Politics On The Hudson
Updated: 2 years 27 weeks ago
Senate Republicans today handicapped the three contested races for the state Senate. Their findings, not surprisingly: They’ll win all three.
But Democrats say not so fast.
“This is like saying you won the lottery before buying the ticket. Press releases don’t trump votes. Once every vote has been counted, it will be clear, Democrats retained the Majority,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for Senate Democrats.
Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Republicans, offered this detailed assessment of where they believe things stand.
Here’s his review.
60th Senate District
Considering Grisanti’s substantial lead, his tremendous support among Democrats and Republicans, the relatively small number of absentee ballots to be counted, the enrollment of the voters that submitted them and the election districts where they came from, it’s clear that Republican Mark Grisanti will still be far ahead of Senator Thompson when the counting is done and will win this seat.
7th Senate District
37th Senate District
Bob Cohen ran an aggressive absentee ballot outreach program. Based on the breakdown of where the outstanding ballots came from, it’s clear that he will make up the difference and be declared the winner of this race when the counting is concluded.
Incoming Gov. Andrew Cuomo and outgoing Gov. David Paterson are meeting today in Manhattan to discuss the transition.
They are holding a news conference at 2:15 p.m. today to discuss the transition. You can view it live here. Gannett’s WGRZ-TV is streaming it live, as is the governor’s office here.
Newly elected Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, Columbia County, has announced the first major hire for his office: His chief of staff will be Saratoga native Steve Stallmer, who is currently vice president of government and public affairs for the Associated General Contractors of New York State.
Stallmer had previously worked for late Rep. Gerald Solomon, a Republican who represented the same region for over two decades, and former Buffalo-area Rep. Jack Quinn from 1999 to 2004.
Gibson beat Democratic incumbent Scott Murphy in a closely watched race in a district that stretches from Dutchess County up to the North Country.
If you’d like to relive Gibson’s campaign, he’s offered this montage on his campaign website.
Improving recent conditions in the stock market has meant positive gains for the state’s pension fund, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported today.
DiNapoli, a Democrat, was re-elected last week in a tight race against Republican Harry Wilson, a former hedge-fund partner who consistently hammered DiNapoli over the fund’s performance.
But DiNapoli said today the fund’s value is $132.8 billion, up 8 percent for the second quarter, which ended Sept. 30. DiNapoli spokesman Dennis Tompkins said the fund is up 3.5 percent through Sept. 30 for the fiscal year, which started April 1.
It’s up 5.9 percent for the fiscal year through Oct. 31, according to preliminary estimates.
“Last year’s record returns are holding,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Over the past few weeks the market has shown strength, however, there’s still volatility. The Fund remains among the strongest in the nation. Our commitment to long-term, value investing through our diversified portfolio has kept the Fund secure and well positioned to benefit from the markets’ continued recovery.”
One of Wilson’s criticisms was that the fund was estimating a rate of return of 8 percent, which he argued was too optimistic during these difficult economic times. DiNapoli did move the estimated rate of return to 7.5 percent in September.
How the pension fund does is critical to local governments and the state. DiNapoli has ordered higher contribution rates for local governments and the state to pay retirement costs for employees in recent years because of the fund’s poor performance during the recession.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, today wrote a letter to the governor and the legislative leaders asking them to place redistricting reform on the agenda for any extraordinary session this year.
Independent redistricting has been a top issue for New York Uprising, the group led by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch that got signed pledges from about 300 legislative candidates to back its reform goals.
Tedisco, the former Assembly minority leader, said that in order to put an independent redistricting commission in the state Constitution, it would mean an amendment would have to pass two consecutive legislatures—this one and the one that takes office Jan. 1. It would then be on the ballot in 2012—when the redrawing of district lines is due.
Tedisco is right, technically, but good-government groups has sought a more attainable way to get redistricting reform. The Legislature can simply adopt a statute that creates an independent redistricting commission and accept its recommendations—without requiring a change to the constitution.
It took a week, but all precincts are in in the 37th District in the state Senate, and Democratic Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, D-Mamaroneck, Westchester County, has increased her lead to 504 votes over Republican Bob Cohen—an increase of 38 votes from last week.
