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Grassroots Bulletin

November Newsletter - Election Special

Congressional Mid-Term Elections          

With the U.S. House of Representatives all but certain to stay in Republican control following the November elections, attention is focused on the U.S. Senate where control of the chamber hinges on the outcome of a few tightly contested races. 
While future Republican control is not a sure thing, pollsters and pundits are predicting that Democrats will lose their majority. That possibility begs the question: what could it mean for the country to have the House and Senate under Republican control during President Obama’s final two years on office?  
The electorate has long been displeased with the pervasive gridlock in Congress. If Republicans hold the majority in both houses, Congressional observers suggest the Senate leaders will need to appear productive, acting on important policy initiatives, while also balancing the needs of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party – not an easy task.
To show that Republicans can govern effectively, they will likely focus on completing the budget, addressing the debt ceiling and moving appropriation bills in a timely manner without potential crisis or government shutdown, as often occurs during a divided congress. 
A Republican Senate Majority may also move some bills on healthcare, financial services reform, and energy that the House passed earlier this year with Democratic support.  The energy related issues could include approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and energy efficiency in government buildings. Republicans will also likely try to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act to force the President to veto it.  Senate rules require 60 votes to move most legislation. Support from the Democrats will still be necessary to get legislation to the President’s desk in a Senate controlled by Republicans.
In addition to addressing the interests of the Tea Party, political insiders believe the Republican conference must also pay attention to the conservative wing. This could mean a refusal to confirm judicial or other nominees made by the President.  Anticipating such a move, look for Democrats to try and approve all the President’s outstanding nominations before the end of the year. 
Big issues like tax reform will get more consideration in a Republican led Senate and House, but will not likely get done before the 2016 election. A grand bargain to address spending on Medicare and Social Security remains a long shot. Democrats will have little interest in working with Republicans on these issues in the hope that they will take back the Senate in 2016.   

New York’s Competitive Races:
(Eastern Long Island)
In a district that tilts slightly Republican, Democratic incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop is running against Republican Lee Zeldin, who is currently a New York State Senator.  Although Bishop has held this seat for the last ten years, his races have become increasingly competitive.  In 2012, his margin of victory was only 4.6% and in 2010, his margin of victory was only 593 votes out of 196,000 votes cast.
Cook Political Report Rating: Toss Up 

NY-04 (Central and Southern Nassau County)
Kathleen Rice (D) and Bruce Blakeman (R) are campaigning to replace retiring Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. Rice is currently the District Attorney for Nassau County while Blakeman is the former Presiding Officer (Speaker) of the Nassau County Legislature and has run for U.S. Senate and State Comptroller in the past.
Cook Political Report Rating: Likely Democrat

NY-11 (Staten Island and Parts of Southern Brooklyn)
Incumbent Republican Michael Grimm is facing Democratic candidate Domenic Recchia. Grimm has been charged with 20 crimes, including tax fraud. He is also under investigation for possible campaign finance law violations. Recchia is an attorney by trade and has served as a member of the New York City Council, including as Chair of the Council’s Finance Committee.  Despite Congressman Grimm’s legal challenges, a Siena College poll last month showed him in the lead, 44% to 40%.
Cook Political Report Rating: Republican Tossup

NY-18 (Orange and Putnam Counties and parts of Southern Dutchess and Northeastern Westchester Counties)
New York’s 18th District is one of only a few in the country where the demographic leans neither Republican nor Democratic.  First term Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D) is facing a rematch with former Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth. In 2012, Maloney beat Hayworth by a 3.7% margin of victory. Each candidate has just one term of Congress under their belts and over $1.5 million in outside money has poured into the race.
Cook Political Report Rating: Toss Up

NY-19 (Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, and Ulster Counties and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery, and Rensselaer Counties)
Republican incumbent Congressman Chris Gibson is facing a first time – and mostly self-funded – opponent: Democrat Sean Eldridge. Despite the district leaning slightly more Democratic than Republican, polls show Gibson in the lead. In his two terms of Congress, Gibson has become known as a moderate Republican. Eldridge is venture capitalist and married to one of the co-founders of Facebook.
Cook Political Report Rating: Likely Republican

NY-21 (Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Hamilton, Essex, Warren, Washington and Fulton Counties and parts of Saratoga and Herkimer Counties)
In light of Democratic Congressman Bill Owens’ retirement, two candidates are vying to represent this politically split district. On the Democratic ticket is Aaron Woolf, a small business owner and documentary filmmaker.  For the Republicans, Elise Stefanik comes from a small business background but has also been active in politics, including serving in the George W. Bush White House. Both candidates have been criticized for a lack of ties to the District.
Cook Political Report Rating: Likely Republican

