Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2527 Sun, 09 Aug 2020 13:58:21 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) From the 'Third Party' Front Lines, How to Address Fusion Voting, Party Qualifications, and New York Democracy https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8915-new-york-democracy-fusion-voting-green-party https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8915-new-york-democracy-fusion-voting-green-party five hawkins peace

Howie Hawkins, the author (photo: Green Party)


“The Democrats’ Secret Plan to Kill Third Parties in New York,” as reported by The New York Times (Oct. 29), brings to mind how the Democratic Party establishment manipulated the 2016 primary process to favor the corporate candidate, Hillary Clinton, over her progressive challenger, Bernie Sanders.

Now the New York Democratic Party establishment, led by the Governor Andrew Cuomo-appointed chair of that party, Jay Jacobs, proposes to silence bothersome third parties by increasing by five times (from 50,000 to 250,000) the number of votes needed by a party’s gubernatorial ticket to qualify the party for the ballot.

It is no secret that Cuomo, Jacobs, and other establishment Democrats are irritated by public criticisms and primary challenges from the Working Families Party, which functions as a progressive faction of the Democratic Party. The WFP uses its ballot line as political leverage in the Democratic Party by threatening and sometimes mounting primary challenges to establishment Democrats, although it almost always runs the Democratic primary winner on its ballot line in the general election.

A much bigger issue is at stake here than this internal Democratic squabble: the people’s right to have the full diversity of their voices and choices participating in elections. Election law reforms should promote multi-party democracy, not cement in place the two-party system of corporate rule where both major parties are financed by wealthy special interests.

As the Green Party candidate for governor three times between between 2010 and 2018, I came in third each time among five to seven candidates. I received between 60,000 and 184,000 votes, the latter total accounting for 4.8 percent of the total vote. Our vote was always above the longstanding 50,000 vote standard but well below the 250,000 votes that Jacobs proposes. Jacobs is targeting the Green Party’s very right to participate in elections.

Jacobs justifies his proposal by saying New York needs to eliminate the corruption of “sham” parties that trade their ballot line for political favors. The Green Party is by no definition a “sham” party. The Green Party runs its own candidates against both establishment parties. It doesn’t accept donations from corporate interests. It doesn’t trade its ballot nominations for favors from the major parties. It is not a faction of the Democratic Party, like the WFP, nor a faction of the Republican Party, like the Conservative Party. It is not for sale to the highest bidder between the two major parties, like the misnamed Independence Party.

Jacobs also said he wants to reduce voter confusion. Here I agree. In the 2018 election I faced four Cuomos and three Molinaros on the ballot in this order:

Democratic Andrew Cuomo
Republican Marc Molinaro
Conservative Marc Molinaro
Green Howie Hawkins
Working Families Andrew Cuomo
Independence Andrew Cuomo
Women’s Equality Andrew Cuomo
Reform Marc Molinaro
SAM Stephanie Miner
Libertarian Larry Sharpe

The ballot should have had five ballot lines for the five candidates instead of ten ballot lines for each party making a nomination. New York’s “disaggregated fusion,” where every party nomination creates another ballot line, does indeed make for confusing ballots.

Future ballots should be simplified by putting all the party nominations a candidate receives under their name instead of giving them a separate ballot line for each party nomination. Most states that permit multiple party nominations use this “aggregated fusion” of one ballot line per candidate, including Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, Oregon, and Vermont. Aggregated fusion was used by New York City on its ballots when it had ranked-choice voting for proportional representation on the City Council from 1936 to 1947.

Aggregated fusion ballots for New York would require a different standard for ballot qualification than the current 50,000 votes for the party’s gubernatorial ticket. New York is unique among the states in having a fixed number of votes for governor on a party’s separate ballot line as the sole standard for ballot qualification. Most other states use the more reasonable standards of a minimum party enrollment and/or a minimum percentage of the vote. In New York, we should allow parties to qualify for the ballot by either having a minimum number of party enrollees – 20,000 would be reasonable – or by receiving 1 percent of the vote for any statewide office.

It would also serve fair elections to have the candidates listed in random order, with a separate page for each office and random ordering of candidates on each page. Political scientists have found a ballot name-order effect of 1 percent to 10 percent, with the effect increasing on down-ballot, low-information contests. We don’t have to cram every office and ballot proposition onto one page. We don’t use lever machines to record votes anymore.

Ballot access in the United States is more difficult than almost every other electoral democracy in the world. To qualify independent candidates for the ballot for national legislatures, it takes two signatures in New Zealand, 10 signatures in the UK and India, 50 signatures in Australia, 100 signatures in Canada, and 200 signatures in Germany. In New York, it takes 3,500 signatures for independents to get on the ballot for Congress. Many states’ signature requirements for independent congressional candidates are more restrictive. Illinois, for example, requires 5 percent of the district total vote in the previous election, which comes to over 15,000 signatures.

Party suppression in America is part of the broader problem of voter suppression. Many voters stay home because they believe that the Democrats and the Republicans do not represent their concerns. Instead of restricting the voices and choices in our elections, we should expand them by instituting proportional representation in legislative bodies, as do most electoral democracies around the world.

Under proportional representation, each party gets representatives in the legislative party in proportion to the votes its candidates receive. No vote is wasted. Every vote counts toward getting your party its fair share of representation. When New York City had proportional representation, the number of parties represented in the City Council increased from two to between five and seven for each two-year cycle.

Third parties are attacked by major party partisans for “splitting the vote” in our single-member-district, winner-take-all system. Many voters feel compelled to vote for a “lesser evil” major party candidate instead of the third party candidate they really prefer in hopes of preventing a victory by the other major party candidate they fear more. Proportional representation ends the vote-splitting problem for legislative races. 

For single-seat executive offices, the answer to vote-splitting is ranked-choice voting. Voters rank their choices in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority in the first count, the last place candidate is eliminated and their voters’ ballots are transferred to their second choices. That process continues until a candidate receives a majority of votes. Ireland, Malta, and Sri Lanka elect their presidents by ranked-choice voting. Maine will award its electoral votes in 2020 by ranked-choice voting. New York City voters just approved ranked-choice voting, but it will only apply to city-level offices and only in party primaries or special elections, not general elections.

Many prominent Democrats blame Green Party candidates like Ralph Nader in 2000 and Jill Stein in 2016 for their own losses to Republican presidential candidates, as Hillary Clinton did again last month. The last two Republican presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, were first elected despite losing the popular vote. The Green Party didn’t do that. The Electoral College did. Instead of picking on the Greens, the Democrats should join the Greens in fighting to end this problem by replacing the archaic anti-democratic Electoral College with a national popular vote for president using ranked-choice voting.

The Democrats’ plan to eliminate third parties in New York is a plan to reduce democracy. Let’s support reforms that expand democracy, including fair ballot access, fair ballots, proportional representation, ranked-choice voting, and public campaign financing

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Howie Hawkins, a three-time New York gubernatorial nominee of the Green Party, is currently a candidate for the Green nomination for president. On Twitter @HowieHawkins.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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From the 'Third Party' Front Lines, How to Address Fusion Voting, Party Qualifications, and New York Democracy Thu, 14 Nov 2019 05:00:00 +0000
The Green New Deal New York Needs, From Its Original Source https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8195-the-green-new-deal-new-york-needs-from-its-original-source https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8195-the-green-new-deal-new-york-needs-from-its-original-source govandcuomo offshore

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


In outlining his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term, Governor Cuomo said in December he would launch a Green New Deal. I have been calling for a Green New Deal since 2010 in three Green Party gubernatorial campaigns against him.

Cuomo has already nominally adopted a number of my platform planks, including the fracking ban, marriage equality, a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free public college, paid family leave, and legalization of marijuana. Unfortunately, the implementation of some of these measures fall short of full realization and the same appears to be true for what will be Cuomo’s Green New Deal.

The Green Party’s Green New Deal would fulfill the full promise of the original New Deal as articulated by President Franklin Roosevelt in his last State of the Union address in 1944 when he called upon Congress to enact a second, economic bill of rights, including the rights to a job, an adequate income, decent housing, comprehensive health care, and a good education. What makes it a Green New Deal is that the rapid build out of a 100% clean energy system would provide the sustainable economic foundation for the realization of economic human rights for all.

The only specific measure Cuomo announced is a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2040. The reality is that electricity accounts for only about 20% of New York’s carbon emissions. We must also zero out the other 80% of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation, buildings, industrial, commercial, and agricultural sectors. Cuomo’s Green New Deal thus falls far short of the reduction in carbon emissions that climate science indicates is needed to avert the tipping points of runaway global warming and a climate catastrophe of widespread extinctions, collapsing ecosystems, food and water shortages, generalized impoverishment, masses of climate refugees, and resource wars.

The recent International Panel on Climate Change report says net zero carbon emissions by 2050 across all sectors worldwide is needed in order to stay under a “safe” rise in global temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial temperature. The world already reached a rise of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in 2015. Because the UN’s IPPC reports have to be approved by the major petro-states and carbon emitters such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Brazil, and the United States, their reports have consistently underestimated the pace of global warming and understated the measures needed to stem it. Independent studies by climate scientists such as NASA’s James Hansen and his colleagues conclude that global warming must be limited to 1 degree Celsius to avoid the tipping points of runaway warming, which requires carbon emissions to zero out in 15 years combined with drawing down existing atmospheric carbon through massive reforestation and rebuilding living soils through sustainable agriculture.

The good news is that a crash program for clean energy is economically and technically feasible. And make no mistake, this is an emergency that must be dealt with as such.

Following up on a 2009 study demonstrating the planetwide feasibility of 100% clean energy by 2030, Mark Jacobson and colleagues found in a 2013 study for New York that a 100% renewable energy system by 2030 was not only feasible, but would create an economic boom. It would create 4.5 million jobs construction and manufacturing jobs during the build out. It would improve public health (more than 3,000 New Yorkers die annually from air pollution) and lower electric rates up to 50% compared to the continued use of fossil and nuclear fuels.

A Green New Deal for New York should start with the NY Off Fossil Fuels Act (A5105A/S5908A), which halts all new fossil fuel infrastructure and creates a program for 100% clean energy by 2030.

The Off Fossil Fuels Act requires state, county, and local governments to adopt detailed, enforceable clean energy plans with two-year benchmarks, timelines, and reporting. It would require new buildings to have net zero carbon emissions by 2020 and new vehicles to be emissions free by 2025. It has strong environmental justice provisions for a “just transition” that ensures that low-income communities and communities of color, and communities dependent on fossil fuel and nuclear plants, are made whole in terms of jobs, wages, benefits, and tax revenues during the transition.

Climate action must be linked to economic justice to sustain political support. New York’s Green New Deal should also embrace the New York Health Act for universal health care, fully-funded public schools, tuition-free public colleges, and building quality public housing to address the housing affordability crisis.

New York’s Green New Deal should halt new fracked-gas pipelines and power plants. The corruption-ridden Competitive Power Ventures fracked-gas power plant in Orange County alone will add 10% to the state’s carbon emissions. The governor supports upgrading the Sheridan Avenue gas plant to power, heat, and cool state government buildings on Empire State Plaza. That plant has poisoned and sickened the largely low-income African-American Arbor Hill neighborhood for over a century by burning coal, oil, garbage, and now gas.

Governor Cuomo should use his authority under the Clean Water Act to deny permits to gas pipelines and power plants, which invariably negatively impact streams and watersheds. He should embrace the Renewable Heat Campaign to replace gas heating with ground- and air-source heat pumps. He should fix the existing Green Homes Green Jobs program to energy retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes for insulation, efficiency, and heat pumps. He should compel the DEC and NYSERDA to complete and report out their long-delayed study he asked for two years ago to plan a transition to 100% clean energy (a report we are now told will not be released).

