<![CDATA[NBC New York - Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:52:52 -0400 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:52:52 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Bloomberg to Spend $50 Million to Fight Gun Violence: Report]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:32:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/mayor-bloomberg-budget.jpg

In his first major political investment since leaving office, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to build a nationwide network aimed at curbing gun violence and battling the National Rifle Association, according to published reports.

Bloomberg told the New York Times that he is planning to spend $50 million this year to establish the grassroots gun control lobbying group, called Everytown for Gun Safety.

The new organization will encompass two other Bloomberg-funded gun control groups – Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – and will first take aim at expanding background checks for gun buyers both at the state and national levels, according to the Times. 

Everytown for Gun Safety will borrow from some of the NRA’s field operation tactics to grow influence, targeting mothers and other women that might be swayed on gun issues. The group has already targeted 15 states across the country with varying views on gun control, with the goal of recruiting 1 million new supporters.

“Right now, women, when they go to the polls, they vote on abortion, they vote on jobs, they vote on health care,” Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts told the Times. “We want one of those things to be gun violence prevention.”

Bloomberg said he wanted work with both parties on gun control efforts and assembled an advisory board of Republican and Democratic officials, philanthropists and investors.

The former mayor's $50 million contribution would more than double the NRA’s $20 million in annual spending on political activities, the Times reports. Bloomberg hinted that his contributions to the cause could grow.

“I put $50 million this year, last year into coal, $53 million into oceans,” he told the Times. “Certainly a number like that, $50 million. Let’s see what happens.”

Bloomberg and Watts appeared on NBC's TODAY show Wednesday morning to talk about the group.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NYers Rate de Blasio's First 100 Days]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 18:51:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/de+blasio+100+days.jpg Thursday marked Mayor Bill de Blasio's 100th day in office. Melissa Russo asked New Yorkers how they think he's doing so far using just four words. ]]> <![CDATA[De Blasio Talks Charters, Pre-K]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 23:02:34 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WNBC_000000003653070_1200x675_213687363767.jpg Mayor de Blasio is touting his victory in getting $300 million dollars for the city’s pre-k programs out of the New York state budget. But what about the defeat of his proposed tax hike and Albany’s refusal to let him charge charter schools rent? Government affairs reporter Melissa Russo sits down with the mayor at City Hall.]]> <![CDATA[Police Pursue Suspect in Newark Campaign Bus Fire]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 06:58:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/215*120/baraka-bus.JPG

Authorities in New Jersey say they have identified a suspect in connection with a fire set on the campaign bus for Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka in February.

Baraka, the son of poet Amiri Baraka, is running against Shavar Jeffries on May 13 in the race to replace Cory Booker.

The fire was set on Baraka's bus at about 7 a.m. on Feb. 16 when it was parked outside campaign headquarters on Central Avenue, officials and the campaign said.

The bus was empty and no one was hurt. 

Baraka posted on his Facebook page that the bus was used to take the candidate and volunteers to various campaign events.

"Scare tactics won't work," the post said.

The Essex County prosecutor said Tuesday that authorities are searching for 43-year-old Michael Benkowski as a suspect after tracking down a white van seen on surveillance. The prosecutor did not disclose what connection he is believed to have, if any, with Baraka.

Anyone with information about the fire or the suspect is asked to call the Essex County prosecutor's major crimes tips line at 877-847-7432.

 

 

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<![CDATA[CA State Senator Arrested]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 19:15:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/03-26-2014-leland-yee-leaves-court.jpg

California state Sen. Leland Yee is facing a slew of corruption charges as part of a massive FBI sting operation that surfaced allegations of firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire and drug distribution.

A federal complaint unsealed Wednesday accuses the San Francisco Democrat of engaging in a conspiracy to traffic firearms and accepting campaign donations in exchange for official acts. In one instance, Yee, who has been a strong advocate for gun control during his decade in the state Legislature, warning that such business dealings are "not for the faint of heart," according to the complaint.

He was charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license, and to illegally import firearms as well as a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

Yee and Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, leader of the Chee Kung Tong Free Masons in San Francisco, were among 26 defendants charged in the federal criminal complaint Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California said. 

The federal criminal complaint, filed on March 24, charges the defendants with firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes and honest services fraud, the FBI announced. According to the affidavit

If convicted on all charges, Yee could face more than 100 years in prison. His bail was set at $500,000, unsecured, with the provision that he not leave the state. He was released from custody late Wednesday afternoon.

Yee is due back in court on Monday.