NY-24 (Cayuga, Onondaga, and Wayne Counties and the western part of Oswego County)
Congressman Dan Maffei (D), who has served two non-consecutive terms in Congress, is vying for a third.  Maffei is running against former federal prosecutor John Katko (R). Although this race is ranked as competitive, the district leans Democratic. Katko has earned the distinction of being one of only twelve candidates in the country to be endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation's largest GOP organization that supports gays and lesbians.
Cook Political Report Rating: Toss Up

About the Cook Ratings:
Likely: These seats are not considered competitive at this point, but have the potential to become engaged.
Lean: These are considered competitive races, but one party has an advantage.
Toss-Up: These are the most competitive; either party has a good chance of winning.

New York State - Races to Watch      

On Tuesday, November 4th, New Yorkers will head to the polls as all seats in both houses of the New York State Legislature are up for election.  Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are running for second terms while State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in office since 2007, is also running for another four-year term. All three are Democrats.

Cuomo is facing off against Republican Rob Astorino, who serves as the Westchester County Executive. Cuomo has chosen former upstate Congresswoman Kathy Hochul as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor to replace outgoing Lt. Governor Robert Duffy.  Astorino’s running mate is Chris Moss, Sheriff of Chemung County.

Schneiderman is being challenged by John P. Cahill, who served a number of high-ranking positions in the administration of former Governor George Pataki.  Despite early predictions that Schneiderman was vulnerable, he is currently polling as the front runner.

DiNapoli is running against Republican candidate and Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci who, like Cahill, has had trouble getting a foothold with voters. 

With polls currently showing likely democratic victories in each of the three statewide races, much of the focus this election season is on the State Legislature.  With Assembly Democrats expected to retain their large majority in that house, the most hotly contested races are taking place in the state Senate where a power-sharing agreement between the Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) appears in limbo.

In 2010, four Senators broke away from the Senate Democratic Conference to form the IDC, leaving none of the three Senate conferences with enough members to form a true numerical majority. The IDC and the Republican Conference subsequently brokered a deal to share control of the Senate.

This summer, at the urging of Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo, IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced their intention to form a new power-sharing agreement post-election. However, many in Albany question whether this agreement will hold come January 2015, when the new legislative session begins.  The answer will likely depend on the outcome of a few key races on Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and Western New York.

Senate District 3 (Part of Suffolk County) – Incumbent Republican Lee Zeldin is running for a Congressional seat, creating a vacancy.  The Republican candidate is Town of Islip Supervisor Tom Croci.  The Democratic candidate is Adrienne Esposito, a longtime activist who heads Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE).

Senate District 7 (Part of Nassau County) – Republican incumbent Jack Martins, who previously served as Mineola Mayor, is running for a third term.  He is being challenged by Adam Haber, a retired Wall Street trader who serves on the Roslyn school board.  Haber ran for Nassau County Executive in 2013, losing in the Democratic primary to Tom Suozzi.

Senate District 40 (Parts of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties) – Republican Greg Ball decided not run for re-election, creating an open seat in this district.  The Republican candidate is Dr. Terrence Murphy, who serves as a Yorktown Councilman.  He faces Democrat Justin Wagner, an attorney.

Senate District 41 (Parts of Putnam and Dutchess counties) – Democratic incumbent Terry Gipson was first elected in 2012. He is being challenged by Republican Sue Serino, a Dutchess County Legislator.

Senate District 46 (Parts of Albany, Greene, Montgomery, Schenectady, and Ulster counties) – This race is a rematch of one of the closest races from 2012 – it was decided by just 18 votes, and the winner was not declared until mid-January.  Incumbent Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk will again face Republican George Amedore.  Amedore is a local businessman who served almost three full terms in the Assembly before he gave up his seat to run for the Senate.

Senate District 55 (Rochester Area) – First term Democratic incumbent Ted O’Brien is being challenged by Republican Richard Funke.  Funke was a television news anchor in the area for decades.

Senate District 60 (Part of Erie County) – This is a three-way race between incumbent Republican Mark Grisanti who lost the Republican primary to attorney Kevin Stocker but remains on the Independence Party line.  The Senate Republican leadership is backing Grisanti, and IDC Leader Jeff Klein has also expressed interested in courting Grisanti to be a member of the IDC.  The Democratic candidate is Mark Panepinto, a practicing attorney.   