Jacobson and colleagues put the capital cost for a 100% clean energy system at $460 billion. The $14 billion clean energy loan guarantee program of the 2009 Obama stimulus leveraged 47 times more in private investment. Using a conservative 10 to 1 leveraging ratio, a state investment of $46 billion would generate the $460 billion.  

The money should come from a combination of taxes and lending. The pending bills for a progressive state carbon tax would generate at least $7 billion a year, more than enough to invest $4.6 billion a year over ten years. A carbon tax will enhance the leverage of public investments by creating predictable market signals for savings from private clean energy investments. A state public bank could extend the credit for private clean energy investments at lower cost than borrowing through Wall Street, with the interest and principal returning to the state for public purposes. Taking public ownership of all power utilities, and operating them at cost for public benefit instead of at cost-plus-profits for absentee owners, will enable us to plan the energy transition for lower cost and without obstruction from the vested interests of the incumbent utility, fossil fuel, and nuclear industries.

If these measures sound like democratic socialism, they are. The federal government nationalized 25% of U.S. manufacturing during World War II in order to turn industry on a dime to build the “arsenal of democracy” that defeated the Nazis. We need nothing less to defeat climate change.

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Howie Hawkins is a three-time New York gubernatorial nominee of The Green Party and long-time climate activist. On Twitter @HowieHawkins.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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The Green New Deal New York Needs, From Its Original Source Sun, 13 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
A 'Green New Deal' for New York and More: Where the Climate Change Conversation is Headed in 2019 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8174-a-green-new-deal-for-new-york-climate-change-conversation-is-headed-in-2019 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8174-a-green-new-deal-for-new-york-climate-change-conversation-is-headed-in-2019 mbilldeblasiotours bofeitc lic

(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
Find the rest of the series here

After an election where the issue saw little mainstream political attention, climate change and what to do about it has come roaring back to the forefront of the New York political scene. Whether it’s because of a recent federal report outlining the economic damage climate change will cause if left unchecked, because New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has used her bully pulpit to push a Green New Deal, or the potential for more action after Democrats won control of the state Senate, there’s increased attention on both new and old legislation to try to beat back rising oceans, extreme weather and their effects.

At both the state and city levels, efforts to combat climate change are likely to be significant topics of discussion in 2019.

New York State
Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat starting his third term, has increasingly spoken out about the climate crisis during his time in office, even if his ideas and rhetoric haven’t always been what climate activists want from him. The state’s Reforming Energy Vision has set energy efficiency goals (a 600 trillion British thermal units efficiency increase) and renewable energy goals (50 percent of electricity) for the year 2030, and Cuomo helped to establish the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of 16 states that have agreed to take measures to get their greenhouse gas emissions down to the level set by the Paris Agreement, despite President Donald Trump’s rejection of it.   

The governor also made news with a pair of announcements recently. First, he announced a new New York State Public Service Commission regulation that mandates utilities find ways to cut 31 trillion British thermal units of site energy (which is the heat and electricity consumed by a building), to move towards the goal of saving 185 TBtus 2025 (an energy efficiency framework that the governor said could create 50,000 jobs by 2025) along with an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to develop better energy storage capabilities statewide.

Second, Cuomo gave a December speech outlining his 2019 legislative agenda, and called for a Green New Deal for New York, though he gave few details. While Cuomo’s Green New Deal is unlikely to look like a state-level version of the one Ocasio-Cortez is pushing nationally, the dual goals of such a program are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing renewable energies and creating green jobs.

In his speech Cuomo did lay out two central aspects of his Green New Deal vision, which he is expected to expand upon when he presents his State of the State policy book in January: getting the state’s electricity to 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2040 and eventually eliminating the state’s carbon footprint entirely. Cuomo also contrasted his belief and policy plans with that of the Trump administration’s attitude, saying that “federal government still denies climate change, remarkably turning a blind eye to their own government's scientific report.”

Still, his initial position falls short of what the state’s most vocal climate change activists are calling for. Those activists, who have formed the NY Renews coalition, reacted to Cuomo’s announcement by putting together a slick movie trailer with footage of climate disasters and a press release pointing out that electricity is 20 percent of the state’s total carbon footprint, all in service of continuing to push their gold standard: the Climate and Community Protection Act.

The CCPA, which has passed the state Assembly for three years only to be stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate that is about to turn to Democratic hands, establishes what advocates have called a “climate justice” framework. In addition to setting legislative targets for the use of renewable energy (50 percent of energy statewide by 2030) and carbon elimination (100 percent fossil fuel free by 2050), the bill also directs any transition project getting state funding to pay a prevailing wage and directs 40 percent of whatever state investment goes towards climate mitigation efforts to go to low-income communities and communities most threatened by climate change. All of which, according to the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate, state Senator Brad Hoylman, add up to what the Manhattan Democrat says is the best approach to a Green New Deal, “a three-pronged approach: jobs, labor [standards], and protecting vulnerable communities.”

What the ramp up to transition away from fossil fuels will look like is not laid out in detail by the bill, instead the text requires the creation of a New York State Climate Action Council and directs the Department of Environmental Conservation to establish greenhouse gas emissions limits and regulations to achieve those limits. The bill also establishes a Climate Justice Working Group, which would study how to expand renewable energy into disadvantaged communities and would “have a role in determining what that investment would look like,” Hoylman said.

Whether that means a heavy hand from the state or not is something that’s been up for debate, and a place where Cuomo’s proclamation means he may soon weigh in. In a previous interview with Gotham Gazette, three-time Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins -- who has been running on a Green New Deal for New York since the 2010 race -- suggested that it would take “a World War II-scale mobilization” to prevent catastrophic damage from climate change. “During World War II we nationalized 25 percent of manufacturing in this country to make sure we could turn on a dime to make the weapons we used to beat the Nazis. The private investor-owned utilities and energy companies, they haven't led the way to clean energy, so we may need more public ownership,” Hawkins suggested.

In Hoylman’s view, the state doesn’t have to seize the means of production or even take on the role of primary investor, as much as it should shape where the market moves money.

“I think it's a combination of private investment, but with some prodding by the state to direct investment into low-income communities and communities of color, which otherwise might be passed by the marketplace,” Hoylman said of getting renewable power infrastructure into low-income communities. “I see government's role as a corrective one and making certain that that we've solved the collective action problem, which is basically doing nothing and allowing the marketplace to proceed unabated and our dependence on fossil fuels to increase. That might be less expensive in the short term, but it’s going to be more expensive in the long term. And then secondly, protecting those New Yorkers who often get left behind in these types of transitions, in particular where they’re reliant on outdated modes of energy like fossil fuels.”

As the CCPA has languished in the Republican-ruled state Senate, and the years tick closer to 2030, Hoylman said he understands the need to move fast on the legislation when his party takes the helm.

“I think so,” Hoylman said when asked if it was imperative that the CCPA is passed in 2019. “You know, we're running out of time on a lot of aspects, but certainly, if we're going to move as quickly as other states like California, we need to pass this bill as soon as possible.”

Hoylman also said that he is sensitive to the challenge that Democrats have in passing the CCPA and the Climate and Community Investment Act, which would help fund transition efforts through a carbon tax, while avoiding the pitfall of looking like the tax-hiking and regulation-spewing liberals Republicans warned they would be, but that inaction would be even worse.

“I think a Democratic Senate will be very sensitive to raising taxes of any sort without a real understanding of what the point behind them is,” Holyman said. “We think the Climate and Community Protection Act actually creates revenue, given the costs associated with climate change, so I would ask, ‘what is the cost of us not doing anything.’”

While the governor hasn’t signaled a position on the bill, and seems to have left the specifics for his Green New Deal for his State of the State, Hoylman praised moves that Cuomo has made on the climate with his executive powers, like establishing a commitment to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030 and banning fracking. With both houses of the Legislature and the governor himself invested in the larger idea of transitioning away from fossil fuels, Hoylman said he sees a paradigm “that will push Albany to act more decisively on the issue.”

Whatever any final Green New Deal for New York looks like will be a product of negotiations between Cuomo and the Legislature, possibly as part of the late March or early April state budget agreement for the next fiscal year.

The new chair of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, State Senator Todd Kaminsky of Long Island has said he is excited to get to work fighting climate change. “In the face of climate change and the dire threat it poses to New York and our planet, our State must emerge as an environmental leader and demonstrate that we understand the urgency at hand and the need to act accordingly," Kaminsky said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "I plan to hit the ground running as chair to take more aggressive steps to protect our environment and New Yorkers, including holding hearings on the Climate and Community Protection Act, and enacting legislation in support of other resiliency and renewable energy efforts.”

As Kaminsky indicated, while the CCPA is the main event of this year’s legislative session when it comes to climate change activism, there’s a lot on the undercard that the state has been grappling with. While public transit is usually thought of as the domain of New York City and the surrounding metro area, and the governor’s Buffalo Billion II program doesn’t have the cleanest lineage, advocates for a Buffalo light rail expansion are hoping Senator Tim Kennedy’s place as chair of the Transportation Committee will mean more funding for expanding the system as the city determines the best path forward.

Elsewhere, the state is pushing for renewable energy with an RFP out asking for vendors to deliver 800 megawatts of offshore wind power (with winners to be announced in the spring of 2019) which was a goal in Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State book, and the NY-Sun initiative, which offers education and financing for solar projects and has supported almost 90,000 solar projects around the state.

There’s also the New York Green Bank, which has invested over $500 million in areas like community solar, energy efficiency and storage projects. The Cuomo administration has continued work on its RetrofitNY project, an effort to find ways to affordably and scalably retrofit multifamily buildings in order to cut their emissions, although the effort hasn’t made it out of the “proof of concept and design phase yet.”

Outside of the Legislature and the governor’s mansion, there’s also the ongoing argument over Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s management of the state pension fund, which is worth more than $200 billion. Environmental advocates have pressed DiNapoli to divest the state’s pension funds from fossil fuel companies, a move that they say would not only hurt companies who contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, but also make the state pension fund more money. DiNapoli, for his part, has argued against making any sudden, sweeping moves without studying their impact, and that he has a fiduciary duty to get the best return possible for the state, while also putting $10 billion in state pension funds in a low-emissions and clean energy indexes. He’s also argued that by being an activist investor, he can push the companies toward more climate-friendly policies.

New York City
There are also proposals for New York City to take action, independent of the state, with ongoing action to cut emissions and a pair of high-profile bills that were introduced at the end of 2018. The de Blasio administration has included climate change in the OneNYC agenda, setting goals to make New York “the most sustainable big city in the world” and “the most resilient big city in the world.”

Part of OneNYC is the de Blasio administration’s target for emissions cutbacks, the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability put out a Roadmap to 80x50 in 2016 that set a path for emissions reductions by way of energy standards for buildings, expanding the use of renewable energy, increasing the use of mass transit and reducing the amount of waste sent to city landfills.

The city is set to begin construction on the “Big U,” a coastal resiliency measure made up of parkland and berms around lower Manhattan to protect it from flooding, in spring 2020, according to the most recent news provided by the de Blasio administration. The updated plan for the flood protection, which involves raising the East River Park, has been criticized though, for making the project costlier in what critics say is an effort to not inconvenience drivers on the FDR Drive and avoiding dealing with the Parks Department’s lack of any kind of post-storm maintenance budget.  

agenda19v2 aAfter the mayor got out ahead of allies and even his office with proposed energy efficiency mandates regarding retrofitting and caps on the amount of fossil fuels buildings can burn, the exact ideas he’d proposed never really took off. But, a recently-introduced pair of bills from Queens City Council Member Costa Constantinides run with the idea, and if passed, would introduce new emissions standards for many buildings 25,000 square feet or larger. Since large buildings account for two-thirds of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, backers of the Constantinides bills see retrofitting large buildings by doing things like installing energy efficient HVAC systems, hot water heaters, and electricity and lighting, as one of the most effective ways for the city to cut those emissions 80 percent by 2050. The bills, which had their first hearing in December, would open an Office of Building Energy Performance that can set new buildings emissions standards and also establish a financing program to help the owners of some buildings finance efforts to retrofit their properties to reach the emissions targets the office sets out.

“We need to start where the emissions are, and these large buildings are the right place to do it,” Constantinides said at a hearing to introduce the bills, noting that while buildings larger than 50,000 square feet only make up less than one percent of the city’s building stock, they give off 30 percent of the city’s total emissions. However, while the bill’s supporters have praised the exemption of buildings with at least one rent-stabilized unit from the most stringent efficiency requirements as a necessary way to protect residents from potential rent hikes from upgrades counted as major capital improvements, critics have called the provision a major problem. (In the event that the state rent laws are changed to prevent landlords from passing MCIs on to rent-stabilized tenants though, organizations like New York Communities for Change have expressed support for writing buildings with rent-stabilized units into the law.)

Mark Chambers, director of the de Blasio administration’s Office of Sustainability, told the City Council that the laws could create over 14,000 jobs related to the efforts to retrofit buildings and praised the establishment of a New York City PACE financing program as a way to make sure that property owners themselves aren’t burdened by the efficiency upgrades.

Elsewhere, activists who started a campaign this summer to establish a public bank in New York City recently rallied at City Hall to connect the potential municipal bank with efforts to fight climate change on a local level. First, advocates say that taking billions of city deposits away from larger banks like Chase and Bank of America, who finance fossil fuel extraction with some of their money, would be as effective a strike against fossil fuel reliance as the city’s underway efforts to divest its public pension funds from fossil fuel stock. Additionally, advocates say that a public bank would allow for cheaper financing of small-scale renewable energy projects that will be necessary in the coming transition away from fossil fuels.

“Waterfront solar projects, community solar projects, all of those kind of projects could be funded more easily if the intermediaries that were trying to do the good work didn't have to go to their very limited pots of money or could get money out of somebody bigger who wasn't predatory,” Stephan Edel, the director of the New York Working Families Project at the Working Families Party, told Gotham Gazette.

And while Edel had praise for the pension funds and the state’s green bank as effective tools in the transition to a green economy, he also said that a public bank could lend to projects that return on their investment somewhat slower. “A public bank still has to make safe investments, has to make that limited return, but it can look at a longer term set of benefits and it can look at investments that can have a long-term benefit because it's not looking to get its return in a quarter or make nine percent,” he said.

As for the proposal’s legislative future, the New Economy Project’s Ali Issa told Gotham Gazette that the Public Bank NYC coalition is working with “an array of state and city elected officials, including Council Member Mark Levine” to put a proposal for the bank forward in 2019.

Levine, for his part, provided a statement saying, “though we have made progress divesting from the fossil fuel industry, we must go further. Our City should put its own money to work for New Yorkers through a public bank, which would supercharge investments in critical projects throughout the five boroughs, and return financial power to the people and businesses that need it most.”

This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
Find the rest of the series here

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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A 'Green New Deal' for New York and More: Where the Climate Change Conversation is Headed in 2019 Thu, 03 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Without Cuomo, Other Candidates for Governor Present Ideas in Tempered Debate https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8041-without-cuomo-other-candidates-for-governor-present-ideas-in-tempered-debate https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8041-without-cuomo-other-candidates-for-governor-present-ideas-in-tempered-debate Cuomo Molinaro Miner Hawkins Sharpe

Cuomo, Molinaro, Miner, Hawkins, Sharpe


New York’s gubernatorial candidates (minus Governor Andrew Cuomo, who declined the invitation) took the stage at Albany’s College of Saint Rose Thursday evening for the second debate of the general election, but, unlike the first, one that did not once summon the name “Trump” and focused more on the intricacies of running the government.

Whether it was because of the four-candidate field, the real target for each seeming to be the missing incumbent, or the pre-debate call for civility from College of Saint Rose President Carolyn Stefanco, over 90 minutes Republican Marc Molinaro, Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins, Serve America Movement’s Stephanie Miner, and Libertarian Larry Sharpe did less back-and-forth debating and more delivering pieces of their platforms and criticisms of Cuomo’s record.

Cuomo’s absence itself was little remarked upon, referred to early on by Laura Ladd Bierman, the lead moderator and executive director of the League of Women Voters of New York State, with a pointed “thank you to the four of you who agreed to participate,” and toward the end, as Hawkins said “Shame on Andrew Cuomo for not coming here” during his closing statement. But he was a convenient punching bag for all four of the candidates, who despite presenting very different governing philosophies were united in blasting the two-term governor’s economic development and gun control efforts, Excelsior Scholarship program, and ability to retain New York State’s population.

After sustained criticism that the gubernatorial debates this cycle didn’t focus on issues of particular concern in upstate New York, the very first question of the night from moderator Josefa Velasquez of Sludge involved how to encourage young people to move upstate.

Hawkins plugged his Green New Deal as antidote to the lack of jobs in the extensive region, after noting that “most of them [that do exist] are crap.” Sharpe called for a simpler tax code and the exemption of small business from “federal regulatory bodies” if they only sell their goods locally. Miner called for the end of Cuomo’s economic development schemes and more investment in local infrastructure. And Molinaro, who debated Cuomo one-on-one in New York City last week, called for respect from government and property tax relief through the State taking on local costs.

And so a template was set for the evening: Hawkins as the full-throated leftist, Sharpe as the bombastic and soundbite-friendly voice of libertarianism, Miner as the upstate-friendly moderate wonk, and Molinaro as an earnest, caring Republican out of step with the callous, hyper-partisan attitude the national party has turned to. But the candidates were also so focused on their agreement that the status quo in the state is so poor that they forgot to overtly point out disagreements with each other.

Along with Velasquez, questions were asked of the candidates by the Daily News’ Ken Lovett, WRVO’s Susan Arbetter and College of St. Rose junior Takora McIntyre. While the League of Women Voters sponsored the debate and Saint Rose hosted it, the League did not find a media partner, so the debate was not broadcast on television or radio; the League instead streamed it over multiple online channels.

The candidates, none of whom are well-known across New York, sought to establish their biographies and experiences with voters. Molinaro brought up his experience as Dutchess county executive when explaining why he knew how to lower property taxes or lead a statewide effort to find ways where counties could share public services, and pitched his life in government as one dedicated to improving the lives of everyday New Yorkers. Miner talked about her infrastructure modernization efforts as (Democratic) mayor of Syracuse and focused her closing statement on emphasising her eight years of experience running the city as a case study in “solving real problems” in a broken system.

Sharpe brought up his military service as a way for him to compare the GI Bill benefits he got to his proposed grants for students after the 10th grade, and pitched himself as a “business guy” trying to make “customers” (voters) happy. Hawkins reminded voters of his life of activism while encouraging political leaders to listen to young people and his time as a construction worker to pitch himself as a man who knew the struggles of a working person.

Every candidate said they had problems with the gun-control SAFE Act and the way it was passed, professed it is important for young people to vote, and argued the governor’s Regional Economic Development Councils should be scrapped and that the state should pay for mandates that fall on the shoulders of local governments.

On rare occasions, like Hawkins’ dismissal of charter schools as corporate profit-seeking in the guise of education or Miner’s measured support of the proposed ‘red flag’ gun control bill Cuomo is behind or Sharpe promoting his plan to end public education after 10th grade, one candidate disagreed with the general tenor of the other three. But whether it was the number of candidates, the insistence on civility, Cuomo’s absence, or a non-confrontational format, the proceedings largely entailed four candidates standing behind lecterns and reciting their platforms one at a time when prompted by a question.

Sharpe jumped out from the civility constrictions by casting the ideologies of both Democrats and Republicans as uncreative failures (and in one bizarre instance claiming Molinaro “stole” the term “Status Cuomo” from him), and managed to stand out if only because ideas like asking Pepsi to fix lead-lined pipes upstate in exchange for the good press and branding they would get out of it, is in fact something no traditional politician has ever brought up.

Though Sharpe (slash government) and Hawkins (socialism) have drastically different political philosophies and policy ideas, they never had, or took, the opportunity to poke holes in each other’s arguments. Likewise, Miner and Molinaro never went back-and-forth about the best ways to invest in infrastructure and where those investments are first needed. If the Cuomo-Molinaro debate was light on substance, the four-candidate conversation just a few days before Election Day lacked open disagreement.

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

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Without Cuomo, Other Candidates for Governor Present Ideas in Tempered Debate Fri, 02 Nov 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Climate Change, and What To Do About It, Largely Missing from Governor’s Race https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8028-climate-change-and-what-to-do-about-it-largely-missing-from-governor-s-race https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8028-climate-change-and-what-to-do-about-it-largely-missing-from-governor-s-race Cuomo Gore climate change

Gov. Cuomo and former VP Gore in 2015 (photo: The Governor's Office)


New York’s 2018 gubernatorial election has largely been eclipsed, like so many things in United States politics, by a massive Trump-shaped shadow. Within that shadow, Andrew Cuomo and Marc Molinaro have argued about the health of upstate New York, management of the MTA, and dueling corruption charges, among other topics. But one looming issue, climate change, has seemed to escape the notice of the two candidates, even as news related to it becomes more dire and New York’s Legislature sits on proposals to shift the state to a 100 percent renewable energy environment.

“I would say no, but that's generally my answer for most candidates,” Aracely Jimenez-Hudis, a member of the climate justice organization Sunrise NYC said when asked if she thought either of the major party gubernatorial candidates were talking enough about climate change. And while Jimenez-Hudis works with a group whose main focus is climate change, the fact remains that it simply isn’t an issue either candidate has decided to address this year.

Molinaro doesn’t include a platform on climate change or the environment on his website, but told Gotham Gazette that he accepts climate change as science and that it is a trend impacted by humans; he believes in “the inherent capacity of man to overcome any challenge.” Molinaro also said he agrees with the governor’s idea to get New York to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, but that rather than the state investing large amounts of money in private companies, government “ought to create an economic climate where the industry can actually compete and thrive.” He doesn’t believe in “cutting checks,” he said, but he is open to the right blend of tax incentives and regulatory changes to encourage a greener economy.

Beyond the question of energy sources, Molinaro said that congestion pricing as a funding mechanism for expanding public transportation and reducing street congestion, and changing zoning codes to reduce damage to the environment and make clean energy use more effective were ideas he’d look to in order to reduce emissions as a whole.

On the trail, though, the Dutchess county executive and Republican nominee for governor has said he’s open to a “pilot program” allowing fracking in New York’s Southern Tier and has expressed a worry that New York is missing out on an economic boom by not allowing the practice. While Molinaro has touted his past endorsements by the Sierra Club as part of his proof that he’s a different kind of Republican, the organization endorsed Cuomo over him this year.

On his own campaign website, Cuomo writes that his administration has made New York a national leader on climate change, casting it through the lens of resisting the Trump administration, writing that he’s “picking up the mantle of climate leadership where Washington is failing.” His office has funded over $20 million worth of flood protection efforts on Long Island this year, and the Sierra Club endorsement for the governor notes his leadership in banning fracking in 2014 and lauds him for committing New York to generating 50 percent of its energy from renewable powers like wind and solar by 2030, but the biggest instance of the governor’s name being attached to the word “climate” this campaign was when he suggested “climate-based” reasons were driving people’s decision to move out of upstate New York.

Cuomo has campaigned little on forward-looking policy of any kind, mostly highlighting past accomplishments and staking out anti-Trump ground. When he has discussed a third-term agenda, climate change is background noise. His Nine Point Pledge for a Stronger Long Island, signed with each of the Democratic state Senate candidates on the island, contains passing references to “resiliency projects” and passing the governor’s bill outlawing offshore drilling in New York.

