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Team Trump on offense

Democrat Max Rose at the College of Staten

Democrat Max Rose at the College of Staten Island's Williamson Theatre on Oct. 16, 2018. Credit: Staten Island Advance via AP/Bill Lyons

Daily Point

Trump’s impeachment offense

As impeachment got underway on Wednesday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves had something to say to New York-area media:

“Rep. Max Rose said he wouldn't go to Washington with a ‘partisan pitchfork’ in his hand, yet he joins Nancy Pelosi and the progressive Democrats in their hyper-partisan, baseless impeachment sham,” Groves said in an emailed statement. 

It was an example of President Donald Trump turning impeachment to his benefit, and a New York congressman being put on the hot seat for a tough and perhaps career-defining vote. 

Groves also released a similar statement about Rose’s Empire State colleague Anthony Brindisi. It didn’t have the same specifics about district-level issues from Trump’s hometown — the Rose-related statement claimed Trump was fighting for Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn “to address the opioid crisis, improve our infrastructure, and lower prescription drug prices.” But the gist was the same: “Brindisi has wasted time and taxpayer dollars on a sham impeachment hoax.”

The White House attention is just some of the pressure being put on these freshmen who flipped Trump-voting districts in 2018. America First Policies, a Trump-aligned nonprofit supporting his 2020 campaign, is slamming them on Twitter plus spending thousands of dollars on social media ads telling voters to complain about impeachment to various Democrats in Republican-friendly districts. That includes New Yorkers Antonio Delgado and Sean Patrick Maloney. The Republican congressional campaign arm also put all four New Yorkers on a target list this year. 

Maloney’s district was a relative toss-up even as it went for Trump, and the four-term congressman can lean on the shield of seniority as he looks to 2020. But the House freshmen face reelection for the first time on pretty unfriendly turf. Their strategy appears to be a loud focus on local issues — Brindisi has championed local flatware production, Rose has been vocal on Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge tolling, and Delgado has held more than 30 town halls. The three of them are part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Frontline” program to help members from tough districts win reelection. 

For now, Long Island’s Democratic delegation has been spared those impeachment statements from Trump, even though Reps. Tom Suozzi, Kathleen Rice, and Greg Meeks support it. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

SBU’s big ask

The past four months have been a bit of a whirlwind for Michael Bernstein, the former Stony Brook University provost who was named the school’s interim president on Aug. 1. Now the fall semester is nearly over, with commencement on Friday, and Bernstein is preparing for another annual ritual — asking Albany for budget help.

State funding for Stony Brook has been flat for seven years. And Bernstein, a former history and economics professor, knows the hat-in-hand mission is going to be tougher this year given the difficult budget climate in Albany.

“Obviously, everything we’re hearing about the state budget causes concern,” Bernstein told The Point. “It’s been challenging budgets the past few years. We feel it’s our responsibility to make the case on our key priorities for consideration by state leadership. Last year we didn’t get everything we asked for, but we got some.”

Bernstein listed three priorities this year, including more operating support. Second was an additional $50 million to build a new engineering building, which Bernstein promotes by noting that the school produces more engineering degrees than any institution in New York, ranking 19th in the nation in that count. Interestingly, Bernstein said he wrote to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week to propose that $10 million granted for an expansion of Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium be redirected to the engineering facility. He’s waiting for a reply.

The funding request comes as Farmingdale State College is seeking money for a new applied sciences building. Both, Bernstein said, should be funded. “We feel very strongly they need that building,” he said. “It should not be an either-or solution.”

Bernstein’s third priority is additional support for Stony Brook University Hospital, including $50 million in capital spending and $2 million Bernstein says will allow the hospital to complete the process to be named a National Cancer Institute clinical care facility. That designation, he said, would be a first on Long Island and would unlock more federal funding.

Bernstein understands Albany’s typical focus on funding K-12 education. That involves property taxes, an eternal concern for voters who elect governors and state lawmakers. But he says he has a good story to tell about Stony Brook’s success and the promise that it can do even better with more support.

“We have tried very hard over the past couple of years to tighten our belts, to make cuts when we have to, we had a hiring hold in place for a while,” Bernstein said. “We’re trying to be efficient and effective with the support we receive. We’re also striving to be strategic.”

But he’s also channeling emotion. Said Bernstein: “Hope springs eternal!”

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Pencil Point

Heat Miser vs. Snow Miser

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Final Point

Strange Legefellows

The vote to deny Suffolk County Police Det. Salvatore Gigante a promotion to detective sergeant on the district attorney’s police squad ended Tuesday after months of contention. Gigante was denied the prize. 

Gigante is the nephew of Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante, and Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and others had accused the department of handling the promotion improperly. They argued that Salvatore Gigante was the least qualified candidate for the job and that better ones, including minority candidates, were brushed aside after little consideration.

Gigante’s promotion, which police union leaders, Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and County Executive Steve Bellone supported, garnered nine votes, with seven opposed and two abstentions. But it needed 10 votes, a majority of the full body, to take effect.

Because the issue was such a political hand grenade, and because it involved policing, race, politics and personal relationships, it scrambled some of the legislature’s normal alliances. 

Gregory is a Democrat who sometimes supports Bellone but is closer to Bellone’s former friend and off-and-on archnemesis, county Democratic leader Rich Schaffer. Schaffer also is close to the police unions and strongly supported Gigante’s promotion.

But Gregory’s support on this issue came from the Republicans, with former Suffolk police officer Robert Trotta, who has been furious about Gigante’s promotion from the start, leading the charge. Republicans Steven Flotteron, Tom Cilmi and Tom Muratore also voted “no,” while Republicans Leslie Kennedy and Rudy Sunderman abstained, which had the same effect as “no” votes. 

The only Republican to support Gigante was Kevin McCaffrey, while Democrats Kara Hahn and Al Krupski sided with Gregory and the opposition.

Gregory said some of the unusual alliances involved legislators who had personal relationships with one Gigante or the other.

Earlier this month, the county, at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice, adopted written policies meant to bring more transparency and fairness to the process of transferring officers to special commands, such as the DA squad. Such openings will now be posted at the beginning of each year along with a list of minimum requirements. Applicants’ commanding officers will have to review candidates to determine whether they meet the requirements before those candidates are considered, and a panel will then interview all qualified candidates. 

According to a whistleblower report compiled for the legislature, Salvatore Gigante had the fewest qualifications of the five applicants given serious consideration. Gigante has four months of experience as a sergeant, two years as a detective and 12 years on the force. The four others who applied had served one to seven years as detective sergeants, two to eight years as supervisors and 16 to 24 years with the department.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

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