/Gotham Gazette)


She describes herself as a “romantic about government,” but former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner sees a lot wrong with how it is currently being practiced in New York.

“When I think about what motivates me to be in government, it’s making change and impacting public policy,” Miner said on a recent episode of the Max & Murphy podcast from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, adding her contention that “real people are suffering” because of poor public policy in transit, affordable housing, and infrastructure across the state.

Miner, a Democrat who was term-limited out of office as mayor of the state’s fifth biggest city at the end of last year, has for months explored the possibility of challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo in this year’s gubernatorial primary election. She spent the first semester of the year teaching at NYU’s Wagner School and meeting with people about her political future. Her resume also includes the fact that she was the first woman to be elected mayor of Syracuse and her time as the chair of the state Democratic Party, a position she earned in part because of support from Cuomo, who she subsequently had a major falling out with.

Time out of office has allowed her to “take a breath and look at where we are in our state and where we are in our country in terms of politics and government,” she said on the podcast. In the meantime, Miner is not mincing words about Cuomo and his leadership of the state.

“For me backroom dealings and politics as usual is not serving anybody,” she said on the podcast. “We have rampant corruption, everywhere we look in the state there are more and more news stories about trials, guilty pleas, guilty verdicts, more investigations, FBI’s executing search warrants, and yet you have the power establishment just being silent.”

She specifically referenced corruption scandals including the recent conviction of Cuomo’s former top aide Joseph Percoco, who was found guilty on multiple federal corruption charges in March, as well as the “Buffalo Billion” saga in which federal prosecutors allege a handful of people involved in Cuomo’s economic development project are guilty of bid-rigging. Some of those accused, including another former top aide and several major donors to Cuomo, are set to stand trial beginning in June.

She criticized Cuomo for saying he would be interviewing potential attorney general candidates in the aftermath of Eric Schneiderman’s resignation after allegations he physically assaulted four women, in an apparent effort to help decide who would become the Democratic nominee. “When you have Cuomo saying he’s going to quote, “interview candidates” for the attorney general vacancy spot, I think that is wrong and violates a bunch of standards in ethical practice…and that’s where we find ourselves in this state,” she said.

The mentality of officials, Miner said, with clear reference to Cuomo, is too often to “get the quick win, stand up and take credit for it and don’t think about what’s behind it because you’re not going to be around when everything falls apart.”

What’s really at the heart of the issue?

“I think elected officials are more interested in serving the needs and desires of vested special interests who give big campaign contributions,” Miner said. “It becomes very transactional and...as the number of people who actually vote grows smaller and smaller, it becomes this perfect cycle for elected officials: They are much more interested in getting reelected than they are at solving problems and getting reelected is much easier if you can raise a million dollars and you only have 2,000 voters who show up.”

Other problems she said are at the top of the list for the state include transit, income inequality, affordable housing, and failed economic development projects. She is also concerned for the future of jobs with the rise of technology replacing people in industries such as transport and hospitality.

Solving these problems is especially difficult in a “brittle” system that discourages a considered and forward-thinking discussion of issues, Miner said. “It’s not helpful to say there are only two sides…For example, I’m in favor of the $15 minimum wage but the fact that becomes like a buzz question, ‘where are you on minimum wage?’ it ignores this huge public policy challenge about automation and what that’s going to do to our economy. Whether or not you’re earning a $15 wage, it’s not going to matter if you can’t get a job.”

As for solutions, Miner wants to see both campaign finance and election reform, in order to remove the influence of big donors and give more access to the process to all New Yorkers. She wants to see closure of the infamous LLC loophole and changes such as early voting, automatic registration, and vote by mail.

But there’s a fundamental change in leadership need, she said -- New York needs people in power who are collaborative, who listen, who consider alternative viewpoints.

Miner said her professional relationship with the governor has been marred by conflict, with a key turning point being Miner’s 2013 op-ed in The New York Times, in which she criticized Cuomo for his plan to allow municipalities to reduce their current pension payments and make up for it in the future. She said she wrote the op-ed after being given the “runaround” and pressured by the party to “get onboard” with the Cuomo plan, despite believing the move was fiscally irresponsible, especially given municipal finance is a top issue for her.

“It became clear to me after that, that the governor and I had very different views on public policy and public policy disagreements. You’re always going to know why I disagree with you, and what those grounds are, and that was not something that was tolerated in Andrew Cuomo’s world,” she said.

The former Syracuse mayor will have to decide soon whether or not to enter the gubernatorial race, and she said during the May 15 podcast taping that part of that consideration involves the ideas she has, the team she will be able to put together, and her positioning to deliver positive change to the state.

“There are lots of different things that I find myself in a very good position to talk about,” she said, listing examples such as being mayor of a city facing significant poverty and income inequality and having her area be central to the corruption scandals plaguing the Cuomo administration.

Miner disagreed with the notion that it is basically too late to get into the race given that actor and activist Cynthia Nixon has already declared a challenge to Cuomo from the left and swooped up a number of endorsements.

Nixon’s presence in the raise is “beneficial for everyone,” Miner said, as it contributes to a “vibrant political dialogue.” But with less than four months until the September primaries, the clock is certainly ticking for Miner. Cuomo was just backed with 95 percent of the state committee vote at the party’s convention. In a brief email exchange on Monday, May 28, Miner indicated that nothing had materially changed in her thinking since the podcast discussion.

“The old rules of dates and times an how you put together a campaign no longer apply,” she said. “We are in uncharted waters and it is a tremendously turbulent time. People are hungry for change.”

[LISTEN: Max & Murphy Podcast: Former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner]

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by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

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Max & Murphy Podcast: State Party Conventions & Nominations


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


May 25, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: State Party Conventions and Nominations

It's state party convention and nomination season as we head toward the fall elections, with state-level primaries in September and the general election in November. Political parties are holding their nominating conventions and deciding which candidates to formally back. The parties that have dedicated ballot lines -- Democratic, Republican, Independence, Conservative, Green, Working Families, Women's Equality, Reform -- have mostly decided their picks for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, and Attorney General.

On this podcast, Max & Murphy get you up to speed on where things stand with the nominations; analyze the race for governor and its two major party-backed candidates -- Democratic incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo and Republican Marc Molinaro -- as well as others in the mix, including Cynthia Nixon; and discuss a variety of things to watch for in the coming weeks.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Rallying Volunteers, Nixon Responds to Democratic Convention Result


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Cynthia Nixon (photo: @CynthiaNixon)


Cynthia Nixon is “unsurprised” by the result of the state Democratic party convention held this past week on Long Island, where she received less than five percent of the party committee members’ vote ahead of the gubernatorial primary election in September, much less than the 25 percent she needed to have her name automatically included on the ballot.

The result means Nixon will have to petition thousands of people across the state to appear on the primary ballot against two-term incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo, an endeavor she says she is confident she can achieve ahead of the July 12 petition deadline.

“I welcome this day with the Democratic convention behind us and I just want to be clear: This was not a shocking outcome, this is the outcome we expected,” she told those on a Thursday evening video conference call run by the Working Families Party, a liberal party that, along with several other progressive groups, has endorsed her. “We’re going to hit the streets and we’re going to collect 50,000 signatures across the state.”

Speaking to volunteers and supporters who had logged in to see Nixon speak about the campaign’s next steps, she said she doesn’t feel threatened by the party’s overwhelming endorsement of Cuomo, who received 95 percent of the vote and was endorsed at the convention by a variety of figures, including by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden. As governor, Cuomo effectively controls the state party apparatus, though some of criticized him for exercising too much control amid primaries, when the party is in theory supposed to stay largely neutral.

“The Democratic state committee made their choice and, on September 13, the people of New York state are going to make their choice,” Nixon told the call, referencing the primary election date in September, ahead of the general election set for November 6. “[They will] make their choice, not for an administration that’s in the pocket of big money and the real estate industry and the fossil fuel executives and the hedge fund managers, but...for a New York that works for all of us.”

Since announcing her intention to run for governor in March, Nixon has been highly critical of Cuomo, saying his relationships with big corporate donors and tendency toward centrism prohibit him from delivering real change in areas such as education, immigration, affordable housing, and criminal justice reform. She escalated this criticism on the Working Families call, referencing a range of political touchpoints and slamming the governor for failing to deliver results.

“We can’t just pay lip service to being a sanctuary state, we have to be a real sanctuary state,” Nixon said, before taking a jab at Cuomo for his speech at the convention that accused President Donald Trump of demeaning and degrading the people of New York. “You can’t just oppose Donald Trump rhetorically,” Nixon said. “You have to do it with action and you have to do it with policy, if you mean it.”

Nixon was particularly critical of Cuomo’s hesitation in protecting undocumented New Yorkers with access to driver's licenses. “The governor could do this via Executive Order today if he had the will to,” Nixon said. “Why doesn’t he? And why aren’t we offering protection?”

Another example of Cuomo failing to meet his promises, Nixon said, is his failure to pass “Kalief’s Law,” named after Bronx teenager Kalief Browder, who took his life in June 2015 after three years in Rikers Island prison where he was awaiting trial for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16. The bill includes several measures to ensure the “effective and humane treatment” of incarcerated youth and, though Cuomo signed into law the “Raise the Age” bill in April last year,  which will see the majority of cases involving 16- and 17-year-old defendants referred to Family Court, Nixon said the governor has not done enough for Browder’s family or to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. Cuomo had said bail reform was at the top of his agenda this year, but did not pass any measures through in the budget, blaming Republicans.

