Monday, July 31, 2006

Election roundup for July

July offered more evidence that this is our year to take back Congress, and that New York is the place where we need to make the biggest push.

Early July brought the release of the second quarter fundraising numbers, which showed that challengers around the state are in good shape and will be able to run competitive campaigns for Republican-held seats.

Next, the polls. A poll of the 50 most competitive House races done by Public Opinion Strategies (R) and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D) (pdf) found challengers running for Republican-held seats have the advantage. That confirms a mid-July AP poll (as well as numerous polls from past months) that show challengers running strong. And a Pew poll shows that voters are looking to vote Republicans out of office in this year's election.

Analysis from the New York Times, National Journal and NPR shows that New York is the swing state this election. Simply put, when you count competitive races in a state, we come out on top. Here's what Republican incumbent John Sweeney has to say about New York and the November election:
"[McCain] begins peppering Sweeney with the names of local members of Congress and wonders aloud how each is faring. For every name that McCain rattles off - 'How's Sue? How's Walsh? What about Reynolds?' - Sweeney answers with doom. 'I think the whole state's in play,' he says."
July also saw the growing phenomenon of Republican candidates being embarrassed by their own party - which exhibited itself in Republican incumbents around New York.

Here's a look at some of the competitive New York races.

In CD20, the ethics charges against Republican incumbent John Sweeney are beginning to add up. Sweeney's response? Stonewalling and negative ads. Sweeney is also one of the Republicans who won't name their party as they campaign for reelection - Sweeney didn't say he's a Republican in his TV ads, his campaign literature or his reelection announcement and he skipped the Republican Party State Convention.

In CD24, Republican Ray Meier has broken with retiring Republican incumbent Sherwood Boehlert and is supporting drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Just another issue where Meier has announced his intention to be more conservative than Boehlert.

In CD25, Dan Maffei's challenge to Republican incumbent James Walsh moved up on the National Journal's list of competitive races.

In CD26, Republican incumbent Tom Reynolds is trying to head off his sagging poll numbers by running early TV ads in his race against WFP-endorsed Jack Davis. Reynolds is another Republican not using the word Republican as he campaigns for reelection.

In CD29, Republican incumbent Randy Kuhl has finally agreed to debate WFP-endorsed Eric Massa.

And in CD19, Sue Kelly is another Republican incumbent who won't call herself a Republican.

So far we've raised $5,747 online for our Take Back Congress program. Because of a generous $20,000 matching grant which matches every $1 donated online to take back Congress with another $1, that's over $11,000 we can spend to win close New York House races.

The races are winnable, New York is the battleground state and your donation counts double: if you want to take back Congress then donate today!

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Friday, July 28, 2006

NPR looks at the 2006 election

NPR weighs in on the 2006 election, picking Mike Arcuri and Kirsten Gillibrand as the two key New York races. Here's what they have to say:
"20th Congressional District: Four-term Rep. John Sweeney (R), who has won convincingly in the past, has suddenly appeared in Democrats' cross hairs, mainly over a visit he made to a college fraternity party in April, in which some observers said he appeared drunk, or at the very least, showed poor judgement. Democrats are making sure their likely nominee, Kirsten Gillibrand, is well-funded.

24th Congressional District: Rep. Sherwood Boehlert's (R) retirement after 24 years -- not to mention top-of-the-ticket GOP woes -- puts this district in play. Hoping to win this longtime Republican district for the Democrats is Michael Arcuri, the district attorney for Oneida County, who is calling for a speedy U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. His Republican opponent will be state senator Ray Meier, who supports the Bush war effort. Unlike Boehlert, who was pro-choice, Meier is a strong abortion opponent."
What do you think?

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

On The Radio: Take Back Congress

The WFP's State Co-Chair Bertha Lewis and Congressional Repo Man Peter Hatch discussed the WFP's congressional campaign plans on WBAI-FM's CityWatch radio program with host Bill DeFazio yesterday. Click here to listen to the show (starts about 8:20 minutes in).

"Our aim is to help our allies and ad affiliates across the county stop the Bush agenda," Bertha said.

"New York has fix to six highly competitive races, making it a battleground this year," Hatch added.

Hatch singled out the 24th District, where Oneida County D.A. Mike Arcuri is running against minimum-wage-opponent Ray Meier, as a "unique" race that the WFP was looking at, because it is an open seat.

DeFazio enthusiastically called the WFP one of the "most amazing" get-out-the-vote forces anywhere.

Make a donation to take back Congress today.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sweeney misfires again (and again)

and he'll probably misfire again this afternoon.

Misfire #1

Feeling the heat from WFP-endorsed challenger Kirsten Gillibrand, Republican incumbent John Sweeney has started running negative ads in their CD20 race. Taking a page from the Karl Rove playbook, Sweeney is telling people that Gillibrand - a district resident - doesn't live in the district. The basis for Sweeney's claim is that at one point in her life Gillibrand didn't live in the district.

What makes this a Karl Rove-style attack is that Sweeney didn't live in the district when he first ran for office while Gillibrand is a fifth generation upstate New Yorker. He's trying to take his weakness - that Sweeney's lost touch with the district while Gillibrand has deep roots there - and turn it against her.

But it's a pretty transparent ploy, and is failing to distract from Sweeney's numerous ethical problems. Count it as a misfire.

Misfire #2

Speaking of Sweeney's ethical problems, today Tuesday at 2 Assemblymember Brodsky will hold held the second hearing investigating Sweeney's taxpayer-funded ski vacation with lobbyists.

Sweeney is stonewalling the investigation by refusing to testify. But, just like with Tom DeLay, it won't work. Count it as a misfire.

No wonder Sweeney won't debate Gillibrand - his misfiring campaign loses on the ethics and on the issues.

Update: The scandal around Republican incumbent John Sweeney's taxpayer-funded ski vacation for him and his lobbyist friends expanded with Tuesday's hearing. Sweeney refused to testify, but Stephen Bull tried to cover for Sweeney by saying that not everyone Sweeney wanted to invite was invited. Bull did admit that if Sweeney wanted to invite someone Bull tried to "accomodate" that.

Sweeney's defense - claiming that he made the invitation list but didn't actually decide who got invited or put the invitations in the mail - is confused at best. He would be better off coming clean and testifying now than continuing to stonewall. Count it as a misfire.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NY Times lists competitive House races

The New York Times has put up an interactive map breaking down the 2006 election races.

They show CD19, CD20, CD24, CD25 and CD29 being competitive, with Mike Arcuri's race in CD24 being a toss-up.

What do you think, are those the right races? What are our best opportunities this election?

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Friday, July 21, 2006

National Journal moves New York up

The National Journal is moving up its ranking of New York's competitive House races. Here's a quick roundup of what they're saying about New York:
16. CD24 (WFP endorses Mike Arcuri) This race is on the move because it's an open seat in a state that could be the GOP's national Waterloo.

25. CD20 (WFP endorses Kirsten Gillibrand) Sweeney's baggage is why this race probably will always live in the top 25.

39. CD25 (WFP endorses Dan Maffei) A clear Democratic field means Walsh may have to worry.

47. CD29 (WFP endorses Eric Massa) Randy Kuhl has negatives but he had them last cycle , too -- and he still won.
New York's 4 competitive races are as many as anyone else (Florida and Pennsylvania also have 4). That means this year we're a swing state along with Florida and Pennsylvania. We don't have to go anywhere to get involved, we just have to defend ou backyard.

Are you ready to take back Congress?

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sweeney stonewalls

Republican incumbent John Sweeney turned down the chance to defend himself from sworn testimony indicating that he acted unethically by inviting lobbyists to a taxpayer-paid ski vacation. Sweeney did attempt to explain himself in a radio interview, but wound up raising more questions instead.

Assemblymember Brodsky isn't letting Sweeney off the hook and wants to know the following:
  • What activities were engaged in by you and your office with respect to the persons invited and in attendance?
  • Why are lobbyists invited?
  • How do you explain the conflict between your public comments and the sworn testimony of (ORDA President Ted) Blazer and the documents provided under subpoena?
  • How is ORDA's ability to receive funds from a HUD grant program enhanced by the (Winter Challenge)?
Sweeney's latest scandal exposes another layer of the GOP corruption plaguing Congress. From Jack Abramoff to Tom DeLay to Duke Cunningham, it's scandal after scandal, wasting our tax dollars instead of doing their jobs and running the government.

It's time to Take Back Congress.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Connecticut WFP Takes Aim at Nancy Johnson (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Read an executive summary of the CT-WFP's poll here.

The Connecticut Working Families Party is taking aim at Republican Congresswoman Nancy Johnson, according to a story in today's Danbury News-Times.
"Working [F]amilies will be mounting a significant independent campaign to persuade swing voters to support Chris Murphy," said Jon Green, director of the Connecticut Working Families Party. "We have begun to raise resources that will enable us to contact voters directly."
The Danbury News-Times story also reports on a poll commissioned by the WFP that shows Democratic/WFP challenger Chris Murphy with a 38%-35% lead over Johnson.
Democrat Chris Murphy has a slight lead over U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-5th Dist., according to a poll commissioned by a liberal third party. However, almost one-third of voters are undecided about the race.
Here are some excerpts from a memo summarizing the poll results:
TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Mark Guma

RE: Survey of Voters in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District

DATE: June 28, 2006

This memo summarizes key findings from a telephone survey of 600 likely voters in Connecticut’s 5th congressional district. The survey was conducted by Central Marketing from June 11 to June 13. More details on the methodology are provided at the end of this memo.

