The elections are over, but the battle for control of the state Senate is just beginning: Simcha Felder revealed he’ll join the Republicans, the IDC’s Jeff Klein met with the GOP’s Dean Skelos and the Rev. Al Sharpton canceled his meeting about the Senate Dems. Meanwhile, other political figures dealt with the ongoing fallout of Superstorm Sandy, positioned themselves for next year’s elections in New York City or faced legal troubles — with varying degrees of success. And to sum it all up for you, here are this week’s winners and losers.
Adolfo Carrión – The former Bronx borough president and Obama administration official threw his hat into the ring for mayor this week, after switching parties to run as a Republican. Carrión lends a very credible name to the Republican mayoral field, as well as a new face for a party that is becoming increasingly populated by old white guys. Carrión still needs approval from three of the five party chairmen before being able to run on the GOP line, but as soon as he does, he will immediately become one of the frontrunners for his new party.
Simcha Felder – It’s not unexpected that state Sen.-elect Simcha Felder is crossing the aisle to join the Republicans, nor is it a big surprise that Brooklyn Democrats are furious and that the New York Post is going after an employee of Comptroller John Liu calling him a “devil.” What is more interesting is what Felder will be getting from the GOP in return: prioritization of his policy goals? Pork for his district? An enviable leadership post? Trying to switch parties post-election doesn’t often work out so well in the long run, but this week, Felder’s ahead.
Alan Hevesi – It’s a Christmas miracle! The former state comptroller, who had been convicted on public corruption charges, could be out of prison by Dec. 19. Hevesi has been incarcerated at a medium security prison in Marcy, N.Y., since April 2011 and was granted his parole despite criticism from the city’s editorial boards. But there are some conditions for his early release. Hevesi will have a curfew, must receive permission to travel out of state, and is not allowed to associate with any criminals affiliated with his pay-to-play state pension scandal. It’s also probably in his best interests to avoid pretty much everyone north of Bear Mountain, not to mention Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who targeted the comptroller when he was attorney general. Still, this is his Shawshank moment.
Dick Iannuzzi – When NYSUT revealed this week that it had spent $4.5 million on independent expenditures in state Senate races, the huge role the Iannuzzi and his United Teachers played in the Democrats’ unexpected Election Day success came into sharper focus. After years of being battered by issues like Tier VI and “last in, first out,” NYSUT’s power play this election cycle sent a powerful message to its critics that if you want to score political points by attacking teachers that there will be serious ramifications at the ballot box.
Dean Skelos – We may have spoken too soon. Last week we thought Skelos was on the ropes, outmaneuvered by Democrats who seemed to tip the balance of power in the contentious chamber and facing rumblings from his own party. Of course, if there’s one truism about Albany these days, it’s that the Senate Democrats will always find a way to screw up. If state Senators Jeff Klein (and the IDC) and Simcha Felder follow through with their threats to caucus with Republicans, that means Skelos could survive another cycle, and that’s enough to make him a winner in our eyes.
John Catsimatidis – He might be running for mayor, but it appears that Catsimatidis is not yet ready for prime time. After announcing that he was opening an exploratory committee that he would self-finance with “whatever’s necessary,” the billionaire supermarket mogul spent the rest of the week with his foot in his mouth, making observations like “to have blacks voting 93 percent for Obama—to me, that seems a little bit racist” and “I can do the job [of Mayor] with my left pinkie.” When he wasn’t hurting his candidacy by speaking, Catsimatidis was battling Fresh Direct with the help of none other than disgraced lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who has been sentenced to, but not yet served the three months in prison he was given for paying bribes to incarcerated former state Sen. Carl Kruger.
Michael Hervey - The Long Island Power Authority chairman endured a rough couple of weeks, post-Sandy. First, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made LIPA his personal piñata for its sluggish efforts in returning power to thousands of Long Island residents. Then residents began protesting, saying that LIPA was ill-prepared to handle the storm and that they were doing a poor job of keeping customers informed. Hervey submitted his resignation this week, although he denied that it had anything to do with the Sandy fallout. Whatever you say, Mike.
Vito Lopez – Vito Lopez wasn’t in court this week but he might as well have been. The assemblyman’s longtime campaign treasurer, Christiana Fisher, pleaded guilty to criminal contempt for “knowingly misleading investigators and prosecutors” and falsifying documents about her compensation at the nonprofit Lopez founded. The case reached a fever pitch two years ago, when federal investigators began culling the charity group’s records for wrongdoing, and Fisher is the closest of Lopez’s lieutenants to go down. She could receive a maximum of six months in prison, though her sentencing isn’t until April. Lopez, who has already stepped down as chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party and lost his chairmanship of the Assembly Housing Committee, could see a criminal trial of his own if the former staff members who claim he sexually harassed them ever press charges.
Jimmy Meng – Poor Jimmy Meng. The former Queens assemblyman was nabbed by FBI agents several months ago with $80,000 hidden in a fruit basket in the trunk of his car in a scheme worthy of an Arrested Development episode. This week, he pleaded guilty to charges that he falsely claimed he could fix a criminal case in exchange for bribery money from a man awaiting sentencing on another charge. His daughter, Grace Meng, who won a seat in Congress last week, did not come to the courthouse, leaving the elder Meng to face a likely prison sentence of 12 to 18 months on his own. We have a feeling that Michael Bluth would have at least made an appearance.
Howard Milstein – As state authorities go, things could be worse than it is for the Thruway Authority (see: LIPA). But like LIPA, some of the Thruway’s problems are self-inflicted. A proposed 45 percent toll increase for trucks was already controversial, but it didn’t help to cancel several meetings on the matter – especially at the last minute with no reason given. That’s not exactly strong leadership from Milstein, the chair of the authority’s board. Of course, the biggest thing that qualified him for the job apparently was his huge contributions to Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign. Another board member said it best: “We’re looking foolish.”