Photo Gallery: Wright Concession

Wright Concession 6-30-16Assembly Member Keith Wright brought his campaign for the Congressional seat held by Charles Rangel to a close this afternoon, conceding defeat to Adriano Espaillat in a Harlem press conference. Joined by about 20 elected officials, including Rangel, and two of the other candidates in the race, Wright and Espaillat made a public display of unity standing in front of Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem as Wright acknowledged that Espaillat’s 1,200 vote lead in the preliminary vote totals would hold through counting of absentee and affidavit ballots and the final canvassing of poll site voting machines.

Wright Concession 6-30-16

Rangel, who strongly supported longtime ally Wright in the race, anchored the joint appearance with kind words for both men.  Other elected officials attending included Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Public Advocate Tish James, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and state and city legislators from the Bronx and Manhattan.

Our full photo gallery is available here.

Wright & Rangel On Espaillat Voter Suppression Allegations

13th Congressional District candidate Keith Wright condemned reported activity of a PAC supporting rival candidate Adriano Espaillat which has been characterized as voter suppression.  Speaking as he accompanied Congressman Charles Rangel to vote today, Wright described those actions as having “brought up all of the ghosts of the civil rights movement … all of the ghosts of Jim Crowism … all of the ghosts of poll taxes” and declared that such tactics have “no place at all in any political activities here in this community.”  Rangel expressed surprise that “they are … so stupid to actually put it in writing,” describing such actions as “shameful.”

Rangel Votes

Rangel Votes 6-28-16“I couldn’t find my name.  But I’m so glad I did find his name” said Congressman Charles Rangel after voting in his first congressional election in more than 45 years in which he was not a candidate.  The “his” was Assembly Member Keith Wright, a longtime Rangel ally whom Rangel has endorsed as 13th Congressional District Democrats select a nominee to replace Rangel.

Rangel Votes 6-28-16Rangel arrived at Harlem’s P.S. 175 to vote accompanied by his wife Alma and Wright.  Appearing a few minutes ahead of schedule, Rangel spoke with the press both before and after voting, expressing support for Wright, but clearly not in a rush to leave office or the spotlight.  Rangel loves the camera and it loves him right back, as shown in the two press Q&A’s Rangel did this morning, one as he arrived and a second after voting.

Many of the questions focused on Rangel’s emotions as a successor is selected and on his post-Congress plans, but he and Wright also addressed allegations that supporters of rival Adriano Espaillat have sought to suppress voting by African American voters in the District.

Here are Rangel’s two press Q&A’s:

Arrival:

Departure:

 

Update – Photo Gallery:

Our photo gallery is available here.

Espaillat Caravan

Espaillat Broadway Caravan 6-25-16State Senator Adriano Espaillat led a group of supporters up Broadway Saturday afternoon, looking for attention and votes ahead of Tuesday’s 13th Congressional District primary.  The Espaillat caravan included about 50-75 walkers and 20-25 cars, all led by the flag-bedecked Espaillat campaign bus.  The caravan began with a public endorsement of Espaillat by State Senator Bill Perkins who, together with Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine, joined Espaillat for the walk uptown.

Espaillat Broadway Caravan 6-25-16

The race to succeed Charles Rangel has become increasingly racially driven in the past several days, with numerous allegations of impropriety.  In a brief pre-walk Q&A with reporters Perkins dismissed allegations by Assembly Member Keith Wright that Espaillat and his supporters are trying to suppress African American voter participation in the Tuesday election.  Espaillat stood by silently as Perkins spoke, only offering that he’s asked the Department of Justice to monitor the election in order to “make sure that everybody has access to vote unimpeded.”

Espaillat Broadway Caravan 6-25-16

Espaillat’s reception was good, but not overwhelming, as he walked up Broadway from 135th.  The very modest reaction in the first 10-15 blocks increased as he passed through the northern stretch of Harlem and into the heavily Dominican Washington Heights.  Cheers and shouts rang out further uptown, with some downtown drivers rolling down their windows to shake hands with the uptown traveling candidate.  There were no signs or displays of support for any of the many other candidates in this election.  The only contrary expression (at least as far as a non-Spanish speaking reporter could discern) was a small group of men near 175th Street chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

Our full photo gallery is here.

Cuomo Q&A: The Anti-Opioid Edition

Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke with the press this afternoon, following a Staten Island bill signing ceremony marking the passage of a law intended to combat the growing scourge of opioid addiction.  This was Cuomo’s third such appearance of the day, preceded by visits to Buffalo and Farmingdale.

Question topics included Cuomo’s assessment of the recently completed legislative session, details of the anti-opioid law signed today, Cuomo’s recent demand that the MTA address a rise in reported sexual assaults in the subway system and the reported lane Lincoln Tunnel lane closure by NYPD officers ensnared in a corruption investigation.

Our photo gallery from Cuomo’s appearance is here.

MTA & Port Authority Tussles

In recent days Governor Andrew Cuomo has publicly engaged two of the massive transportation agencies he controls on hot button topics, demanding in an open letter that the MTA act to address a recent spike in sexual assaults reported as occurring on the New York City subway system and demanding answers from the Port Authority on a report that NYPD officials ensnared in a corruption investigation arranged for a special escort, with a lane closure, through the Lincoln Tunnel.

On the MTA, Cuomo began with a general discussion of the ongoing capital spending on the subway system and a declaration that “first and foremost mass transit has to be safe.”  He appears open to adding MTA police or State Troopers to the subway system, but left it open and subject to an MTA determination and possible request.  (The New York City Police Department, under the mayor, patrols the subway and is primarily responsible for law enforcement there.  The MTA Police is a force of about 700 which patrols the Metro-North and Long Island Railroads and the MTA’s bridges and tunnels.)   The logistical limitations of the the MTA Police and State Police seem to preclude any major such effort.  The overlay of the long-running Cuomo/de Blasio frictions would add an additional political layer of complications.  Cuomo did not respond to the portion of my question asking whether he views the NYPD’s performance in addressing subway system sexual assaults as inadequate.

I also asked Cuomo whether he’s determined if the news reports of a lane closure in the Lincoln Tunnel at the behest of NYPD officials now ensnared in a corruption investigation are accurate and, if so, what the  consequences will be.  The Lincoln Tunnel is run by the Port Authority and the Port Authority Police, a force wholly separate from the NYPD.  Any lane closure or other disruption would presumably require the actions or acquiescence of the PAPD. The bi-state Port Authority is controlled jointly by Governor Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has some familiarity with lane closures.

Cuomo does not yet have an answer on the alleged lane closure, nor a time frame for receiving one.  When asked for a time frame for answers Cuomo declined, saying only that while he wants an answer he does not want to interfere in an ongoing investigation.

Cuomo spoke with the press following an appearance in Staten Island promoting measures to combat opioid addiction.

Cuomo’s full press Q&A is here.

Photo Gallery: Anti-Trump Protest

IMG_7348Chants of “Trump, you are not my friend” and “Donald Trump, for Wall Street” rang out this afternoon in front of Trump Tower as 40 protesters denounced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.  Among the topics addressed by speakers at the protest, organized by the Hedge Clippers campaign, were Trump’s fundraiser scheduled for tonight and his previous claims that he would not raise “corrupt” money, Trump’s comments on the Orlando massacre and the lack of any subsequent Congressional action on guns, the lack of action on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis and Trump’s recent attempts to describe himself as a friend of the LGBTQ community.  Singled out for specific condemnation were Trump fundraisers Steven Feinberg, Wilbur Ross and John Paulson.

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Three counter-prostesters joined the excitement, with two working their way into the group and holding their “Make America Great Again” hats out for the cameras.  The smaller and more successful of the two worked her way to the front of the group, sparking some blocking and had her hat snatched and tossed aside.  A third counter-protester appeared at the conclusion of the protest, carrying a sign declaring that “Obama + Hillary Support Slavery.”  It seemed to be Obamacare related, but that’s not entirely clear.

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Our full photo gallery is here.

Photo Gallery: Mark-Viverito At Trump Tower

IMG_7313New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito went to Donald Trump’s home and office Monday, holding a press conference outside Trump Tower to condemn Trump’s claims that a federal judge hearing a lawsuit focused on “Trump University” could not be fair to Trump because, in Trump’s words, “[h]e’s a Mexican.”  Mark-Viverito was joined by Council Member Carlos Menchaca, the first Mexican-American elected official in New York City.

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Our full photo gallery is here.

Ulrich On Mayoral Control

He may despise de Blasio but Republican City Council Member, and 2017 mayoral candidate, Eric Ulrich is an unabashed supporter of a long term extension of mayoral control of the school system.  Saying that mayoral control has produced “real results”, Ulrich urged Albany Republicans to provide a long term reauthorization and to not “play politics” in a way that hurts New York City children.

