Turner Eyes Gillibrand’s Senate Seat
Benefiting from the Queens GOP’s support, Congressmember Bob Turner’s last minute bid to get into the U.S. Senate primary against Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand was successful as he squeezed in with just over 25 percent of the vote at the Republican Party convention in Rochester.
The convention gave most of its support to Manhattan attorney Wendy Long, who got 47 percent of the weighted vote. Running third was George Maragos, the Nassau county comptroller, who also squeezed on with 27 percent.
Breezy Point’s Turner, who decided to take a shot in the Senate race just 72 hours before the convention, had been making plans to run for election for a full term to the congressional seat which he won in September’s special election. But state map makers in Albany decided late in the process to eliminate his Queens/Brooklyn district.
Despite his late entrance into the primary race at the convention, the Queens GOP reportedly dropped its original plan to vote for Maragos and instead cast its ballots for Turner.
The primary will be held on June 26. Long, running for public office for the first time, is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She is also expected to have the Conservative Party line on the primary ballot and may also have an edge since she’s the only woman running against two men.
Looking ahead to the general election, Gillibrand is expected to have a comfortable edge in campaign financing as she has built a reported $8.1 million treasury. Meanwhile her Republican opponent may not be getting any help from the Republican Senate finance committee.
According to a published report last week, the Senate Republicans need a net of four seats to take control of the upper chamber, so most of the GOP Senate’s cash will go to states such as Montana and Missouri, which will provide better winning opportunities than New York state.
Nonetheless, Turner, 70, came out aggressively in starting his Senate campaign, targeting President Barack Obama once again and Gillibrand, and charging them with being responsible for the high gas prices stinging New York motorists.
“The people of New York will directly suffer at the pump because the president and Ms. Gillibrand actively opposed offshore and on-land projects that would have increased oil capacity in the U.S.”
Turner had been credited with winning the congressional seat formerly held by Anthony Weiner by campaigning against Obama’s alleged anti- Israel policies in last fall’s campaign.
The same anti Obama and Gillibrand campaign theme was taken by state Republican leaders at the Rochester convention. Former Governor George Pataki said in an address that this was a year that Washington has failed us and the party needs people to bring us “a new approach and not just continue the Washington insider special interest nonsense,” according to a New York Times story.
CUOMO SCORES BIG AGAIN: Governor Andrew Cuomo again masterfully and against strong opposition succeeded in pushing through meaningful reforms that will affect our future dealings with the city and state pension system. He also was successful in starting the process of developing the casino industry, which will also build future jobs and aid the state’s economy.
In another significant change, Cuomo’s package of legislation expanded the state’s DNA databank with added protections for those wrongfully accused or convicted.
Following the passage of the Cuomo package, the governor stated, “I think legislators heard the message, and I think at the end of the day, the legislators did the right thing.”
Cuomo and others, Mayor Michael Bloomberg among them, have sounded the alarm that the pension system was increasingly rising and causing the city and state to appropriate billions more in budget outlays.
Cuomo’s solution to stop the outflow of dollars was to create a new tier covering future pensions, thus ending the bloated pension payouts. New pensioners will be forced to work longer and to contribute more to their future benefits.
Cuomo said after voting, that the new pension tier will save the city $21 billion and the state and other localities about $60 billion over 30 years by reducing future pension benefits for workers yet to come.
Bloomberg, who had lashed out at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver earlier last week for building up the monumental pension benefits over the years by giving into union demands, called the governor’s successful pension reform, a “landmark” achievement.
While the unions, who tried to block the reforms, continued to insist, after they were enacted, that they were not meaningful, Cuomo claimed, “We achieved the savings we found necessary and introduced a defined-contribution plan.
As for developing the casino industry in the state, the vote taken last week calls for a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in the state, but no more than seven privately owned commercial casinos. The first passage last week must be repeated by the next legislature next year and then be passed as a public referendum.
The casinos, once built, will increase jobs and state revenues and increase tourism.
These pension reforms and casino creation votes, added to the earlier Cuomo victories last year, are building a remarkable record for the governor in barely his first 15 months in office. While it fell short on securing the reform Cuomo hoped to get by changing the redistricting process by taking it away from state legislative leaders and replacing it with an independent commission, the governor has time to work toward this goal during the remainder of his time in office.
DEM PRIMARY TO REPLACE ACKERMAN: Former Mayor Ed Koch got the ball rolling in the race to pick a candidate for Congress in the new district that Gary Ackerman would have served in. Koch came out for Councilmember Mark Weprin, who will face Assemblymember Grace Meng and maybe others in the Democratic primary to run for the party’s nomination.
In his brief endorsement of Weprin, Koch stated, “I have known Mark Weprin for more than 30 years. He is one of the most knowledgeable public servants that we have. He will make a great congressman.”
Weprin is a former veteran Assemblymember. His brother David, who replaced him in the Assembly, ran for Congress last year and was defeated.
The district boasts a large Asian population, which should give Meng a good chance of winning it. She would be the first Asian-born pol from Queens to serve in Congress.
