The invitation for a Wednesday event in Smithtown featuring Texas...

The invitation for a Wednesday event in Smithtown featuring Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and CD1 contender Michelle Bond. Credit:

Daily Point

National GOP bigwigs hit Long Island

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is coming to Smithtown on Wednesday — not for another sampling of “New York values,” but rather to do a rally with CD1 GOP contender Michelle Bond.

The gathering at the Smithtown Elks Lodge is being advertised by Stand for New York PAC, a recently organized political group with a Texas mailing address, according to federal filings.

The listing calls for a suggested $5 donation to the PAC, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Bond, or denigrating one of her opponents, Nick LaLota, the county GOP’s preferred candidate.

Bond, who heads a cryptocurrency trade group and used to work as an attorney for Alabama GOP Sen. Richard Shelby on the Senate Banking Committee, received Cruz’s endorsement in July.

“I ask my fellow conservatives to join me in supporting Michelle for Congress," Cruz said then.

Shoring up her right flank seems to be the purpose here: The PAC event listing calls her an “America First candidate.”

One of the big disputes between the candidates in this GOP primary has been who is most conservative. Enter LaLota, who responded to news of Bond’s Cruz endorsement back in July by tweeting a picture of him “booing” Cruz at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland after Cruz famously declined to endorse Donald Trump.

LaLota told The Point he was in the third row that day, and his tweet included a picture of him in the crowd with a news outlet’s caption: “Nick Lalota, a New York delegate, called Cruz's failure to endorse Trump a major disappointment.”

The caption quotes LaLota as saying that Cruz “lied and went back on his word in front of a crowd of 25,000 party republicans."

LaLota also criticized Cruz for his opposition to relief money for Long Island after Superstorm Sandy.

It was something of a New York sport in some circles to beat up on Cruz during his tour here as part of his failed 2016 presidential bid, not long after his famed disparagement of the state’s values. Cruz came in third out of three in the NY GOP primary, nearly doubled by the runner-up, then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The Texas senator is not the only Republican with presidential aspirations doing the rounds in New York these days. Former Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to join the Manhattan GOP’s soiree in the Hamptons in early September, where tickets start at $500 and attire is “Smart Casual,” according to an invitation.

And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will be the special guest at an Aug. 28 fundraiser for Lee Zeldin, the GOP gubernatorial hopeful. It’s in Oyster Bay and the tickets start a little pricier, at $1,000 for the reception.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

NIFA has a few questions for Blakeman

As the financial status of Nassau County has improved over the past few years, support for the Nassau Interim Finance Authority and the control period it imposed on the county’s finances in 2011 has waned.

County Executive Bruce Blakeman wants the control period ended. And NIFA board members, including chairman Adam Barsky, are increasingly signaling they’re open to the arguments for ending the control period.

But first, they want a few answers about Blakeman’s plans for the county’s financial future.

In a letter to Blakeman sent last month, Barsky said NIFA is evaluating the control period along with the county’s budget and multiyear plan, but wants to know:

  • As regards the Nassau University Medical Center, will the county keep making scheduled payments on the $150 million in hospital debt the county is responsible for, or pay it off in a lump sum? Is the county willing to subsidize the hospital, as it did with $13 million annual payments until former county executive Edward Mangano stopped the transfers, or will it let NUMC close if it goes bankrupt? And if it does close, what is the county’s health care plan for prisoners in Nassau’s jail?
  • How soon will the county settle contracts with the PBA and correction officers, and will they match the pattern established by Nassau’s three other municipal unions?
  • How does the county plan to pay as much as $109 million to CSEA members if that union wins its grievance over COVID-19 comp time for essential workers who had to report during the height of the pandemic as nonessential workers were excused from work but paid?
  • What is the status and timing of the county’s appeal of a court ruling that its tax map verification fee is illegal?
  • How will the county reform its assessment system to stop creating mountains of tax certoriari liability?
  • How will the county address a pile of other potential fiscal liabilities, including increased pension costs if the stock markets stay depressed, the county’s fight with LIPA over property taxes on a power plant, hundreds of millions in workers' compensation claims, and a potential recession depressing sales tax revenue?

So far, Barsky and NIFA haven’t gotten a response from Blakeman.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Back to the block

Credit: Whamond, Canada

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Final Point

Assembly GOP caucus likely to grow — but how much?

At the moment, Democrats rule the Assembly by a veto-proof 107-43 margin. That could start changing soon, if only in a limited way. The district lines they have controlled for 40 years are getting redrawn in court — and who is designated to craft that new map could shape how far the Republican minority’s numbers might rise this year and two years from now.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, has asked the court to let the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission — which failed to agree on and deliver a single set of maps to the State Legislature earlier this year — have a go at the Assembly lines.

Heastie’s strategic position is clear enough. The state Court of Appeals threw out the congressional and Senate lines, crafted earlier this year by the legislature, based in part on the failure of the prescribed combined IRC-legislative process to be carried out properly. So, the reasoning goes, why not try to do it right this time?

Perhaps the IRC could work out a fair map. After all, unlike the other maps, the Assembly map arose from a bipartisan deal that protected both Democratic and Republican incumbents. So if assigned, the IRC might give Heastie a map that resembles the one for which he previously won support from a number of Republicans in the chamber.

But that’s far from the position of political mavericks Gary Greenberg, Paul Nichols and Gavin Wax who sued to put this matter in court in the first place. They prevailed after crying foul about the GOP’s failure to challenge Heastie’s plan along with the congressional and Senate districts.

Now these plaintiffs want the court to assign a special master. Doing so could keep the map-drawing as far away from the machinations of Heastie and the Senate’s Democratic majority as possible. A key part of the mavericks’ legal argument is that the state constitution doesn’t offer a way to resume the IRC process during an off-year.

For the congressional maps, during the spring, the courts ditched a plan approved in Albany that could have netted the Democrats three seats in Congress and had demographic expert Jonathan Cervas replace it with one that created no fewer than eight competitive seats.

Cervas’ redo also made the Senate potentially more competitive. So of course, those who challenged the Assembly plan like his work.

But what would be the electoral impact of those changed lines? Republican insiders say that this year, even with Heastie’s preferred map in effect, their party could pare the Democratic majority to perhaps 100-50 or so. One veteran Republican noted to The Point that last year, Curtis Sliwa, the outgunned and outfunded GOP candidate for New York City mayor, ran surprisingly strongly in a handful of City Council districts there — perhaps an optimistic sign for the party’s Assembly bids this year. These included among others Asian American enclaves such as Flushing and Elmhurst in Queens and Sunset Park in Brooklyn.

On the other hand, 2024, when the new and presumably more GOP-friendly Assembly map takes effect, is a presidential election year. That traditionally means strong Democratic turnout and bad tidings for Republicans within a blue state.

“We’re hoping last year’s winds continue,” said another Republican strategist. “Is there a point where it stops? We don’t know.”

Redistricting may shape the playing field — but it doesn’t guarantee future gains and losses for either party.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison