Archive for the tag 'elections'

Sampson (File photo)

State Senator John Sampson had just scant hours to celebrate his victory in Tuesday’s primary elections before a former top aide and Democratic consultant was found guilty on Wednesday of conspiring with the pol to defraud the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee out of $100,000.

Melvin Lowe, 52, was found guilty by a federal jury of wire fraud, tax violations and swindling the DSCC out of the cash in 2010. He faces up to 82 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines, according to the New York Post.

Crain’s details the scam, in which prosecutors said Lowe directed the funds to a political consulting firm that then kicked it back to him.

Twenty-thousand dollars also went to political consultant Michael Nieves, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing. Nor has political operative Elnatan Rudolph, a former Brooklynite who owned Cornerstone Management Partners and who received $5,000.

In addition, Mr. Lowe was convicted for tax violations for his failure to report more than $2 million in consulting income, causing his bank to make a false statement to his mortgage lender, and for defrauding a Yonkers resident of $66,000.

Lowe told an IRS agent that Sampson ordered the $20,000 payment to Nieves, although prosecutors found the consultant was owed no money from the party’s campaign fund. The fund was controlled by Sampson, who at the time was the head of the Democratic conference, and Sampson approved the $100,000 payment. Prosecutors told the New York Times that they had not yet decided if they would pursue charges against the pol in connection to the kickback scheme.

Sampson faces unrelated criminal charges for allegedly lying about his ownership of a liquor store and, separately, for allegedly embezzling $400,000 from the sale of foreclosed homes.

He won his primary election on Tuesday with more than 54 percent of the vote, and is expected to win reelection in November.

Sampson (File photo)

State Senator John Sampson is well on his way to reelection after besting three primary opponents last night despite multiple criminal indictments for corruption.

Sampson garnered 7,218 votes, or 54.17 percent of those cast – nearly double that of his closest rival, union organizer Dell Smitherman, who pulled in 3,981, or 29.88 percent of the vote. Homeless advocate Sean Henry, who ran a spirited and well-funded campaign, pulled in 1,668 votes, or 12.52 percent. A fourth candidate, Elias Weir, earned 3.44 percent.

It’s a strong win for the embattled pol. Prior to the election, some observers wondered if Henry and Smitherman would split the anti-Sampson vote and help usher in a victory for the incumbent; however, even if there was only one challenger, Sampson still would have won the Democratic nod.

The district is a Democratic stronghold, making reelection almost a sure thing for Sampson.

The pol will return to Albany in January, but will lose his seat if found guilty of the criminal charges on which he’s been indicted. He allegedly embezzled more than $400,000 from the sale of foreclosed homes to finance a political campaign, as well as separate charges for lying to the FBI about a liquor store he owned.

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

Nobody beats the ‘witz, at least not in the 2014 primary elections.

Fourteen-year incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz won his party’s nod for reelection to the 45th Assembly District last night in one of the closest elections in the borough. But it was a solid victory for the local pol, who bested challenger Ben Akselrod by a margin nearly double that won during his 2012 matchup against the same candidate.

Cymbrowitz gave his victory speech just before 11pm last night, when his team had tallied up initial reports from approximately 70 percent of precincts.

“It was a terrific campaign. We more than doubled our victory from two years ago,” he said of the preliminary numbers that came in before all votes were counted. “I want to thank every part of my community … This was really very, very special.”

Preliminary results from the Board of Elections show Cymbrowitz with 2,137 votes, or 57.2 percent of the total, versus Ben Akselrod’s 1,599 votes, or 42.8 percent. In both percentage and actual votes, Cymbrowitz showed sizable gains over his opponent, who he beat by just eight points, or 294 votes in 2012. The margin this year was 538 votes, or 14 points.

Voters may not have seen the last of Ben Akselrod in this campaign season, however. The candidate filed an opportunity to ballot on the Republican line, a procedure that could have him in the general election if he organized enough write-in votes from Republican voters yesterday. The Board of Election will take several weeks to count, review and certify those ballots to make it official.

