Good Morning from New York…
Governor Cuomo’s streak of 110 days of COVID-19 updates and briefings ended on Friday. While New York’s phased re-opening continues, region by region, bringing both hope for economic recovery and fear of a “second wave,” the attention of the political world turns to tomorrow’s primary elections. The upsets of last cycle, like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez dethroning House Democratic Caucus Chair and Queens Party Boss Joe Crowley or the defeat of nine incumbent state Senators by progressive challengers, have provided inspiration while a network of progressive small donors have provided the fuel for primary challenges to incumbent Congressional Members as well as a broader attack on more moderate members of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.
A more detailed look at the state races is below (click here for our Congressional review) but a word of caution: by law, absentee ballots in New York can be delivered up to a week after Election Day so these will not be counted until June 30 at the earliest. As New York has been encouraging voting by mail, expect these votes to be the difference in many of these primary contests. As a point of reference, the 2016 Presidential Primary had 115,178 applications for absentee ballots. With a couple of days to go, at least 1,949,997 ballots had been distributed this year. Already there are reports of mismanagement and general incompetence at various Boards of Election. Expect voting to be marred by long lines, complaints, and other missteps.
As for re-opening, New York City enters Phase 2 today which allows for haircuts and outdoor dining at restaurants. That decision came only after a continued lack of clarity and the usual mixed messages from Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, with the Governor getting the first and last say on the situation.
Meanwhile, New York City’s request for $7 billion in borrowing authority has received little support from Governor Cuomo or state lawmakers. Expect increased discussion of this issue as NYC faces a projected $9 billion revenue gap for FY 2020-21 and seeks to reach a budget deal by the end of their fiscal year on June 30. The State Legislature convened at the Capitol last week to vote on a series of police reform policies, but the borrowing legislation, sponsored by Sen. Liz Krueger (at de Blasio’s request), was never brought to a floor vote. Krueger said the borrowing plan was being reworked and would need the support of the New York City Council and City Comptroller Scott Stringer before going to the floor. Even with this support, the State Legislature will not convene to take up any bills until after the state’s primary elections.
Local governments are not alone in holding their breath for state and federal aid. Thousands of human services nonprofits that receive funding from New York State are facing financial uncertainty after waiting months for payments on submitted invoices and, in some cases, for final certification on their contracts. Division of Budget spokesperson Freeman Klopott said the State “is working to ensure we have enough cash-on-hand to support services as we contend with the federal decision to delay income tax payments to July and other revenue resources decline….Over the past three months, we have reduced cash outlays (through tight spending controls) by nearly $4 billion. The cash controls will turn to permanent reductions if there is no federal aid to offset the State’s revenue losses, which amount to $61 billion over four years.”
The White House has not reached a final decision on whether it supports an infrastructure package; aid to state and local governments; another round of $1,200 stimulus checks; delaying the tax filing deadline beyond July 15; and a fix to the coming expiration of additional unemployment benefits, among other issues. Adding to the standstill, Senior GOP Senators and Trump officials are pushing for Vice President Pence or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to assume a larger role in the deal-making process, believing that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has been too deferential to House Speaker Pelosi in negotiations leading up to the last large bipartisan deal.
Senior White House official Peter Navarro’s recent statement that President Trump wanted the next Congressional stimulus package to cost more than $2 trillion and include big measures designed to boost domestic manufacturing, was dismissed by other Trump administration officials. “Navarro speaks for Navarro,” one senior Administration official said. “Peter went rogue”, another added. White House officials have said they will pass another stimulus package, but appear in no rush to do so. President Trump is pushing for a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure spending proposal, to be led by the Department of Transportation, and Speaker of the House Pelosi and House Democrats also announced plans to advance H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a $1.5 billion comprehensive infrastructure investment package. But Administration officials say the next bill is not likely to pass until late July.
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NEW YORK STATE PRIMARIES GUIDE
State Senate District 12 — Parts of Astoria, Long Island City, and Sunnyside in Queens
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, is facing a challenge from a moderate, former New York City Sanitation Department official Ignazio Terranova, who opposes Gianaris’ outspoken and successful campaign to block to bringing an Amazon campus in the borough. Gianaris’ $360,000 campaign dwarfs the $32,000 of his opponent. The incumbent has also received the endorsement of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, 32BJ, and other labor unions.
State Senate District 18 — Parts of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Cypress Hills in Brooklyn
Senator Julia Salazar is well-positioned to keep her seat, having raised more than triple her competitor Andy Marte, a former staffer for Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Salazar, a first-term progressive Democrat who defeated long-tenured Senator Martin Dilan in 2018, has a strong following among far-left Democrats and has tried to label Marte as a Trump supporter and anti-vaxxer .
State Senate District 25 — Parts of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Red Hook and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn
When longtime Senator Velmanette Montgomery announced her retirement in January, she quickly threw her support behind Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright as her successor. Wright is being challenged from the left by two competitive candidates: Jason Salmon, a former staffer to Montgomery, and Jabari Brisport, a public school teacher who is backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Wright has received an impressive list of endorsements from Black political leaders, unions, and nonprofit organizations.
State Senate District 38 — Parts of Rockland and Westchester counties
The open seat encompassing most of Rockland County has both a Democratic and Republican primary after Sen. David Carlucci announced he was running for Congress. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, legislative director to Sen. James Skoufis, is the favorite given his cash on hand and support from former and current elected officials, activist groups, and unions. In the Republican Primary, William Weber Jr., a certified accountant, has stepped up as the local GOP’s preferred candidate after the party’s initial choice dropped out of the race. Both candidates are facing primaries. Running on the Republican ballot are William Weber and Matthew Weinberg. The Democrat field features Justin Sweet, Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, Eudson Francoi, and Vladimir Leon. This is one of the few seats that may be competitive in November.
State Senate District 56 — Parts of Monroe County
Longtime Rochester Republican Senator Joe Robach is retiring. Jeremy Cooney, the former chief of staff to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, is one of three Democrats, along with Hilda Rosario Escher and Sherita Traywick, who is seeking the nomination. Cooney ran against Robach in 2018, winning 44% of the vote and has been endorsed by New York State United Teachers and the Working Families Party. The winner will face Republican Greece Town Councilman Mike Barry, who has Robach’s support in the General Election.
State Senate District 61 — Genesee County; parts of Monroe County and Erie counties
Republican Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer announced his retirement earlier this year. Three Democratic candidates are fighting for the nomination: Jacqualine Berger, a town board member and deputy supervisor in Amherst who has received labor union endorsements, Joan Seamans, who ran against state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer in 2018 but lost by about 9 percentage points, and Kim Smith, a retired Monroe County employee and activist. The party nominee will face Republican Erie County Legislator Ed Rath in the General Election , who already has close to $47,000 on hand in preparation for November. Democrats have a slight enrollment advantage in the district although the district leans conservative.
Assembly District 34 — Parts of Jackson Heights, Woodside, Corona, North Corona, Elmhurst, and Maspeth in Queens
Three candidates —Jessica González-Rojas, Nuala O’Doherty-Naranjo, and Joy Chowdhury—who volunteered in Tiffany Cabán’s upstart campaign for District Attorney last year, are now running to unseat Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, whose Assembly district in Queens has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite DenDekker’s position as a 12-year incumbent and financial advantage in the race, he is faced with controversy around accepting donations from law enforcement unions in a district that is increasingly progressive. This month his campaign had to redirect $13,000 in funds from police associations back to local nonprofits.
Assembly District 35 — Parts of East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, North Corona, Corona, Elmhurst, and Rego Park in Queens
Jeffrion Aubry, an Assemblymember since 1992, is being challenged by District Leader Hiram Monserrate, a former Councilman and state Senator, who was stripped of his seat after being convicted of sexual assault (he also pled guilty to federal fraud and corruption charges). Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie suggested Monserrate may not be allowed to join the Democratic Conference if elected. Aubry has a roughly $45,000 fundraising advantage and broad institutional support.
Assembly District 36 — Parts of Astoria and Ditmars Steinway in Queens
Two progressive candidates are in a close race in western Queens, the birthplace of the current DSA movement in New York. Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and her leftist challenger, Zohran Mamdani, are largely aligned on their policy positions, including supporting calls to cancel rent because of the coronavirus pandemic, ending cash bail, and establishing a universal health care system in New York.
