Many public officials found something to cheer for in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, which, besides closing a $1.3 billion deficit, includes a minimum wage hike, some mandate relief, more money for environmental programs and increased funding for schools. But this isn’t a cheerocracy, it’s a democracy. Legislators, mayors and all sorts of special interests will have a say in what gets cut. Also this week, George Amedore got cut as Cecilia Tkaczyk won a state Senate race whose outcome was delayed for weeks. But in our weekly competition, there are only five winners and five losers. So, here are your latest winners and losers.
Charles Schumer – Can he host the Oscars too? The state’s senior senator charmed a nation with gentle wisecracks while he emceed inauguration festivities on Monday. Schumer kept a weary President Obama smiling throughout the afternoon and made the entire proceedings feel like a post-Shabbat services brunch. Who cares if he pronounced Beyoncé like your suburban dad would, and earned playful tweets from political commentators who asked whether he might be available for weddings? You know what? He probably would be.
Dean Skelos – A favorable redistricting plan didn’t solve all of the problems for the Senate Republican leader, but Mean Dean had a few other tricks up his sleeve. That was clear this week when Republican George Amedore finally lost the race for a state Senate seat presumed to be tailor-made for him, denying the Republicans a majority even with the defection of Democrat Simcha Felder. Presciently, Skelos had already secured a hold on power through his coalition with the IDC, keeping most Democrats out of power despite their numerical majority. Plus, lawmakers just passed a weak redistricting amendment, providing a veneer of reform to a process that still could give the Senate GOP an advantage after the next census.
Cecilia Tkaczyk – Better late than never. The final member of the state Senate took her long-awaited seat in the chamber on Wednesday after a final round of ballot openings gave her an 18-vote margin of victory. Tkaczyk’s triumph, which came three months after Election Day, was hailed by environmental advocates for her anti-fracking stance, by Mother Jones, for her position on campaign finance reform, and by hungry Senate Democratic leaders, who secured a seat in a district Republicans had drawn up specifically to help their candidate win. Tkaczyk is still settling in at the Capitol but Democrats and left-leaning advocacy groups expect big things from the freshman.
Mary Jo White - The former New York U.S. Attorney added another nice line to her résumé as she was nominated by President Obama this week to be the next chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. White had previously been a white-collar defense lawyer defending big Wall Street names like Kenneth Lewis, the former head of Bank of America, as well as JP Morgan Chase and the board of Morgan Stanley—raising some questions as to whether Democrats might give her a hard time during the confirmation process. Still, she built a reputation as a tough prosecutor, and her husband was a former head of the SEC’s corporate finance division, so she certainly has the law and order background that would qualify her to regulate the byzantine world of Big Money.
Keith Wright – The well-connected New York City assemblyman already had plenty of clout, thanks to his night job as co-chair of the state Democratic Party and his chairmanship of the Manhattan Dems. His role as chair of the Assembly Labor Committee also let him get to know the unions better – always a good thing if you’re eyeing a congressional run – but his new assignment overseeing the Housing Committee is a plum too. After all, it’s partly how Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the last housing chair, consolidated so much power.
Ed Hartzog – It’s not too often that a lowly City Council candidate attracts national exposure. Unfortunately for Hartzog, a Democrat running on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, his sudden fame—or infamy—is for making a particularly tasteless quip. When a reporter from DNAinfo.com asked Hartzog why in his recent campaign finance filing had half of his donations come from out of state, the candidate replied, “What’s a pretty girl like you doing reading those?” Smooth, huh? While Hartzog later tried to brush aside his blunder as a harmless “flippant comment,” the damage was already done. Oh, and for the record, Ed, the answer to your question is: her job.
The Journal News - Depending on which side you fall on in the gun control debate, the newspaper’s posting of a map of gun permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties was either courageous or a blatant infringement on gun rights. Ultimately the paper decided that it was a bit too much of the latter, as they took the map off their website this week, conceding to the opposition, including state Sen. Greg Ball, who vowed to bring legislation that would make such information confidential. In a letter in the paper, publisher Janet Hasson wrote the map was removed because it had been up for 27 days and the public had more than enough time to view it, while asserting that the Journal News would continue to “aggressively” report on gun ownership. That might be tougher now, due to the bulls-eye fixed on the paper from gun owners across the state.
Dagan LaCorte – Suffern Mayor Dagan LaCorte had a brilliant scheme to trip up his opponent, Spring Valley Justice David Fried, in their Democratic primary race for Rockland County executive. He wrote a text message to his campaign manager Cristobal Slobodzian that read, verbatim: “Record fried on phone / – gay marriage, desal. $$$ he can’t raise – spy early bc [Orangetown tax receiver candidate] Chris smith will tell him who you are. I’ll check in later for recon. Get names and emails[.]” Then, instead of sending the Nixonian instructions to Slobodzian, LaCorte accidentally texted the message to… Fried.
Stephanie Miner – Just don’t ask Miner to do any cartwheels. In his budget address, the Guv defended his efforts to ease mandated spending for struggling municipalities, but the mayor of Syracuse didn’t buy it, and even criticized a plan to borrow against future pension savings. It’s a bold move standing up to the governor, and it may help her in her recently announced run for re-election, but it seems that Miner, whom Cuomo hand-picked as co-chair of the state Democratic Party, just hasn’t gotten through to him on what kind of mandate relief she needs.
New York City Campaign Finance Board - When Councilwoman Rosie Mendez introduced a campaign finance bill exempting communications by unions and corporations with their members, the Campaign Finance Board came out in full-throated opposition to the bill. Even after the bill was amended to remove language allowing coordination with candidates, the CFB still testified against the final version and the bill breezed through with a veto-proof 47-1, despite additional opposition from Mayor Bloomberg. Even some good government groups came out in favor, agreeing that membership organizations should be allowed to coordinate with their own members on candidates to endorse and issues to raise during an election year.
Note: This post has been updated to reflect that the bill criticized by the Campaign Finance Board was amended, though the CFB continued to oppose it.
Tags: Andrew Cuomo, Barack Obama, Beyonce, Campaign Finance Board, Cecilia Tkaczyk, Chris Smith, Chuck Schumer, Cristobal Slobodzian, Dagan LaCorte, David Fried, Dean Skelos, DNAinfo, Ed Hartzog, george amedore, Greg Ball, inauguration, janet hasson, Journal News, Keith Wright, Kenneth Lewis, Mary Jo White, Michael Bloomberg, Mother Jones, Rockland County, Rosie Mendez, SEC, simcha felder, Stephanie Miner, Vito Lopez