It’s a new era in Albany. New York’s last governor dominated state politics for over a decade, exploiting the levers of power with unparalleled efficacy and bludgeoning enemies and allies alike to align with his objectives. When Gov. Kathy Hochul ascended to office, her friendlier demeanor seemed to many like a breath of fresh air. Now, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and many members of his old inner circle – Melissa DeRosa, Jim Malatras, Linda Lacewell – are gone, opening up high-ranking posts that have been filled by Hochul’s appointees.
Of course, some things never seem to change in the state capital. Brian Benjamin’s tenure as Hochul’s lieutenant governor was unexpectedly short-lived, with yet another Manhattan U.S. attorney aiming to scrub away the stench of corruption in state government. Hochul’s largess for a new Buffalo Bills stadium doesn’t appear to be as egregious as Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion, but the move has raised concerns from good-government groups as well as fellow Democrats. Meanwhile, many experienced advocates for various causes remain as entrenched as ever, transitioning nimbly from one governorship to the next.
City & State’s Albany Power 100 – researched and written in partnership with journalist Aaron Short – identifies the political leaders in the state capital, both old and new, who are driving the policy agenda in New York.
Gov. Kathy Hochul had high hopes and lofty approval ratings when she was sworn into office in August. But she frustrated some fellow Democrats with a partial rollback of bail reform laws and an $850 million giveaway for a new Buffalo Bills stadium in her record $220 billion budget. Primary voter support eroded too, and Hochul only led former Gov. Andrew Cuomo by 8 points in a March poll taken before her lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, resigned after being indicted for corruption. Yet lawmakers agreed to change state law to remove Benjamin from the ballot, making it more likely that she’ll have her preferred running mate, Antonio Delgado, in November.
Although some members of her conference weren’t happy with the way budget negotiations played out, and state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins herself said she was blindsided by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $850 million allocation for a new Buffalo Bills stadium, the two leaders have found plenty of common ground. They appeared together to tout increased education funding, reached a compromise on bail reform and are now looking to expand abortion access in the state with the U.S. Supreme Court expected to overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has walked a fine line to appease his diverse Democratic conference. The Bronx legislative leader received pushback from members when he suspended Andrew Cuomo’s impeachment as governor last summer and pivoted to issuing a report instead. Progressives weren’t happy that he allowed changes to be made in the budget to bail reform legislation and accused him of not fighting for a proposal to ban gas hookups in new buildings. But with such a large and diverse membership making up his unsurmountable majority, that’s just part of the job for Heastie.
State Attorney General Letitia James’ decision to drop out of the governor’s race made life easier for Gov. Kathy Hochul and sent a crop of politicos back to their day jobs. James is now grabbing headlines by subpoenaing former President Donald Trump’s records and sparring with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Trump sued James to stop her inquiry into his businesses, but a judge ruled James can interview him and his children under oath. James also got Trump held in contempt and fined $10,000 a day until he coughs up requested documents.
The U.S. Senate majority leader staved off a challenge from his party’s left flank by keeping close ties to young progressive lawmakers and maintaining a heavy travel schedule across the state. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s $37.6 million campaign treasure and his ability to pass billions in COVID-19 aid and infrastructure funding for New York state didn’t hurt either. Now, Schumer is pushing for climate action and convincing U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to back components of Build Back Better to ensure Democrats don’t lose the Senate in November.
Last year, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes moved mountains to ensure recreational marijuana was legalized. She has since expedited the state’s approval of 52 marijuana growing licenses and launched a PAC to help candidates who support pot equity. This year, she was once again in the middle of the budget’s most controversial issues. She went to bat for the governor’s $850 million Buffalo Bills stadium financing deal, which angered downstate voters. She is now speaking out forcefully for stricter gun laws in the wake of the racist mass shooting that killed 10 Black people in Buffalo.
Karen Persichilli Keogh has helped big-name politicians like former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg navigate the state’s diverse electorate. So it was no surprise that Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has known the veteran Democratic fixer for two decades, tapped her to be her top aide in Albany. Keogh helped put Hochul’s administration together and played a role in the second search for a lieutenant governor, bringing in Antonio Delgado for the position following Brian Benjamin’s ignominious exit.
Labor leaders had several reasons to embrace the state budget after home care workers won a $3 raise – to $18 an hour – thanks to a four-year, $7.4 billion investment. George Gresham had wanted pay to jump to $22.50 an hour and compared raising the living wage for his workers to a civil rights campaign. He also teamed up with state Attorney General Letitia James to demand better working conditions and lower staff-to-resident ratios at nursing homes in the aftermath of thousands of COVID-19 deaths.
During the coronavirus pandemic, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli had the unenviable job of bearing dire financial news. But an influx of federal aid and widespread vaccine adoption kick-started the state’s recovery: Tax receipts surged about $13 billion more than forecast in January – and $30 billion higher by April. He proclaimed the state was on “solid fiscal footing” and praised Hochul’s budget but called bail reform changes “worrisome.” DiNapoli also helped nudge Brian Benjamin out of state office as lieutenant governor, saying his indictment was a distraction from his duties.
The state Education Department received a record haul of $31.5 billion in school aid this year – but Betty Rosa didn’t get everything she wanted in the budget. New York City schools received $56 million less than what Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed, undocumented children missed out on child care services and privately run special education programs lost out on $240 million. Rosa has also called for civility amid disagreements in school districts over mask mandates.
