Written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez originally for Binghamton Political Buzz on April 27, 2016
Modern politics is often like modern Hollywood. That is to say that many politicians and candidates seek to “re-vision” past successful campaigns to enable their own wins. The growth of 30 second soundbite politics, deep saturation on cable television, and social media advertising are examples of this. But, sometimes such a strategy flops – in movies and politics. Which is a lesson that 2016 candidates should take to heart.
Specifically, the case of David Trone in the Maryland 8th congressional district whose loss on April 26, 2016, is the current example of failure based on recent tropes. A 9-way race for an open seat on just the Democratic side of the ticket, featured 3 prominent names – Kathleen Matthews (wife of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews); State Sen. Jamie B. Raskin; and Mr. Trone. Perhaps the single most prominent feature of this primary was the fact that Mr. Trone self-funded his campaign with $12 million. It’s a page right out of Donald Trump.
Though 50% of Congress is currently filled with millionaires, virtually none are willing to put their own money on the line with significance. Mr. Trone is only 1 of 2 individuals to run for Congress and spend over $10 million. But in a year where Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has self-funded some $36 million, to great fanfare and support, such extreme displays of personal wealth may seem like a trend worthy of copying. In addition, Mr. Trone was the farthest Left of all the Democrats – a potential positive in a year with Sen. Bernie Sanders making Hillary Clinton earn her superdelagates.
Mr. Trone outspent rival State Senator Raskin by roughly 6-1. He outspent Mrs. Matthews by nearly the same amount. She spent $2.2 million on the race, $500,000 from her own money. State Sen. Raskin spent $1.7 million, with no personal campaign contributions.
Given the longstanding trend of big spending equating to name recognition and thus a victory in elections, it could have been assumed that Mr. Trone should win. Add to that the trend of going to the furthest extreme of the Party, and on paper it would seem the winner would be Trone again. But State Sen. Raskin actually won the contested Democrat primary with 38,902 votes (34%) vs. Trone with 31,529 votes (27%).
But what could this mean to other Primaries? Well in the equally contested New York 22nd congressional race, 3 millionaires are battling 3 non-millionaires for respective primaries. In almost any eventuality, at least 1 multi-millionaire will be in that race against a far less net worth heavy opponent in the general election.
Martin Babinec, a candidate with no prior Party affiliation who is running on the Independence line after failing to gain the Herkimer County Republican Committee endorsement, is one of the candidates. Assuming that his campaign survives the petition challenges it faces (which is debatable as we noted in a prior article), his current tactic of self-funding $1 million directly mirrors David Trone. If he is thrown off of the ballot for failing to meet the petition requirement, he would also prove that self-funding, in itself, is not a political platform.
For Democrats there is Legislator Kim Myers. She is the richest of all candidates combined (depending on the stock market close of the day). Though her Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show her intent not to spend more than $350,000 of her own money, if the general election were close it would surprise no one if she amended her FEC filing and added as much as she wanted. In a Republican heavy district, where the April presidential primary showed a 3:2 edge for Republican turnout, even a large sudden self-funding may not be enough in a general election. Though for the June primary she has exponentially more cash on hand than her Democrat challenger David Gordon and is expected to win that primary race.
It’s the Republican primary race where we see the most connection to the MD-8 race. Steve Wells is the millionaire, with no significant name recognition at this time and no prior elected office experience. Claudia Tenney is an Assemblywoman who has won primaries with huge numbers. George Phillips is a popular name with a small segment of the Republican base. This matches the MD-8 race on multiple levels. The exception being that Mr. Wells has only self-funded $100,000 so far and only has a roughly 3-1 cash advantage at this moment.
If the Presidential race is the exception and the Maryland primary the rule then Steve Wells may be in danger and Legislator Kim Myers has made the best choice to preserve her many stock options. Even with a media savvy campaign team, and torrential spending in the final weeks, Mr. Trone failed to take the prize. Based on the websites and ad campaigns thus far, neither Wells nor Legislator Myers can claim an advantage there, which makes the Trone loss potentially more likely than not.
Of course New York is not Maryland. Plus the reaction of Democrats to extreme wealth trying to win an elected office is not the same as the Republican reaction (based on presidential primary turnout results in NY). Lastly, Steve Wells and George Phillips are seen a vying for the establishment vote, with Assemblywoman Tenney as the outsider of the Party. Which somewhat reverses the conditions, though the 2nd Amendment issue (which Tenney has far more credibility on, due to a voting record opposing the NY SAFE Act) also modifies this condition.
One thing is pretty sure though, if Donald Trump wins the Republican primary and the general election, political campaigns will do what Hollywood would do and copycat the trend. If he doesn’t, the MD-8 race may stand out as an example of what not to do in future elections.
In our effort to continually highlight the issues affecting the public, through social media formats, M V Consulting Inc has now launched its political podcast channel – NO $oundbites Allowed. This is an informal talk-oriented format to discuss with the public how various political issues, elected officials, events, legislation (proposed or in effect), and more affect the public – and what the public can do about it.
NO Soundbites Allowed is a new expansion for M V Consulting. An evolving program, that will grow with our listeners. Your feedback will help us to target the issues, politicians, events, law, and whatever else you feel is important. Our goal in every format, but especially this program, is to give more than the now traditional 30 second soundbite practice of the major news media in discussing what matters to you. We firmly believe, and the mission statement for the program is,
“There is no subject, that affects our lives, that can be intelligently discussed in 30 seconds. Thus we seek to skip the bullet-points and delve into what is really important and relevant.” – Michael “Vass” Vasquez – M V Consulting, Inc.
The current content is split among 3 major categories: Current politics; Special events and breaking news; and conversion to audio only e-reading of popular articles previously published by M V Consulting (via Binghamton Political Buzz and MVASS.com) over the past 9 years. Topics of interest include NY elections (from Federal to local); 1st & 2nd Amendment; candidate interviews (challengers and incumbents alike); legislation (proposed and in force); political events (speeches, rallies, press announcements, ect.); international policy; local concerns; and more.
No Soundbites Allowed is a FREE podcast, subscription optional (but encouraged), that is supported by the Likes, Shares, and donations of listeners (optional but welcomed). Each episode is approximately 45 minutes long (depending on the subject covered), split into 3 segments (with 2 commercial breaks of 2 1/2 minutes each). New episodes are published each Tuesday – with special episodes on Fridays as needed.
We invite you to visit the channel and listen as we grow and expand. Respectful comments and critique are welcomed and encouraged. Email for commercial sponsorship consideration, addition comment submission, and critique can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org – please include the subject line: No Soundbites Allowed.
Sincerely and with many thanks for all your support,
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President – M V Consulting, Inc.
Article originally written at Binghamton Political Buzz on April 22, 2016, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez.
While the nation mourns the loss of musician Prince and Chyna from WWE, on the same day, many issues are missed. Even in these moments of loss and sadness, the realm of politics continues to affect the nation, whether people pay attention or not. But, in a far less serious manner, the New York 22nd Congressional race will also have its own losses, while we have a glimpse of the potential future.
When the results from the NY presidential primary were tallied from April 20, 2016, there were no real surprises presented. Donald Trump won the State, along with Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. The primary math was not significantly altered – the Republican Party will go to a convention and Democrats will have Clinton as their candidate unless the FBI takes action. But the question is what did the primary reveal?
In terms of the NY-22 congressional district, the primaries for Democrats and Republicans continue now that the petitions for all the candidates have been submitted and challenges are on-going. In addition, financial statements have been submitted to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Combining this data with the presidential primaries it is possible to get a prediction on what will be the result on June 28, 2016, and likely for the November general election.
First, the petitions as provided by the NY State Board of Elections (NYSBOE). In combing through the results, patterns appear as well as a shocking revelation. For the Democrats – Legislator Kim Myers and David Gordon – both gathered at least 30% of their signatures in the last 6 days allowed (30% – Myers, 39% – Gordon). That could imply a lack of organization, or a lack of interest from Party members. Republicans fared much better in that regard, averaging about 11% of all signatures in the last 6 days signatures were allowed (George Phillips 23%, Claudia Tenney 5.7%, Steve Wells 4.2%).
Also of great interest is the distribution of where candidates got the signatures from. While an emphasis of any particular candidate on their home County is expected, what is of note is where candidates ignored. Overall, almost half the remaining 6 candidates (Aaron Price did not submit petitions, David Pasick is not required to file yet as a Libertarian) generally ignored Oswego, Tioga, and Cortland (with Phillips, Tenney, and Wells having varying focuses on these areas). But some candidates did not just under-represent Counties, they ignored them completely.
Martin Babinec (Ind) avoided Cortland, Chenango, Oswego, and Tioga Counties. George Phillips was virtually absent from Herkimer, Oswego, Madison and Oneida Counties. Steve Wells had a grand total of 101 signatures from Oswego, Herkimer, and Tioga Counties combined. David Gordon was almost absent in Oswego and Madison Counties with only 30 signatures. This is important as it clearly displays serious weaknesses of these candidates. Whether there is a lack of name recognition, lack of organization, or that the candidate just does not find the constituents in those areas of importance, it highlights how far some must go to win the primary and the cost that will go with that.
Martin Babinec is of special interest. Like Steve Wells he used paid workers to gather signatures. Neither Babinec nor Wells gathered any signatures themselves according to petitions submitted to NY State Board of Elections (NYSBOE). But Babinec, who’s Party affiliation is undeclared, had Nicholas I. Catello as one of his workers, gathering more than 50% of all of his petitions. According to the NYSBOE, on April 21, 2016, Mr. Catello is not a registered voter. Therefore the challenges facing the Babinec campaign are expected to be upheld. Babinec’s run for the congressional race may be essentially over as all the petitions from Mr. Catello could be void.
This brings us to the finances of the campaigns. The Babinec campaign will have its $1 million self-funding returned (minus monies paid for advertising and other costs) if the challenges stand. The resulting leaders in funding at this time are Steve Wells and Legislator Kim Myers with $258,000 and $228,000 cash in hand respectively. This is followed by Claudia Tenney with an increase from 2015 to $136,000. George Phillips has $126,000 cash in hand, the lowest level of increase of all the candidates. David Gordon trails the pack with $3,500. David Pasick, the Libertarian candidate of the race, will start his round of petitions in June and has not filed with the FEC at this time.
Given the data thus far, the implications seem to be clear. David Gordon is a long-shot in the race. As noted previously, he may not survive the petition challenge process. Still even if he does, the lack of funding makes any viable challenge on the Democrat Primary unlikely.
For the Republicans, it’s a bit complicated. George Phillips appears to be weakest due to a combination of lack of exposure and/or support in half the NY-22, and being the only candidate to experience a decrease in funding. The failure to gain traction in the Mohawk Valley, and very limited public exposure imply a campaign that could be in trouble. Rumors of recent changes in staffing only furthers that implication.
Steve Wells, is perhaps the least publicly known of the Republicans. While political insiders are aware of Mr. Wells, due to his political donations (to Democrats and NY SAFE Act proponent Gov. Cuomo) and volunteer position in the NY State GOP, he has remained out of the public eye. He has substantially self-funded his campaign, but has also received donations from elected officials – whom he previously donated to as well, effectively creating a circle of some funding..
His apparent avoidance of essentially half of the NY-22 has led to massive advertising spending already. Nearly one-third of funding has already been spent on television ads and social media marketing (which began in March 2016). Considering the results of the petitions, there has been little return for these efforts to date.
Claudia Tenney, appears to be the strongest of all candidates in the race. Recent internal polling released to the public show substantial support, in excess of 3x her closest opponent – George Phillips. This is reflected by a pattern of widespread distribution of petition signatures compared to the other candidates (as well as the numerical lead of signatures submitted). This is further bolstered by the 3-fold increase in funding from the 4th quarter 2015, the endorsement of the Conservative Party, and support from several PAC’s.
All of this leads us to the NY Presidential Primary. While New York made no real difference in the results for either Democrats or Republicans, it did reveal some facts about the NY 22nd congressional district. A total of 108,000 voters came out for the primary (46,000 Democrats and 62,000 Republicans). The number of people and their Party breakdown, not only confirms the R+3 political rating of the District, but implies that turnout will heavily favor Republicans in November.
Further, if we breakdown the presidential candidates to their corollaries in the congressional race we see an interesting trend. For Democrats, Legislator Kim Myers would reflect the establishment candidate of Hillary Clinton. Conversely David Gordon would equate somewhat to Sen. Bernie Sanders (mostly as a non-establishment candidate). While Hillary Clinton lost to Sen. Sanders (44% to 56% respective), recent polling tends to indicate that the largest portion of Sen. Sanders support - youthful voters - will abandon the race if Clinton is the candidate as is expected. That could reduce the Democrat turnout by some 25%-50%. This could give the race to the establishment candidate, Clinton and by proxy Legislator Myers. Given the exponential difference in funding, and the 50% greater number of petitions, all in favor of Legislator Myers, this appears to confirm the presidential primary results thus far.
Looking at the Republicans, again the results are somewhat involved. Donald Trump swept the NY-22 District versus Gov. Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz (53% – 28% – 19% respectively). There is no question that Donald Trump is the political outsider, opposed by the establishment. Sen. Cruz would be best categorized as also being opposed by the establishment and the most Conservative of the candidates. This leaves Gov. Kasich as the representative of the establishment (one of the reasons why he continues in the presidential race).
The equivalents of these candidates in the NY-22 would be Claudia Tenney taking the role of Donald Trump (as being opposed by the political establishment, and viewed by many as a political outsider for this reason). Tenney would also qualify as the equivalent of Sen. Cruz, as the far and away Conservative of the race – which the endorsement of the Conservative Party indicates.
The role of the establishment candidate thus falls to a split between George Phillips and Steve Wells. Both are known for establishment support – with Wells being a (volunteer) member of the NY State Republican Party and Phillips having the 2010 support of Chairman Ed Cox. With both remaining in the race, they split the establishment vote.
When we factor in the petitions and the funding, we get a confirmation of the internal poll released by the Tenney campaign. Even if we assume only half the voters for Trump and Sen. Cruz would turn out for the June 28th congressional primary – out of anger of a Kasich or other establishment candidate being nominated at the Republican convention – Tenney would still have 36% of the vote versus the combined establishment vote of 28%. Which does not take into account the split between Phillips and Wells.
Given the funding divide between Phillips and Wells, and the fact that funding for Phillips is on the decline, the edge would appear to be to Wells though he is almost universally unknown to general voters. The intense advertising campaign that Wells has already begun, like the Kasich campaign, is trying to introduce him to voters and solidify his hold on the establishment as his main target to win the primary. Whether that will work effectively remains unknown.
Given this exclusive, in-depth, and comprehensive analysis of the petitions and funding, the influence of the NY Presidential Primary, as well as prior research noted in our 25 articles on the NY-22 race, the final candidates going into November can be predicted at this time to be Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney and Legislator Kim Myers. Once again turning to the Presidential Primary, the overall odds are between 2:1 and 3:2 in favor of Tenney winning the race, if this were a bet.
This is a political race and so there are many wild cards. Massive advertising by Steve Wells and Legislator Myers could influence the Primaries and voter turnout. Martin Babinec may again try to re-enter the race through procedures allowed in NY State election rules if he is ejected from the race. Libertarian David Pasick is an unknown factor that could influence the outcome of the race.
The on-going activities in the 2016 Presidential race could likewise shift both turnout and preferences for establishment candidates. Gaffes by any candidate in potential debates could further cement or destroy any campaign. Of course any previously unknown or news cycle related scandal or event would also shift these results.
Political predictions are like forecasting the weather. You make the best guess based on the data at hand and then see how close you get. Voters alone will make all the final decisions in the New York 22nd Congressional race.
Article originally written at Binghamton Political Buzz on April 21, 2016, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez.
In Kirkwood, NY, a small joint meeting of the Broome County Sportsmen’s Association and the Southern Tier SCOPE had the added benefit of hearing from one of the New York 22nd congressional district candidates. On April 20, 2016, candidate George Phillips attended the event, which was not announced to the news media, to share his views on the race.
The event at the headquarters of the Broome County Sportsmen’s Club, drew some almost 2 dozen members of both organizations. It started at 7 PM and Mr. Phillips was the second speaker at the event after a spokesman for the Wendy Long for Senate campaign had spoken. Ms. Long is running against Sen. Charles “Chuck” Schumer, who has been in the Senate for 17 years.
Mr. Phillips went into his now familiar stump speech with ease. Dressed far more informally than in other events, Mr. Phillips again recounted his occupation as a history teacher, the fact his brother left the Southern Tier due to economic challenges, and other general statements he has said in every speech he has made that has been recorded by all news media thus far in the race. The 2 key talking points of every speech and radio interview, his work for the Jack Kemp Foundation and the loss in 2010 to Democrat and then-Rep. Maurice Hinchey, were clearly stated once again.
A difference in this stump speech was his discussion of issues that were prevalent in the past but without context in 2016 (Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act passed in 2003 and 99 weeks of unemployment which ended Dec 2013), the Economic Freedom Zones proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (introduced in 2015, with 1 cosponsor and considered a dead Bill), and the 2nd Amendment. Phillips noted that he is an advocate of gun Rights. He mentioned his expectation of gaining an NRA rating of A [ratings from the NRA are now percentages, since 2012]. Mr. Phillips has not been rated by the NRA, or any 2nd Amendment organization since his run in 2010, in part reflecting the fact he has not spoken publicly nor publicly written in defense of the 2nd Amendment for more than 6 years.
When we asked Mr. Phillips about this void in public statements and further clarified the question to the timeframe specifically to the 6 years since his last congressional run, he responded stating,
“I’ve gone where I’ve been invited… I speak on the Constitution everyday to my students… My priority is certainly my family, I’ve got 3 boys. So I get to things I can…”
Tom Da Brita, a representative of Southern Tier SCOPE at the meeting grilled Mr. Phillips a bit in a series of rapid fire questions about the exact connection Mr. Phillips has to firearms and the gun restriction legislation affecting over 5 million residents of New York State. The exchange was as follows,
“Do you have a NY State Pistol License?
George Phillips: I do not.
Do you have a hunting license?
George Phillips: No.
Do you shoot trap?
George Phillips: No.
George Phillips: No.”
The last time Mr. Phillips received a rating by any organization on the 2nd Amendment was in 2010. He was rated A by the NRA, and 90% by the Gun Owners of America. NY-22 candidates Martin Babinec (Ind); David Gordon (Dem); Legislator Kim Myers (Dem); David Pasick (Lib); and Steve Wells (Rep) all have no cited ratings by any 2nd Amendment organization at any time. Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, seen by many as the frontrunner in the congressional race, was most recently rated 93% by the NRA and 100% by the NRA Political Victory Fund in 2014 [ again, ratings were changed from letters to percentages in 2012]. The Gun Owners of America rated Tenney 90% in 2014, which was also the year that SCOPE NY celebrated Assemblywoman Tenney as their Legislator of the Year.
** CORRECTION – In the video Steve Wells is quoted as having $191,000 cash in hand – that is an error. According to FEC filings he raised $362,064 in the 2016 first quarter, and has $258,429 in cash at this time. George Phillips raised $60,000 but after disbursements has $126,243 cash on hand for the same time period. We accurately reported that Claudia Tenney raised $115,567, and has $136,425 in cash on hand.
The $191,000 mentioned in the video is in fact the individual contributions to Legislator Kim Myers, one of 2 Democrats in the race – who raised $230,517 and currently has $228,457 cash in hand.
We apologize for our error in confusing the dollar amounts. **
Article originally written at Binghamton Political Buzz on April 16, 2016, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez.
It was on March 7, 2016, that the public was first informed of the intentions of Jason Garnar. He was the former County Legislator who, on that day, released the news of his run for the Broome County Executive seat. That same day, his campaign website featured a video giving his reasons why he chose to run.
Fast forward 39 days. On April 15, 2016, the Garnar Campaign took its first significant public step. A formal launch of the campaign took place at the Atomic Dog Cafe in Downtown Binghamton. The event started at 5:30 PM, and in a half hour the modest sized room had been filled by Democrat supporters. Our unofficial count came to 70 people; not including the 15 students who were the volunteers staffing the event, and the additional 3 photographers for promotional media creation. Binghamton Political Buzz was the exclusive news media covering the event to our knowledge.
There was no lack of notable names among the crowd of Democrats. 125th District Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo was in attendance. We spoke with both Binghamton Councilwoman Dani Cronce and Councilman Conrad Taylor – each expressing their support and belief in Mr. Garnar’s capabilities as County Executive. In addition we spotted Barbara Fiala, who recently failed in her attempt to gain the 52nd State Senate seat, as well as a number of members of Citizen Action.
The excitement levels of the crowd was quite high, and even after Mr. Garnar began to speak about his family and 9 years in the County Legislature they took some time to calm down. Mr. Garnar spoke at length about the issues facing Broome County. In his speech Mr. Garnar laid many of these issues facing Broome County at the feet of the incumbent, such as job losses, population reduction, and especially the current Heroin crisis -
“5 years ago our County Executive promised to work for the people, here’s what happened. A Heroin epidemic that is destroying families and lives…”
Mr. Garnar went on in his speech to take on the controversial decision on the PLA from 2015, and suggested improved job training to create job growth. Another focus of the speech was the desire to retain students from Binghamton University in the community after graduation. Yet, nearly at the end of the speech, Mr. Garnar addressed the common tactic of negative campaigning – without regard to his prior comment on the Heroin epidemic,
“I am committed to running a positive issue-oriented campaign, but Broome County has seen its fair share of negative campaigning and the negative campaigning has to end.”
While the kick-off event was not meant to contain a question and answer portion for news media, we were assured by the campaign staff that an opportunity to interview Mr. Garnar would be provided to Binghamton Political Buzz in the near term. Even so, we were able to speak directly to Jason Garnar prior to the start of the event, and he addressed one of the issues we raised in our article on March 14, 2016.
That issue was the general void of information on the campaign website. Mr. Garnar stated that the current website was meant as a placeholder to allow the public to be aware of his run as his formal campaign website is designed. Mr. Garnar assured us that a far more detailed election website will be available for the public shortly.
** Note – Binghamton Political Buzz does not advocate for any candidate or election race. We only seek to provide information for the public to be able to determine, in an informed manner, for themselves whichever candidate they prefer. We look forward to the opportunity to interview Mr. Garnar and incumbent County Executive Debbie Preston to that end. **
Article originally written at Binghamton Political Buzz on April 16, 2016, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez.
During the evening of April 14, 2016, The Spot Restaurant in Binghamton, NY, was the location for the monthly gathering of the Broome County Republican Women’s Club (BCRWC). An organization started in 1929 with the goals of providing information, servicing the community, and unity, the BCRWC has monthly meetings at a rotation of businesses across Broome County (in May the group will be at Little Venice) – with many meetings having guest speakers of note. For April, the guest speaker was State Senator Fred Akshar.
The meeting, attended by a couple of dozen men and women, got a momentary bit of coverage from local news media, but only Binghamton Political Buzz was able to get the exclusive video of Sen. Akshar speaking to the membership. Still the meeting was about more than just hearing Sen. Akshar. Discussion on membership and the scholarship provided by BCRWC were focal points for the members. Several dozen applications are under consideration for the scholarship this year alone.
But when it was time for Sen. Akshar to speak there was no question what he had to say was of keen interest. Sen. Akshar started by sharing his thoughts in transitioning to his new role from that in law enforcement. He candidly stated, and again reiterated later in the discussion when taking questions from the group,
“Very quickly I learned that that beautiful building [NY State Capitol] was filled with personality, and filled with bureaucracy. Things move extremely slow. …people [public] want results as well. I’m a guy who wants to produce tangible results.”
While Sen. Akshar had previously gone into some detail about the recent NY State budget in our exclusive interview on April 8, 2016, the Senator went into far greater detail about items within the massive legislation. Key points included an additional $16 million in funding for schools in the 52nd Senate District, as well as a detailed reasoning on the minimum wage compromise, and how the alternative of voting down the increase would have been countered by wage boards from the Governor seeking an immediate and full increase to $15/hr across the entire State.
Sen. Akshar also went over the battle to get parity for Upstate New York. The budget includes tens of millions to help Upstate communities repair and improve infrastructure, which Gov. Cuomo had overlooked in a preference to provide infrastructure funding only to New York City. Sen. Akshar stated,
“The argument is that our roads and bridges are equally as important as NY City’s roads and bridges… At the end of the day, the number is $27 billion over 5 years and there was parity. That was critically important to us.”