The county Board of Elections had some problems with two voting machines, but they apparently were able to get the results yesterday and this morning the count was updated with all the precincts reporting.
Reginald LaFayette, the county’s Democratic elections commissioner and the party’s county chairman, said yesterday that he estimates about 4,000 to 5,000 absentee and affidavit ballots have to be counted in the district.
The race is one of three that remains undecided in the state Senate as Democrats hope to cling to their 32-30 seat majority. But Oppenheimer is so far the only one where Democrats hold a slim lead. Republicans hold small leads in a Buffalo seat and a seat on Long Island, both are currently held by Democrats.
Still, Democrats took comfort in Oppenheimer’s increased lead. They are furiously trying to raise money to mount legal defenses after closing the last campaign-finance cycle with a meager $228,000 in the bank and took out a $750,000 loan.
They put out a fundraising appeal yesterday, saying “We can’t let New York in 2010 become Florida in 2000. Every vote must be counted.”
Updated: As Liz Benjamin reports, Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos said on Capital Tonight that Senate Democrats are now in debt about $2.1 million. That includes another $850,000 loan the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee took out on Oct. 27 from the National Bank of NYC, campaign-finance records show. Austin Shafran, spokesman for Senate Democrats, confirmed that the committee has taken out a line of credit of just slightly less than $2.1 million.
He said, “We’re raising resources and going to spend whatever it takes to ensure a full, fair and honest count of every vote that has been cast.”
As for Oppenheimer’s lead, Shafran said, “Every day, with every vote being counted, it is becoming more clear that Suzi Oppenheimer has won her race and Democrats will maintain the majority.”
Republicans are also confident in that race and the two others. Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Republicans, said there are estimates of about 10,000 ballots that haven’t been counted in the Westchester race, including emergency ballots that were cast on Election Day.
“We remain confident that we have a good shot at that race and that we’ll have at least 32 members,” Reif said.
The Westchester County Association, which sponsored polls of legislative races in the region and laid out its initiatives for political candidates, said it’s going to stay active to ensure elected officials stick to their promises.
The business group’s president Bill Mooney said, “Clearly, the economy is the number one issue for virtually every voter. Our Call to Action Campaign, which called attention to the anti-taxpayer policies by our Albany lawmakers during the mid-term election season, plans on making the new Legislature accountable for their actions.”
The group is one of many business groups that have ramped up their activism this year to blunt the influence of unions and other special interests in Albany. The group said it plans a summit in the next two weeks for a “coordinated strategy to keep up the pressure on our elected officials to bring about the structural reforms needed to return the state to financial stability and economic competitiveness.”
They will also reach out to Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo, who lives in Mount Kisco.
The group has a website and a pledge, which is similar to the one created by New York Uprising, the group led by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch. WCA’s pledge calls for an on-time budget with new taxes and fees; full disclosure by lawmakers of outside income; independent redistricting and a ban on unfunded mandates.
Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo yesterday took great steps to praise outgoing Gov. David Paterson during a speech in Puerto Rico at the annual conference of Latino lawmakers.
Today, Cuomo and Paterson are set to meet at the governor’s Manhattan office to discuss the transition. They talked for about an hour last week on a conference call after Cuomo’s victory and talked some when they were both in Puerto Rico, but today is their first formal meeting since Cuomo won last Tuesday.
“David was handed a very difficult set of cards he had to play. The situation he walked into was near impossible at the time he walked into it,” Cuomo said yesterday. “And I think everyone in this room agrees that he stepped up to the plate, he did what he had to do, and we thank him so much for his public service.”
Paterson joked when he introduced Cuomo yesterday that, “Before we hear from the governor-elect, we will hear from the governor-eject.”
When Cuomo took the stage, he said, “You’re not going anywhere. You’re going to stay right here and help us figure this out.”
Talking to reporters afterward, Cuomo said that “these are very big problems and we want to have a seamless transition and the governor and I will be working on that together.”
The relationship hasn’t always been so cordial, particularly when Paterson was gearing up to run against Cuomo. In February, Paterson accused Cuomo of running a Rose Garden strategy for playing coy about his political intentions.
And it was Cuomo’s attorney general office—at Paterson’s request —that investigated Paterson’s involvement in a domestic-violence case involving his former top aide, David Johnson, and his receipt of free tickets to the World Series last year. Both cases were turned over by Cuomo to former Chief Judge Judith Kaye, who served as independent counsel to the attorney general’s office.
Paterson soon dropped his plans for election.
Former Peekskill mayor and three-term Gov. George Pataki told The Note of ABC News that he will consider running for president if other candidates with the right leadership experience don’t step forward.
Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick has two fund-raising events this week.
The two-term Democrat wouldn’t say on Friday what political office he’s considering, but it’s important to note that Yonkers will have its mayoral election in November next year.
Lesnick will hold a wine and chesse reception on Yonkers’ future tonight at a private home on Hudson Terrace. On Wednesday Lesnick will have a post-election morning reception with New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio at Akerman Senterfitt in Manhattan.
Lesnick raised $30,244.60 in the first half of 2010, according to his July 2010 campaign finance disclosure filing with the state Board of Elections. Lesnick declared $25,171.30 in expenses for the same period.
His biggest expense in the first half of 2010 was for $10,000 paid to Henry Berger, an election law attorney and former counsel to Hillary Clinton’s senatorial campaign.
Since taking office earlier this year, the Republican executive has pledged no tax increases and predicted the budget season, which will go through December, will be a battle with the Board of Legislators over what government services will be provided.
So far, Astorino has cut bus routes, day care and staff — mostly through buyouts and incentives — as well as other programs. Just last week, he announced that he was canceling the county’s section 8 contract with the state and the 40 or so jobs that administer those housing vouchers..
For their part, legislators have also pledged not to raise taxes, so it will likely come down to choices.
The board must have a 2011 budget in place by Dec. 31.
Outgoing Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch is making another attempt to find remedies to the state’s fiscal problems.
He and the Rockefeller Institute in Albany commissioned a study released today that proposes requiring local-government and school-district employees to pay part of the cost of their health insurance coverage.
The report—“Health Insurance Cost Sharing: New York State’s Model for Localities”—says it could save New Yorkers more than $1 billion a year. The Times-Union wrote about the report today.
“New York’s present budget crisis is unprecedented and could persist for years,” Ravitch said in a statement put out by the Rockefeller Institute. “Continuing business as usual is not sustainable. In order to adjust to the new reality, everyone involved in policy making at the state and local level will have to change their behavior.”
Ravitch in March laid out his plans to get the state’s finances under control, and included a plan to borrow up to $6 billion. It received tepid support, but went nowhere with Gov. David Paterson and lawmakers.
In September, he offered fixes to the Medicaid program, the state’s largest expense.
Today’s report says that state employees and retirees contribute an average 18 percent of premiums for their health insurance, but in most municipalities and many school districts, the employee contribution is “none to minimal.”
The report essentially proposes that all public employees submit to making the same contributions as the state employees under New York State Health Insurance Plan (NYSHIP).
The state Board of Elections says the election results in 10 races across New York have been impounded by the courts because of the closeness of the contests.
The races include the three tight contests for the state Senate—the Buffalo seat held by Democrat Sen. Antoine Thompson, the Westchester seat held by Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer and the Long Island seat held by Craig Johnson.
Republicans are currently in the lead against Thompson and Johnson, while Oppenheimer is deadlocked against Republican Bob Cohen.
Also impounded is the results from the 25th Congressional District between Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei of Syracuse and his Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle, who holds a 684-vote lead.
Six tight Assembly races have also been impounded: Districts 1, 89, 96, 100, 109 and 121.
What impounds means is that the vote totals are now supervised by a judge. In the case of the state Senate races, it means absentee ballots will begin being counted tomorrow, as who is in the majority remains in the balance.
Concerns that Yonkers voters did not know about two propositions on Tuesday’s ballot were premature given updated numbers from the Westchester County Board of Elections.
On Election Night, initial results for the two initiatives showed that no more than 250 people voted for the propositions, an impossibly low number that left residents wondering what went wrong.
Updated, though still unofficial results show that poll workers did indeed do their jobs and inform the public about the propositions, which were printed on the back of the ballots in Yonkers.
Proposition 1, which addressed mayoral appointments, was approved by 13,265 votes, about 52 percent of the total vote.
Proposition 2, which addressed mayoral succession, was approved by 18,650 votes, or almost 73 percent of the vote.
The updated unofficial results do not include one of the city’s 316 districts, nor do they include absentee or provisional ballots.
On Wednesday Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone appointed a new Charter Revision Commission to begin working on new charter amendments for next year’s November election.
City Council President Chuck Lesnick said today that Amicone’s appointment of the commission blocks any potential ballot initiatives from the public or the City Council’s ability to put a proposition on the ballot.
“It’s not circumventing anything. I called the Charter Revision Commission because over the years this charter has been left in its state and has not really changed with the times, and I?felt it was necessary for the CRC to each year look at several different issues and aspects of it that could improve the charter so that it better serves the people and the government and the City of Yonkers,” said Amicone, adding that council members can submit their suggestions to the commission. “Their input into it is no different from mine or a citizen’s input into what they can and should look at.”
The new commission’s members are:
Julius Walls, Chairman
It’s the third day after Andrew Cuomo was elected governor, and he’s already pushing for more money from the federal government for high-speed rail.
The Republicans governors-elect in Ohio and Wisconsin have been critical of the money those states received for high-speed rail. Cuomo said if those states don’t want the money, New York will gladly take it.
About $810 million was allocated in Wisconsin for a high-speed rail line connecting Milwaukee and Madison. Ohio is slated to receive $450 million for a line between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.
Cuomo, a Democrat, sent a letter today U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking that if those states do not want the money, LaHood should redirect the $1.26 billion to New York.
In January, New York received just $151 million for high-speed rail initiatives, part of $8 billion that was designated nationally. New York has long had a goal of building high-speed rail from Buffalo to New York City, and the initiative has been seen as a key economic driver for upstate.
“High speed rail is critical to building the foundation for future economic growth, especially Upstate. If these governors-elect follow through on their promises to cancel these projects, a Cuomo administration would move quickly to put the billions in rejected stimulus funding towards projects that would create thousands of good jobs for New Yorkers,” Cuomo, a former HUD secretary, said in a statement.
His letter is below.
November 5, 2010
Hon. Ray LaHood
Dear Secretary LaHood:
High speed rail could be transformative for New York—with the potential to revitalize Upstate New York’s economy with construction jobs now and permanent jobs created by the new high speed rail links to New York City, Toronto and Montreal in the future. That is why I made high speed rail a priority during my campaign, and that is why it will continue to be a top priority for me as Governor.
To date, New York has received only a small fraction of federal money for high speed rail, but we want to make it a success now, and my Administration will aggressively pursue all funding opportunities to make high speed rail a reality. Recent reports have stated that incoming Administrations in other states, particularly Ohio and Wisconsin, are seeking to cancel their high speed rail projects and the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid associated with those projects. Therefore, I would ask you to consider redirecting the federal funding to New York because the project is a top priority.
High speed rail could be the 21st Century Erie Canal for New York State and help rebuild Upstate New York’s economy. Now is the moment to build. Thank you for the consideration and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate and call.
Andrew M. Cuomo
The state Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities is conducting a survey to get feedback from people with disabilities who voted in this week’s election. The information collected will be reported in a “Voter Experience Rating Guide,” an education and outreach tool to raise awareness of the voting process for people with disabilities.
This was the first year that all voters statewide used New York’s new system of paper ballots and optical scanners. Ballot-marking devices were available for people with disabilities and any other voters. The new system was piloted in numerous counties last year, but this was the first time there were no lever machines in use.
The commission has an eight-question survey online about accessibility of poll sites, accessibility and usability of voting machines and ballot-marking devices, voting privacy and the helpfulness of poll workers. No names or personal addresses will be used. The survey is available in large print and has been tested for use with computer-screen readers.
Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, today was buoyed by the gains Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, D-Mamaroneck, Westchester County, was making the count against Republican challenger Bob Cohen.
“The opposition was very gung-ho in trying to unseat her, but once all the ballots are in, she will be victorious,” Sampson predicted in an interview this afternoon.