The governor has faced his own criticism on environmental policy, including an occupation of his Manhattan office earlier this summer by activists with Sunrise over his refusal to sign a pledge to not take fossil fuel-linked campaign donations and for not getting behind the Climate and Community Protection Act. The CCPA, a bill that seeks to move New York to a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050, with power grid transitions and resiliency efforts paid for by a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, got a boost of media and campaign attention during the primary campaign when Cynthia Nixon threw her support behind it. Nixon called the CCPA the most important work of her campaign at a recent gala for New York Communities for Change, work that got her kudos from environmental activists. But even in the primary’s lone debate, the bill only came up briefly.

There was no discussion of climate change in the single Cuomo-Molinaro debate, which took place last week. It’s an unfortunate turn of events according to Howie Hawkins, the Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate, because New York could set the tone for the way the rest of the country reacts to the issue. “What we do counts,” Hawkins said, citing the size of New York’s economy compared to the economies of entire nations, “and we think what it does for the economy, besides what it does for the climate, will set an example that other people will want to emulate. Just like Franklin Roosevelt did some public employment when he was governor and it became a model for the jobs programs of the New Deal, I think we set an example [with a Green New Deal], we get ahead of the curve and other people are gonna want to follow our lead.”

Hawkins sees a transition to a green economy, part of what he calls a Green New Deal, as one of the many issues residents north of Westchester say have been ignored this year. “The thing about a serious climate action program is it’s a big economic stimulus, particularly upstate where you have to do a lot of energy installation,” Hawkins said, adding that the region could also become a manufacturing hub for green technology that could create jobs and be an example for the rest of the country.

Cuomo has in fact focused some of his energies on creating more affordable forms of power through the Reforming the Energy Vision program, the umbrella strategy to move New York towards 50 percent renewable power by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gasses by 40 percent from their levels in the 1990s. Within that strategy, New York State has partnered with utility companies to work on projects testing out ways to efficiently deliver green energy, has invested in workforce training in green energy and companies related to the field and has taken “a more market-based, decentralized approach” to shifting the state to renewable power. The state also has a high-stakes partnership with Tesla that’s supposed to bring 1,460 jobs to Buffalo, following the company’s acquisition of SolarCity, the solar panel manufacturer the state invested $750 million in (an investment that was later discovered to be caught up in Alain Kaloyeros’ bid-rigging scheme).

The lack of climate change talk has “been the pattern in the presidential debates, and certainly in New York-level debates,” Pete Sikora, an activist with New York Communities for Change focused on environmental issues, told Gotham Gazette. “Climate change is an important issue to voters, but if you're looking at Molinaro versus Cuomo, it hasn't become a defining contrast.” NYCC endorsed Nixon in the primary.

Hudis-Jimenez said that Nixon’s focus on the the Climate and Community Protection Act allowed her and other canvassers to do specific outreach directly to voters through climate canvasses for Nixon, which was helpful to spread the bill’s message, but ultimately not as scalable as something beamed into homes across the state.

“More people will tune into a debate probably than are contacted by canvassing or phone-banking, so the issues that get talked about during a debate are the ones voters will think about when they're going to the polls,” she said. “So the fact that climate change got maybe five seconds [in the Cuomo-Nixon debate] said a lot about the work that still needs to be done getting climate change to be a top electoral issue.”

“I don't know why it's not a huge issue,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer told Gotham Gazette. “You would think, considering Long Island and Westchester, so much of the region was underwater, you would think it would be more of a discussion.” Part of the reason for its absence as a front and center issue, Brewer speculated, was that unlike the everyday experience for New Yorkers that is a broken subway, “we don't experience water coming into our buildings everyday.”

It is getting to be more of an issue though, Brewer noted, though there can be a subtlety to it that hides the more dire nature of the crisis. “There's a difference between a big storm and just plain old surge. Even if you don’t get a big storm, the water surge is a different issue. So you could get something like no storm and still a high water situation,” she said, noting she got a high water alert before this weekend’s Nor’easter.

The absence of climate change and what to do about it from the broader gubernatorial campaign also chills questions of whether even the proposals that Nixon pushed go far enough, or if something like the Green Party-supported New York Off Fossil Fuels Act is the right path for the state. That bill, sponsored by Assemblymember William Colton and state Senator Brad Hoylman (who also just wrote an op-ed calling on the state to pass the CCPA), both Democrats, would move New York to 100 percent clean energy by 2030, a necessary step in the face of the continuing climate crisis and what Hawkins said were insufficient proposals by Cuomo and Nixon, whose proposals both called for New York to use 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

“They want 50 percent clean electricity by 2030, but electricity is just 28 percent of the carbon footprint, it doesn't deal with transportation, industry, agriculture or buildings,” Hawkins said. You get 50 percent of that reduced, that's 14 percent really,” he said as a critique of both approaches.

Even if climate change hasn’t taken a star turn in any general election campaigns getting media attention, activists like Sikora and Hudis-Jimenez are gearing up to keep fighting after the election. “Working towards a goal of 50 percent renewable energy is half-assing it,” Hudis-Jimenez said, promising to continue to keep the pressure on legislators to be more ambitious.

“Whether the governor is talking about it now or not, what we want is for him to embrace [the CCPA], put it in the budget and pass it,” Sikora said. “We'll have a Senate and Assembly that is Democratic, hopefully, and in that scenario, this legislation should pass and the governor should lead the charge. We'll be coming hard on passage of that kind of legislation.”

***
by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

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Climate Change, and What To Do About It, Largely Missing from Governor’s Race Tue, 30 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Cuomo Challengers Level Critiques; Will Anything Stick? https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7983-cuomo-challengers-levy-critiques-will-anything-stick https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7983-cuomo-challengers-levy-critiques-will-anything-stick Cuomo made in the shade

Gov. Cuomo (photo: Mike Groll/Govenor's Office)


With less than a month till voters go to the polls on November 6, it appears Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has little cause for worry as he seeks a third term. His favorability among voters may have dropped but public polling has shown him holding consistently wide leads over his opponents. His campaign war chest, though massively depleted by a bruising primary battle, still remains formidable at $9 million-plus, dwarfing his four general election competitors. And he is instantly recognizable to most voters, unlike his challengers.

Though Cuomo saw some of his weaknesses -- including a crumbling subway system and an epidemic of corruption in state government -- exposed and prodded in the primary by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, a first-time candidate who managed to get more than half a million votes, he nonetheless came through it in relatively good shape, albeit with some egg on his face, defeating Nixon by 30 points with nearly a million votes of his own as primary turnout surged.

Despite several gaffes and scandals, questionable use of his government powers for apparent campaign purposes, and an egregious mailer that falsely smeared Nixon as anti-semitic, Cuomo emerged after primary day with an emboldened sense of his accomplishments, support, and chances at a third term. He also turned the corner in a campaign already geared largely toward opposing President Donald Trump, now with the opportunity to directly tie his main competitor to the president who remains unpopular in his home state.

With few signs that voters, at least Democratic ones, will punish him for a litany of troubles associated with his administration and his failure to have passed progressive legislation urgently demanded by an energized base, he is surging ahead in a race that is his to lose. While Cuomo has said little directly to make amends with those 500,000-plus Democrats who voted for Nixon, one major step he has taken is to begin following through on a pledge to help flip the New York State Senate to Democratic control, and help flip New York seats in the House of Representatives as part of a national effort to give the chamber a Democratic majority.

As Cuomo woos the state’s 6.2 million Democratic voters and its 2.6 million independents, among others -- including some of the 2.8 million Republicans who may like aspects of his moderate record -- the governor’s opponents have been leveling attacks against the incumbent with the hopes of taking him down a notch while building their own stature. Polling indicates those efforts have not yet borne fruit, and as the election rapidly approaches, a governor with significant achievements and vulnerabilities appears to be deflecting, dodging, and defusing criticisms of his record on corruption, jobs, taxes, the MTA, and more.

In the latest Siena College poll, the first of the general election, released October 1, Cuomo held a 22-point lead among likely voters over his main rival, Republican nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive. Cuomo received 50 percent of the vote to Molinaro’s 28 percent. Ten percent said they would vote for Nixon if she stayed on the Working Families Party line, which has since gone to Cuomo, paving the way for him to capture a higher percentage, while 4 percent said they would vote for other “third party” candidates, who include Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins, Libertarian nominee Larry Sharpe, and independent Stephanie Miner; and 8 percent were undecided.

“Electorally, barring something unexpected, a month out now, it’s hard to imagine that he’s going to do anything except walk away with this thing,” said Dr. Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science at Iona College, in a phone interview. “I’m not sure that that speaks as much to the governor as it does to the fact that Republicans in the state are in a very, very difficult position.”

As Molinaro runs uphill against an anti-Trump wind, Miner, the former Democratic mayor of Syracuse now with the new Serve America Movement, has struggled to gain traction with her message of experience and bipartisanship. Hawkins, who received 5 percent of the vote in the 2014 gubernatorial race, says he hopes to beat that this year, but is severely underfunded, and Sharpe, who has kept an especially active campaign schedule, does not appear to have broken through.

Some of the major criticisms levelled by the challengers are similar to Nixon’s own volleys against Cuomo, that he has allowed corruption to fester in government, catered to wealthy donors at the expense of everyday New Yorkers, largely mismanaged a multi-billion-dollar economic development program, and let New York City’s subway system slide into chaos.

There are of course more specific critiques. Molinaro and Miner, for instance, have both stressed that taxes are far too high and living in the state has become increasingly unaffordable, blaming Cuomo for the resulting exodus of New York residents, especially from distressed upstate areas. Hawkins has condemned Cuomo’s environmental policies for not going far enough, laments that the governor does not support state-funded single-payer health care (Cuomo believes the federal government should pass it and pay for it) and argues that the state has yet to fund the foundation aid formula for fair student funding across the state as required by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision. Sharpe wants to repeal the SAFE Act, Cuomo’s signature gun control measure passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, and significantly reduce the size and scope of state government in other ways, returning more power to localities.

Besides the seemingly insurmountable advantages  of incumbency, Cuomo has largely chosen to ignore his opponents and focus on Trump, in a year where Democrats are seeing the signs of a “blue wave” across the country. He has sought to paint Molinaro and nearly every New York Republican as a “Trump mini-me” who supports what he says are harmful policies of a Republican-led federal government and the retrogressive outlook of a platform based on the president’s pledge to “Make America Great Again,” which, to Cuomo and many others, includes racial and ethnic prejudice.

“Molinaro is vastly, in almost every way, he is on the losing end of this,” said Zaino. “From name recognition, to funding, to party registration, I mean up and down this is a very tough year for Republicans.”

Besides taxes, Molinaro’s campaign is largely built on highlighting the corruption scandals that have marred Cuomo’s two terms in office, and on painting Cuomo as an incompetent leader who relies on intimidation tactics.

“Andrew Cuomo has no credibility,” said Katy Delgado, a Molinaro campaign spokesperson, in a statement. “The people of New York are suffering from high taxation and corruption has stained the Governor’s office. It’s time for New Yorkers to have the leadership we deserve. A Governor who will cut taxes by 30% and show this corrupt administration the door on January 1, 2019.”

In fact, in the Siena Poll, likely voters said that by a 41-36 percent margin, Molinaro would do a better job of tackling corruption (a majority said Cuomo is better on infrastructure, public education and job creation). Cuomo came into office in 2011 promising to clean up state government, and has failed to do so, with recent federal convictions resulting in members of his inner circle headed to prison, along with a long list of state legislators who have been removed from office for abusing the public trust. But those results appear to have done little to sour voters on Cuomo.

