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Florida's Rubio joins Corwin cause

As independent Jack Davis and Republican Jane L. Corwin continue to battle for voters aligned with the tea party movement, Corwin is set to score a major coup today with the endorsement of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a hero to tea party types.

A Corwin source said Rubio will announce his support today for the Clarence assemblywoman, and will make about 60,000 automated phone calls on her behalf to boot.

Voters in the 26th District can expect this message from Rubio: "We have changed the debate, we are moving in the right direction but we are in the middle of the fight. Jane Corwin will be a voice we need to keep that momentum up. Join me in supporting Jane and please go vote this coming Tuesday, May 24th in the special election. It is critical."

--Robert J. McCarthy

Outside groups lavish more than $1.2 million on NY 26 race

    WASHINGTON  Outside groups have poured more than $1.2 million into the
race for Congress in New York's 26th district, with more money yet to come in
what's become a contest with national ramifications.

   The Center for Responsive Politics reported that $1.2 million figure
Tuesday by tallying up independent expenditures reported to the Federal
Election Commission.

   Money spent by conservative interests account for about two-thirds of this
sum, which is all but assured to increase significantly between now and
Election Day next Tuesday, the center said on its OpenSecrets blog.

   Most notably of all, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent
$424,680 for survey research and media advertising aimed at benefiting
Assemblywoman Jane Corwin of Clarence, the GOP candidate.

   And American Crossroads, a political committee co-founded by Karl Rove,
longtime political aide to President George W. Bush, threw in $368,886 for
television and online ads. That group has said it could spend nearly $300,000
more attacking Democrat Kathleen C. Hochul and Tea Party candidate Jack

   On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee spent $266,745 on advertising.

   The Communications Workers of America Working Voices political paid $75,000
for printed materials, and the political committee of the Service Employees
International Union paid $59,750 on canvassing work on behalf of Hochul.

   Those groups buy ads and work independently from the campaigns themselves,
meaning the ads the group purchases are essentially aimed at roughing up
candidates the groups don't like.

   Meanwhile, though, the campaigns themselves are raising and spending huge
sums, too.

   Corwin is the best-off of the three. She raised nearly $2.9 million  with
about $2.46 million of it coming out of her own pocket.

   Davis has been almost as much of a big spender, pouring $2.1 million of his
own money into the race and, intentionally, not raising a single dime.

   As for Hochul, the FEC reports show a significant increase in her

   Through Monday, she had raised $928,750  up from $576,748 as of May 4. She
contributed $250,000 of her own personal funds.

   -- Jerry Zremski


Golisano returns -- albeit with a different cause

ALBANY -- Former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano was at the state Capitol today pressing his new cause: replacing the Electoral College with a popular-vote system for presidential elections.

Golisano, a billionaire former Rochester businessman, is part of a national group with efforts under way at dozens of statehouses to alter the way presidents are elected. Vermont recently became the eighth state to embrace the idea, but Golisano said the big prizes would be if New York and California backed the plan.

Golisano, who ran for governor of New York three times, became a full-time Florida resident in 2009 after complaining about the Empire State’s high taxes. The last time Golisano was so visible at the Capitol was back in April 2009, when he helped back a coup that saw Republicans briefly take over the Senate that year with the help of former -- and since disgraced -- Democratic senators Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate.

On Tuesday, Golisano said life has been good since he sold the Sabres earlier this year to billionaire Terry Pegula for $189 million –- a handsome profit over the $62 million he paid for the team in 2003.

“They have a better owner now, or a more involved owner,’’ Golisano said of Pegula.

It was a day for billionaires at the Capitol. As Golisano later walked outside the Senate chamber, billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was heading out of a meeting just down the hall during a trip to promote a stalled gay marriage rights bill.

-- Tom Precious

Bloomberg targets Grisanti on gay marriage legislation

ALBANY -– New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the Senate Republicans prime campaign bankrollers over the years, came to the Capitol Tuesday to try to convince a handful of “fence sitters’’ to back a stalled gay marriage rights bill.

But one of the Republican mayor’s targeted senators -- Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican –- said he has not changed his mind and would still vote against a gay marriage bill if it came to the Senate floor today.

“I told him, which I’ve been telling everyone, that it’s not political,’’ Grisanti said after the 15-minute meeting with Bloomberg.

The mayor, struggling with low poll numbers, turned up the heat on Senate Republicans to pass the gay marriage bill. The measure is expected to pass in the Assembly, though not as easily as in 2009, when the bill passed the Democratic-led chamber but failed in the Senate.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is pressing for the legal right for gays to marry, but backers do not have the votes yet in the Senate.

“His pitch is that government should not be involved in deciding whether or not somebody should be married and who they marry and then he talked about the economic benefits of it,’’ Grisanti said of Bloomberg.

Grisanti repeated his months-long stance that he has a problem with the “term’’ of marriage for an institution he believes is reserved for a man and woman. He said if a gay marriage bill came to the floor, he would vote no.

The Buffalo lawmaker said he was not sure why Bloomberg thought he was a “fence sitter’’ on the gay marriage bill. “He wanted to know what my personal struggle was with it,’’ he said.

-- Tom Precious

The News' Meyer discusses developments at City Hall

On WBFO-FM 88.7 this morning, News City Hall reporter Brian Meyer talked about recent City of Buffalo matters to arise — including the indictment of a former Common Council member.

Download the audio and take it with you

Rothenberg upgrades Hochul's chances

    WASHINGTON -- One of the capital's most respected political prognosticators shifted gears today, saying the race for Congress in New York's 26th District is tilting toward Democrat Kathleen C. Hochul.

    The Rothenberg Political Report, which had the district leaning toward Republican Jane Corwin, switched its rating for the district to "Toss-up/Tilt Democratic."

    "Democrat Kathy Hochul now looks well-positioned to pull off a significant upset," Rothenberg said. "Both parties agree that the race remains close – 'within the margin of error' is the phrase most often used – and Republican Jane Corwin certainly has a chance to energize and turn out GOP voters in this Republican-leaning district. But Democrats seem more enthusiastic right now."

   The Medicare issue is the main reason why, said the report, run by longtime political guru Stuart Rothenberg. While a barrage of negative ads has damaged "Tea Party" candidate Jack Davis, the voters fleeing Davis are not automatically shifting to Corwin, the Rothenberg report said.

   "Democrats have been pounding Corwin for supporting Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, including dramatic changes to Medicare," Rothenberg said. "Those attacks apparently have made it difficult for Corwin to attract disaffected Davis voters."

-- Jerry Zremski

Corwin and Hochul will debate in Rochester

It appears at least one more debate will take place in the contest for the 26th Congressional District before the May 24 special election.

WXXI public television in Rochester will host a faceoff between Republican Jane L. Corwin and Democrat Kathleen C. Hochul on Wednesday for later broadcast, according to News Director Julie Philipp.

She said that while Corwin and Hochul have committed, Tea Party candidate Jack Davis has not responded. Davis backed out of a debate Thursday on WGRZ-TV in Buffalo.

The debate will be taped on Wednesday evening and shown on WXXI-TV in Rochester at 8 p.m. Thursday and on Think Bright TV (Channel 21 on most Buffalo cable systems) at 10 p.m. Friday. It also will air on WNED Radio in Buffalo at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The session will be moderated by Philipp. Panelists include Jim Ranney of WNED Radio, Carlet Cleare of WXXI-TV, Sean Carroll of WHAM-TV in Rochester and Jill Terreri of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

--Bob McCarthy

Video: The News' Fairbanks on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show"

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Video: Incident between Jack Davis and GOP volunteer

The Erie County Republican Committee is claiming one of its volunteers got into a confrontation with Congressional candidate Jack Davis on Wednesday in Greece. Here's the video the GOP put on Youtube:

WGRZ-TV caught the aftermath of the alleged altercation, which you can see starting at the 2:30 mark of this video:

--Aaron Besecker

Review running blog from NY-26 Debate

Candidates Jane Corwin, left, and Kathy Hochul share a smile during this morning's debate. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

9:46: After only 45 minutes, what's likely to be the only debate in the race in New York's 26th congressional district has ended.

9:45: And in her closing statement, Corwin stresses her fight for the Flight 3407 families, Delphi retirees and others. "I'm going to roll up my sleeves and work for these people."

9:43: In her closing statement, Hochul cites the time a man who makes $100 a week approached her after a debate and offered her $10 for her campaign -- and says she will fight in Washington for people like that "with every bone in my body."

9:38: Corwin says she has four cars: a Chevy Equinox, a Cadillac Escalade, a Range Rover and a Mercedes. Hochul says her family has a Dodge Durango, a Cadillac, a Ford pickup truck and one other vehicle -- and not a Lexus, as the moderator insisted her husband had.

9:36: OK, now it's quiz time. The moderators are quizzing the candidates on the names of the counties in the district, its median income, etc.

9:34: Hochul favors a salary cut for members of Congress, saying she's not in this for the money. Corwin also says she favors lower congressional salaries.

9:32: Corwin says the Obama health bill needs to be repealed because it will increase the cost of health care. She says its mandates are limiting hiring. And Hochul says the bill "needs to be fixed." But she doesn't want it thrown out. Citing a 10 year old with leukemia who might not get coverage without the bill, Hocul says repealing the law "would throw her under the bus."

9:30: Hochul: "There's so much unfairness in the tax code. That's where we have to start" to boost the economy. But Corwin says it's "disingenuous" for Hochul to push tax cuts when she raised taxes in Hamburg.

9:28: Hochul notes that the Ryan budget that Corwin supports preserves those tax breaks for big oil. Corwin: "It's not perfect but it's a plan that points us in the right direction."

9:26: Hochul says big oil and companies like GE should pay higher taxes "so residents of my district don't have to." Corwin agrees to eliminate tax breaks to big oil but stresses that overall, the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rates in the world.

9:24: Corwin: Higher taxes on the wealthy would hurt small businesses.

9:22: Hochul says she disagrees with Dems on raising taxes on people who make more than $200,000,  saying $500,000 is a better threshold to protect small businesses.

9:20: Hochul: "I think everything should be on the table" -- including taxes. "It's a different set of priorities I have."

9:19: Corwin notes that the national debt equals $46,000 for every man, woman and child in America -- and says we "need to look at all programs" for cuts. That includes Medicare and defense, she says.

9:17: On a question about Afghanistan, Corwin says: "I believe it is a very important mission." But Hochul turns the talk to Pakistan, saying the capture of Osama bin Laden raises the question of "whether they are on our side or not." And Corwin says President Obama "did a good job" in ridding the world of bin Laden.

9:15: The debate turns to the missing chair -- Tea Party candidate Jack Davis. Hochul fends off criticism of her ads attacking Davis by saying he has flip-flopped on protecting seniors. Corwin: "On that I'd have to agree with Kathy."

9:13 a.m.: Corwin says Hochul raised taxes 11 years out of 12 in Hamburg. "That's Kathy Hochul's legislative record."

Asked about her record on taxes in the time of Hamburg, Hochul says that in Congress: "I will cut taxes on small businesses so they will expand and grow."

Hochul: "We have to find a way to continue what's been a very successful program."

Opening question: The debate starts with the big question on the big issue: Medicare. Asked about the increased thousands those under age 55 will eventually have to pay under a GOP reform plan, Corwin says she wants to "protect the system for future generations."  But she doesn't comment on the cost increase for seniors of the future.

Beginning of debate: Kathy Hochul: "I'll be there when you need me."

Jane Corwin starts the debate on a personal note: "I grew up living the American dream. I didn't have a silver spoon in my mouth."

Buffalo News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski will be live blogging the debate today in the 26th Congressional Race.

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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 |