Making it official
After more than two years circling around New York State Senate District 1, Laura Ahearn, a longtime advocate for crime victims, made official her run for the 2020 Democratic nomination on Tuesday.
“I have been planning this for a long time,” said Ahearn, who founded the Crime Victims Center and Parents for Megan’s Law, which provide her with a network of supporters and donors. “It’s time to start a new chapter.” The 2016 graduate of Touro Law School also told The Point that she was at the top of her class, proving her skills for staying on message.
The contours of the SD1 race are unclear. Republican incumbent Ken LaValle, in the seat for 43 years, has not definitely said he would seek another term. It’s no secret, though, that LaValle isn’t happy with the meager trappings that came with his party’s fall from power in Albany.
In fact, Ahearn’s aggressive start could be a factor in his decision. Her fundraising operation is in place and she has the support of Eleanor’s Legacy, which supports female Democratic candidates in New York. Ahearn attended a Sept. 20 candidate-training session the group held at the headquarters of the New York State United Teachers organization.
As to whether Ahearn would face a Democratic primary, two political insiders told The Point that while there have been informal inquiries from others, no one else has come forward as a serious candidate.
Ahearn told The Point she pitched her candidacy to Mike Gianaris, the State Senate deputy majority leader, a few weeks ago. She told Gianaris she is a “moderate” Democrat better suited to flip the district. Gianaris, who also heads the Senate campaign committee and engineered the 2018 Democratic primaries to wipe out the Independent Democratic Conference that supported the then-Republican Senate majority, usually supports progressive candidates and issues.
However, Gianaris told The Point that the caucus would change as it grew. “As a result, inevitably, there will be increased diversity geographically, ideologically and otherwise,” he said.
Ahearn’s campaign message is that with a NYC-centric Democratic majority in place in Albany, there needs to be more suburban representatives in the delegation to ensure that the region’s needs are met. She frequently referenced the Long Island Nine that the GOP boasted about for years. Currently, Democrats hold six of the nine State Senate seats that represent Long Island.
“We need the suburban voting bloc again. One of my concerns is how little power Long Island has now to get bills passed and deliver resources with the GOP in the minority,” she said, referencing the era of the Long Island Nine, when all Nassau and Suffolk senators were Republicans and three Long Islanders held the position of majority leader.
“Long Island needs a stronger voice in this party,” she said.
—Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli
Getting ready for battle
And while we are on the topic of Democratic women from Long Island in the State Senate, former Assembly member Christine Pellegrino has taken the next step in her nascent bid for the State Senate seat now held by Republican Phil Boyle.
Her campaign has put together a document assessing her viability.
The document, which the West Islip Democrat shared with The Point, is titled “Fundamentals of the Race” and it makes three essential points — that Boyle’s 4th district is Democratic-leaning (which it measures as a 4.5% registration edge among “active” voters), that in 2018 when she lost her Assembly seat Pellegrino outperformed every statewide and federal Democrat on the ballot in her district except Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and that she enjoys tons of local and state backing.
“I’m so grateful for the strong financial and political support from Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer and the Suffolk County Democratic Party, distinguished Members of the New York State Legislature, and key allies in labor,” Pellegrino wrote in an email to The Point.
It’s not clear, however, whether all the love Pellegrino is sending to other politicians and elected officials will be reciprocated. Unlike the race in SD1, other Democratic candidates are likely to emerge.
—Michael Dobie @mwdobie
Don't turn around
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As President Donald Trump and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani face ferocious scrutiny over efforts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, very few prominent Republicans are jumping ship.
But on Sunday’s episode of John Catsimatidis’ AM 970 radio show, “The Cats Roundtable,” former Republican Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, as canny a political operator as the New York scene boasts, took the full plunge against Trump and for another New York City billionaire.
And it’s a Democrat.
“If [Michael] Bloomberg were to get into the race, I think he could win the Democratic nomination and he would be a very very difficult person to beat,” D’Amato said, waxing rhapsodic on the former New York mayor’s non-partisan positions and achievements.
"If Bloomberg were to run, I’d do anything and everything I could to help. If that means endorsing him, I’d be happy to.”
That’s a very different tune than the one D’Amato sang on the same show when he appeared right after the November 2016 general election, having endorsed Trump. Back then, D’Amato told Catsimatidis, on the topic of Trump’s election, “I am in great spirits. I feel great for the people of our country.” And D’Amato had a staffing suggestion for Trump that day, too, that has not aged well: “I think one great appointment and someone who will follow the law and not bend the law as he or she sees fit as the attorney general is Rudy Giuliani as attorney general.”
Giuliani and D’Amato have been inseparable in the past (let’s not forget that infamous photo of Rudy and Al going undercover to buy crack in NYC) and that relationship is one thing that makes D’Amato’s switch surprising. And the comments were certainly no slip of the tongue that D’Amato now regrets. His camp is doing everything it can to publicize his statements, not gloss over them.
Saturday night Rubenstein PR man Gary Lewi, a D’Amato ally for decades, sent the transcript of D’Amato’s pre-recorded comments to The Point to get the word out.
Asked why D’Amato wanted the publicity for his perspective, Lewi replied, “It would appear the Senator’s position is as that of a Republican moderate reminding people there are extraordinary centrist GOP candidates out there who could and should be president.”
But since Bloomberg is now a Democrat who switched his registration last year to explore a shot at the Democratic nomination he then concluded has no chance of success, that doesn’t entirely fit.
D’Amato could be floating a late-starting Democratic candidacy for Bloomberg, of course, or testing the idea of an independent run backed by Republicans and Democrats. It’s hard to say. He could also be looking for a way to reposition his firm, Park Strategies, in a state where Republican operations are seeing fewer and fewer opportunities to make money.
But what’s certain is D’Amato’s desire to advertise his disillusionment with Trump and, by extension, Giuliani. For three men famous for their tabloid divorce dramas, it would be just a little more break-up fodder for the tabloid front pages where they’ve long been stars.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller