This article is adapted from our Civic Newsroom newsletter. You can sign up here to get it.
You might have thought that between the November election and the holidays not much would be going on in local politics.
You’d be wrong.
The past few weeks have been some of the busiest this year for New York’s political scene.
Let’s count the ways: There was a huge shake-up in the nascent race for governor, which rattled the field of candidates for attorney general — and two lawmakers are declaring themselves the next City Council speaker.
What the heck is going on? We’re taking stock before year’s end:
Two Speakers, A Lot of Noise
The race to determine the next City Council speaker is very much on — and heated.
The speaker will be elected by the Council’s 51 members when the new body is sworn in in January. Ahead of that vote, there’s been major political wrangling unfolding, mostly out of public view, as contenders try to gather support in December.
We recently wrote a guide on what a Council speaker is, what they do and how the race usually works.This year, it’s been a doozy: Seven re-elected members tossed their hat in the ring, but four dropped out on Tuesday to throw their support behind Adrienne Adams, the Council member from southeast Queens.
Meanwhile, Mayor-elect Eric Adams has for weeks been lobbying behind the scenes for his pick: Francisco Moya, who represents Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona.
James Is Out for Gov, Back in for AG
Way back in late October, it was looking like we’d have a highly competitive race for governor when Attorney General Letitia James announced she would run against Gov. Kathy Hochul, among other Democrats.
But less than six weeks later, James dropped out — saying she would seek re-election for attorney general instead.
That’s a big move in two ways:
- Hochul certainly will face other challengers, as we explained in our race guide here, but her one-time top competitor is now out of the way.
- All of the other Democratic hopefuls vying to be the next state attorney general have given up that dream now that James is back in the running. The five Democratic contenders dropped out within days of her announcement.
So, the governor’s race is seemingly less competitive and James appears on her way to an uncontested Democratic primary victory. But there is still a long way to go before the June vote.
An Adams Administration Takes Shape
As we’ve mentioned previously, Adams is working to get his top leadership in place before his Jan. 1 inauguration.
In November, he appointed a transition team. Then, right as the political world waited on his decisions, Adams took a weeklong trip to Ghana, where he celebrated Hanukkah at a Chabad center and visited notorious sites formerly used by slave traders.
While he was abroad, his team unveiled a list of more than 700 people who make up Adams’ various “transition committees” — the largest publicly announced transition group by far of any mayor in political watchers’ memory.
More Trouble for Cuomo
Meanwhile, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have more problems coming his way. The state’s ethics commission has given him until mid-January to return proceeds from his pandemic memoir. He’d scored a deal reportedly worth $5.1 million — with the commission’s initial blessing, before it was revealed state employees worked on the project.
And, as we reported recently, Hochul is looking to reform the state government’s ethics agency, according to longtime government watchdog State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).
Why does that matter? If lawmakers overhaul the beleaguered Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), that ethics body could have more power to look into a number of ethical red flags that came up in the AG office’s investigation of Cuomo.
Some of those issues? Here’s what we found in thousands of pages of transcripts and other documents released by James’ office:
- Members of Cuomo’s circle sought to keep their involvement shielded from public view, including individuals who were representing private interests before the state.
- Professionals gave advice for free without state contracts, despite a ban on gifts to public officials.
- Campaign dollars helped pay for the governor’s bench of advisors — even though political funds are supposed to be kept separate from official business.
What We’re Reading
- Adams’ top policing advisor left the NYPD seven years ago in the midst of a bribery and tax fraud investigation.
- The Post, which seems to be Adams’ favorite tabloid of late, got an exclusive interview with Sewell, the incoming police commissioner.
- The mayoral inauguration will take place at the iconic Kings Theatre in Flatbush, as opposed to traditional City Hall.
Happy New Year
Politics never seems to take a break in this town. And in the new year, there will be a lot to discuss, including these big policy changes coming up in 2022:
- New York’s eviction moratorium is scheduled to end on Jan. 15.
- Rules and regulations for the recreational marijuana industry will be rolled out by the new state cannabis management agency.
- The state’s new solitary confinement law, which bars more than 15 consecutive days of isolation in prisons and jails, goes into effect on March 31.That could prove a check on Adams’ vow Thursday to scrap solitary confinement reforms at Rikers Island and other city lockups.
What will you be paying attention to next year? As always, we’re here for any and all questions or queries about politics, policy, civic life or anything at all. Drop a note to email@example.com.
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