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Ortt launches campaign with anti-SAFE Act pledge

  By Robert J. McCarthy

    If there is any doubt as to how Republican Robert G. Ortt is about to conduct his campaign to succeed George D. Maziarz in the State Senate, the Orleans County Fair should provide the answers Monday night.
  That's where the North Tonawanda mayor was slated to sign a pledge to repeal the NY SAFE Act, the strict gun control law championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and abhorred by conservatives.
   Ortt announced late Monday he will meet with members of SCOPE (Shooters Committee on Political Education) and sign the pledge at a 6:30 p.m. fair event.

Stocker irks GOP with Working Families effort

  By Robert J. McCarthy

   Kenmore attorney Kevin T. Stocker, the Republican challenging State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti in the Republican primary, continues to earn no friends among the GOP hierarchy.
   Republican sources in Buffalo and Albany are none too pleased about the petitions he filed seeking to wage a write-in campaign on the Working Families Party line  -- the same party aiming to help establish a Democratic majority in the Senate come 2015.
   Others take a burn to the candidate who portrays himself as a true conservative now seeking to run on what could be considered the state's most liberal party line.
   "When I talk with Working Families voters, we resonate with each other," he said. "There is a huge disconnect between them and party bosses. The voters are meat and potato families that work hard and are not liberal."
   If successful, Stocker would challenge Democrat Marc C. Panepinto on the WF line while simultaneously running against Grisanti on the GOP line.

Democrats seek to bounce Cuomo foe from primary ballot

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -– Democrats have turned to a lawyer who helped craft some of the state’s complex election laws to try to keep a challenger to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo from getting onto the September Democratic gubernatorial primary ballot.

Martin Connor, a former State Senate minority leader from Brooklyn and one of the state’s most respected election lawyers, is in charge of the legal team seeking to challenge the designating petition submitted last week by Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor who is seeking to run against Cuomo in a primary.

As is typical in ballot signature challenges, which will have its first stop before the state Board of Elections and eventually the courts, two unknown Democrats were tapped as the official objectors: Harris Weiss from New City in Rockland County and Austin Sternlicht from Rye in Westchester County.

Teachout submitted 45,000 signatures to try to get a place on the September primary ballot against Cuomo, who she has accused of abandoning a number of the Democratic Party’s core, liberal positions.

New York election laws can be difficult for challengers to incumbents to overcome and making a single mistake on a page of signatures can lead to that entire page being bounced in the counting process.

Teachout relied, in part, on gathering names at rallies and other public events, including street fairs, by volunteers not heavily experienced in the state’s election law. Such signature gathering is not nearly as safe as having party insiders going door to door seeking signatures from known Democratic voters based on enrollment sheets obtained from election board offices.

The law requires a minimum of 15,000 valid signatures from enrolled Democrats in order for Teachout to force a primary.

Connor was Senate minority leader until he was defeated in that post by then-Sen. David A. Paterson in 2002; Paterson, who would go on to become governor, is the Democratic Party’s current chairman. In May, Connor questioned whether Teachout was eligible to run because of his claim that she had not resided in the state for a minimum of five years. Teachout, originally from Vermont, has said she moved to the state just over five years ago.

Connor did not return calls for comment.

Teachout has been insisting for the past week that she gathered plenty of additional signatures to withstand an expected challenge by Cuomo or his surrogates.

Who precisely will be paying Connor’s legal tab is uncertain. A spokesman for the state Democratic Party, which is run by Cuomo, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The "general" challenges received Monday by the state elections board serve as an initial legal notice against Teachout’s signatures. The next step in the process is for Connor to submit the specific challenges to individual signatures or signature pages.

Video: Bob McCarthy on Steve Casey's exit from City Hall

First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey is leaving City Hall for a job in the private sector. The News' Bob McCarthy talks with Brian Meyer about Casey's exit and the new role he will play with a local development company:

Grisanti survives on Independence line; new entrant in Peoples-Stokes primary

    By Robert J. McCarthy

    The latest developments from the Board of Elections as candidates react to designating petitions filed last week:
   --  Republican Sen. Mark J. Grisanti is now assured of a line on the November general election ballot after the Erie County Board of Elections dismissed nominations of an entity calling itself the Erie County Independence Party. Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr said the board recognized earlier State Supreme Court rulings granting the state Independence Party the right to control all local nominations.
   As a result, he said the board invalidated the local group's backing of Democrat Marc C. Panepinto in the Grisanti district, making the incumbent Republican the official Independence nominee -- barring any further court action.
   The board also invalidated the local backing for Camille Brandon in the Assembly district formerly represented by Democrat Dennis H. Gabryszak; Betty Jean Grant in the Senate district represented by Democrat Timothy M. Kennedy, and for Christine Adamczyk for Cheektowaga Town Board.
   -- Niagara County officials reported objections have been filed to the Democratic petitions filed by Democrat Johnny G. Destino in the Senate district now represented by Republican George D. Maziarz.
   -- Erie County officials noted a new entrant -- Veronica Nichols -- into the contest for the Assembly district now represented by Democrat Crystal S. Peoples-Stokes, and also featuring challenger Antoine M. Thompson. Objections have been filed to the Nichols petitions, officials said.

NYPIRG: Cuomo continues tapping into the fattest wallets

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Grassroots fundraising is not Gov. Andrew Cuomo's game. So goes the number crunching conclusions by Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Indeed, 0.77 percent of Cuomo's donations the past four years have been in the $1,000 or less range, while 81 percent have come from deep-pocket donors willing to give him at least $10,000 apiece.

Here is Mahoney's quick take on the numbers after Cuomo and Republican Rob Astorino filed their campaign reports yesterday with the state elections board:

According to an analysis of the July 15, 2014 campaign finance filings reported to the New York State Board of Elections, NYPIRG has found that:

· Governor Cuomo raised more from his nine largest donors - $2,788,142 – than County Executive Astorino raised from his more than 2,174 donors combined.

· Governor Cuomo received aggregate donation totals of $40,000 or more from 317 donors. County Executive Astorino received $40,000 or more from nine donors.

· 81.37% of the money raised by Governor Cuomo this election cycle came from donors who contributed aggregate amounts of $10,000 or more. 44.92% of the money raised by County Executive Astorino falls in this category.

· 0.77% of the money raised by Governor Cuomo has come from donors giving aggregate amounts of less than $1,000. 16.48% of the money raised by County Executive Astorino falls into this category.


Unlike Maziarz, no subpoenas in Gallivan's office

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   When City and State magazine in May reported the now-defunct Moreland Commission's investigation of unitemized campaign expenses, Republican State Sen. George D. Maziarz of Newfane ranked at the top of the list.
   His expenses are now the subject of an investigation launched by a federal grand jury, and the veteran senator announced Sunday he will not run again.
   But second on the list was Sen. Patrick M. Galivan, R-Elma. The magazine said the commission charged with probing public corruption reported $80,000 in his unitemized expenses compared to $140,000 for Maziarz.
   While The Buffalo News has reported that several former Maziarz staffers have been served subpoenas by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan in connection with the probe, Gallivan said neither he nor any of his staffers is facing the same situation.
   He said Tuesday he has not been asked any questions by anyone other than reporters about the expenses.
   "I am confident we are in full compliance," he said.

Video: The Maziarz bombshell and its impact

George Maziarz's surprise decision not to seek re-election to the State Senate has sent shock waves across the political arena. The News' Bob McCarthy talks with Brian Meyer about the decision's impact:

Senator Diaz: Hochul's Bronx meeting a "deep, dark secret"

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Bronx Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. issued one of his regular "what you should know" emails earlier this evening. Today's topic: his visit this week with Erie County's Kathy Hochul on what he said was her meeting in a secret location -- even to what he said were invited guests until the last minute -- with Democratic Hispanic leaders in the Bronx.

Here is the unedited take from Diaz, with his own headline to the entry:

Kathy Hochul Comes to the Bronx and it is a Deep, Dark Secret

"You should know that earlier this week, Kathy Hochul, who was chosen by Governor Andrew Cuomo to serve as his candidate for Lieutenant Governor, responded to a request by Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. to come to the Bronx to meet with Hispanic elected officials.

The urgency that was conveyed to me and to New York's Hispanic elected officials by Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. convinced me that this meeting was not to be missed. There were five State Senators who attended the meeting: Senators Adriano Espaillat, Gustavo Rivera, José Marcos Serrano, José Peralta, and me. We were joined by seven Members of the State Assembly: Luis Sepulveda, Marcos Crespo, Carmen Arroyo, José Rivera, Francisco Moya, Robert Rodriguez, and Victor Pichardo. There were also three Members of the New York City Council who attended this meeting: Ritchie Torres, Maria del Carmen Arroyo, and Rafael L. Espinal, Jr.

All of these elected officials came from different parts of the City to meet in the Bronx for a 5PM meeting with Kathy Hochul - who, by the way, was so late that at one point, Assemblyman José Rivera stated he would leave if she made us wait much longer.

You should know that the meeting took place with no public announcement, no written invitations, no press releases, no media - even the venue remained completely confidential until the last minute. You should know that the meeting took place and it was a deep, dark secret.

As you know, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. to be the Co-Chair of the Cuomo 2014 Re-Election Campaign efforts. As such, and as a good Democrat, the Bronx Borough President's job is to go throughout New York State and New York City and try to gain support - especially among Hispanics - for Governor Andrew Cuomo and his running mate.

Among these responsibilities is to give Kathy Hochul a chance to cool off some of the flames of anger - and maybe even put out the fire - by holding a forum where she could explain and clarify her position on several serious issues.

I really don't know if Kathy Hochul achieved her goals. For example, when Senator Adriano Espaillat asked for her position on certain outstanding pieces of legislation, such as the Farm Workers Bill, that impacts mostly immigrants, she said she needed to first sit down with Governor Andrew Cuomo to discuss it. She refused to offer her opinion on that bill, and on others.

My dear reader, one more time, I was disappointed by the complacency of my Hispanic colleagues who did not demonstrate a united force to express our insistence about pending legislation to achieve our goals for our communities and our constituents. This is exactly why Governor Andrew Cuomo is laughing in our faces and doing what he is doing to our communities and refusing to make the Dream Act a reality.

You should know that this is exactly why I resigned from the Black and Hispanic Caucus, and from the Somos El Futuro: because what my colleagues in government say and do publicly is very different than what they say and do when push comes to shove in private meetings where real decisions are made. Their performance is very disappointing when it comes to making a difference in our community.

You should know that I held all of my questions because I knew that I would not get a response - but I want to know what she thinks about Governor Cuomo's mandate to New Yorkers who are extreme conservatives that we have no place in the State of New York. I wanted to know if Kathy Hochul thinks that I should leave New York because I am pro-life and because I support traditional marriage, and if she thinks the members of my faith community and other faith communities who share my values should all leave New York State. We all know how Governor Andrew Cuomo feels about this, so we really don't need to wait for her to sit down with him to ask about his position on these family matters.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. showed tremendous leadership skills by bringing all of these elected officials to the Bronx to meet at Hostos Community College and gave all of us the opportunity to question Ms. Hochul and gave her the opportunity to clarify her position on immigration, gun control and other matters that are important to our communities.

Even though her visit to the Bronx was a deep, dark secret, I believe that the Bronx Borough President did a wonderful job.

This is Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know."


Video: Jerry Zremski's Week in Washington

Buffalo News Washington Bureau Chief says things are quiet in the nation's capital, but he plans work on stories about the Buffalo Bills and discussion of a new stadium and another on the wealth of area Congressional delegation.

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |