Some political moves Saturday afternoon for statewide races.
As he protested Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, Democratic activist Bill Samuels announced he will not challenge Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, clearing Duffy of any primary foes.
Samuels said he will focus instead on his effort, the New Roosevelt Initiative, which will aim to back reform-minded candidates for the state Senate. Democrats hold a slim 32-30 seat majority.
Samuels, who lives in Manhattan but was raised in Canandaigua, Ontario County, had initially indicated he would challenge Duffy after the mayor was selected as Andrew Cuomo’s running mate last month. But he said instead Saturday he was pleased with Cuomo’s reform agenda for governor and will not challenge the ticket.
“After hearing Attorney General Cuomo’s bold agenda for reform, it became clear to me that the best way to maximize my capacity to impact reform is by focusing all of my time, energy and resources on building and expanding the New Roosevelt Initiative,” Samuels said in a statement.
Another potential Democratic challenger for lieutenant governor, Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, also dropped out after Duffy’s selection.
Cuomo and Duffy were endorsed Saturday by the Independence Party.
The party also backed Republican Harry Wilson for comptroller over Democratic Thomas DiNapoli. It picked Long Island attorney Steve Lynch for attorney general, bypassing Republican candidate Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan and five Democratic candidates.
“I thank the Independence Party for their endorsement and deeply appreciate their support for our campaign for reform,” Duffy said in a statement.
Party Chairman Frank MacKay said by telephone after the convention that he “loves DiNapoli.
He’s a dear friend of mine.”
But he said Wilson, a former hedge-fund partner from Scarsdale, “is an absolute gem.” He added that the state needs strong candidates from the private sector running for public office.
“Harry Wilson is the the perfect model of who you want to bring into the public sector,” he said.
As for the surprise pick of Lynch for attorney general, MacKay said he’s serious about running, but that the party would evaluate the pick in September to decide whether it would make any changes before October, when it’s slate needed to be decided for the November ballot.
Meanwhile, Samuels made the announcement as he joined several dozen protesters wearing “Don’t Vote For Pedro” shirts gathered Saturday afternoon outside the Westchester County home of state Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. to mark the once-year anniversary of his infamous state Senate coup, the Journal News’ Stacy Anderson reports.
Here’s her report:
A bus load of New York voters protested Saturday afternoon outside the Beechwood Drive home, which was guarded by three vehicles and five burly Espada supporters. The Democratic senator has been criticized for living in Mamaroneck instead of the 33rd District comprised of the Bronx that he represents.
“Bronx residents need to start paying attention to leadership,” borough resident Veronica Vanterpool said. “Latino leaders should be paying attention to our interests. Espada has abused his power and authority in the district.”
Vanterpool, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was accompanied by her mother, Yolanda Maya of New Rochelle.
Heather James, a co-coordinator and vice president of the Manhattan Young Democrats, said the protest was meant to bring attention to corruption in Albany.
“We have a few people who need to go and we think Espada is one of them,” she said. “This is to commemorate the coup when Espada switched sides.”
Espada led the Senate coup last summer, in which he and then-Sen. Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens, sided with Republicans to oust the Democratic majority.
As part of his agreement to return to the Democratic conference, he was named majority leader. Monserrate was expelled in February because of a domestic-abuse conviction.
In April, the state Attorney General’s Office alleged Espada had siphoned $14 million from his Bronx health clinic, the Soundview Healthcare Network.
A lawsuit filed by Cuomo accused the senator of using the proceeds for trips and meals, including $20,000 in deliveries from sushi restaurants to his Mamaroneck home. Cuomo also claimed Espada created a sham job-training program at his company and illegally paid workers less than minimum wage.
Espada has been fined more than $60,000 for not disclosing campaign contributors.
The crowd left a gift basket for Espada —including fake money, a blank voter registration form and a first-aid kit — before marching to Columbus Park to feast on sushi in his honor.