“Our governor says he’s going to do it, he affirms it, he touts this family, and their tragedy, and their pain, but when push comes to shove it’s not in the budget,” Nixon said. “The session is almost over, we’ve got just a few more weeks, and I don’t think…the Browder family is going to see their promise kept.”

Nixon had held a community roundtable discussion in the Bronx earlier in the day, at which Browder’s brother, Akeem, was an organizer and participant.

On education, Nixon said the governor doesn’t have the “political will” to end segregation and inequality in state public schools. She also spoke about affordable housing, gentrification, and supporting small businesses, criticizing Cuomo between reiterating some of her own policy positions.

Nixon is seemingly using the convention result -- calling it a decision of the party’s “power brokers” -- to enhance her public appeal as an outsider and an underdog. A cornerstone of her campaign is that institutionalized politicians like Cuomo are failing to deliver change because the institution itself -- in terms of campaign finance and voter accessibility -- is broken or corrupt.

She said that “at the state Democratic convention the voice of progressives was intentionally not being amplified,” in reference to the fact that the meeting of the state committee’s progressive caucus did not have a microphone set-up.

At the convention, Cuomo basked in the adulation of top party luminaries as well as the rank-and-file committee members. Other speakers and the governor himself painted Cuomo as the present and future of the Democratic Party, someone who is leading the progressive way in New York by getting things accomplished. Critics including Nixon say the convention was filled with party loyalists who represent more of the establishment wing of the party, not the ascendant progressive wing, frustrated with Cuomo for his triangulating approach to government.

Nixon said she knew what would happen at the convention, “but we wanted to show our faces and say: ‘We’re not afraid, we’re not intimidated, we’re here. You’re going to make your choice, we know the choice you’re going to make, and tomorrow we’re going to hit the streets.’”

A portion of the call was dedicated to strategy around volunteer recruitment and, according to a press release from the Nixon campaign on Friday, more than 600 people were logged in listening to the best ways to become involved and support Nixon over the next few months. The call was designed to activate volunteers, who will go on to canvas and knock on doors to reach voters across the state. Community leaders, student leaders and a disability rights advocate also spoke, sharing their reasons for joining Nixon’s campaign.

“I’m a lifelong Democrat and this is my party, too,” Nixon told those on the call. “A Democratic primary is good for the party and good for the state and we were there to…walk right into the lion’s den.”

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by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

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Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that Nixon was talking about driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, not the Dream Act as originally stated.

Democratic Establishment Embraces Cuomo as Pragmatic Progressive


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James, Cuomo, Hochul, DiNapoli (photo: @andrewcuomo)


Governor Andrew Cuomo emerged triumphant and emboldened from the State Democratic Party’s nominating convention on Long Island, with the party’s designation in hand and embraced by top national Democrats and elected party representatives from across the state. The governor basked in the support of centrist establishment figures like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden, while they and much of the rest of the convention sought to frame Cuomo as a progressive standard bearer who represents the values of a Democratic Party that continues to move leftward.

Cuomo and others framed the two-term incumbent as a progressive who gets things done, a trailblazer who doesn’t just talk, but has real accomplishments and is actually a unifying figure for the party -- though he is again being challenged from his left in this year’s primary as discontent from the progressive wing has reached a fever pitch. That fever was not particularly evident at the state party convention, however.

“We are about to embark on the most consequential campaign in our lifetime,” Cuomo declared in his acceptance speech on Thursday, framing his reelection amid Democratic efforts to retake the state Senate and U.S. House, with several swing districts in New York. “We are at a political crossroads and our decisions and actions are going to define the soul of this state and the soul of this nation.”

Cuomo’s coronation comes at a time when progressives are incensed with his centrism and triangulation with Republicans, and are pushing to elect a “true blue” Democrat to the governorship, personified in this case by Cynthia Nixon. But Cuomo’s supporters have warned of the dangers of liberal absolutism, as Democrats seek to retain what control they have over state and federal branches of government while also unseating Republicans in an age of Trumpism. The stakes are high for both parties, and some question whether Democratic infighting does any good while Republicans control the presidency, both houses of Congress, and many state legislatures (New York’s is split, with one house controlled by each party).

The Democratic State Committee had already concluded its nominations on Wednesday, leaving party members free to glad-hand and pat each other on the back as they sang the praises of Cuomo and other top party officials. Cuomo won the party designation with 95 percent of the state committee vote, a resounding victory over upstart challenger Nixon, who did appear at the convention as her campaign launched a blistering effort to paint Cuomo as in bed with Republicans. She continued to criticize him as a fake Democrat whose governing style smacks of expediency rather than sincerity.

The party also designated as its official nominees incumbents Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for another term each, and selected New York City Public Advocate Letitia James as the designated candidate for attorney general to replace Eric Schneiderman, who recently resigned after facing allegations of physical abuse by four women. Hochul is facing a primary challenge from New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, while James is facing Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout and Leecia Eve, a former Cuomo and Clinton aide, in the primary.

Given how the state committee voted, Nixon, Williams, Teachout, and Eve will all have to collect petition signatures to get on the primary ballot. Nixon and Williams have the backing of the liberal Working Families Party, but may eschew its ballot line for the general election if they are unsuccessful in the Democratic primary. The WFP has said it wants to give its attorney general ballot line to either James or Teachout, depending on who wins the Democratic primary.

Though there was much party business and some controversy, the convention went mostly smoothly for Cuomo, who was the unequivocal star.

While Cuomo has indeed governed from the center, he was held up as a paragon of pragmatic progressivism at the convention, in line with the image he has sought to craft for himself in recent months, if not years. Before he spoke to the convention, Cuomo was lauded on Wednesday by Clinton and on Thursday by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and by Biden, who has a long-standing friendship with Cuomo, as a leader who has ushered in transformative change and created a model of governance that Democrats across the nation should envy, and emulate.

Marriage equality? Cuomo made it happen in New York and helped launch the nation on the path to full realization. Gun control? Cuomo moved quickly after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre to ban the military-type assault weapons that have been used in many school and other mass shootings since. College tuition? Cuomo made it free for many middle-class students. A $15 minimum wage? Cuomo put a program in place. Paid family leave? Again, Cuomo.

In a lofty and lengthy address, filled with anecdotal life lessons, Biden waxed eloquent about the values of the Democratic Party, of American cultural exceptionalism, of the middle class American dream, as he inveighed against the Republican Party’s “phony populism” and “fake nationalism” that threaten to undermine them all. He spoke of his deeply personal ties to the Cuomo family, and of his and the governor’s shared interest in muscle cars (both of them own vintage Corvettes, he noted).

He proudly touted Cuomo’s record. “Andrew Cuomo has never backed away from his progressive principles, not one single time,” he said to applause.

Perez, occasionally peppering his speech with Spanish, said Cuomo and his running mate Hochul were “charter members of the accomplishments wing of the Democratic Party.”

“What I’ve grown to love about Andrew Cuomo is he understands that governance isn’t about speechifying,” Perez said. “It’s about making a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “New Yorkers don’t want rhetoric, they want results. That’s what Andrew Cuomo has delivered.”

To an audience filled with many union workers, Perez hailed Cuomo’s support of labor unions and the state’s immense success in creating jobs under his tenure. And he drew a contrast between the governor and “this other New Yorker in Washington that’s giving a bad name to New York values,” though he stopped short of saying the name Trump.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, commended the governor for managing to pass ambitious policies despite Republican control of the state Senate. “When you have a quarterback that’s a winning quarterback on a winning team, there’s no reason to change,” he said in his endorsement of the governor. And Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic minority leader, credited him with reuniting the fractured Senate Democratic conference, setting her up to eventually become the state’s first woman and woman of color to lead a legislative house if the party wins additional Senate seats in the elections this fall. “We can do this and we will make history by finally putting a woman in the room,” she declared.

All those Democrats, and the governor himself, put Cuomo on a large pedestal, as a leader who could forge a new path for the Democratic Party and whose administration was an exemplar for other states. The State Democratic Party, as is the case with its national counterpart, is counting on a blue wave that has been building across the nation since Trump’s election. Cuomo has trained his attention, and the state party’s resources, at flipping the state Senate and replacing Congressional Republicans with Democrats.

Cuomo welcomed the responsibility, insisting that the nation has its eyes turned to New York. “Our challenge is twofold. First, we must continue to move our state forward as the progressive capital of America because that’s what we are,” he said. “And at the same time, we must overcome the current national extreme conservative movement that is threatening this nation.”

Although he claimed he never appreciated his father’s self-proclaimed title of “pragmatic progressive,” Andrew Cuomo made no effort to distance himself from its definition: “We deliver practical progress for people in need,” he said.

Taking an expansive look at the Democratic Party, Cuomo said working- and middle-class voters had abandoned the party out of despair in 2016, and that the party must return to its roots. “No more platitudes, no more posturing, no more delay, no more incompetence, no more hypotheticals, no more hyperbole,” he said. “They want action. They want results and they want actions and results now. They don’t want pontification from an ivory tower.”

Cuomo's criticism of the Democratic Party and assertion that it had lost the election to Trump struck some as awkward, even insulting, given that Clinton -- the party's 2016 presidential nominee -- had praised and endorsed him the day before.

The convention also marked how far Cuomo has shifted in the last two years under the Trump presidency and, significantly, in the last few weeks under a deluge of criticism from a left-leaning progressive wing galvanized by Nixon’s candidacy.