Unlike their feuding predecessors, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul seem to work well together. Adams welcomed the governor to his election night victory party and introduced the Buffalo politician to city business leaders. In the state budget, he got some of what he wanted, including tweaks of the state’s bail reform and ”Raise the Age” legislation as well as an expanded earned income tax credit. But Adams couldn’t get mayoral control of schools extended or a $19 billion boost in borrowing authority, and he still wants a further rollback of state criminal justice reforms.
Hospitals have borne the brunt of the health care costs of the COVID-19 pandemic. So it was a relief to the industry when it secured $20 billion in health care investments, including new funding for medical facilities that suffered financial distress during the pandemic, a move Kenneth Raske supported. Raske has also encouraged the state to rethink booster requirements, in which he acknowledged the concern of the possible mandate contributing to staffing shortages, although he supported the original vaccine mandate last fall.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris orchestrated a veto-proof Democratic majority in the state Senate but maintaining power presented new challenges. The deputy majority leader wasn’t thrilled with the Buffalo Bills stadium deal but acquiesced to Western New York legislators and found himself defending bail reform rollbacks, saying that it was not political in nature, after originally advocating for the law. His biggest responsibility has been shaping legislative maps after the 2020 census, but the state Court of Appeals struck down the Democrats’ maps as unconstitutional, resulting in a special master drawing new maps.
After curbing COVID-19 during last fall’s delta variant surge, Michael Dowling, who leads Northwell Health, predicted his New York hospitals would withstand the omicron variant’s wrath over the holidays. Northwell fended off the viral onslaught, but other medical centers were pushed to the brink, with full emergency rooms and staff shortages. Dowling is also managing Lenox Hill Hospital’s 10-year, $2.5 billion master expansion plan and working to eliminate maternal mortality by focusing on improving outcomes for Northwell’s Black patients.
When Gov. Kathy Hochul took office last year, Robert Mujica was one of the few high-ranking holdovers to stay on from the previous administration. The ever-adaptable Mujica, who possesses an intimate understanding of how to craft multibillion-dollar spending plans for the state, had spent years drafting budget proposals for state Senate Republicans before he joined the Cuomo administration. For Hochul, he helped his new boss deliver a record $220 billion budget, thanks to an influx of federal funds and overflowing state coffers.
Last fall, Gov. Kathy Hochul lured Dr. Mary Bassett from Harvard to run the state’s beleaguered health department amid the delta variant surge. Bassett pledged she would be honest with the public after her predecessor concealed nursing home deaths. Now, she’s closely monitoring another COVID-19 variant surge – and recommending mask-wearing as numbers rise. She’s also looking to address the racial and health inequities revealed by the pandemic and is carrying out a comprehensive review of the state’s response.
Michael Mulgrew tamed a challenge to his leadership at the United Federation of Teachers in November, then faced down members who wanted to close schools during New York City’s omicron surge in January. The teachers union president said schools had enough rapid tests to keep operating and would not pivot to remote learning despite staffing shortages. Mulgrew’s patience paid off, and city schools scored a 4% increase in state aid from the budget. Now, he’s advocating for changes to the Panel for Educational Policy before mayoral control faces renewal this spring.
Losing New York City’s mayoral primary by a mere 7,197 votes opened a lot of doors for the former city sanitation commissioner and COVID-19 food czar. Kathryn Garcia ultimately took her talents to Albany, where she’s now in charge of dozens of state agencies. She has stood by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s side as the administration unveiled plans to conduct outreach to New Yorkers facing homelessness and to address rising crime in the state’s transit system. Garcia was also briefly considered as a potential lieutenant governor pick to replace Brian Benjamin.
Rick Cotton has been keeping millions of New Yorkers on the move, whether it’s rebuilding the region’s international airports or reconfiguring and revamping old transit hubs like Penn Station. In December, the Port Authority broke ground on a $1.5 billion expansion of John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 4, and in January, Cotton was also on hand to mark the completion of passenger facilities as part of LaGuardia Airport’s new $4 billion Terminal B.
Running the MTA should be easier in the Hochul era because Janno Lieber can do his job without worrying about a micromanaging executive breathing down his neck. But there’s still a lot on his plate. Lieber is responsible for managing the Interborough Express, East Side Access, and the Second Avenue Subway expansion. He’s also faced questions about rising subway crime and the failure of station cameras to capture the subway shooter that attacked straphangers in Sunset Park. Lieber has since demanded more police and a crackdown on fare evasion.
When landlords demanded building workers accept cuts to sick time and vacation, and to pay into their health care during contract negotiations, Kyle Bragg called the offer a “slap in the face” and primed his 30,000 members for a strike. With rents going up, Bragg reasoned that doormen and janitors who kept buildings clean during the pandemic deserved raises. The union reached an agreement with property owners for a 12.6% wage increase over four years, averting its first strike in more than 30 years.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was a key figure during budget negotiations with Gov. Kathy Hochul. Krueger questioned why Long Island was pushing to receive a $400 million racetrack and also argued for more transparency in the governor’s revision of a controversial affordable housing tax break, which was ultimately removed from the budget. A longtime good-government advocate, she was one of the top Democrats demanding then-Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin to resign following his corruption arrest.
Mario Cilento’s condemnation of Andrew Cuomo’s conduct effectively contributed to the end of his governorship. Cuomo’s successor soon got on Cilento’s good side, signing legislation to boost workplace safety and helping workers with long COVID-19 – and Cilento responded by endorsing Gov. Kathy Hochul early in the primary cycle and praising her deal to build a new Buffalo Bills stadium with union labor. Now that labor peace has been achieved, Cilento has focused on expanding union membership, which is still below 2019 levels.
The governor and mayor have beseeched private companies to bring their workers back into the office, but Kathryn Wylde has been more cleareyed about the economy’s shift toward remote work and how New York must adjust to make the outer boroughs more business-friendly. Wylde has opposed vaccine mandates for businesses and demanded better public safety on the region’s transit lines, citing a spate of violence on the subways as a reason why people are reluctant to return to the city.
The Southern District of New York upended politics once again in Albany when prosecutors charged then-Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin in April with bribery, conspiracy and falsifying records in connection to campaign contributions, resulting in Benjamin’s resignation from his position hours later. Williams, who is the office’s first Black U.S. attorney, has had no shortage of high-profile cases since his confirmation in October. His office successfully prosecuted Ghislaine Maxwell, who was found guilty of sex trafficking in December, and continues to investigate Rudy Giuliani’s overseas business activities.
The hospitality industry has been reeling from layoffs and the lagging return of tourism and hotel business travel since the pandemic started. That’s why Rich Maroko pressed Gov. Kathy Hochul for a $450 million tourism revival program that included a one-time $2,750 payment for 36,000 unemployed hotel workers and a $100 million budget incentive for employers to rehire them. Maroko is optimistic tourism will bounce back and was a champion of the state fast-tracking three downstate casino licenses, which is expected to create thousands of jobs for his members.
The state’s chief judge lost her top political ally when Andrew Cuomo resigned as governor, but she maintained her position. Since then, Janet DiFiore has proposed a court reorganization plan and contended with a situation in which more than 150 court employees and a Court of Appeals judge refused to get vaccinated and some lost their jobs. DiFiore also weighed in on the bail reform debate, arguing that judges should have more leeway in setting bail. Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers largely agreed with her and revised the law.
Lester Young Jr., who became the state’s first Black Board of Regents chancellor last year, was unanimously reelected in March, bringing stability to an agency that has seen its share of turnover in recent years. The state Board of Regents’ call for increased investment in education helped result in a record $31.5 billion in school aid for 2023, including a $1.5 billion increase in foundation aid. Young’s organization scrapped a controversial teacher assessment exam while recognizing 51 teachers who achieved a national certification.
The City University of New York’s request for a $500 million increase in operating funds and a $1.2 billion boost to spruce up its dilapidated facilities was nearly met in the state budget, thanks to Félix Matos Rodríguez’s advocacy. The state gave CUNY $53 million to hire more faculty, $69 million in tuition assistance and $965 million for capital projects, which Matos Rodríguez, who picked up an honorary degree from New York University this spring, called a “transformative spending plan” for public higher education.
The esteemed education leader put her reputation on the line to save then-SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras’ job after Malatras disparaged a former Cuomo aide who accused the former governor of harassment. Malatras ultimately resigned in December, and Merryl Tisch replaced him with then-SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley while launching a search for a permanent chancellor. In the meantime, Tisch has helped SUNY secure $1.2 billion in capital funds for SUNY campuses and a $255 million increase in operating support in the state budget.
Hope Knight was confirmed in May as president and CEO of Empire State Development Corp., following Gov. Kathy Hochul’s appointment of Knight to the economic development post last fall. Knight, who previously led the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. in Queens, had already been busy running ESD in an acting capacity, helping the governor to launch a state Office of Strategic Workforce Development and to dole out funds for the manufacturing and life sciences sectors.
The state budget was a mixed bag for the construction trades. On one hand, Gary LaBarbera was pleased the state authorized nearly $1 billion in financing for a new Buffalo Bills stadium with a prevailing wage provision. On the other, lawmakers excluded a tax abatement that real estate leaders say would have spurred affordable housing construction; LaBarbera is working to revive that provision before it expires in June. He has also pushed for better safety protocols at union worksites, which led to a decline in construction accidents.
Chairing the Assembly Labor Committee is traditionally a plum assignment, as it allows for stronger ties with New York’s influential labor unions. But Assembly Member Latoya Joyner has made the most of her post as a policymaker as well. She championed a construction worker protection law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul last year and is now pushing to peg minimum wage to inflation and productivity, and to protect warehouse workers.
The state Department of Financial Services likely experienced a culture shock when Gov. Kathy Hochul replaced a longtime Cuomo acolyte with a business-friendly former Obama administration treasury aide. Hochul tasked Adrienne Harris, the first Black woman to lead the agency, with protecting consumers and ensuring the state’s equitable recovery from the pandemic. Harris has also become the top regulator of the state’s burgeoning cryptocurrency industry. She has a reputation for being friendly to digital currencies but is already requiring companies to pay annual assessment fees.
