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Category Archive for ‘NY-Leg’ at Campaign Diaries
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Archive for the 'NY-Leg' Category


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NY Dems plagued by scandals, candidates with baggage and special election losses

In few states did Republicans see their fortunes collapse as much as in New York in 2006 and in 2008. They lost the Governor’s Mansion, 6 House seats and the state Senate. But since 2009 started, Democrats have looked determined to give up their gains, never more so than during the summer’s ridiculous month-long saga that saw two Democrats throw the chamber into turmoil by shamelessly selling themselves to the highest bidder. The story got all the more depressing when we learned that the party had not only agreed to buy Pedro Espada’s vote by making him Majority Leader but also by putting his son on the state payroll for a job he never showed up for.

The past few months has continued to bring an avalanche of stories that raise serious questions as to why New York politics is so messed up. Part of the answer is that the state press has more resources to devote to local politics but that does not account for state Democrats’ remarkable ability to shoot themselves on the foot.

The state Senate’s dysfunctions

That said, Albany did manage to rid itself of one particularly egregious offender this week: state Senator Hirram Monserrate. One of the two Democrats who crossed over to Republicans in June, and the one who then most transparently put himself in the middle waiting for both parties to beg him back, Monserrate was convicted in October for assaulting his girlfriend, an assault that was partly captured on camera. Since he was only convicted on misdemeanor charges, Monserrate was not stripped of his position but after five long months of reports and deliberations, the state Senate’s Democratic majority decided to press forward with expelling Monserrate from the chamber.

On Tuesday, the full Senate voted to expel Monserrate on a 53-8 vote. This means that the chamber now has 31 Democrats and 30 Republicans, which means the former cannot pass legislation on a party-line vote (32 votes is needed) until Monserrate’s seat is filled in a March 16th special election.

Among those voting no were the three so-called amigos who (along with Monserrate) threatened to jolt to the GOP in late 2008 (Espada, Ruben Diaz and Carl Kruger). Diaz reacted with characteristically over-the-top fashion, though the prize for the week’s most disgraceful behavior goes to state Senator Kevin Parker, who reportedly charged at fellow Democrat Diane Sevino during an internal caucus meeting. And get this: Parker is also facing felony charges for assaulting a New York Post photographer back in May 2009! If convicted, he would automatically be expelled from the Senate, which might explain why he felt so strongly about how the Senate should treat Monserrate.

The New York state Senate’s dysfunctions are the underplayed story of the year. Besides all those I just mentioned, 2009 ended with the chamber’s longtime leader convicted on corruption charges: Republican Joe Bruno, who retired in 2008, was found guilty of having taken payments adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for political favors and could spend the rest of his life in jail if his appeal is unsuccessful.

Is trouble brewing for Democrats?

While Bruno’s behavior is by far the most important of the recent events, it’s hard to deny that it is Democrats who have been the object of most of the state scandals: Eliot Spitzer, of course, but also Alan Hevesi, Espada and Monserrate. Add to that David Paterson’s jaw-droppingly low approval rating (not to mention the unsubstantiated but nonetheless picked-up-by-the-press rumors that The New York Times is about to reveal a scandal about the governor), and New York has become a landmine for Democrats.

This became apparent in November, when Republicans followed up four years of dismal results by pulling off two entirely unexpected upsets in the NYC suburbs. In Westchester, county executive Andrew Spano was defeated by Rob Astorino; in Nassau County, the GOP captured the county legislature and ousted county executive Thomas Suozzi, who was just 9 months before mentioned as a potential successor to Hillary Clinton. And if that was not enough of a warning sign to Democrats that state voters have turning against them, at least insofar as local government is concerned, we got two more proof this past Tuesday when Republicans picked-up two Assembly seats in special elections.

Once again, both Democratic losses came in the NYC suburbs, suggesting that these Republican-turned-Democratic areas might be drifting back to the conservative column. The first district is in Long Island, the second in Westchester, which means Democrats have now suffered two big defeats in four months in that key county. (More at Ballot Box.) This could give the GOP a strong shot at recapturing a majority in the state Senate come November. In particular, Westchester’s Andrea Stewart-Cousins could be in danger if voters in November want to send the same message as they did in November and then again this week, but Democrats hold a number of vulnerable seats they only recently picked-up in the suburbs.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is a rare Democrat who seems unaffected by the series of scandals that have put the state party in such a tough spot. If he is at the top of the ticket, the fall could have a very different configuration for his party, which could not only affect their majority in the state Senate and races even further down the ballot but also help the state’s 4-6 vulnerable Democratic congressmen.

Harold Ford’s baggage, continued

But nothing exemplifies Democrats’ ability to shoot themselves in the foot in New York as much as the mess Harold Ford’s campaign has been since the day he launch his media blitz with that NYT interview. After we marveled at the fact that the former Tennessee congressman had registered to vote in New York just two months prior and at his determination to present himself as the candidate of Manhattan’s financial elite, we started wondering how far Ford expected to get among voters who vote in New York’s Democratic primary by bashing the health-care bill and criticizing Barack Obama.

The past few days brought new questions still. First, why does Ford think this is the moment to travel to Bermuda to give a speech at a luxury hotel, a move that makes John Kerry’s campaign from the summer of 2004 look good by comparison? More importantly, Ford appears to never have filed a state tax return in New York, despite serving as vice chairman of Merrill Lynch since 2007. While Ford said that he worked out of Merrill Lynch’s Nashville offices, since launching his campaign he repeatedly justified his interest in challenging Gillibrand by claiming he has essentially moved to New York for years, and he did acquire a residence in the city; but the draw of Tennessee’s lack of an income tax might explain why his employment at Merrill Lynch was presented as a long-distance arrangement. That won’t be an easy case to make on the campaign trail, as Gawker’s John Cook summarized well:

If Ford did enough business in New York to keep an office there, it’s reasonable to presume that he earned a good deal of money in New York. Now, we’re sure that there are all sorts of accountants’ arguments and narrow dodges at Ford’s disposal to claim that he didn’t owe New York income tax until he moved here last year: He could have been paid out of Merrill Lynch’s Nashville office, for instance, and he could have received the majority of his income in a bonus that he could claim he earned in Tennessee, not New York. But while those sorts of arguments may be useful to someone trying to get as close as possible to living in New York without suffering the tax consequences of doing so, they’re not as effective when you’re loudly thinking about running for Senate in New York by claiming you’ve lived there for three years and pay taxes there.

Another issue Ford will sooner or later have to confront: did he receive a bonus from Merrill Lynch. In a context in which banking bonuses have become the most recognizable and unpopular symbol of the industry’s deranged behavior, Kirsten Gillibrand has seized on this question, which is now starting to feature prominently in press interviews. This morning on Meet the Press, for instance, Ford was asked “you won’t say how big your bonus was with Merrill?” and he decided to launch into a defense of the banking industry in response. “The system ought to be reformed, but putting a tax on banks at a time in which the recovery is as timid and as fragile as it is,” he explained.

Note that there is now a large faction of New York’s Democratic Party that has chosen to vocally defend the banking industry from any sort of criticism. But it is one thing for Rep. Mike McMahon to forget that some of the final nails in Chris Dodd’s coffin were accusations that he opened the door to the AIG bonuses, it is quite another for someone who might have personally benefited from such a similar bonus to expect that answer to carry him all the through the fall.


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NY Senate caps flawed expectations and bizarre debate by downing gay marriage

The New York state Senate managed to table its dysfunction long enough today to finally vote on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Both sides appeared optimistic going into the debate, which suggested that someone was in for a bad surprise - and that’s exactly what happened. At the end of the day, the vote was not even close: 8 of the 32 Democratic state Senators voted against the measure while no Republicans came through. That added up to the bill’s rejection by a 38-24  - a crushing defeat for gay rights.

