Easy Wins

NY Primaries Favor Incumbents, NYC Budget Boost, Jack's Take On The Debate

Good morning from Buffalo, New York. 

Once again, incumbent state lawmakers fared quite well during Primary Elections. Of the 213-member Legislature, only Democratic Assembly Member Juan Ardilla lost a primary and he was under a cloud of sexual misconduct accusations. The strength of incumbency was both wide and deep: Progressive Democrats, more moderate Democrats, and MAGA Republicans all had good nights in their respective districts.  

  • The accusations against Assembly Member Juan Ardilla led to two primary challengers for his Queens-based seat—Johanna Carmona, a former sex crimes prosecutor, and Claire Valdez, a DSA-endorsed union organizer. Valdez defeated Carmona by a margin of 58% to 32%, with Ardilla winning just 9% of the vote. 

  • Also in Queens, Incumbent Assembly Member Ron Kim defeated a pair of challengers—Yi Andy Chen and Dao Yin—to retain his seat in a majority Asian district. 

  • Incumbent Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman defeated a high-profile primary challenge from Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) member Eon Huntley. The Brooklyn-based seat was a priority for the DSA, but influential endorsements from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and State Attorney General Tish James helped get Zinerman across the finish line. 

  • Despite being out fundraised by challenger Anathea Simpkins, progressive Assembly Member Emily Gallagher easily won her primary challenge in Brooklyn with over 75% of the vote. 

  • Assembly Education Chair Michael Benedetto beat back a primary challenge from his left in the Bronx-based 82nd District. Benedetto held on to win against Jonathan Soto, a member of the DSA and former organizer for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

  • In Manhattan, Micah Lasher, a former aide to Governor Kathy Hochul, won the competitive (and expensive) Democratic primary for the 69th Assembly District being vacated by Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell’s retirement.  

  • In the Hudson Valley, Assembly Member Didi Barrett won her primary challenge against Working Families Party candidate Claire Cousin. Barrett, currently in her sixth term in the Assembly, chairs the influential Assembly Energy Committee.

  • Also in the Hudson Valley, DSA-member and incumbent Sarahana Shresta easily defeated Gabriella Madden, a staff member for former Assembly Member Kevin Cahill. 

  • Incumbent Assembly Member Demond Meeks beat his primary challenger in Rochester, former county legislator and current city councilmember Willie Lightfoot. Meeks, a former labor organizer before first being elected to office in 2020, beat Lightfoot by a 2-1 margin.  

Despite some individual (incumbent) wins, it was a bad primary night for DSA-aligned candidates and self-described ‘socialists.’ House Speaker Hakeem Jeffries has taken an active role in many state-level races, offering a boon to moderate candidates facing tough primary challenges from the left. That dynamic was clear in Stefani Zinerman’s reelection bid. Zinerman said, “If they really want to embrace Democratic values, they should stop running against Democrats. I hope today they learned their lesson that real Democrats are not going to stand up to this level of disrespect.” Huntley’s outspoken criticism of Israel led to a flood of donations to Zinerman, a strong supporter of Israel, but Zinerman said, “It doesn’t matter how much money you have, it’s the message that you get to the people.”

Progressive woes were not restricted to the statehouse. State Senator John Mannion defeated DeWitt Town Councilor Sarah Klee Hood to run against incumbent Republican Rep. Brandon Williams in the Syracuse area, a contest that is projected to be one of the country’s most competitive House races. Mannion, an AP Biology teacher by trade, is no stranger to competitive elections—he won his 2020 State Senate contest by a mere 10 votes. Mannion is running on his record of bipartisanship and his ability to get things done saying, “Last year in the House of Representatives, they passed 22 pieces of legislation that got signed into law. In 2023 myself, I had 27 pieces of legislation that passed both houses of the State Legislature and were signed by the Governor.” National Democrats see the district as a key to retaking control of the lower Chamber after Republicans successfully flipped the seat in 2022. 

In perhaps the most high-profile Democratic primary election in recent memory, and definitely the most expensive, Westchester County Executive George Latimer defeated incumbent Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Bowman is a DSA member and one of the most outspoken critics of Israel’s war in Gaza, leading to an influx of spending from AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups. Bowman leaned on his network of prominent national socialists, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who held rallies in Bowman’s district, but in the end, it was not enough.

Latimer, who has made his moderation a hallmark of his political career said, “Tonight we turn a page and we say we believe in inclusion of everybody in our representation. We have to look at the arguments of the far right and the far left and say you cannot destroy this country with your rhetoric and your arguments.” As for Bowman’s political future, he said, “There are a lot of other seats to run for, you know what I’m saying? A lot of other seats. I’m still a damn good candidate.” 

In the Hudson Valley, Mondaire Jones’ loss of the Working Families Party nomination shows that the small races are also important and may have important repercussions in a close General Election.

