“New York’s crime wave is no accident,” a flashy new ad now running on televisions across the city says. “New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes voted for it.”
The ad is from an independent expenditure group, called Safe Together New York, accuses Gounardes and five other fellow Democrats of being soft on crime.
“[I] really can’t tell why, all of a sudden, out of state money needs to flow into a Senate race like this, multiple Senate races like this,” Gounardes said. “This is certainly not the kind of campaign I’m running, certainly.”
Senate Democrats currently control the chamber with 40 seats. Republicans would need to win back nine seats in order to gain the majority.
So, some are wondering why an outside group would spend money against just six Democrats. Even if all were to lose, Republicans would still not have a majority.
The answer may be more of an insider’s game, but one that's important: If Democrats hold their current seats and pick up just two more, they will have what’s known as a supermajority, allowing them to override any veto by Governor Cuomo.
Since that supermajority already exists in the State Assembly, it would fundamentally alter the dynamic between the legislature and Governor Cuomo.
“Yes, whether we pick up those extra two seats or not will make a big impact on that, as well as on just general policy of the state as it relates to the other branch of government,” said State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, a Democrat. “Certainly it enhances the leverage of the legislature during ongoing conversations.”
With a veto-proof majority, the legislature could potentially squeeze Cuomo to raise taxes on the wealthy, something he has resisted, and other progressive legislative priorities.
One of the big funders of Safe Together New York is Ronald Lauder, who, according to the state filing, contributed $1.7 million to the group.
Lauder is an heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics giant, and he has strong ties to Governor Cuomo. The two were together earlier this year in Poland to celebrate the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Lauder family has donated more than $390,000 to Cuomo’s reelection efforts.
We reached out to Lauder, whose spokesperson returned our call, but refused to answer any questions about what the goal of the political action committee actually is.
A spokesperson for Cuomo said any connection between him and Lauder exists only in people’s overactive imaginations.