Assembly District 43 — Parts of Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn
Incumbent Diana Richardson has the fundraising edge in her race against Jesse Hamilton, a former state senator whose membership in the Independent Democratic Conference cost him his seat in 2018. Rather than try to win back his former seat, Hamilton is going after Richardson, who first won her seat in a 2015 special election. Richardson has also accused the Brooklyn County Democratic Committee (led by fellow Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte) of supporting Hamilton although Bichotte claims they have been neutral.
Assembly District 50 — Greenpoint; parts of Williamsburg, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn
Emily Gallagher, a local Community Board member, is the first person in a decade to challenge 77-year-old Assemblymember Joe Lentol, who has represented North Brooklyn’s 50th Assembly District for 48 years. Lentol’s impressive track record, name recognition, and campaign coffers are being threatened as Gallagher racks up endorsements from local progressive groups to help her make the case that the district needs a legislative update for a new generation.
Assembly District 51 — Parts of Red Hook, Greenwood Heights, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn
Assistant Assembly Speaker Félix Ortiz faces a crowded primary in a race for a seat he has held since 1995. Although the latest financial disclosures show that Ortiz has more than twice as much money ($177,392) as his opponents combined, his biggest threat is Marcela Mitaynes, a housing activist , who has the backing of everyone from DSA to WFP to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Assembly District 73 — Parts of Midtown East and the Upper East Side in Manhattan
Assemblyman Dan Quart, and his $71,200 on hand, face a curious challenge in Cameron Koffman, a 22-year-old who has about $188,000 to spend in the final stretch of the race. While Quart has an edge in experience, having represented the Upper East Side district since 2011, we will see just how much Koffman’s lopsided fundraising advantage plays into the result tomorrow. Quart has already announced his intention to run for Manhattan District Attorney in 2021.
Assembly District 136 — Parts of Monroe County
This Monroe County Assembly seat is vacant after Democrat Jamie Romeo was appointed as Monroe County Clerk. Primary candidates include longtime Assembly staffer, Justin Wilcox, who has the endorsement of the local party establishment and support from organized labor , and Sarah Clark, boasting endorsements from her former boss, Hillary Clinton , as well as endorsements from groups like Planned Parenthood and Citizen Action.
Assembly District 137 — Parts of Monroe County
David Gantt, a Member of the Assembly since 1983, is not seeking reelection. This four-way Democratic primary only has two candidates—Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell and local 1199SEIU organizer Demond Meeks—who have raised any significant amount of money. The other two candidates, Ann Lewis and Silvo Orsi, have raised and spent little to nothing. Meeks seems to be in the lead with support from organized labor and grassroots activists, and more than $21,000 on hand compared to just over $3,000 for Flagler-Mitchell.
Assembly District 138 — Parts of Monroe County
Longtime Assemblyman Harry Bronson found himself with a primary challenge on his hands after he went after Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s plan for a state takeover of the city’s struggling school system. Alex Yudelson, Warren’s chief of staff, took a leave of absence and snagged the local party endorsement away from Bronson, after a re-vote. Despite the early setbacks, Bronson now has a huge cash advantage ($124,494 to $21,758) over his opponent as the one-issue race enters its final stretch.
Assembly District 140 — Parts of Erie and Niagara counties
Tonawanda Town Board member Bill Conrad and a Kenmore attorney Kevin Stocker are battling for the Democratic nomination for the seat held by retiring Assemblyman Robin Schimminger since 1977. Conrad has the support of local lawmakers and unions , and painted Stocker, a former Republican who ran for a state Senate seat on the Republican line in 2014, as someone with little commitment to the party.
Assembly District 149 — Parts of Erie County
Three very different candidates —Jon Rivera, Robert Quintana, and Adam Bojak—are vying to win the Democratic primary to represent an increasingly diverse area that includes parts of North Buffalo, the West Side, Downtown, waterfront areas, and into Lackawanna and Hamburg. In a district where Democrats outnumber GOP voters by nearly 3-to-1, the Democratic primary victor will likely replace Assemblyman Sean Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat who is running for the State Senate. Jonathan Rivera has emerged as the Democratic Party’s favored candidate but is facing a strong challenge from former Niagara Councilman Robert Quintana while Bojak has endorsements from activists including the Democratic Socialists of America and Citizen Action.
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