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Wednesday
Jan092013

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Proposes 'Toughest Assault Weapon Ban in the Nation'

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(ALBANY, N.Y.) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out a plan Wednesday to give his state some of the strictest gun control laws in the country.

In his annual State of the State address, Cuomo promised to "enact the toughest assault weapon ban in the nation, period," following the shooting deaths of 20 students and six adults at an elementary school in nearby Newtown, Conn., last month.

"I know that the issue of gun control is hard," Cuomo said during his address in Albany, N.Y. "I know it's political. I know it's controversial....I say to you: Forget the extremists. It's simple, no one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer and too many innocent people have died already. End the madness, now!"

Cuomo's voice rose as he urged the passing of "safe, reasonable gun control," asking New York to "set an example for the rest of the nation."

He then laid out a seven-point plan, calling it "a gun policy in this state that is reasonable, that is balanced, that is measured."

"Gun violence has been on a rampage," he said. "In one word it is just enough."

He added that he is a gun owner himself, and his proposal "is not taking away people's guns."

In an address that was close to an hour and a half long, Cuomo called for requiring federal background checks of all gun sales, including private ones; the ban of high-capacity magazines; enacting tougher penalties for illegal gun use, guns on school grounds, and gun activity by gangs; keeping guns from people who are mentally ill; banning the direct Internet sale of ammunition; one state check on all firearms purchases; and programs to cut gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods.

Cuomo claimed New York once led the country in gun control when, in 1911, it passed "Sullivan's Law," which required a permit to possess a handgun.

New York has an existing assault weapons ban, but many high-powered rifles that have a capacity greater than 10 rounds don't come under the ban because it exempts magazines manufactured before 1994. If a magazine is not stamped then it can't be banned.

Cuomo's new legislation would ban large-capacity magazines regardless of the date of manufacture.

One of the points of his plan that may get the most attention, especially in the wake of the Newtown and Aurora, Colo., mass shootings, is keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. The Democratic governor's plan would ensure that when a mental health professional determines a gun owner is likely to hurt himself or others, the risk must be reported and the gun removed by law enforcement.

According to the New York Daily News, Democratic New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters in Albany before Cuomo's speech that an agreement on tougher legislation between lawmakers and the governor was close, adding he might keep Assembly members in Albany to complete a deal.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who attended the address, has also been outspoken on the issue of gun control since the Sandy Hook school shooting.

This week, his group, Mayors Against Gun Violence, released a new television commercial to push for action from the federal government. The ad featured Roxanna Green, the mother of Christina Taylor-Green, a 9-year-old killed two years ago this week in Tucson, Ariz., in the shooting that severely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

In the ad Roxanna Green asked, "How many more children must die before Washington does something to end our gun violence problem?"

Bloomberg also released a statement after Cuomo's address saying he was "struck by his passionate leadership on gun violence."

"New York State has led the nation with strong, common-sense gun laws, and the governor's new proposals will build on that tradition," Bloomberg said. "They will help law enforcement keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people and save lives. We strongly support his proposals to close loopholes and strengthen existing laws, and we look forward to working with him and the State Legislature to adopt them."

Cuomo's address came on the same day Vice President Biden began two days of meetings at the White House with victims of gun violence, gun safety advocate groups and gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, and gun sellers, including Walmart.

Biden told reporters before the meeting that they were at the White House "to deal with a problem that requires our immediate action, urgent action," adding that he and President Obama "are determined to take action."

"I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion, unless we can do everything, we're going to do nothing," Biden said.

Cuomo wasn't the only governor to speak out about gun control Wednesday. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy also used his State of the State address to stress "more guns are not the answer," and to announce the formation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission made up of experts in mental health, education, law enforcement and first response.

"Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom," Malloy said, referring to the NRA's proposal to have armed guards outside of every school in the country.

"We also know that this conversation must take place nationally," Malloy said. "As long as weapons continue to travel up and down I-95, what is available for sale in Florida or Virginia can have devastating consequences here in Connecticut....Our focus will be first and foremost on protecting Connecticut's families."

Another Northeastern governor, Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey, did not touch the subject of gun control in his address Tuesday. When asked on ABC News' Good Morning America Wednesday why he didn't bring up the topic, he said, "Given what's happened to our state, the majority of the time should be talking about Sandy."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec042012

New York Pols Make White House Appeal for Sandy Relief Funds

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the White House prepares to send its emergency request for Hurricane Sandy relief to Capitol Hill this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a personal appeal for more than $40 billion to aid his state.

Emerging from meetings with White House officials and members of key congressional committees, Governor Cuomo expressed optimism that lawmakers will deliver tens of billions of dollars in aid.

"If you've walked the streets and you've talked with home owners and small business owners you know how desperate the situation is and this is no time for politics," Gov. Cuomo said Monday.

Cuomo stood beside the entire New York delegation, including Long Island Republican Rep. Peter King.

"All of us stand behind the governor's proposal," King said of Cuomo's appeal for funds. "I believe it's on target. It's what we need. It has to be done."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov012012

Superstorm Sandy: Governors Use Twitter to Help Save Lives

@GovChristie/Twitter(WASHINGTON) -- In past weather emergencies, Americans have tuned in to radios and televisions to get information on how to handle disasters, but with Hurricane Sandy, some governors used Twitter as a new way to reach their citizens.

Governors in every state where President Obama declared an emergency, except New Hampshire, tweeted about the storm throughout the day Tuesday, and their efforts continued on Wednesday.  Some sent out photos of damage, survival tips, traffic updates and other information.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted a YouTube video of National Guardsmen unloading supplies Tuesday evening.

"Hoping NYers are staying indoors&safe -->let your friends+fam know you're OK via social media, #Facebook status #Sandy," he tweeted earlier in the day.

Cuomo continued Wednesday to tweet minute-by-minute updates on New York City transit and excerpts from his news briefing with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Andrew Raseij, founder of Personal Democracy Media, a group that covers the intersection of tech and politics, said in this kind of emergency, tweeting can be important for governors.

Raseij praised New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's use of the platform.

"If he's out on social media warning people to evacuate before the press conference and that reaches somebody who leaves their home and then the power goes out and they can't even watch the press conference, then he's reached somebody and saved their lives," Raseij said.

Christie Director of Outreach Lauren Fritts said tweets from the governor's account these past few days were meant to inform and comfort New Jerseyans.

"If you know anything about Gov. Christie, it's that he likes to communicate with the people of New Jersey his way," Fritts said in an email Wednesday.  "Recognizing that many New Jerseyans are unable to watch TV or listen to the radio, we use the governor's twitter account (a common app on most smartphones) as a way to connect him with the people across this state."

Christie's tweets varied between informational updates and emotional expressions of empathy with the people of his state.

"Hurricane #Sandy is now moving twice as fast as I had originally been briefed-we are now expecting landfall in AC in the next hour," Christie tweeted just after 5:30 p.m. Monday.  

Later, in reference to people ignoring his evacuation warning, he posted, "I hope and pray there will not be a loss of life because of people's decisions to stay."

Raseij said, "It's very clear that Gov. Christie's emphatic use of social media saved lives in a moment of crisis."

Some, like Govs. Cuomo and Christie, have gone beyond the basic tweet, tagging other accounts and using hashtags to make their updates more searchable.

Raseij said social media posts are more effective when elected officials craft their own, rather than relying on a staffer to write the messages.

"Obviously, the authenticity of the elected official who uses it themselves creates far more affinity with citizens and, particularly in times of crisis, gives the public a sense that they're being led," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct312012

NY Congressional Campaign Manager Loses Job over Sandy Rumors

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The congressional campaign manager who confessed to spreading falsehoods on Twitter during Hurricane Sandy has resigned from Christopher Wright’s New York City congressional campaign.

Shashank Tripathi, under the guise of his Twitter handle @ComfortablySmug, sent out several pieces of misinformation during the worst of the storm Monday.

He is being blamed for spreading the now-widely debunked rumor that the New York Stock Exchange trading floor had been flooded with 3 feet of water.  The rumor was eventually picked up by CNN and New York Magazine until NYSE officials shot it down.

In a message on his Twitter account late Tuesday, Tripathi apologized and offered his resignation on Wright’s House campaign for the 12th congressional district.

“I wish to offer the people of New York a sincere, humble and unconditional apology,” Tripathi wrote.  “During a natural disaster that threatened the entire city, I made a series of irresponsible and inaccurate tweets.”

Other rumors included a false report that power would be shut down in all off Manhattan and that the New York subway would be closed for the entire week.

Tripathi has written a finance blog for the Stone Street Advisors hedge fund under the same pseudonym, “ComfortablySmug.”

He has been paid thousands of dollars as a consultant to the Wright campaign, according to BuzzFeed, which first ousted Tripathi.

Wright’s campaign said in a statement that Tripathi’s resignation was accepted and the chief of staff, Nick Mackey, will replace him as campaign manager.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul092012

Protest Greets Mitt Romney at Hamptons Fundraiser

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.) -- After a week vacationing in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney headed back to the fundraising circuit on Sunday, appearing with his wife Ann at three private residences in the Hamptons.

One of the high-dollar events was held at the shorefront estate of billionaire David Koch, whose Southampton, N.Y., compound was tightly secured in part because of roughly 150 protesters in the area.  Members of Occupy Wall Street and MoveOn.org made up those protesting, shouting and holding signs illustrating their anger towards “money in politics.”

David Segal with the Long Island Progressive Coalition said his group isn’t worried about who’s running for president.  

“What bothers me,” he said as a black stretch-limo drove by, “is that people like David Koch are buying our politicians.”

The Koch fundraiser cost $50,000 a person to attend; $75,000 per couple.  One of the protesters on an adjacent street to the property held a sign that read “Your $50,000 ticket = My yearly salary.”

As a $400,000 dollar Rolls Royce passed the barricaded crowd, they decided to take their message to the beach -- which also serves as the backyard of Koch’s home.  As protesters gathered and sang  "The Star-Spangled Banner," the Secret Service stood atop a sand dune at the edge of the property and looked on.  The beach is public property and no arrests were made.

The New York Times reported Romney was expected to raise over $3 million during the Hamptons swing, which began in East Hampton at the 75-acre estate of Revlon chairman Ron Perelman.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was a special guest at the fundraiser, which cost between $5,000 and $25,000 to attend.  

The third event took place in Southampton as well, on the same street as the Koch’s home.

Although the protesters only got a glimpse of Romney as his motorcade entered and exited the closed Southampton street, they regarded the protest as a success, saying it was an opportunity to take their message to those responsible.

Romney’s fundraising blitz continues on Monday with a private event in Aspen, Colo.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul062012

Rep. Charlie Rangel Has a 957-Vote Lead, But Still No Primary Win

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(ALBANY, N.Y.) -- After two days and roughly 2,000 hand-counted paper ballots, Rep. Charlie Rangel’s lead in the New York primary has widened to 951 votes, four times the half-a-percentage-point margin of victory necessary to trigger a recount.

But 10 days after Rangel, 82, was prematurely declared the winner in the June 26 Democratic primary, his win was still unofficial and what may be his last election to Congress was still in question.

New York State Board of Elections officials were wading through more than 2,000 ballots that were originally deemed invalid.

As Rangel’s lead grew, his opponent, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, turned to the courts to block the 21-term congressman from heading back to Washington in January.

Espaillat’s campaign filed a lawsuit with the New York State Supreme Court this week alleging that many of the ballots deemed invalid at the polling sites should not be discarded and that those invalid ballots came disproportionately from Latino districts that supported Espaillat.

“We’ve found 192 people in Manhattan whose affidavit ballots were disqualified but who show up as Democratic voters on the rolls,” Aneiry Batista, coordinator of the recount operation for the Espaillat campaign, told the New York Daily News. “And we’re not even halfway through those that were disqualified.”

Despite completing the hand count of all mail-in absentee ballots and affidavit ballots, which are from people who were not listed on the registration rolls when they went to cast their vote, the board cannot certify the election results until the court signs off on the count.

“We’ll do whatever it takes to make sure every vote is counted,” Espaillat’s campaign spokesman, Ibrahim Khan, told ABC News.

Khan said “there is a real concern” that many of the discarded ballots are valid and should be counted.

But Rangel’s campaign manager, Moises Perez, said Rangel’s “lead, quite frankly, appears to be insurmountable,” and that he is confident any court challenges will not stop Rangel from winning the primary.

“It will more than likely not change the outcome at all,” Perez told ABC News. “The lead will be so much bigger than what they can put on the table.”

Espaillat’s court challenge alleged that there was voter suppression at the polls and has asked the court to order a recount or possibly a re-do election.

Perez said he has not seen “any evidence of voter suppression,” as Espaillat charged in his lawsuit. Instead, Perez added, the controversy over some of the invalidated ballots stems from voters being confused about where to vote in their newly re-drawn districts.

