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Wild Rice

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This drawing appeared in 1754 and is generally

This drawing appeared in 1754 and is generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who published it in his Pennsylvania Gazette. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Good afternoon and welcome to The Point! On this date back in 1754 the first U.S. political cartoon was published. Read below for more about it and click here to catch up on the editorial cartoons of the moment by Matt Davies.

Daily Point

Rice's complicated path to AG

As Eric T. Schneiderman’s political career went up in smoke this week, Rep. Kathleen Rice became fired up about pursuing the Democratic nomination for state attorney general — a spot she came close to winning in 2010.

In that wide-open primary to succeed Andrew M. Cuomo, who was running for governor, Schneiderman beat Rice by just 2.5 percent of the vote in a field of five. She almost certainly would have won except for the candidacy of Sean Coffey, a former federal prosecutor who attracted white Catholic votes, especially upstate.

In 2014, Rice, then the Nassau County district attorney, ran for Congress, and until Monday, she planned to seek a third term in the House. It’s not a gig she especially likes, but one she would keep unless she could be state attorney general.

So, can Rice keep both options open? Can she even give up her congressional seat at this point? As Rice and her opponents besiege election law specialists for clear answers, the answer right now seems to be no — both from practical and political perspectives. Here’s why.

Rice has the Democratic nomination for the 4th Congressional District. Last month was the deadline to get on the ballot for the June federal primary, and no one challenged her.

State law prohibits a candidate from being nominated for two offices. So let’s assume that at the Democrats’ state convention in Uniondale later this month Rice gets 25 percent of the weighted vote of committee members to win a spot on the ballot. She would then have to ask the state Board of Elections to rule that being a candidate in the AG primary is sufficient grounds for her to decline her nomination for Congress. That’s not a slam dunk at the Board of Elections if Republicans get picky. And AG opponents who want her off the state ballot also might undertake a legal challenge.

If Rice doesn’t get a nod from state Democrats, but petitions her way onto the ballot for the state primary on Sept. 13 and wins, she has a better legal case with the Board of Elections to get off the general election ballot. She officially has the nomination, but now timing becomes a problem. It takes at least a week for state election results to be certified, even if there isn’t a recount. That means that the earliest she can formally file to decline the federal nomination with the Board of Elections is Sept. 20. Even if that timing works out, Nassau County Democrats would have only one day to choose a replacement congressional candidate because by midnight Sept. 22, federal military ballots have to be in the mail.

But the legal hoops might be the least of it. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is telling state Democrats this is a big headache, possibly putting a safe seat in play because the newly nominated Democratic candidate for Congress would only have seven weeks to campaign and raise money. If Rice loses the state primary in September, she would still be on the federal ballot. But she could have lost a lot of ground.

Not only would fellow Democrats criticize her in a primary, but her Republican opponent in the congressional race would attack her as not really wanting the job in Washington.

Can Rice thread this needle? Yes, but not without great peril.

Rita Ciolli

Reference Point

Join, or die

President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Iran nuclear deal and risk the fraying of relations with America’s traditional European allies provides modern context for this auspicious day in journalism history.

May 9 is the anniversary of the first political cartoon published in the United States.

The drawing appeared in 1754 and is generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who published it in his Pennsylvania Gazette. It shows a snake cut into eight sections, each labeled to represent American colonies at the time — New England (rather than the four colonies that made up the region), New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Underneath are the words: JOIN, or DIE.

Franklin, in an accompanying editorial, argued for unity among the colonies — not against England, but against the French and their Native American allies in the French and Indian War. A decade later, the cartoon was reprinted elsewhere to unite the colonies against the British. And the phrase “JOIN, or DIE” still resonates, showing up in various incarnations in pop culture and on the forearm of former “The Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson, a native of Scotland who got the tattoo to commemorate becoming a U.S. citizen in 2008.

While European leaders trying to convince Trump to remain in the Iran deal appealed to him to join them, they didn’t lay out the consequences of not doing so quite as direly as Franklin.

Michael Dobie

Pointing Out

Follow the Democrats’ money

Heading into the midterm elections, just how energized are Democrats in New York?

One measure is money. An analysis by The Point shows that contributions to candidates from individuals are up over the last midterm cycle, but much of that increase is explained by just one district.

We looked at contribution data from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, the most recent window with summary data available, and compared that with the same period before the 2014 election, the last congressional election that didn’t coincide with a presidential race. In 2017, New York’s Democratic congressional candidates raised $15,595,233, a 42 percent increase over the $10,977,333 received in 2013.

But that largesse was not distributed evenly. If you take out New York’s 19th Congressional District, where eight Democrats logged contributions for the privilege of taking on GOP Rep. John Faso, the increase drops to 20 percent.

Democrats in the 19th District raised $2.6 million more in 2017 than 2013. No other districts in the state saw increases above $1 million, though some featured increases of more than $400,000. That includes districts held by Republicans such as Reps. Claudia Tenney, Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, as well as some intraparty disputes, as in the case of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who has an active challenger.

There are a few caveats with these numbers: Most significantly, Republican candidates saw a similarly large boost in their contributions over 2013 (though their total contributions were much smaller).

And, new filings may show Democrats gearing up fundraising even further, showing a bigger bump all around the state. Either way, a monetary advantage here won’t necessarily mean Democrats end up with more money, given the less traceable super PAC money that might aid some Republicans.

Until then, Democrats might be cautiously pleased with their new sums, hoping that the well won’t dry up when primaries end.

Mark Chiusano and Sam Guzik

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