Additionally Sen. Akshar noted the extreme oddity and difficulty of Gov. Cuomo’s use of a Message of Necessity to force quick passage of the $155 billion budget. As relayed by Sen. Akshar, at some point around 3 AM, a 650 page budget proposal was handed out – with elected officials given an hour to digest the material before being asked to vote on it. Though the major items in the budget had been part of a discussions previously, the process left the Senator less than impressed.
“I was disheartened with the fact that Message of Necessity. I thought that was highly problematic. Because we couldn’t come to a compromise, an understanding, until it was a couple of days before the budget was due…”
Overall the statements and review of actions given by Sen. Akshar was well received by the BCRWC members. All indications were that the assembled concerned citizens appreciated the time given to answer their questions, and the progress being made in Albany.
** Questions about the Broome County Republican Women’s Club can be directed to President Sharon Exley at 607-798-9752 or 2nd Vice-President Nancy McReynolds at email@example.com **
Article originally written at Binghamton Political Buzz on April 16, 2016, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez.
One of the biggest issues that the City of Binghamton has been facing for years has been the issue of blight. In 2009 the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a part of the controversial Obama Stimulus, helped to remove 8 blighted properties - but it was not enough. In 2011, action was called for to address the Masonic Temple at 66 Main Street, perhaps one of the most prominent symbols of persistent blight in the City of Binghamton. In the 2013 Mayoral race, the subject of blight and how to resolve it, was a major concern for all the candidates. But now, a new direction is beginning to take hold.
On April 14, 2016, the Binghamton Front St. Gateway Project, which is a joint action between Government and private business, presented the first of many new homes and apartments that are the direct result of addressing the blight situation. An open house event at 252 Front St. allowed residents to see what will be available shortly from the First Ward Action Council. A total of 12 homes, several modified into multiple units with 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms, have been created from the remains of previously blighted and condemned homes.
In total 37 housing units will be made available. Rent spans from $310 for a Studio apartment to $530 for a 3-bedroom apartment. The housing is targeted to help those with modest incomes, with applicants income capped at $22,900 for a Studio up to $39,180 (for 4 people) in a 3-bedroom apartment. Rent does not include gas and electric. Councilman Giovanni Scaringi noted that,
“… even on a part-time level you could be making as much as $13, $14, even to $15/hour and still be able to apply for a place to live here.”
Binghamton City Councilman Giovanni Scaringi, of the 1st District where the renovated homes are located, was on hand at the open house. Councilman Scaringi took the opportunity to speak with constituents about their concerns, plans for future re-development, and further ways to address the blight. Councilman Scaringi spoke to us about the importance and impact of this project to improve Binghamton,
“Front Street …is an incredibly important gateway… We are, in a mainstream way, for the first time really tackling the home and blight issues that occur here throughout the City… we are doing this in a time perspective as well as a fiscal one that is most efficient as well as the least expensive to the taxpayers.”
After many years of criticism, from some residents and local politicians, the major issue of blight is being addressed. Not just in the number of buildings that are being removed, which is targeted to be 14 buildings in 2016 alone (an increase from 2009 of 75%), but in providing residents modern livable homes at affordable costs that helps to raise the appeal of Binghamton to visitors and businesses as they enter the City from Interstate Highway I-81.
The changes might best be summed up from the statements of Councilman Scaringi when he said,
“We’re decreasing the blight. We’re changing our neighborhoods and our communities… the first Ward of Binghamton is an incredible place to live. Binghamton is coming back.”
** Anyone interested in applications can contact Michelle Roody at 607-772-2850 for more information. Preference in applications are given to persons with special needs and Veterans. **
There is something to be said for following a passion. Not a desire for wealth or fame, but a passion to do something – regardless if there is a material gain or not. That is what this commentary is about, 9+ years of following a passion.
It was in 2006 that I first learned about the concept of blogs, a relatively new idea at the time. It was an idea that I believed could help the investor relations firm I was had been helping to build at the time (Empire Relations Group). Thus I started this blog, as well as Black Entertainment USA. While I had strong political views even then, I was focused primarily on the entertainment aspect as it was the easy sell. More people pay attention to entertainment than politics – even though the former has less impact on daily life than the latter.
Still I wrote to both blogs. The entertainment side of things took of, as expected. I got movies to review, invites to film festivals, and spoke with various director’s and actors/actresses. It was fine and relatively thriving. But all the while I was continuing to write on politics and develop my voice. Especially since the 2008 election was fast approaching and this new voice – Sen. Barack Obama – was gathering steam in the face of a Hillary Clinton presumed presidency.
I followed that race intently, digging for facts and noting that the major media was missing a lot of the stories, issues, and facts that should be public knowledge. The effort I was putting into the 2008 election coverage paid off when TV One contacted me, out of the blue, to be one of 2 voices to provide coverage for their online viewership of what was fast becoming a historic race. They were fully aware that I did NOT support Sen. Barack Obama, and held a Conservative Republican viewpoint – unlike the presumed majority of their viewers and the other blogger selected.
I didn’t become a darling of the internet – likely in part because I was not on the Obama bandwagon. It didn’t matter my reasons, or the facts I uncovered. I was affiliated with the wrong Party and on the wrong side of the politics many seemed to want at the time. My warnings of Sen. Obama not being what he preached went disregarded in large part. My question of “change to what?” was largely ignored. But I wasn’t completely abandoned. I had readership in over 110 countries. I was in the top 0.5% of blogs in the world at the time. I was satisfied.
The election ushered in the Obama Administration, and I continued to write on the topics I felt not only mattered, but went unspoken in the 24/7 news cycle. Readership diminished a bit, as is wont for politics immediately after an election. But I retained much of my readership worldwide. This wasn’t about my fame, but about the message that not everyone must fit into the mold that politicians and the major media desired.
Then the American Civic Association mass shooting took place a mere 4 blocks from my home. The world changed for me and many in Binghamton, NY. I covered the event, as live as possible for 1 guy with very limited resources. Considering all things, I did pretty well.
Since that time, the need for what I do has become ever more apparent. 1 man, working a full time “real” job, and also doing political commentary when I can; yet I have interviewed a host of politicians and candidates for elected office. I have become so well known among politicians and their staff in the Southern Tier and NY 22nd Congressional District that I am known by sight as well as by name. That’s a blessing and a curse. It has helped me get interviews as much as it has prevented it (with both political Parties).
