Archive for the tag 'state senate'

Sampson (File photo)

State Senator John Sampson, facing three primary challengers and multiple federal corruption charges, has the backing of Brooklyn’s top Democrat even as his reelection chances look bleak.

The influential chair of the Kings County Democratic Committee, Frank Seddio, says that the organization is not formally backing the embattled pol. Seddio, however, is also a district leader in Sampson’s area and the head of the powerful Thomas Jefferson Club. In those capacities, he’s tossed his hat in with Sampson.

“I’m the local district leader in this area. John Sampson represents almost my entire political district, 59 percent of my district, and he’s been our senator for the last 18 years,” Seddio told City & State. “So our club is supporting him. The county (Democratic committee) doesn’t take positions on these types of things.”

Seddio has put his attorney to getting Sampson challenger Dell Smitherman, considered a leading contender for the seat, kicked off the ballot. The attorney, Bernard “Mitch” Alter, has formally requested that the Board of Election toss out hundreds of petitions – signatures needed to get on the ballot – which would leave Smitherman out of the race.

Sources told City & State that Seddio views the race as a test of his leadership within the county party, not just within the Jefferson clubhouse that Sampson is a member of.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the inner workings of Brooklyn politics described the situation differently, linking Seddio’s support for Sampson directly to the official Brooklyn party organization.

“Frank Seddio, the chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, is taking two races very seriously and as a test of his leadership,” said the Brooklyn political insider. “The first is the recently vacated seat of Eric Adams, and the second is the Sampson seat. He is doing everything he can … to ensure that John Sampson is protected and reelected.”

While the county organization might not be formally backing Sampson, there’s little to differentiate between Seddio’s wishes and that of county. Having Seddio’s support, for example, could give Sampson access to campaign donors eager to curry favor with the county boss, not to mention that it’s already given him access to election lawyers as the petition process shows.

Similarly, Seddio’s influence as county boss extends to all of his other roles, insiders say.

One insider with a Democratic club told Sheepshead Bites that Seddio was unhappy with the group after they released their first batch of endorsements, which included Smitherman. Seddio requested that he be consulted on future endorsements – a request that was granted as the club needs Seddio’s approval as a recognized chapter of the Democratic party. In that role, he was able to vouch for his candidates as district leader and head of the Thomas Jefferson Club, but his words were given extra consideration because he’s county chair, the insider said. (The insider notes that they now consult with him on all endorsements, although they do not always endorse the candidates Seddio supports.)

Seddio’s support is about all Sampson can count on, though. The 18-year-incumbent and one-time head of the State Senate Democratic Conference has seen support dry up, raising only $34,000 for this year’s campaign. Smitherman reports having $47,000 on hand, and Sean Henry reported nearly $56,000. Both Smitherman and Henry have also scored crucial union endorsements.

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.

Source: formulanone/Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio won a victory in Albany early this morning when both houses of the state legislature gave the green light to lowering the New York City speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour.

After concerns earlier this week that Senate Republicans could prevent the bill from coming to a vote, it passed overwhelmingly in both houses and has been sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

The measure is a key item of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to make streets safer and eliminate traffic deaths citywide. Several of the initiative’s proposals require approval from state lawmakers, including speed limits and the installation of speed cameras.

The idea was first floated by the mayor earlier this year, but received a tepid response from lawmakers. It became increasingly politicized, with Senate Republicans threatening to block it from coming to a vote as retribution for de Blasio’s calls for returning that legislative body to Democratic control. Senator Andrew Lanza, a Republican representing Staten Island, suggested as recently as yesterday afternoon that he would oppose the measure if it did not fold in his proposal to require stop signs be installed around all city schools.

Ultimately, de Blasio and traffic safety advocates won out in a down-to-the-wire vote during the season’s final legislative session in the capital. The bill was passed 106-13 by the Assembly in a late night session, while the Senate took it up early in the morning, passing it 58-2.

An earlier version of the bill called for the speed limit to be reduced to 20 miles per hour, but was quickly squashed by legislative leaders.

gentile

Gentile (Source: Gentile’s office)

Councilman Vincent Gentile of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst confirmed to the New York Observer that he is considering a challenge to State Senator Marty Golden, and told the paper that he sees the Republican’s support drying up.

If he runs and wins it will be a sort of homecoming for the pol, who represented the district in the State Senate between 1996 and 2002, before being unseated by Golden. After losing office that year, Gentile ran in and won the special election for the City Council seat vacated by Golden – meaning the two effectively swapped seats.

Gentile told the paper that the recent show of support for restoring Democratic control of the State Senate is galvanizing his interest. The Observer reports:

“It would take a lot to pull me away but certainly I understand the bigger issues in our state and the goal of getting a Democratic State Senate so based on that I am getting the input I should be getting and we’ll see in a week or two,” Mr. Gentile said at City Hall yesterday. “I am enjoying my job but I’m saying there are bigger issues here.”

