Good Morning from Washington, D.C….

Congress is now officially in extra time. Both the House and the Senate were scheduled to adjourn for the Holiday Recess last Friday. Instead, the House has formally added a week to its schedule and will now be in session until at least next Monday, while Senators have been warned that they could remain in session for “long days & nights” right up until Christmas. While the timeline remains unclear on the more than $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, decision makers in Washington are slowly working their way through the legislative backlog:

The biggest question mark remains the Build Back Better Act and whether or not Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can accomplish the Herculean task of rallying the Democratic Caucus, getting key provisions through the scrubbing of a “Byrd Bath” by the Parliamentarian (where Democrats and Republican staff argue the merits of including specific provisions in a Reconciliation Bill), and overcoming GOP sniping over less-than-friendly scoring from the Congressional Budget Office over the next several days. In a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter circulated last Monday, Schumer said “our goal in the Senate is to pass the legislation before Christmas and get it to the president’s desk.” However, other Democrats, including potential nuclear vote Senator Kyrsten Sinema, have said they do not see the bill getting done this year. The biggest obstacle may be the consumer price index report release by the Labor Department on Friday, sounding alarm bells on inflation.  Democrats are headed into the 2022 midterm elections with terrible polling numbers and the worst inflation numbers in almost 40 years which overshadow the best job numbers in years, earlier in November.

Image

 Back in New York…

Democrats face much better prospects. The announcement from Attorney General Tish James that she would run for reelection rather than Governor, removed the prospect of an incredibly expensive and divisive primary battle. Make no mistake, Hochul still faces challenges from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Member of Congress Tom Suozzi, but this is no longer the battle of the titans. The same day James made her announcement, we learned that her office intends to subpoena former President Donald J. Trump in a civil fraud case. Clearly there is enough for James to focus on in the Attorney General’s office.

There is also enough for Hochul to do in the Executive Chamber. In response to the continued rise in coronavirus cases across the state—and the corresponding capacity surge in hospitals—Governor Hochul issued a statewide indoor mask mandate ordering the use of face coverings in all New York businesses that do not require proof of vaccination. Some local health officials applauded the order but others questioned whether the same strategies are the right answer and called for state and federal officials to be more creative in addressing this new surge.
 
Hochul has also promised “bold plans” in her State of the State address for the restructuring of the State University of New York system. This in response to the resignation of SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras. Malatras, a long time Cuomo ally and Executive Chamber staffer, was under fire for his text messages disparaging Lindsay Boylan (one of the women found by multiple investigations to have been harassed by Governor Andrew Cuomo). Following an eventful week where several unions and the SUNY Trustees declared their support for Malatras and Hochul declined to speak against him, a letter signed by more than 30 Members of the Assembly was the last straw. Malatras was, by his own account, heavily involved in Cuomo’s book, and the now discredited nursing home report, and so expected reports on those were always future landmines for the Chancellor, as well. 
 
Finally, farewell to Michael Nesmith, he of the wool hat and Whiteout fortune. He always got the funniest looks from everyone he met. 

The OD&A Team had intended to profile some of the great candidates for Attorney General. In light of Attorney General Tish James’ decision to run for reelection, that seems unnecessary. Instead, it is worth taking a quick look back at 2021’s elections for some insight in what to expect in 2022, especially as it provides insight into the ongoing battle within the Democratic Party. 
 
First on that list is Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. While the campaign for Buffalo City Hall garnered a lot of attention and there were local, state, and national profiles of challenger India Walton, there has been less written about Brown. In fact, there has been more attention about what India Walton may do next rather than what the winner of the race might do next but we have a few clues worth exploring. 
A couple points:
 
Scale: Brown’s win on a write-in vote (which had not been done in New York) was impressive in itself but the margin—by nearly 20 points—was incredible. Remember, this was also a campaign for an unprecedented 5th term.  
 
Local: Across the country and state, elected officials weighed in behind Walton—Sens. Sanders and WarrenSchumer and Gillibrand along with multiple members of the state legislature and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams—but they made endorsements based on their own agendas. What they missed was the work Byron Brown has done in the Buffalo community during his time in office, the relationships he has built with Buffalonians by attending their events and block parties, and, most importantly, that most of us in Buffalo are pleased with the progress made under his watch. While there is much more to do, and while more communities need to benefit, Buffalo is night and day from where it was when Brown took over 16 years ago.
 
National: Along those lines, many saw this campaign as a proxy war between the center-left and far-left of the Democratic Party. Brown’s win is a victory for the center-left policy of actual progress versus “Progressives.” His resounding win makes Brown a sought after endorser, both of policies and politicians across the state and nation. This question of how much progress is enough versus ideals and ideas continues to play out in Washington (Manchin and Sinema vs. the Squad and Sen. Sanders) today and will be front and center in 2022.
 
Diversity and Inclusion: Last week, Mayor Brown laid down a marker regarding the diversity of Buffalo’s arts and cultural institutions and their over $350 million economic impact. The substance of the declaration was, frankly, not very different from much of what Brown has said and worked towards during his mayoralty though, perhaps, a bit sharper and clearer.  However, in light of his reelection, more people will be listening. Expect more of this: the mayor holding people who act in or benefit from the public space to be accountable to reflecting the community they serve.
 
Development: Mayor Brown declared this week his intention to move forward with development in every neighborhood across Buffalo. If anything, expect development to move forward more quickly with the certainty of four more years of this administration. The last 16 years saw more development than the 40 years prior. I expect the next four to continue to speed things up.
 
Of course, Team Byron could have done more to win the primary. They could have motivated voters, or even told voters there was a municipal primary in June for the first time in 45 years. That said, COVID and COVID fatigue affected everyone and they put the work in and made a difference when the vote was final.
  
There is much more to the story—India Walton’s campaign from July to November was not the well-oiled machine of January to June, she was an imperfect candidate, and so on—but at the end of the day, many Buffalonians remember where things were before Byron Brown became mayor. Expect the next four years to be more of the same Byron Brown that won almost 60% of the vote, but only more so as Brown is unleashed.

-Jack O’Donnell

FOR DAILY UPDATES, FOLLOW US:

 

Here’s How JCOPE Could Force Cuomo to Pay Back Millions

New York’s ethics commission voted to revoke its staff’s summer 2020 approval of then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s lucrative book project. Now, members of JCOPE are trying to figure out how to force Cuomo to repay the $5.1 million he was paid to write “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” [Read more.]

Image

How Letitia James’ Governor’s Race Exit Shakes Up New York Politics Again

“Her heart just wasn’t in it,” said one longtime supporter of the attorney general, whose challenge to Gov. Kathy Hochul was put within reach by her own role in toppling Andrew Cuomo. The announcement upends the contests for both governor and AG. [Read more.]

 

 

CNN and Chris Cuomo Are on the Brink of All-Out War 

Despite the decisiveness of CNN’s dismissal of anchor Chris Cuomo, there are hints that the fireworks may only just be getting started. The New York Post reported that Cuomo was “preparing to file [a] lawsuit”—reportedly to the tune of at least $18 million—“over the remainder of the four-year contract he signed last year.” [Read more.]