New York State Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs says he wants to...

New York State Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs says he wants to be sure of a second line for Gov. Kathy Hochul's ticket. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Hochul hears LI party static

Late last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul met with Democrats in both legislative houses to discuss topics that principally included the pending state budget, which is due within days. One brief part of the meeting got around outside its confines after Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre suggested the governor should consider not keeping Jay Jacobs on as the state party chairman.

Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights) acknowledged on Monday that she did mention dumping Jacobs but was reluctant to elaborate when The Point reached her at the Legislative Office Building in Albany: “It was an opportunity for Long Island [elected officials] to have a conversation on politics and governance with the chief in command on budget and non-budget matters.” She said that “changes need to be made” at the top of the party leadership. Jean-Pierre has in the past called for a wider diversity of representation in the party. She was reluctant to elaborate on the exact exchange of the meeting, but others said that discussion didn’t go far at all.

Jacobs said he reached the assemblywoman after hearing of the remarks and said she’d complained of having been unable to reach him previously despite some attempts. “I certainly felt very badly,” he said, surmising she had tried texting him on an office phone and that he always responds to messages he receives. He said he ultimately “had a good conversation” with Jean-Pierre which ended on friendly terms. Jacobs also defended to The Point the degree to which he has had inclusion in the party leadership.

Sources said that, much more specifically, one core point of disagreement between the chairman and the lawmaker is the way he has proceeded on the Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Kathleen Rice, who announced she’s departing from her CD4 seat. Rice supports former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, but Jacobs has said “with her very high negatives, particularly from what I have heard in the minority community, she will have a tough time winning.” But even with his doubts about Gillen, some say he is ignoring the sentiment of local Black elected officials who favor county Legis. Siela Bynoe — an ally of Jean-Pierre. Jacobs has indicated a fondness for Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett, a loyal lawyer for the party operation.

His state role aside, Jacobs has been on something of a hot seat locally from different sides since November when Democrats lost badly to Republicans around the county.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Ticket splitting

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Democratic opponents or potential opponents might find this or that to latch onto in the Siena poll released Monday, but the general contours remain in her favor: significant leads over Jumaane Williams and Tom Suozzi and an 8-point primary edge over Andrew M. Cuomo.

So far, her challengers don’t seem to have found a resonant issue to bring her down a notch.

That could be different in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

The incumbent, Brian Benjamin, hand-picked by Hochul last year, has been slammed in recent days by stories about federal subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan seeking information about campaign fundraising and grants related to his time as a state senator.

Benjamin’s campaign has said he has not been accused of wrongdoing and was prepared to cooperate with authorities. But what if there is a there, there.

Hochul’s campaign did not respond to a query from The Point about the possibility of replacing Benjamin ahead of the June primary. While a party’s candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run together in the general election in New York, they run separately in the primary, so it's possible that a gubernatorial candidate from one “ticket” could be paired with a running mate they didn’t want. That has happened before — famously, Mario Cuomo’s preferred 1982 running mate Carl McCall lost the lieutenant governor primary to Alfred DelBello. Cuomo had to run with the Westchester County executive as his running mate but DelBello resigned a few years later after an unhappy partnership with the governor.

This year, Suozzi and Williams each have their own LG candidates — former NYC councilwoman Diana Reyna and organizer Ana María Archila, respectively. A shotgun marriage with one of them might not be desirable for Hochul.

While the news stories may be concerning to Hochul’s campaign, it would be difficult for Hochul to push Benjamin off the ticket before the primary.

The prescribed “declination” period during which a candidate can sidestep an offered ballot line has passed for Benjamin, who became the Democrats’ choice at a February convention. The few other hypothetical offramps are convoluted, such as him accepting nomination for another office. According to recently tweaked election law, if he were in more than one primary and lost in the other primary — say, Working Families — he could decline the other line he might be on, says state Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin.

These and similarly labyrinthine scenarios are certainly possible, but another mark of how difficult it is to get off an upcoming New York ballot line is that even a felony conviction wouldn’t take someone off the line alone.

Whatever political machinations happen in the coming weeks, Hochul knows well that New York voters don’t mind ignoring the gov-LG alliances and ticket-splitting. In the 2018 primary, then-Gov. Cuomo nearly doubled Cynthia Nixon’s totals. But then-LG Hochul got a real race from Williams, who ran a feisty primary for the seat and nabbed 670,000 votes to Hochul’s 770,000.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Credit: BATTLE GROUND, WA/Monte Wolverton

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Quick Points

Plain — and not-so-plain — talk

  • When it comes to recovering from the pandemic, a new survey reveals that Long Islanders are pessimistic about New York City. Is it really news that Long Islanders are pessimistic about New York City?
  • After President Joe Biden’s Poland speech ad-lib about Russian President Vladimir Putin, that “this man cannot remain in power,” Biden was immediately criticized for a lack of discipline. But not for a lack of heart, or truth-telling.
  • Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho said of Biden’s gaffe, “I wish he would stay on script.” Finally, a bipartisan yearning in Washington.
  • Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Biden’s remark was a “statement of fact.” Which torpedoed the Biden administration’s insistence that he was not talking about regime change.
  • As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas faces calls to recuse himself from any case involving the 2020 election or Jan. 6 insurrection after the exposure of texts his wife wrote to the White House supporting moves to overturn the election, GOP Sen. Rick Scott said Thomas would “always do the right thing.” Perhaps he forgot that Thomas failed to recuse himself from one election case that already came before the court.
  • The former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany admitted in a recently released deposition that he did not report allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests to police, saying he didn’t feel he was required to do so by law. Isn’t morality a matter of what one should do, even when that’s difficult?
  • Actor Will Smith approached the Oscars stage and slapped Chris Rock after the comedian made a poor-taste joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. That’s probably not what award show organizers had in mind when they heralded a back-to-normal Oscar ceremony.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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