Possibly joining Weprin and Meng in the race for the Democratic nomination might be Assemblymember Rory Lancman of Fresh Meadows. Lancman planned to challenge Ackerman for the seat if he ran for re-election.
The winner will face candidates from other political parties seeking the seat. The new district runs from Central Queens to the Northeastern portion of the borough and includes areas such as Flushing, Bayside, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Kew Gardens, Briarwood, and Elmhurst.
ADDABBO TO SERVE ON EDUCATION CONFERENCE PANEL: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach), just appointed as the senate Democrats’ rep on the state Legislative Conference Committee on Education, says the first thing he’s going to remind his colleagues during budget negotiations is: What happened to the court decision that ordered the restitution of monies to city public schools that were wrongfully underfunded by the state?
The suit by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity “led to a $2.3 billion increase in cumulative state aid to local public schools through 2007, but has since been ignored and was further damaged by $2.7 billion in subsequent budget cuts.
Addabbo recalls, “Governor Pataki was supposed to have set aside the largest share of the $2.3 billion increase in state aid for downstate education… where is it and how do we get it?”
As for his appointment to the education conference committee, which is charged with negotiating the final education budget, it held its first meeting in Albany a week ago and he brought up the Campaign for Fiscal Equity matter there.
LAWMAKERS GET OFFENSIVE BILLBOARD REMOVED: Complaints by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone) and Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz (D–Flushing) about an “offensive billboard” at Northern Boulevard and 127th Place in Willets Point near Citi Field have been successful.
The sign, put up by Panache Beverages and advertising its product, Wodka Vodka, advertised, “Escort Quality, Hooker Pricing.” They wanted it removed because of “the efforts and resources put into Willets Point to develop the area and make it a legitimate residential, retail center”.
Stavisky explained she and Simanowitz, “…took particular exception with placing such a distasteful and disturbing advertisement in a neighborhood we have worked so hard to rehabilitate”.
Simanowitz said, “The offensive nature of this ad in such close proximity to a family destination like Citi Field was highly inappropriate.”
DAVE WEPRIN VOTES ‘NO’ ON REDISTRICTING: Charging that the proposed redrawing of district lines containing the 24th District “would break up dozens of communities of interest that share a collaborative advocacy and civic engagement, and severely divide the eastern portion of the district while cracking the South Asian community almost in half,” Assemblymember David Weprin voted against the new lines.
MENG VOTES “YES” TO STOP GAS GOUGING: Noting that New York state is “already home to some of the highest gas prices in the country”, Assemblymember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) adds that it’s “disgraceful” for gas stations to “dramatically increase” gas prices for consumers.
Hoping to stop the gouging, Meng voted for legislation to ban gas stations from hiking prices multiple times daily. Meng says that with gasoline costs going up, there’s serious competition between gas distributors causing many stations “to charge outrageous” amounts for gas.
“In fact,” Meng says, “some gas merchants have been known to continually raise their prices over the course of a 24-hour period, often dramatically increasing consumer costs without the actual price of gas going up. “This predatory practice, known as price gouging, allows a deceitful gas distributor to make unreasonable profits at a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet.”
Meng concludes, “By banning price gouging, we will be able to ensure consistency and fairness at gas stations… I urge the senate to pass this legislation and help ensure that Queens families aren’t exploited by unscrupulous gas distributors.”
VAN BRAMER WOULD RESTORE MAYOR’S BUDGET CUTS: The mayor’s preliminary budget proposal would cut city libraries by $100 million, according to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside), as well as local cultural programs.
But at a Cultural Affairs Committee hearing last week, chaired by Van Bramer, he said he’s going to challenge the reduction.
“Fighting these potential budget cuts in a battle I will wage to ensure that our communities are provided with adequate library services and quality neighborhood-based cultural programming,” Van Bramer vowed.
Our cultural institutions and libraries are vulnerable without this funding and I will continue to ensure we deter this from happening, he added.
Van Bramer led the effort to restore nearly $250 million to cultural organizations and libraries two years ago.
BRIDGE TOLL REBATE FOR ROCKAWAY RESIDENTS OK’D: Fulfilling a promise he made before being elected, Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder has assured that the Cross Bay Bridge residency rebates for Rockaway motorists will be in the upcoming 2012-2013 budget.
In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the rebate would be in the new budget, and last week, Goldfeder announced that he had “been successful in ensuring” that both the Assembly and state senate budget proposals also included the rebate on the toll for Rockaway residents.
“This program was included in all three budget proposals, which gives me confidence that it will make its way into the final budget and finally become a reality,” Goldfeder said. The budget is expected to be passed by April 1.
The toll on the bridge which connects Queens with the Rockaways is the only intra-borough span in the city, which residents felt was unfair. They felt they were also punished by having to pay a toll for every time they did what other Queens residents do in an ordinary day, such as local grocery shopping, going to work, visiting a neighbor, or attending a community meeting. And it also was a financial burden, Goldfeder said.
The lawmaker said he can now set his sights on completely eliminating this “inherently unfair tax for the hardworking families and businesses of the Rockaways and Broad Channel”.