Assembly Member Amy Paulin is nothing if not prolific. The Westchester lawmaker, who came into office in 2001, has had around 300 bills signed into law. And she often is the lead sponsor on headline-grabbing legislation, whether it’s a measure to allow indicted or convicted candidates – like a certain former lieutenant governor – to get off the ballot or proposed bills to combat gun violence. She’s also sponsoring legislation to reduce the high rate of cesarean sections, criminalize cyberflashing and allow human composting.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos has quickly become one of the leading young progressive voices in Albany. When the budget was proposed, Ramos pushed successfully for funding to subsidize expanded child care – although the measure did not cover all undocumented New Yorkers – and sought a minimum wage for day care workers. She got a tax program to offset farm overtime costs included and opposed a proposed extension of the 421-a tax incentive for developers. She’ll be a key voice crafting housing legislation during the remainder of the session.
Evan Stavisky has been on a hot streak that has helped expand gaming in New York. His firm helped convince lawmakers last year to legalize online and mobile sports betting, which went live in January. So far this year, New York topped all states with $2 billion in sports wagers, collecting about $80 million in tax revenue. Stavisky, whose mother, state Sen. Toby Stavisky, has also helped Democrats win enough seats in recent years to consolidate control in the upper house.
Since being reelected as president of New York State United Teachers at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Andrew Pallotta has grappled with teacher burnout and keeping schools safe while COVID-19 raged. Pallotta has stood by members who have been threatened for enforcing mask mandates while asserting teachers should be in classrooms. He estimates the state will need 180,000 teachers over the next decade and was instrumental in getting $31.5 billion in school aid into the state budget, including initiatives to attract new and retired teachers and to speed up the certification process.
While Gov. Kathy Hochul has distanced herself from her scandal-ridden predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, she hasn’t been shy about taking hefty campaign contributions from his former backers. Among the powerful real estate developers who have rallied around Hochul are Steven Roth, the longtime leader of Vornado Realty Trust. Hochul has also stuck with a Cuomo-era plan allowing Vornado to redevelop Penn Station as well as the surrounding area, with the city cut out of the process.
James Whelan is going back to the drawing board after his real estate lobbyists failed to convince state legislators to extend a lucrative tax incentive for the construction of affordable housing projects despite securing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s support. Whelan has gotten labor leaders on board and vowed to try again to pass the measure before the existing abatement expires in June. He also supports a bill that would end gas hookups to new homes and praised two transmission projects that would reduce buildings’ carbon emissions.
Often when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened a lawmaker, they’d play ball or fret privately. But Assembly Member Ron Kim went to CNN and dished. The Queens lawmaker had criticized the Cuomo administration for withholding data on COVID-19 in nursing homes, which led to a seething late-night phone call from the governor. And Cuomo’s resignation hasn’t stopped Kim from demanding answers or accountability for how the state handled deaths in nursing homes. His bill reviewing the state’s pandemic policies is advancing in the state Capitol.
The head of the state’s largest lobbying firm, as measured by annual revenue, has been largely pleased with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first year in office. David Weinraub, who has been a staunch Hochul supporter and donor from the beginning, has had high praise for her budget’s focus on health care, renewable energy and housing – especially since his clients include Mount Sinai Hospital, Albany Medical Center and several affordable housing developers.
Suri Kasirer’s lobbying business has boomed during the coronavirus pandemic. Her firm brought in $15.4 million in revenue last year – $1.3 million more than it did in 2020 and twice as much as her next nearest city competitor. Kasirer has worked to help clients like the Hotel Association of New York City and the restaurant industry nudge state officials for aid and permanently legalize takeout cocktails. She was also a host for a much-anticipated hotel association gala in May.
The No. 3 lobbying firm in New York has had a whirlwind year. Soon after Bolton-St. Johns celebrated its expansion to Washington, D.C., the firm responded to the ascension of Gov. Kathy Hochul by arranging a $25,000-per-plate fundraiser, with attendees restricted to the firm’s lobbyists and clients. The firm’s Albany operations are driven by Giorgio DeRosa and Emily Giske, who has since called Hochul’s drive “relentless,” and the firm again enjoys a tight relationship with the governor’s office.
The state’s leading government regulatory law firm continues to add talent to its Albany office thanks to the steadfast leadership of Harold Iselin and Samir NeJame. In the past nine months, they’ve brought in a top former state Department of Environmental Conservation official and the governor’s former acting counsel. Iselin remains the top health care regulatory attorney in the region, while NeJame has represented the Real Estate Board of New York, several developers and top tourism clients, including Lincoln Center and the New York Botanical Garden.
Pat Kane and Nancy Hagans have been sounding the alarm over nurse staffing shortages for years before the pandemic struck. So the two nursing union leaders were relieved when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the safe staffing law last June. But the law hasn’t been strictly enforced, and the omicron surge forced extreme staffing measures as hundreds of nurses called out sick. To aid in avoiding future crises, the union helped secure $1.2 billion in bonuses for front-line health care workers in the state budget.
Robert DeSalvio has big plans for Resorts World New York now that the state has expanded the number of casino licenses downstate. In August, Resorts World welcomed a Hyatt Regency hotel next door in South Ozone Park, Queens. Now, Resorts World will look to upgrade its Aqueduct facility to include table games in its bid to the state gaming commission after investing $1.1 billion into its site over the past decade.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera is an outspoken Latino from the Bronx, and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried is a wonkish septuagenarian from midtown Manhattan, but apart from those superficial differences, the pair of lawmakers has plenty in common. As chairs of the health committees in their respective houses, both have pushed to expand and improve medical care in New York and have championed the New York Health Act, a single-payer bill that hasn’t advanced. Gottfried, the longest-serving lawmaker in the state Legislature’s history, is not seeking reelection this year, making Rivera the state Legislature’s new resident expert on health care policy.