This has led to a fair amount of sarcasm regarding Democrats’ inability to count votes. Yet, that might be missing the point: Earlier in 2009, Governor David Paterson had pledged to get the bill voted on whether or not the votes were there. While it does appear the bill’s sponsors had been led to believe that fewer Democrats would oppose the bill and that a number of Republicans would cross over, I doubt anyone felt that confident as to how the bill would pan out.

The debate unfolded in bizarre conditions. While many of the bill’s proponents spoke at length about their vote, only one legislator said anything about against it - state Senator Ruben Diaz, a Democrat who is the chamber’s most dedicated foe of gay rights. That means not only that not a single Republican uttered a single word, but also that the Democratic state Senators who were undecided going in did not offer a word of explanation as to their vote.

That is particularly disconcerting for two who were once on the record as supporting marriage equality. First is state Senator Hiram Monserrate, who you might remember from his insanely unethical behavior during the summer’s legislative stalemate: He voted for gay marriage while in the state Assembly, but he chose to oppose it today. Perhaps this is payback for the leadership’s decision to create a panel to investigate what should be done with Monserrate following his October domestic violence conviction. Second is state Senator Joseph Addabbo, who picked-up a GOP-held seat last November after receiving heavy financial support from gay-rights groups as he promised to help them pass same-sex marriage.

One explanation for how decisive a margin the bill failed by is that there was an avalanche effect, whereby an early shocker in the alphabetical roll call (Democrat Joseph Addabbo voting ‘no’) led other publicly undecided senators who were preparing to support the bill to quickly back away. As such, Mike Signorile is hearing that as many as 5 Dems and 5 GOPers had pledged their support. I think this is partly right. The bill’s sponsors had long said that GOP votes might help them secure a majority, but only if Democrats could come close on their own; No Republican and no conservative Democrat would want to vote for this bill if it was going to fail anyway. Furthermore, the bottom line is that all 16 senators who were undecided as the roll call began ended up voting ‘no’.

But this certainly does not account for everything. For one, getting as many as 10 senators who are publicly undecided to vote in bloc is an inherently unstable proposition - and Democratic leaders must have known that.

Particularly bizarre is this video of Republican state Senator Jim Alesi. While he had been expected to vote “yes” but most whip-counters, Alesi voted “no” and that footage makes him look like he’s profoundly distraught as he prepares to announce his decision. While this could be due to the fact that he is trying to make up his mind, it looks to me that he had already settled before Addabbo’s vote, which came mere moments before Alesi’s. That a fellow GOP state Senator gives Alesi a pat just moments before he utters “no” suggests to me another explanation: There seems to have been more of an effort by GOP leaders to impose party discipline than had been anticipated.

Second, that this vote is occurring in the aftermath of NY-23’s special election is bound to have influenced the results. You surely remember that in the eyes of conservative activists Dede Scozzafava’s primary sin was to have voted to legalize same-sex marriage in the state Assembly; that helped fuel the fire against her and it contributed to organized national groups’ decision to move into the district. That must have frightened some senators into thinking a primary challenger could gain a lot of traction if they vote “yes;” in fact, state Senator Vincent Leibell (a Republican who was listed as undecided going into the vote) already does face a primary challenge from the right.

Proponents wanted to get people’s vote on the record so they would know who to target next year, but they surely were not expected this big a defeat. That probably severely Paterson’s hopes of getting some traction out of his decisive role in bringing the bill to the floor. Had it passed, he would have had a major issue to campaign on next year; even if it had narrowly gone down, he could have correctly pointed out that he exercised major leadership. Now, the most likely scenario is that progressive groups’ frustration towards Albany only grows - and with it their desire to get a new start with the entire state government.

What does all of this mean for the prospects of gay marriage going forward? Today’s vote obviously kills the bill’s prospects in this legislature, and whether it comes for a vote in the upcoming one will obviously depend on whether Democrats even keep control of the chamber: Republicans are looking to contest seats they lost in 2008, and it wouldn’t take them much to reverse their 32-30 deficit. On the other hand, one of the Democrats who voted no (Monserrate) is unlikely to survive next year’s Democratic primary and others could face challenges as well - not just because of this vote, but more generally because of the stunning mess that the chamber has been all year.

Interestingly, the same pattern played out this week as on November 3rd, when the blow of Maine reversing the same-sex marriage legislation was softened by a series of advances for gay rights. Now, New York’s vote coincided with Washington’s domestic partnership bill coming into effect, with California preparing to electing its first gay Speaker and with Georgia electing its first LGBT African-American legislator (Simone Bell) in a special election. Most significantly, the District of Columbia’s city council voted this week to legalize gay marriage.


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What’s wrong with New York Democrats?

The past few months have brought us an unending series of Republicans sabotaging their own prospects, from John Ensign, Mark Sanford and Bobby Jindal to the entire Arkansas Republican Party. But in New York, it’s Democrats who have been digging their own grave.

It’s started with Eliot Spitzer’s 2008 scandal and it reached fever pitch earlier this summer, when Democratic state Senators behaved like fools for more than a month before reaching a shady deal that allowed them to cling to power. I wonder if we might one day have to add the party’s failure to coalesce around their probable nominee in NYC’s mayoral race or the selection of a little-known but wealthy attorney as their nominee in NY-23, but those topics are not meant for this post. Rather, we have to revisit the pact the state Senate’s Democratic leadership made with Pedro Espada back in July - as it’s already exploding right in their face.

You will remember that Espada bought himself the title of Majority Leader in exchanging for returning to the Democratic fold, thus giving his party a tenuous 32-30 majority. The deal led to obvious questions about what else Democrats had promised Espada in exchange for his return - and what he might blackmail out of them in the coming months. I wrote at the time:

“When you lay with a dog, sometimes you wake up with fleas,” said GOP state Senator Martin Golden last month. Republicans might be the clear losers today - they associated themselves with two ethically challenged Senators and gained nothing out of it - but Democrats could well feel similarly within a few months.

What if Espada demands more concessions? What if Espada forces the Democratic caucus to support his attempt to shower money on “non-profits” located in his district and created under dubious circumstances? What if he wakes up tomorrow and decides to go back with Republicans? What if Espada is indicted?

I didn’t expect Democrats to wake up with fleas within a month of the deal - though that is exactly what has happened.

Since July 9th, New York Democrats have been stuck with a leader who has been charged tens of thousands for flaunting campaign finance rules, who is being investigated on corruption allegations and who faces suspicion that he does not live in the district he represents. But Espada’s greed for power is apparently limitless, and Democrats’ willingness to give in has landed them on the front page of most New York papers - not the best way to prepare for an already difficult 2010 cycle.

Last week, New York Magazine reported that Espada’s son, Pedro G. Espada Jr., had been added to the state’s payroll as a deputy director of intergovernmental relations. Making this all the more cringe-worthy is the fact that this $120,000-a-year position had just been created upon Espada’s hiring.

As if the latter nugget was not damning enough, The New York Post added a chapter to this story when they found out that Espada Jr. had yet to go to his new office, even though he was already on state payroll, and that he was still showing up at his prior employment, the Soundview Health Center! The tale gets even more sordid from there:

Soon after, the son called a Post photographer’s cellphone and insisted he was in fact already at the Senate’s offices at 250 Broadway.

Later that afternoon, Senate Democrats agreed to show The Post a room purported to be the younger Espada’s office in the Senate’s 19th-floor suite at 250 Broadway.