Zaino said the trifecta of corruption, the MTA, and taxes are areas where Cuomo could see some disaffection among voters. “He is very vulnerable on corruption,” she said. “He’s made the case obviously that it’s not him, but it has been people very, very close to him. And he hasn’t done enough to put a stop to it, as he promised eight years ago.”

Government corruption has not proved to be a major voter motivator, however.

The issue of the MTA also “strikes very close to home for some voters,” Zaino said. “The MTA is something that people deal with on a daily basis, and that is his, and he owns it.”

On taxes, she said Cuomo is between a rock and a hard place -- a progressive left movement that wants to see higher taxes on the wealthy and Cuomo’s own predilection for fiscal moderation. “I think he’s going to be caught in between this progressive left, and obviously Republicans, but also more importantly, the moderate Democrats, and I think it’s really going to highlight some of the upstate-downstate tensions as well,” she said.

Dr. Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University, also pointed to the governor’s strengths in the general, chiefly the campaign cash at his disposal. “Money in many ways can elevate his narrative and drown out his opponents’ narrative,” she said in a phone interview. “I think he’ll use it strategically. I think Molinaro has an uphill battle because he doesn’t have name recognition and he doesn’t seem to be inspiring voters as of yet.”

New York City is the most expensive media market in the country and Cuomo’s millions in campaign cash can buy him ample air time, in the city and beyond. “Cuomo certainly has vulnerabilities,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “He can have a vulnerability but if the voters don’t know about it, it’s sort of the tree in the forest.” On corruption, for instance, he said Molinaro would have to work hard to make it a “salient” campaign issue among undecided voters who aren’t already pledged to either of the two major party candidates.

“[Molinaro] has to worry about the folks in the middle,” Greenberg said. “Independent voters, those soft Democrats, those moderate Democrats, those moderate Republicans, the folks in the middle, the folks who decide elections. But that costs money.” Molinaro’s latest campaign finance disclosure from this week showed he had only about $210,000 in cash on hand.

Greenberg also noted that a Republican has not prevailed in any statewide race since George Pataki won a third term as governor in 2002.

“For a Republican to win statewide is a very difficult proposition…How do they do it? They win upstate. They either win or hold their own in the downstate suburbs and they find a way to cut the deficit in New York City...Marc Molinaro can put out statements every day, he can do events every day, but the vast majority of voters don’t see those statements or know about those events. You gotta get on TV, you gotta be on radio, you gotta do mailings, you gotta do phone calls, you gotta have the volunteers to go door-to-door and talk to voters. All of that is expensive.”

Greer, however, doesn’t believe Molinaro has made an effective argument against Cuomo. “I don’t know if Molinaro has the message to sway voters. Cuomo has an advantage because all he has to say is ‘Molinaro is a Republican’ and that will turn off many Democrats,” she said. “That’s a strong card to have in this moment.”

But, she noted, there is likely to be some voter fatigue with Cuomo having been in office for nearly eight years. “He’s asking people for a third term and I think some folks just don’t feel like he deserves it,” Greer said. “Based on temperament, based on lack of productivity in particular areas that they’re interested in.”

The challengers themselves are confident of breaking through to voters, noting what they see as Cuomo’s weaknesses, his lack of a coherent vision for a third term, and the fact that more than 500,000 voters cast a ballot for Nixon in the primary.

“Governor Cuomo’s entire campaign is based on his fear of Donald Trump alone,” said Sharpe, the Libertarian candidate, in a statement. “There is no plan to actually help any New Yorker in any way, shape or form. It is only a fear-based platform.”

Sharpe said Cuomo has focused on “the crown jewel” of $22,000 in per-pupil education funding, which the governor repeatedly cites as the highest in the nation. But Sharpe says the state ranks below 30th in education outcomes. “This crown jewel is actually a cubic zirconia. The current educational system is an expensive and bloated embarrassment for which he should be ashamed. Everything else of value he has abandoned, including economic development, the family courts, the MTA and infrastructure overall. His 8 years can be summed up in one statement, ‘One million New Yorkers have voted with their feet by leaving the state since his majesty took the throne.’”

Hawkins of the Green Party is banking on progressives being dissatisfied with the governor, and thinks he is the logical choice for Nixon voters in the general. “He talks progressive but he governs to the right,” Hawkins said of Cuomo in a brief phone interview. He pointed out, for example, that the governor’s much-vaunted $15 minimum wage isn’t in effect upstate, where the minimum wage is set to increase to $12.50 by the end of 2020. He criticized Cuomo for hesitating on extending the state’s millionaires tax, his handling of issues at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), and lead poisoning issues in upstate communities in Syracuse, Buffalo, and Ithaca.

“I think it resonates but the question is, do we have the reach to reach all the progressives who I think on these issues are the majority of people in New York State,” Hawkins said.

He recognized Cuomo’s many advantages. “The only way we can overcome it is if the media narrative changes,” he said, noting for instance that though the Green Party received more than twice the votes the Working Families Party did in 2014 (with Cuomo on its line), the WFP’s political moves tend to get more attention. “That would make a big difference...It’s not just what Cuomo’s got, it’s the way he’s being treated by the media, which is frustrating for us.”

One way Cuomo's challengers could earn a boost and the governor could potentially fall in favorability is through a debate, but Cuomo has yet to agree to one, and while he may, the odds of such an event having a drastic impact on the race are small. Cuomo survived a contentious, high-stakes one-on-one debate with Nixon in the primary; if he agrees to a general election debate, he's likely to insist all five candidates are present, diluting his exposure.

In a phone interview, Miner reiterated her three-part criticism. “The state government is mired in corruption, money is being wasted, and problems are not being solved,” she said. Miner believes that though Cuomo had a decisive primary victory, the general electorate is likely to more accurately reflect and vote on statewide issues. “I think you’re gonna have a much broader and more representative population across the state that’s gonna vote,” she said. She believes Cuomo will continue to spend massively in the general because “he has to try to distract people from the fundamental problems that are happening in New York state under his administration and his tenure.”

It’s unclear what the general electorate will look like, though trends including Democratic enthusiasm appear to be to Cuomo’s advantage. Nixon’s move from the WFP line to make way for Cuomo and eliminate any chance of her being a spoiler also works toward his securing a third term. But, a Cuomo win is not necessarily a complete given.

“Anything can happen in the real world,” said Greenberg of Siena. “So is it a foregone conclusion? No. Is he the prohibitive favorite? Would you go to Vegas and place a bet on it? Absolutely.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Cuomo Challengers Level Critiques; Will Anything Stick? Tue, 09 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
How ‘Blue’ is New York? https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7962-how-blue-is-new-york https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7962-how-blue-is-new-york Cuomo blue

Gov. Cuomo (photo: New York State Democratic Party)


New York is frequently portrayed as one of the most solidly Democratic, “blue” states in the country, along with places like California and Massachusetts. And New York reliably votes for Democrats in presidential elections, has two Democratic United States senators, a majority of its U.S. House members are Democrats, it has exclusively elected Democratic governors and other statewide state-level officials since 2006, and a wide majority of its state Assembly members is Democratic.

But the state Senate is split almost evenly among Democrats and Republicans, nine of 27 members of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York are Republicans; and Donald Trump, while losing the state’s overall vote by a wide margin against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, won in more than two-thirds of the state’s 62 counties, many of which are represented by Republican county executives and other GOP elected officials.

This year, in the first statewide vote since that election, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is seeking a third term, having won by a two-to-one margin in a hotly-contested primary where he was challenged from his left as too much of a centrist, and now facing Republican Marc Molinaro, who portrays himself as a moderate, and others in the general election.

Cuomo is widely favored to win, but Republicans express hope that they can combat national trends and Cuomo’s massive advantages to pull off an upset of a governor they argue has wide but shallow popularity and a long list of scandals and failures. In 2014, Cuomo dispatched Republican nominee Rob Astorino by a 52.7 percent to 39.2 percent margin, with Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins, who is running again this year, winning about 4.7 percent of the vote. Cuomo beat Carl Paladino in 2010 by an even greater margin, 63 percent to 33.5 percent.

Voters are now evaluating Cuomo with another term under his belt, and amid the swirl of both Trump’s relative unpopularity and major corruption convictions in Cuomo’s inner circle.

The vast “red” seen across those Trump counties, while not typically home to the state’s population centers, and New York’s large size and diversity indicate “blue” state is not the whole story. Just how “blue” is New York, really?

Cuomo has provided his own assessments of New York's politics. A day after winning the primary, he argued again that he is a liberal leader who gets things done, while also saying that the much-discussed progressive wave was “not even a ripple” in his race, despite Nixon’s 34% of the primary vote and the fact several state Senate upsets from the left, and calling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s June primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley a “fluke.”

“I am progressive, and I delivered progressive results, and this is the most progressive state in the United States of America,” Cuomo said.

Speaking to the Business Council of New York State on Tuesday at their upstate conference, Cuomo touted his passage of a property tax cap, one of his accomplishments most frequently praised by moderates and conservatives, and stressed other aspects of his fiscal restraint and record on taxes.

While Cuomo has regularly stressed that he must govern a vast state that includes conservative, Republican areas, especially upstate, he has also made direct attacks on “extreme conservatives” who he has said have taken over in Washington, D.C. and have had a presence in New York. He’s directly targeted a handful of members of Congress from New York who he says have committed “treason” by voting for bills, like recently-passed tax reforms, that he says are bad for New York.

He went as far as to say, in 2014, that “extreme conservatives” have “no place in the State of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are,” comments that have become a regular talking point for Republicans. Still, Cuomo remains popular among Democrats, with solid numbers among independents and even decent approval ratings among Republicans (21% in a recent poll).

The Numbers
As of April of this year, Democratic enrollment statewide stood at 6,201,033 registered voters, just over 50 percent of all registered voters in the state. There are 2,823,758 registered Republicans, 22.7 percent of all registered voters, and 2,644,155 people registered unaffiliated with any party, 21.3 percent of all registered voters. 

Within New York City, 68.28 percent of registered voters are Democrats, while outside the city only 37.76 percent of registered voters are Democrats. Still, Democrats still make up a plurality of registered voters outside the city, but Republicans trail by a much smaller margin, making up 31.15 percent of the non-city electorate.

Often, New York City’s turnout in general elections doesn’t match the enrollment ratio. Democratic turnout in the September primary vastly exceeded that of previous years, and the general election in November comes amid the so-called “blue wave” of Democratic activism opposed to Donald Trump.

The polling agency Gallup has found New York to be a liberal-leaning state in only 2016 and 2017; from 2008 to 2015, New York was grouped with the conservative-leaning states. The only two states that have usually been classified on the liberal end are Vermont and Massachusetts (states were only grouped as leaning liberal or conservative). Despite a reputation as a deep blue state, perhaps because of New York City’s demographics, New York consistently elects more moderate officials like Cuomo, even in Democratic primaries that include the most “blue” New Yorkers, such as Cuomo’s recent primary win by a wide margin.

Cuomo won most counties in the state in 2010, possibly owing to several controversial statements from Paladino that indicated he was racist and homophobic. Paladino only won handily in Western New York and two counties in the “Big Vermont” area. In 2014, Astorino won a wide majority of counties while Cuomo won big in highly populated New York City and the surrounding suburbs, as well as a few historically Democratic counties upstate such as Albany, Tompkins, and Onondaga, as well as Erie County.

The Democratic Divide and Voter Registration
Bruce Gyory, an attorney and Democratic political strategist unaffiliated with any campaigns, said that in primaries, progressives often do best in the eastern area of upstate, from Plattsburgh to Peekskill, which he characterized as a “Big Vermont.” The region then generally votes Republican in general elections. 

He said that white progressives often fail to connect with voters of color.

“The progressives have never been able to craft a true alliance with the larger bloc, which is the minority voters,” Gyory said. This appeared to be true in Nixon’s effort to defeat Cuomo, who has remained popular among voters of color, bedrock Democrats.