Chow's charges include money laundering and conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes.

One of the places the FBI searched Wednesday was at the San Francisco Chinatown office of the Chee Kung Tong at 36 Spofford Street, where Chow, a notorious former Chinatown gangster, conducts business. Chow was arrested during the raid.

Firefighters were seen going inside with a circular saw and later said they had cracked a safe.

According to the complaint, a pattern of alleged racketeering activity emerged as FBI undercover agents infiltrated the CKT through introductions made by Chow and others.

Over the course of the undercover agent's relationship with Chow and other defendants, the complaint shows, the undercover agent informed the group that he was interested in generating income from illegal schemes. He was then inducted into CKT as a "consultant," and allegedly introduced to a number of the defendants in order to launder money, traffic narcotics, firearms and purpotedly stolen cigarettes and liquor and engage in murder-for-hire schemes over the course of multiple undercover operations.

The FBI also arrested Keith Jackson, a well-known political consultant who owns San Francisco-based political consulting firm Jackson Consultancy.

Leland Yee leaves the federal building in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

State Senator Yee leaves the federal building in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

Chow also introduced Jackson -- a "consultant" to the CKT -- to the undercover agent. Jackson and his son Brandon Jackson allegedly responded to the undercover agent's request for weapons, selling him various types of firearms and two ballistic vests.

Jackson, Brandon Jackson and another defendant allegedly conspired on a murder for hire scheme at the undercover agent's request.

The complaint also says that Jackson is a close associate of Lee and has been involved in raising campaign funds for him from at least through May 2011 to the present.

Yee, who has served in the state Legislature for more than a decade, was elected to the State Senate in November 2006 and represents District 8, which includes San Francisco and San Mateo County. The former San Francisco supervisor and 2011 mayoral candidate is currently running for secretary of state.

The complaint alleges that starting in 2012 and continuing until now, Yee and Keith Jackson allegedly raised money and campaign funds for Yee's secretary of state campaign by soliciting donations from undercover FBI agents in exchange for multiple official acts.

The compaint also alleges that Yee and Jackson were involved in a conspiracy to traffic firearms.

The complaint details how, starting in May 2011 and continuing for several months, Jackson allegedly asked an undercover FBI agent to make contributions to Yee's San Francisco mayoral campaign. The agent declined to make contributions but introduced Jackson and Yee to a business associate, who was another undercover agent. When Jackson and Yee asked the agent for campaign contributions, it resulted in at least one personal $5,000 donation.

The complaint claims that Yee tried to get rid of a $70,000 debt after losing the November 2011 election by making a call to the California Department of Public Health in support of a contract with the second undercover agent's purported client and writing an official letter of support in exchange for a $10,000 campaign donation.

Yee allegedly made the call on Oct. 18, 2012, and provided the letter around Jan. 13, 2013. Jackson accepted the $10,000 on Nov. 19, 2012.

Yee is known for his efforts to strengthen open records, government transparency and whistleblower protection laws.On his website, Yee promises that if elected as secretary of state, he will be "committed to fair elections and expanding access to our democracy."

He was honored last week by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional journalists for his efforts to uphold the California Public Records Act.

Chow, who ran a Chinese criminal organization and was convicted of gun charges, was released in 2003 after spending 11 years in prison. He has since been praised for his involvement in the community and for trying to turn his life around.

On what appears to be Raymond Chow's Facebook page, Chow displayed a picture of a certificate of honor presented to him by Lee that honored him "for his tenacity and willingness to give back to the community and working 'in the trenches' as a change agent."

Chow also appears to have been tweeting from the Twitter handle @RaymondChow10, using hashtags that included "sunoftheunderworld," "mafia." and "chinatown." His last tweet was on Nov. 17, which shows him at his sister's birthday, enjoying a glass of red wine.

Chow has also posted pictures of him with other notable public figures and local business owners, including former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and a picture of another certificate of recognition from state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Yee's arrest shocked the Chinese-American community, many of whom view him as an important figure in San Francisco politics.

Officers from the California Highway Patrol and Sergeant at Arms were stationed outside Yee's state Capitol office in Sacramento Wednesday morning, where the FBI agents conducted a raid, taking computers and other documents, according to KCRA-TV.

The FBI confirmed to KCRA-TV that it had raided homes and businesses in the Bay Area and Sacramento Wednesday morning, issuing multiple search warrants and making arrests.

