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Is Cuomo wounded enough to take down?

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Is Cuomo wounded enough to take down?

But that hasn’t stopped some critics from thinking about how best to challenge him.

“A lot of people in the progressive wing in the party definitely fantasize about a formidable challenge to Gov. Cuomo,” said state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Westchester) who used to work for the Cuomo administration and has been critical of him since she took office in 2019. “But no one has risen their hand or gotten attention as a serious candidate against him. It’s one thing to be like, ‘I really wish this person wasn’t the governor,’ and another thing to be like, ‘OK, great, how are we going to action that?’ That’s not at all where many people are, to be honest.”

Since the New York Post revealed last week that Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, told Democratic state lawmakers about the administration’s attempt to hide data on nursing homes, Cuomo has come under assault from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Whether that outrage can translate into an electoral challenge, however, remains to be seen.

“Cuomo primary talk is a favorite parlor game of frustrated progressives in New York, but the fact of the matter is that he’s virtually untouchable statewide,” said Neal Kwatra, a New York City-based Democratic strategist who has advised and criticized both Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

A Democratic challenger would need to make significant inroads in New York City, its suburbs, and Western New York to match Cuomo’s statewide hold, Kwatra said.

“Show me a single Democrat anywhere in the state that can do that,” Kwatra said. “Additionally, it’s hard to overstate the durable strength Cuomo derived from being on TV for several months straight at the height of the pandemic. That kind of exposure is of incalculable value and will make it very hard for any challenger to erode.”

Despite the whirlwind of negative attention in recent weeks, Cuomo’s popularity remains high, sitting at a favorable 56-39 approval rating, according to a survey from the Siena College Research Institute released on Tuesday. The poll was conducted prior to the DeRosa revelation, but after after a report by state Attorney General Tish James accusing the administration of undercounting nursing home deaths by as much as half.

Steve Greenberg, spokesperson for the poll, noted that 65 percent of Democrats said they would reelect Cuomo if the election were tomorrow, compared to 26 percent who said they’d prefer someone else.

Cuomo has been in difficult positions before and prevailed. He overcame hard times before his smashing reelection victory in 2018, moving past scandals that enveloped a close aide, Joseph Percoco, and Alain Kaloyeros, a former president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute who was found guilty of bid-rigging charges involving state contracts.

Republicans are jumping on the scandal. State GOP Chair Nick Langworthy said he had one overarching goal when he took the leadership position in July 2019: Positioning the party for the 2022 gubernatorial race. The party is looking far and wide for its nominee and Langworthy said he has been interviewing “names that you’ve heard of and names that you’ve never heard of.”

Cuomo’s regular media appearances and significant unilateral decisions actually give Republicans more material than they’ve had in years to challenge him, Langworthy said.

“Going forward, this is less about the national focus and is going to be far more about the state,” Langworthy said. “Who does he [Cuomo] get to blame? His grand distraction for every one of these policies when it comes to the crisis of COVID has been [Donald] Trump. I mean, when you don’t have that anymore … who are you going to blame? You’re going to look in the mirror. Finally, accountability actually is going to land in the lap of Andrew Cuomo. And I think the voters, they know.”

At the national level, a group of nine Republican senators led by Ted Cruz (R-Texas) late Wednesday asked Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin to open an investigation into the “cover-up” and for a Justice Department probe.

Cuomo’s 2018 Republican challenger, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, was one of those who publicly applauded Cuomo’s leadership last year but is ready to rescind some of his praise.

“I gave great deference to the governor early on in his response, and I think he deserved it,” Molinaro said in an interview. “But I think that the nursing home decision is devastating. And a failure to acknowledge it as an error, not the direction of the CDC, but an error, and to be transparent in its impact, and remorseful in its destruction, I think is absolutely an issue that has to be litigated, if only through the political arena.”

He certainly would consider another run, he said, but can’t make that kind of decision while focused on his role in the pandemic response in Dutchess County.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican who represents the 21st Congressional District in the state’s northeastern corner, has the means to launch a formidable fundraising campaign. Republican consultants in the region say she is being courted for a run by both big Beltway donors and local Republican groups. But while Stefanik’s brash Trumpian style of politics ignites her local base and fans of the former president across the country, even her supporters acknowledge it’s a harder sell for statewide office in big blue New York.