The win appeared to surprise some political observers, who believed Cymbrowitz’s strength had been diminished by the growing political influence of Russian and Jewish voters in the district that they believed would fall more heavily to Askelrod, who is both Russian and Orthodox Jewish.

It was a tough fought and, at times, nasty campaign, with allegations of voter harassment on the Sabbath, mysterious race-tinged fliers, and anonymous phone calls that attacked the incumbent’s wife for not being Jewish.

Cymbrowitz alluded to one of those negative attacks in his victory speech.

“I particularly want to thank [my wife] Vilma for not only being a great support, but keeping her cool when she had to when the attacks started coming,” he said.

Cymbrowitz will now move on to the general elections on November 4, where he’ll face off against Mikhail Usher, who is running on the Conservative Party line, and possibly Akselrod on the Republican line.

Primary Day is upon us, so we’ve compiled some information to make voting as easy as possible.

  • Polls are open from 6am to 9pm. You can find where you should vote, as well as see a sample ballot, here. For example, neighbors living in the 45th Assembly District (Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Midwood) are going to see a ballot that looks like this.
  • If you need further help locating your polling place, you can call the city’s voter phone bank at 866-VOTE-NYC.
  • The city Campaign Finance Board also has a good resource page, detailing how and where to vote, who your candidates are, district maps and more.
  • The city Board of Elections has said that polling places should be accessible to handicapped voters, but if you find barriers to voting, you can call the Brooklyn Board of Elections at (718) 797-8800.
  • Additionally, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his office will operate a statewide election day hotline, at which you can speak with attorneys about problems at the polls, which will be open until the polls close at 9pm. Schneiderman is encouraging voters to report issues or problems at polls by calling (800) 771-7755 or emailing civil.rights@ag.ny.gov at any time until 9pm.

And, of course, if you encounter problems at the polls, you can let us know in the comments below or by emailing editor@sheepsheadbites.com.

Statewide Races

Every Democrat in New York State has the opportunity to vote in today’s primary, in which Governor Andrew Cuomo is being challenged for the party’s nod on the left by both Zephyr Teachout and Randy Credico. Cuomo is expected to win by a wide margin, but the race is being seen as a measure of dissatisfaction against the incumbent. Teachout, a Fordham professor who lives in Fort Greene, has been embraced by the city’s progressives for criticizing Cuomo as a lackluster economic moderate who has failed to come through on a promise to clean up Albany. The third candidate, Credico, who is also running on the Green line, is prioritizing reforms in the criminal justice system primarily by legalizing marijuana and releasing non-violent offenders.

There is also a Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor, where Cuomo’s handpicked choice Kathy Hochul is being challenged by Teachout’s running mate, Tim Wu. Hochul, an upstate moderate and former Congressional representative, has been on the ropes for most of the campaign, defending her liberal record to progressives. Both Wu and Teachout have used her as a prop to suggest Cuomo is more conservative than he lets on. Wu’s priorities are fighting corruption and dismantling corporate monopolies, while Hochul is focusing on the NY DREAM Act and the Women’s Equality Act.

For more on these candidates, check out the League of Women Voters’ Vote411.org project and WNYC’s Election Guide, both of which include questionnaires and profiles of each.

For an insider’s view of primary day, check out the guides from the New York Observer and Capital NY.

Local Races

Locally, the two races to watch are for the 45th District of the State Assembly and the 19th District of the State Senate.

Incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz is fending off a challenge from Ben Akselrod for the Democratic ticket. Akselrod lost to Cymbrowitz in 2012 by just a few hundred votes. Cymbrowitz has spent much of his campaign discussing his legislative record, especially in his role as chairman of the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Committee, and arguing that his seniority in the legislative body will allow him to do more for the community. Akselrod has largely sought to seize on popular resentment of the government’s response to Superstorm Sandy, as well as positioning himself as the faith values candidate for the Jewish community. You can read our coverage of Cymbrowitz here, and Akselrod here.

In the 19th District of the State Senate, incumbent John Sampson is fending off challenges from two well-organized candidates, Dell Smitherman and Sean Henry, as well as other contenders. Sampson is in hot water with the law, and is awaiting trial on charges of embezzling $400,000 from the sale of foreclosed homes to be used for a failed political campaign, as well as for lying to federal investigators. Smitherman, a union organizer, has lined up the backing of organized labor. Henry, an advocate for the homeless, has performed well in fundraising and is pledging to address issues of poverty and foreclosure plaguing much of the district. Read our coverage of Sampson, Smitherman and Henry.

– Additional reporting by Ned Berke.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and challenger Ben Akselrod sought to distinguish themselves from each other at a candidate’s forum for the 45th Assembly District organized by the Manhattan Beach Community Group last week. Although the rivals agreed on many issues, the two expressed different approaches to campaign financing and improving traffic safety, among a few other disagreements.

Cymbrowitz, Akselrod

Though the campaigns have been in full swing for many months, the two candidates for the Democratic primary had not yet done much to set themselves apart ideologically. Aside from an uninspiring dust-up over nominating petitions, voters had only the incumbent’s record and his challenger’s claims from his 2012 campaign to base their vote until Wednesday’s forum.

The two differed on public financing of campaigns, an initiative that watchdogs say would limit or eliminate the influence of special interests. Public financing sets caps on how much contributors can give to a person seeking office, and offers matching funds for small donations from individuals. New York City has a public financing system for the City Council and other citywide posts, while Albany does not.

Akselrod said he opposes public funding because the public should not pay for it.

“We have too much money going through government and this is where it shouldn’t be. We have numerous examples of people running for office … for one single reason, to get matching funds. I do not want people’s money to be involved in a campaign,” he said.

He did not provide any examples of such candidates. Public financing proposals all impose far stricter spending controls on campaign funds than Albany currently has, and funds cannot be used for personal expenses.

Cymbrowitz threw his support in for public financing, in line with the majority of Democrats in Albany. Public financing of campaigns has so far been blocked by Senate Republicans.

“For the last six years I’ve voted in favor of [public financing] … it has not passed the state legislature because the Republican Senate has not voted in favor of it,” Cymbrowitz said. “We’re very hopeful that this year after the November election the governor will put in a campaign finance program that Democrats in the Assembly and Republicans in the Senate will be able to vote for.”

Akselrod, however, did say that ethics reforms would be at the top of his priority list. One area he hopes to see reform is in the use of discretionary funding, a small pot of money pols are given to distribute to groups in their district. The challenger said he hoped to implement something along the lines of participatory budgeting (although his words were “participatory democracy”), a program in the Council where the community itself proposes and votes on such items.

Cymbrowitz pointed out that this year is the first time in five years that state legislators were given the funds. He didn’t directly answer the moderator’s question on how more controls can be put on the spending, but did note that the funds are used to keep non-profits and community organizations funded. He said oversight is provided by the agencies that the money is allocated through, which have their own criteria, not the legislators who steered it.

On road safety, both candidates said that enforcement technologies like speed cameras were not enough (and outright opposed by Akselrod). Cymbrowitz said more police enforcement was necessary, and expressed hope that the new leadership at the 61st Precinct and in the citywide administration would be more responsive. Akselrod pushed his proposal, first made in June, for mandatory driving courses in high school.

The event was cordial and the two rarely interacted with each other. They agreed on most issues including:

  • Medical marijuana – in favor of the limited program that passed in Albany earlier this year, and oppose full legalization and legalization of smokable forms of medical marijuana.
  • Moreland Commission – Governor Andrew Cuomo should not have disbanded it. Cymbrowitz said he looks forward to the Attorney General continuing the investigations.
  • Democratic National Convention in Brooklyn  - both said they were for it, noting the potential increase in economic activity.
  • Charter schools – a good initiative, but co-locations with public schools should be stopped.
  • Term limits for Albany legislators – they both opposed term limits, saying elections were sufficient.

Primary elections will be held on September 9.

Source: Wikimedia Common

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mayor Bill de Blasio appears to be avoiding Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods that supported his electoral rival, Joe Lhota, including Sheepshead Bay and Bensonhurst, according to a report in the New York Observer.

The outlet reports that de Blasio has held press conferences in neighborhoods where he performed well in November’s elections, but has failed to appear at all in the more conservative enclaves of Southern Brooklyn.

Mr. de Blasio, a Brooklynite, held press conferences in Democratic strongholds like Williamsburg, Bushwick, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York over the first seven and a half months of his administration. But along the southern swath of Brooklyn–in neighborhoods including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Boro Park, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Mill Basin and Bergen Beach–Mr. de Blasio has not scheduled a public appearance since becoming mayor in January.

Mr. Lhota bested Mr. de Blasio in those southern Brooklyn neighborhoods, in some election districts winning as much as 80 percent of the vote. Citywide, Mr. Lhota was crushed, winning only 24 percent of the vote to Mr. de Blasio’s 73 percent.

Prior to the elections, de Blasio sightings were fairly common in areas like Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach. After votes were cast overwhelmingly in favor of Lhota in those neighborhoods, he hasn’t been heard from. The Observer reports that some in the Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst neighborhoods are complaining of the same.

Public appearances are one measure of the mayor’s responsiveness to a community. Another could be the dispatching of high-ranking officials to those neighborhoods, and on that there appears to be mixed results. The Department of Transportation commissioner and Build it Back head have both engaged Southern Brooklyn communities and appeared responsive.

At the same time, the mayor’s office gave a last-minute denial to the Santa Rosalia Society’s request for a date change of the 18th Avenue Feast. The request was made to address community concerns about garbage pickup after the event, but the mayor’s office offered no explanation for the denial despite multiple requests.

Steven Cymbrowitz (l.) and Ben Akselrod (r.)

With two weeks to go before the September 9 primary elections, the Democratic candidates for the 45th Assembly District will attend a candidates night at the Manhattan Beach Community Group meeting on Wednesday.

The race is a reprise of the 2012 elections, with incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz fending off a challenge from Ben Akselrod. It’s been a particularly quiet race so far, although the candidates have traded barbs on such compelling issues as nominating petitions.

That could change during the 8:00 p.m. meeting at P.S. 195 (131 Irwin Street), where the two are both confirmed to attend and will face questions from the public about their views on various issues.

The group has hosted several debates and candidates nights for recent elections, and regularly asks tough policy questions submitted from group members and the broader public.

President Judy Baron emphasized to Sheepshead Bites that this event would be no different, and that all are invited to attend no matter where they live in the district. Questions can be submitted for consideration at the beginning of the event.

Sampson (File photo)

Another allegation has surfaced against indicted State Senator John Sampson, with a former top aide admitting to federal prosecutors that he swiped $100,000 from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and forked most of it over to a senator believed to be Sampson.

The Post reports:

Melvin Lowe admitted during confidential meetings with prosecutors that he defrauded the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee out of $100,000 – and gave $75,000 of the money to “Senator #1,” the filing says. A source said “Senator #1” is Lowe’s ex-boss, Sampson (D-Brooklyn), who is fighting charges that he, himself, also committed fraud and tax crimes.

… Prosecutors also said they have a witness who’ll testify hearing Lowe and Sampson discuss the cash exchange.

Lowe is facing tax evasion charges, as well as allegations that he swindled the DCSS out of the cash in 2010. He faces 80 years in prison if convicted.

Sampson was indicted last year for corruption. Among the list of charges is that he stole nearly half a million dollars from the sale of foreclosed homes.

Despite campaign debt stemming from the legal charges, Sampson is still a formidable contender in this year’s state elections. An incumbent since 1996, it remains to be seen whether union organizer Dell Smitherman or homeless advocate Sean Henry will be able to overcome his name recognition.

He also continues to have the backing of the Kings County Democratic Party chair, Frank Seddio, and an associate of the Gambino crime family.

Sampson (File photo)

More than 90 percent of embattled State Senator John Sampson’s donations for the last filing period came from one man: George Fortunato, a reputed Gambino crime family associate.

Fortunato gave the pol $10,500 last month. The next largest contribution was $500 from a lobbyist.

According to the New York Post, Fortunato is considered a “dormant” associate and not under investigation, although he has been identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in an extortion plot connected to Peter Gotti.

Sampson described the mobbed up Mill Basin resident as a “close family friend.” His treasurer confirmed that the pol went to Fortunato to seek the contribution.