Describing the old Board of Education as “corrupt” and having “failed our children” Ulrich cast it as “where it belongs, on the ash heap of history.”

Here’s Ulrich responding to my question on both the broad issue of mayoral control and the proposal from the Republican leader of the state senate providing a one year extension while adding a gubernatorial oversight role.  (We spoke after Ulrich’s appearance Tuesday night at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Republican Club.)

Ulrich On Trump

“I’m not ready to say if I’m going to give him my vote.”  That’s how Eric Ulrich, one of the few Republican elected officials in New York City, concluded our conversation on Donald Trump Tuesday night.

City Council Member Ulrich, in the early stages of building a 2017 mayoral bid, strongly supported John Kasich in the New York presidential primary and has not yet supported the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Although he began with a somewhat cavalier comment that “Donald Trump has to hire a better speechwriter”, Ulrich expressed strong reservations about Trump and his record of offensive comments.  He also expressed dismay at what he sees as Trump’s lack of interest in the votes of “Republicans like me” who didn’t support him during the primaries.  Ulrich nonetheless said that he hopes Trump will “come around before election day.”  Ulrich may not vote for Trump should he not “come around,” however.

Here’s what Ulrich had to say:

Pataki On Trump: June 2016

George Pataki’s not for Trump, at least for now.

Former New York governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate George Pataki expressed significant reservations about presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump Tuesday night, saying that he does not endorse Trump and that he’s “still up in the air” on whether he’ll vote for Trump.  Pataki was among the earliest Republican critics of Trump, condemning some of Trump’s comments in August 2015 as the two campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination.  (After his own presidential campaign ended Pataki endorsed Marco Rubio and, after Rubio dropped out, John Kasich.)

During an appearance at the Metropolitan Republican Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side Pataki described himself as a “loyal Republican” who wants to support the party’s nominee.  Condemning Trump’s “demoniz[ation] of ethnic groups out of stupidity”, Pataki said that he will not “blindly support” Trump in the absence of a coherent political philosophy.  Pataki added that he hopes to see such a coherent philosophy and that he could support Trump should that occur.  When I asked Pataki afterwards why, after nearly a year of Trump campaigning, he thought it possible that Trump would change his approach Pataki replied “I have hope” rather than an expectation of that happening.

Here’s a clip of Pataki during an audience Q&A and in a brief conversation with me afterwards:

Suffolk Mess

While there may be a major decision ahead for Governor Andrew Cuomo in the developing Suffolk County government mess, today he said that he has not yet “reviewed” it or “gone through it in any depth.”

Last week Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called for the resignation of Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota, alleging that, among other misdeeds, Spota “allow[ed] violent criminals to go unpunished in order to protect your friends” and describing the District Attorney’s office as a “criminal organization.”

Those are extraordinarily powerful accusations that, if true, warrant removal from office and criminal prosecution.  Cuomo figures in to this episode because under Article XIII of the state Constitution he holds the power to remove the District Attorney.  Cuomo is not responsible for criminally investigating Spota, but he may face a decision to act on removal of Spota.

Spota, in office since 2001, has a growing list of problems.  Former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, a longtime Spota deputy and hired as county police chief on Spota’s recommendation, recently pled guilty to beating a suspect in custody and then covering up the episode.  The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District is reported to be investigating both Spota’s office and a top deputy of Spota’s on “a wide array of allegations.”

Adding to the twists  in this story:  Spota and Bellone are both Democrats, and Bellone has a strong relationship with Cuomo.  Stay tuned.

Here’s Cuomo’s response today:

Grand Conspiracy

Governor Andrew Cuomo rejected, but did not expressly deny, the notion advanced by Mayor Bill de Blasio that Cuomo is behind the current investigations of de Blasio’s 2014 senate campaign fundraising efforts.  de Blasio has pointed to the efforts by a longtime Cuomo staffer, now in a specially created post at the state Board of Elections, at fomenting the investigations as driven by Cuomo.

Cuomo did not directly deny having any role in having the mayor and his fundraising investigated, instead saying that “[t]he only thing I know about the investigations on the mayor is what I read about in the newspaper.”  Going on to say that if there is a “grand conspiracy” against the mayor the U.S. Attorney, the Manhattan District Attorney and the New York Attorney General are all part of that “grand conspiracy” as they are each investigating the mayor’s fundraising.

Cuomo was responding to NBC 4’s Andrew Siff during a Manhattan press conference.

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