“Every election is like that, particularly when you have a brand-new district,” Perez said. “Everyone who lives in the fringe of the new district, many people around the fringes are confused.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul062012

NY Primary, Like Rep. Charlie Rangel, Won't Quit

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Nine days ago, 82-year-old Rep. Charlie Rangel was giving his 22nd primary election victory speech after preliminary results of New York's June 26 Democratic primary election showed Rangel beating challenger state Sen. Adriano Espaillat by more than 1,000 votes.

But as the full results rolled in, the representative from Harlem's lead shrank, to 802 votes, prompting a manual count of every remaining absentee and affidavit ballot.  On Thursday, New York Board of Elections officials began painstakingly tallying roughly 2,000 paper ballots to determine if Rangel will, in fact, be headed back to Congress next year.

As of Thursday evening, seven of the disputed assembly districts' ballots had been counted and Rangel's lead had grown to 945 votes, or about 2.4 percent of the 40,000 ballots cast, according to the Board of Elections.

It's highly unlikely the remaining ballots will strip Rangel of his ever-growing lead, but as long as the count drags on, his victory can't be certified.

Espaillat, Rangel's opponent, has called for a full recount and even a possible re-do election, but Rangel's margin of victory would have to shrink to one half of one percent to trigger a recount.  A re-do election would require court intervention, which Espaillat filed for on Tuesday.

Espaillat's charges allege voter suppression and claim that many of the ballots that were deemed invalid are from Latino voters who supported him.  As a Dominican-American, he was counting on support from the Hispanic community to oust long-time incumbent Rangel.

New York Judge John Carter ruled Thursday morning that after the hand count is complete, the Board of Elections could not certify a winner without the court's approval, leaving the door ever-so-slightly open that the court could mandate a recount or re-do election.

After all of the absentee and affidavit ballots are counted, election officials will re-examine the ballots that were originally discarded.  Both Espaillat and Rangel can challenge each of the ballots that the election's board deems invalid, sparking court proceedings that could further delay a final election result.

Espaillat spokesman Ibrahim Khan said it was "hard to say" whether Espaillat will be able to overturn Rangel's preliminary win.

"We want to make sure that this is a process where we count every single vote," Khan told ABC News.

In a fundraising email to supporters on Monday, Rangel sounded confident that his win would stand.

"To my surprise, my opponent's campaign pounced on me on Friday, saying that I had somehow stolen their votes! I'm completely baffled by the situation and the way my opponent has been reacting," Rangel wrote in the email.  "I don't know what will transpire in the coming days, but one thing is clear: I need your help to prepare myself for another battle -- whether it's a legal battle with the Board of Elections or with my opponent."

A Rangel campaign spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun262012

Will Orrin Hatch, Charlie Rangel Survive Tuesday's Contests?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Utah holds its state and presidential GOP primary on Tuesday, while New York, Colorado and Oklahoma hold state and congressional contests.

Of these primaries, there are two big contests to keep an eye on: the Utah Republican Senate primary between six-term incumbent Orrin Hatch and Tea Party-challenger Dan Liljenquist, and the Democratic primary in New York’s 13th Congressional District, where longtime incumbent Charlie Rangel faces a tough primary challenge.

In Utah, senior Sen. Orrin Hatch looks to be well-positioned to win his party’s nomination and, given the strong Republican leaning of the state, reclaim his seat in the fall.  Nevertheless, Hatch, 78, has faced something he hasn’t had to endure in more than 30 years: a primary challenge.

Hatch is being challenged by former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, who, at age 37, was just 1 year old when the longtime Congress member was first elected to represent the people of Utah in the Senate.  Polling shows Hatch with a strong lead going into Tuesday.

In New York, Charlie Rangel, the third longest-serving member of Congress, faces an in-party challenge as well, from state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, along with several others.  Rangel has had his share of problems in recent years; the congressman who has served in the House for 42 years was found guilty on 11 out of 12 ethics violations in 2010 and was censured by the House of Representatives.  He was forced to step down from a leadership position on the Ways and Means committee, where he had previously served as chairman.

Rangel, 82, was also slowed down recently after undergoing back surgery in the spring.

But the ethics issues surrounding the congressman were known during his last re-election campaign in 2010 as well (though he had not yet been found guilty and censured) and ultimately, most political observers agree, they won’t be his downfall.  