In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council came to an agreement on a $112.4 billion budget on Friday. The deal ends months of fiscal infighting and ultimately avoided controversial cuts to cultural institutions, early education, and public libraries. The budget projects an additional $800 million in revenue compared to last year and specifically earmarks over $2 billion for affordable housing development. At a press conference, Adams offered, “We have done our job, and will continue to do our job the right way and deliver for the people of this city, working class people who have often been ignored.” Despite an original budget forecast that looked so dire that Adams directed his agency heads to cut spending by 15%, Adams and the Council were able to realize more than $7 billion in savings between last year’s budget and this year’s plan without drastic cuts. Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (no relation to the Mayor) said at a press conference, “We were clear about the challenges, but we were also clear that we have the resources to invest in New Yorkers and protect what they rely on.”

In Washington, D.C., Democratic lawmakers are grappling with the looming decision over whether to extend the Trump-era tax cuts that are scheduled to expire in 2025. President Biden has already promised to extend “all middle class tax cuts” that were included in the 2017 package, but not all of his Democratic colleagues are on board if it means the high-end tax cuts are included as well. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said, “Obviously we’d like to keep the pieces that are good, but they’re tiny. So, I think if it came down to getting rid of all of them, versus keeping that, we would get rid of all of them.”

As long as the Democrats hold power in one Chamber of Congress or the White House, they will have to be at the table for any tax discussions. If Republicans were to flip the Senate, hold the House, and win the White House, they could act unilaterally on tax cuts through budget reconciliation. The timing of the expiration was a unique exercise in foresight for 2017 Republicans, who knew the fight over whether or not to extend the measure would be a political win seven years later in an election year. Democrats will be campaigning on their own fiscal priorities, including an expansion of the child tax credit and the renewal of certain subsidies tied to Obamacare. 

The House returned to Session last Tuesday, hoping to pass a trio of spending bills before the July Fourth recess. One of those bills is the spending package for the politically-embattled Department of Homeland Security, led by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas who was impeached by House Republicans earlier this year. Republicans are also expected to release a bill to fund the Department of Justice which could notably include language to defund Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of former President Donald Trump. 

As part of the markup process, House Republicans are eyeing deep cuts to the Department of Labor. The Republican proposal would cut the agency’s budget from $13.5 billion last year to $10.5 billion—a 23% cut. A similar proposal last year was ultimately nixed by the Senate and White House. Under the most recent language, the budget for DOL’s Wage and Hour Division and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency’s most powerful worker-protection regulators, would be cut by $75 million. The proposal would also reduce funding for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by one-third, and a pair of policy riders would prevent the NLRB from enforcing a regulation on joint employer status as well as a measure barring them from working with electronic voting machines in union elections. The full committee is expected to vote on the final bill in July, but cuts at this level will be a nonstarter for Senate Democrats and the White House. 

The much anticipated debate between President Biden and former President Donald Trump last week somehow failed to meet the incredibly low bar that most onlookers had set for the two candidates. Biden, hoping for a strong performance to quell concerns about his age, admittedly had a tough night.

 Jack’s Take on the Presidential Debate

Listen to the clip below as our Jack O’Donnell joined WBEN’s special pre-presidential debate coverage. The entire show is here.

Jack was also on the line offering pre-debate analysis with WBEN’s ‘A New Morning’ anchor Susan Rose here.

Jack later joined Dave Greber at News 4 Buffalo for post-debate presidential analysis. Watch the clip above and the entire segment here.

The 81-year-old Biden looked and sounded all of his age, leading to handwringing from some national Democrats and media about whether Biden should continue as the nominee. Former President Barack Obama offered a public show of solidarity with his former Vice President saying in a statement, “Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know. But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself. Between someone who tells the truth; who knows right from wrong and will give it to the American people straight—and someone who lies through his teeth for his own benefit. Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November.”

Biden offered Democrats some degree of comfort at a campaign event in North Carolina the following day where he appeared forceful and energized. He acknowledged his shaky debate performance and elderly tendencies saying, “Folks, I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to, but... I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong, and I know how to do this job. I know, like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down, you get back up.” 

The debate was important and will frame the race for the immediate future but, as I said in my interview, there is a long way to go in this race, and we will be there with you the whole way.  Stay tuned.


A Midwestern town is getting a tourism boost from an unlikely source: an old jar of pickles.


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Client News

Sucro Sourcing

OD&A client, Sucro Sourcing is expanding at the site of the former Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, NY. The sugar company has agreed to buy another 10 acres at the Renaissance Commerce Park.

“The Lackawanna area’s exceptional logistics capabilities, including sea, rail, and truck transportation, play a key role in our entire North American operations,” founder and CEO Jonathan Taylor said in a release. “Our new storage and distribution investment at the site will create a critical hub for our three sugar refineries, including current and proposed, and Sucro’s rapidly growing customer base.” [Read more.]

Pictured: Chanel Lopez, Deputy Director of LGBTQ+ Engagement for the Executive Chamber & Rasheed Gonga, AHF Advocacy, Legislative Affairs, and Communication Engagement Director

OD&A was proud to join our client, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, as it opened a new clinic in Hell's Kitchen. This new AHF location will house a part-time healthcare center and a full-time sexual health clinic, providing free HIV testing,  STI screening, and treatment.

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This Day in History

U.S. Ambassador Llewellyn E. Thompson, signs nuclear non-proliferation treaty as Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko watches in Moscow, Russia, on July 1, 1968. (AP Photo)

July 1, 1968: The United States, the United Kingdom, the U.S.S.R., and 59 other states signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in an attempt to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.


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