Control of the Senate hinges on the three close races in Buffalo and on Long Island, as well as the Oppenheimer-Cohen race. The candidates in all those races are separated by several hundred votes. Sen. Antoine Thompson, D-Buffalo, is trailing Mark Grisanti by 598 votes. Sen. Craig Johnson trails his GOP rival Jack Martins by 419 votes.
Sampson said he was confident the leads for Oppenheimer would hold and Thompson and Johnson would make up the deficit.
“I’m more than confident that we’ll make up the difference in the absentee ballots,” Sampson said.
He added that the Democrats are pouring enough resources into the court battle in the Buffalo race.
“We basically put together one of the largest voter-protection efforts to make sure that every ballot is counted,” he said.
As to his future as the leader of the majority or the new minority Democrats, Sampson said he had the backing of the members of his conference.
“I am the leader, I have widespread support in the conference and right now my focus is making sure that I not only fight for my members but for needed changes for all New Yorkers,” he said.
He also dismissed fellow Democrat Gov. David Paterson’s prediction that the Senate would flip to the GOP, saying that he wasn’t going to deal with predictions.
Sampson declined to say whether the fallout from Inspector General Joseph Fisch’s scathing pre-Election Day report on Democratic leaders allegedly rigging a bidding process for a favored company had an impact. Sampson, along with other Senate Democratic leaders, was implicated in the report.
“I’m not here to talk about that, my focus is on making sure there is adequate voter protection and that I pull for my members,” he said.
Hawkins got nearly 59,000 votes, passing the 50,000-vote threshold needed to get automatic ballot status for the next four years.
“We won the ballot line. Now we aim to win our Green New Deal policies for New York state,” Hawkins said in a statement today.
He was the only third-party candidate to get the 50,000 votes.
“We come out of this election much stronger than we went into it. We’re bigger, better organized, and have new allies in the labor, community, peace, and environmental movements. We now plan to keep organizing, mobilizing, and pushing for a Green New Deal between now and the next state legislative elections in the 2012 elections. We will also be working at the national level on bringing our troops home, cutting the military budget, immigrant rights, protecting social security and curtailing climate change,” Hawkins said.
Then Hawkins continued his campaign attacks on Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo.
“Cuomo never told the voters of New York State how he intends to resolve the state budget deficit. Our plan was to make the wealthy pay their fair share, including stopping the rebate of $16 billion to Wall Street speculators. When Cuomo’s budget comes out in January, with massive cuts in education, health care, the environment, jobs and human services, the Greens will be helping to lead the protests,” said Hawkins. “And we intend to push Cuomo to deliver on the issues of ethics and campaign finance reforms, same-sex marriage, closing the Indian Point nuclear plant, and nonpartisan redistricting.”
A canvass of the voting machines netted more complete numbers in the 89th Assembly District race, but it’s still too close to call.
As it stands, Republican Assemblyman Robert Castelli has 18,924 votes to Democratic challenger Thomas Roach’s 18,782—a margin of 142 votes.
Emergency, absentee and affidavit ballots still have not been counted. All paper ballots were impounded throughout the state, so those ballot will be counted under court supervision, potentially starting a week from now.
With all but four voting districts in Westchester reporting results from Tuesday’s election, the race may be over for four state Supreme Court seats in the 9th Judicial District.
The district covers Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange counties.
Justices Emmett Murphy and Lawrence Ecker were far ahead in the eight-candidate race, with Murphy getting 435,932 votes and Ecker getting 280,794, according to unofficial results Thursday. Murphy, who ran on both Republican and Democratic lines, won his second 14-year term. Ecker, who was appointed to the bench, won his first full term.
The other incumbent, Justice Colleen Duffy, was in third place with 249,495 votes. The last seat will probably go to Rockland County Family Court Judge Linda Christopher, who has 243,128 votes.
The other candidates fell behind with the latest vote counts in Westchester. Westchester County Legislator James Maisano had 235,803 votes; Suffern Village Justice Matthew Byrne had 235,029 votes; and Cortlandt Town Justice Gerald Klein had 178,430 votes. James Burke, who ran solely on an anti-abortion line, was a distant last.
All vote tallies are unofficial.
State Supreme Court judges generally preside over civil cases. They make $136,700 a year.