13 DAYS UNTIL THE 2023 PRIMARY ELECTION
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BUSIER BALLOTS, EARLIER PAYOUTS
|By Jeff Coltin and Shantel Destra
Assembly Member Al Taylor sits on the Election Law Committee, just got reelected and is now running for New York City Council, so if anyone should get to know the latest changes to how campaigns are run in New York it’s him, right?
Not exactly. “Stuff was moving through there so doggone fast it makes your head swim,” he said of the last days of the session. “You go scratch your head and come back from the restroom – ‘we just did how many bills?’”
That’s the way things are done in Albany. And for everyone else here’s a quick summary of the big changes to elections in New York state – from edits to when candidates get public matching funds to a major calendar shift for some local races.
Campaign finance changes
Apparently, state legislators didn’t like how the Campaign Finance Reform Commission set up the public campaign finance system in 2019 – so they got around to fixing it themselves.
The most notable change would allow the first $250 from an in-district donor to be multiplied by matching funds, even if that donor gave a candidate more money. It also raises the threshold for state Senate and Assembly candidates to qualify matching funds. Candidates would need to raise more money from more donors and an opponent would need to meet certain criteria of competitiveness to limit the money going to races where there’s only one real contender. But candidates who do qualify could get paid as soon as December in the year before a primary election, instead of only the final 30 days before Election Day. Of course, these changes infuriated good-government groups, who see it as an incumbent protection plan that weakens the system.
Read more about how legislators stacked the deck.
The Assembly district number soon to be vacated by Daniel Rosenthal, since the Orthodox Jewish wunderkind is resigning to take a role at UJA-Federation of New York. That means a special election later this year in the eastern Queens district, stretching from Kew Gardens Hills up through College Point and Whitestone. Democrats and Republicans each get to pick their party’s candidate for the ballot, and Democratic names in the mix include Sam Berger, a lawyer and son of district leader Paula Berger, who insiders say has been making phone calls about the seat; Jeff Kohn, an NYPD community liaison; David Aronov, a UJA staffer himself; and Simon Pelman, a nursing home executive and district leader. But it’s very early in the process, and more potential candidates are likely to come up. On the Republican side, one name to arise is Stefano Forte, the campaign manager for City Council Member Vickie Paladino who ran a far-right losing campaign to state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky last year. Rosenthal is a Democrat, but this district could flip red in the right circumstances, and insiders are already fretting about picking the right candidate.
The tenant that Assembly Member Inez Dickens filed to evict in Housing Court has now endorsed her City Council campaign – and Albert Anderson’s name and face are now on a mailer, with his testimonial saying, in part, “I’ve gone through rough times and she always makes sure I have a roof over my head.”
But it isn’t clear if the 16 other tenants she has moved to evict feel the same way. Court records reviewed by City & State showed that 1389 Construction Corp., of which Dickens serves as president, has filed at least 17 eviction cases since 1987, including five since 2013.
Despite that, Dickens falsely claimed she had not evicted anybody at a NY1 debate Tuesday night. When opponent Yusef Salaam asked how many tenants she had evicted, Dickens responded, in part, “I’ve had no evictions,” before adding that she did “start one eviction” with Anderson “because he asked me to take him to court, because that was the only way that he was going to get assistance to get his rent paid.” (That isn’t strictly true – tenants should be able to get city assistance without an eviction notice, but using that threat is a widespread practice to get payment from a city government that has failed to meet the demand for rental assistance.) “Just one?” Salaam followed up. “Just one,” Dickens said.
But Dickens has moved to evict 16 other tenants. The records did not reflect whether any of the tenants actually had to leave their apartments – “You’re not evicted until you are out,” Dickens campaign spokesperson Lupe Todd-Medina said, and sometimes these cases get resolved – but her campaign did follow up with City & State after the debate to say that Dickens was wrong. One of her companies had in fact evicted a tenant this year. Todd-Medina said the tenant was evicted after being caught on tape assaulting a fellow tenant. City & State couldn’t immediately confirm those details.
The super PAC affiliated with the New York City District Council of Carpenters is spending thousands on mailers telling voters in the East Bronx to vote for City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez, since Democratic primary opponent Bernadette Ferrara is a “longtime Republican.” Sure enough, records show Ferrera was registered as a Republican as recently as 2020 – not long before she changed her registration to Democrat and got a distant eighth place in the 2021 special election for District 15. Now she’s running in District 13, against Velázquez as a conservative “Different Kinda Democrat.” Nevermind that the district is trending to the right, and the GOP thinks they’ve got a shot to win in November – Carpenters for Progress is betting that recent Republicans are toxic in a Democratic primary.
The carpenters union is eager to help Velázquez after she helped secure union jobs in a big upzoning in her district, with their political director telling The City that they would have endorsed her over Jesus Christ – himself a famous carpenter.
Labor Strong 2023, another super PAC aligned with five major unions, has reported spending $56,000 so far on digital ads and a mailer backing Velázquez. The group – with funding so far from the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, the New York State Nurses Association and the Communications Workers of America – also reported a similar spend for Council Member Linda Lee in District 23 in eastern Queens.
Moderate, pro-business super PAC Future NYC is also spending on Lee, telling the Daily News that polling showed a close race against former council staffer Steve Behar. It’s also spending to support Council Member Lynn Schulman in District 29 in Central Queens, Jewish Insider reported. Future NYC is consultant Jeff Leb’s latest venture, and he said it’ll spend on Council Members Velázquez, Darlene Mealy, Kevin Riley and Shekar Krishnan, among some other potential targets.
Remember Tina Forte, the associate of Rep. George Santos who raised $1.5 million en route to getting just 27% of the vote against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last year? No? Maybe you remember her as one of the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a failed attempt to overturn the presidential election? Well, she announced Monday that she’s planning to take on AOC again in 2024.
New York City Council District 9 candidates Yusef Salaam and Al Taylor endorsed each other as their second choice in ranked choice voting – butting out Inez Dickens, a bit … former Gov. David Paterson and former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall endorsed Dickens … Emgage PAC endorsed a slate of council candidates, including Salaam and Ursila Jung in District 1 … District Council 9 IUPAT endorsed a slate of New York City Council candidates, including Isis McIntosh Green in District 41 and Chris Banks in District 42 … Lavender Line Democratic Club of Queens endorsed a slate, including Christopher Bae in District 19 … 1199SEIU and 32BJ SEIU both endorsed Lynn Schulman in District 29 … Communities United for Police Reform Action endorsed a slate of Democratic incumbents, including Jennifer Gutiérrez in District 34 … New York Communities for Change endorsed a slate of Democratic incumbents, plus McIntosh Green in District 41 … VOCAL-NY Action Fund endorsed a slate, including McIntosh Green in District 41 and Charles Barron in District 42 … The Freelancers Union endorsed a slate of incumbents, including Marjorie Velázquez in District 13 … the Detectives’ Endowment Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association, Lieutenants Benevolent Association and Captains Endowment Association endorsed Linda Lee in District 23 … City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams also endorsed Lee … and Mayor Eric Adams endorsed Melinda Katz for Queens district attorney.
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City Council District 23 in eastern Queens, including the neighborhoods of Bellerose, Douglaston and Little Neck
Incumbent: Linda Lee (Democratic)
2020 census demographics: 44.6% Asian, 21.7% white, 14.5% Hispanic, 10.7% Black
2021 Democratic primary election results (first round): Lee: 29.9%, Jaslin Kaur: 24.3%, Steve Behar: 13.2%, Debra Markell: 12.5%, Sanjeev Jindal: 10.8%, Koshy Thomas: 4.8%, Harpreet Toor: 4.2%
2021 general election results: Lee (D): 64.6%, James Reilly (Republican, Conservative): 35.2%
Who’s running: Lee (D), Rubaiya Rahman (D), Steve Behar (D), Bernard Chow (R, C)
Linda Lee topped Democratic Socialist Jaslin Kaur in a close primary two years ago. Kaur isn’t running again, but third-place finisher Steve Behar is back. He was a top aide to former City Council Member Barry Grodenchik and argues Lee isn’t fighting hard enough to keep the city from making changes to public sector retirees’ health care plans. Also running is Rubaiya Rahman, who runs an autism nonprofit. Lee’s incumbency should protect her well – and that includes some outside support from super PACs, after internal polling reportedly showed Behar performing well. This diverse district also votes consistently Democratic, despite its rather suburban nature, but Republican Bernard Chow will try to change that in November by emphasizing public safety.
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