Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Chief Prosecuting Attorney, Riverkeeper
While not the only person fighting against hydraulic fracturing in New York, Kennedy has played a major role in the effort to block the controversial natural gas drilling technique. He is a trusted adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on environmental issues, and has been the public face of the effort to stop any expansion of natural gas exploration. His latest victory: the defeat of the Constitution Pipeline project.
Chairman, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
The bi-state Port Authority is in the midst of major changes, and the exit of several top New York officials will only give Degnan, the chief New Jersey appointee, more control. He’ll have a big say in who becomes the authority’s first CEO and will play a key role overseeing the trans-Hudson Gateway project. He’s also been keeping an eye on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is charging ahead with several Port Authority projects in New York.
Chairwoman, Assembly Education Committee
Nolan has been a member of the Assembly for more than 30 years, and as chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee she is a powerful voice in the Democratic conference. When former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested, Queens Democrats originally pushed for Nolan to replace him as speaker. She ultimately lost her bid for the leadership position, but her knowledge of how Albany operates makes her a key player in the state Legislature.
Director, Siena College Research Institute
Politicians may sometimes deny it, but they all know that polls matter. And they know that public polls can impact the perception of races. In New York, no one polls as often or as locally as Don Levy’s Siena College Research Institute, diving deep into timely issues and covering the election cycle – particularly the battle for control of the state Senate. For many, Siena’s work provides their only glimpse into the potential outcomes of those races.
Cardinal, Archbishop of New York
As a major New York religious leader, Dolan has clout in Albany, where budgetary and policy decisions can directly impact the Catholic Church. But he is facing challenges, from the failure to pass the Education Investment Tax Credit, which would incentivize donations to private and public schools, to a push by lawmakers and the Daily News to extend or eliminate the statute of limitations on allegations of child sexual abuse.
President, Empire Center for Public Policy
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo shifts leftward on issues like the minimum wage, McMahon has been an outspoken opponent of his policies. That’s no surprise. A mediasavvy veteran of Albany politics, McMahon has long been a respected spokesman of fiscal conservatism with the insight and independence to punch holes in the arguments of elected officials. And with Daily News alum Bill Hammond joining the Empire Center, McMahon’s team is looking even more formidable.
Democrats secured a numerical majority in the narrowly divided state Senate this spring, but the question is what will happen this fall – and whether the five-member Independent Democratic Conference and Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, will reunite with mainline Democrats. Felder is likely to be courted by both parties and could use his pivotal position to pass legislation, such as the Education Investment Tax Credit that he has championed.
Chairman, Ellicott Development
Paladino is best known for his unsuccessful gubernatorial run against Andrew Cuomo in 2010, but he is still on the political map. He was an early cheerleader for fellow New Yorker Donald Trump this presidential cycle and stood beside him at the victory party after Trump dominated the state’s primary in April. But Paladino may need to tend to more local matters, as he was nearly ousted from the Buffalo School Board by a teenager this year.
Reporter, The Buffalo News
When the rest of the LCA is following one lead, The Buffalo News’ Precious is more often than not behind the scenes chasing down another one. When major news breaks at the state Capitol, Precious can be counted on to deliver a scoop or two that no one saw coming. Recently, Precious has been focusing on his upcoming book, but with its new partnership with PolitiFact, The Buffalo News is undoubtedly going to remain a staple of Albany news.
State Director, Working Families Party
Lipton is a veteran of the Working Families Party, which has taken some hits in recent years. The Party got played by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, unions defected, and both Bernie Sanders and a candidate for Sheldon Silver’s seat lost this spring despite WFP backing. Still, Lipton and his team have a chance to play a key role in the fall, notably as a third line for Democratic candidates in the battle for the state Senate.
Co-Founder and Co-Editor, Politico States
Politico New York, formerly Capital New York, has been on the move in the last year, expanding to several states and adding additional reporters to its staff. In Albany, Politico has expanded its bureau and delivers dependable policy and political analysis for Albany insiders. While there are a lot of good reporters covering the state, the man managing the coverage is Benson, a veteran of the space who cut his teeth at The New York Times.
