Hochul in control

At this point, it looks like it’s Kathy Hochul’s job to lose.
According to a Siena College poll released this week, the current governor holds a double-digit lead over her next closest challenger, Attorney General Letitia James.
In a survey of registered Democrats, if the primary were held today, 36 percent said they would vote for Hochul to represent the party in next year’s general election, while 18 percent said they backed James.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams would get 10 percent of the vote, while Mayor Bill de Blasio and Congressman Tom Suozzi would each get 6 percent of the vote. Twenty-four percent said they are undecided or back another candidate, which means there’s still plenty of undecided voters out there for the candidates to sway.
Suozzi announced his intent to run last week, turning down an offer by mayor-elect Eric Adams to join him at City Hall and serve as deputy mayor.
Suozzi’s decision reportedly upset some in the Democratic Party, who would prefer that he focus on re-election to Congress, especially after the GOP did much better than expected in local races in Suozzi’s current congressional district, which includes parts of Queens and Nassau County.
With Suozzi focused on running for governor, the seat could be vulnerable to being flipped by Republicans, who are focused on taking back the majority in the House next year.
There was also speculation that Suozzi and the governor would be competing for the same voters, namely conservative-leaning Democrats, making it harder for her to win re-election and opening the door for a progressive candidate like James or Williams.
As for now, it doesn’t look like Hochul has to worry about that, but there’s still a long way to go until the June primary.

GOP didn’t just do well in Council races

The unthinkable is about to happen in the a race for a seat on the bench in Queens County.
Republican Joseph Kasper first ran for a judicial seat in 1995. From 1998 to 2000, his name was on the ballot every year. He took a decade-long break, and then resumed running nearly every year since 2010.
He never won; it’s nearly impossible for a Republican to overcome the built-in advantage Democratic candidates have among registered voters. And since very few voters pay attention to the judgeship races and know very little about the candidates, those who do bother to fill out that portion of the ballot are likely voting strictly along party lines.
Even though Kasper never came close to sniffing victory, he felt it was his obligation to run just to give voters a choice. He believed in the two-party system.
But maybe the 20th (or however many times he has run) was the charm!
After the polls closed, Kasper held a 1,700-vote lead over former councilman Paul Vallone in the race for the 3rd Municipal Court District, which includes Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood, as well as parts of Ozone Park and Howard Beach.
Not only was Vallone running as a Democrat, voters would no doubt be familiar with his last name. His grandfather, Charles Vallone, served as a judge in Queens Civil Court for 12 years, while his father Peter Vallone was the second-most powerful man in the city when he served as speaker of the City Council from 1986 to 2001, when term limits forced him from the Astoria seat he represented since 1974.
And his brother Peter Vallone, Jr. is also a former councilman who is now a judge himself in Queens County Civil Court.
There were 2,400 absentee ballots sent to the Board of Elections, which they are counting this week. If Kasper’s lead holds, it will be the first time in a very, very long time that a Republican went up against a Democrat for a judgeship in Queens County and actually won.
Kasper was probably helped by the strong showing that Republicans had in several City Council races throughout the city, including Joann Ariola, who easily defeated Democrat Felicia Singh in a district that partly overlaps the 3rd Municipal Court District.
Although, several people familiar with the race told us that Vallone was also overly confident that a victory for him was a lock. They told us he did very little to connect with voters, figuring his name and his party affiliation would be enough to cruise to a win.
And while Kasper didn’t even have a campaign website, he attributed his strong showing to good old-fashioned campaigning, motivating voters and volunteers and meeting with a lot of people.
It took 26 years, but the next time Kasper’s name is on the ballot, it might be as the incumbent, not as a token opposition candidate.

NYC Transit head gets into mayoral race

The interim president of NYC Transit waded deep into the mayor’s race last week.
Sarah Feinberg slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio for the uptick in violent subway crime, saying the incidents could have been prevented if City Hall put a greater priority on putting more cops in the transit system.
It’s not necessarily unusual for an appointed public official to call out an elected member of office for failing to devise strategies that best serve constituents. If Feinberg had ended her statements there, there would have been little controversy.
However, she took it a step further when she listed five candidates currently running for mayor she said would “answer the MTA’s call for additional resources to address crime.” Those candidates are Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Ray McGuire and Andrew Yang.
In theory, as head of a public agency, Feinberg should be non-partisan. She should work with current elected officials to find solutions, not lobby voters to elect candidates she thinks she can work with or who would do a better job.
It’s less of an issue because de Blasio is not running for re-election, but if he were it would be major issue.
But even so, if Feinberg is publicly criticizing de Blasio and openly looking forward to working with a list of her chosen successors, how can the riding public be confident that the mayor and the head of NYC Transit will be able to work together effectively between now and the end of de Blasio’s term on December 31, a period of time that will be a critical in determining the future of the mass transit system as the city recovers from COVID?
Feinberg’s rare political comments weren’t lost on the mayor and others.
“MTA jumped the shark with an overtly political statement. Their response to stabbings is to endorse a shortlist of mayoral candidates?” de Blasio spokesman Bill Neidhardt tweeted. “Taking political swipes at the mayor without a mention of a 500-officer surge on top of a 2,500-strong transit force.”
The new executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign weighed in as well.
“It is alarming that the leader of New York City Transit is willing to go this far to lobby on this particular issue while taking a more cautious, hands-off approach when it comes to fighting for funding from Albany to maintain quality service and a state of good repair,” said Renae Reynolds. “We believe it is in the public interest for public officials like Ms. Feinberg to stay out of politics and let elected officials do their jobs.”
Hopefully Feinberg can still keep a working relationship with the mayor and fix the troubles surrounding mass transit that emerged during the pandemic, from the uptick in violence to major budget deficits.

Yang slipping
In a new Emerson College poll out this week, Andrew Yang dropped behind Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in the race for mayor.
Adams was the first choice among 18 percent of the voters polled, while Yang and Stringer tied for second at 15 percent.
In a poll in March, Stringer only received 6 percent, which means that the sexual harassment allegations against him by former campaign volunteer Jean Kim have apparently not hurt his standing among voters.
Conversely, in the same March poll Yang received 32 percent of the vote, which means his support has been cut in half.
Former Sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia increased from 5 percent to 8 percent in a week when she picked up the endorsement of both the New York Times and Daily News.

Looking in from the outside, It seems like a small jump for Garcia considering the high-profile endorsements, but her campaign put the spin machine to work, issuing a press release stating the candidate is “surging” while her opponents are “stalling.”
We’re not sure if 3 percent is a “surge” per se, but the poll also found that 23 percent of voters remain undecided, so there’s still a lot of votes out there to pick up.
The poll also asked respondents to list their top three candidates in an effort to simulate the city’s ranked-choice voting system, although in the June primary voters will be able to rank up to five candidates.
In the simulation, as candidates were eliminated and ballots redistributed, the poll found Adams would ultimately prevail with 53 percent of the vote, with Yang picking up the remaining 47 percent.
The primary will be held on June 22.

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