Both Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout achieved their best results in “Big Vermont” in their respective gubernatorial campaigns. Teachout’s attorney general campaign also achieved its best results in this area in this year’s just-completed primary.

Democratic registration has meaningfully increased since the 2014 election, with enrolled Democrats in the state increasing by about 300,000, from 5.9 million to 6.2 million, seeming to track with claims by Cynthia Nixon and others that the Democratic Party’s reach has expanded and greater numbers of voters exist.

However, contrary to that narrative, registration has not meaningfully increased in the Democratic ranks since the election of Trump to the presidency. Records from the State Board of Elections shows that, between November 2016 and April 2018, only 21,300 new New York Democrats joined the party.

Nearly half the state’s registered voters are not Democrats. There are 2.8 million registered Republicans and 2.6 million registered independents. In addition, there are 480,000 people registered with the Independence Party, 155,000 with the Conservative Party, 46,000 with the Working Families Party, 30,000 with the Green Party, 4,700 with the Women’s Equality Party, 1,900 with the Reform Party, and 7,300 with other parties.

Despite Nixon's loss, progressives believe that the mass dislodging of former members of the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference shows that the Democratic electorate is indeed progressive. Six of the eight members of what was until April the IDC, a rogue groups of Democrats who shared powers with Republicans in the Senate majority, which has been Republicans’ only statewide stronghold in recent years, were defeated in their primaries earlier this month.

“The defeat of the IDC shows that the voters are tired of corporate Democrats and tired of transactional politics and want to see senators who are really going to represent them,” said Karen Scharff, the outgoing executive director of Citizen Action, a progressive organization that endorsed Nixon in the primary. “I think at the statewide level, we saw the money overwhelm the ability of progressive candidates to get her voice fully heard.”

The True Blue Coalition, a grassroots organizing effort that came out in force against IDC members, announced its support for 12 additional Democratic candidates for state Senate on Tuesday in seats that the group deemed “flippable” in the general election. The group will channel volunteers to their campaigns and promote the candidates’ events; the candidates, all of whom True Blue has deemed progressive, aim to represent districts from Long Island to Brooklyn to Rochester.

Mia Pearlman, co-leader of True Blue NY, one of the activist groups in the coalition, said that New York is a “wannabe progressive state” held back by regressive voting and ethics laws, and by corruption. Pearlman, whose group was on the front lines in the anti-IDC battle, said that the defeat of six of the eight IDC members in the Democratic primary may herald better things to come, and that rallying around IDC challengers was an effective organizing strategy.

“The IDC was a perfect crucible for all these forces, because it was such an obvious wrong that needed to be righted,” Pearlman said. Greater awareness of the IDC very well may have led to its collapse, a fact the coalition is remembering for November. “People want to be more prepared when they get to the ballot box.”

“Success for us will be when the New York State Senate has a real solid majority of not only Democrats, but with a huge majority of progressive democrats,” Pearlman said.

Like Pearlman, Scharff believes that New York is indeed a progressive state, but that “barriers to democracy” such as New York’s voting laws and campaign finance system ensure that progressive candidates are kept out of the halls of power in Albany. She cited New York City’s public election financing system as evidence that progressive candidates can win major elections when structural barriers are torn down, and that the electoral system in the state needs major reforms. Many activists have also focused on legislative redistricting, noting that a deal reached in 2012 among Cuomo and legislative leaders allowed Democrats the likelihood of greater Assembly control and Republicans an upper hand in Senate districts, likely allowing the GOP to keep the slim majority it has held onto of late.

“Money can become overwhelming in a big race like that. And I think we’ve seen in citywide races, like in the mayoral races, that progressive candidates can win,” Scharff said. “Bill de Blasio won on a very progressive platform twice. And Cynthia’s platform and de Blasio’s platform have a lot of similarities, and you would think they’d have a lot of similar appeal to voters. But Bill de Blasio was able to run in a system that had public financing, and in a system where he was able to be competitive in resources with his opponents. And Cynthia had to run in a race where her opponent was outspending her ten-to-one plus eight years of incumbency.”

‘Giuliani Democrats’
Despite the liberal reputations of both Massachusetts and Vermont, both currently have moderate Republican governors. Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, is the most popular governor in the country, according to Morning Consult

“I live in two-to-one Democratic Rockland County and we’ve had a Republican County Executive for the last 25 years,” said Michael Lawler, a political strategist who is an advisor to the state Republican Party and campaigns. “Why? Because, again, even Democratic voters understand that high taxes are not a solution to every problem. So, when you look at Democratic voters in the suburbs, they may be registered Democrat, but you have a lot of police officers, firefighters, construction trade union members, they’re probably all mostly registered Democrat, but they vote Republican. Why? Because Republicans are much better on their issues.”

It is those voters widely credited with helping to elect both Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York City, covering the 20 years of Republican or independent leadership before de Blasio’s election in 2013.

Lawler believes that Cuomo’s lurch leftward on certain issues has hurt him among suburban and rural voters, but that the most salient issue is the poor economic performance upstate, where the Democratic registration advantage is very narrow. He noted high taxes and out-migration, and specifically cited Cuomo’s ban on fracking as a job-killing endeavor done to appease environmentalists.

"When you have a governor who's pardoning cop killers and a Democratic Assembly that stands in the way of certain reforms, then these voters are not going to vote reflexively Democratic,” he said.

He also cited corruption, which informs one of the main planks of the Molinaro campaign, with the GOP nominee arguing that it has eroded confidence in state government and led to a “corruption tax” that all New Yorkers pay due to government malfunction. It led one-third of Democratic primary voters to vote against the two-term incumbent, he and other Cuomo opponents say.

“So Andrew Cuomo, there's a reason he spent nearly $25 million in the primary,” said Lawler. “Nobody likes him." To Lawler, the specter of Trump in the minds of voters does not outweigh the performance of the state under Cuomo.

But Gyory believes that the Trump factor has necessarily negated Republicans’ chances this year, and that Molinaro would have been better off running in 2022, at which point Trump may be out of power (if he loses this year, Molinaro could of course run again).

No post-primary general election polls have been taken, but two polls over the summer showed Cuomo with a substantial lead over Molinaro, who was already on a quest to build name recognition, raise funds, and prepare for the September to November sprint. A June Siena poll gave Cuomo 56 percent to Molinaro’s 37 percent and a July Quinnipiac poll gave Cuomo 57 percent to Molinaro’s 31 percent in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups. When the Quinnipiac poll included third party candidates, Cuomo got 43 percent on the Democratic line, Molinaro got 23 percent on the Republican line, Nixon got 13 percent on the Working Families line, Larry Sharpe got 3 percent on the Libertarian line, Howie Hawkins got 2 percent on the Green Party line, and Stephanie Miner got 1 percent on the Serve America Party line.

Trump’s approval rating in New York remains very low, with only 36 percent approval versus 57 percent disapproval according to Quinnipiac in July. This could cast a shadow on any Republican chances at statewide victory, and Cuomo has been attempting to tie Molinaro to Trump for months. Democrats appear motivated to cast anti-Trump votes this November in races across the board.

The current atmosphere is in distinct contrast to New York under previous Republican governors such as Thomas Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller, and George Pataki, when the national Republican brand was not as toxic in the state and the national party did not define the state party, Gyory argues.

“Republicans have been defined by the national Republican brand, and that has really hurt them in New York State,” Gyory said. He noted that, in most instances, Republicans have no hopes of winning statewide unless they dominate the unaffiliated vote and capture roughly one-third of New York City, a particularly daunting endeavor with a moderate Democrat in the Governor’s Mansion.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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How ‘Blue’ is New York? Thu, 27 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Howie Hawkins, Green Party Nominee for Governor https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7959-max-murphy-podcast-howie-hawkins-green-party-nominee-for-governor https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7959-max-murphy-podcast-howie-hawkins-green-party-nominee-for-governor mxm logo

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


September 26, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Howie Hawkins, Green Party Nominee for Governor

hawkins 2010 f1For the third straight election cycle, Howie Hawkins is the Green Party nominee for Governor. He's improved the Green Party vote total each of his previous two runs, earning 5% of the vote in 2014, and is hoping to eclipse prior totals this year. Arguing that he is the true progressive alternative to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Hawkins is running on a socialist, "Green New Deal" agenda that includes single-payer health care, an aggressive shift to clearn energy, and much more, as well as raising taxes on top earners. He joined the show to discuss his candidacy and the race.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Howie Hawkins, Green Party Nominee for Governor Wed, 26 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Post-Primary Campaign Finance Filings Show Cuomo’s Already Spent $28 Million https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7957-post-primary-campaign-finance-filings-show-cuomo-s-already-spent-28-million https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7957-post-primary-campaign-finance-filings-show-cuomo-s-already-spent-28-million govandrewcuomo office

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


Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat running for reelection to a third term, successfully claimed the Democratic Party nomination earlier this month after a bitter primary battle against actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon. But the victory came at significant cost as Cuomo spent more than $20 million this year alone, nearly ten times what Nixon spent in total as she attempted to unseat him.

Cuomo, who won with 64.4 percent of the vote to Nixon’s 34.4 percent in the September 13 primary, is headed into the general election with roughly $11.6 million at his disposal, according to the latest campaign finance disclosures filed with the State Board of Elections.

In the three weeks covered by the filing, between September 1 and September 21, Cuomo’s campaign spent more than $5 million and raised about $567,000. About $1.9 million was spent on television ads through the firm Media Fortitude Partners, and the campaign also transferred about $2.4 million to the New York State Democratic Committee, which Cuomo controls and which has been boosting his campaign with ads of its own, while also supporting Cuomo-aligned candidates, especially Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and attorney general nominee Letitia James, the New York City Public Advocate.

So far, in this four-year election cycle, Cuomo has raised more than $36 million and spent more than $28 million. Not all of Cuomo’s spending thus far went directly toward the primary alone -- even prior to defeating Nixon, he had begun spending on ads targeting Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive. Cuomo received a total of 964,883 votes, spending about $29 per vote, while Nixon got 508,125, spending roughly $4.4 per vote.

Nixon raised $2.7 million in total for her campaign and spent about $2.2 million in her first-time bid for office, as of this post-primary filing. Her relatively lean campaign relied mostly on small-dollar individual donors rather than wealthy corporate ones and LLCs, which funded Cuomo’s deep coffers. Nixon only ran ads in the last few days before the primary and was unable to overcome Cuomo’s significant incumbency advantages, any issues Democratic voters had with her candidacy, and the governor’s two-term resume.

Hochul, Cuomo’s running-mate who has now joined him on the general election ticket, also beat her own primary challenger, Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams. Though Williams had far fewer resources for his campaign, the race was fairly tight. Hochul won with 53.3 percent against Williams’ 46.7 percent.

Hochul spent about $318,000 in the last few weeks and raised $251,000. Her campaign has another $323,000 left. She raised a total of $2.3 million this cycle and has spent nearly $2.2 million of it.

Williams stumbled with his fundraising early on and only raised a total of $322,000 and spent about $278,000 over the entire campaign. He has just over $20,000 left in his account, which he could transfer to another city or state campaign account if he decides to run for another position before he is term-limited out of his current office in 2021.

Cuomo and Hochul will face the joint Republican ticket of Molinaro and lieutenant governor nominee Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council member and recent state senate candidate. Other general election contenders include the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Larry Sharpe, and Stephanie Miner, the former Syracuse mayor who is running as an independent, and their respective lieutenant governor running-mates.

In the four-way contest for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, James emerged as the victor, setting her up to face Republican Keith Wofford, Green Party nominee Michael Sussman, and the Reform Party’s Nancy Sliwa. The seat was vacated by former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after facing allegations of physical abuse by multiple intimate partners.