November 4th is Election Day!


This fall we challenged New York City and Westchester students to show us why voting was important to them in the Con Edison Get Out the Vote Video Contest.  Students responded with creative and inspiring videos on the importance of voting and civic engagement. This compelling compilation highlights why voting matters. 

Your voice is important - Don't forget to vote.

For more information on voting in your district, visit: Conedisongrassroots.com/GOTV

An Interview with City Council Member Mark Treyger

City Councilmember Mark Treyger is the Chairman of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, which has been holding hearings all year in relation to Sandy-related matters. He also serves on several other Council Committees, including Education, Land Use, Aging, Parks and Recreation, and the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions.

Treyger was born in Brooklyn, NY on April 15, 1982, making him the first in his family to be born in the United States.  He grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.  He attended and graduated from P.S. 226, Edward R. Murrow High School, and Brooklyn College (B.A. in Political Science and M.A. in Social Studies Education). He currently lives in Bensonhurst with his wife, Christine, who is also an educator.

As the Chair for the Council’s Committee on Recovery & Resiliency, you’ve been focused on all things Sandy related.  How do you view recent resiliency efforts?
There is a vision and a plan in place to move our city forward in a more resilient manner, but the question now is whether we have the available funds to realize this vision. The city’s resiliency plan is estimated to cost $20 billion, but the city alone obviously cannot come up with those funds, so we need our state and federal partners.

Still, progress is being made towards better protecting our city, especially critical infrastructure, from future storm surges. One example of this is in our NYCHA complexes, which were hit incredibly hard by Sandy. The total cost for repairing the damage in every NYCHA complex is estimated to exceed $1 billion, and part of this includes steps to improve resiliency by elevating boilers and other critical equipment.
Government does not have all of the answers, which is why the administration is issuing studies and requests for proposals from the experts who have been working on these issues for years. Mother Nature may offer some cost-effective natural barriers such as dunes with vegetation that may work in certain places. In other areas, manmade structures may be necessary to supplement green-based resiliency measures.

Your district was hit hard by Sandy.  What would you like to see done there to avoid future storm damage?
As with the citywide resiliency efforts, the reality is that there is no single answer to protecting the southern Brooklyn coastline, especially the Coney Island peninsula. During Sandy, water from the ocean, Coney Island Creek and Gravesend Bay inundated residential blocks, causing extensive flooding and damage. We need a peninsula-wide and regional plan to prevent the storm surge from moving through the length of the beach. The plan to study options for Coney Island Creek is a good start to assess what is feasible and smart, but we must also look towards ways to protect the community from the Atlantic Ocean and bay.
In addition, we must also take other steps including replanting the thousands of trees that were destroyed by the storm or that have since died due to the saltwater, revitalizing our commercial areas and ensuring that we have a safe and carefully considered evacuation plan for residents, including the large senior population.

What are your thoughts on the Mayor’s Build it Back efforts?
There is no question that the current administration inherited a broken system that was not generating results for homeowners, renters, or co-op shareholders whose properties were damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. I have been frustrated with the incredibly slow pace of the recovery and the pain and suffering this has caused for thousands of New Yorkers.
However, I must give the de Blasio administration credit for hearing the complaints and issues that were raised at our committee hearings and instituting recommendations made during those hearings to speed up the process and cut the red tape. As a result, some victims have finally seen relief.  1,000 checks have been issued. There are some 656 construction starts and 108 completed repairs as of October 6. But those figures still only amount to about 10 percent of Build it Back applicants. I am pleased that the administration has reached several benchmarks this year, but I am careful to stress that the ultimate goal is to assist every resident impacted by the storm.
What else can we be doing to aid recovery?  What other issues is the committee looking at?
I am concerned that if it is not a storm from Mother Nature that drives people away from the coast, it will be a financial storm that will hit when FEMA updates its flood maps. I am very concerned about the prospect of thousands of additional homes and small businesses being included in the flood zone, which will require the homeowner and business owner to purchase costly flood insurance for the first time. It is my hope and expectation that we have partners in federal government to address this issue and help move forward with projects that will minimize the risk of flooding and result in lower premiums.
Finally, I remain concerned about the pace of the recovery regarding the many NYCHA complexes that were damaged.  Two years after Sandy, we must recognize the incredible amount of work that still remains and maintain the sense of urgency on behalf of those still displaced or impacted by the storm. 


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