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Week Two of detente for Cuomo, Skelos

ALBANY -– Love, or at least like, appears to be in the air at the Capitol.

After some back and forth public bashing the past few weeks, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos spent their second Monday in a row chatting behind closed doors over coffee about how to resolve some of the big outstanding issues before session ends next month.

“I wouldn’t call it 'Breakfast at Tiffany’s,' " Skelos said of today's gathering -– without Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver -– in Cuomo’s second-floor office at the Capitol.

The Republican leader said the talks have been “very productive." But since they are held in secret, it is hard to verify the claim since Skelos did not say if any deals had been reached on any of the major bills that have been talked about for months.

Up in the air are a property tax cap, stronger government ethics codes and gay marriage -– which Skelos appeared to suggest is up to Cuomo whether or not a bill comes to the Senate floor. After the gay marriage rights defeat on the Senate floor in 2009, Cuomo has said he wants a bill considered on the floor only if it appears certain it will pass. Skelos appears willing to go along with that strategy.

For Skelos, the rhetoric has stopped, at least for now, of comparing Cuomo to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who once bragged of his “steamroller" powers over the Legislature.

“It’s the civil tone that we established during the budget negotiations," Skelos said of his private meeting with Cuomo.

Asked if he was having morning coffee sessions with Cuomo, Silver said, "No, I'm not.''

Silver said it has been "awhile'' since he and Cuomo have met face-to-face, but that he spoke to him over the phone just today.

--Tom Precious

Bill Clinton, Chris Christie calling NY26 voters

   Both political parties have rolled out their heavyweights in hopes of snagging the open congressional seat in New York's 26th district.

    Former President Bill Clinton is making automated "robocalls" on behalf of Kathleen C. Hochul, the Democratic candidate in Tuesday's special election, while Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who's a national favorite among Republicans, is making similar calls on behalf of the GOP candidate, Jane L. Corwin.

    Here's the script for the Clinton call:

    "Hi, this is Bill Clinton. I’m calling to ask you to support Kathy Hochul for Congress in the Special Election tomorrow, May 24th, because she’ll protect Medicare and create jobs for hard-working Western New York families. Just as she’s done in Erie County, Kathy Hochul will fight to cut wasteful spending in Washington. You can count on Kathy to say no to partisan politics that would end Medicare as we know it to pay for more tax cuts for multi-millionaires. That’s just one reason I hope you’ll join me in supporting Kathy Hochul for Congress in the Special Election tomorrow, May 24th. Thanks."

    And here's the text of the Christie call:   

   Hi, this is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Now, I'm sure you've received many phone calls about this election already. But please just give me a few seconds of your time as the election draws near. I'm calling to ask you for your support for Jane Corwin for Congress as you go to the polls Tuesday, May 24th. I ran for governor of New Jersey because like you, I wanted to see REAL change. Jane Corwin is a fighter who knows how to get things done. We're in critical times for our country, and Washington needs stand-up leaders who will fight to control spending and change business as usual. Please go out and vote for Jane Corwin this Tuesday. I truly appreciate your time. I wouldn't be calling if this wasn't very important for our country's future. Thanks, and make sure you get out to vote on Tuesday."

 -- Jerry Zremski

Review chat with The News' Phil Fairbanks on special election

New poll finds Hochul up by 6 points

    Democrat Kathleen C. Hochul now holds a six-point edge in the race for Congress in the 26th district, the latest poll in the race found late Sunday.

    Conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, the poll shows Hochul with 42 percent, Republican Jane L. Corwin with 36 percent and independent "Tea Party" candidate Jack Davis with 13 percent.

     The results closely track those of a Siena Research Institute poll that on Saturday showed Hochul up by 4 points.

     But unlike the Siena tally, the new poll of 1,106 likely voters shows Hochul with a lede well outside the margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent. PPP conducted the poll Saturday and Sunday.

     “Kathy Hochul’s possible upset victory Tuesday is partially a reflection of an unusual three-way race,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. “But it’s also indicative of the new Republican majority becoming very unpopular very fast. Barack Obama is more popular in this district than John Boehner.”

     Boehner has a 28 percent favorability rating, the poll found -- not far from the 25 percent favorability rating that an earlier poll found for former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Boehner recently campaigned for Corwin in Lancaster, while Republicans are trying to paint Hochul as a puppet whose strings would be pulled by Pelosi.

    Corwin's unpopularity -- a key factor in the Siena poll -- showed itself again in the new poll. Some 52 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable view of Corwin, the PPP poll found.

    Davis fared even worse, with 62 percent of voters viewing him negatively.

    But as for Hochul, only 37 percent have a negative view of her, while 51 percent viewed her positively.

    GIven that the district's enrollment is heavily Republican, there are still ways Corwin could win, the polling firm noted. Most notably, Davis' support is collapsing, and if it continues to do so, Corwin could benefit if those voters flock to her.

    "A Hochul win is by no means certain- the race remains very close, special elections are tricky to poll, and three-way races are even trickier to poll," said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling. "But the fact that we're even talking about this race is a reflection of how far out of favor the new GOP House majority already is with the voting public."

    Unlike the Siena poll, which found Medicare to be the key issue in the race, the PPP included no detailed questions about which issues are pushing voters one way or another.

   Public Policy Polling, which did an earlier poll in the race for the Daily Kos website and a labor union, did this poll independently. The polling firm noted that while it polls for Democrats, New York Times polling guru Nate Silver found that its 2010 election polling skewed slightly toward the Republicans.

-- Jerry Zremski




Pelosi -- from the Republican view

   Just as the Democrats and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi mounted a final weekend push for funds in the hot race for the 26th Congressional District, Republicans were invoking her name in their own effort.

   Republican candidate Jane Corwin -- facing Democrat Kathleen Hochul and the Tea Party's Jack Davis -- scheduled a get-out-the-vote rally for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at her Williamsville headquarters.

   "We will begin our 72-hour plan to stop Nancy Pelosi and liberal Democrats from stealing the people's seat in Congress with their lies and scare tactics," the Corwin campaign said in an e-mail to supporters.

   The Tea Party Express group, which on Monday campaigned locally for Corwin, also put the former speaker squarely in its sights in a fundraising solicitation and an attack on Davis. The group claims Davis does not truly represent principles of the tea party movement.

   "Although he calls himself a tea party candidate, he supports cap and trade, higher taxes, and big-spending liberals like Nancy Pelosi, Louise Slaughter and Barack Obama," the group said. "That's why we at Tea Party Express are redoubling our efforts to expose Jack Davis for the fake that he really is. We are going to call every single conservative and independent voter in NY-26 to tell them the truth."

  It appears the congresswoman from San Francisco is very much an issue in this race.

  --Robert J. McCarthy


Pelosi launches fundraising effort for Hochul

   Republicans have been quick to criticize Democrat Kathleen M. Hochul for even being in the same room with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi during her campaign for the 26th Congressional District, but it doesn't seem to matter to the Democrats.

   Pelosi on Friday dispatched a fundraising letter to supporters in an effort to raise $87,000 by midnight.

   "This is no ordinary election," the former speaker wrote. "A Republican loss in a ruby-red district like New York's 26th would deal a devastating blow to the GOP plan to end Medicare but protect tax breaks for the wealthy and Big Oil."

   Last-minute fundraising is only part of the furious level of activity planned for both sides as the campaigns race toward the finish line and Tuesday's election.

  --Robert J. McCarthy


DiNapoli raises fiscal red flags

ALBANY –- The new state budget makes serious in-roads to address New York’s structural deficit problems, but there also are a number of built-in risks that could throw the fiscal numbers into the red later this year, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned this morning.

In his office’s annual assessment of the enacted budget projected to spent $131.7 billion, DiNapoli raised red flags about the state’s economy facing a number of factors that could affect revenues coming into Albany, including oil prices and the political instability in the MIddle East.

The report urges “careful monitoring’’ of revenues and spending to ensure the fiscal plan stays in balance. It noted that state tax collections – which provides a key source of revenue for the budget -- have been below projections every year since 2007 by a total of more than $8.3 billion in that period.

The comptroller noted details are still unavailable from the administration about how some spending cuts will be achieved, including $1 billion in Medicaid, $100 million from still undetermined prison closings and $1.5 billion from state agency cutbacks, including state worker reductions.

“While the state’s economy has shown positive signs, the recovery is still vulnerable to disruptions related to oil and food prices, further declines in real estate values and other factors,’’ the report notes.

DiNapoli said the budget approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature relies on what he called "significant growth" in revenues. For instance, he said the budget projects that personal income tax collections will grow by 13 percent in the coming year.

“Revenue projections in recent years have proven excessive. However, the current year revenue estimates, while optimistic, could be attainable, barring significant unforeseen economic disruptions," the report said.

DiNapoli pegged the total amount of non-recurring or one-shot actions to balance the budget at $8.4 billion.

--Tom Precious

Cuomo ad boosts Hochul -- but only on the Internet

   Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has cut an ad promoting Democrat Kathleen C. Hochul's campaign in the
26th Congressional District race. But the ad will only appear on the Internet, not on television.

   The Democratic governor, who has no plans to personally campaign with Hochul before Tuesday's election, is dispatching his lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, to the district, most likely on Monday. Duffy, a former mayor and police chief of Rochester, is especially popular on the eastern side of the sprawling district.

    The 30-second ad by Cuomo comes from a governor who, according to a recent Siena College poll, has a 72 percent favorability rating in the district.

   Local Democrats had been hoping for a Cuomo visit, but sources say that is unlikely. In a not-surprising move, Cuomo was also set Friday evening to formally endorse Hochul over Republican Jane Corwin and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis.

   A spokesman for the Hochul campaign said it is too late to buy ad time on television for the Cuomo spot.

    Curtis Ellis, spokesman for Tea Party candidate Jack Davis, said,  "It's no surprise that one career politician supports another. Besides, Cuomo lost in the 26th District."

   --Tom Precious


Davis touts internal poll that shows Corwin third

    Here at Politics Now, we're not big on believing everything campaigns say, especially about their internal polls -- which candidates tend to release only when the findings make them look good.

    But rarely does a campaign release an internal poll as shocking as that released late Thursday by Jack Davis, the Tea Party candidate in New York's 26th District.

    The poll shows Democrat Kathleen C. Hochul vaulting to a huge lead in the race in the GOP-dominated district, with 44 percent.

    Davis follows at 27 percent -- with Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin, the endorsed Republican candidate, at a paltry 17 percent.

    Davis campaign manager Curtis Ellis said the poll was an automated one that surveyed 4,602 "frequent" voters in the district. He did not respond immediately to a request for the pollster's name or the complete details of the poll.

    The Davis campaign is trying to use the poll to start a new narrative in the race -- and to draw votes away from Corwin.

    “It’s clear that if conservatives, Republicans and Tea Party patriots want to keep Kathy Hochul, a Nancy Pelosi Democrat, from representing this district, they must vote for Jack Davis,” Ellis said.

    That new Davis narrative will last about a day if a Siena College poll, due to be released Saturday, shows Corwin in a much stronger position.

    But if the Siena poll's results echo that of the Davis poll, well, then it's possible conservatives will rethink their support of Corwin -- and that this amazing 26th District race will turn more topsy-turvy than ever before.

-- Jerry Zremski

The view from a former WNY congressman

   Former Rep. Fred Eckert read the on-line version of The Buffalo News from his home in Raleigh, N.C. Thursday and couldn't refrain from weighing on the story about the Town of Greece, where he was born and which he represented over the years as supervisor, state senator and member of Congress (1985-1987).

   He called the story about Greece as the epicenter of the hot race for the 26th Congressional District "right on." And, perhaps not at all surprisingly, the former Republican House member added his endorsement for fellow Republican Jane L. Corwin.

   He said these are the points that "really matter" in the vote on Tuesday:

   -- Republican Corwin is a solid conservative with a proven record in office. Everyone I know in Albany whose judgment I respect tells me she is a smart, serious, conscientious, accomplished lawmaker who will make an outstanding member of Congress. Of the three candidates, she is the only one who has shown any real backbone -- and backbone is something we desperately need more of in Washington.

   --Democrat Kathy Hochul should remain a county clerk where she has zero impact on any important issues that face the nation or the state.  She is a closet left-winger whose real views are contrary to the common sense conservatism of most voters in this district. Her campaign has played fast and loose with the truth to try to fool voters.

    --Jack Davis is simply on an ego trip; his Tea Party claim is a total fraud; and his campaign would be a joke except for the fact that he and the Democrats are using it to try to keep the best choice, Jane Corwin, from winning.

   If people in western New York State are truly concerned about the decline of their state and the ever worsening situation in the country, they should not vote for either Hochul or Davis.

   That's the view from someone who once represented a significant part of the district.

   --Robert J. McCarthy



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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |