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Why PEF Didn't Support Challengers To Sampson, Libous

In their words, the Public Employees Federation took a "bold" risk by endorsing Zephyr Teachout, the long-shot Democratic primary opponent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week. 

But the union of roughly 55,000 mostly white-collar public employees wasn't willing to issue an endorsement in the legislative races of two embattled incumbents: Democratic Sen. John Sampson and Republican Sen. Tom Libous. 

Sampson, who faces charges he embezzled funds from an escrow account he controlled, has a Democratic primary opponent in the form of Dell Smitherman, a former labor organizer. 

(A former Sampson associate, Melvin Lowe, has reportedly admitted to prosecutors that he stole $100,000 from the Senate Democratic fundraising committee).

Libous, a longtime Binghamton lawmaker and the number two Republican in the Senate's leadership, is facing a spirited challenge from former Vestal town supervisor Anndrea Starzak. He's accused of making a false statement to the FBI in a case stemming from his son receiving a job at a politically connected law firm. 

In an interview on Capital Tonight, PEF President Susan Kent said the lack of an endorsement doesn't necessarily mean one won't be issued in the near future. 

But she also acknowledged the Sampson and Libous have delivered while in office, despite their ethical and legal troubles. 

"He was very, very helpful with SUNY Downstate -- keeping that a public hospital," Kent said of Sampson. 

She added, "Nothing has happened yet in terms of him being convicted of a crime and we're not going to turn our backs on elected public officials because charges have been made."

When it comes to Libous, Kent said he was key in responding to a Cuomo proposal to close mental-health facilities in Southern Tier. 

She added Libous's campaign hadn't returned a candidate questionnaire or spoken to the union's regional political action committee about an endorsement.
So PEF is waiting to hear back from him before potentially making an endorsement.  

"What we thought to do was best was to reach out to him," Kent said.  

But when it comes to the gubernatorial primary next month, PEF plans to take a muscular approach that Kent pledged will include "boots on the ground." 

"We think we have a very good position for the Democratic primary, getting progressives, getting people out who are not happy with the way the government is working right now, getting them on board to vote for Zephyr in the Democratic primary," Kent said.

While the AFL-CIO and the New York State United Teachers union has declined to issue an endorsement in the race for governor, Cuomo does have the support of some key labor unions, including 1199 SEIU. 

But Teachout has received the backing some of the more activist regional labor groups, including the Buffalo Federation of Teachers and the union the represents firefighters in Yonkers.

Kent wouldn't say whether the union would wind up endorsing Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins should Cuomo win the Democratic primary next month. 

"Right now, our whole focus is on the Democratic primary," she said. "There's a finite number of voters who are going to come out."

NY1 And TWC News Sends Invitations For Primary Debates


NY1 and Time Warner Cable News in Albany are inviting Gov. Cuomo and his Democratic rival, Zephyr Teachout, to a live, hour-long Sept. 2nd debate that will air statewide and be hosted by NY1 Political Anchor Errol Louis and Capital Tonight Anchor Liz Benjamin.

Invitations have also been sent to Rep. Kathy Hochul and Tim Wu to participate in a separate debate for Lieutenant Governor on Sept. 3rd.

“NY1 and Time Warner Cable News are committed to a full discussion of the issues in the Democratic primary race and we’re looking forward to hearing what the candidates have to say,’’ said NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt. “Debate season is officially underway.”

Invitations were e-mailed to the campaigns earlier this afternoon – with an RSVP date set for Aug. 28th. Both the Teachout and Wu campaigns agreed to the debate – while the Cuomo and Hochul campaigns did not immediately respond to the invitations beyond acknowledging they had been received.

Happening Today

At 7:45 a.m., Democratic LG candidate Tim Wu holds a meet-and-greet with local supporters, Holiday Inn Buffalo Airport, 4600 Genesee St., Cheektowaga.

At 8:30 a.m., Manhattan BP Gale Brewer hosts a borough board meeting, 1 Centre St., 19th Floor South, Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., Cuomo cuts the ribbon to open the Great New York State Fair, New York State Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Blvd., Syracuse.

Also at 9 a.m., Wu tours the Buffalo East Side Housing, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, McCarley Gardens, 818 Michigan Ave., Buffalo.

At 9:30 a.m., Queens BP Melinda Katz, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and health officials from Mount Sinai health system celebrate construction of new building, Crescent Street and 30th Road, Queens.