James raised $2.2 million and spent about $1.9 million in total for her successful campaign, which got her 40.6 percent of the vote in the primary. She had about $275,000 left for the general election as of the post-primary filing, but is heavily favored in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one and no Republican has won statewide since 2002.

Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout came in second in the race, with 31 percent, after running a grassroots campaign that also received the backing of several newspaper editorial boards. At times, Teachout’s opponents appeared to view her as the frontrunner rather than James, who had the backing of Cuomo and the state’s Democratic establishment. Teachout raised about $1.9 million and spent about $1.85 million in total.

Democratic Congressional Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney campaigned fairly lightly but doled out massive amounts of cash to blanket the airwaves with ads. Utilizing funds raised for his congressional reelection, Maloney raised nearly $3 million to run for attorney general and spent more than $5 million, but finished third with 25 percent of the vote.

Leecia Eve, a Verizon executive who has served as an aide to Cuomo, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, came in last with 3.4 percent. She raised about $408,000 and spent $417,000 on the campaign.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Note - This article has been updated to note the amount that Cuomo and Nixon spent per vote. 

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Post-Primary Campaign Finance Filings Show Cuomo’s Already Spent $28 Million Tue, 25 Sep 2018 20:47:05 +0000
Gubernatorial Candidates Miner, Sharpe & Hawkins Lay Out Campaign Platforms, Cases Against Cuomo https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7950-gubernatorial-candidates-miner-sharpe-hawkins-lay-out-campaign-platforms-cases-against-cuomo https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7950-gubernatorial-candidates-miner-sharpe-hawkins-lay-out-campaign-platforms-cases-against-cuomo miner hawkins sharpe

Miner, Sharpe, Hawkins (l-r)


Governor Andrew Cuomo defeated Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon fairly handily on September 13, when attention began to shift to the race between Cuomo and Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, currently the Dutchess county executive.

But while Cuomo and Molinaro are the nominees of the two major parties, and each will also appear on at least two other party ballot lines in November, there are three other candidates running serious general election campaigns for governor of New York. (It remains to be seen if Nixon will stay in the race as the Working Families Party nominee, though several signs point to her relinquishing the ballot line, possibly even to Cuomo.)

Like Nixon and Molinaro, Stephanie Miner, Howie Hawkins, and Larry Sharpe are campaigning both on criticisms of Cuomo and their own visions for leading the state. Miner, a Democrat and former two-term mayor of Syracuse, is running with the Serve America Movement party, a new bipartisan group she is seeking to help establish with this campaign. Hawkins, who has thrown his hat in the ring for the third straight time, is again the Green Party nominee. In 2014, he won about 5 percent of the vote as Cuomo secured a second term with 54 percent, and Republican nominee Rob Astorino received 39 percent. Sharpe is the Libertarian Party nominee.

All three candidates are attempting to stake out an alternate vision to Cuomo and, to a lesser degree, Molinaro. Hawkins has made a direct plea to Nixon primary voters that he is now the clear progressive alternative to Cuomo. Sharpe offers himself as the only true outsider voice who can provide a makeover to state government. And Miner says she has the right blend of executive experience, independence, political know-how, and focus on the key issues facing New Yorkers, like infrastructure.

While their paths to victory appear daunting, each candidate is offering something they hope will appeal to an increasing number of New Yorkers sick of the status quo, both in terms of the incumbent and the two major parties. How many votes each can earn remains an open question, but all three are likely to impact the race.

Monday, September 24 will mark 44 days until Election Day, November 6. Gotham Gazette spoke with Miner, Hawkins, and Sharpe about their candidacies.

Stephanie Miner
Miner, formerly mayor of Syracuse and chair of the state Democratic Party, is running chiefly as a good-government reformer and infrastructure expert with sound ethics and a no-nonsense leadership style. She’s to the left of Cuomo on certain issues and to his right on others, running with a Republican for lieutenant governor, as they attempt to help build a bipartisan movement that appeals to voters of all stripes. She presents her candidacy as a “rebuke of Andrew Cuomo’s policies and a rebuke of where we are as a state,” as she described it to the New York Times in June, announcing her candidacy.

Miner has for years argued that the Empire State’s politics are in need of an overhaul, especially following a falling-out with Cuomo. During an appearance on the Max and Murphy podcast, recorded as Miner was mulling a run for governor, she painted a grim picture of the status quo.

“For me, backroom dealings and politics as usual is not serving anybody,” she said. Every time New Yorkers look at the news, Miner said, someone else in the governor’s circle was being tried or sentenced for corruption or other wrongdoing. And while the establishment has been “silent,” she said, voters across the state are “angry and upset and frustrated.”

But clearly not everyone appears to be fed up with the way the state is being governed. In the primary, Cuomo won by a wide margin over an outsider who promised to if elected reimagine the state’s politics. Miner, in an interview Tuesday, painted herself as a different kind of opponent, and explained how she is highlighting Cuomo’s faults. She also downplayed his decisive primary victory and outlined a different general election landscape.

“Twenty-five million dollars blanketing the airwaves can get you a lot of votes,” she said. “Democrats are eager to vote, they have enthusiasm, and they despise Donald Trump.”

In a higher-turnout election with a broader electorate, including many unaffiliated voters, Miner said she would be able to gain traction ahead of November, despite Cuomo’s domination of the September primary. She has also pointed to her very different resume from Nixon’s.

“My target voter is someone who is fed up with the corruption, both in Washington and in Albany, wants problems to be solved, and recognizes that we have a state government that is not solving problems, and is instead appealing to only vested interests and campaign contributors,” said Miner, who previously served as a Common Councilor in Syracuse and a labor attorney at Blitman & King.

Miner also favors nonpartisan legislative redistricting and closing the LLC loophole in campaign finance laws, which allows entities to donate money to candidates in virtually unlimited sums by using several limited liability companies.

While harmful effects of money in politics is a cause regularly taken up by the left, it’s also clear that Miner could not have served as a candidate in the mold of the unabashedly left-wing Nixon in the the Democratic primary. Miner, for example, does not include raising taxes on the wealthy as a campaign pledge -- she believes taxes are too high already, on the wealthy and many others.

And when asked about how to fix the MTA, Miner begins with her core message: the governor’s chronies must be uprooted from positions and replaced with people who truly have the best interest of New Yorkers at heart. Cuomo’s appointments to the MTA board, she said, “would have to resign” is she is elected governor and “be replaced with people who have actual experience in transit.”

“For too long,” she went on, “we have a system that just reacts to people who give campaign contributions, that swings widley when other vested groups make noise. We need to make sure that we get everybody gathered around the table to figure out how we can put the best policy forward to solve all of our goals.”

But in lieu of additionally taxing high earners to help fund the desperately needed subway repairs, one method preferred by Nixon and Mayor Bill de Blasio, Miner emphasized reining in costs.

“The issue with the MTA is that you can’t simply say ‘Give the MTA more money.’ The MTA also has to take responsibility for managing more effectively and to changing their policies, so that we are no longer the place with the single most expensive mile of track,” she explained. “The MTA has to accept management responsibility for changing those trends as well.”

She went on to note that employee benefits like health care costs need to be discussed at the bargaining table, and described excessive spending on them as an obstacle to mending the struggling MTA.

“If your benefits outstrip in terms of cost what is the national average, that’s going to be less money for you to improve the system,” she said. Miner added that she would ensure that the mentality at the MTA would be an obligation to riders first and foremost.

“Your responsibility is to make sure that we have a transit system that works,’” is the approach Miner said she would instill if elected governor, who appoints a plurality of MTA board members and the leadership of the authority, while also playing a key role in MTA budget decisions.

Asked how she would navigate the treacherous politics of cutting MTA project costs, which would in all likelihood spark outcry from the Transit Workers Union, among others, Miner cited her experience as Syracuse mayor being willing to take heat from a firefighters union, because it favored spending money on a revamping a firehouse — an effort she thought was not worth the cost.

“When I was mayor, we had a firehouse that needed millions of dollars of improvement in order to be viable,” she explained. “And the firefighter union desperately wanted to keep the firehouse open. And I looked at the cost and benefits and said ‘No, we can’t, because it would be too expensive for us to do. We need to make sure that we take that money and actually provide service to people of the city of Syracuse, not using it to spend on a firehouse that we don’t need.’”

Her moved sparked outcry — Miner was picketed, she recalled — but she said she stuck to her central approach to government, putting her constituents first.

“The union still is very angry at me, but sometimes you have to risk the wrath of vested interests in order to make sure that you’re doing the public’s work,” she said.

Miner has a similar critique of Cuomo on economic development, saying that the state ought not be “picking winners and losers.” She prefers investment in infrastructure that will create jobs, she has said, and spur economic activity.

Miner has several times lamented that New York has the highest tax burden in the country.

She said that if elected she would seek to “stimulate the market” to build more housing. And, Miner outlines on her website, rent regulation alone is an insufficient measure in the goal of “maintain[ing] affordable housing for New York City’s residents.”

In an interview on The Capitol Pressroom, Miner described herself as more open to charter schools than some other Democrats who have decried Cuomo’s stance on the privately-run public schools that the governor has supported and have proliferated in New York City especially.

“I was the mayor of a city that had completely unacceptable education results. And I determined that the best way to change those results was to work together to give families choice,” she explained in the interview with Gotham Gazette when asked to explain her stance further. “So families had opportunities to go to charter schools, they had opportunity to go to parochial schools, and they had opportunities to go to public schools.”

“What we need to understand is that…there’s not a magic solution for everybody, and what we need to do is give everybody the flexibility that they need to determine what is the best option for their child and at the same time, schools and teachers and administrators the support necessary to implement innovative and creative solutions,” she said.

Miner also breaks from more free-spending Democrats on pensions — an issue that in part led to her falling out with Cuomo after he had appointed her as a leader of the state party. She said this was a “hard and fast example” of her not fitting neatly on either side of the ideological spectrum.

“[I]t was clear to me there needed to be a discussion about how pensions, and the costs of paying for pensions were impacting local government, and Andrew Cuomo and the leadership of the state said that the best way to solve this problem was to allow localities to borrow to pay their pensions, and I stood up and said ‘That is fiscally irresponsible. It’s what got the city of Detroit into bankruptcy, and we shouldn’t do this,’” she recalled.

Miner said she could have gone along with the borrowing and let the next mayor deal with the financial repercussions, “but it was not fiscally responsible, and I think we need to be very open about that and I did that.” What’s more, after not getting the response she felt was necessary from the governor and party officials, she expressed the view in a New York Times op-ed, which cracked the gulf with Cuomo wide open into a rivalry that persists to this day.

Miner may have sound critiques of Cuomo and her own vision to run on, but does she, along with running-mate Michael Volpe, the Pelham mayor, have a path to victory? Does any 'minor party' candidate?

The most recent data from the state Board of Elections shows that as of April there were about 11.3 million active registered voters in the state. Of those, the largest group by far is Democrats, at 5.6 million, followed by 2.6 million Republicans, and closely behind, nearly 2.4 million voters unaffiliated with a party. The fourth largest group is roughly 436,000 active voters registered with the Independence Party, many of whom likely believe they simply registered to be independent of any party, or unaffiliated. (Cuomo has the Independence Party ballot line in November.)

Turnout is often very low in non-presidential elections, but this year is expected to see a significant surge, brought on by anti-Trump sentiment as well as high-stakes elections for Congress, the state Senate, and the governor’s race.

It is unclear exactly which voters Miner, a Democrat running as an independent, needs to attract in order to outpace all of her competitors, but it’s certain she will need significant funding to get her name and message out, especially in the short time period before Election Day. In that regard, she and all the other candidates lag far behind Cuomo.

In addition to his sizeable fundraising advantage, one key part of Cuomo’s resounding victory over Nixon was his support among black New Yorkers. Miner attributed this outcome to Cuomo casting himself as someone who offered a starkly different vision than the president’s. “I think that his message in saying that he is not Donald Trump was successful and I think it clearly resonated in those communities,” she told Gotham Gazette.