State Senator Yee was arrested Wednesday morning on public corruption charges. (Photo: Diane Dwyer)

Yee’s press secretary, Dan Lieberman, declined to comment when contacted by NBC Bay Area. An official statement would be released sometime Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Yee's arrest would make him the third Democratic state senator fighting charges this year.

His arrest comes just one month after prosecutors announced federal bribery and corruption charges filed against state Sen. Ron Calderon.

Prosecutors say the Los Angeles-area Democrat accepted about $100,000 in cash bribes and other perks in exchange for his supporting or opposing bills. Calderon has pleaded not guilty.

Earlier in the year, Democratic Sen. Rod Wright was found guilty of multiple charges that stemmed from accusations he did not actually live in the Southern California district he represents. Wright is appealing the conviction.

Both Wright and Calderon have taken a leave of absence from the state Senate.

Democrat Derek Cressman, who is one of several candidates also running for secretary of state, called Yee's arrest a "wake-up call."

"We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California senate," Cressman said in a statement. "The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person's soul and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that he was shocked and disappointed by the news.

"Leland Yee has been a part of public service for a long time, sorry to see that tainted by these allegations," Lee said.

A man was charged last year for threatening Yee over legislation that he proposed to limit rapid reloading of assault weapons.

Yee is the first Chinese American ever elected to the California State Senate. He emigrated to San Francisco from China at age 3. Yee graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and receieved a master's degree from San Francisco State University. Yee and his wife Maxine have four children.




Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Mayor Appoints New Sanitation Commissioner]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 09:34:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/217*120/kathryn-garcia.jpg

Mayor de Blasio appointed Kathryn Garcia on Saturday to be the city's sanitation commissioner. 

Garcia, a Brooklyn native, is the chief operating officer of the Department of Environmental Protection. She has worked in that department for eight years, in several positions.

At the beginning of her career, Garcia was an intern in the Sanitation Department. 

“The job we do in Sanitation is vital to the safety, the commerce and the health of the city of New York," Garcia said.

She begins April 1. 

She will replace John Doherty, 75, who is retiring. 



Photo Credit: NBC New York]]>
NECN]]> <![CDATA[Scott Brown Readies N.H. Senate Run]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 18:15:09 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP19064830984.jpg

Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts officially announced Friday he has formed an exploratory committee for a bid in New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race this year.

However, the Republican did not officially say he will run against the state's Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, NECN reported.

Brown blasted Obamacare Friday, and also talked about what his party needs to be doing to move forward.

Brown said he is looking forward to meeting people in New Hampshire as he starts traveling around the state starting Saturday.

"Obviously I have to do some listening and learning and find out from everybody what their concerns are and make sure I have a full understanding of the challenges, and then I'll make a further decision down the road," Brown told reporters after the speech.

There are already other Republicans in the U.S. Senate race, but analysts agree that Brown would immediately be the frontrunner if he officially ran against Shaheen.

Democrats in the Granite State have been preparing for months now for Brown's announcement.

Earlier Friday, Fox News cut its ties with Brown when he notified them of his intentions.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Feds: DC Mayor Got Illegal Funds]]> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 15:45:57 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/20140310+Jeffrey+Thompson.jpg

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray knew that his 2010 campaign received money donated illegally by a businessman with multimillion-dollar city contracts, and even asked personally for the funds, federal prosecutors alleged in court Monday.

Businessman Jeffrey Thompson, 58, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to violate D.C. and federal campaign finance laws by funneling more than $3.3 million in unreported donations to at least 28 local and national candidates and their campaigns beginning in 2006.

The candidates who benefitted from the illegal donations are not named in the court filings. However, in court, prosecutors confirmed that Gray was the person called "Mayoral Candidate A" who met with Thompson to discuss the fundraising, presented Thompson with a $425,000 "one-page budget" -- and agreed to keep the fundraising secret by referring to Thompson with the code name "Uncle Earl."

Gray also asked Thompson to pay $40,000 for improvements to a friend's home, prosecutors said. In court, Thompson acknowledged giving $40,000 to a close friend of Gray and $10,000 to a relative of Gray.

In total, Thompson -- whose company had a contract worth $300 million a year with the city -- funneled $668,800 to "a political candidate for Mayor," the charging documents say. Those documents also claim that the unreported donation was made "in coordination with" the candidate.

Gray refuted the claims in an interview and said he was innocent. “I maintain these are lies,” Gray told News4’s Tom Sherwood Monday afternoon. “These are absolute lies.”

Gray attended a mayoral forum Monday evening, just hours after the allegations surfaced. His supporters were in full force, chanting, 'Four more years!' Gray again told News4 the allegations are untrue. 

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a press conference late Monday that more charges may be forthcoming as Thompson continues to help investigators. Many other candidates were implicated in Thompson's plea agreement, including a candidate for mayor in 2006, a candidate for D.C. Council At Large in 2008 and a candidate for Ward 4 council in 2007.

Also connected: candidates for Congress and a candidate for president in 2008, prosecutors said in court filings. The presidential candidate is believed to be Hillary Clinton, who has said she did not know of the fundraising and has cooperated with the investigation.

“Election after election, Jeff Thompson huddled behind closed doors with corrupt candidates, political operatives, and businessmen, devising schemes to funnel millions of dollars of corporate money into local and federal elections,” Machen said. “Today's guilty plea pulls back the curtain on years of widespread corruption. With Mr. Thompson's cooperation, we have the opportunity to hold many wrongdoers accountable and to usher in a new era of honesty, integrity, and transparency in D.C. politics.”

Gray is running for re-election campaign in D.C.'s April 1 Democratic primary for mayor; early voting starts next week. 

THE CASE AGAINST THOMPSON

Thompson was charged with two felony counts of conspiracy in a criminal information filed Monday morning. He appeared in court Monday afternoon, where a judge said he faces two years in prison. If he complies fully with the terms of the plea deal, one count carrying an 18-month sentence could be dropped and he could serve a total of six months on the second count.

The sentence also could be reduced to home confinement.

Court documents allege Thompson solicited relatives, friends, employees and others to make donations to candidates and assured them he would reimburse them for these "conduit contributions" -- which he did with personal money and money from his company. On his company's books, the payments were listed as "advances" and "bonuses," prosecutors said.

Thompson's company also paid for in-kind gifts to candidates, which prosecutors called "shadow campaigns" in a detailed statement of the case against him. That included $653,000 in money for "Mayoral Campaign A" and $608,750 to the candidate for president.

The document also allege "Candidate A" met with Thompson in June 2010, when the candidate promised to use the code name, "Uncle Earl."

Gray told News4 he agreed to that because Thompson was worried then Mayor Adrian Fenty would find out Thompson was supporting Gray and interfere with Thompson's companies' contracts with the city.

“Initially he said no, that he wouldn’t raise money for the campaign,” Gray said. “He was fearful of what would happen to him because of the Fenty administration.”

“With respect to him raising money for my campaign, I thought that was being done in a perfectly legitimate fashion,” Gray said. “I’ve said that from day one and I maintain that, to my knowledge anyway, it was a perfectly legitimate experience.”

THREE-YEAR INVESTIGATION LED TO THOMPSON

A big player in both local and federal politics, Thompson owned multiple million-dollar companies with large contracts from the city. That included the most lucrative contract the city gives out, worth more than $300 million each year for Thompson's company D.C. Chartered Health Plan, to provide health care services to the city's poorest residents.

Thompson stepped down from D.C. Chartered Health Plan in April 2012, after FBI and IRS agents raided his home and office. He then left his accounting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, in July 2012.

The investigation that led to his guilty pleas began in spring 2011, after Gray was elected. U.S. Attorney Machen began looking into whether Gray or his campaign aides secretly gave cash and checks to Sulaimon Brown, a minor candidate for mayor, in return for Brown's aggressive attacks on then-Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Brown contended the campaign did pay him and also rewarded him with a $110,000-a-year city job, from which he was later fired for inappropriate conduct.

Since those allegations caught Machen's attention, nine people with ties either to Thompson or to Gray's 2010 campaign -- including Thompson himself -- have pleaded guilty to various charges over the course of the investigation.

Two Gray campaign supporters, Howard Brooks and Thomas Gore, pleaded guilty to covering up the payments to Brown.

In July 2012, Jeanne Clark Harris, a long-time supporter of Gray and business partner of Thompson, pleaded guilty to funneling more than $650,000 from Thompson to a shadow campaign for Gray. "The 2010 mayoral election was corrupted by a massive infusion of cash that was illegally concealed from the voters in the District," Machen said at that time.

Not long after, three business associates of Thompson's -- Troy White, Lee Calhoun and Stanley L. Straughter -- pleaded guilty to helping Thompson illegally fund national campaigns, including Clinton's.

Last August, Vernon Hawkins, a longtime associate of both Thompson and Gray, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the shadow campaign. During Hawkins' plea hearing, Gray's name was mentioned for the first time as the beneficiary of the shadow campaign.