The Post reports:

Fortunato, of Mill Basin, has been a Sampson supporter since at least 1999.

Sampson was his defense lawyer after he was busted on hate-crime charges in a 2003 attack on a Chinese woman in a Queens restaurant. Fortunato’s wife, Jackie, and a daughter, Annamarie, were also arrested.

Charges against Annamarie were dropped. George and Jackie pleaded guilty to assault in a deal that spared them prison in exchange for taking racial-sensitivity and anger-management classes.

Sampson was a sitting state senator when he represented Fortunto. That was also the same year Fotunato was identified as a co-conspirator.

Sampson is currently under indictment for allegedly embezzling more than $400,000 from the sale of foreclosed homes to finance a political campaign, as well as separate charges for lying to the FBI about a liquor store he owned.

Sampson’s campaign donations came under the scope late last month as well. His rival accused him of running a campaign with a $28,746 deficit, suggesting that the pol was hiding sources of revenue. Approximately a dozen donations also listed the donors’ addresses as the senator’s office, even though they did not work there.

israel

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

A large crowd of Brooklynites young and old, cheering and waving Israeli flags, united in Asser Levy Park in Brighton Beach [Wednesday] night for an emotional and music-filled concert/rally in support of Israel.

The event was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Zionist Organization of America, RAJE, DaNu Radio, American Forum of Russian-Speaking Jewry, Kings Bay Y, Jewish Community Relations Council of NY, JCH of Bensonhurst, Shorefront JCC, Hadassah, Emunah, One Israel Fund, Jewish Press, JCC of Canarsie, Jerusalem Chai, Coalition for Israel, Simon Wiesenthal Center and COJO of Bensonhurst.

In addition to Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, the array of notable guest speakers included Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Michael Miller, CEO of JCRC-NY; Assemblyman Dov Hikind; IDF Brigadier General Ari Tesler; Andrew Gross, Political Advisor to the Deputy Consul General; Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America; Leonard Petlakh, Executive Director of the Kings Bay Y, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, Rubin Margules, President of the Zionist Organization of America Brooklyn Region; and Eugene Shkolnikov, Russian-American philanthropist and board member of the Kings Bay Y.

Speaker after speaker took the stage and described why the concert/rally was so important.

“As so many around the world gather to condemn Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorists, it is imperative that we all stand together to show our support for the people of Israel,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. “Israel uses painstaking restraint not to harm citizens. We finally need to tell the world: Enough,” he said.

Rubin Margules, President of ZOA Brooklyn Region and chief organizer of the event, said, “We put this event together because it was important to show our support, to be counted and to stand together for the people of Israel.”

Morton Klein, President of ZOA, said, “What would America do if 80 percent of its citizens were forced to run into bomb shelters twice a day from rocket fire from Mexico or Canada? That’s the situation in Israel where over six million of the eight million Israelis are given 15 seconds to run into bomb shelters due to the 3000 missiles launched by Hamas. The world now condemning Israel for Arab civilian deaths is a diplomatic Kristallnacht.”

Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents said, “Hamas exists to kill. Israel sometimes has to kill to exist.”

Assemblyman Dov Hikind said, “”Thank G-d there are no sirens going off on 5th Avenue or 13th Avenue. Americans don’t know what it’s like to run for cover.”

A line-up of internationally known Israeli musicians performed free of charge. They had the crowd singing along to favorites like “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold)” and swaying along to “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Performers included Galit Burg Michael, Benny Elbaz, Sandy Shmuely, Ron Eliran and Gershon Veroba.

Throughout the evening the crowd vocalized its support with frequent shouts of “Am Yisrael Chai (The People of Israel Live!).” At the end of the night, with the moon shining as bright as the crowd’s spirits, community and Jewish leaders danced the hora onstage and led everyone in “Hatikvah (The Hope),” Israel’s national anthem.

One familiar song performed by Ron Eliran, “Kol Ha’olam Kulo,” based on a quote by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, seemed to sum up the exuberant mood. The song’s message speaks of the importance of moving forward with confidence despite prevailing uncertainty: “All the world is a very narrow bridge. The most important thing is not to be afraid.”

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