Good afternoon and welcome to The Point! While everyone else is paying attention to Davos, the upcoming Olympics and Robert Mueller, keep your eye on Melania Trump’s moves, too.
You’ve got mail... from the president
Huntington lawyer Edmund J. Smyth, a first-time political candidate, was thrilled to win his race for town council in November. And he was even more excited to receive a personal letter of congratulations from someone he refers to as “the big man,” President Donald Trump.
Smyth is a Republican and not necessarily a Trump acolyte. His wife is decidedly not a fan, he told The Point. But the family was giddy to receive the letter from the White House mentioning his wife, Coriander, and their “beautiful children.”
“I’m confident that your work at the local level will help Make America Great Again!” Trump wrote to Smyth, who was sworn in as a council member earlier this month.
In his closing sentence, Trump asked Smyth a personal favor. “Please give my best to John Lavalle [sic] when you next see him,” he wrote about the Suffolk GOP chairman. LaValle, who was an early supporter of Trump and a frequent media surrogate during the campaign, told The Point Friday: “It’s nice to see he hasn’t forgotten about Suffolk.”
Smyth, a former Marine, was the running mate of new Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci. Democrats lost their town board majority in November's elections.
Lupinacci did not receive a personal letter from the president and that’s probably because Smyth has a personal Trumpian connection.
He participates in an annual golf outing, where he came to know a general contractor from Long Island who has worked on Trump projects and became friendly with him. Smyth declined to give the man’s name. As Trump began to emerge as a serious presidential candidate, Smyth said he and the rest of their foursome teased the contractor about having such a highly placed friend.
When he was sworn in this month, Smyth sent a photo to the contractor, texting in jest, “let the big man know I was elected also.”
Apparently, the mutual acquaintance did so, because two weeks later, Trump’s letter arrived.
Smyth made photocopies and is showing them around. “I understand it’s on very, very nice stationery,” said Toni Tepe, the Huntington GOP chairwoman.
Coriander Smyth spirited away the original immediately to have it framed, her husband said, lest he stain it with a coffee cup ring or jot down a phone number on the back.
Fan or not, a letter from the president generates a certain buzz.
Governors’ Trump playbook
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo held a media conference call Friday morning with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy to announce a move that’s been expected: The three states are joining as plaintiffs to sue the federal government over a tax bill that could kill the suburbs.
The federal lawsuit, which Cuomo said will be filed in the next few weeks, will challenge the constitutionality of the new tax law, claiming it unfairly burdens some states and was intentionally written to disadvantage blue states.
Cuomo said that unrestricted deductions for state and local property and income taxes had been in place since the first federal income tax was passed in 1862. The new law caps the deductions at $10,000.
Part of the strategy behind the lawsuit involves using discovery to turn up communications between Republican drafters to learn whether they were trying to penalize 12 high-income states, which among them have not one GOP senator and produce 40 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
Cuomo clearly will use any means to reverse the loss of deductions, including pushing a bipartisan attempt to repeal the tax bill introduced in the House by Long Island’s Peter King and Westchester’s Nita Lowey.
But he’s also aiming at an Election Day fix, personally campaigning for House Democratic candidates and against the nine New York GOP House members. And that will include those who, like King and Lee Zeldin, voted against the tax plan. The theory is that the Democrats must take the House majority to have any real chance at repeal.
The timing of such a promise from a governor who has not been a big campaigner in races other than his own is fascinating, particularly as he ponders a 2020 presidential run.
The state GOP can’t seem to find anyone to oppose Cuomo this fall, and he always likes to win by as much as possible. So increasing turnout by stirring up the base against GOP House incumbents and, perhaps, Republicans in the State Senate, might serve a variety of purposes for a governor who tends to play more than one game at a time.
Making Davos Great Again
A Gillibrand sighting on LI
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has rediscovered Long Island this election year, speaking Friday morning in Melville to the Women’s Collaborative, a part of the Long Island Association.
About 200 people attended, mostly women, and Gillibrand revved up the crowd, talking about forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts that prevent sexual harassment or assault cases from being made public in court. She has introduced legislation to end forced arbitration. It silences victims, she said, and allows serial abusers to cause harm to one target after another.
The event started with a panel discussion on sexual harassment that included Maria Vullo, superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services. So, the setup for Gillibrand was cushy.
Her press advance promised that the senator would participate in a Q&A about issues affecting Long Island businesses. She started about 25 minutes late, however, leaving time for just three questions. None were about Long Island.
LIA president and chief executive Kevin Law said the senator delivered what the audience wanted, and he had hoped she could have stayed for a longer Q&A. “I got the impression that Gillibrand’s staff was moving her along to about 20 things on her schedule today.”
In Melville, the senator stayed on topic for her audience.
“We will not give up, and we will be heard,” she said to warm applause.