In the 5th district, incumbent Nancy Johnson, a Republican is being challenged by Chris Murphy, a Democrat who has also been endorsed by the Working Families Party (WFP). The survey results demonstrate that the WFP can play a critical role in persuading swing voters, unaffiliated voters, and Republicans to vote for Murphy.

The key findings are:
  • The race is extremely competitive (with Murphy holding a three-point lead in the survey’s initial horserace question)
  • Unaffiliated and swing voters are the key to winning (nearly one-third of independent voters are undecided)
  • WFP messages are effective in convincing swing and Republican voters to vote for Murphy
The Connecticut WFP effort parallels the New York WFP's "Take Back Congress" campaign, which is targeting a small number of congressional races with a substantial independent expenditure directed at independent voters and Republicans.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Matching Grant for Beating Republicans

From Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor:
This is a first. We've received a challenge grant of $20,000 for our work to un-elect Republican Members of Congress here in New York ($20,000 is the most a couple can give). If you've thought about contributing to the WFP, now is the time.

If you give right now, every $1 you donate will be matched with another $1!

Donate now:

Every $1 you give will translate into $2, so your $20.06 donation - for victory in 2006! - becomes $40 and a $50 donation from you becomes $100 that we can spend to elect Democratic-Working Families Congressional nominees in target districts. It also means you'll feel twice the normal pleasure you get from contributing to the defeat of Bush and Company!

Your donation will go to take back Republican-held seats here in New York. If just 15 Republican-held seats across the country change hands then the Republicans will lose control of the House of Representatives.

And this year, New York is a swing state: there are 5-6 Republican-held seats with very serious challengers. We don't have to look to Ohio or Florida to make a difference, we can do it right here in New York.

You can make a secure online contribution to Take Back Congress - New York right now. We'll put your contribution to work immediately to stop George Bush's extreme agenda. Please don't wait.

Donate now to our Take Back Congress campaign and your donation will be effectively doubled.

Donate now:

Polls show Republican incumbents across the country and here in New York are losing support. Eliot Spitzer and Hillary Rodham Clinton are headed to overwhelming victories that will give the Congressional candidates on the ballot with them a boost on election day. But the election is less than 120 days away, and you can be sure that Karl Rove and the Republican incumbents will not leave quietly. They will do whatever they can - including some nasty, dirty campaigning - to hold on.

Some relevant history. In 2002, votes on the WFP ballot line were the margin of victory when Tim Bishop beat Republican Congressman Felix Grucci in Suffolk. In 2004, we did it again with Brian Higgins in Buffalo. In 2006, Bush is more unpopular than he's ever been - and more Republican-held seats are facing serious challengers. This is the chance we've been waiting for.

The past six years of George W. Bush have been bad, even disastrous, for our country and the world. Bush is in office until 2008, but we don't want him to have two more years to inflict more damage. We need to Take Back Congress and put an early end to the Bush Presidency.

Let's seize this opportunity - make a donation today.

Donate now:

That's it. Read the papers, pay your dues, and . . . organize.

Thank you,

Bertha Lewis, Bob Master and Sam Williams
Working Families Party Co-Chairs

Dan Cantor
Working Families Party Executive Director

P.S. Please forward this email to your friends and family who share your concern for the future and ask them to join you in stopping the Bush agenda today with a contribution to the WFP.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

NY Congressional races - Q2 fundraising

A group of local bloggers from across the state have gotten together to cover New York's Congressional races and the release of the second quarter numbers today:
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Mike Arcuri second quarter fundraising numbers

This post is part of a larger effort by local bloggers across the state to cover New York's Congressional races and the release of the second quarter fundraising numbers today.

WFP-endorsed Mike Arcuri's just released second quarter fundraising totals show him to be competitive with right-winger Ray Meier for the open seat race in CD24. Arcuri has raised $454,669 on the year and has $346,462 cash on hand. Arcuri's opponent, right-winger Ray Meier, has raised $496,913 on the year and reports $434,182 cash on hand, though Meier has inflated his cash on hand numbers in the past. Arcuri was added to the DCCC's Red to Blue Program last week, which will give an added boost to his fundraising.

On the Republican side, Ray Meier is getting fundraising help from his ally Dick Cheney (pictured together at right). With Republicans expected to lose control of Congress in the November election, George Bush and Dick Cheney are campaigning hard for allies like Ray Meier who will rubber stamp their agenda. Channel 2 has in-depth coverage of the Cheney-Meier fundraiser.

At the fundraiser, Cheney talked about how leaks damage national security, but didn't talk about the recent lawsuit filed against him for his role in exposing CIA operative Valerie Plame's undercover status.

The race for an open seat in CD24, where Republican incumbent Sherwood Boehlert is retiring, will be the top race in New York. Open seats are traditionally close because no candidate has the advantages of incumbency, namely name recognition and fundraising. For more on the race:
Mike Arcuri is well positioned to win the seat, having been elected District Attorney three times in Republican-dominated Oneida County. In 2005, Arcuri won his DA race with 27,735 votes on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, and in 2001 he won with 27,814 votes on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines. Arcuri will need to expand his name recognition to win, but Oneida County is the source of a significant number of votes in the district so he's got a strong start. More on the district and the race:
  • District map
  • Status: Open seat, Republican incumbent Sherwood Boehlert is retiring
  • Voter registration: R 43%, D 32%, I 25%
  • Voters in the district: 365,902 voters
  • 2004 Presidential vote: Bush 53% def. Kerry 47%
  • 2004 House vote: Sherwood Boehlert (R) 57% def. Jeffrey Miller (D) 34%
  • 2006 fundraising totals: Arcuri $454,669, Meier $496,913
  • 2006 cash on hand: Arcuri $346,462, Meier $434,182
The unusually high number of independent voters in the district is also an advantage for Arcuri, because the Working Families Party ballot line provides a significant boost to Democratic candidates among independent voters. Mike Arcuri has been endorsed by the Working Families Party and is running for the Democratic Party nomination.

For analysis of the top Congressional races around the state see:

CD13 NY13 with bonus coverage of CD26 and CD3
CD19 Daniel Millstone at Daily Gotham
CD20 Democracy in Albany
CD23 Bob Aubin
CD24 WFP Blog
CD25 Walsh Watch
CD26 Work Related
CD29 Rochester Turning
and, just added, CD3 Peter King Watch

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Mike Arcuri added to DCCC Red to Blue Program

WFP-endorsed Mike Arcuri running in CD24, an open seat formerly held by a Republican, has been added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Red to Blue Program. The Red to Blue Program is designed to make sure candidates running solid and competitive campaigns have the resources they need to win. To be included, campaigns need to have met organizing, press and fundraising goals demonstrating their seriousness.

Arcuri is the second candidate in New York state to be included in the Red to Blue Program, along with WFP-endorsed Kirsten Gillibrand, who is challenging a Republican incumbent in CD20.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Oil sets record, over $76 a barrel

My jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw that the price of oil has climbed past $76 a barrel.

The Apollo Alliance has a number of ideas for making the country more energy independent. The Apollo Project would break our dependence on oil by investing in renewable energy - an investment that would create 3 million new American jobs.

What do you think needs to happen?

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sweeney digs himself deeper

The newest John Sweeney ethics scandal broke a little wider open today. Here's a recap from the Albany Times Union:
"A state official testified Tuesday that U.S. Rep. John Sweeney played a key role in drawing up the guest list for an annual congressional winter weekend in Lake Placid, a practice deemed inappropriate by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

Olympic Regional Development Authority President Ted Blazer, speaking at a state Assembly hearing, said invitations to the Congressional Winter Challenge -- an event held to highlight Lake Placid Olympic facilities in hopes of securing federal funding -- were 'assembled by the Washington office of Congressman Sweeney and the United States Olympic Committee.'"
Now here's the Sweeney's defense, from the same article:

"Melissa Carlson, Sweeney's deputy chief of staff, insisted Tuesday that the congressman had nothing to do with the invitations.

'I don't know what he's talking about,' Carlson said of Blazer's testimony. 'The invitations are clearly sent out by the U.S. Olympic Committee.'"

I'd like to know if Carlson is really saying that since the U.S. Olympic Committee put the invites in the mail that means Sweeney didn't invite people, but let's leave that aside for this quote from a radio interview Sweeney did with Fred Dicker on WROW AM 590 this morning:
"Sweeney: And, uh, we've invited media in the past, and I'm going to invite you next time, Fred."

So his deputy chief of staff says he doesn't invite people, and then Sweeney goes on the radio and invites someone.

Maybe a quick stop at the bar would cheer you up John.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sweeney needs to come clean on his ski junket

Capitol Confidential covered today's Assembly hearing into Republican Congressional incumbent John Sweeney's ski junket. The Assembly held the hearing because Sweeney's junket was paid for by us - New York taxpayers - with $25,000 in taxpayer dollars (previous posts here and here). In case you're wondering where that money bought, in 2000, Sweeney and his guests dined on their "choice of tenderloin or sea bass one night, filet mignon or chicken the next."

The key to the story:
"Documents show quite a few participants since 1999 were invited at Sweeney’s request.

Sweeney wrote to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in August 2005 for an opinion 'as to the propriety' of Congress members and staffers attending the Winter Challenge. He did not ask about lobbyists.

The upshot of Committee's response was that there was no problem with the event, provided Sweeney himself did not do the inviting. Sweeney Deputy Chief of Staff Melissa Carlson insisted the congressman didn’t invite anyone. Blazer said under oath today that he did."

And there's more to come:

"The Assembly probe into this matter is continuing, Brodsky and Assemblyman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who convened the hearing, asked for more documentation from both ORDA and NYPA. Brodsky would not say whether he might ask Sweeney to testify, or seek to compel him to do so via subpoena if he refused to appear voluntarily.

Brodsky did say a legislative committee's subpoena power applies to people or matters that relate to pending legislation (in this case, authorities reform), but added that it is not affected by 'title or position.'"

John Sweeney should do the right thing and come clean about this ski junket instead of letting the investigation drag out. Sweeney has already learned how to abuse his power to get free trips from Tom DeLay; he should also have learned that the cover up makes the crime look worse.

Update: Sweeney has been invited to testify in his own defense. He should do it now instead of waiting for the subpoena to arrive.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Repubican fundraising woes

The New York Times has an article out on GOP fundraising woes in advance of the release of the second quarter fundraising numbers next Monday:
"A six-month stretch of political fund-raising will end tomorrow for New York candidates, and the results, by all accounts, will be stark: Republicans are struggling, and in some cases competing with one another for cash . . .

The current fund-raising period is a very important one: It allows candidates to prove their political strength through so-called early money, the donations that campaigns receive well before most voters begin paying attention to races around Labor Day . . .

Some of the problems facing the Republicans stem from the popularity and political strength of the Democratic candidates. Mrs. Clinton is widely viewed as all but unbeatable; Mr. Spitzer is also viewed as formidable"
We'll know more next week when the fundraising numbers get released, but if this article is right it's a boost to our work to Take Back the House.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Election roundup for June

An early June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (pdf) found that voters want Democrats to control Congress, and a late June LA Times/Bloomberg poll (pdf) confirmed that result (more in the accompanying LA Times story).

The candidates spent most of June fundraising, look for a post on the second quarter fundraising numbers soon. If anyone wants to help with the research for that post, let me know.

The race in CD20 is shaping up to be one of the most active in the country. WFP-endorsed challenger Kirsten Gillibrand has gone up with her first tv ad. And there will be more to come - she raised over $500,000 in the second quarter, more than Republican incumbent John Sweeney. Meanwhile, Sweeney is still refusing to debate the issues.

In CD24, Hillary Clinton raised money online for Mike Arcuri, part of a broader effort to win more House seats in New York.

In CD25, Dan Maffei's early campaigning is showing Republican incumbent James Walsh that he's in for a fight.

June also saw the exposure of more ethical transgressions by Republican incumbents John Sweeney (CD20) and Vito Fossella (CD13).

Also next week: more on our efforts to Take Back Congress.

Let's make it happen.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

What would you ask Schumer and Emanuel?

There have been a number of election-year profiles of Rep. Rahm Emanuel and New York's own Sen. Chuck Schumer because of their roles as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (Emanuel) and head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (Schumer). The latest piece was in the LA Times and followed the familiar narrative - these guys are aggressive, they're highly involved in challenger's campaigns, they're raising the money needed to run competetive races - and had the same set of personal stories (Rahmbo, ballet, Sunday news conferences).

There's a lot of ground left uncovered: to name a quick two, what are you looking for in the challengers you recruit and where are the campaign staff coming from (each article talks about how they provide campaign staff for challengers).

What would you ask Schumer and Emanuel if you had the chance to interview them?

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Good election news from Missouri

In Missouri, Claire McCaskill leads Republican incumbent Jim Talent 49% to 43% in their U.S. Senate race and Jay Nixon leads Republican incumbent Governor Matt Blunt 50% to 40% (via Donkey Rising). If Democrats in Missouri can beat Republican incumbents then there's a clear opportunity here in New York for us to do the same. We need to lead the charge to take back Congress.

More tomorrow as we return from celebrating the 4th of July. How did you spend your 4th?

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