But Espada — who arrived at the building only after being told that The Post was on the scene — seemed unfamiliar with the layout of the office suite. At one point, he appeared to take direction to his office from a Senate spokesman who chaperoned the interview.

The room was dark when Espada arrived, with nothing on the desk… He was unable to log on to the computer or point to a single item in the room that could confirm the office had belonged to him.

The coup de grace came from Andrew Cuomo: The Attorney General launched a probe into whether Senate Democrats broke a state law that bans elected officials to participate in “any decision to hire, promote, discipline or discharge a relative.” So you can add one more investigation to the already long list Espada faces.

Today, Espada’s son announced he would resign from his new job - which he apparently had yet to attend anyway.

This tale isn’t even the end of Espada’s recent troubles: At the end of July, we learned that the Majority Leader had yet again failed to report campaign contributions as his most recent filing did not mention a fundraiser he held at an East Side bistro back in March. The event was meant for Espada, who had just become Housing Committee Chairman, to meet the city’s real estate community. (The Daily News quoted attendees who donated between $200 and $500 whose contributions were not listed in Espada’s forms.)

As I wrote above, Espada has already been filed thousands for failing to file campaign finance reports - so  this latest omission is part of a long pattern that he is clearly doing nothing to break. Considering how easy it is for the press to figure out that an entire fundraiser is missing from a disclosure form, why can’t Espada be bothered to report any of this?

At this point, what I find most stunning in these stories isn’t Democrats’ willingness to go Espada’s demands, nor is it that nepotism and shady campaign contributions exist in government. Rather, it’s how blatant and incredibly transparent all of this is.

As we saw in June, when Espada and Hiram Monserrate were openly selling themselves to the highest bidder, Espada simply does not bother to hide his motivations or to restrain his tremendous political greed. And why should he? It’s worked great for him so far - even his son’s resignation only occurred after he failed to show up to work, not because of any outcry over the hiring itself.

But what is working for Espada will probably not work for the party as a whole, though the Majority Leader now looks to be dragging the rest of the state party along the same reckless path: Could state Democrats not see how awful this hiring would look coming less than a month after the already shady deal that brought Espada back to their party? Could they not see that constant front page stories about the latest campaign finance form Espada has skipped would be a drag on their 2010 prospects? Just look at the dreadful editorials they’ve brought upon themselves in upstate newspapers.

With Paterson as unpopular as a Democrat can be in New York, his party has no more room for error if it wants to hold on to the governorship and the state Senate in 2010. (The stakes are high for redistricting purposes.) But, knowing full well what they were getting into, they have tying their fate to Espada’s - and for now it looks like that decision could drag down the entire state party.


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The New York stalemate ends: Espada has bought himself the Majority Leader position

It pays to be driven by nothing but ambition and greed and to feel no shame about it whatsoever. Exactly a month after the June 8th coup that put Republicans in control of New York’s state Senate, state Senator Pedro Espada announced he would return to the Democratic fold as part of a deal that makes him Majority Leader.

This gives Democrats an undisputed 32-30 majority, but they’re doing so at the price of embracing as their leader a man who has been in office for merely a few months, who has been charged tens of thousands for flaunting campaign finance rules, who is being investigated on corruption allegations, who faces suspicion that he does not live in the district he represents and who could be indicted in the coming months.

And we were thinking up solutions like Lieutenant Governor appointments and power-sharing deals. All it took to resolve the mess was to give Espada a prestigious title! How gracious of him to allow government to get back on track after a month of chaos in exchange for becoming one of Albany’s most powerful politicians.

At the 4pm press conference, Monserrate’s glee and Espada’s lecture on the need for ethics reform were particularly painful to watch; the latter’s insistence that “this has never been about titles” were surreal. “When you lay with a dog, sometimes you wake up with fleas,” said GOP state Senator Martin Golden last month. Republicans might be the clear losers today - they associated themselves with two ethically challenged Senators and gained nothing out of it - but Democrats could well feel similarly within a few months.

What if Espada demands more concessions? What if Espada forces the Democratic caucus to support his attempt to shower money on “non-profits” located in his district and created under dubious circumstances? What if he wakes up tomorrow and decides to go back with Republicans? What if Espada is indicted?

What if another Democrat goes over to Dean Skelos tomorrow in the hope that his party will buy him back through something like a committee chairmanship? If it worked for Espada, why should it not work for other legislators? An analogy to the federal government might show the absurdity of this situation: Think back to the 110th Congress, when Democrats only had 51 Senators. What if Ben Nelson had threatened to change caucuses if Democrats did not make him Majority Leader? What if the blackmailing turncoat was one of the newly elected Democrat, say Claire McCaskill or Jon Tester?

Sure, I can understand why Democrats would want to take Espada back, even at the price of making him Majority Leader. Not only does this arrangement put them back in power, but it also allows Albany to get going again. Counties and localities were running out of money, bills that needed to urgently be passed were stalled. However vile the Espada deal looks, it allows the government of the people of New York can go forward.

Yet, it is just outrageous to see a state Senator blackmail his way to the top of his party’s leadership through nothing but shameless opportunism. Great for him, but what about the 31 other Democrats, many of which have served in Albany far longer, who do not face the ethical allegations he does and who retain some principles? Espada’s only claim to the Majority Leader status is his willingness to sold his allegiance to the highest bidder. That he succeeded could give other Democrats ideas. A such, it remains to be seen whether today’s announcement really puts an end to the stalemate or if it just sets the stage for more chaos to erupt in the coming months.

Can Paterson claim credit for resolving the stalemate?

Just 24 hours ago, David Paterson called a surprise press conference to appoint a Lieutenant Governor in the hope of breaking the state Senate’s tie. While most observers concluded that the move was illegal, Paterson’s intervention allowed him to portray himself as a proactive leader willing to come up with creative solutions to get government to work. Within a day, senate Democrats brokered a deal to put themselves back in power, so can Paterson claim to have resolved the stalemate?

The short answer: Yes, but not in a way that will do much to improve his poll numbers.

It is no coincidence that Espada agreed to come back to the Democratic conference shortly after Richard Ravitch’s took an oath of office. Whatever the doubts on the constitutionality of Ravitch’s appointment, Espada knew that his blackmailing abilities would be dead if Paterson won his suit: With the Lieutenant Governor’s tie-breaking vote, Democrats would no longer need Espada’s support, which would make it impossible for him to milk his support in exchange of a title.

On the other hand, the benefits of Paterson’s intervention are likely too indirect for him to reap much benefits - not to mention that the Governor’s office is now stuck defending an appointment that no longer serves a clear purpose.

UPDATE: I was wondering how the rank-and-file of the Democratic caucus were going to stomach voting for Espada as Majority Leader after all they’ve said about him over the past few. As Liz Benjamin reports, it looks like the leadership found a way around that: “The Senate voted along party lines, 32-0, in favor of a resolution that empowered the president pro tem, Sen. Malcolm Smith, to appoint a new majority leader. (This was done because some Democratic members refused to vote directly for Espada).”


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David Paterson appoints Lieutenant Governor, takes on Republicans and Andrew Cuomo

Did David Paterson finally find a way to get his footing back?

Ridiculed for months for his lack of leadership and his inability to keep Albany in a functional state, the New York Governor put his foot down today and asserted his authority through what is probably an illegal move: He appointed 76-year old Richard Ravitch as the Empire State’s new Lieutenant Governor.

The state has had no Lieutenant Governor ever since Paterson replaced Elliot Spitzer in March 2008. While most states allow for a replacement LG to be named, New York’s Constitution has no provision for such an appointment though Paterson’s office points to a clause in the Public Officers Law to defend their action. I will not delve on this legal dispute since this is clearly not my area of expertise, but Paterson’s argument does seem to be quite a stretch. After all, that New York’s Lieutenant Governors cannot be replaced has been a long-held view (why else would Paterson have allowed the office to go unfilled for more than a year?).

Given that Paterson’s appointment looks to be unconstitutional, it is amusing to see so many celebrate his show of leadership. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary action,” quipped the Senate’s Democratic leadership, thus testifying to Carl Schmitt’s immortal appeal. This unusual situation is a testament to the mess Albany is in ever since the June 8th coup. With legislators stuck in endless negotiations to broker some sort of deal, today’s development is Paterson’s attempt to step in and resolve the stalemate: A Lieutenant Governor who would have the authority to break a tie and provide Democrats a 32rd vote.

The glaring flaw in Paterson’s plan is that his move is unlikely to resolve anything whatsoever, and this for a very simple reason: Republicans and their ally Pedro Espada have made it clear that they will challenge the legality of his Ravitch’s nomination. “We will be in court,” said Espada, while Assemblyman Brian Kolb blasted Paterson’s action as “wholly unconstitutional.” Whatever the merits of each side’s arguments, it could take months for all of this to be resolved in court. In the meantime, it’s hard to see how Ravitch’s tie-breaking vote can get the state Senate to function again.

And yet, Paterson’s decision is a brilliant strategic move that puts Democrats in a stronger position than they were 24 hours ago. For the past month, Albany’s warfare has pitted Senate Democrats versus Senate Republicans; everyone has come out looking clownish and responsible for the stalemate. To the extent that Paterson got involved, he was attracting the animosity of all legislators and thus further endangering his 2010 prospects.

But we now have a new narrative: David Paterson versus Senate Republicans.

That’s no longer a partisan fight; rather, it’s a divide between those who will argue that a little legal tweak is fine if it gets government back on its feet and those who refuse the one solution that anyone has found so far. Just 24 hours ago, Democrats were seen as desperately trying to hold on to power; today they are presenting themselves as first and foremost committed to getting the chamber to function again. By contrast, Republicans are more than ever in danger of being labeled obstructionists; whatever the legal merits of the GOP’s arguments, are voters not bound to agree that it just makes common sense to appoint a Lieutenant Governor to find a way out of this mess? What do Republicans intend to propose as an alternative?

For Paterson, this is a dream opportunity. For months, he has been weighed down by accusations of ineffectiveness and indecisiveness; now, he gets to showcase himself as a proactive executive who takes responsibility and thinks creatively. The downside is that he is taking ownership of a crisis he has little to do with, and this could all blow up in his face if the confrontation goes on. But his involvement could also allow him to deflect blame on Republicans if the stalemate is not resolved - not to mention reap immense benefits if it does work out thanks to his suggestion.

In fact, Paterson wasted no time before seeking to exploit his involvement in the mess: Within hours of his press conference, New Yorkers started receiving robocalls paid by Paterson’s re-election committee in which he touted his attempt to use his authority: “Together with Lt. Gov. Ravitch, I am determined to end the Senate gridlock and clear the issue of succession — it’s time for them to get back to work,” Paterson said in the call.

It has surely not escaped Paterson that his attempt to install a new Lieutenant Governor has awoken the hostility not only of state Republicans but also of his potential 2010 rival, Andrew Cuomo. Earlier this month, the Attorney General’s office released an opinion finding the Governor does not have the authority to appoint a Lieutenant Governor should a vacancy arise; today, prominent Republicans like Dean Skelos approvingly quoted Cuomo in blasting Paterson’s move.

Albany’s new power dynamic thus opposes Paterson and Senate Democrats to Cuomo and Senate Republicans - not necessarily the camp in which the Attorney General would want to find himself in, especially as he is finding that his loudest ally in the anti-LG cause is the controversial Pedro Espada. Given that Cuomo has not said much about the state Senate dilemma, his position could make voters frustrated that he is only blocking the finding of a solution.

If Paterson’s move backfires and becomes the fodder for yet more ridicule, it will reflect well on Cuomo’s prudence. But if voters give the Governor points for taking a decisive - albeit extralegal - step to resolve Albany’s stalemate, Paterson will have scored his first clear political victory in many months. Given how low he is in the poll, he’ll need many many just to be competitive next year.


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New York’s bizarre subplots: Clinton’s fundraiser, the coffee coup, Paterson’s travel restrictions

For weeks now, pressure was mounting on Carolyn Maloney and the narrative of a lonely (and thus weak) warrior was taking hold. Prominent Democrats voiced displeasure that she is considering challenging Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a top party consultant close to Chuck Schumer backed away from working for her, a group of 60 activists penned a letter urging her not to run and The New York Times published an article on her increasing isolation.

Yet, today brought news that shook up this emerging conventional wisdom: Bill Clinton would headline a fundraiser for Maloney on July 20st.

It quickly became clear that this is not an endorsement: The event was agreed to months ago as part of Clinton’s tour thanking those who supported his wife’s presidential bid, and it was intended to raise funds for Maloney’s re-election campaign. But it is disingenuous to portray this as a non-story. Clinton’s insistence that he is endorsing no one in the Senate race is itself newsworthy: Gillibrand was long portrayed as close to the former first couple, so it’s a surprise that Clinton isn’t joining the chorus of Democrats who are signaling their dissatisfaction at Maloney.

Not only is he not trying to push her out, but he is going ahead in helping her raise funds everyone knows will be used in a Senate run. He might have committed to this event, but he could easily argue that circumstances changed since Maloney is no longer running for the same position: yesterday’s Daily News quoted a top Maloney aide saying that “she’s in it.” Even if Clinton is just honoring an old commitment, the fact of the matter is that he is staying by Maloney’s side at a time former supporters are openly criticizing her.

News of this fundraiser could not come at a better time for Maloney. Aside from the fact that she would love to have the initial wave of post-announcement mention that Clinton is about to headline her fundraiser, the mere announcement has already changed the complexion of stories that are being written about Gillibrand’s challenger. It is now more difficult to argue that Maloney is facing so much pressure she will back off from pulling the trigger, and it is no longer possible to write that the Democratic establishment is coming together in an effort to isolate Maloney, as The New York Times did yesterday.

Also, Marist released its second poll matching-up the Democrats. In May, Gillibrand was ahead by 36% to 31%; now, Maloney is up 38% to 37%. That contradicts the argument that the Senator will inevitably gain ground as she introduces herself to voters: she lost ground even though she increased her name recognition. On the other hand, she did improve her general election position: She now leads 46% to 42% against Pataki and 48% to 32% against King. One interesting internal: Gillibrand’s approval rating among Democrats is only 4% superior to her rating among Republicans; that usually indicates primary vulnerability.

Meanwhile, chaos reigns in Albany

For the past 9 day, Governor David Paterson has daily called a special legislative session, forcing state Senators to stay in Albany during recess, but neither party is showing any willingness to compromise. Every day, both sides are entering the chamber separately. They are gaveling in, gaveling out in a matter of minutes, meaninglessly honoring their constitutional obligation to hold a special session if the Governor convenes one.

As a result, vast amounts of legislation that should have been considered since the June 8th has been sidelined. Most dramatic is that the legislature did not extend mayoral control over New York City schools; as the 2002 law expired this week, control suddenly reverted to a defunct Board of Education that had to be resurrected out of thin air. (Bloomberg managed to keep effective control by getting borough presidents to appoint board members sympathetic to his education platform.)

More bizarre was Tuesday’s cup of coffee incident: While the 31 Democrats were in their session, Republican state Senator Frank Padavan walked through the chamber to go get himself a drink (coffee, we thought at first; V8, he later). While he was walking through, he made eye contact with the clerk who was reading out names. He was thus noted to be present, a quorum was established and incredulous Democrats immediately started passing legislation. While Republicans soon expressed outrage and Paterson indicated that he will not sign those bills, Senate Democrats distributed a legal memo justifying themselves that is well worth a read.

But the most extraordinary subplot is Paterson’s travel restriction! Since New York has no Lieutenant Governor, the Senate President is first in the order of succession; that means that he gets to be Acting Governor if Paterson travels outside of New York. That’s a problem: Ever since the June 8th coup, Pedro Espada looks to have that title and some people are worried that he could go on a pardoning spree if he got to be Acting Governor! Also, Senate Democrats are insisting that Malcolm Smith remains the head of the Senate, which means that there could be utter chaos if Paterson were to step out of the state.

As such, Paterson has canceled any out-of-state events he was supposed to attend since June 8th (think about the absurdity of that situation), and there is now talk of whether he should attend July 4th ceremonies to be held on the Statue of Liberty because the ferry trip he’d take would go through New Jersey.


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Gay marriage has been thrown in the mix of a farcical special session of NY Senate

If you thought New York politics were bizarre over the past two weeks, you have seen nothing yet since all hell could break loose over the next next few hours.

As of last Wednesday, it appeared that the situation had stabilized. Sure, we still did not know who was in control of the chamber, but it at least seemed that there would be no more betrayals and party switches. But as the two parties failed to strike any kind of power-sharing deal, it became obvious that something had to change: Dozens of bills needed to insure the continuity of state and local government were not being dealt with because the Senate had not been in session since the June 8th coup. (Democrats were not entering the chamber, denying Republicans the quorum needed to proceed.)

Monday was the state Senate’s last regularly scheduled day, so David Paterson logically convened a special session the following day. The advantage of a special session is that the Governor gets to decide what bills will be considered, removing one of the major objects of dispute - control over the agenda. But expecting this twist to resolve the situation was clearly asking too much of the Senators.

For one, the question of who was going to chair the session and control the gavel remained, as both sides are still claiming that they are legally in the majority. The Democrats’ solution to this dilemma: Enter the chamber three hours before the session is set to start, lock themselves and install one of their own on the dais. When Republicans were later allowed in, they were unable to get up there.

Fine, you might say, at least all 62 Senators were in the same room, so should that not give us the first quorum in 15 days and allow matters to proceed. Well, not exactly:

The two sides, like feuding junior high schoolers refusing to acknowledge each other, began holding separate legislative sessions at the same time. Side by side, the parties, each asserting that it rightfully controls the Senate, talked and sometimes shouted over one another, gaveling through votes that are certain to be disputed. There were two Senate presidents, two gavels, two sets of bills being voted on.

The result: 14 bills passed by Democrats, 85 passed by Republicans. What’s most absurd about the situation is that it is now completely unclear whether any of these bills have been legally passed. The Governor’s office is now reviewing the legality any of this to determine whether Paterson should sign these bills. Just imagine how easy it could be for a citizen who wants to challenge one of these laws to argue that they were not passed following proper protocol, or to invoke the dispute over which side holds the majority to claim that the legislation was approved by a party that had unlawfully seized control of the chamber.

(Making matters more confusing is that most of these bills were approved by unanimous consent, meaning that they were recorded as being approved by all Senators present even if only half of the chamber was paying attention. In other words, legislation that was being considered only by the 31 Democrats or only by the 31 Republicans might be marked as passing on a 62-0 vote. How to deal with that?)

And we will be back at it today because, well, yesterday was not enough theater and Paterson has called for more. But this afternoon’s special session could be even more explosive because the Governor has put gay marriage at the top of the agenda. As you surely remember, Democrats have in their midst a state Senator that had threatened to leave the party late last year if the leadership did not commit not to bring up same-sex marriage over the course of this legislature. As expected, Ruben Diaz Sr. was incensed by Paterson’s (expected) move, so much so that he launched in a series of cryptic statements:

Tomorrow we will have a good time.  Maybe I’m not upset. Maybe I solve the whole the problem tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow we come to an agreement and decide who’s really in control…

Diaz was then asked whether he was considering joining Republicans:

Maybe tomorrow…Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not saying anything…Who is asking me that? I don’t know. Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. Tomorrow is always uncertain. Tomorrow may never come.

Well, we know that tomorrow did come. But we still don’t know what tomorrow will bring, nor what Diaz will do, nor whether he will be upset. Needless to say, the GOP would be delighted to take Diaz since that would give them a 32-30 majority.

And yet, there is something incoherent in Diaz’s threats: Had he joined the GOP back in January, it would have ensured that gay marrige does not come up for a vote since a Republican majority would not have brought it up. But this is now out of the control of either party’s legislative leadership: Whether the GOP (or ‘coalition’) caucus has 30, 31 or 32 members this afternoon, it won’t allow them to block Paterson’s decision that gay marriage is the first issue they’ll have to vote on.

And so, on top of all this drama, there might be a vote on gay marriage in the coming hours. While most head counts put opponents ahead, but gay-right groups have been insisting that they have enough Republican Senators voting “yes” that it will compensate the defection of Democrats like Diaz. In short, conventional wisdom is that the “no” has the edge but the vote could go either way. (Remember, it looked fairly certain that New Hampshire state Senate did not have the votes to pass such a bill before a last minute reversal by a reluctant Democrat.)

But what I don’t understand is why gay marriage proponents would want the bill to come up for a vote today, especially if they believe they have the votes to pass it. Odds are that today’s scenario will be the same as yesterday, with the two parties holding parallel sessions and refusing to engage each other. If gay marriage legislation comes up for a vote in such conditions, will both parties vote on it?

What if one side passes it while the other ignores the issue; can Paterson sign the bill? What if the Democratic side of the room pass it and the Republican side rejects it? This is a sure recipe to have same-sex marriage end up in court, being decided on grounds that have nothing to do with gay rights and everything to do with arcane legislative rules.


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Albany’s ordered chaos

How times change. Last week, a spokesperson for the Democratic leadership had called state Senator Hiram Monserrate a “thug.” Yesterday, one prominent Democrat called him “my brother” while another said that he is “someone who we’re happy to have in our conference.”

After spending an entire week selling himself to the highest bidder, Monserrate had just returned to the Democratic Party, leaving co-conspirator Pedro Espada behind and locking New York’s state Senate in a 31-31 tie from which there seems to be no way out.

“When you lay with a dog, sometimes you wake up with fleas,” said Republican state Senator Martin Golden, which pretty much sums up what I think. I have no illusion about the ethics of most politicians, but as someone who has long been passionate about politics I simply do not understand why Monserrate would even be interested in elected service if he can comfortably switch from being a liberal Democrat to allying himself with conservative Republicans and back in a matter of days. How can an official can be so transparently cynical, so venal and so unprincipled? How can anyone possibly pull off two full-blown betrayals within 8 days without seeming the least bit shameful?

Monserrate did gain one thing from his double-switcheroo: He got Democrats to toss out their leader, Malcolm Smith, with whom Monserrate had hostile relations. In his place, the caucus anointed John Sampson, for whom they had to invent a title: Since the party lacks the vote to make their new chief “Majority Leader,” they dubbed him “conference leader.” Another potential reason for Monserrate’s return is that he felt he could not survive the 2010 cycle if he stayed with Republicans; credit probably goes to Reverend Al Sharpton, who has reportedly been heavily involved in talks with Monserrate.

Democrats are clearly relieved that they have 31 votes, blocking Republicans from doing anything with their newly acquired leadership since the GOP now controls one vote less than is needed to meet a quorum and start a session. Yet, Monserrate’s return is not enough to give them a majority of their own: with only 31 votes at their disposal, then, Democrats cannot unseat Espada (who remains Senate President) and Skelos (who remains Majority Leader).

They can block Republicans from engaging in any legislative activity without regaining a majority themselves.

This stalemate is an absurd situation, to be sure. The state Constitution does provide a mechanism to break ties in the state Senate: the Lieutenant Governor. The trouble is that New York currently has no such official! Ever since Eliot Spitzer resigned and David Paterson took over, there has been no second-in-command because state law has no provision as to how a vacancy in this post should be filled.

That’s what they call a stalemate. At least, it’s a stable stalemate - a chance from the roller-coaster we have gone through over the past 8 days. Albany is still in chaos, but it’s now somewhat of an ordered chaos that seems likely to last in its current form all the way to the the fall of 2010.

The best case scenario for the two parties is that they find a way to break the tie so that one side gains a clear edge. The most obvious way for them to do so - convince a member of the opposition to cross over -  looks to be highly unlikely at this point:

  • Republican to Democrat: None of the 30 Republicans are likely to cross-over and Espada looks to have burned too many bridges. But might he accept if he is promised he can keep his position of Senate President? (I am not saying that would be a good idea, as I would find it repulsive to reward such venal behavior.)
  • Democrat to Republican: If none of the state Senators who were mentioned as potential followers of Espada and Monserrate crossed over when the GOP had the upper-hand, why would they do so now? Sure, Monserrate could change his mind again, but he does look to have woken up long enough to realize his political career would end if he stuck with Republicans. Bill Stachowski dismissed talk of his crossing-over. “[Republicans] just spend a year and a half beating the hell out of me,” he said, “and now they’re welcoming me with open arms?”

Another strategy both parties are considering is to argue that, in the absence of a Lieutenant Governor, another official has the right to break ties. Today, the Governor’s office floated the idea that Paterson could act as the Senate’s presiding officer, putting him in a position to break ties; some have suggested that Paterson even has the authority to break ties since he is the last serving LG! Yet, Republicans have a ready response: As Senate President, Espada should be allowed to cast a double vote in case of a tie and thus break the deadlock.

Needless to say, these solutions are unlikely to get very far in a Senate that is unable to agree on much simpler things. For Paterson or Espada to become tie-breakers, courts would likely have to intervene - and a judge made it clear today that they are unlikely to do so. “A judicially imposed resolution would be an improvident intrusion into the internal workings of a co-equal branch of government,” said Thomas McNamara in tossing out a suit brought about by Democrats.

What is likely to occur, then? An unexpected twist is always possible, of course, but the quasi-unavoidable scenario looks to be some sort of power-sharing agreement that would satisfy nobody but at least allow the state Senate to get back in session, vote on bills and no longer block the entire state government. Over on Politicker, Steve Kornacki builds a convincing case as to why this would be a far better situation for Democrats: Not only does the party control the rest of Albany, but Espada would likely lean left on most individual bills and Democrats remain in a strong position to regain a clear majority after 2010. And let’s not forget that voters will get to elect a Lieutenant Governor, a post that has never looked so important.


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In New York, Monserrate holds both parties hostage

When we first learned about the coup in the New York state Senate, it looked like the vilest turncoat - the one who was willing to sell his allegiance to the highest bidder - was Pedro Espada Jr. and that Hirram Monserrate had followed him along. A few have passed and a different picture has emerged, one in which Monserrate’s interest in profiting from the situation is adding to the stalemate in a truly absurd manner.

On Monday, Monserrate stood with 30 Republicans and fellow Democrat Espada to make Dean Skelos the new majority leader. Yet, by the next day, Monserrate was no longer committed to his new alliance. He spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday in conferences with members of both parties as they plead with him to come over to their side. His indecision prevented the GOP from convening since a quorum of 32 Senators has to be met for the chamber to be in session.

On Wednesday night, Monserrate announced he had decided to stick with the so-called “coalition” - a blow to Democrats as it looked like the GOP had finally gotten their house in order - but that only set the stage for yesterday’s surreal chain of events: Republicans, accompanied by the two renegade Democrats, triumphantly entered the state Senate and prepared to get to work when Monserrate suddenly turned around and walked out, chased by a desperate GOP staffer shouting “Senator, we need your vote.” Having lost a quorum, stunned and humiliated Republicans had to delay the just-opened session.

Political life in Albany is now suspended to a single state Senator’s incoherent and capricious whims. Monserrate is now holding both parties (not to mention all the high-profile bills that were meant to be debated this week) hostage to his ambition.

Think about the situation for a moment: The negotiations between Republicans, Golisano and the two Democrats reportedly lasted for months. As such, Monserrate had weeks to decide whether he wanted to go through with this. During Monday’s climax, he stood up and held his hand up with the 30 Republicans only to say he was no longer sure of what he wanted within 24 hours?

Monserrate’s current indecision is more slimy than his initial decision because it makes his entire decision-making process look like one big maneuver to profit as much from the situation as possible. He now has both parties begging him, allowing him to cut the best deal for himself. After all, Espada got to be the state’s Senate President. What has Monserrate obtained for now? The New York Post reports that Monserrate might be looking for a party to pay for his legal fees. (He is under indictment for slashing his girlfriend with broken glass and stands to go to trial in the coming months.)

A simpler way for Democrats to convince him to come back could be the ouster of Malcolm Smith, with whom Monserrate has an execrable relationship, as their conference leader. Such a move could happen in the next few days. Whatever you think of Smith’s leadership, it is sad to see any politician fall in such circumstances.

One thing we can say for Monserrate’s defense is that he looks genuinely surprised that no other Democrat joined him and Espada to the Republican side and that might partly explain why he is now wavering in his support to Skelos. “You can’t have coalition government with 2 Democrats and 30 Republicans,” he said yesterday.

Monserrate has to be thinking about his political future. Next year, he will face Democratic voters; if he can explain that he formed a bipartisan alliance, he stands a far better chance to survive the primary than if he is portrayed as a turncoat who gave the majority to the GOP. As of Monday, he thought that he could pull off the former argument but the fact that no Democrat followed made him rethink his strategy.

Unfortunately for Democrats, it looks like a number of their state Senators are still considering crossing the aisle - a move that would give Monserrate the cover he needs to stick with Espada. Mentioned as potential defectors are Bill Stachowski (Buffalo), who represents a swing district and thus might be looking to protect himself and Carl Kruger (Brooklyn), who was already part of the gang of Democrats threatening to bolt the party earlier this year.

More surprising is liberal and openly-gay Thomas Duane, whose commitment to passing gay marriage could lead him to cut a deal with Republicans. (How surreal is that?) On Wednesday, Duane had ruled out any such move - but he was now back on the fence. “Today, I’m in the Democratic conference, and I’m a Democrat,” he said. “There’s no way to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone what’s going to happen when everyone comes back on Monday.”

New York might not be a state where you would expect Democrats to look for an opportunity to jump ship to the GOP, but the current stalemate has defied all ideological labels. It has little to do with policy disagreements (as is evident from Diaz Sr.’s decision to stick with Democrats despite his hostility to gay marriage) and everything to do with ambition, lust for power, financial greed and strained personal relationships.

The New York Times reports that, as Senate President, Espada has the authority to issue pardons when Governor Paterson is out of state and he could perhaps grant one to himself - a dizzying prospect given the scope of the legal investigations that surround him. Yet, perhaps Espada was also moved by some policy considerations. The Daily News reports that one bill that is now dying is vacancy decontrol, which would place more than 200,000 apartments under rent stabilization. The legislation is opposed by landlords, who have been key allies of Espada.


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The New York coup

A state Senator indicted for stabbing his girlfriend with a broken glass. A state Senator who is under investigation for using non profit groups for his personal gain and who has been fined $60,000 for flouting campaign finance laws. And a power-hungry billionaire who just announced he was moving to Florida because he did not want to pay taxes in the Empire State. That is the unlikely trio that allowed Republicans to reclaim New York’s state Senate after just a few months of Democratic control.

On Monday afternoon (the situation is confusing enough that I waited to have some time before writing about it), a Republican state Senator brought up a motion to reorganize the closely divided chamber’s leadership. No one had any clue as to what was going on, which made it all the more stunning when the GOP-introduced motion received 32 votes: 2 Democrats were voting with Republicans, enough to put their party in the minority in this closely divided chamber.

Chaos understandably ensued (it’s worth watching video of the coup), including Democratic attempts to shut off the lights to delay proceedings. But with state Senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate looking determined to make Republican Dean Skelos the new Majority Leader, Democrats no longer had the votes. Like much of the past 40 years, they were back in the minority - and that’s not a place from which you can do much.

Let me first say that there is nothing wrong with what Republicans have done: The point of a party is to seize power, and as long as they do so by lawful means it’s hard to see why anyone should blame them. (Democrats staged a very similar coup in the Tennessee House a few months ago: Facing a one-vote deficit, they allied themselves to a single Republican to make him Speaker in exchange for his support.)

What is egregious in this coup is the behavior of the non-Republicans. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate represent staunchly Democratic districts, making their betrayal that much more acute, and it’s not like they are shifting camps for ideological reasons like Jim Jeffords did. Rather, Espada looks to only be moved by a stunningly slimy quest for power.

The deal he struck with Republicans made him President of the state Senate - first-in-line in the gubernatorial order of succession! Just a few months ago, when Espada first threatened to bolt from the Democratic caucus, he asked his party for the same thing in exchange for his support. While Democrats denied Espada’s demand, the state Senator had asked for more. Just read this unbelievable paragraph in a New York Times story:

After he agreed earlier this year to back Mr. Smith, Mr. Espada requested perks that he believed should accompany his title as vice president of the Senate for urban policy. He asked for the use of the Capitol office adjoining his, close to $100,000 for rent for his district office — more than twice the amount allotted to other senators from New York City — and a dozen extra staff members.

What kind of freshman lawmaker is comfortable auctioning off his allegiance this transparently? Well, Espada always looked like the perfect candidate for such behavior: The politician from the Bronx has been dogged by ethical controversies and financial scandal for years.

He was fined $60,000 for failing to file campaign finance reports - and we are not talking about forgetting to do so in time: He missed 41 filings in a period of seven years and he did not file a single report in the entirety of his 2008 race! Also, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is long since investigating whether Espada used a non profit for personal gain and a New York Daily News report published last month raised more questions about Espada’s suspicious ties to non-profit groups. (The Albany Project puts together a round-up of the stories, allegations and scandals surrounding Espada.)

In fact, it looks like what pushed Espada over the edge was the fact that the Democratic leadership blocked his attempts to channel more government money towards shady groups he is connected to: In March, Espada asked the state Senate to allocate $2 million in earmarks to the Bronx Human Services Council Inc. and Green ECO Energy Incorporated - two Bronx-based groups that had just been created and had as direct ties as possible to Espada!

When a politician is this transparently self-serving, it’s hard to know what to do or say. A lot is already being written about the failures of New York Democrats and the weakness of the Senate’s Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. But if what did him in is his refusal to let Espada get away with these $2 million, how can one possibly blame him?   That his main ally is Monserrate, a man who was recently indicted for domestic assault, makes the situation all the more stunning: State Republicans spent much of the past few months demanding Monserrate’s resignation.

The third non-Republican man responsible for these events is billionaire Tom Golisano, who has admitted playing a major behind-the-scenes role over the past few weeks. The conservative businessman, who has spent millions of his own money trying to win himself the Governor’s Mansion, announced last year that he had grown disillusioned with the GOP and was going to help Democrats win the state Senate.

Earlier this year, however, Golisano grew angry that Democrats were planning on raising taxes on the wealthy (who did he think he was supporting?). In May, he announced he was moving to Florida to no longer pay taxes in the Empire State - a telling mark of his civic virtue and his attachment to New York - but he looks to have stayed involved enough to help stage Monday’s coup. (The New York Times reports that Golisano’s top adviser Steve Pigeon, is close to Espada.)

Espada’s history and Golisano’s involvement make it clear that the main reasons behind Monday’s coup are: Personal greed and lust for power (on both of their part) and concern over tax increases on the wealthy.

There is nothing wrong with Republicans mounting a majority based on their defense of lower taxes for the rich but for a billionaire who is trying to evade paying taxes in New York to effectively buy himself a friendlier legislature is a truly unbelievable development. (And seriously, Golisano is petty enough that Malcolm Smith fiddling with his blackberry during a meeting convinced him to stage a coup?)

What I find interesting is the fact that state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., a socially conservative lawmaker who threatened to bolt from the Democratic caucus late last year because of gay marriage, is nowhere near this deal; quite the contrary, he just said he would stick with Democrats and blasted Golisano’s opportunism, offering an interesting analogy:

What I’m telling you is that when the budget passed and Tom Golisano saw that he had to give $1 million extra to the state of New York, he said: ‘Oh, no. I’m going. I’m leaving New York.’ He moved to Florida, because he refused to help the state.He reminds me of those people in the South Bronx, where I’m from, where I belong, that when the South Bronx started needing them, and started burning down, and we needed them, they abandoned us.

Contrary to early hypotheses, then, this coup has nothing to do with gay marriage and everything to do about economic issues, to such an extent that other potential Democratic defectors are no longer looking to leave the party. That is a relief for Democrats not only because it won’t put them in a bigger hole but also because it is doubtful the GOP’s new-found edge will be long-lasting.

Espada and Monserrate represent staunchly Democratic areas of New York City; they cannot run as an independent or as a Republican and hope to win. Thus, they’ll have to survive a Democratic primary in 2010.  Their ethical and legal issues were already sure to be major obstacles but their decision to strike a deal with Republicans makes it diffiult to see how they can survive. Even if Golisano pours in millions to help them, state Democrats will do the same; as long as credible challengers emerge, Espada and Monserrate will be underdogs in their bids to return to the state Senate in 2011.

As such, the battle for the state Senate will be fought on the same districts we were already expecting it to be waged. Democrats will look to defend William Stachowski’s District 58 while Republicans will do their best to prevent losing more seats and hold down their retirement to a minimum. (The GOP is still so strong in the state Senate because of lawmakers who have been serving for decades in districts that are now blue.)

Control of Albany will have consequences on federal politics as well: New York is set to lose at least a seat after the next census, and how the electoral map is redrawn will go a long way towards deciding which party will see its numbers decline. If Democrats control the governorship and the state legislature, they will go after the 3rd or 23rd district to push the GOP out of its last bastions; if Republicans keep control of the state Senate or reclaim the governorship, they could force some painful sacrifices on the part of Democrats.

And a special thanks to the reader who emailed me tips on the state Senate’s situation as soon as the story broke.


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New York’s state Senate, gay marriage and Mike Bloomberg

This week, New York took one more step towards becoming a one party state. For the first time in four decades, Democrats took control of the state Senate, locking the GOP out of all levels of state government.

As you might remember, this outcome was not a foregone conclusion: After Democrats seized a 32-30 majority on November 4th, three of their state Senators threatened to bolt the caucus for somewhat unclear demands - a mix of identity politics and policy disputes.

