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Tuesday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- I've been traveling for the past few days, but I am back in DC now and back in business in terms of sharing my top reads.

Topping the llist today is a piece from The New Republic that's the buzz of the DC political world -- because it notes that in 2016, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., could be Hillary Rodham Clinton's worst nightmare.

Meanwhile, The New York Times tells us that health insurers are giving up on Obamacare's troubled website.

And USA Today notes that in a surprise, Democratic superPACS are outspending their Republican rivals.

Paladino reiterates gubernatorial plans to Fox Business Network; likes Cruz, but not Christie

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   It didn't take long for Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino to gain national attention following a Monday story in The Buffalo News highlighting his strongest hints yet that he may run for governor next year on the Conservative line.

   In an interview slated for broadcast at 8 p.m. Monday with Neil Cavuto of Fox Business Network, Paladino reiterated that he is becoming even more serious about running on the Conservative line should the state Republican Party fail to nominate a well known, well financed and conservative enough candidate to face Democratic incumbent Andrew M. Cuomo.

   "I'm threatening the establishment," he said.

   Here are a few excerpts from Cavuto's interview as provided by Fox Business Network:  

On whether he’s serious about running for governor of New York again:

“Well, yeah. On the Conservative line, if they don’t straighten it out - we have to get rid of the leaders of our New York State Legislature who have been selling out to the opposition…I’m threatening the establishment. I’m saying enough. Republicans in upstate New York and in Long Island can’t relate to the Republican Party in New York State.”

 On why he doesn’t like what he sees out of Republicans right now:

“I see a failure. I look at a [Sen. Ted] Cruz and yeah, he was out there getting name recognition but also he was solid on the issue, he saw it coming. He saw this Obamacare debacle coming, but he went out there and he stood tall for the people and said there’s something wrong here and we should be addressing it.”

 On whether he likes Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) more than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie:

“Absolutely. I think Christie would be moving the country in the wrong direction, sort of like a Clinton. OK, he’ll be whatever you want him to be on any given day. I like the style, not necessarily the substance. I think he’s a little narcissistic and he thinks of himself and his future although he doesn’t reveal it in that way, he tries to be homey with everybody but I think inside that he doesn’t have those convictions.”


Video: Republicans search for candidate to oppose Cuomo

As the election season ends, politicos are casting their sights on the 2014 gubernatorial election. News Political Reporter Bob McCarthy talks with Brian Meyer about the "Paladino effect" and other twists:

Cuomo and Skelos meet; is peace coming?

By Tom Precious

ALBANY –- After weeks of growing tensions between the executive and legislative branches, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate co-leader Dean Skelos met face to face Wednesday to try to end their war of words and legal tussles.

Neither side was talking about the private session. It came after lawyers for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, controlled by Skelos, last week filed a court challenge seeking to block Cuomo’s Moreland Commission from gathering internal documents about the financial workings of the committee.

The Moreland Commission, appointed by Cuomo, has been scathing in its criticisms of the Senate Republicans for not cooperating with its work. Senate Republicans said in court papers the Moreland subpoena seeking information about their political activities crossed legal lines.

One scenario insiders suggest: a deal struck by Cuomo and Skelos, and then with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, to enact some sort of additional improvements in the state’s ethics and campaign finance laws. In return, the Moreland Commission would go away. Of course, that was a scenario outlined more than a month ago before relations between the two branches worsened.

The meeting between Cuomo and Skelos came the same day as the governor hit the Catskills and Binghamton area to celebrate voter approval of his casino expansion plan, a tour that included pro-casino Senate Republicans in those areas giving shout-outs to the governor.

Breaking down the vote: Tabulations for contested Erie County races

Here are the tabulations by electoral district and town for races including Supreme Court Justice, Family Court Judge, Erie County sheriff, county comptroller, county legislature, mayor of Buffalo and mayor of Tonawanda here.  Click the image below to see a larger view.C4graphic

Kennedy calls for JCOPE probe of GOP chair

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – A Buffalo Democratic lawmaker is calling on a state anti-corruption panel to investigate Ed Cox, the chair of the state Republican Party, to see if there are connections between his criticism of inaction on hydraulic fracturing rights in New York and his financial ties to a Texas natural gas company.

Sen. Timothy Kennedy said the Joint Commission on Public Ethics should investigate whether Cox is using his position as GOP head “to shill for the billion-dollar gas industry and his own financial benefit.’’

The call by Kennedy comes after Cox appeared in Buffalo Wednesday night before a group of gas industry executives to criticize Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his indecision on whether to permit hydraulic fracturing in the state.The state has been studying the issue since the administration of former Gov. David Paterson.

The Associated Press on Wednesday reported that Cox and his wife, Patricia Nixon Cox, a daughter of the late President Richard Nixon, have millions in stocks in Noble Energy and that he gets between $250,000 and $350,000 for serving on the company’s board. Cox has said the company has no plans on doing business in New York if the fracking process was ever approved by the Cuomo administration; he said he also does no lobbying on behalf of the company and that any favorable decisions to permit fracking in New York would not affect his stock holdings.

David Laska, a spokesman for the state GOP, said this morning: "We're not aware of this and, to our knowledge, JCOPE matters are confidential. It sounds like Sen. Kennedy is more interested in a headline than a result.''


Erie County Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy came to Cox's defense this afternoon. Here is his statement:

"Tim Kennedy has demonstrated just how out of touch he is with the hardworking people of Western New York. Our state Republican Chairman Ed Cox has been admirable in his full, voluntary public disclosure of his ties to Noble Energy, a successful company that has no stake in New York State.

"Tim Kennedy should spend less time grabbing cheap political headlines and sound-bytes and more time worrying about jobs for Western New Yorkers. Erie County residents want more jobs and economic development. They showed that on Tuesday by electing Republicans across Erie County -- including electing a Republican majority to the county Legislature for the first time in 36 years."


Erie County records 30.1 percent turnout

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   Erie County posted a 30.1 percent turnout in Tuesday's election, just slightly higher than the last comparable election in 2009.

   Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr said the figure marked a small improvement from 28 percent in the last "off year" election where the coutywide ballot is topped by the offices of sheriff and comptroller.

   Buffalo, Mohr said, recorded a 24.8 percent turnout.

Pigeon on Zellner: "He needs to leave."

By Robert J. McCarthy
   The first call for the resignation of Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner following Tuesdays' election reverses came today from a not unexpected source -- G. Steven Pigeon.
   The former chairman, who represents a vocal faction of opposition within the party to the Headquarters group controlled by Zellner, said the loss of the County Legislature and two countywide posts necessitates a change.
   "He needs to leave," Pigeon said. "There is not time for another year of fighting."
   Pigeon suggested Zellner's departure should be negotiated in a way that would be acceptable for him.
   "It doesn't mean he can't be accommodated," Pigeon said in a suggestion of compromise. "That's the way wars end."
   Pigeon has emerged in recent weeks as a confidant of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's inner political circle, though not all Western New York Democrats agree he speaks for those insiders. Still, Cuomo's political team has had no close relationship with Zellner, and Pigeon is viewed as at the very least maintaining close ties with the governor's political operation.
     Zellner has maintained throughout his chairmanship that he will serve out his term and run for another in September. "Listening to Steve Pigeon talking about the chairmanship is like taking boating lessons from the captain of the Titanic," Zellner said.


O'Brien resigns as Water Authority commissioner

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   Christopher J. O'Brien, a Buffalo attorney who had made reforming the Erie County Water Authority a priority during a brief tenure as a commissioner, resigned Tuesday.
   The Buffalo News today obtained a copy of O'Brien's resignation letter, in which he cites time demands on his family and law practive. O'Brien also said he believed the time was right for him to leave.
  "We have now appointed a new executive director and have set a budget for the next five years," he said, "so I believe this is the proper time for me to turn over the duties to another qualified individual."
   O'Brien's move now sets the stage for the new Republican majority in the County Legislature to flex its muscles far before O'Brien's term was set to expire.


Senate GOP leader feeling pretty good today

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, this morning was taking a victory bow after some important GOP local victories around the state on Tuesday. Skelos and his Republican colleagues are looking for any hints from voters that they might be willing to help keep the GOP in partial control of the Senate in the 2014 elections.

The words, or some of them, from Skelos:

The resounding victories by Republican county executives in Nassau and Westchester counties, county executive candidates in Orange, Rockland, Montgomery and Chautauqua, as well as triumphs by a mayoral candidate in Binghamton, comptrollers in Nassau and Erie, along with turning a Democratic county legislature from Democrat to Republican in Erie and to a supermajority in Chautauqua, are all important victories for hardworking taxpayers and their families.

In addition, they have sent a very powerful message about the future of the Republican Party in New York State, particularly in the New York City suburbs and across Upstate. New Yorkers want their public servants at all levels to focus on reducing taxes, partnering with the private sector to create new jobs, and bringing competence, functionality and leadership back to government. That's what County Executives Mangano and Astorino, County Executive-elects Neuhaus, Day, Ossenfort and others, along with Republicans in the State Senate who represent many of the same communities, have worked tirelessly to do.

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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 |