No matter what I believe of my work, I am perceived with several biases. I am considered credible – having been cited twice for scholarly books, and these days receiving calls from national media organizations like National Journal and Daily Beast on my views about various political issues I cover. I am known for being detailed – I cite via reliable sources, facts and information relevant to the stories I cover. I do my homework, and my interviews reflect that I know a lot about whomever I am questioning as well as what the public would and needs to know about them or what they are doing. I am acknowledged – both in being a welcomed and frequent guest on talk radio programs from Binghamton to Utica, and as a hard interviewer who avoids softball questions/answers from anyone.
But at the same time I am shunned. Some Democrats fear that I am on some kind of rampage. Given I do political commentary from a Conservative Republican viewpoint, and I am not bashful in saying so (as opposed to the fact that EVERYONE in news media votes and has a Party preference, though few will disclose that publicly). Some Republicans for their part are upset because they think I am on some kind of rampage. But that is because I am unwilling to give elected politicians or candidates in my Party a pass on touchy issues or voting records.
Effectively, both sides LOVE when I have a hard hitting article that slams the other side for failing the public, and HATES when I do the same thing to their Party. Both sides enjoy the interviews I do that go well for them, and hate the interviews that do not. In fact, they both often use any perceived slight against me, ignoring the positives or neutrality at any other time. Such is the nature of politics.
Even so, I have continued to do what I love. I provide information to the public. I delve deep, I ask hard questions, and I demand answers that the public not only deserves but is obligated to receive. There is the old story of a judge who made a ruling that upset the prosecutor and defender – and said that it must be the right decision since neither side was happy. That is the approach I generally take in my articles (I am human, its not always so black and white in my articles given. Then again, the same can be said of all news media).
At the end of the day, what does it all mean? Well, I have now written (just in my political commentary alone) more than 2,000 articles in 9 years 4 months. That’s about 215 articles a year – on par with just about any professional in news media. I have lost money doing so for about 6 of those years including last year (donations are welcome by the way). I have a large portion of the political elites in the Democrat and Republican Parties upset with me on a regular basis. A portion of the Black and Hispanic community shun me for NOT being part of the crowd. BUT, I say again, but there are an ever growing number of regular people that turn to my articles to get a different view on what is going on.
That is what makes it worthwhile. Having regular people learn facts about what is going on, hearing the unfiltered words of candidates and elected officials. Seeing the difference of campaign promises and actual voting. Giving people more than just 30-second soundbites to digest to make the best choice for them.
In fact that’s why I’m expanding. Not only have I been a writer for the Binghamton Political Buzz at Examiner.com for years, plus this political commentary blog with a Youtube channel with literally hundreds of interviews and news events, but now I am adding a podcast to the mix – No Soundbites Allowed (I think I may change that to NO $oundbites Allowed, what do you think?). I’ve also been interviewing a few people to expand the writing staff and number/type of stories that are covered. Because the public needs more information and more viewpoints, while politicians and candidates (of BOTH Parties) need more watchdogs holding them accountable.
I know most will never read all of this. It’s political, and that’s just not as popular as whether or not Beyonce’s clothing line is selling well. But I’m not here for personal fame or a quick buck (profit is not an evil thing, and I am not opposed to it) otherwise I would have kept up the entertainment work I started with. I’m not doing this for personal power either, otherwise I’d be a Democrat and easily elected by now. I’m doing this because it’s my passion and I am thankful for every person who reads this and gives life to that passion.
After 2000 articles I can say this, live your passion. Even if you lose money, even if its not wildly popular. Because at the end of the day, you will love doing it and 9 years will go by quickly as you do it.
** I want to thank a lot of people for the past 9 years of support. They deserve it. I hope anyone reading this far reads their names too.
Kenneth Maciora – working with me to develop this idea of blogs (2006)
TV One – giving an unknown upstart a chance to reach a large audience with views that were not mainstream (April 2008)
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo – for our several interviews on a range of subjects (2010 – current)
Former Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan – one of the first elected officials to formally recognize me and my work, and always willing to do an interview
Sheriff Dave Harder – for our interview and answers in various articles (2010 – current)
American for Restoring the Constitution (AFRTC) – for inviting me to speak & cover your rallies and meetings (2010 – current)
Southern Tier TEA Party – for inviting me to speak & cover your rallies and meetings (2010 – current)
NY State GOP Chairman Ed Cox – for sharing information with voters (2010)
Debra A. Miller & Greenhaven Press – for citing my work in your book (2010)
Central New York Business Journal – for publishing my article (May 2010)
22nd Congressional District candidate George Phillips – for sharing information with voters (2010) still waiting in 2016
126th New York State Assembly candidate Art Garrison – for sharing information with voters (2010)
126th New York State Assembly candidate Jason Stokes – for sharing information with voters (2010)
Broome County Sheriff candidate Tim “T.R.” Roberts – for sharing information with voters (2010)
Cindy Sheehan – for answering my questions when you were in Binghamton, NY (2010)
Binghamton Councilwoman Leah Webb – for providing answer to questions for the public (2011-2012)
NY State GOP & Gov. Bobby Jindal & Newt Gingrich – for giving me and readers in Southern Tier access to the annual meeting (2012)
Bob Joseph and WNBF – for allowing my voice and views to be heard even when I have not been a congressional candidate (2013 – current)
Talk of the Town & WUTQ – for allowing my voice and views to be heard even when I have not been a congressional candidate (2013 – current)
John Mark Dempsey & Cognella, Inc – for citing my work in your book (2013)
Binghamton Mayoral candidate Ed Hickey – for providing answers to questions for the public (2013)
Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney – for our interviews giving the public insight (2014 – current)
Sons of Italy (Endicott, NY) – for allowing me and other congressional candidates to speak about the 2nd Amendment (2014)
Stephen Aldstadt & SCOPE NY – for sharing information with public and inviting me to several speaking events (2014 – current)
Binghamton Councilman Giovanni Scaringi – for providing answer to questions for the public (2015 – current)
Southern Tier SCOPE – for allowing me to speak to your members (2015 – current)
Tri-County TEA Party – for allowing me to speak to your members (2015 – current)
George Curbello & NY Revolution – for allowing me to speak to your members (2015 – current)
NY 52nd District State Senator Fred Akshar – for living to your promise for interview, and sharing your work with public (2016)
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi – for finally answering some questions that the public deserved to know about (2016)
Binghamton Councilwoman Dani Cronce – for providing answer to questions for the public (2016 – current)
22nd Congressional District candidate David Gordon – for providing answer to questions for the public (2016)
22nd Congressional District candidate David Pasick – for providing answer to questions for the public (2016)
22nd Congressional District candidate Aaron Price – for providing answer to questions for the public (2016)
Broome County Executive candidate Jason Garnar – for providing answer to questions for the public (2016)
There are many others, and this would be even more ridiculously long if I included everyone by name. But to each of you, for the help and support and information you have provided me and the public, I thank you.
Written originally at Binghamton Political Buzz at Examiner.com, by Michael “Vass” Vasquez on April 14, 2016.
As of April 14, 2016, petitions for the New York 22nd Congressional District are flowing into the NY State Board of Elections (NYSBOE). These petitions collected since March 8, 2016 will determine the fate for several of the candidates in the 2016 election. Only those candidates that cross the threshold of 1,250 signatures will be allowed to have their names appear in the June 28, 2016 primaries, making a run for the November election without it virtually improbable.
Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney of Oneida County is the frontrunner of the NY-22 election and was the first of the 8 candidates in the race to submit petitions gathered. New York is unique in that it splits the congressional race from State and local elections (as well as the Presidential Primary which will be on April 19, 2016). In the filing made by the Tenney Campaign some 3600 petitions, from all 8 Counties that make up the NY-22, were submitted on Monday. There may be an additional series of petitions received via mail by April 15 per NYSBOE regulations – but that is not confirmed at this time.
These Tenney petitions were for the Republican Party alone, as there are multiple ballot lines that are available in NY – each with its own requirements. The Conservative Party petitions for the Tenney Campaign at this time, appear to stand at 550 signatures which indicates this too exceeds the minimum required. The Conservative Party has already endorsed Tenney.
Steve Wells, from Madison County, has also submitted petitions for the Republican Party line. There are some 2,700 petitions that were for the Wells Campaign. But it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of those petitions were from Madison and Oneida Counties alone.
Preliminary review indicates that roughly 200 petitions were gathered as a combined total from Oswego, Tioga, Herkimer,Broome and Chenango Counties (in order of lowest to highest). It would appear from the number of signatures that the Wells Campaign has significant troubles in the overwhelming majority of the District. This is concurrent with a large advertising campaign active since March.
It should also be noted that there is a rule of thumb to petitions. It is common to target no less than twice the number of required signatures to be considered safe. Campaigns at all levels routinely try to gather at least this amount as often entire pages of signatures can be thrown out due to various errors invalidating them.
It is routine for contested campaigns, such as in the NY-22 which is the most contested in the nation at this time to our knowledge, to issue challenges and whittle down competitors. This is especially true when a challenger is under the informal double rule, as it is an inexpensive and easy way to remove competition. Again, this is standard in politics.
The details become less exact for some of the remaining candidates. George Phillips of Broome County has filed his petitions. When we spoke to the Phillips Campaign they stated that roughly 2,000 petitions were to be filed. Review has determined that only 1,900 signatures were gained. It is also known there was a County of extreme focus in the petitions.
As of April 8th, when the Phillips Campaign collected its signatures, only 1,454 were available. This would not have withstood challenge, and Mr. Phillips directly embarked on gaining an additional 446 signatures over 5 days. We estimate that this high school history teacher spent on average about 9.5 hours a day, walking 12 miles a day, (spending no more than 3 minutes at every house, without breaks for bathroom/eating/rest according to our calculation) to gain the extra petitions – making him responsible for 40% (580) of all petitions gathered in his campaign.
Much like the Wells Campaign, Phillips was nearly exclusive in the region he collected signatures from. The majority of signatures were from just Broome County, most in the region surrounding the City of Binghamton. Again, like Wells, this may foreshadow problems garnering support from the other 7 Counties in the District.
The fourth Republican in the race, Aaron Price also of Broome County has yet to file his petitions. We were not able to reach the campaign directly but did leave a request for the public figures. As of the time of this article are unaware if any petitions have been filed. We also mention that there have been some rumors that Aaron Price may be the first of the candidates to exit the race, which could be related to the petition totals.
For the Democrats, we contacted David Gordon’s Oneida County campaign. We were told that approximately 1700 petition signatures were filed with the NYSBOE by the end of the day. Further details were not available at this time about the grouping and concentration of these petitions.
Lastly for Democrats we reached out to Broome County Legislator Kim Myers. The Myers Campaign has already filed 379 pages of petitions. This is uncommon though still legal. But due to the unusual volume of petitions and the other irregularities, we do not have a figure for the number of petitions filed. Based on rumors of difficulties as late as a week ago, and estimating average number of signatures per page, Legislator Myers has a range of 1,250 signatures to possibly 3,000. Our attempt to contact the Myers Campaign went without response for this article.
Given these rough figures, challenges on all candidates except Assemblywoman Tenney have the potential to remove every candidate from the race. The most in danger (in order of likelihood) are: Legislator Myers; David Gordon; and George Phillips tied with Steve Wells. Another factor that is a wild card to affect the chance of a petition becoming invalid are paid petitioners.
These are often college students, not volunteers, who gather petitions and are paid an hourly wage for the work. They have no connection to any campaign. Often they are inexperienced in the process and create errors. We are aware of Martin Babinec and Steve Wells using paid workers primarily in their petition efforts.
We did not include Martin Babinec, who is running on the Independence line. Though we reported that he did have paid petitioners in Binghamton, NY as late as April 8, 2016, he has not submitted the petitions to our knowledge. Our attempts to reach his campaign have resulted in no response thus far. We are unaware of any rumors connected to the campaign that could affect petitions. In fact, we are unaware of any information from any of our sources in the 8 Counties of the NY-22 District related to the Babinec Campaign beyond the website and our prior article. The minimum requirement to qualify is 1,154 signatures.
Further, the final candidate in the race is Libertarian David Pasick. As NY State does not recognize the Libertarian Party as a significant political force in the State, petitions are not required at this time. Instead, starting on June 21, 2016 until July 26, 2016, the Libertarian Party will join any other independent seeking petitions to run for the NY-22 race.
This now brings the public up to date with all the candidates in the race. Potentially, once challenges are issued, there are 2 likely outcomes. First, the worst case scenario is that there will only be 2 Republicans – either Steve Wells or George Phillips and Claudia Tenney; either Legislator Kim Myers or David Gordon for Democrats; and Libertarian David Pasick left once the dust settles. The best case scenario for most of the candidates (depending on the perspective) will be that only Aaron Price fails to enter the next stage of the challenge.
One pattern is starting to emerge though. Claudia Tenney is dominating the race, even with the slew of competition. Advertising campaign have already started by relative unknowns Steve Wells and Martin Babinec. Whether that frontrunner status will continue to be hers is up to the public.
** Update – Martin Babinec filed approximately 1,256 signatures, barely exceeding the minimum required to gain access to the ballot. In updating the ranking of candidates in danger of exiting the race due to petition challenges (from most likely to least): Martin Babinec; Legislator Myers; David Gordon; and George Phillips tied with Steve Wells.
Challenges to petitions are on-going, and any resulting shake-up in who will be running should be public within 2 weeks. **
As written on April 12, 2016, for Binghamton Political Buzz by Michael “Vass” Vasquez
Our on-going comprehensive and leading coverage of the New York 22nd congressional race continues with the latest developments from several of the candidates. Even as the various campaigns are submitting their petitions to gain access to the June 28, 2016 primary ballot, several have begun to move forward with the second stage of their efforts. The growth of advertising in this congressional race is a telling foreshadowing of what may be likely on the horizon.
But before that can be discussed, we must first recognize that the 8th candidate in the NY-22 race is Martin Babinec. Mr. Babinec, seeking the Independence Party line for the election is an unknown to all but some in Herkimer County. It was in the Herkimer County Republican Committee meeting of February that set the path for Mr. Babinec, a businessman with no prior experience in politics. Mr. Babinec failed in his attempt to gain the Herkimer Republican Committee endorsement – as he is not a registered Republican and could not be considered – which led him to the Independence line, which has far lower requirements to gain the ballot.
Though Mr. Babinec is known regionally, he did not have District-wide acknowledgement. Even the news that he will largely self-fund his campaign, having reportedly filed to give his campaign $1 million as he has no significant financial support from the public at large, was only covered in local papers with the media ignoring him overall. Like every candidate that has announced in the NY-22 race, we have extended an offer for interview to Mr. Babinec – we have received no response thus far (a trend that seems to be consistent among the 3 richest candidates in this race).
Part of the funds of the Babinec Campaign have been used to pay for workers to seek out petitions. Normally petitions are passed by County Committee members and volunteers, but paid workers are not illegal – though often considered an indication of a weaker campaign. Many were college students, including the paid petition worker we met on April 8, 2016, who had just arrived in Binghamton, NY, along with a handful of co-workers. As we were told directly, many of the workers have no knowledge of the race, but were working to meet their quota which was difficult as the pool of potential signatures was quite small. Simultaneously on that day, the George Phillips campaign was collecting signatures. Many of the campaigns similarly collected petitions over the weekend, with the Claudia Tenney Campaign already filing 3,600 petitions on Monday, April 11, 2016.
But the Babinec Campaign was not just satisfied with just paid workers. As of at least April 11, 2016, the Babinec Campaign began to advertise on social media – specifically Facebook – to gain greater attention among voters. By no means was this the first campaign to reach out to the voters via advertising. As we reported previously Republican Aaron Price was the first to advertise via radio ads (which eventually revealed he is supporting succession in opposition to what he stated in our interview with him). He was followed by Republican Steve Wells, also on social media – again specifically Facebook.
It should be noted that Martin Babinec and Steve Wells have generally avoided the public thus far. While both have websites (in fact the Wells Campaign having revamped its initial website after receiving criticism), and having spoken for articles promoting their campaigns, neither had explained their positions, reasons to run, or plans if elected to-date. This is equally true of Democrat Kim Myers, whose only public contact has thus far been a website containing a single 4 sentence paragraph and a request for donations.
Apparently Steve Wells feels confident that he will be among those to hurdle the requirement of petition signatures (at this time we are only aware of 1 campaign that may not achieve access to the ballot). Thus, in his first direct contact with the Southern Tier, the Wells Campaign has delivered the first round on campaign flyers. Much like the Facebook ads of Babinec, and those for Wells, more questions are raised than answered. Some of those are:
- Why are the candidates with the most wealth the least active in explaining their run for the congressional race to the public directly?
- Why are Babinec, Myers, and Wells, so adamant in separating themselves from the public – none have had any public events within the Southern Tier (and only a handful in any of the 8 Counties of the District)?
- Specifically for Steve Wells, how can a volunteer Chairman for the NY State GOP who has a 15 year record of political donations (for both Parties and most recently to Gov. Andrew Cuomo), be considered as a political outsider as has been claimed in the Wells advertisements? [See attached photo of mailed flyer]
- Specifically for Kim Myers, how can a single paragraph (containing no details) and a donation button be the only justification for a run for Congress? [A question we raised against George Phillips for the same reason]
There are many more questions that can be asked. Given the reluctance to appear in front of any news media to answer questions in an interview it seems that the strategy among the most wealthy congressional candidates will be to buy votes via a slew of advertisements in lieu of actual discussion. Like a crowd of peacocks, the plumage of paid advertisements are beginning to be spread to bedazzle voters with style over substance and equating wealth with political acumen.
Regardless of the mounting questions, that we again invite all the candidates for the NY congressional race to answer in interviews with us, there is one thing that is clear. The second stage, a battle of 30-second soundbites and self-promotional material, has begun in earnest. While all remaining candidates will of course join in this battle, the wealth of the Independent, Republican, and Democrat millionaires will try to dominate the marketplace.
How successful this will be is unclear. Unlike a soda or a pair of jeans, politics affects the masses in ways that can be generational. Name recognition, a major factor in contested elections, is often useless unless that name can be matched to a cause or issue that voters care about. Considering the 3 most wealthy candidates are actively being least definitive on what they stand for or what they will do, the hope of some would be that merely buying ads will not be enough to influence the public.