All posts by John Kenny

Public Advocate Candidate Slugfest (Updated)



The two remaining Democratic Public Advocate candidates, Letitia James and Daniel Squadron, met in a televised debate last night.  With a week to go until Tuesday’s runoff election, the candidates had a sharp, often personally contentious, meeting.  The full debate, hosted by NY1 and moderated by Errol Louis and Brian Lehrer, is available here.

That tone continued in their post-debate comments to the press.  Both candidates attacked the perceived faults of the other, with closeness to Mayor Bloomberg a featured item.  (In March we asked the candidates for their view of Mayor Bloomberg and his tenure.  Both praised some of his specific accomplishments, but varied in how harshly they assessed his overall record.  You can watch those interviews here.)  I asked both candidates whether they have asked the current Public Advocate, and Democratic mayoral candidate, Bill de Blasio for his endorsement.  Their answers? “I haven’t” and “good night everybody.”

Here are the full post-debate Q&As with each candidate.

Letitia James:

Daniel Squadron:

Queens Quits Quinn, Loves Bill (Updated)



The Queens County Democratic Organization endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor yesterday. de Blasio has been steadily consolidating his former foes and their supporters as he shifts to the general election.  The Queens County organization supported Christine Quinn in the primary, having long had a strong relationship with her.  They put on a strong, enthusiastic rally for de Blasio, however, with a wide range of Queens Democrats joining Chairman Joe Crowley in front of Borough Hall.

de Blasio Press Q&A:

At a morning press conference focused on condemning Iran, de Blasio had declined to answer any questions from the press, promising to do so at the afternoon Queens rally, all while he led a pack of reporters on a three block walking chase.  He fulfilled his morning promise at the Queens rally.  Here is Bill de Blasio’s full Q & A with the press.

Update – Crowley/de Blasio Highlights:

Here are highlights from the remarks of Joe Crowley and Bill de Blasio.

Mayoral Candidates on Iran Diplomatic Initiative



Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio support President Obama’s current diplomatic initiative toward Iran.  We asked both candidates that question yesterday, and both gave indirect answers that appear to condition support on continued sanctions and other forms of pressure on the Iranian government, but were nonetheless supportive of the initiative.  We spoke with Lhota at a press conference condemning the Iranian government, sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, and with de Blasio at a campaign event in Queens.  Here’s what they had to say.

Mayoral Candidates, Iran & Running (Updated)



Today the Jewish Community Relations Council hosted a press conference aimed at condemning the government of Iran and calling for continued action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  The press conference, held in front of the United Nations, is an annual event timed for the start of the United Nations General Assembly session.  Among the many New York elected officials and candidates participating were mayoral candidates Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio.

Lhota Media Availability:

Following his remarks at the press conference, Joe Lhota spoke with the press on the topic of Iran, as well as several other topics.  Among the questions he addressed were his view of the recent diplomatic initiative by the United States towards Iran (he seems to be in favor, although it’s “not enough”) and his view of Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy imprisoned by the United States (he seems to be in favor of considering his release).  Lhota’s full press availability is here.

de Blasio Slow Speed Press Chase:
Bill de Blasio declined to answer any questions following his remarks at the press conference, leading the press on a several blocks-long, low-intensity, slow speed chase.  It was not as dramatic as some of the Anthony Weiner press chase/avoidance episodes (such as this or this), but it was a notable change for de Blasio.  It’s important to note that he and his staff said several times during the walk that de Blasio intended to answer questions at a 2:00 p.m. endorsement press conference in Queens, and he did so.  Here’s a portion of the chase.

Lhota/deBlasio Remarks at Press Conference:

Here are Lhota’s and de Blasio’s full remarks at the JCRC press conference.

de Bronx de clares for de Blasio



The Bronx Democratic County Committee endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor this evening.  It was unsurprising, but continued a week of positive consolidation as de Blasio garners endorsements from primary rivals and their supporters.  The Bronx County organization supported  Bill Thompson in the primary, and they had no real option but endorsing de Blasio in the general election.  While the County Committee’s electoral influence may be modest, it’s still a plus for de Blasio as his erstwhile rivals continue to fall in behind him, smiling and singing his praises as they present a unified front to the press and the public.  In contrast, Joe Lhota has yet to receive an endorsement from either of his two primary rivals.  (What Lhota really needs is not just their endorsement, but for John Catsimatidis to fund a material independent expenditure effort, but that’s for a later look.)

Here is the full video of de Blasio’s press conference following his meeting with the Bronx County Committee.

Election Law Reforms – Part I



We spoke with election law expert, and New York State Assembly Member, Brian Kavanagh concerning the New York City Board of Elections and possible steps to improve  the Board’s performance.  An attorney, Kavanagh has been active in the Assembly as chair of the Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement Subcommittee and a member of the Election Law Committee and as an advocate for improving the voting process.  I began by asking Kavanagh what voters should fairly expect from the Board of Elections.

Lhota on the Street – Upper East Side Edition (Updated)



Today Joe Lhota campaigned at a subway stop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  At 77th Street & Lexington Avenue, the stop has a heavy flow of voters who, if Lhota is to prevail, Lhota must connect with.

Update – Lhota Press Conference:

Here is Joe Lhota’s full media availability, at the conclusion of his campaign stop.

Among the topics he addressed:

  • Dean Skelos, and Lhota’s view of Skelos’s policies vis-a-vis New York City
  • His relationship w/ Dan Isaacs, Manhattan Republican Chair, who campaigned with Lhota today
  • Public poll results showing him far behind Bill de Blasio
  • The effect of the hard-fought primary, and whether his primary rivals will support/endorse him
  • The MTA and it’s ongoing work, and how that affects Lhota’s campaign

 

Dean Skelos;

During a press availability following his campaigning, I asked Lhota about State Senate Temporary President/Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos.  In a statement on Tuesday, Lhota announced that Skelos and former governor George Pataki, both of whom supported John Catsimatidis in the primary, have endorsed Lhota.  In his statement, Lhota described them as “true examples of sensible and responsible governing” and “great New York leaders”.  As Temporary President/Republican Conference Leader in the Senate (not “Majority Leader” as referenced in Lhota’s statement) Skelos has often acted in ways that most New York City residents would consider against their interests, including elimination of the commuter tax, blocking a vote on a fracking ban and pushing school aid formulas to benefit suburban districts over the City.  His kind words toward Skelos illustrate a major challenge for Lhota.  Dramatically behind in public polls, Lhota needs to tend to Republican Party faithful while trying to find an opening with City voters whose views differ markedly from the suburban/rural dominated state Republican Party.

Lhota Visits Sharpton



Joe Lhota visited Al Sharpton Tuesday evening.  They had a private meeting for about 25 minutes, then spoke with the press.  Rev. Sharpton made clear that he was not endorsing Lhota, but also made clear that he took Lhota seriously.  Sharpton termed their meeting as “cordial and candid”, noting that while they differed on many issues he valued a civil dialogue.

Here is their full discussion with the press.

Quinn Queues Up (Updated)



Today Christine Quinn endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor in the general election.  Unsurprising as it may be that the Democratic city council speaker and former mayoral candidate endorsed the expected Democratic nominee, it was nonetheless a powerful scene as Quinn cheerfully pledged her support to her bitter rival.

Here are the speeches of Quinn and de Blasio.

Update – Q & A:

Here is the Q&A following their speeches.

Lhota Launches



Today Joe Lhota held a press conference responding to the emergence of Bill de Blasio as the virtually-certain Democratic nominee.  This morning, de Blasio joined Bill Thompson and Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference in which Thompson effectively conceded and indicated that, even if a runoff is held, he will not contest de Blasio’s nomination.

Lhota called de Blasio’s theme of “a tale of Two Cities” a “divisive device” that constitutes “class warfare.”  Somewhat paradoxically, Lhota then acknowledged that there is “income inequality … in the city” and that the question is “what programs we’re going to have to be able to deal with the income inequality” in order to make “New York affordable.”  He sounded, for a moment, like a Democrat.

Here is the full press conference.

Lhota & The Bloomberg Shadow



Michael Bloomberg is central to many of the challenges facing Joe Lhota in his uphill quest to be New York City’s next mayor.  Although they’re far from identical, as highly accomplished managers Lhota and Bloomberg share a basic characteristic, appearing to be driven more by process and accomplishment than ideology.   Lhota’s not casting himself as the “next Bloomberg”, however, and is trying to find a way to effectively navigate the pluses and minuses in Bloomberg’s legacy.   Central to that is convincing voters who think that Bloomberg did well overall, and that the City has improved during his tenure, that Lhota is the candidate capable of effectively managing the city, even as those voters are ready for a change of personality in City Hall.  We spoke with Lhota at the Feast of San Gennaro.

Bloomberg’s Endorsement:

On Friday, Bloomberg announced that he does not plan to endorse a candidate in the mayor’s race.  Lhota put a brave face on, characterizing it as “excellent news” conveying the message that “governance is really more important than politics” when asked about it by NY1’s Grace Rauh.  Perhaps, but Lhota is in the zero-sum game of politics, and no election victory means no governance.

Differing With Bloomberg:

Among Lhota’s challenges is how he casts himself vis-a-vis the Bloomberg administration and it’s policies.  He generally speaks highly of the Bloomberg administration, but offers a variety of pointed critiques of specific actions.  Lhota has recently cast himself as a “change” mayor, seeking to harness the evolving sense among much of the electorate that Bloomberg’s time has run.  I asked Lhota how he would differ from Bloomberg.

A Voter’s View of Bloomberg:

A brief encounter with a passing voter encapsulates Lhota’s Bloomberg challenge.  She appears to be a core part of support Lhota needs; what the pundits refer to as a “white outer-borough ethnic”, without whom Lhota has no chance of winning.  She’s no Bloomberg-lover, however, beginning their encounter with “I hope you do a better job than that last idiot”.

Runoff Election Is On!



In the race for Public Advocate, that is.  Preliminary results from the Democratic primary for Public Advocate have Letitia (“Tish”) James at 36% and Daniel Squadron at 33%.  It appears highly unlikely that the final count will have either over 40% and a runoff election will therefor be held in the Democratic Public Advocate primary.

We spoke with Tish James this morning outside the National Action Network’s House of Justice, where James had just appeared with Al Sharpton and other candidates, including Bill de Blasio.  I asked James how she thought the runoff would differ from the five person primary.  She aptly notes that there will almost certainly be more attention given to the PA race than it received it the primary.  I also asked about her defeated rivals.