At 10 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James holds a press conference to debut body-camera technology utilized by law enforcement departments nationwide, 1 Centre Street, 15th Floor, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York and NARAL Pro-Choice New York will hold a joint endorsement event for state Comptoller Tom DiNapoli, Westchester Democratic HQ, 170 East Post Rd., Suite 211, White Plains.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Council members Costa Constantinides, Ritchie Torres and Paul Vallone and Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. introduce offender registry legislation, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., business groups announce endorsement of Sen. Mark Grisanti, Prima Pizza Pasta, 396 Pearl St., Buffalo.

At 11 a.m., Astorino will continue his tour unveiling the Astorino/Moss jobs plan, LCA Room 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., NYPA, Corning and Empire State Development hold a press conference at a formal groundbreaking of $21 million expansion project at Corning’s Canton facility, 334 County Route 16, Canton.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Astorino will be a guest on “The Capitol Pressroom” with host Susan Arbetter.

At noon, Wu attends a policy briefing lunch with the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Chef’s Restaurant, 291 Seneca St., Buffalo.

At 12:30 p.m., organizations, farmers and residents gather to rally for a ban on hydrofracking statewide, Main Gate, The Great New York State Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Blvd., Syracuse. (Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins will attend, and will then hold a press conference at 1 p.m.)

Also at 12:30 p.m., GOP AG candidate John Cahill holds press conference calling on Democratic AG Eric Schneiderman to weigh in on the Moreland Commission scandal, in from the AG’s office, 144 Exchange Blvd., Rochester.

At 1 p.m., Assemblyman David Weprin and community leaders hold press conference to draw attention to a hate crime committed in the community, 111-12 Atlantic Ave., Queens.

At 1:15 p.m., Astorino will continue his tour unveiling the Astorino/Moss jobs plan joined by local elected officials, 14 Hoefler Ave., (museum entrance), Ilion.

At 1:30 p.m., the NYC Council holds its Stated Meeting, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., the Rev. Al Sharpton will meet with U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn, along with the family of Eric Garner, to press federal prosecutors to intervene in the case, 271 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn. (The meeting is closed to reporters, but Sharpton will speak outside Lynch’s office afterwards).

Also at 3 p.m., Astorino will attend the State Fair, administration building by the Main Gate, 581 State Fair Blvd., Syracuse.

At 3:30 p.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss attends a community meet-and-greet with voters at Frank Merriweather Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave., Buffalo.

At 4:30 p.m., Moss meets with members of the Dorie Miller Rifle & Pistol Club, Wolcott Shooting Range, 3052 Walden Ave., Depew.

At 5:30 p.m., the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee holds a “Gathering at the Glen” fundraiser, Watkins Glen International Raceway, The Glen Club, 2790 County Route 16, Watkins Glen.

Also at 5:30 p.m., Moss attends theTown of Clarence Republican Committee Picnic, Clarence Town Park, Main Street, Clarence.

At 6 p.m., Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. delivers opening remarks at the Mexican Community Outreach Forum, Hostos Community College, 120 E. 149th St., Savoy All Purpose Room, 2nd Floor, the Bronx.

At 6:30 p.m., Moss attends Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard’s 10th Annual Pig Roast, Lake Erie Italian Club, 3200 S. Park Ave., Lackawanna.

At 7 p.m., GOP state comptroller candidate and Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci attends the Yates County GOP Meeting, Penn Yan Municipal Building, Penn Yan. (Earlier in the day, Antonacci will be at the State Fair).

At 7:30 p.m., Moss attends an Erie County SCOPE Meeting, VFW Post 8113, 299 Leydecker Rd., West Seneca.

At 8:30 p.m., the New York League of Conservation Voters hosts a screening of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, a new documentary by Ken Burns, Pier 46, Hudson River Park, Manhattan.

On CapTon Last Night: 

The state’s second-largest public workers union made headlines for it’s gubernatorial endorsement last week. The Public Employees Federation is supporting Democrat Zepyhyr Teachout for governor. But when it comes to other state seats, the union is opting to not pick sides. PEF President Susan Kent joined us to explain.

The National Federation of Independent Business released its annual Legislative Voting Record Wednesday. It identifies the top issues for small business owners, looks at how state lawmakers voted on those issues, and then scores lawmakers on those votes. New York State Director of NFIB, Mike Durant, joined us to talk about who received high scores and who did not.

A former Ballston Town Supervisor plans to challenge a longtime state Senator this fall. Democrat Patti Southworth is hoping to unseat Senator Hugh Farley, but she first has a primary challenger to deal with. And Southworth is unlike most Democrats – she is against the SAFE Act and Common Core. Southworth joined us to talk about her campaign for the 49th district.

Coming up on CapTon:

Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Tim Wu joins us from Buffalo and Farm Bureau President Dean Norton talks about the start of the State Fair in Syracuse. 


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