In addition, former D.C. Councilmember Michael A. Brown has admitted to taking money from Thompson. Brown has admitted to taking about $120,000 in secret, illegal campaign donations in 2007 and 2008 in conjunction with Harris and a businessman only identified as "Co-Conspirator 1." Media reports have identified "Co-Conspirator 1" as Thompson.

Though the investigation has continued for three years, Gray remains a front-runner in the race for mayor. A poll for NBC4, WAMU, the Washington Informer and Marist released in February shows Gray leading the race.

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<![CDATA[Dolan Enters NYC Pre-K Debate]]> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 19:50:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/de+blasio+dolan+tour+schools.jpg The fight over universal pre-kindergarten involves two of New York’s biggest politicians: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio -- and now New York’s top Catholic is in the mix. Cardinal Timothy Dolan is putting his blessing on one side of the issue. Andrew Siff reports.]]> <![CDATA[NBC4 Poll: Cuomo's Approval Sags, Re-Election Lead Holds]]> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 21:34:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/astorino+cuomo+2014+new+york+governors+race.jpg

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s job approval rating has slipped, but he remains popular and enjoys a comfortable advantage in his quest for re-election, according to a new poll.

Cuomo, a Democrat, holds massive leads over each of three potential Republican challengers: Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, conservative upstate businessman Carl Paladino and real estate mogul Donald Trump, the NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll shows. In head-to-head match-ups, the governor beat them all by at least 40 percentage points.

The only challenger to formally launch a campaign against Cuomo is Astorino, who announced his candidacy Wednesday. The poll, taken in the days leading up to Astorino’s announcement, shows him with the support of 25 percent of registered voters, compared with Cuomo’s 65 percent. Another 10 percent are undecided.

When asked their opinion of Astorino, nearly half of voters — 46 percent — said they were unsure, or hadn’t heard of him. That included 49 percent of members of his own party.

“This is still someone who lacks definition and is still not very well known among voters,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “His to-do list is long and it is by all measures a very uphill fight for him.”

The general election is Nov. 4.

Cuomo, meanwhile, enjoys a cushy approval-rating advantage. But it is slowly shrinking.

Asked to rate his job performance, 42 percent of voters responded positively, while 18 percent said the governor was doing poorly.

The last time the poll asked the question, in November, the split was 52-13.

That decline appears to be driven by New Yorkers’ lackluster views of the economy.

The proportion of voters who said they thought New York was in a recession jumped to 65 percent, the highest level in two years, the poll shows. Of those voters, 37 percent said they approved of Cuomo’s performance.

That effect was even more pronounced among blacks and Latinos, groups more likely to see the state economy as slumping. Among Latino voters, 41 percent approved of Cuomo’s job performance, down from 62 percent in November. Among blacks, the figure dropped from 57 percent to 42 percent.

“Although he has a very wide lead, he still will need to convince voters that he’s turning the economy around,” Miringoff said.

The poll, conducted from Friday to Monday, surveyed 658 registered voters, and the results carry a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Not surprisingly, Astorino is trying to exploit Cuomo’s economic vulnerabilities. He released a web video Wednesday that accused the governor of fiscal gimmickry and failing to create enough jobs.

If the clip is any indication of what’s to come, there will be a lot more negative attacks against Cuomo.

Equally unsurprising is Cuomo’s silent response, Miringoff said.

“He doesn’t want to assist Astorino with one of his problems, which is low name recognition.”

But as much as the economy bothers voters, Cuomo needn’t worry — at least not yet.

His favorability rating remains high and largely unchanged, with 63 percent of voters saying they had a positive view of him and 33 percent saying they had a negative view of him.

And the governor has amassed a campaign war chest that at last count totaled $33 million. Astorino has about $1 million.

The poll also asked voters to choose between Cuomo and two other potential challengers who have yet to say if they’ll actually run.

In a match-up with Paladino, whom Cuomo soundly defeated in 2010, the governor leads 68 percent to 25 percent. Cuomo leads Trump by an even larger margin: 70 percent to 26 percent.

In short: whoever runs against Cuomo in the general election will have to overcome daunting odds.

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<![CDATA[Surprises, Runoffs Likely in Texas Primary]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 13:08:07 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Vote+Generic+Vote+Tuesday+Voting+Sign.jpg

Gov. Rick Perry isn't on the ballot, but a new member of the Bush dynasty is. Wendy Davis can clinch a feat no woman has achieved in Texas since Ann Richards. Heavyweight Republicans are trying to survive, and a new voter ID law gets a major test.

Throw in a March blast of winter weather that could dampen turnout, and Texas' primary elections Tuesday figure to be anything but ordinary.

The results will begin the biggest reshuffling of state power in a decade. Although most of the competitive primary races are on the Republican side, Davis' bid for governor headlines a roster of underdog Democrats girding instead for the Nov. 4.

That's the only day that matters to Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott in the year's marquee showdown. Neither has a competitive primary, leaving Davis poised to become the first female gubernatorial nominee in Texas since Richards in 1994, and Abbott the first new GOP nominee after 14 years of Perry.

But a frigid forecast could leave voters with a dangerous -- or at least dreary -- drive to the polls. Meteorologist say freezing rain overnight Tuesday could sock Central Texas, the Houston area should be wary of elevated roads and a biting cold will be felt most everywhere.

"It doesn't take much when you're not used to winter weather," National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh said.

Unlike Davis and Abbott, few other Texas candidates have the luxury of uneventful primaries.

The conservative star power of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has GOP candidates -- from local races to statewide offices -- jostling farther right and wooing voters with vows to emulate Cruz's no-compromise style. Even U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, two of the state's most powerful Republicans, have spent money campaigning against longshot challengers who say the incumbents have grown moderate in Washington.

But changes are far more likely in Austin. Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who lost to Cruz for the Senate seat in 2012, appears headed for his first runoff in 11 years on the job.

Millions of dollars have been spent between Dewhurst and three prominent challengers: state Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. The race has been the nastiest and most competitive this primary season, with the four all taking aim at President Barack Obama in television ads when they're not sniping at each other.

Primary runoffs are set for May 27. Settling GOP nominations for attorney general, comptroller and agriculture commissioner may also have to wait until then.

"When there's a fair amount of negative out there it makes the electorate very unpredictable," Patterson said Monday. "You couldn't accurately poll it -- or you could and that poll would be good for probably about four hours."

Noticeably absent this primary season has been Perry, who announced last summer he wouldn't seek re-election but continues mulling a 2016 run for president. The longest-serving governor in Texas history hasn't endorsed in major races or even heard his name mentioned much in campaigns by his fellow Republicans.

They've instead talked about the future of the Texas GOP, which is expected to include George P. Bush in a prominent role. The 37-year-old nephew of former President George W. Bush, and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is running for land commissioner.

"Help is on the way," Bush told supporters in El Paso on Monday. "After this primary season, we will go out there and fight the good fight."

For Democrats, who haven't won a statewide election in 20 years, the primary serves little but an early test of voter strength. A team of Obama campaign veterans launched the group Battleground Texas last year to give Democrats a chance and will watch turnout Tuesday to gauge their efforts so far.

Another race being closely watched Tuesday night involves U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, who at age 90 is the oldest member of Congress. Five GOP challengers are vying against him in an effort to deny him an 18th term.

Election administrators say the primary will be the first real test of the state's new voter ID law, which the Republican-controlled Legislature passed in 2011 but wasn't enacted until last summer amid legal challenges. No major problems or controversies flared when the law debuted in November during a low-turnout, off-year election.

Associated Press Writers Will Weissert in Austin and Juan Carlos Llorca in El Paso contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jerry Brown to Seek Fourth Term as California Governor]]> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 18:00:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/02-27-2014-jerry-brown.jpg

Gov. Jerry Brown made it official Thursday and announced plans to seek re-election.

Brown filed paperwork in Alameda County in search of a fourth term as California's governor. The 75-year-old Democrat tweeted a picture of the filing with a link to the announcement.

In a statement posted on a campaign web site, Brown said: "Four years ago, I asked that you support my candidacy for governor based on my bringing an 'insider’s knowledge but an outsider’s mind' to fix the budget breakdown and overcome Sacramento’s poisonous partisanship. Now, four years later, a $27 billion deficit has become a surplus and our credit rating and public confidence are rising. State budgets are not only balanced but they are on time and free of the rancor of past years."

The announcement, which comes ahead of the June primary, has long been expected as Brown has been fundraising for another run. He faces no opposition in the June 3 primary.

His Republican opponents for governor include former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, Southern California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, and Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount.

Brown has made progress easing the state's long-running budget problems, but California is facing a potentially devastating drought, aging freeways strangled with traffic and multibillion-dollar unfunded pension bills.



Photo Credit: @JerryBrownGov via Twitter]]>