Neal Kwatra is driving key climate and energy campaigns. He is advising wind energy developer Ørsted, which has two major projects off the coast of Long Island, and is also pushing for building decarbonization. Kwatra also supported the authorization of downstate casinos in this year's budget and works for both Resorts World, widely considered a front-runner for a full-fledged license, and Bally's Corp., which won a state sports betting license.
As New York businesses continue on the long road to recovery from the pandemic, Heather Briccetti has kept their interests at the top of the state’s agenda. She’s sought federal relief for unemployment insurance costs and examined the effects of an antitrust bill that could put businesses at risk for lawsuits. The Business Council has also supported Clean Slate legislation to seal conviction records and get New Yorkers back into the workforce, as well as expanding health care for undocumented immigrants.
Tony Utano survived a challenge from two candidates and won reelection as president of Transport Workers Union Local 100 in December on a platform of securing federal aid and better working conditions for transit workers. He has since supported keeping the mask mandate for subways and buses, worked with the mayor and governor to remove homeless riders from the system and cheered on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget. Following a subway shooting in April, Utano honored front-line workers who helped passengers during the attack while highlighting the need for fully staffing trains and stations to respond to emergencies.
The Buffalo Bills’ playoff run came up short earlier this year, but Terry and Kim Pegula scored a huge victory when they secured $850 million in state and local financing for their $1.4 billion new stadium in Orchard Park. Gov. Kathy Hochul had touted the plan as an administrative priority since December, but downstate lawmakers grumbled over the giveaway, and watchdog groups warned the deal would benefit a company where Hochul’s husband works at. If that wasn’t enough good news for the Pegulas, the Bills are among the Super Bowl favorites for next year.
The state’s top prosecutors urged lawmakers to alter bail laws to grant judges more discretion when offering bail. Washington County District Attorney J. Anthony Jordan played a key role in the criminal justice lobbying effort, which got the governor on board and resulted in a rollback of bail reform legislation in the state budget. Hochul touted that the measure would prevent repeat offenders from being released without bail but, as they say, the jury is still out.
Jay Jacobs’ political career appeared doomed after he compared endorsing Democratic socialist Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton to backing KKK leader David Duke and when Long Island Democrats were swept out of power in November. But Gov. Kathy Hochul resisted calls to replace him – and Jacobs publicly supported her reelection. Jacobs devised a new third party that he believed would help Hochul and other Democrats neutralize the Working Families Party, but the plan received backlash and he dropped it in late April.
When Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed a $33 billion transportation capital plan to upgrade infrastructure earlier this year, Mike Elmendorf warned state leaders not to lose sight of basic maintenance work like paving and road resurfacing. Hochul upped her allocation to $38 billion, with $1 billion alone spent on fixing potholes over the next five years – but Elmendorf cautioned even that may not be enough. Elmendorf’s lobbying for more speed cameras in work zones following 200 crashes on sites last year has started producing results statewide.
Rick Ostroff, who was a legislative aide to former Gov. Mario Cuomo, launched his own firm 27 years ago with two clients: the New York State Monument Builders Association, and the Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association. Today, Ostroff boasts more than 115 clients and works with several nonprofits in the Capital Region, including Feed Albany, the South End Children’s Cafe, and the Albany Medical Center. His lobbying firm has recently been focused on the billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief and how that aid will help businesses and industries recover.
Endorsing Kathy Hochul for governor in January was an easy call for Mary Sullivan after she heard Hochul’s answers on how she would expand the workforce to deal with staffing challenges, improve diversity and provide access to child care. Hochul kept her promise with a $20 billion multiyear investment in health care, including $5 billion in pay reform and bonuses for health care workers. In April, Sullivan led her union’s biennial workplace safety conference to educate workers about safety protocols.
Wayne Spence has brought more attention to “mission-critical” public employees during the pandemic. Since he won another three-year term last year, he has led a successful effort to increase overtime pay for nurses at SUNY hospitals, rallied for higher wages at the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and pushed for more telecommuting options for state workers. Most importantly, PEF got the governor and the state Legislature to boost agency spending by 3% in the state budget.
The head of the State Street law firm and government relations outfit has more than three decades of experience advising clients in tech, health care and the insurance industry. Sean Doolan’s firm has raised money for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign while lobbying against a measure creating a utility consumer advocate. Doolan has also represented Centers Health Care, one of the state’s largest senior care providers, and has been one of the leading voices helping lawmakers shape several bills affecting nursing homes during the pandemic.
In one of the year’s most bitter labor fights, Catholic Health suspended health care benefits for its workers striking for safe staffing levels at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo as mandated by a law passed last year. Dennis Trainor condemned the hospital’s tactics and helped the union reach a tentative agreement with the hospital in November. Trainor’s next battle is helping New York’s freelance post-production workers organize for union benefits and hold a National Labor Relations Board election.
Recreational marijuana will be available to purchase – legally – in New York as soon as this fall, according to Tremaine Wright, the former state lawmaker who’s overseeing the rollout of state legislation authorizing cannabis sales. Wright, who chairs the state’s Cannabis Control Board, and Chris Alexander, who leads the state Office of Cannabis Management, were confirmed in September, before any other Gov. Kathy Hochul appointees, emphasizing the importance of expediting the marijuana rollout under the current administration.
Camille Joseph-Goldman has helped Charter Communications, the parent company of Spectrum NY1, navigate difficult headwinds as the state’s population declined while more customers cut their cords. But you’ll never catch Joseph-Goldman bemoaning the state of the telecommunications industry. She has stayed engaged with the state’s power brokers and was recently honored by National Action Network, where she is a board member, at its annual convention.
The Brooklyn democratic socialist lawmaker was so dismayed with the state budget that he called the deal a “moral travesty.” State Sen. Jabari Brisport voted no, in part because Gov. Hochul refused to consider raising taxes on the wealthy and funded two stadiums instead, and he sharply criticized the governor’s rollbacks of bail reform measures that the state Legislature had previously passed. Now, Brisport will be fighting for a good cause eviction bill that would protect tenants and a measure to divest the teachers pension fund from fossil fuels.
The Senate Democrats’ top attorney started a new role at the start of this year’s legislative session as chief of staff to the state Senate Democratic Conference, helping state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins shape the state’s legislative agenda. Shontell Smith had already been huddling with the governor’s top aides as the budget was being crafted and criticized New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ push to change the state’s bail laws that she had a hand in passing three years ago.
Name any establishment Democratic politician in New York, and there’s a good chance they’ve been on the client list of Global Strategy Group. The consulting firm, which got its start in polling and still is a market leader on that front, is a major player in Albany while also extending its reach far beyond New York and in the corporate sphere. Founders Jon Silvan and Jefrey Pollock have driven the firm’s growth for over two decades.
For the past three years, veteran broadcaster Susan Arbetter’s studio has served as Albany’s living room for politicians to introduce themselves, roll out policies and defend controversial moves like subsidizing a Buffalo Bills stadium. Arbetter has also used her platform to explore topics like the long-term effects of redistricting, decarbonization in buildings, the necessity of Regents exams and how the state’s recreational marijuana program will actually work.
The Queens-based lobbyist and political consultant scored huge victories for DraftKings once the state legalized online sports betting and for his gaming clients when the state expedited the authorization of three new commercial casino licenses in downstate New York. Patrick B. Jenkins, who is known for his close ties to former Stony Brook roommate Carl Heastie, who is speaker of the Assembly, has also worked with big-name clients like the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, Charter Communications and Bank Street College of Education.
Melissa Fleischut knows how bleak the landscape has been for the state’s restaurants. New York’s establishments are doing about 80% of the business they did in 2019, and restaurants in the city employ 30% fewer workers than they did before the pandemic. That’s why Fleischut pushed Congress to replenish the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund and for the state Legislature to legalize takeout cocktails in the budget. She was successful in Albany and now restaurants can sell alcohol to-go, with a snack, for the next three years.
Beth Finkel has been working to ensure her constituents have enough resources to afford their drugs, utilities and caregiving needs. This spring, the AARP led a campaign for a caregiver tax credit and supported raising homecare worker wages. Finkel also sought a $500 million budget allocation to help seniors pay any utility debts they accrued over the winter and praised Gov. Kathy Hochul’s order requiring nursing homes to maintain safe staffing levels after thousands of deaths in their facilities.
The budget might have been more than a week late, but Helene Weinstein worked to ensure the Assembly’s priorities were included when it was time to make a deal. The Brooklyn Assembly member helped pass a budget that included an expanded earned income tax credit, increased funding for education and child care, and replenished the state’s rental assistance program. Weinstein has since sponsored bills that would provide relief to homeowners facing foreclosure and allow families affected by wrongful death incidents to sue for loss of companionship.
At the politically connected law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, Steve Malito heads up a thriving state government relations practice from its headquarters in New York City. Malito, who has spent more than two decades at DHC, represents clients in a wide range of fields, including tech, telecommunications, construction, nonprofits and organized labor. Since last year, he has carved out a niche in New York’s recently legalized cannabis industry as chair of the firm’s cannabis group.
Nick Langworthy scored the biggest nonelectoral victory of the primary season when the New York Court of Appeals rejected Democratic congressional and state Senate maps for being unconstitutional. Langworthy had argued for months the redistricting plan was, in his words, “Hochulmandered” – and the courts agreed. Now the maps have been redrawn by a special master, and the primary is rescheduled for August, giving Republicans a better shot at winning more state Senate and congressional seats.
The Hempstead Assembly member has been the driving force behind a myriad of bills that help consumers, children and the environment. Michaelle Solages proposed putting mental health professionals in every school following the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and called for $15 billion to fund climate justice projects in the state budget. Since the budget passed, Solages has backed bills that would require insurance companies to reimburse hearing aid costs and would establish a stronger consumer protection law.
LouAnn Ciccone has worked to deliver on the policy priorities of the Assembly’s Democratic conference, especially during tense budget hearings that lasted a week after the deadline. Now, she is aiming to ensure Assembly members achieve their goals before the legislative session ends in June. A veteran legislative aide, Ciccone is now in her third year holding one of the top roles in the Assembly.
