Good afternoon. Today’s points:
- State Senate fight lands in Westchester
- ‘Erica Garner issues’
- Suffolk County Board of Elections goes national
Between a majority and minority leader
At the Business Council of Westchester’s “Road to the White House” event in White Plains Friday, Republican State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Democratic State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins had their attention firmly on Albany, where the battle for control of their chamber could have them switching titles very soon.
For Flanagan, the strain of having Donald Trump on the top of his ticket and top Nassau County Republicans charged with federal crimes last week seemed to be sapping his confidence. “We are swimming upstream in some areas,” he said of the GOP effort to keep the Senate.
Stewart-Cousins, by contrast, brimmed with confidence, pointing out that her party had taken the mathematical majority when Todd Kaminsky won a special election for the seat Dean Skelos vacated after his federal criminal conviction. She added that her party has regularly picked up seats in presidential election years.
“I think we will wake up and be surprised,” Stewart-Cousins said. “I believe that we will have not only the 32 [of 63 total seats], but a significant number more.”
Suddenly, one of Flanagan’s biggest challenges is the re-election effort of Massapequa’s Michael Venditto, recently hampered by the arrest of Venditto’s father, Town of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, on federal corruption charges. Flanagan seemed to be alluding to the recent arrests when he said the party is “dealing with the vagaries of campaigning that everyone has to get used to.”
Stewart-Cousins, referring to what had been a safe GOP hold, said: “The Venditto seat is now in play. John Brooks looks like he is now going to join our ranks.”
On television and in mailers, Long Island’s GOP Senate candidates have argued that a Senate run by the Democrats would cater entirely to New York City interests and cast Mayor Bill de Blasio as the bogeyman who will run the show. On Stewart-Cousins’ home turf, though, Flanagan did not mention de Blasio or the direness of city power, instead focusing on how he works with everyone from every party.
It was Stewart-Cousins who referred to the GOP talking point, saying, “Westchester, they’ll tell you Bill de Blasio is going to come and get you . . . Bill de Blasio does not live here and does not run the Senate Democrats. I do.”
WikiLeaks on just how black lives matter
When WikiLeaks emails revealed aides to Hillary Clinton noting their “Erica Garner issues,” it only added fuel to the fire.
The aides were reviewing an op-ed for the Daily News about gun violence and debating whether to mention Eric Garner, who died in a police chokehold in Staten Island in 2014. His daughter, Erica, has been an outspoken advocate since then, unafraid to criticize Mayor Bill de Blasio, President Barack Obama and Clinton for their positions and lack of action after Garner’s death.
She endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
On Thursday, she again began slamming the Clinton campaign, this time because of the leaked emails. She also blasted those who expect her to fall in line behind Clinton in the face of Donald Trump.
As with many of the hacked emails, it appears the Clinton campaign was prescient, if calculating, behind closed doors concerning its potential problems. Garner had become a political force and not one who has rallied behind the Democratic flag.
Her continued advocacy might be one of the reasons why the Department of Justice took the unusual step of moving the stalled investigation of the police officer involved in Garner’s death out of the hands of the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn. Civil Rights Division prosecutors in Washington reportedly would be more likely to bring charges. Even if there is no federal case to be made, the DOJ would have shown that it explored all possible avenues in search of a prosecution.
Suffolk County’s Board of Elections featured in . . . TMZ?
The elections board achieved celebrity status of sorts earlier this week when the website TMZ, known mostly for gossip and entertainment news, did a brief story calling voter fraud “a real concern,” and quoted three elections officials from across the country — including Nick LaLota, Suffolk County’s GOP Board of Elections commissioner. LaLota expressed particular concerns over New York’s signature verification efforts.
A day later, ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism website, debunked most of TMZ’s claims, although LaLota was quoted as confirming his concerns.
LaLota told The Point that he would support requiring voters to provide identification at the polls, and he doesn’t buy the argument that it might disenfranchise minority voters and others.
“I would suggest the law as it exists today isn’t adequate,” LaLota told The Point. “It’s easy for a nefarious individual to penetrate our systems.”
LaLota’s Democratic counterpart, fellow Board of Elections commissioner Anita Katz, emphasized that the job of both commissioners is to “encourage people to vote, and make it easy for people to vote, not to make it harder for people to vote.”
LaLota said he’s looking to ensure the “utmost amount of integrity” in the voting system. But he doesn’t want his moment of fame, TMZ-style, to be misconstrued.
“I don’t want to be the conspiracy theorist,” he said. “I don’t have any evidence of widespread voter fraud.”
Randi F. Marshall