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Meet the new chairs
The newly empowered State Senate Democrats put their starting line-up on the field Tuesday, and members from New York City got many of the premier slots.
As expected, Todd Kaminsky was named head of the Environmental Conservation Committee. That’s a big deal, even more so now that local elected officials will play key roles in both chambers as Steve Englebright of Setauket heads its counterpart on the Assembly side. The era of climate-change denial in Albany will end.
Seaford’s John Brooks takes over Veterans Affairs. It had been headed by Tom Croci, the Islip Republican who walked away from his job in the spring to return to active service. There is no evidence that Brooks is putting a uniform back on anytime soon.
There was one even swap. Anna Kaplan of Port Washington replaces Phil Boyle of Bay Shore as head of Commerce.
Kevin Thomas, who defeated Kemp Hannon of Garden City, snags Consumer Protection which fits his background as a legal services attorney who helps fight predatory student loan lenders. Hannon was the influential chairman of the Health Committee because of his encyclopedic knowledge of regulations, funding and insurance programs. Heading Health for Democrats will be NYC’s Gustavo Rivera, who had been the ranking member.
Losing Education might be the biggest consequence of the GOP losing control. Instead of Oyster Bay’s Carl Marcellino, anchoring it, the new chair is Westchester’s Shelley Mayer who had been the ranking minority member.
Huntington’s Jim Gaughran will head Local Government, which fits his background as a former county legislator, town board member and head of the Suffolk County Water Authority. That meant he had to deal with the many local governing entities on the Island.
Of the new members of the Long Island delegation, Monica Martinez got one created for her passion. She will lead a newly created committee on domestic animal welfare. The correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence is a strong one.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins had 40 members to please, the GOP had only 32 members to satisfy.
The switch in party control obviously cost Long Island the leadership. As majority leader, John Flanagan ran the Rules Committee, which can make or break legislation; Stewart-Cousins, the Democrats' leader from Westchester, takes that spot.
Stewart-Cousins has yet to name her leadership team, jobs that are less appealing to members now that their lulus, those extra stipends, are gone.
Crossing the aisle
A bipartisan group of 44 former U.S. senators wrote a foreboding letter to the Senate in The Washington Post Monday night, warning about a “dangerous period” coming: “we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.”
The time peg? The endgame of Robert Mueller’s investigation and beginning of House investigations into President Donald Trump and his administration.
The lone New Yorker to sign the piece was Long Island’s Al D’Amato, one of only 10 Republicans to do so alongside prominent Democrats like former Sens. Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, and John Kerry.
D’Amato tells The Point that former Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd reached out to him with a copy of the letter. D’Amato says he thought it was a good idea because he was “tired of seeing the bitter partisanship” in the country. D’Amato was at times a loud supporter of Trump in 2016.
He didn’t edit the piece because of the large number of people who had to sign off on it. The final version of the op-ed does not urge specific action and includes vague statements about upholding the institutions of democracy.
D’Amato, however, offered some verbal specifics for both sides to heed:
He urged Democrats to close elements of “catch and release” in our immigration system, while telling Republicans to embrace prison reform, some gun control and a solution for DACA recipients.
He also says Democrats should not go after the impeachment of Trump if investigations don’t show real cause.
“These are perilous times,” the former senator said.
Mueller’s Christmas Wish
Firing up her base
And speaking of New York senators, Kirsten Gillibrand set off a firestorm when she tweeted last week that the future is “Female,” “Intersectional,” and “Powered by our belief in one another.”
It’s the kind of language that liberal activists love and conservatives love to hate.
Gillibrand has been appealing to this portion of the left and antagonizing the right in more than just the viral tweet. A review of her recent ads in Facebook’s archive of political ads shows her asking for “activists like you to stand with her.”
The ads say that Gillibrand “is leading the resistance against Trump’s hateful agenda and has the strongest anti-Trump record in the Senate.”
“This resistance has been fueled by your calls to Congress, your marches, your protests and your grassroots activism.”
Other potential 2020 candidates in our backyard have been less resistance-focused in their Facebook ads. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been quiet on the platform since his re-election. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has focused on legislative priorities like protecting Obamacare. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is boosting his bipartisan opioid philanthropy, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has some bland language about looking for “progressive change.”
Gillibrand’s ads are more fiery, as per the position she’s staked out for herself going into 2020. And, naturally, they are being targeted to users all over the country, not just New York.