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Jockeying for Pete King's seat

Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt looks on during an

Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt looks on during an Islip Town Board meeting on Jan. 23, 2018. Credit: Barry Sloan

Daily Point

Open Congressional Seat: Day 4 

The saga of New York’s 2nd Congressional District got only hotter as the week progressed. 

Democratic bigwigs Steve Israel and Rep. Carolyn Maloney on Thursday put their weight behind Jackie Gordon, the Babylon Town Board member who was in the race months before Rep. Pete King announced he’d be retiring next year. 

Israel, a former representative of Long Island’s North Shore who once headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Point he hoped a primary could be avoided. 

“Gordon has been laboring at this for months, and while she needs to do vastly better on her fundraising, it seems inherently unfair to try whisking her aside now that a better opportunity presents itself,” Israel wrote in an email. 

Suffolk County Democratic leader Rich Schaffer announced he was behind Gordon hours after King’s retirement news broke earlier this week. That might be reassuring to state Democrats who don’t want rising star Monica Martinez to vacate her newly earned majority-cementing State Senate seat in an attempt for the D.C. post. 

Queens State Sen. Mike Gianaris, who heads the Democratic campaign arm in the Senate, told The Point that he had called Schaffer Thursday afternoon about his plans for CD2. “He told me that he is sticking with Gordon,” said Gianaris. 

Gianaris said the local Democratic support for Gordon was good news because “it’s always easier to protect an incumbent.” He added that not having King’s name on the ballot ahead of 3rd Senate District candidates will help ensure Martinez's reelection to a second term. 

On the Republican side, former NYPD detective and Hofstra adjunct professor James Coll is considering a run. Coll, 47, of Seaford, has made attempts for the State Assembly and Nassau County Legislature without support from the county party. He says he would be different from other candidates this time around due to his police service, which might resonate with the district, and the fact that he’s not a “go-along, get-along kind of guy.”

Islip Town Board member and former News12 anchor Trish Bergin tells The Point more definitively that she will seek the GOP nod in CD2. She said she filed on Thursday the FEC paperwork for her campaign committee: Trish Bergin for Congress.

Bergin, 48, said after her 20 years as a reporter and anchor and her 10 years as an elected official, people view her as trustworthy. “They know I will take these three decades of experience and work for them. I know what their needs are.”

She added a tagline reminiscent of Beto O’Rourke’s infamous Vanity Fair exclamation.

“This is what I was born to do,” Bergin said.

—Rita Ciolli and Mark Chiusano @RitaCiolli and @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Taking count

As the state Public Finance Reform Commission struggles to come up with a system to blunt the power of big money in politics and give newcomers a shot at raising enough cash to take on incumbents, there are other big issues on the table. One contentious question is how many votes a party should have to get in a gubernatorial race to automatically have a line on the ballot for the next four years.

The current threshold is 50,000, a barrier exceeded in 2018 by Democrats (3,424,416), Republicans (1,926,485), Conservatives (253,624), Working Families (114,478), Greens (103,946), Libertarians (95,033), Independence (68,713) and Serve America Movement (55,441).

There is a push to increase that threshold, but to what? That’s a contentious question, but 50,000 certainly represented a much larger share of the state vote when it was adopted 84 years ago than it does now.

In 1935, the state had about 4.5 million registered voters and a population of about 7.2 million. Today, it has about 13 million registered voters and a population of about 19 million. On that basis, had the 50,000 threshold been indexed for New York’s growth, the number now would be around 140,000.

But determining the threshold now is a political problem, not a mathematical one, with minor-party proponents arguing to keep it where it is and major-party leaders like state and Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, who sits on the commission, having suggested he’d like to see it as high as 250,000. That’s about as high as it can go since such a cutoff would show that at least one minor party, the Conservative Party, is able to reach it. A higher number that no minor party has ever reached could face a legal challenge.

And that debate is deeply linked to the argument over whether a candidate should be able to appear on more than one party line, also being debated by the commission.

In 2018, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was the candidate of three of the parties that hit 50,000, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro also represented the Conservative Party. 

If fusion voting ends and every party must put up its own candidate, the 50,000 number looks a lot bigger than if major-party mega-candidates can bring minor parties along on their coattails.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

...Pants on fire

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Final Point

New blood at the MTA

Anthony McCord, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new chief transformation officer, won’t do the enormous job of overhauling the agency alone.

In an interview with The Point just hours after he was introduced to the MTA board, McCord said he plans to hire at least 50 people to work on his transformation effort and already has received inquiries about those jobs. 

Even with that help, it’s the sheer scale of the MTA and its 74,000 employees that McCord said will be his biggest challenge.

McCord comes to the MTA from Montreal, but unlike his fellow Canadian transplant, New York City Transit chief Andy Byford, he lacks public transit experience. He has, however, worked to reorganize other businesses, including health care and finance.

That lack of experience, McCord said, won’t hold him back from making the change the MTA needs.

“I’m surrounded by people who really know what they’re doing, particularly the heads of the agencies,” McCord said, noting that he’s met with Long Island Rail Road president Phil Eng, among others.

McCord, who will report to the MTA board, is tasked with finding ways to consolidate many of the MTA’s back-office operations, like human resources and legal services, and centralize engineering and capital-construction efforts. Ultimately, the reorganization could eliminate 2,700 jobs, some through attrition, others potentially through layoffs.

McCord, who will start in mid-December and earn $325,000 a year, said he hopes to spend time in the beginning doing a “front-line job” that would allow him to work with and talk to MTA employees.

While others describe McCord’s tasks as finding ways to reduce costs, or streamlining operations, McCord’s own job description is a bit more to the point.

“You tend to be a bit of the lightning rod,” McCord said.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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