For a time after Trump’s election, Cuomo refused to say “Trump” even as he criticized the federal government or “Washington.” In his speech on Thursday, he said the president’s name 18 times. “Today the Albany Republicans all carry the Trump doctrine,” he said. “They all drank the Trump, Ryan, McConnell Kool-Aid and their radical assault is draconian and all-encompassing...They think America was great when women were subordinate and when minorities were disenfranchised, and when the big private market corporations ruled the land and when labor was voiceless. That’s the America they want to take us back to. And we are not going back, ever.”

Cuomo did little to tamp down the rumors that he is considering a presidential run ahead of the 2020 election, something that his opponents from the left and the right have criticized him for.

Marc Molinaro, the gubernatorial candidate to Cuomo’s right as the Republican nominee, did not escape Cuomo’s scathing critiques either. “The Republicans in this state put on the top of their ticket a Trump mini-me. He's anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-gun safety, anti-immigration, anti-education equity, and pro-Trump's New York tax increase. All he is is a banner carrier for the extreme conservative movement,” Cuomo said, incorrectly characterizing some stances by Molinaro, who has opposed the federal tax reform and has said he did not vote for Trump for president.

But Cuomo did name Molinaro or Nixon, whose campaign sent out “fact check” emails as the governor spoke, contrasting his rhetoric with his record as they framed it. Notably, Cuomo pledged in his speech to “start a new movement of education funding equity” to ensure that public schools receive the resources they need to provide a sound education to all students. It’s a cause that Nixon has championed for nearly 20 years, largely placing blame for insufficient education funding on the governor, who has repeatedly shifted the way he talks about education funding.

"The Governor's attempt to reset his campaign this week failed," said Nixon campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt in a statement on Thursday. “His highly choreographed convention inflamed old divisions, and provided a series of bizarre, tone-deaf moments. Simply put, the Governor did little to push back on the growing realization among New Yorkers that he has more much in common with his wealthy Republican donors than Democrats.”

For Democratic State Committee members, Cuomo had successfully grasped the title of progressive. Several members, enthused about a strong and diverse statewide ticket, seemed almost offended that anyone would challenge their champion.

“I think we put together a great ticket, I like the diversity of it,” said Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who holds the dual role of state Assemblymember and Democratic State committee member from Assembly District 141. “I think it’s important that the ticket looks more like the electorate,” she said, in apparent reference to the fact that James is an African-American woman, whom Cuomo has backed for the attorney general position, as well as Hochul’s presence on the ticket.

“I do take some exception to people always questioning what has happened when most of the progressive things we’ve done in the state have not been done in the rest of the country,” she added.

Andre Waldron, a committee member from Nassau County, said Cuomo’s speech was a “home run” and that the convention was “phenomenal.”

“I think this time we’ve come out even more inclusive, having all groups represented,” said Louis Goldstein, who said he has been a state committee member from the Bronx since 1970. “I love the fact that we have a female, who happens to be black, as our candidate for attorney general. I think we’re moving in the correct direction.”

As with others, Goldstein expressed reservations about Nixon’s candidacy. “She’s a good actress. I compare her as being our quote-unquote Trump, as far as no government experience, she really does not know how to politically get things done,” he said.

Mary Gault, a Dutchess County committee member, said the party has a “wonderful team” on the ticket. “Andrew Cuomo, I believe, he did so much good for this state over his eight years. Kathy Hochul...she’s terrific too. And of course, I’ve got a New York pension, [and] Tom DiNapoli, he watches out for us.”

Gault said she didn’t give Nixon consideration, though her own county committee is very progressive. “The way she speaks, perfect! I would vote for her in a minute,” she said, “but she doesn’t have the skill set and she doesn’t tell us how she’s going to do it. She’s not a viable candidate, but her platform is perfect.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Three Themes to Watch at State Democratic Convention


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New York Democrats at the 2016 DNC (photo: New York Democratic Party)


This year’s statewide election campaigns are in full swing, with the Democrats and Republicans hosting their nominating conventions this week. While Republicans are set to back a unified slate of candidates to avoid contested primaries, the Democratic Party finds itself in a degree of turmoil with multiple incumbents facing primary challenges from the left and a progressive base increasingly disillusioned with the state party machinery.

As the September primary and November general ballots begin to take shape, all eyes are on the State Democratic Committee, which will host its convention at Hofstra University on Long Island on Wednesday and Thursday, kicking off with a keynote speech from former U.S. Senator from New York, Secretary of State, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Democrats from across the state, including more than 300 state committee members, will gather to vote on their preferred nominees and on various proposed resolutions and party rule changes.

Nominations for Statewide Positions
There’s little doubt that Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is running for a third term, and his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is seeking a second term, will be chosen as the state party’s nominees at the convention. Though both are being challenged from within the party, their nominations seem a foregone conclusion, according to a leaked convention agenda first reported by NY1’s Zack Fink.

The key question, though, is how much support Cuomo and Hochul will each earn from their party members.

Cuomo is being challenged in the primary by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, who won the nomination of the Working Families Party over the weekend and is guaranteed a spot on the general election ballot if she and the party decide to keep her there. As per the Democratic Party’s bylaws, a candidate will have to receive 50 percent of the weighted vote of committee members at the convention to win the primary nomination. Cuomo controls the state party apparatus and has enough support to be guaranteed the nomination. He’s also set to be endorsed by Clinton, who handily won New York in her failed bid for the presidency in 2016.

Nixon would have to receive at least 25 percent of the weighted vote to make it onto the Democratic primary ballot, failing which she would have to gather enough petition signatures to qualify. The same goes for New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who is running against Hochul and also has the WFP line. Both Nixon and Williams will be attending the convention. In a statement on Monday, Nixon said, “The Governor and his allies have bullied progressive community groups and rallied the full force of the big money establishment because they know he doesn't have any progressive credentials to stand on. But I won't be scared out of the room. New Yorkers deserve a choice.”

Williams, in a phone interview, said, “I’m confident that I’ll be on the ballot in September.”

While governor and lieutenant governor candidates compete separately in the party primaries, they become a ticket for the general election.

Incumbent Comptroller Tom DiNapoli does not have any challengers and is expected to be nominated again without controversy.

On the other end of the spectrum, the recent resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, following allegations of physical abuse by four women, has led to a small scrum of Democrats vying for the open seat.

The presumed frontrunner is New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who rejected the WFP’s likely nomination over the weekend to focus on the Democratic convention (and perhaps to side with Cuomo, who had a dramatic falling out with the WFP, and key labor unions who chose Cuomo over the WFP). Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial Democratic primary, is also seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general, though she has not officially declared her candidacy. The WFP chose a placeholder for their ballot line and expressed support for both James and Teachout and is expected to back whoever prevails in the Democratic primary.

It’s not clear what kind of support Nixon, Williams, and Teachout will receive at the convention. All are popular with the left wing of the Democratic Party, but may not have sway over that many state committee members.

“I feel that it’s going to be a coronation of Andrew Cuomo, you know, pre-orchestrated,” said Jay Bellanca, a state committee member from upstate and co-chair of the New York Progressive Action Network.

New York State Democratic Party Executive Director Geoff Berman said in a phone interview that the nominations are not decided until the votes are complete. He refuted any suggestion that the convention was a formality, as some critics have said.

“I think we have a very strong progressive set of incumbent statewide officeholders who have accomplished a lot and have a strong record to run on for another term,” Berman said. “We have an open attorney general race at this point and I’ll let the members of the committee speak for themselves with their votes.”

“We run an open, fair process,” he insisted.

“The state committee is still...very opaque, even to members and still has the feeling of an insiders club,” said Ben Yee, a state committee member.

“I’m not 100 percent sure that Cynthia and Jumaane will get the 25 percent required to not petition, but I do feel confident that a contingent of state committee members will vote for them,” Yee added. He said there’s a “good chance” they’ll each get the 25 percent.

H. Scottie Coads, a state committee member from Long Island, said she is looking forward to the convention. “We have some really progressive candidates looking to get reelected and I’m supportive of all of them...I’m a team player and I’m staunchly behind my governor,” she said. “It’s an exciting time and I think when you have progressive people running, it’s very important that we put our best foot forward and that’s what we intend to do at the convention. Aside from that, I intend to have a good time.”

Resolutions, Rule Changes & A Rogue Democrat
At each convention, the state committee votes on various resolutions advanced by members and on potential changes to its bylaws. The agenda revealed by NY1 showed proposals that were both humdrum and controversial, some of which were known beforehand.

A prominent rule change introduced by NYPAN’s Bellanca and supported by progressive activists would allow as many as 2.6 million voters unaffiliated with any political party to cast their ballots in the Democratic primary. The change could significantly affect election results though it’s unclear if it can pass the convention since it would require a two-thirds majority of state committee members.

Bellanca pointed to the leaked agenda, in which the resolution was already listed under “tabled,” as proof that the results are predetermined. “I’m expecting it to be somewhat ridiculous,” he said, assuming that that resolution and others that would reform the party are “probably” dead.

“I think they’re going to try and kill them,” he said.

Two resolutions were targeted at rogue state Senator Simcha Felder from Brooklyn. Felder is a registered Democrat who was reelected in 2016 on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative Party lines. He is a conservative who caucuses with Republicans, giving them a one-seat majority in the state Senate and effectively thwarting any legislation forwarded by the more progressive Democratic conference.

The convention’s leaked agenda suggests that certain committee members may seek to kick Felder out of the party, or at least to formally support whoever challenges him in the September primary and devote resources to such a challenger, currently Blake Morris. If Felder is defeated, that alone could flip the state Senate to Democratic control, though there are a number of swing districts around the state that will be at play this fall when the entire Legislature is up for election.

The committee is also expected to take up a resolution to financially support Democrats running for state Senate seats and calling for loyalty pledges from former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference -- who used to caucus with Republicans and support their hold on the chamber. Cuomo, who tolerated and allegedly encouraged the IDC’s existence for seven years, recently brought the breakaway conference back into the fold and is taking stronger steps to regain Democratic control of the Senate after lackluster efforts to achieve that in the past, leading to criticism from many Democrats, especially more liberal members of the party.

Another party resolution would call for the closure of the much-derided LLC loophole in the state’s campaign finance law, which allows untold amounts of money to flow to state electoral candidates from hidden donors. Cuomo has repeatedly called on the Legislature to close that gap in the law, even as he has been its biggest beneficiary and declined to voluntarily turn off the spigot.

“The nominations will be pretty straightforward,” Yee said. “It won’t cause too much division...If they try to table the resolutions and refuse to allow debate on opening the primaries or ejecting Felder from the party, it’ll cause displeasure and hurt the trust between the progressives and the party.”

There are other proposals which have yet to be fleshed out but could make for heated debate, including changes to the process of selecting candidates for special elections; changes to how delegates to the Democratic National Convention are chosen; changes to how the state party’s chair and executive committee are chosen; requiring statewide candidates to submit 10 years of tax returns; and an “outside independent investigator for sexual harassment allegations,” among others.

Yee, who serves as secretary for the Manhattan branch of the state party, said that if a resolution calling for more budget transparency from the state committee to its own members fails to pass, it’ll cause consternation among the progressives who are already incensed by what they see as the party’s misuse of funds. Case in point: the party’s massive outlay for a media campaign that seemed to support the governor rather than promote the party’s positions. Yee said the issue was prominent in the last few months but has been subsumed by larger political developments.

Party Unity or Party Fealty?
It’s hard to tell whether the Democrats will emerge from the convention as a unified force or as a fractured party. For many progressives, the nominations seem predetermined and the convention a farcical show of party democracy.

“It’s very finely tuned and finely orchestrated, but I think there’s going to be a lot more contention than we’ve ever seen before at this convention,” Bellanca said. Cuomo’s strongarm tactics have alienated members like Bellanca, who see the governor’s influence extending through the state party and directed at his opponents.

Council Member Williams put the onus on the party leaders, noting that the party hasn’t learned its lesson from the 2016 election, when the DNC chose to support Clinton’s candidacy over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who energized the left, whom Williams endorsed. “It seems whenever they talk about party unity, they always talk to the people on the left and never take ownership of party unity themselves,” he said. “So it’s about time the people who are in leadership, the people who are in power, also do some things that are unifying. They don’t seem to do that very often and a good chance to do that is at this convention.”

A number of progressive groups including NYPAN, Our Revolution, and Indivisible NY intend on holding a Tuesday presentation at the Marriott Hotel, where convention delegates will be holed up, on the DNC’s Unity Reform Commission report -- issued in the wake of the 2016 presidential election -- to try to convince committee members to support their proposals.

Nixon also indicated on Monday that she had invited state committee members to a conference call to discuss her candidacy as she hopes to earn support at the convention.

The state party’s Berman brushed aside any concerns about the future of the party and whether this election cycle will expose a deep rift between the various ideological factions within it. “The values and issues that unite us as a party far outweigh any disagreements folks may have,” he said, “and I’m very confident that coming out of the convention and going into the elections in the fall, we will be a strong unified party supporting a strong progressive ticket.”

Coads, the Long Island committee member, hoped and prayed for unity, holding up New York as an example to other states. “I’m positive about it and if we don’t, we’ll find a way to unify as we go forward,” she said.

Bellanca disagrees. “I think the war’s still going to be going on between the progressive, reform wing and the establishment that wants first class seats on the Titanic,” he said.

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Cuomo-Launched Women’s Equality Party Will Soon Make Statewide Nominations


Cuomo Hochul campaign

Cuomo, Hochul & the WEP bus (photo: Andrew Cuomo/Facebook)


As he sought a second term in 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo created the Women’s Equality Party amid a primary challenge from his left by Zephyr Teachout and as he sought to undermine the Working Families Party, which had begrudgingly endorsed him after he begrudgingly made a set of policy and political promises.

Cuomo said it was time for a political party dedicated to women and traveled around on a bus highlighted with pink streaks to underscore his point. The governor was running with Kathy Hochul as his potential lieutenant governor, after his first-term lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, decided not to seek a second term, and was calling for the passage of a ten-point Women’s Equality Agenda that included measures toward pay equity, abortion protections, and more.

In order for the WEP to earn a guaranteed ballot line in subsequent years through the next gubernatorial election, Cuomo and Hochul, its endorsed candidates at the top of the ticket, had to earn at least 50,000 votes on the line in 2014. They received 53,802, a fraction of their roughly 2 million total, mostly earned on the Democratic Party line.

Therefore, this year -- amid the #MeToo movement and heightened attention on women running for elected office -- the skeletal WEP has a ballot line to offer the candidates of its choosing. It is one of just eight such parties that come into this state election year with a guaranteed ballot line, and it appears it will be the last of the eight to announce its nominees for the statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general. (The WEP is already supporting incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for reelection this fall, as well as a slate of congressional candidates.)

As of April 1, there were 4,675 New Yorkers registered to vote as members of the Women’s Equality Party, according to the state Board of Elections, including its current chair, Susan Zimet.

In the wake of the surprise resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman amid accusations that he physically abused at least four women, Zimet recently put out a call for prospective attorney general candidates interested in the Women’s Equality Party nomination to submit answers to a questionnaire that the party requires for consideration.

Statewide candidates have been scrambling to earn and accumulate ballot lines, as every vote and every method of appealing to voters count. For example, presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, currently the Dutchess county executive, is set to appear on the GOP, Conservative, and Reform Party ballot lines.

Cuomo already appears to have locked up nominations from the Democratic and Independence parties, though he is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Cynthia Nixon, and appears on track to again earn the nomination of the party he launched four years ago, the WEP, which has mostly been quiet over the past several years and boasts a website with several prominent pages last updated in 2015.

“Never before has our line been more important than it is right now, with the #MeToo movement and the #TimesUp movement,” said Zimet, who took the reigns of the party earlier this year, in an interview with Gotham Gazette.

Zimet, whose day job is executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York, indicated with great enthusiasm for the process that the WEP is still receiving questionnaires form candidates, including those running for state legislative seats in the Assembly and Senate, all of which are up for election this year, and that state committee members would be meeting soon to make nomination decisions.

The questionnaire, which includes 20 “yes” or “no” questions and an opportunity for candidates to expand more in additional writing, says at the top that “The WEP is not just the beginning of a new political party; it is a powerful movement to bring women’s issues front and center to ensure that the voices of women are heard and counted where they matter most – at the ballot box.”

The questions -- currently the same given to candidates for other offices as well -- include several related to women’s reproductive rights, and others on leveling the economic playing field for women, gun control, immigration, protecting child sex abuse victims, and more. Several of the questions show clear alignment with Cuomo’s record, like passage of sexual harassment prevention measures and tighter gun regulations, and policies he supports that have not been passed, like the Child Victims Act.

While Cuomo has several policy achievements that appear aligned with the WEP agenda, he has also been criticized for not including the lone female legislative conference leader, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, in negotiations of new sexual harassment prevention legislation and other policy matters, for not doing enough to root out harassers in state government, for being paternalistic and mysoginistic, and for a particularly rude response to a female journalist who asked him about what he was doing to combat sexual harassment in state government.

By sometime in July, Zimet said, the Board of Elections requires that the WEP “designate and authorize” candidates, provide a “Wilson Pakula” to candidates not registered with the WEP in order for them to run on the line, and have candidates accept the nominations.

Without getting ahead of her party’s process, Zimet indicated Cuomo has a strong shot at getting the nomination. She repeatedly noted that minor parties must be careful about their choices, in part so that they keep their automatic ballot lines in the future. She referenced the Working Families Party’s difficult decision in backing Cuomo four years ago amid concerns.

“He did put in a questionnaire,” Zimet said of Cuomo. “He did apply for the line. And the lieutenant governor did apply for the line. They had to fill out questionnaires like everybody else. He started the line, it’s because of him we have the line. Any governor candidate has influence on every line...especially third party lines, because we have to get 50,000 votes on the governor’s line.”

Zimet indicated to Politico New York earlier this year that Cuomo would likely be the choice for the WEP.

She indicated that Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli had also submitted a questionnaire and is likely to again receive the party’s backing. DiNapoli will likely have the most ballot lines of any statewide candidate -- he’s set to appear on the Democratic, Working Families, Reform, Independence, and Women’s Equality lines.

Zimet repeatedly stressed that she and her follow state committee members, of which there are about 13, would be discussing candidates and deciding nominations, that nothing is preordained and that the members follow the party bylaws. Zimet said that the party has about as many open state committee seats as those filled, but noted that she is “at the beginning of really building the party, and trying to get more people to change their registration, work with us on the issues, and promote the issues we believe in.”

As for attorney general, Zimet said that she was as shocked by the Schneiderman revelations as anyone, and had to shift plans quickly after expecting that the WEP would again back him for reelection. “I can’t see why we wouldn’t have under normal circumstances; Schneiderman was at the forefront of our issues, we fully expected to support him,” she said, with some residual disbelief in her voice. “Reading it was devastating. It’s always harder when of your heroes fall. You feel betrayed in a way.”

“I really believe in the issues that we stand for,” Zimet said. “It’s really scary to think going forward we could be endorsing people who have skeletons in their closets.”

Zimet said during the Thursday interview that Gotham Gazette was the only one to request the attorney general questionnaire, which is the same as the WEP questionnaire for other offices (and embedded below). “I somewhat suspect, I could be wrong, the reason people might not be sending in questionnaires right now could be waiting to see what comes out of the Democratic convention,” she said of the nominating convention set for this Wednesday and Thursday on Long Island.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for attorney general and hopes to win the official nomination of the state party at this week’s convention on Long Island. Zephyr Teachout is also seeking enough votes to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot, and The New York Times reported on Monday that Leecia Eve, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo, is also entering the race. Candidates who don’t earn the convention votes for a ballot spot can collect petition signatures to earn such a spot. The primary is September 13.

Of James seeking the WEP nomination, Zimet said, “I certainly hope she will.”

“I like Tish,” Zimet said. “I hope she does a questionnaire. It’s not an endorsement.”

James’ campaign spokesperson did not provide an answer to several inquiries as to whether James would seek the WEP nomination. James has thus far eschewed the backing of the Working Families Party, the party that helped her first win elected office, amid WFP’s internal strife and dramatic falling out with Cuomo as it opted to endorse Nixon for governor and Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor, and lost several labor union members who sided with Cuomo. James has repeatedly said she is solely focused on earning the Democratic Party nomination, but she has said over the last two days that she is confident there will be some reconciliation with the WFP.

A spokesperson for Nixon’s campaign did not return multiple inquiries as to whether she will fill out a Women’s Equality Party questionnaire. A spokesperson for Williams’ campaign said, "Jumaane has a strong public record of pushing for women’s rights, which is why we're proud to be endorsed by the WFP— the primary political party that truly stands for New York’s women,” and did not directly answer the question of whether Williams would fill out a questionnaire and seek the WEP nomination for lieutenant governor.

Multiple requests on the subject to Molinaro’s campaign were also not answered. On Sunday, he announced Julie Killian as his lieutenant governor running mate.

Teachout told Gotham Gazette that she had not reached out to the WEP for a questionnaire.

Zimet said she may talk to one or two WEP committee members to possibly tweak the questions for attorney general candidates.

Of the party’s general stance, she said: “Here’s the questionnaire, we want to see where you stand on our issues.”

In the announcement requesting any new attorney general candidate applications, the WEP said it is “committed to fight against any attempts to roll back the progress that women have made in this Country and for true equality for all New Yorkers.”

The party will continue to “fight back against the sexism and harassment women face on a daily basis” it said, and “will endorse an Attorney General that will fight for our values for equal rights and equal protection under the law for women and children in New York and beyond.”

Of the party’s nearly 54,000 votes last time around, Zimet called the showing “pretty impressive, for a line with no history.”

“That just goes to show that people who drawn to women’s equality,” she continued. “People found an alternative, it was refreshing to see that.”

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been changed based on new information from Susan Zimet.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, May 21


New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

It’s political party nomination season as this state and federal election year heats up, with federal primaries on June 26, state primaries September 13, and the general election November 6.

Over the weekend, the Working Families Party held its nominating convention on Saturday and the Reform Party held its nominating convention on Sunday.

As expected the WFP nominated Cynthia Nixon for governor, Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor, and incumbent Tom DiNapoli for comptroller. The party decided to install a placeholder for attorney general and give its backing to both Letitia James and Zephyr Teachout, with the planned intention to give its ballot line to whichever of the two emerges from the Democratic primary. James had said she wasn’t seeking the WFP nomination, and her campaign declined to comment on the WFP decision on Saturday. But, James seemed to take a softer stance during remarks on Sunday, according to tweets from the New York Progressive Action Network, where she made an appearance.

"I am still a member of the WFP,” James said according to one tweet. “We are joined at the hip. I am proud to be their standard bearer and to be the face of the WFP going forward." Another tweet said that James indicated that eventually she would be on the WFP line, but the language was not completely clear. A Sunday afternoon inquiry to James’ campaign was not returned.

On Sunday, presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro announced that Julie Killian would be his lieutenant governor running mate. Killian recently lost a special election for a Westchester state Senate seat to Democrat Shelley Mayer. The pair is expected to be on the GOP and Conservative party ballot lines, and soon after the announcement, the Reform Party leadership voted to back Molinaro for governor and Killian for lieutenant governor.

The Reform Party is also backing former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for attorney general, though Bharara has given no public indication he will accept the nomination or run for AG. The party also designated Chris Garvey, Nancy Regula and Michael Diederich to run for attorney general, so there will be a Reform Party primary for AG. And, for comptroller the party is backing DiNapoli, who is likely to have the most ballot lines of any statewide candidate in November.

Coming up this week are the Democratic and Republican state party conventions, both occurring on Wednesday and Thursday, with the Democrats on Long Island and the Republicans in Manhattan. Molinaro is expected to formally earn and accept the nomination on Wednesday, while on Thursday Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to win and accept his party’s nomination for a third time, while Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to accept the party’s nomination for her position for a second time. It appears likely that Democratic state committee members will back James for attorney general, though one or more other candidates could earn the 25% of the vote needed to be automatically placed on the primary ballot. Teachout is the only other candidate who has indicated she is going to the convention to seek such backing. Along with the question of whether Teachout earns the 25% to make the primary ballot for AG is whether Nixon and Williams attempt to go to the convention and win the 25% each to appear on Democratic primary ballots as well. If candidates do not qualify at the nominating convention, they can petition to get on the ballot by collecting signatures across the state.

It’s not completely clear yet who will be the Republican nominee for attorney general, given that former AG Eric Schneiderman’s resignation changed the thinking for many potential candidates of various party affiliations, as well as party leaders. John Cahill, a former top aide to Governor George Pataki and the 2014 GOP nominee for AG is said to be exploring another bid. Jonathan Trichter is likely to be the GOP nominee for comptroller.

While the two conventions will be much of the focus this week, there’s more to watch for -- 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
Monday is Student Voter Registration Day, with efforts across the city to register eligible students to vote. (The deadline to vote in this year’s congressional primaries, set for June 26, is June 1.)

On Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will appear on Fox 5 "Good Day New York" at 7:30 a.m. At 8:30 a.m., Stringer will deliver remarks at the Eleanor's Legacy Spring Breakfast in Manhattan. And at 5 p.m., Stringer will deliver remarks at the memorial service for Mary Sansone in Brooklyn.

On Monday at 10 a.m., “In the wake of one of the coldest outbreaks for December and January in New York City on record, on Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, Council Members Ritchie Torres, Robert E. Cornegy Jr. and Mark Levine, will join tenants to announce the introduction of new City Council legislation that would codify the City’s ability to install and utilize remote temperature monitors (heat sensors) to enforce the heat requirements established in the City’s Housing Code. Standing outside 509 W. 134th St in Upper Manhattan, an apartment building that has the highest number of heating related violations in the city, they will discuss the details of the legislation and how residents can use heat sensors like those created by 2014 NYC BigApps winner Heat Seek NYC- a nonprofit tech organization committed to keeping New Yorkers safe and warm- to remotely track temperature in their homes during the coldest months of the year. Underscoring the imperative to address heating-related harassment, the electeds will present data that highlights problem neighborhoods for heating complaints citywide, which correspond heavily with areas of economic hardship and gentrification.”

On Monday at 10:30 a.m. at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, “Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will visit Ice Stone, a tile, stone fabrication and installation company, to urge the U.S. Senate to pass bipartisan legislation, the Main Street Employee Ownership Act, which just passed in the House of Representatives this month. This legislation would support small businesses that invest in their workers and communities by transitioning to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) or a cooperative (co-op).”

On Monday at 11 a.m. at City Hall Park, “Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), joined by New York State Assemblyman Marco Crespo and community leaders, will hold a press conference calling for secure housing for residents of Puerto Rico in support of the Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act, introduced by Rep. Espaillat earlier this Congress.” Other participants will include former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, Frankie Miranda of Hispanic Federation, and Ana María Archila of Center for Popular Democracy, among others.

At noon on Monday, "Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Thompson and Schools Chancellor Carranza will meet with high school students at Manhattan Hunter Science High School who are registering to vote, and deliver remarks marking the first ever citywide student voter registration day. This event is open press. There will be no Q-and-A." At around 5 p.m., "the Mayor will deliver remarks at the memorial service for Mary Sansone" in Brooklyn.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will make an announcement regarding James’ bid for attorney general.

At 6:15 p.m. Monday, "Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul Delivers Remarks at Western New York Women's Foundation "What She's Made Of" Event" in Buffalo.

At 7 p.m. Monday, “Census 2020 - Will Brooklyn Count?” at BRIC, featuring Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq., General Counsel, Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College; Pastor Gil Monrose, Director of Faith-based and Clergy Initiatives, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President; Betsy Plum, VP of Policy, New York Immigration Coalition; and Steven Romalewski, Director, CUNY Mapping Service.

Mayor de Blasio will make his weekly appearance on NY1's Inside City Hall Monday evening at 7 and 11 p.m.