Miner also touted her experience as mayor of Syracuse, where she said she implemented “enlightened” criminal justice policies.

“I’m going to talk about the fact that I will end cash bail,” she continued. “The governor has just talked about it, [but] hasn’t done anything. We need to approach criminal justice in a very different way. We need to talk about issues like bias and looking at reforming the way our criminal justice system operates, so that it is not victimizing people, ending mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline."

In an interview with New York NOW, Miner said that she favors legalization of recreational marijuana, but said she is opposed to New York attempting to institute its own single-payer health care system. Like Cuomo, she said she favors such a system on the federal level, but worries how New York would pay for it.

Despite the uphill climb ahead, Miner is convinced her broader message will resonate with a vast swath of the electorate.

“I think that there are a great number of New Yorkers who are deeply dissatisfied with the direction the state is going…And so those are the people who I think are very open to the message of the current status quo being terrible, and that both parties are complicit in this culture of corruption and the politics of status quo,” she said. “Whether you are in New York and see the subway system crumbling around you, or you’re upstate and you see your family fleeing because of a lack of opportunity, you’ll understand that all these policies start at Andrew Cuomo’s feet.”

Howie Hawkins
Hawkins, who was among the Green Party co-founders and is a perennial candidate who ran for governor in 2010 and 2014, has since launching his 2018 campaign in April made social, racial, and environmental justice again at the center of his vision, including tenets like desegregating public schools and improving environmental sustainability. He hopes to gain the votes of the 26,462 active Green Party voters in the state along with others on the left disappointed with the governor.

“We call it the Green New Deal,” he told Gotham Gazette on Monday in an interview. “Basic economic human rights, the right to a job or an income above poverty, comprehensive healthcare, a decent home, a good education…Those are the things [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt said in his last state of the union address that ought to be part of a second Bill of Rights.”

Hawkins, who in Syracuse has run for Common Council, mayor, and auditor, said the plan would create an “economic boom” and that Democrats have pushed for similar policies but have “watered down the content.” A socialist, Hawkins says capitalism is the enemy of sound environmental policy.

“Capitalism's blind, ceaseless growth is devouring the environment,” he said in April. “As long as workers are bound to a fixed wage and capitalists take the remaining value that labor creates as profit, the rich get richer and the rest of us struggle to make ends meet. We need more social ownership and democratic planning to provide a decent standard of living for all that is ecologically sustainable.”

Hawkins is a marine corp veteran from the Vietnam War and a retired Teamster. He said the Green New Deal is "the alternative to Cuomo's corrupt corporate welfare posing as economic development.”

He favors single-payer health care funded through payroll taxes, and allocating additional funding to public schools.

Asked about his school integration plan, Hawkins called it “controlled choice” and cited what he said were similar policies in Wake County, North Carolina and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“So you have the public school choice, the children pick the schools in order of preference, they rank them, and you combine that with the plan to have them socioeconomically balanced. So basically, family income,” he explained. “That’s because [in] integrated schools, the lower-class kids test scores come up, the upper-class kids scores don’t go down, and all kids show do better on things like intellectual self-confidence, and creativity and problem solving, teamwork.”

He added, “Those are good qualities that ought to be part of the education system.”

And high-stakes testing, he said, was about “competition not education,” and should be done away with. Hawkins’ lieutenant governor running mate this campaign is Jia Lee, a New York City public school teacher and United Federation of Teachers chapter leader.

On housing, Hawkins favors a system of rent control, but says the current set-up is not enough, especially without repealing the Urstadt law, which handed control of rent policies to the state, and without building a lot more new housing. “We need to radically expand public housing in order to make affordable housing a reality for all,” he said in a press release earlier this month.

Asked who he sees as his target voters, Hawkins said he hopes to gain the support of those who voted for Nixon in the Democratic primary.

“Nixon got the same percentage as [Zephyr] Teachout [in 2014], which means about a third of the Democratic Party doesn’t like Cuomo. That looks good to me,” he said. “Those are my people.” Hawkins got 4.7 percent of the votes in the 2014 general election to Cuomo’s 53 percent, but 2018 is forecast to be a much higher turnout year, as indicated in part by the massive increase in Democratic primary voters from four years ago.

Hawkins in June told the Post-Standard that Miner will peel away some of the centrist vote for Cuomo. “It seems it's really going to hurt him,” he said of her candidacy. He also believes he should be able to lure liberal voters who picked Cuomo over Nixon but didn’t have his candidacy to choose from at the time.

Additionally, he believes he will earn a decent share of votes well outside New York City.

“I think upstate we can do really well, I think part of our program is having the state pay for its unfair disadvantage, something they talk about but don’t do much about. Because our property taxes kill us upstate,” he said. “The state doesn’t pay for its mandates, it balances the state budget on the back of the property tax payers and it doesn’t share revenues like it used to.”

“We’re going to the neighborhoods, we’re doing the traditional things, I mean there’s no magic bullet. … In seven weeks it’s hard. In the long run, we’ve got to establish grassroots, Green Party clubs and chapters in those neighborhoods so that people have a relationship to us,” he said of campaigning and forming a successful coalition.

Hawkins also insisted he would fair well among black voters.

“They’re not in love with the Democratic Party,” he said. “They’re afraid of the Republicans so they vote defensively. I think if you look at the polls, where we stand on the issues, like single-payer healthcare, now they’re with us on that, the majority.”

Larry Sharpe
Sharpe, who in 2016 ran unsuccessfully for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, is running on legalizing marijuana, severing ties with the United States Department of Education, including by refusing its funding, licensing bridge and tunnel naming rights to corporations to pay for subway repairs, allowing students to graduate high school earlier, and expanding gun rights.

A former marine who now works as a consultant, Sharpe said in an interview with Gotham Gazette that his top goal is decentralizing power. “The campaign is all about having a decentralized situation where counties can be counties, regions can be regions, and cities can be cities,” he said. “We are a very diverse state and we should be allowing our counties to be different. Albany shouldn’t be telling every single county what is should do or not do.”

Sharpe is vying for the governorship alongside Andrew Hollister, the libertarian lieutenant governor candidate. The pair is campaigning in the Libertarian model on a platform of shrinking government and making what remains much more efficient and decentralized.

Among the ways Sharpe wants to cut what he sees as overly burdensome regulations is repealing the SAFE Act, a gun control bill passed in early 2013 that Cuomo touts as one of his signature accomplishments.

“The problem with the SAFE Act is the SAFE Act didn’t make anybody safer,” Sharpe said, delivering one of his most frequent campaign lines. “You lose your Second Amendment rights because you’re on some secret list. That’s a bad idea,” he added, in apparent reference to the list of individuals deemed mentally unfit for gun ownership. The law also banned new sales of assault-style weapons, made current owners of those guns register them, and put limits on magazine sizes, among other provisions.

Sharpe said in an interview with New York NOW that the SAFE Act was a “bandaid” and that other problems aside from guns are what must really be targeted.

“[T]he problem is we have unhappy people. Unhappy people is the problem. If you take away his gun, he uses something else. If he’s unhappy he will do bad things,” he said. “There are two things that most of these people, one that they have and one that they don’t have. … Number one thing they don’t have, a girlfriend. The thing they do have: a prescription to psychotropic drugs.”

Asked to clarify what he meant, Sharpe said that while school shootings are murders, they’re “at their core public suicides.”

“The goal is not to simply say ‘Lets take away guns.’ The goal is to say ‘Stop having so many unhappy kids that want to kill other kids,’” he said. “I don’t want our kids to be killing other kids. I want happier children. That’s the key.”

Further, Sharpe favors allowing teachers and administrators who are licensed to carry guns to do so in schools.

Asked if his stance on guns would be appealing to voters in a blue state, where just over 3 percent of voters in the 2016 presidential election voted for the libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, and Hillary Clinton won handily, Sharpe said his policies on the matter would have “legs.”

“There are over four million gun owners in New York state,” he said. (The gun ownership rate in New York is slightly over 10 percent). “They’re more than happy to hear someone say ‘Let’s repeal the SAFE Act. Let’s have our second amendment rights back.’"

As the debate continues over how best to fund and fix the beleaguered MTA, Sharpe has raised ideas that are not yet part of mainstream discussions: allowing public bridges and tunnels to lease their naming rights to corporations, for example. It’s part of his “Faster Forward” plan on the subject he has released, which takes its name from the MTA’s new Fast Forward plan that has yet to be approved or funded. Molinaro has also released a plan of his own.

“These are companies that drop millions of dollars every year on marketing,” he said. “They drop $20 million on a stadium that gets used on the weekends. They will easily drop $20, $30, $40 million on a bridge or tunnel.”

Sharpe also pledged to not give the MTA a dime until its management figures out a way to cut costs.

“I’m not giving them a new contract until they change their practices. The practices of the MTA are a disaster,” he said. “They are one of the most inefficient organizations we have. They will shift and adjust. Why? I’m not giving them extra money, period. They’re not getting extra money, period!…They will change their way of doing business.”

On criminal justice, Sharpe does not want people to be put in jail for marijuana use. “Why in the world are we putting people in jail for having a plant in their pocket?” he said.

“We need to make sure that we absolutely regulate hemp and cannabis like onions,” he said, adding that farmers upstate should be allowed to grow cannabis if they opt to do so.

“We have a lot of farmers who are suffering,” he added.

He also would like to put an end to cash bail. “We’re putting people in jail because they’re poor,” he said.

Sharpe articulated a drastically different vision for K-12 education. For too many high-schoolers, 11th and 12th grades are a waste of time, he argues.

“The last two years of high school for too many kids is just gym, study hall, video games, and probably smoking weed,” said Sharpe. “Nothing but bad.”

After students complete the 10th grade, under his plan, they would take a test and would graduate if they pass it. Then, graduates would able to go to attend a college or university, a two-year prep school, go straight to work or a trade school.

Additionally, Sharpe said he would get rid of standardized testing altogether until students reached high school, stop abiding by Common Core learning standards, stop taking government funds from the Department of Education, and reduce the number of administrators at schools, using the saved funds for more teachers and school supplies.

Asked about government corruption, an issue dogging Cuomo as he seeks a third term, especially given recent convictions of members of the governor’s inner circle, Sharpe explained the issue isn’t something he really emphasizes in the campaign, other than to criticize Cuomo.

“I don’t talk much about this, and the reason is everyone’s answer is ‘Put ‘em in jail, put ‘em in jail, put ‘em in jail, more laws, more laws. That’s not the answer. The more laws you put and the more people you put in jail, it doesn’t help anybody,” he said. “If Cuomo goes to jail, or his cronies go to jail, that’s fine. I’m fine with that. I just want Cuomo to leave Albany, so I can start fixing things.”  

Sharpe, who has been keeping an aggressive campaign schedule for many months, holding events throughout the state, expressed confidence his message will triumph over those of the major parties as well as Miner, who he called part of the establishment.

“The two frontrunners are the definition of career politicians. They're the definition of the establishment. Both of them only know politics. Nothing else. They can’t drain the swamp they live in a swamp,” Sharpe said of Cuomo and Molinaro, who he has repeatedly attacked during his campaign. “To ask them for change is to ask them to burn their own house down.”

“The only person that has any chance of making any real impact is me,” he went on. “I’m the only one who can get Democrats and Republicans and independents and people who haven’t voted. I’m the only one out there crossing the state, doing north of 30 events every single month. I’m the only one that’s exciting. It’s only me.”

[Listen to Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro on Max & Murphy from September 19]

with contributions from Victor Porcelli and Ben Max

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Gubernatorial Candidates Miner, Sharpe & Hawkins Lay Out Campaign Platforms, Cases Against Cuomo Sun, 23 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000