Chairman, State Republican Party
New York is solidly blue, but the Republican Party retains substantial pockets of power all across the state. Cox, much like his party, has weathered repeated threats, fending off challenges to his leadership as his fellow Republicans continue to win and hold local and federal legislative seats, mayoral and county executive posts, and – at least for now – a majority in the state Senate. What’s more, the national party’s new standardbearer, Donald Trump, hails from New York.
We ended last year’s write-up of Hochul by noting that “she’s only one tragic event from being the most powerful person in the state.” Given the investigations surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, that sentence seems prescient. While she has been kept mostly on the road as a result of an imposed schedule from the second floor, at least it has bolstered her public profile throughout New York.
President and CEO, New York Power Authority
Quiniones runs the New York Power Authority, a multibilliondollar entity with a net income of $74 million last year. But the dollar amounts only scratch the surface of NYPA, which plays a key role in recruiting and supporting business, implementing pioneering energy policies and using its balance sheet to absorb political orphans like the moneylosing Canal Corporation. As long as Quiniones emerges unscathed from the probe into the Buffalo Billion, he’ll remain a top “power” player.
Chief Investment Officer, State Comptroller’s Office
As New York’s chief investment officer, Fuller is in charge of the state’s $184.5 billion Common Retirement Fund – the third-largest in the nation and a record high for the state. Fuller was appointed to the position in 2012. The state’s pension fund has more than 3,000 state and local government participating employers and more than 1 million members. Under her leadership, the fund has seen a 7.16 percent rate of return.
Lou Ann Ciccone
Program and Policy Secretary, Assembly Democratic Conference
Ciccone holds an essential role in the Assembly Democratic conference. Originally a hire by former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Ciccone retained her position after Carl Heastie took over as speaker. Ciccone works closely with both Heastie and Democratic Majority Leader Joe Morelle, and interacts daily with members of the conference, helping shape its policy and agenda.
DiFiore was confirmed this year to New York’s highest judicial post. The former state and county judge and Westchester district attorney has a long and respected legal career and has been characterized as a “consensus builder,” which makes her well-suited for the state Court of Appeals, whose decisions can be influential even outside of the Empire State. DiFiore also is only the second woman to hold the position in New York state; the first, Judith Kaye, was appointed by former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
General Manager, Uber NYC
Uber won its battle with New York City, with Mohrer leading the charge. Now the ridesharing service is taking the company’s aggressive expansion strategy to upstate New York, with Mohrer again playing a key role. Lawmakers haven’t agreed on statelevel regulations just yet for Uber and rival Lyft, but the governor has said a framework should be put in place to allow for it, which is a good sign for Mohrer and his highpowered team.
Chairman, State Senate Transportation Committee
A key funding issue over the past year was the distribution of state transportation dollars, with Robach and other upstate lawmakers calling for investment in roads and bridges on a par with the governor’s substantial MTA funding pledge. In the final budget, Republicans won an impressive $27 billion for upstate transportation projects as part of the $55 billion state plan. Apart from his role on the Transportation Committee, the former Democrat is a respected legislator on both sides of the aisle.
State Director, AARP NY
AARP New York has increasingly become a major player in state politics, and its growing relevance can be traced back to Finkel’s hiring as state director in 2013. Finkel has helped mobilize a key constituency of older New Yorkers to secure victories on issues like raising the minimum wage, and the organization is pushing presidential candidates to devote some of their policy agenda to Social Security.
President and CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to seek a second term in 2014, Duffy opted to leave his post as lieutenant governor to join the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, formerly the Rochester Business Alliance. The former mayor of Rochester now oversees the powerful organization, which offers advocacy and services to help businesses of all sizes grow and prosper. And it never hurts to be good buddies with the governor, either.
President, Public Employees Federation
Spence has brought some stability to New York’s second-largest state employees union after his predecessor, Susan Kent, was ousted last year following a polarizing three-year term. Spence immediately got to work, reaching an agreement with the governor’s office on a one-year labor agreement, with 2 percent retroactive raises for his members. Spence also scored a victory when an appeals court affirmed an agreement that will allow an additional 250 state workers to join the union's ranks.
Partner, Mercury Public Affairs
This veteran of Albany politics has expanded on his longstanding ties with top Republicans by making inroads with pragmatic and probusiness Democrats. His close ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo make him a top player in the public affairs world. Plus, his experience with crisis communications lands him on a short list of indemand consultants when things go wrong for top politicians.
CEO, Island Capital Group
A quick perusal of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign finance filings will reveal that Farkas is one of the governor’s biggest supporters. The billionaire investor has lent Cuomo his private jet on occasion, including for a 2014 trip to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. But their ties go deeper: Cuomo worked for Farkas in 2004 and 2005 before reentering politics, and collected a hefty salary reported to be more than $1 million a year.
Independent Democratic Conference, Chief of Staff
The Independent Democratic Conference’s prolonged power in the state Senate couldn’t have been possible without the work of Emrick. He is an intellectual force in the small conference, advising on all major decisions from policy to press. He is now leaving the IDC, but will still wield a lot of power as he moves into a position to run the conference’s campaign committee in the crucial election cycle.
New York State Assemblyman
The chairman of the Assembly Housing Committee ultimately failed to become speaker, but Wright still is a senior member of the Assembly Democratic conference who knows how Albany operates. Wright is now running to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel. His chances look good, and those trips to Albany could be soon be a thing of the past, but he is still the Manhattan Democratic chairman, so he’ll be a player in Albany politics even if he heads to D.C.
Executive Director, State Democratic Party
Many veterans of Harlem’s vaunted political scene have long since moved on, but one new rising star to emerge in the historically AfricanAmerican neighborhood is Smikle, who took over as executive director of the state Democratic Party last year. Smikle has ties to Hillary Clinton, having served on her Senate campaign and on her staff after she won, and has forged other ties over the years as a top party consultant.
Chairman, Queens County Democratic Party
Crowley is a congressman from Queens, but he has clout at every level of government. In Congress, he is the fifth-ranking member of the Democratic leadership. In Queens, he chairs the county’s Democratic organization and has forged strong alliances in the city and the state. That gives him sway in Albany: Just last year, he played a key role in the elevation of Carl Heastie, his counterpart in the Bronx, to Assembly speaker.
Chairman, Bronx County Democratic Party
As one of the youngest members of the Assembly, Crespo is still learning his way around New York state politics. Judging by some of the initial results, his greatest asset appears to be his ability to listen, while standing his ground when he believes he's right. He appears to be growing into his role as chairman of the Assembly and Senate Puerto Rican and Hispanic Task Force, and his independence and clout as the Bronx Democratic Party chairman is still developing. A work in progress, for sure.
Partner, The Parkside Group
Tens of millions of dollars are going to flow into the race for state Senate this year, and for the Democrats attempting to wrest control of the chamber from Republicans, every decision about how that money will be spent will flow through Stavisky. The son of state Sen. Toby Stavisky, Evan is a deeply connected Democratic player, but he also knows how to play the other side of
the aisle to help clients when necessary.
News and Public Affairs Director, WCNY
With Gov. Andrew Cuomo largely steering clear of the Albany press corps over the past year, Arbetter lost a highprofile guest who got listeners to tune in to “The Capitol Pressroom.” But it’s still essential listening every weekday at 11 a.m., with key politicians, lobbyists and advocates stopping by or calling in to get their message out – but not before answering a few tough
questions from one of Albany’s top interviewers.
Chief Enforcement Counsel State Board of Elections
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo created an enforcement unit within the state Board of Elections, it was dismissed as part of a weak ethics reform package. But in recent months Sugarman and her team have shown they mean business, catching everyone’s attention when a report leaked from her office recommended criminal charges against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Whether politics are at play or not, Sugarman is a new power player on the scene.