Tuesday
The State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

On Tuesday at 8 a.m. at New York Athletic Club, Crain’s New York Business will host a breakfast featuring Health + Hospitals CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz, who “will talk about his strategies for effecting a financial turnaround at the city's public health system and his priorities going forward” and take questions from Robin Schatz and Jonathan LaMantia of Crain's.

On Tuesday at 8 a.m. at The Library at The Public Theater, “How Greener, Greater Building Tech is Powering NYC,” hosted by Capalino+Company. Opening remarks will be given by Zach Aarons, Co-Founder and Advisor, MetaProp NYC, on investing in green building tech. A panel discussion will follow including City Council Member Costa Constantinides, Tucker Reed of Totem, Shane Eten of Lotik, and Marshall Cox of Radiator Labs, moderated by Challey Comer of Capalino.

On Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. at CBRE, “The Association for a Better New York cordially invites you to a breakfast meeting on Tuesday, May 22nd, featuring Carolyn Grossman Meagher, Director of Regional Planning for the Department of City Planning. Ms. Grossman Meagher will present an overview of regional trends in employment and residential growth, and unveil NYC Metro Region Explorer, a new tool for exploring regional data.”

On Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Albany, there will be a joint hearing of the Senate committees on Health and Insurance and the Senate Heroin Task Force “To explore access to and coverage of opioid antagonists, such as Naloxone.”

On Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in Albany, there will be a meeting of the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

On Tuesday at the City Council:
--There will be an executive budget hearing on education at 10 a.m.
--The Committee on Health will meet at 10 a.m. on “Requiring defibrillators at softball fields where youth leagues play.”
--The Committee on Transportation will meet at 11 a.m. regarding a bill that “would require that landowners be given at least 75 days, rather than 45 days, to make necessary repairs to the sidewalk adjacent to their property.”
--The Committee on Civil Service and Labor will meet a noon on a bill regarding “Health insurance coverage for surviving family members of certain deceased employees of the DOT” and two resolutions: one regarding “US Supreme Court to protect public sector collective bargaining in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)” and the other “Acknowledging workers’ gains through the American labor movement.”
--The Committee on Governmental Operations will meet at 1 p.m. on a bill that “would require that mandatory debates under the Campaign Finance Act be broadcast on a City owned or operated television channel, in addition to any other channel or channels on which they are broadcast.”

On Tuesday at 6 p.m., at the New York Bar Association, “Barbara Babcock, Crown Professor of Law, Emerita, Stanford Law School and author of Fish Raincoats: A Woman Lawyer’s Life (a memoir) and Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz (a biography of the first woman lawyer in the west)” will deliver the Annual Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture on Women and the Law. She will speak after welcoming remarks from Roger Juan Maldonado, President, New York City Bar Association and introductory remarks by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court of the United States.

Wednesday
“The New York Republican State Committee will host its 2018 designating convention for the purposes of nominating candidates for the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller” on Wednesday and Thursday at The Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan. Wednesday will include nominations for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, followed by the annual NYSGOP gala in the evening, which will feature Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, chair of the Republican Governors Association.

The Democratic state committee nominating convention will begin Wednesday on Long Island.

The state Legislature will be in session on Wednesday in Albany.

Andy Byford, the head of New York City Transit at the MTA, will present his new plan for the long-term modernization of the subway system on Wednesday at an MTA meeting.

On Wednesday at the City Council:
--The Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m.
--The full City Council will hold a Stated Meeting at 1:30 p.m., prefaced by a press conference hosted by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

On Wednesday at 7 p.m., BRIC TV will host a forum “Whose war on drugs?” sponsored by The Marshall Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, including Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, journalist Tom Robbins, Kassandra Frederique of Drug Policy Alliance, and Dr. Hillary Kunins of the city Health Department.

On Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the City of New York, “Dan Doctoroff, founder and CEO of the Alphabet company Sidewalk Labs, and veteran New York Times reporter Charles Bagli discuss New York’s Big Comeback, the city’s dramatic and unexpected recovery, inspired by Doctoroff’s book, “Greater than Ever: New York’s Big Comeback” (PublicAffairs, 2017).”

Thursday
When the State GOP convention continues Thursday in Manhattan, nominations will be made for Attorney General and Comptroller.

The Democratic state convention will continue Thursday on Long Island. The convention will conclude with the nomination of Gov. Cuomo for another term and his acceptance speech.

On Thursday in Albany, there will be a joint hearing of the Assembly committees on Judiciary and Health on “Gestational Surrogacy.”

On Thursday at 10 a.m. the City Council finance and hospital committees will hold an executive budget hearing.

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

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. The next Week Ahead will be published on the evening of Monday, May 28.

***
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
@GothamGazette

Party Nominations for Statewide Elections Come Into Focus


Cynthia Nixon WFP nomination

Cynthia Nixon at the WFP convention (photo: Make The Road Action)


It’s political party convention season as this state and federal election year heats up in New York, with federal primaries on June 26, state primaries September 13, and the general election November 6.

Over the weekend, the Working Families Party and Green Party held their nominating conventions on Saturday and the Reform Party held its on Sunday. This week the Democratic and Republican state parties will hold their conventions, nominating candidates for the four statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general. It is also an election year for one of the state’s two United State Senate seats, the one currently held by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Democrats currently hold all five of these positions.

Along with those formally backed by the political parties, in some cases other candidates may qualify for the primary ballot if they can earn enough votes from state committee members at the conventions. Candidates also have the opportunity to claim a primary ballot spot by collecting the requisite petition signatures across the state.

Given the weekend conventions, along with other announcements from parties and campaigns, the statewide tickets of the major and minor parties are coming into view.

The WFP
As expected, on Saturday the Working Families Party nominated Cynthia Nixon for governor, Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor, and incumbent Tom DiNapoli for comptroller.

The party’s state committee members decided to install a placeholder for attorney general and give its backing to both Letitia James and Zephyr Teachout, with the intention to give its ballot line to whichever of the two emerges from the Democratic primary. James had said she wasn’t seeking the WFP nomination, and her campaign declined to comment on the WFP decision on Saturday. But, James seemed to take a softer stance during remarks on Sunday, according to tweets from the New York Progressive Action Network, where she made an appearance.

"I am still a member of the WFP,” James said according to one tweet. “We are joined at the hip. I am proud to be their standard bearer and to be the face of the WFP going forward." Another tweet said that James indicated she would eventually appear on the WFP line, but the language was not completely clear. A Sunday afternoon inquiry to James’ campaign was not returned.

The WFP convention was a raucous affair in Harlem on Saturday, with hundreds of party members and supporters gathered to enthusiastically back its slate and rally as it faces an existential crisis given its nasty split with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is known for attempting to wipe his adversaries off the political map.

In her acceptance speech, Nixon went right after the incumbent governor, who the WFP backed in his 2010 and 2014 runs and she is hoping to defeat in the Democratic primary. (If she does not win that primary, the WFP may seek to replace her on the general election ballot so as to not play spoiler and allow Republican Marc Molinaro to win.)

But Nixon, WFP supporters, and many liberal Democrats are hopeful about the primary and pulling no punches when it comes to attacking Cuomo, who they say has governed as a centrist.

Listing off a progressive agenda of policy plans including tougher rent regulations, a more accessible ballot box, and legalized marijuana, Nixon pledged an inclusive New York for “all of us,” that pursues racial, social, and economic justice.

“WFP founders Jon Kest and Bertha Lewis were the first ones to ask me eight years ago to consider running for Governor,” Nixon said from the stage on Saturday. “Now, after eight years of Cuomo, and Trump in the White House, I couldn’t say ‘no.’”

In accepting his nomination, City Council Member Williams reiterated his promise to break the recent mold of lieutenant governors, and not be a rubber stamp or cheerleader for the governor.

“I am running to be the voice of the people in state government, and I could not be more proud to have the Working Families Party by my side,” Williams said, during remarks that had the crowd more energized than any other portion of the program that Gotham Gazette saw. “As the people’s Lieutenant Governor, I will be an independent advocate for all New Yorkers. I will make certain that our Governor and elected officials uphold their promises, and will hold them accountable for the actions they take.”

The Green Party
The Green Party has put its statewide slate forward, with Howie Hawkins again topping the ticket as the gubernatorial candidate. Jia Lee will be the Green Party nominee for lieutenant governor.

After laying out a progressive policy agenda and framework for social, economic, and environmental justice, Hawkins said at Saturday’s convention, “The way this is going to play out in the fall is there’ll be the progressive Greens, the centrist Democrats, and the conservative Republicans. And the argument, the narrative against us is we’re going to spoil it and elect the Republicans, and we have to say ‘no, we’re the progressive alternative, the Democrats won’t solve our problems, don’t waste your vote, vote for what you want, make your vote count, make the system come to what you want -- and that’s how we leverage power and we make a difference.”

Mark Dunlea will be the Green candidate for comptroller and Michael Sussman will be the Green candidate for attorney general.

The Reform Party
On Sunday, presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro announced that Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council member, would be his lieutenant governor running mate. Killian recently lost a special election for a Westchester state Senate seat to Democrat Shelley Mayer. The pair is expected to form the top of the official ticket of the Republican and Conservative parties. Soon after the announcement, the Reform Party leadership voted to back Molinaro for governor and Killian for lieutenant governor.