Blake Washington and David Friedfel have both adjusted to passing an emergency budget over Zoom, but this year’s negotiations were a bit less dramatic. The Assembly one-house proposal that Washington helped draft would have added $1.25 billion to a tenant assistance program and $500 million to help people pay utility bills. Meanwhile, the state Senate proposal Friedfel worked on sought the suspension of the state gas tax and more money for public universities. Both houses got some of what they wanted from the governor, though the agreement came nine days late.
Some state lawmakers tire of traveling from the districts to Albany, but the annual Somos gatherings – especially the annual trip to Puerto Rico – offer a respite and a chance to schmooze with colleagues in a sunnier environment. As chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, Assembly Member Maritza Davila organizes the Somos conferences, which are aimed at boosting Latinos’ political power in New York. Locally, Davila has also clashed with fellow Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who leads the Brooklyn Democrats, over the direction of the party in their home borough.
Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed a $10 billion health care plan in January that would reduce the number of regional Medicaid plans available to New Yorkers. That didn’t sit well with Eric Linzer, who argued it would lead to fewer choices and more disruptions for the state’s most vulnerable residents. Legislators sought to shut down the managed care idea and instead advanced a $20 billion proposal that expanded coverage for undocumented seniors – still well short of Linzer’s goal of providing universal coverage to New Yorkers.
The venerated civil rights leader turned 90 in March, months after being honored with a key to the city by New York City’s previous mayor. But Hazel Dukes isn’t slowing down anytime soon. She endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul after serving as one of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s closest allies until his bitter end, celebrated her decision to appoint Brian Benjamin as lieutenant governor and defended him after his shocking resignation from the position in April. Dukes continues to play a key role in the NAACP, co-chairing the planning group for its annual convention in Atlantic City this spring.
Michael Avella spent nearly a decade and a half as counsel to the state Senate Republicans. Christina Dickinson spent over a decade working for state Senate Democrats, rising to the position of deputy counsel. In 2009, they joined forces to launch what’s now Dickinson & Avella PLLC, an Albany-focused strategic affairs firm that understands the issues on both sides of the aisle. Among its recent clients are the Hotel Trades Council, Verizon, New Yorkers United for Justice and StudentsFirstNY.
Rochester recently relinquished its status as the Empire State’s third-largest city, a spot seized by Yonkers. But the upstate city hasn’t lost its voice in Albany, where first-term state Sens. Jeremy Cooney and Samra Brouk have been advocating effectively for its interests. Brouk, who chairs the Senate Mental Health Committee, championed legislation addressing maternal mental health that was included in this year’s state budget. Cooney has introduced legislation supporting the fledgling cannabis industry in the state and has opposed a proposed moratorium on bitcoin mining.
Governors come and governors go in Albany, but John Cordo remains. The longtime lobbyist launched Cordo & Co. in 2007, and over the years he has represented many clients. This includes the labor union 1199SEIU, the pharmacy chain CVS, and Genting New York, which is widely seen as a front-runner to secure a full-fledged casino commercial license at its Resorts World New York City establishment in Queens now that three downstate gambling facilities have been authorized by the state Legislature.
When Kathy Hochul became governor last August, she took her longest-serving aide with her. Jeff Lewis first met Hochul at an Iraq War protest. Over a decade later, Lewis has helped her manage two COVID-19 waves and the disaster response to Hurricanes Henri and Ida, and put together her executive chamber. Lewis has since left his chief of staff job to work on Hochul’s campaign. But his vetting of Brian Benjamin has come under scrutiny after the then-lieutenant governor was arrested for taking illegal campaign contributions.
Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, a young progressive representing lower Manhattan since 2017, announced last year that she was challenging state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, a fellow Democrat, in what was shaping up to be a high-profile primary matchup. But now that the final redistricting maps have reconfigured the state’s congressional seats, Niou is aiming even higher as she jumps into the new 10th Congressional District Democratic primary – where she’ll face the likes of former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Mondaire Jones.
Even though New York’s Democrats got steamrolled in last year’s elections, Sochie Nnaemeka believes voters are hungry for progressive policies. Her Working Families Party-backed challengers are Jumaane Williams for governor and Ana María Archila for lieutenant governor this winter, which spurred state Democratic leaders to create a new third party until Nnaemeka clarified that the WFP would support Hochul if she won the primary. Brian Benjamin’s resignation opened the door for Archila to become the state’s highest-ranking progressive official, but she’ll now have to face the new lieutenant governor, Antonio Delgado.
Last May, the Long Island Association named Matthew Cohen its president and CEO, making him the youngest leader in the business advocacy group’s history. The Schumer office alumnus’ top priorities include providing support to the region’s small businesses and ensuring Long Island becomes more affordable for young people. He’s already urged Google and other global companies to open a satellite office in the suburb and touted the region’s prominence as an offshore wind hub.
The former Guilderland town justice and state Senate counsel has taken on a number of clients in the gaming industry in recent years as the state has fostered the growth of sports betting and casinos. Kenneth Riddett boasts clients such as DraftKings and FanDuel, which have benefited greatly after the legalization of mobile sports betting, with New Yorkers placing $1.6 billion worth of bets in January. But Riddett also represents several professional leagues, including Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour and the National Basketball Association.
The government affairs powerhouse TBA has one of New York’s most politically connected lobbying teams: Tonio Burgos, John Charlson and Kristen Walsh. Burgos reps NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Greater New York Hospital Association, and Friends of the High Line while still making key decisions about the Democratic Party’s leadership as a member of the Democratic National Committee. Charlson has nearly three decades of experience in and around state government as well as stints at IBM and on the executive team of the New York Lottery, while Walsh previously served as Long Island regional director for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
A little over a year ago, Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel and Theo Oshiro took over as the triumvirate that runs Make the Road New York, an organization advocating for immigrant rights, better access to health care and increased investment in schools, among other issues. This session, they’ve been pushing state lawmakers to pass worker and tenant protections. If activist Ana María Archila, who co-founded and led Make the Road New York, wins her lieutenant governor race, the organization would have even more clout in Albany.
Tom Meara has spent nearly a decade at Kivvit, a consulting firm with an array of high-powered clients and offices in a handful of major cities across the country, including New York City. Meara, who was named a managing director at the firm in early 2020, is an expert in a number of industries and areas that are directly affected by policies put in place in Albany, including organized labor, criminal justice and energy and the environment.
Carlo Scissura was reportedly under consideration to lead the New York City Economic Development Corp., but ultimately opted to continue leading the New York Building Congress, a powerful voice in the real estate world. Scissura brought in Ralph Esposito, a longtime construction executive, as the Building Congress’ chair. They have pressed Albany for tax incentives to spur affordable construction projects and to move ahead with redeveloping Penn Station while working with the industry to make construction sites safer across the state.
After serving as the top legal counselor to the state Senate Republicans and in five New York City mayoral administrations starting with Ed Koch, Skip Piscitelli joined CMW, where he works with an array of trade associations, real estate developers, cultural organizations, nonprofit groups and health care clients. His firm has made waves downstate too, advising New York City Mayor Eric Adams on the city’s budget process and lobbying for grants for the Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has a massive war chest and the advantages of incumbency as she seeks a full term in office, but these three men are nonetheless taking her on – Rep. Tom Suozzi from the middle, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams from the left and Rep. Lee Zeldin from the right. A late March poll from Siena College showed Hochul dominating Suozzi and Williams in a Democratic primary, while polls from Republican consulting firms have shown a more competitive matchup against Zeldin in November – with a potential independent bid by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo siphoning votes away from Hochul as well.
Patrick Purcell, who represents some 18,000 laborers and contractors across the state, has been pressing for the Roadway Excavation Quality Assurance Act, which would require workers to be paid a prevailing wage whenever they jackhammer open a street to perform utility work. The proposal’s opponents say the measure would exclude a significant portion of the state’s nonunion construction workforce; the bill is currently in both the state Senate and Assembly labor committees.
In a state Capitol where Democrats occupy all statewide offices and hold sizable majorities in both houses of the state Legislature, the conservative critiques delivered by the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon and Bill Hammond help to hold those in power accountable. McMahon, a former legislative official, founded the center and brought on Hammond, a former Daily News columnist who scrutinizes state health care policy, in 2016.
Jack O’Donnell is widely known as an expert on Western New York politics and policy, but he’s also established a reputation as an effective advocate for his clients in Albany. The veteran campaign strategist and former staffer to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer launched O’Donnell & Associates just over two decades ago. His firm specializes in health care, organized labor and tech, and has served such clients as the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, Delaware North and the University at Buffalo.
As New York sets ambitious goals to transition to clean energy, major power industry players like National Grid want to make sure their perspective is heard by policymakers. Kimberly Ireland, who has been with National Grid for nearly a decade, brings plenty of insight to that effort, given her experiences working in the state Senate and Assembly, for the New York Independent System Operator and as an elected official, having served as a council member in the town of Ballston.
After Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, resigned thanks to a campaign fundraising scandal, she upgraded her vetting process and arrived at what appears to be a much safer pick as her No. 2: Antonio Delgado. The low-key ex-lawmaker brings diversity – and a moderate record – to the ticket as she gears up for reelection, although his exit from Congress opens up a seat that is now a prime pickup opportunity in New York for House Republicans.
Brian Benjamin’s resignation put the spotlight on two rising Brooklyn Latinas who have a shot at becoming the state’s next lieutenant governor. Diana Reyna, a former deputy borough president, teamed up with Rep. Tom Suozzi as his running mate in February. Ana María Archila, a nonprofit immigrant advocacy leader, joined Jumaane Williams’ ticket and progressives immediately rallied around her. Both candidates criticized a change in election law made to boot Benjamin from the ballot and pave the way for replacing him with former Rep. Antonio Delgado, who they’ll face in the primary.
This past December, Phillips Lytle LLP promoted Jeffrey B. Schwartz to lead its Albany office, succeeding Richard Honen in the leadership role at the same time that the law firm is aiming to hire 40 attorneys. Schwartz, who has been with Phillips Lytle since 2006, has handled a number of mergers and acquisitions in the Capital Region and specializes in startups and tech firms.
The Conservative Party’s foothold in the state may be small, but Gerard Kassar remains an influential voice among the state’s right-leaning legislators. His party endorsed Rep. Lee Zeldin for governor last June – with Republicans following suit in March – and gave perfect ratings to 11 state legislators. Kassar castigated Democrats for corruption after Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned from his position in April and celebrated the state Court of Appeals’ decision to strike down Democratic drawn district lines that would’ve hurt several conservative candidates across the state.
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