This created a chaotic situation in which Democratic leaders begged the Gang of Three to stay in the party, at first offering them a stunning amount of concessions before retreating when the caucus’s rank and file protested.

At the end of the day, Democrats managed to cut a deal with Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sen.-elect Pedro Espada and Sen. Carl Kruger to get them to vote for Democrat Malcolm Smith as Majority Leader. On Wednesday, the deed was consummated and the state Senate was officially taken over by Democrats.

The biggest question mark that now remains is gay marriage. Governor David Paterson, like his predecessor Eliot Spitzer, was interested in legalizing same sex unions - and this was the main reason Ruben Diaz, a staunchly homophobic minister, threatened to back Republicans.

Rumors have been circulating that Democrats told Diaz they would not introduce a gay marriage bill over the next two years if he stuck with the caucus. The party’s leadership has denied having made any such promise, but Diaz has indicated that discussions with party leaders have reassured him about the reform’s prospects.

Democrats are already saying that too many of their members would vote against the bill for gay marriage to pass the state Senate. That might be true (they do, after all, only have a 32-30 majority), but for such information to be leaking this early clearly suggests that the Democratic leadership has no intention of pushing gay marriage very hard in the coming months.

The second question mark is the leadership change’s impact on Mike Bloomberg. The New York City Mayor might not be a partisan Republican, but he has frequently clashed with Albany Democrats, and state Assembly President Sheldon Silver takes great delight in squashing Bloomberg’s plans.

Over the past year, Bloomberg donated a lot of money to Republicans to help them retain control of the state Senate and he campaigned on behalf of GOP incumbents. For Democrats to now seize control of the state Senate will make Bloomberg’s ties to Albany even more raucous.

This could make it tougher for him to convince Albany to pass New York City-related bills for which Bloomberg needs state approval (this is especially the case for taxation-related issues). And don’t forget that Bloomberg could remain in Gracie Mansion until 2013 now that he changed the city’s term limit laws, so this will affect him in the long term.

On the other hand, Bloomberg could gain a huge boost soon if David Paterson appoints Caroline Kennedy to the Senate. The former first daughter’s connections to the Mayor have caused some prominent Democrats to express worry, and Kennedy refused to answer when Politico asked whether she would support Bloomberg’s Democratic challenger in this fall’s election. If she becomes Senator, Kennedy would be unlikely to do much to help the Democratic nominee, further reducing the party’s hopes of regaining City Hall.

Then again, Caroline Kennedy might no longer be favored to win Paterson’s nod. The Village Voice now thinks that the front-runner might be Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand! Could it be that the main alternative to a woman with little to no public record (but who, we are told, leans to the liberal side…) are two conservative Democrats (Reps. Gillibrand and Israel)? It’s hard for progressive Democrats to know where to turn. On the other hand, the list of those who are known to have received Paterson’s Senate questionnaire keeps getting lengthier. The latest known contender is Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. [Update: Kennedy and Paterson held their first in person meeting to discuss the seat yesterday.]


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Chaos in New York

In a desperate effort to prove that Illinois has no monopoly on political chaos, New York is doing its best to keep up entertained with its remarkable state Senate saga.

On all levels but the state Senate, New York has now largely become a one-party state, and we have been chronicling the collapse of New York’s once-dominant Republican Party for much of the past decade. Democrats now hold both Senate seats, the governorship and a stunning 26 House seats (out of 29).

Remained the state Senate, which Republicans have controlled the upper chamber for decades. But the Democrats’ furious multi-cycle offensive was set to finally succeed this year, and 2008 indeed proved to be yet another disaster for New York Republicans: The party lost 3 House seats (NY-13, NY-25 and NY-29) and 2 seats in the state Senate, enough for Democrats to capture a one-seat majority (32 Democrats versus 30 Republicans).

On November 4th, then, the state GOP looked to have lost its last share of power.

But the Democrats’ celebration were soon cut short when three Democrats representing New York City districts - Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sen.-elect Pedro Espada and Sen. Carl Kruger - hinted that they might not support the Democratic caucus, throwing control of the state Senator in the hands of the GOP and electing Republican Dean Skelos as state Majority Leader.

Their somewhat unclear demands looked to be a mix of identity politics (Espada and Diaz contended that Hispanics were not given their share of power in New York) and policy disputes (Diaz, an extreme social conservative and an ardent foe of gay marriage, insisted he could not support Democrats if they kept up their efforts to legalize gay marriage in New York).

After weeks of confusion, a deal was announced earlier this month between Governor Paterson, Democratic leader Malcolm Smith and the Gang of Three. (The New York Times reported that the deal was sealed with a prayer recited by Diaz, who is also a pentecostal minister. Kruger said that the deal had been “sanctified” by this prayer service.)

First, Paterson and Smith agreed to table gay rights for the next two years. Second, they prepared to shake-up the state Senate’s power structure to give the three dissidents plum leadership positions. Kruger would be made chairman of the Finance Committee, while Espada would rise to the very top of the Democratic Caucus and share the traditional duties of majority leader with Smith - a reward of stunning proportions.

Of course, it is difficult to argue with the Democrats’ desire to keep the state Senate at all costs - including meeting the demands of the Gang of Three. After all, after decades in the minority, this must be a terribly frustrating situation. But allowing a dissident who is still a Senator-elect to blackmail his way at the very top of the leadership ladder would surely set a disastrous precedent. (Not to mention that Espada is surrounded by controversy.)

What if Joe Lieberman had come back to the Senate in December 2006 when Democrats had just captured a 51-49 majority and threatened to vote with Republicans (thus throwing the majority back to the GOP) unless he was made into Majority Leader? He did, after all, owe far less to Democrats then (having won his seat as an independent) then any of the Gang of Three.

Thankfully, last week’s deal collapsed yesterday - apparently due to the anger of the rest of the Democratic caucus. Smith backpedaled on the commitments, while Espada accused the Democratic leader of lying, adding that “Malcolm Smith is not ready for prime time.”

These are not the words of someone who is preparing to back Smith as Majority Leader - which means that control of the state Senate is once again in doubt.

Republican leader Skelos made the situation somewhat more complex by saying that he had no plans to woo the Gang of Three. In other words, the three dissidents might have the power to decide which party controls the chamber, but they are now unlikely to receive anything in return as neither caucus is willing to negotiate with them.

This could make for interesting situations when they run for re-election. While incumbents are difficult to beat, could Espada and Diaz win another term in the Bronx if they caucus with Republicans? But if they vote for Skelos, could they possibly stay in the Democratic caucus given how much they have antagonized fellow Democrats?

These chaotic proceedings also make the gay marriage debate more unpredictable. Smith is no longer held by his word to not bring up such a bill to a vote over the next two years - but he might still not want to do so if it risks endangering the unity of his caucus. With Democrats holding the narrowest of majorities and a few of their Senators sure to vote against gay marriage, they would need to pull some Republican support to ensure passage.

And as if the situation was not chaotic enough, one of the seats Republicans held in November was thrown into overtime yesterday, as a state judge ruled that nearly two thousands ballots that had been deemed invalid should be counted. The Republican incumbent had won re-election by 600 votes, and Democrats are now hopeful that they could come from behind and pick-up this seat - increasing their majority and thus their bargaining power.

The GOP is planning to appeal that decision, so the state Senate battle is now being played out in backrooms and in court rooms.



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    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What remains on the table

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Confusion in Connecticut (Updated)

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Results thread, part 2: Dems suffer staggering losses in House and legislatives races, limit damage in statewide races

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election Night results thread: Rep. Boucher’s fall first surprise of the night

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election night cheat sheet

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Final ratings: Democrats brace for historic losses

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What to watch for down-ballot

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

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