"Many thanks to Reform Party for its endorsement of Julie and me today,” Molinaro said in a statement. “Because no matter your political persuasion, if you are a New Yorker who desires reform, you know that the largest roadblock standing in the way is Andrew Cuomo. This state desperately needs change. Defeating Andrew Cuomo and breaking his iron grip over this corrupt state government is the only thing that will break down the floodgates and make change possible."

The Reform Party is also backing former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for attorney general, though Bharara has given no public indication he will accept the nomination or run for AG at all. The party also designated Chris Garvey, Nancy Regula, and Michael Diederich to run for attorney general, so there will be a Reform Party primary for AG. And, for comptroller the party is backing DiNapoli, who is likely to have the most ballot lines of any statewide candidate in November.

Democrats and Republicans
This week will see the Democratic and Republican state party conventions, both occurring on Wednesday and Thursday, with the Democrats on Long Island and the Republicans in Manhattan. Molinaro and Killian are expected to formally earn and accept their nominations on Wednesday, while on Thursday Cuomo is expected to win and accept his party’s nomination for a third time, while Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to accept the party’s nomination for her position for a second time.

It appears likely that Democratic state committee members will back Public Advocate James for attorney general, though one or more other candidates could earn the 25% of the vote needed to be automatically placed on the primary ballot. Teachout and Leecia Eve have indicated they will go to the convention to seek such backing. Cuomo endorsed James for attorney general on Tuesday, just before the convention.

Along with the question of whether Teachout and/or Eve can earn the 25% to make the primary ballot for AG is whether Nixon and Williams go to the convention and win the 25% each to appear on Democratic primary ballots as well. If candidates do not qualify at the nominating convention, they can petition to get on the ballot by collecting signatures across the state. Randy Credico, a comedian and activist who also ran for governor in 2014 and New York City mayor in 2013, may also be mounting an effort to make the Democratic primary ballot.

On Monday morning, Nixon announced her intention for the convention. "I am attending the convention because New York Democrats deserve to have at least one actual Democratic candidate for governor at their state convention," she said in a statement. "As Governor Cuomo has said himself, he's run this state in a way that would make any Republican proud. The Governor and his allies have bullied progressive community groups and rallied the full force of the big money establishment because they know he doesn't have any progressive credentials to stand on. But I won't be scared out of the room. New Yorkers deserve a choice."

The Nixon campaign also indicated that Nixon has invited state committee members to a conference call to discuss her candidacy, though the details of the call were not provided.

It’s not completely clear yet who will be the Republican nominee for attorney general, given that former AG Eric Schneiderman’s resignation changed the thinking for many potential candidates of various party affiliations, as well as party leaders. John Cahill, a former top aide to Governor George Pataki and the 2014 GOP nominee for AG was considering another bid but bowed out. Manny Alicandro and Keith Wofford have announced their candidacies.

Jonathan Trichter is likely to be the GOP nominee for comptroller.

State Democratic Party Executive Director Geoff Berman issued a statement on Saturday that took aim at the WFP and the GOP.

“It is convention week in New York, and I am proud to be part of the Democratic Party as we head into our convention,” Berman wrote. “The state of the WFP today stands in stark contrast with the state of the Democratic Party. The union-founded party has no working families left after every union has left their ranks.”

Berman went on to criticize WFP political director Bill Lipton for orchestrating the party’s attorney general nominations and Williams for “an anti-choice and anti-marriage equality record.” Williams has made many attempts, including during his WFP acceptance speech, to clarify his current stances in support of abortion access and marriage equality, but he has in the past expressed personal opinions against both.

Berman called Molinaro a “Trump mini-me,” though Molinaro has said he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. Molinaro does appear to be mostly aligned with Trump and congressional Republicans on policy, however. “Molinaro is anti choice, anti gun safety, anti LGBTQ, and part of Trump's property and income tax increase plan that ended State and Local deductibility,” Berman wrote, though Molinaro has expressed an ‘evolution’ on marriage equality and inclusiveness toward LGBT New Yorkers, and the Trump-led tax overhaul did not end such deductibility, it reduced it to $10,000 annually.

It is evident that Berman, Cuomo, and other Democrats will attempt to tie Molinaro, Killian, and other Republicans to Trump, who is deeply unpopular overall in New York, though he retains some pockets of significant support in his home state. Molinaro and others will have to rally the Republican base while also appealing to moderates, including many party-unaffiliated voters, in order to win statewide, especially in a year in which Democrats are energized and in good position to swing multiple House and state Senate seats.

One of the most important decisions of the weekend was Molinaro choosing Killian as a running mate. It’s not immediately clear that she will be of significant help as the Dutchess county executive attempts to become the first Republican governor since George Pataki. Killian has only held elected office as a Rye City Council member and was a deputy mayor, and she has lost her last two races.

Republican sources indicated that the Molinaro campaign decided it was important to choose a woman for the ticket. Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, who was a co-chair of the lieutenant governor candidate search committee for Molinaro, took herself out of the running after Molinaro was apparently strongly considering her, and may have made a better choice. With both Molinaro and Killian lukewarm toward Trump and from downstate, the ticket may not be best suited toward rallying the base or appealing to voters upstate or in western New York.

"Julie Killian is a champion for people who have no voice, who are left behind, who are in crisis and she will never back down from the challenges that are facing our state. I'm proud to have Julie as my partner in this campaign to restore New Yorker's belief in the future of our state," Molinaro said in a statement.

"Marc and I share a vision of New York, that is more affordable, accountable and accessible for all families and I am honored to join his team as a true partner, " said Killian.

A press release from the Molinaro campaign called Killian “a strong campaigner to the key suburban battlegrounds” and noted that in her recent state Senate race she “significantly outperformed President Trump in Westchester in 2016.

“Julie Killian stood out among many great picks to serve as @marcmolinaro’s running mate,” Dinolfo tweeted on Sunday. “As a former city councilwoman, she knows what it takes to run a government while protecting taxpayers. She will make a great LG!”

Other Parties
The three other parties that have guaranteed ballot lines this year include the Independence Party -- which appears to be nominating Cuomo, Hochul, and DiNapoli -- and the Women’s Equality Party, which has not made its nominations yet, but will do so soon. The WEP is likely to back Cuomo, Hochul, and DiNapoli again this year -- the party was launched by Cuomo in 2014 as he attempted to undermine both his female Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, and the WFP. It’s not clear if either party will make an attorney general choice, though the WEP did issue a call to interested candidates in the wake of Schneiderman's resignation.

The Conservative Party appears set to cross-endorse the Republican ticket for statewide seats.

The Libertarian Party, meanwhile, typically petitions to get a candidate on the ballot and has this year nominated Larry Sharpe for governor. Sharpe and the Libertarian Party are hoping to crack the 50,000-vote threshold to earn an automatic ballot line over the next four years. The party came close in 2010 with a different candidate, and Sharpe, who has been actively fundraising and campaigning, is seen as the strongest candidate the party has backed in several cycles.

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this story has been updated as events change and to include Larry Sharpe's Libertarian candidacy.

Letitia James Launches Campaign for Attorney General


tish ag kickoff in bk sara valenzuela

Public Advocate Letitia James at her AG campaign kickoff (photo: @saritamanhattan)


New York City Public Advocate Letitia James officially launched her campaign for attorney general on Wednesday, seeking to make history as the first woman of color to serve as the state’s top legal officer.

James, who is serving her second and final term as public advocate, and is the first woman of color elected to a citywide position, is running in the Democratic primary to replace former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned last week after facing allegations of physical abuse from four women with whom he was intimately involved. The position is being held in the interim by Barbara Underwood, who was solicitor general under Schneiderman and his predecessor, now-Governor Andrew Cuomo, while the state Legislature is assessing a slate of candidates, including Underwood, from which they will select an appointee to serve the rest of the term.

The Democratic primary for attorney general and other state-level positions is September 13.

James was seen as the frontrunner for the position even before the Legislature began its selection process, but amid outcry for Underwood to keep the position and against any backroom deals, she declined to seek the appointment and decided instead to only compete in the election. From a dais at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Wednesday, flanked by labor leaders and several members of the New York City Council, where she once served, James spoke of the inspiration she draws from legal stalwarts like Barbara Jordan and Thurgood Marshall, and made the opening pitch her candidacy.

“I was taught at Howard University that the law should be an instrument of change,” James said in humble tones, “that the law must be used as a vehicle to right wrongs.” She pledged to defend the state’s most vulnerable communities, touting her past work as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society and an an assistant attorney general, and her current role heading the office of the public advocate, where she has often used litigation to fight for tenant protections, for children with disabilities, and others, waging high-profile legal battles against the de Blasio administration and against predatory landlords.

James promised to “never, ever waver in my fight to uphold and defend your basic rights,” vowing to oppose any harmful policies imposed by the federal government.

There are no other declared Democratic candidates for the fall election at this time. The state party will hold its nominating convention next week, at which James is expected to at least earn a place on the ballot, if not the party’s official backing. James has a strong base of support in New York City, including from the labor unions that immediately endorsed her and others likely to follow, but she will need to expand her reach outside the five boroughs to win statewide, both in the primary and what is likely to be a more competitive general election than she has ever faced in heavily Democratic New York City. She’ll also need to raise a significant sum of money quickly, which could be helped if she wins the backing of Cuomo, a prodigious fundraiser with deep ties to wealthy donors and seeking a third term this fall.