Rangel faces a new constituency as a result of redistricting in this election and his new district expands to several Hispanic areas of the Bronx, which boosts the Dominican-American Espaillat, who is viewed as Rangel’s strongest challenger.

Rangel has a large cash advantage over Espaillat, raising $1 million to Espaillat’s $300,000.  There are several other challengers in the field as well, including Clyde Williams, a former Democratic National Committee staffer.

Rangel is expected to survive, but the outcome is far from certain.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun152012

Obamas End NY Night of Fundraisers with Performances at Plaza Hotel

Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Obama and the first lady concluded their night of campaign fundraisers in New York on Thursday at the Plaza Hotel with a $10,000-a-plate gala that featured performances by Alicia Keys and Mariah Carey.

Michelle Obama spoke first on stage in the elegantly-appointed ballroom before a blue curtain backdrop and a row of American flags.  Approximately 250 guests sat around a mix of square and round tables with linen table cloths, vases of white flowers and crystal bowls with floating candles.

Mrs. Obama, who has recently stepped up her appearances on the campaign trail, gave a sobering assessment of the presidential race against Mitt Romney, which she said was “just the beginning.”

“It’s going to require us to work like we never worked before,” she told the crowd.  “I know each of you has somebody in your lives today who doesn’t know what’s at stake.  Those are the kind of uncomfortable conversations that we need to have… You have to multiply yourselves.  For everyone here, you have to find 10, 20, 30, 50 people to be responsible for shaking them up and getting them engaged, convincing them of what’s at stake”

“I’m going to be out there.  I’m going to be out there as much as possible, with as much passion and as much conviction as this little body can muster up.  Because I completely believe in the man whom I’m about to introduce,” she said.

President Obama picked up where his wife left off, telling the crowd that he’s as determined as ever to fight to keep his job, while offering a sobering assessment of the challenges he faces.

Rehashing his message from Cleveland earlier that day, Obama said the economy is the “crux of this campaign” and the differences of vision between him and Romney could not be more stark.

The president said of Republicans that the “essence of their prescription” for economic growth is to cut taxes and cut government.  “Their analysis is that government is the problem and that if we just prune it back to a few basics like national security… we’ll grow faster,” he said.

“I don’t question their sincerity, but I do question their conception of how we grow America,” Obama said, later adding, “I understand the argument the other side’s making.  The problem is we tried it just a few years ago.  And it was exactly that theory that led to sluggish economic growth…”

Before taking questions from the audience, Obama started to discuss the impending TV ad wars, but caught himself and qualified his remarks.

“Over the next five months, you won’t be seeing a lot of ads because frankly Manhattan’s not a battleground state,” he said drawing laughter and applause.  “But out in those battleground states they will be seeing not just millions of dollars, but potentially over a billion of negative ads and the message will be very simple -- the economy isn’t where it needs to be and it is Obama’s fault”

Obama said it will be a close election but he believes he will win because “we are right.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun142012

Obamas in New York for Star-Studded Fundraisers

MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Tonight is the Obama campaign’s “New York Night” of star-studded fundraisers, with a much-advertised event at actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s home and a ritzy gala-concert at The Plaza Hotel featuring a performance by Mariah Carey.

Both President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will attend. The Parker event, which is co-hosted by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, will raise an estimated $2 million for the Obama Victory Fund from ticket sales — plus millions more from an online grassroots sweepstakes, campaign officials said.

The contest was pushed heavily online, through social media and in the Obama campaign’s first national TV ad that aired on MTV during its 2012 Movie Awards. One lucky supporter who gave as little as $3 won tickets to attend. The campaign will release the name of the winner today. They will join 50 wealthy donors who each paid $40,000 to attend the reception inside Parker’s home.

The Obamas will spend close to three hours mingling at the event, according to their public schedule. Later, the first couple will headline a 250-person gala at the Plaza Hotel on Manhattan’s East Side. Tickets were $10,000 per person, a campaign official said. Pop star Mariah Carey will entertain guests ahead of the president’s arrival. Obama tonight will net at least $4.5 million for his campaign, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties, according to figures provided by his campaign.

The president tops 166 re-election fundraisers for his campaign and the DNC with tonight’s events — another new record; nearly double the amount of time spent fundraising by George W. Bush.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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