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New York City said it would purge its DNA database. A year later, it’s expanded.

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New York City said it would purge its DNA database. A year later, it’s expanded.

“They’re doing it at a snail’s pace on the removal, and they’re adding people more quickly. It really neutralizes any sense of reform,” said Terri Rosenblatt, supervising attorney of the DNA Unit at Legal Aid.

Advocates are pushing for state legislation that would ban New York City and other municipalities from maintaining their own DNA databases. The state maintains its own, more limited DNA tracking system, which includes only people convicted of crimes.

“A year ago, the NYPD promised to reform its shameful practice of collecting and indexing DNA from people — including children as young as 12 — who have not been convicted of a crime,” Rosenblatt said. ”These numbers show that the NYPD can’t be trusted. Legislators must act now to end genetic stop and frisk, which disproportionately culls the DNA of Black and Latinx people, by shutting down the city’s rogue DNA index.”

Police brass have described DNA as a crucial tool in solving violent crimes.

“We have a responsibility to use available technology and scientific advancements in a constitutional and legal way in order to protect the communities we serve,” Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said at the hearing last year. “Law enforcement, the defense bar, and the courts have acknowledged DNA testing’s unparalleled ability to both exonerate the wrongly accused and identify the guilty.”

The city’s database was built up over more than two decades and expanded rapidly in the last few years. As of the promised reforms last year, about a quarter of the people in it — or 8,000 profiles — had not been convicted of a crime. That includes people who were questioned but never charged, or charged but not convicted.

DNA is collected by the NYPD and stored in a database maintained by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The statistics show that 2,826 profiles have been flagged for removal by NYPD, while 1,042 of those have had all paperwork completed and been fully removed by the medical examiner.

The NYPD reports that it has reviewed 8,000 suspect profiles as of the end of 2020 and recommended removing 2,826 of them while keeping 5,174 in place. Of those they opted to keep, 5,030 are “designated offenders” convicted of felonies or penal law misdemeanors, while 134 are suspects in ongoing investigations or prosecutions. There are another 10 where no judicial conclusion was reached.

The profiles that have been flagged for removal, but not yet fully deleted, are no longer compared to forensic material found at crime scenes, according to the medical examiner’s office.

“Those who have been directly affected by violent crime appreciate the role DNA analysis as a tool plays in giving them answers and ultimately delivering justice. As of December, there were almost 3,000 DNA samples flagged for removal from the local database,” said OCME spokesperson Aja Worthy-Davis. “This ongoing process is technically complex, and accuracy is essential, however with consideration to public concerns we have effectively removed access to those cases in the process of elimination. We have kept our partners updated on this process throughout, and will continue to do so.”

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

In addition to removing old profiles, the announced reforms include limiting the collection of DNA from minors, who will only have DNA taken if they’re suspected in a felony, sex crime, gun crime or hate crime.

The plan also included a new consent form giving subjects more information about how their genetic information will be used before they sign off. Some people agree to give a DNA sample, while others have it taken under a court order or from what cops call abandoned property, such as a water bottle or cigarette.

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Perdue rules out Georgia Senate comeback in 2022

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Perdue rules out Georgia Senate comeback in 2022

Former Republican Sen. David Perdue will not run for Senate in 2022, he said in a statement Tuesday, ruling out another campaign in Georgia less than two months after losing a runoff election for a second term.

The decision comes just a week after Perdue filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and said publicly that he was considering another campaign in 2022. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who won a special election against former GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler in January, is on the ballot again next year for a full term.

“This is a personal decision, not a political one,” Perdue said in the statement announcing that he would not run. “I am confident that whoever wins the Republican primary next year will defeat the Democrat candidate in the General election for this seat, and I will do everything I can to make that happen.”

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Native Americans Finally Have a Cabinet Nominee. Will an Adopted Tlingit Take Her Down?

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Native Americans Finally Have a Cabinet Nominee. Will an Adopted Tlingit Take Her Down?

“They don’t know what it means to be an Indian,” Williams said of these elected officials from his party. “An old Indian proverb would say: ‘walk a mile in his moccasins.’ Then maybe they’d come to that understanding.”

Normally, voting against the nomination of a progressive environmentalist would a be a no-brainer for an Alaska Republican like Murkowski. Her state more or less runs on oil, which most years contributes as much as 90 percent of Alaska’s Unrestricted General Fund. Only about 3 percent of Alaskans work in the oil and gas industry, but all residents who have lived in the state for a year and intend to stay get paid an annual dividend based on industry revenues. In 2020, that was $992 in every Alaskan’s pocket. The Biden administration’s policies are designed, in part, to move beyond this oil-centric status quo, and Haaland, who went to the camps erected in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and cooked green chili stew for demonstrators, has been an outspoken champion of them. If she weren’t Native, this would probably be an easy decision for Murkowski. But the senator’s personal connection and electoral dependence on Native voters makes it a lot more complicated.

And American Indians are taking notice of the fight. “Opposition to her appointment would send a message that we’re not worthy of such a high office,” said Paulette Moreno, the Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood. “And that message is not one that should be shared with the world.”

Across the country, Haaland is beloved by First Peoples. Her nomination has galvanized the Indigenous with the hope of representation, and it’s not lost on these voters that the leaders of the Grand Old Party are lining up against them. The National Congress of American Indians has written a letter to senators, urging them to confirm Haaland and has created a template so that tribal leaders across the country can do the same.

When a Republican House member urged Biden to withdraw his nomination of Haaland, five tribes in the congressman’s district wrote him a letter saying: “This historic nomination is more important to us and all of Indian country than any other Cabinet nomination in recent history. … Your opposition to the first and only American Indian ever nominated to a Cabinet position is likely to reverberate across Indian country.”

Gerald Gray, the Chairman of the Little Shell Tribe of North Dakota, criticized Senate Republicans’ statements and said that it was “time to put the partisan politics aside, stop calling every Democrat a ‘radical’ and get things moving in Interior.” In Daines’ state of Montana, where, like Alaska, Native voters comprise a significant part of the electorate, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council erected two billboards last week emblazoned with Haaland’s image: one in Billings and another in Great Falls. “Deb Haaland’s confirmation brings hope for Indigenous communities and the United States to have a true steward of natural resources that is in this high-ranking position,” said Ronnie Jo Horse, executive director of Western Native Voice, a Native voting rights group active in the state. “Montana’s Native voters are watching,” added her deputy Tajin Perez. “Senator Daines has the opportunity to do what’s right for all Montanans and all Americans.”

More Natives, like Williams’ old friend Ron Allen, the chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe and former president of the National Congress of American Indians, who once served as an advisor to John McCain’s presidential campaign, are reconsidering their support for Republicans. “My folks, they would refer to me as the token Republican Indian,” he said. “I would joke back with them that I switched to ‘I’ for ‘Indian.’” Perhaps that’s a sign of the times. The Native American Caucus in Congress is comprised of six members: three Democrats, three Republicans. And Native voters are less likely than voters of other races to identify with either party. But, as Republicans move against Haaland and Indian Country, that partisan balance may be slipping into the past, as Native voters increasingly align themselves with the Democratic Party and as tribal leaders find their conservative friends in Washington aren’t so friendly when it counts.

So far, the Tlingit and Alaska Natives I talked to aren’t too worried about Murkowski. She’s a senator, maverick and auntie because of them, after all. Since voting to convict Trump, she has faced threats of censure from Republicans in her home state, and former governor Sarah Palin is reportedly considering a primary challenge.

With all that in mind, the Tlingit and Indigenous insiders I interviewed expect Murkowski to ask Haaland some tough questions about energy policy, but ultimately to honor Biden’s choice for Interior. “I believe that she’s a woman of integrity and that she’s fair and that she will balance out the weight of the message of sister Haaland’s potential nomination,” said Moreno. Still, they’re not taking any chances, writing and calling Murkowski’s office to express how meaningful this vote is to them.

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