Although James said in her speech that she tends “not to be about politics,” the politics of the race were nonetheless inescapable. The New York Times reported earlier this week that James was telling supporters that Governor Andrew Cuomo and his allies were pushing her to refuse the nomination of the Working Families Party, a prominent smaller political party with a progressive base, or risk losing his support. The governor, who is known for his strong-arm tactics and has clashed with the WFP, which is backing his primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, denied making the overtures.

On Wednesday morning, James’ campaign indicated she will not seek the endorsement of the WFP, saying that she is focused on winning the Democratic nomination, though she has sought and earned both parties’ support in the past (James was first elected to office in 2003 as a City Council member solely on the WFP line). The declaration sparked a rebuke of Cuomo from the WFP.

“It is nothing short of outrageous to see Andrew Cuomo demand Tish James jump through hoops that he would never ask a white man to do,” four WFP leaders said in a statement that included further attacks on the governor, who had the WFP’s backing in his 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial campaigns.

Asked repeatedly by reporters about eschewing the WFP after her launch announcement, James said, “My focus has been on securing the Democratic nomination and I’ve been working from sunup to sundown securing that nomination.” She also denied that pressure from the governor had played a part in her decision not to seek the WFP’s backing. “I’m an independent individual, I’ve always been an independent individual, and if you know anything about me you can rest assured that no one's going to bully me, no one's going to threaten me and no one's going to hold anything over my head.”

The Democratic nominating convention will be held next week, while the WFP nominees are expected to be announced this weekend at its own convention. The party is already behind Nixon for governor and City Council Member Jumaane Williams for Lieutenant Governor. It is also backing Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for reelection.

Zephyr Teachout, a law professor who unsuccessfully challenged Cuomo in the Democratic primary four years ago, told Gotham Gazette on Wednesday that she is seeking the WFP nomination for attorney general and that she also plans to appear on the Democratic primary ballot for the position, a spot she will either earn through a vote at the convention next week or through collecting enough ballot petition signatures around the state. Teachout, who is not officially running for AG yet, is currently Nixon’s campaign treasurer, an arrangement that may change if she officially declares her candidacy for attorney general.

James’ announcement was backed by the forceful endorsements of three labor unions: the New York State Nurses Association, Communications Workers of America Local 1180; and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “Tish James listens to every voice and fights for those without a place at the table. She doesn’t preach. She acts,” said Gloria Middleton, president of CWA Local 1180.

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also showed her support to the public advocate, standing on stage along with current City Council Members Laurie Cumbo, Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Andrew King, Mark Levine, Robert Cornegy, and Justin Brannan.

“[James’] whole public experience has been about utilizing the law to really right wrongs and to create equity,” Mark-Viverito told Gotham Gazette. “So this particular time when we have such an affront to our democracy by the Trump administration, this attorney general position is critical in us pushing back.”

She said James would be a “standard bearer of equity and justice” and said it’s “way overdue” that a woman serves as attorney general. “I think it’s critical,” she said. “Gender does matter, and representation at all levels. We have a diverse state, a diverse city. So government needs to be truly reflective of those experiences and that reality.”

While James is the first to officially jump into the primary race and Teachout appears close, several other possible AG candidates are possible. Democratic State Senator Michael Gianaris has said he’s considering a run, as has Congressional Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, also a Democrat. Former United States Attorney Preet Bharara has not ruled it out when making public comments. While Bharara is a Democrat, Bloomberg News reported he may run for AG as an independent. The only declared Republican in the race is attorney Manny Alicandro, though others are said to be considering a run given Schneiderman’s resignation.

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed reporting.

Exploring Attorney General Run, Zephyr Teachout Pursues Working Families Nomination, Democratic Ballot Line


zephyr teachout anti idc rally

Zephyr Teachout at an anti-IDC rally (photo: Ben Max)


The recent resignation of former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent shockwaves through the New York political world, and with just six months until New Yorkers elect a new attorney general in November, it sent potential candidates scrambling. Political party nominations are being decided, ballot spots must be secured, and party primaries are September 13.

Soon after Schneiderman’s departure amid accusations that he was physically abusive of four women he had been in romantic relationships with, according to reporting by The New Yorker, several individuals expressed interest in becoming attorney general.

One is Zephyr Teachout, the law professor who challenged Governor Andrew Cuomo from the left in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary, who quickly said she was forming an exploratory committee. Among other moves, Teachout sent out e-blasts to her supporters asking if they want her to run and used her Twitter account to discuss her resume and the role of attorney general. Currently the campaign treasurer for Cuomo’s leading 2018 primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, Teachout even had a logo mocked up for her potential attorney general run.

On Wednesday, Teachout told Gotham Gazette that she has submitted her name for consideration by the Working Families Party, which is holding its nominating convention this weekend in Manhattan, and that she will be pursuing enough support at next week’s State Democratic Party convention to secure a ballot line.

On the same day that New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat, formally announced her candidacy for attorney general, Teachout also indicated that she’s prepared to collect enough petition signatures to compete in the Democratic primary if she does not meet the threshold at the party convention.

"I'll be making a decision fairly shortly," Teachout told Gotham Gazette about whether she will indeed seek the statewide office that is New York’s chief legal officer. "I'm grateful for the incredible response I've gotten from people I know from different aspects of my work: anti-corruption work, antitrust work, Trump work,” she said. “It's been really wonderful to get this kind of support."

"I submitted my name to be considered,” she said of the Working Families Party, which came close to backing her against Cuomo in 2014, but went with the governor after he agreed to a series of policy and political goals that he mostly did not follow through on. “I'm planning to be at the convention on Saturday," she added.

It is not clear who else is seeking the WFP nomination for attorney general -- a spokesperson for the party did not respond to an inquiry for the list.

"I plan to seek the Democratic Party threshold to get on the ballot, and I'll be at the convention next week,” Teachout also said. “One of the most important things that I think can bring Democrats together is that the next AG can lead the fight against the Trump administration's lawlessness."

As Teachout has pointed out, her past and current work is suited toward continuing some of the attorney general office’s most high-profile litigation against the Trump administration, something Schneiderman had made a top priority and is being continued by interim Attorney General Barbara Underwood, formerly solicitor general, who is seeking a legislative appointment to stay in the role through at least Election Day, if not the end of the year, but is not planning to run for election.

When announcing her exploratory committee on Twitter, Teachout said, “The next Attorney General of New York should be an independent fighter and a voice for the people, ready to take on corruption and lawlessness at the highest pinnacles of power” and “ready to investigate corruption in Albany, in real estate, and on Wall Street.”

She touted resume items such as “writing about and fighting corruption my entire career,” working as a death penalty defense lawyer, pushing for stronger antitrust enforcement and prosecution of financial crimes, being “the first national director of the Sunlight Foundation,” and her work as a professor at Fordham Law School.

Teachout has received public support from a number of progressives with significant followings or resumes, including Professor Laurence Tribe, and several liberal New York activists. 

“I have a great exploratory team--Tim Tagaris and Hector Sigala from Bernie's digital juggernaut, BrownMiller Group; ALG Research; Putnam Partners (whose past clients include Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris' AG race),” she tweeted.

Notably, BrownMiller is the firm that in 2013 “ran the petition drive that placed Eliot Spitzer on the ballot with over 27,000 signatures in just four days,” as its website states of the blitz that got the former governor on the Democratic primary ballot for the city comptroller race. That type of work would come in handy if Teachout needs to go the petition route to make the Democratic primary ballot again the state party nominee, which at this point is likely to be James, and possibly others.

The public advocate, whose first win of elected office was on the Working Families Party line in a 2003 City Council race, has indicated that she is not seeking the WFP nomination, apparently siding with Cuomo after the governor’s recent split with the party as it endorsed Nixon for governor after backing Cuomo in his 2010 and 2014 wins.

After her campaign kickoff event in Brooklyn on Wednesday, James declined to answer with specificity why she had made that choice, instead repeatedly stating that she is focused on winning the Democratic nomination. She did say that she is independent and not one to be bullied, though she did not explicitly state that Cuomo had not factored into the decision in some way.

Four leaders of the WFP put out a statement Wednesday morning accusing Cuomo of essentially forcing James to choose him and the Democratic Party apparatus that he controls over the WFP, even assigning racial and gender components to the alleged arm-twisting. The Cuomo campaign shot back in reciprocal fashion.

If Cuomo does support James’ candidacy, she will have significant advantages as she seeks to become the first woman of color elected New York attorney general. James has a solid base of support in New York City and the likely backing of many labor unions, three of which endorsed her at her launch, but she has never been a strong fund-raiser and is not well-known outside of the city.

Teachout, meanwhile, has some degree of name recognition and support outside the city after her 2014 gubernatorial run -- when she won 34 percent of the primary vote against Cuomo, largely by doing well upstate -- and her 2016 congressional run in the Hudson Valley, which she lost to Rep. John Faso, 54-46 percent.

As for her role with the Nixon campaign, Teachout did not directly answer on Wednesday whether she would step down as treasurer if she does formally throw her hat in the attorney general race. "I've been very clear about my support for Cynthia Nixon, but if she's governor and I'm attorney general, if there's anything within the AG's purview, even a whiff of corruption, I would pursue it,” Teachout said. “I'm a very independent person." But on Friday morning, Teachout told Gotham Gazette that she will indeed step down as Nixon campaign treasurer as she pursues an attorney general run.

[Related: Letitia James Launches Campaign for Attorney General]

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this story has been updated with Teachout's decision on Friday to step down from the Nixon campaign as she explores an AG bid.



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