Archive for December 2014

LI politics’ winners and losers in 2014 – By George J. Marlin

December 9, 2014

The following appears in the December 5-11, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

Here’s my take on those who gained and those who lost ground in this year’s game of Long Island politics.

WINNERS

Tom DiNapoli: The state comptroller from Great Neck is this year’s biggest winner. Re-elected with 60 percent of the vote, he topped Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vote total by 180,000. In the unlikely event Cuomo seeks a third term, he may have to rely on DiNapoli’s coattails to get over the electoral finish line.

Lee Zeldin: He had the guts to give up a safe state Senate seat to take on Tim Bishop, who easily beat him in their first faceoff in 2008. Zeldin proved his mettle in the Republican primary, handily fending off challenger George Demos, a political ne’er-do-well whose family spent a fortune on his campaign. In the fall, Zeldin ran an impressive campaign against the ethically challenged incumbent and shocked political wags when he won by 16 percentage points. Expect Zeldin to be a rising star in the GOP.

Kathleen Rice: Despite a lackluster campaign, the Nassau DA managed to squeak by on Election Day, winning her race in the 4th Congressional District with 52 percent of the vote. She’s fortunate her Republican opponent was a political knucklehead.

Dean Skelos: Thanks to Cuomo sitting on the sideline, the GOP picked up just enough seats to make Skelos majority leader of the state Senate. But will he blow it again and condemn the GOP to permanent minority status? He will, if he supports a Democratic-lite agenda and continues to be Cuomo’s political knave.

John M. Kennedy Jr.: Shunned by most of Suffolk’s political establishment, Kennedy was elected county comptroller solely on the Republican line with 53 percent of the vote. As fiscal watchdog, he’ll give the county executive plenty of heartburn – and might be the guy to take down Bellone in the next election.

LOSERS

Bruce Blakeman: His loss in the 4th Congressional District qualifies him as the Harold Stassen of the New York Republican Party. The voters have rejected him for state comptroller in 1998, for county legislator in 1999, for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and in November for the U.S. House of Representatives. Hopefully, Nassau’s top political narcissist has finally realized the voters are not enamored of him.

Jon Kaiman: The NIFA chairman’s boast that the deal he negotiated to lift the Nassau public employee wage freeze was cost-neutral was, as predicted, wrong. It will cost taxpayers an extra $70 million a year. Kaiman, the governor’s top political lackey on Long Island, has turned NIFA from a fiscal watchdog to a lapdog.

Ed Mangano: The Nassau County executive’s lies about the county’s fiscal condition have caught up with him. His 2015 budget, which he promised would be GAAP-balanced, is out of whack to the tune of $210 million. In the out years, projected deficits are $259 million in 2016, $295 million in 2017 and $325 million in 2018. Re-elected a year ago on the platform that he didn’t raise taxes, Mangano was exposed this year as the fiscal emperor with no clothes when he raised taxes for next year by 3.2 percent. Mangano should spend less time playing poker at Oheka Castle and more time reading Municipal Finance 101 textbooks.

David Denenberg: That Denenberg thought he could be elected to the state Senate when his former law partners were about to file a lawsuit accusing him of defrauding a client of more than $2 million (and of forging the signatures of two judges on court orders) is beyond my comprehension. He’s either incredibly delusional or dumb or both.

Ed Walsh: The Suffolk Conservative Party chairman is being investigated by the FBI over allegations he collected his salary as a county Corrections Department lieutenant for hours he didn’t work. His boss, the county sheriff, is attempting to fire him. For the sake of the Conservative Party, which was founded on the notion that principles matter more than financial gain, Walsh should resign.

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Cuomo: The winner who actually lost – By George J. Marlin

December 1, 2014

The following appears in the November 21-27, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

Despite a national Republican tsunami in 2010, Democrat Andrew Cuomo was elected governor with a whopping 63 percent of the vote.

Armed with that mandate and with the White House in his sights, Cuomo initially governed from the center and began to fix the fiscal mess created by his three immediate predecessors, Govs. George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.

But this approach to governing did not last. By the end of his first term, he managed to infuriate plenty of voters.

On the one hand, his anti-fracking, anti-gun, anti-traditional-marriage stands – not to mention his tax increases – energized opposition among suburban blue-collar conservatives and upstate rural Republicans. On the other, the angst he caused in New York’s bluest quarters forced the extremist Working Families Party to publicly condemn him, to make him beg for their nomination and to agree to expend his treasure and time on electing a Democratic state Senate.

Also, Cuomo’s overall attitude didn’t help. His contempt for retail politics and his micromanaging and bullying alienated most of New York’s political establishment.

Despite these woes, to keep his White House hopes alive (just in case Hillary doesn’t run, or she somehow falters), Cuomo’s main goal this fall was to best the 65 percent his father earned in his 1986 second-term victory.

To achieve that end, Cuomo’s campaign spent millions on negative advertising falsely portraying his Republican opponent, West-chester County Executive Rob Astorino, as a felon. The campaign also limited Cuomo appearances to small, totally controlled, invitation-only events, and discarded those promises made to the Working Families Party.

This approach backfired. Cuomo was re-elected with only 53 percent of the vote, receiving 1 million fewer votes than he did in 2010. It was the lowest count for a Democratic victor since Franklin Roosevelt in 1930, when the state had 12 million people (it has 19 million today).

Upstate, Cuomo carried 13 counties, down from 37 in 2010. On Long Island, his margin in Nassau County was down 8 percentage points, for a total of 52.5 percent. As for Suffolk County, four years ago he garnered 58 percent, this time 47.5 percent.

Most interestingly, Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli – whom Cuomo tried to knock off the party ticket in 2010 – humiliated the governor by leading the statewide ticket with 2.104 million votes. DiNapoli was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote and topped Cuomo’s total by 180,000.

Cuomo’s strategy depressed the Democratic turnout and helped Republicans pick up three Congressional seats (25 percent of their national gains) and secure outright control of the state Senate. And Astorino, who ran a respectable campaign on a shoestring budget of $4.8 million, received 41 percent, the highest GOP total for governor in 12 years.

After analyzing the results, The New York Times rightly proclaimed on Nov. 5: “Cuomo wins a second term, but his aura of invincibility is gone.”

The next four years will not be happy ones for our governor. Vengeful Democrats, led by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and labor union bosses, will be plotting comebacks and counting the days until the Cuomo era ends. Republicans will strive to build on their gains and will block Cuomo’s leftist agenda at every turn.

There are two things you can bank on. First, there will be no third term for Cuomo, who is smart enough to know that in his weakened position, he’ll face a serious primary challenger in 2018. He also knows, from his father’s experiences, that third terms are not fun.

Second, Cuomo will devote most of his time to settling scores. He’s a man who never forgets or forgives a slight. He mastered the role of hatchet man during daddy Mario’s 12 years in office, and doesn’t fear utilizing those skills.

Expect plenty of gubernatorial theater in the next four years, but few accomplishments. Cuomo’s second term will resemble many gubernatorial third terms – marking time and lackluster at best.