The Observer’s story came on the heels of another report that a coalition was emerging to flip Republican seats in the Senate, and was eyeing Golden in particular. The coalition was birthed during the Working Families Party convention, during which Cuomo pledged to support Democrats running for the legislative body and to break the power-sharing alliance between the Republicans and the Independent Democratic Caucus in exchange for their nomination.

NY State of Politics was the first to report that the coalition was floating Gentile as a challenger, but it had not been confirmed until the Observer report. A source told the outlet that approximately $1 million has already been earmarked to unseat Golden.

Gentile is optimistic that the Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst portions of the Senate district are increasingly Democratic, boosting his chances – although he also slipped in a slap at the incumbent Senator for gerrymandering the district to rope in as many Republican enclaves as possible.

“I think my area has become more Democratic and eventually there will be smaller and smaller pockets that Marty Golden can rely upon so if it’s not this cycle, there will be a cycle very soon where he will not have the same deep support that he used to have in the same district that he drew, that he drew the lines for,” Gentile told the Observer.

While that may be true in Bay Ridge, Golden remains popular in Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach – conservative-leaning areas where Gentile is relatively unknown.

What this means for another Democratic challenger to Golden, Jamie Kemmerer, is not yet known. Kemmerer told this outlet last month that he decided to run only once Gentile personally urged him to do so. Kemmerer could drop out and throw his support behind Gentile if he chooses to run – or he could squabble with his former backer in a primary.

Source: smokershighlife/Flickr

The bill legalizing medical marijuana passed the State Senate Health Committee on Tuesday, bringing it a step closer to law.

While advocates, including the bill’s sponsor, Senator Diane Savino, celebrated, Capital New York turned to one of the bill’s main opponents, Senator Marty Golden, for his thoughts. What followed was a pretty interesting exchange, in which Republican Golden argues for federal oversight, while Democrat Savino portrays it as a states’ rights issue in which New York must lead the way:

Golden said he believed medical marijuana would be legal at some point in New York, but “I don’t believe it should be now.” He said he would be inclined to support medical marijuana when the Food and Drug Administration supports it at the federal level.

Savino delivered an impassioned response.

“I wish, I really wish that the F.D.A. would move, but as it’s been noted in the past, the F.D.A takes its own sweet time,” Savino said. “In the meantime, people suffer. Children suffer. People die.

“Why is it so important for us to act before the F.D.A finally decides to do it? Because in so many ways, Senator Golden, New York is the watershed state,” she said. “As New York goes, so goes the nation. And we, if we are successful in establishing the tightest most regulated program in the country, we will become the model and the F.D.A. will finally acknowledge that they have been sticking their head in the sand about this issue for far too long.”

I’m not quite sure when, in the course of recent history, Democrats became the party of states’ rights and Republicans became the party of broader federal powers, but medical marijuana is hardly the only issue to exhibit the new paradigm (DOMA, anybody?).

Regardless, it’s not yet clear whether the bill will come to a floor for a full vote during the current session. Although it’s garnered some Republican support, and Savino said she has enough votes to pass it, Republican leadership remains cold to the idea and introduced a competing bill last week that does not allow any smokeable forms of the drug to be used for any reason.

Guys. Hey, guys. Chill out. Light some incense, man. Maybe put on some Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Groove for a minute in that beanbag chair.

Then pick up the phone and call your state lawmaker and tell them that their opposition to the Compassionate Care Act legalizing medical marijuana is just, like, their opinion, man. And they should get over it. And vote yes.

If your state Senator is Diane Savino, that’s one less phone call you’ll have to make, because she’s the one telling you to do this. Savino released a video this week making her case for the legislation, which she sponsored and continues to spearhead.

NYStateOfPolitics reports:

[Savino] and the Assembly sponsor, Manhattan Democrat Richard Gottfried, have amended [the act] in hopes of appealing to their on-the-fence colleagues who tend to be more conservative on this issue.

Changes include a ban on people under 21 from smoking pot and changes to the medical conditions that would be covered by the new law – for example, glaucoma is out, but rheumatoid arthritis is in. The amended act also creates an advisory panel that includes medical experts to guide the implementation of the law and prevent a free-for-all from occurring.

Savino, who represents Coney Island, Gravesend, Brighton Beach, Bath Beach and Staten Island, told the outlet she has 39 “yes” votes, enough to pass the act in the Senate. It could come to the floor soon.

You can watch the video in full above, but here’s the gist of it:

“This bill will will ensure that those suffering with the most debilitating illnesses have access to the safe and responsible use of medical marijuana. Right now, 21 states have already adopted their own medical marijuana laws, and others are following their lead. It’s time New York gets with the program.”

… “We shouldn’t handcuff our doctors from making the best decision on how to treat their patients. We may have the facts on our side – but we still need your support. That’s why I’m asking you to contact your legislator and urge them to vote for the Compassionate Care Act. It’s the right thing to do. Together — with your help — I know we’ll make this a reality. Thank you.”

Kemmerer via LinkedIn

Kemmerer via LinkedIn

Political activist and executive director of the Bay Ridge Democrats, Jamie Kemmerer, will formally announce his bid to represent the 22nd District in the State Senate on Monday, challenging 12-year Republican incumbent Marty Golden for his seat.

“The speculation is true. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we’re going to try and put [an announcement] out on Monday,” Kemmerer, 41, told us by phone today, confirming a report this morning by City & State that said the small business owner and Ridge resident was considering a challenge.

The Bay Ridge Democrats, a progressive Democratic club that has seen its influence rise after becoming an early backer of Bill de Blasio during the mayoral campaign, voted to endorse Kemmerer last night. Kemmerer has not yet filed a committee with the state, but said he will do so soon.

City & State reported:

Kemmerer has never run for public office before, but already local officials are expected to throw their weight behind his candidacy, including Councilman Vincent Gentile, who took over Golden’s Council seat after losing his Senate seat to him in 2002. Kemmerer made some waves in February after accusing Golden of “money laundering” by spending large amounts of campaign contributions at his brother’s catering hall in Bay Ridge.

Kemmerer told us that he not only has the backing of Gentile already, but that the Bensonhurst-Bay Ridge councilman, who has been engaged in a longtime rivalry with Golden, was key to influencing him to run.

“I had been approached by some district leaders [including Joanne Seminara, chairperson of Community Board 10 and the female Democratic District Leader of the 60th Assembly District] and thought about it a bit but wasn’t sure if now was the time,” explained Kemmerer. “I certainly believed someone should run against him. Then Gentile asked me to do it as well, and given all the recent issues with corruption and campaign finance questions, some of which you’ve reported on, and some of the other things going on, I began thinking about it more seriously. Putting all those factors together, it’s something that I think is important to do.”

Kemmerer is a Pennsylvania native who moved to Brooklyn with his wife approximately a decade ago. He runs a marketing and technology firm, and blogs on a personal website about politics affecting Bay Ridge residents.

Between servicing clients and the cries of his 21-month-old son, Kemmerer declined to discuss details of his platform or his thoughts on Golden until the Monday announcement.

However, he did note that a top priority for his campaign will be addressing ongoing concerns stemming from Superstorm Sandy, which hit a large portion of the district, including Gerritsen Beach, Sheepshead and Manhattan Beach.

“I’ve been very active in Hurricane Sandy work. I’m a founding member of the Brooklyn Long-Term Recovery Group,” a community organization that helps steer victims to resources, he said. “Issues around Sandy, and not just the immediate issues of getting people back in their homes, but about resiliency and infrastructure, are important to me, and that will be at the top of the list.”

He also said he will campaign for fair elections and ethics reform in Albany.

Golden, the only Republican state senator in Brooklyn, has coasted to victory with only marginal opposition in most elections during his tenure. That changed in 2012 when Andrew Gounardes, also out of the Bay Ridge Democrats, mounted a heated campaign featuring feisty debates and well-coordinated attacks told through press releases and campaign literature. Golden won out, but with a relatively narrow margin. He racked up 58.1 percent of the vote to Gounardes’ 41.9 percent. 

John Sampson (center) (Source: nysenate.gov)

The list of challengers to State Senator John Samspon’s seat continues to grow. Dell Smitherman has officially announced his candidacy and is building support with labor groups in a race that Crain’s New York Business believes could have “broader implications” for the balance of power in the State Senate.

Sampson has been the subject of several corruption investigations, but he won’t be going to trial until after the elections, leaving him free to run for re-election if he chooses to.

Crain’s reports:

Dell Smitherman is starting to line up major labor support in a race that could have broader implications in the state Senate. He’s landed the early backing of Communications Workers of America District 1, and the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) Region 9A, Mr. Smitherman’s campaign said Monday.

In the meantime, Mr. Sampson, a Democrat who once led the state Senate, has been kicked out of the main Senate Democratic conference, which could have implications in a chamber where Republicans maintain a narrow majority in collaboration with five Democrats. The race in the Canarsie-based district is also symbolically important for Senate Democrats, who are trying to clean up their image after a number of members encountered legal troubles.

Sampson’s 19th District also covers a large part of Sheepshead Bay, and a challenger named Sean Henry announced his candidacy earlier this year.

While Henry announced the backing of 300 voters in the district last month, Smitherman’s labor friends may have a little more political clout.

Crain’s writes:

In a statement, Chris Shelton, vice president of CWA District 1, said Mr. Smitherman was a “committed, tireless and successful advocate for working people” and the union would do whatever it could to ensure his election. And Julie Kushner, President of UAW Region 9A, said she hoped Mr. Smitherman would bring “new energy” to the state Senate.

Another possible candidate who hasn’t officially announced that he will be running is Samuel Pierre, who heads a nonprofit and is a former staffer of Sampson’s.

Sampson (File photo)

State Senator John Sampson, who represents parts of Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park, racked up the fifth highest Senate travel bill, which will be paid by taxpayers.

Sampson, who served as Senate leader in 2009 when Democrats briefly controlled the body, has been charged with embezzlement, for which he has pleaded not guilty. Two other colleagues who also made headlines last year for corruption charges – Malcolm Smith and Eric Stevenson – filled out two more of the top five travel spenders in the Senate.

The local pol collected $15,449 in per diems, in addition to $9,068 for travel expenses related to gas, mileage and tolls, according to the Daily News.

Per diems are paid out by the taxpayers for each day the legislators spend in Albany rather than their district. Additional travel expenses can be reimbursed if on legislative business. The reimbursement system has come under fire for rampant abuse in the past, with some pols claiming trips to Albany – and being reimbursed the per diem, gas and tolls – when they were actually elsewhere,  including vacation.

Sampson, Smith and Stevenson also curiously put in for per-diem reimbursements all year long, even though the legislative session ends in June.

Source: Nathan James/Flickr

Legislation aimed at reducing auto insurance fraud in New York State passed the Senate on Monday, bringing the bill which allows insurance companies to retroactively cancel the policies of fraudsters one step closer to law.

The Senate bill was sponsored by State Senator Marty Golden, who describes it in this press release:

Today the New York State Senate passed S1959A, sponsored by Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), which allows insurance companies to retroactively cancel policies taken out by people who commit auto fraud. These criminals often take out policies and pay for them with bad checks or stolen credit cards just before they stage accidents. Under current law, insurance companies cannot cancel the policy and policyholders wind up paying for it through higher premiums. This bill would take that burden off honest consumers and therefore lower the insurance rates.

“Auto insurance fraud is costing New Yorkers millions of dollars, and it’s time that fair and honest members of our community stop paying for the crimes of others,” stated Senator Golden. “This legislation will give insurance companies the right to revoke insurance policies for those who try to game the system.”

This measure would bring New York in line with the other large no-fault states and remove any incentives for staged accidents. In fact, only seven other states (AZ, CO, KS, ME, MD, NC and SD) do not allow for retroactive cancellation. Innocent victims of uninsured drivers would be covered under their own policy or the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation.

The bill, which you can read here, now moves onto the Democratic-led Assembly, where it has support from a number of Democrats, including local Assembly members Steven Cymbrowitz and Dov Hikind.

Previous versions of this bill – and two others passed by the Senate to combat auto fraud – died in the Assembly.

Auto fraud continues to be an ongoing issue in Southern Brooklyn. The longest-running and largest auto insurance scam ring in history ended in April 2012, when authorities busted 36 individuals – many of them Southern Brooklyn residents – using anti-Mafia RICO laws. The individuals were accused of exploiting New York’s “no-fault” insurance law, which allows drives and passengers to obtain up to $50,000 for accidents injuries regardless of fault.

Prior to that, another ring was busted in Brooklyn, leading to the arrest of 16 people for allegedly ripping off companies for $400,000 between 2009 and 2011.

State Senator Marty Golden. Photo by Erica Sherman

State Senator Marty Golden said he won’t support the New York Dream Act, legislation that would allow undocumented residents in New York to have access to tuition assistance for higher education.

Up until recently, Golden wouldn’t have even needed to address this issue because the bill seemed all but dead. The bill was first introduced three years ago by Senator Bill Perkins and had never gained much steam, according to an article by NBC New York. But with the support of New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and several Democratic lawmakers, the bill has gained momentum.

It passed in the Democratic-led Assembly and now waits approval in the Senate – where Republicans and conservative Democrats are stalling. Golden is among those opposed to the bill.

NBC New York writes:

Advocates for the Dream Act say they hope to convince Republican Sens. Martin Golden, Lee Zeldin and Andrew Lanza to back the legislation. Golden said he doesn’t support the Dream Act, but would back a “Dream Fund” to provide scholarships through private sources. Zeldin and Lanza didn’t return calls seeking comment.

If passed, the bill would include a budget of $25 million through the Tuition Assistance Program for illegal immigrant students in public and private colleges.

It’s unclear how many students would be able to access this fund but according to a report  by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, 8,300 such students in the CUNY and SUNY systems would qualify. Currently, New York’s laws are more lenient than many other states when dealing with such students. It is among 16 states that  allow those students to pay in-state tuition, which is significantly cheaper than paying out-of-state rates.

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