Founder, Park Strategies
D’Amato, who represented New York in the U.S. Senate from 1981 to 1998, has enjoyed a strong second act as one of the state’s savviest and most soughtafter lobbyists. His wealth of knowledge and alliances with figures on both sides of the aisle make Park Strategies one of the highest paid lobbying firms, and his frequent appearances on NY1 give him a platform to weigh in on the latest debates.
Executive Director, StudentsFirstNY
StudentsFirstNY has been an active player in state politics with Sedlis at the helm, spending boatloads of money on the charter network’s policy agenda – reportedly $2.4 million in 2015. Sedlis and StudentsFirstNY have also thrown their weight around in elections, as evidenced by their $4.2 million independent expenditure that helped restore the New York state Senate’s Republican majority in 2014, and will likely be very active in key battleground Senate races in 2016.
President and CEO Associated General Contractors of New York State
This year’s budget was pretty universally considered bad for business. One saving grace: the massive investment of infrastructure funding for upstate to match the commitment to fund the MTA capital plan. Elmendorf was the driving force behind the RebuildNY coalition that advocated for the budget bucks, and his members are sure to benefit from the state Legislature’s commitment to infrastructure improvements.
Founding Partner and President, Global Strategy Group
To get a sense of where the electorate stands on tough issues, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Mayor Bill de Blasio and countless other state Democrats rely on the polling of Global Strategy Group. Heading into campaign season, Pollock’s cell number will likely be on speed dial, and GSG has plenty of work polling for businesses like Uber, Airbnb and Con Edison and unions like 1199 and 32BJ SEIU.
How the 2016 presidential race may ultimately shake up power in Congress remains unclear. What is certain is that as a top-rank in House Republican, King holds quite a bit of clout in Washington, D.C, and that’s not likely to change soon. His outspokenness and his proud defense of New York state have gained him respect among top Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation, as well as with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Albany Managing Shareholder and Chairman, Government Law and Policy Practice, Greenberg Traurig
Greenberg Traurig saw its lobbying business grow in 2015 even though its number of clients shrunk slightly, according to the annual JCOPE report. Experts in health policy and legislation, the firm has a diverse and talented staff in Albany headed up by Iselin, the former assistant counsel to Gov. Mario Cuomo. A veteran of Albany, he knows how to get things done in the constantly changing environment in the state Capitol.
Senior Adviser to the State Senate Majority Leader
When John Flanagan became state Senate majority leader last year, he brought on Mooney to be his senior adviser. Mooney has worked in both the state Senate and Assembly for the last decade and brings that knowledge of both houses to his role. He is relatively new to the position and operates on the periphery, but is close to Flanagan and plays a key role in the majority leader’s decisions.
Founder and President, Kasirer Consulting
While more of a New York City heavyweight, Kasirer and her firm don’t shy away from advocating for clients at the state Capitol. Last year, Kasirer Consulting was active in the debate over real estate and rent regulation issues. The firm will likely have a smaller presence in Albany this year, but that doesn’t diminish its ability to quickly mobilize for clients as it has done effectively for more than a decade.
State Senate Deputy Democratic Conference Leader
In recent presidential cycles, Democrats have picked up seats in the state Senate, and there’s little reason to think this year will be any different. If the party wins enough races (and perhaps cuts a deal or two) to seize control of the chamber, that will be a big victory for Gianaris, who leads the Senate Democrats’ election efforts. Apart from campaigns, the Queens lawmaker also serves as Senate Democratic Leader Andrea StewartCousins’ righthand man.
Chairwoman, State Senate Finance Committee
Young is moving up in the state Senate Republican conference, most recently taking over the Senate Finance Committee. The Western New York lawmaker also made a savvy move in getting behind Sen. John Flanagan’s ultimately successful bid for majority leader, backing the Long Island lawmaker over a fellow upstate legislator. She also leads the conference’s election efforts, and she’ll face a test this fall in trying to maintain Republican control of the chamber.
Founding Partner, Shenker, Russo & Clark
For more than two decades, Shenker has been immersed in state government, having worked for the Assembly before helping Wilson Elser become the top lobbying firm in Albany. Now, Shenker is the leading lady at her own place, starting a new venture with Theresa Russo and Doug Clark. The three former Wilson Elser employees brought dozens of clients with them to the new company, which will likely make an appearance on the top 10 lobbyists list in next year’s JCOPE report.
President, Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates
Jenkins is a paid consultant and a trusted adviser to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie – the two have been friends since they were just getting started in politics. Jenkins has extensive government and political experience as well as close ties with the state trial lawyers lobby. When Heastie assumed the speakership last year, Jenkins saw an increase in clients – and his services will likely remain in demand as long as Heastie is in power.
President and CEO, The Business Council of New York State
As one of the state’s most prominent representatives of business interests in New York, Briccetti has often had the ear of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration. Briccetti’s Business Council, in turn, has praised the governor for his on-time budgets, his support for key industries and his spending restraint, and she has continued to be an ally even as Cuomo has championed workerfriendly causes like a higher minimum wage and paid family leave.
When it comes to the Cuomo world, it really is hard to leave. Sources tell us that while Zambelli has been away from the administration in an official capacity for more than a year now, the former aide to Mario Cuomo is still the current governor’s most trusted evaluator of polls. His ability to identify trends and project the direction of the electorate has helped shape Cuomo policy decisions for years, and continues to do so.
President, Civil Service Employees Association
As the head of the state’s largest public sector union, Donohue is at a crossroads. While his membership was the prime beneficiary of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to increase the minimum wage for government workers, Donohue also faces his first challenge as union president in eight years: The union’s latest labor contract expired in April, and his re-election chances likely hinge on what promises he can guarantee his members as far as raises and health care costs.
Chairman, Energy and Finance for New York
Energy policy in New York is largely driven by commissions and bureaucrats, and overseeing them all is Kauffman, who has put the state on a path that could serve as a model for the rest of the nation. Kauffman, whose resume includes a stint in the U.S. Energy Department and experience in the private sector, is paving the way for more distributed power generation, more renewable energy and a more market-driven approach.
Chancellor, State University of New York
As chancellor of the state’s public university system, Zimpher oversees the state’s 64 campuses, including the highly profitable SUNY Polytechnic Institute. While SUNY has been dragged into investigations by both Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, so far the chancellor remains in the clear. Cuomo and Zimpher have expanded many SUNY programs and invested heavily in the public university system – and at $655,000, it doesn’t hurt to have the secondhighest salary in state government.
President, New York state AFLCIO
Cilento has been a mainstay in New York’s labor power structure for the last five years, and has deftly navigated the difficult position of maintaining a solid working relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state power brokers while remaining a staunch advocate for his member organizations. Cilento was selected by Cuomo as a member of the newly created Business Regulation Council, and also welcomed a new guild for 35,000 Uber drivers in New York to the AFLCIO ranks.
Senate Democratic Leader
While Stewart-Cousins may be the leader of the state Senate’s minority party, Democrats technically have a majority – at least until November. That’s because state Senate Democrats scored a big victory in April when Todd Kaminsky won a tight special election to replace ousted Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos. As the battle for control of the state Senate gears up, all eyes will be on Stewart-Cousins to actually have Democrats take power for the first time since 2009.
President and CEO, Long Island Association
You may have thought Law would drop on the list this year after his job as chairman of the Resort Gaming Facility Location Board had ended. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo tapped him to lead the effort to expand the Long Island Railroad and build a third track. The governor’s trust in Law to help gain public support for the key infrastructure project is a clear sign that he is still an important Cuomo ally.
President, SEIU 32BJ
As the head of one of the state’s largest private sector unions, Figueroa can mobilize his membership at a moment’s notice behind any number of causes, as he did during the legislative session to help win an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Figueroa’s latest victory was organizing airline workers at JFK and LaGuardia airports to begin bargaining for their first-ever union contract after a series of strikes.
Partner, Bolton-St. Johns
Once again Bolton-St. Johns is one of the state’s top lobbying firms. Giske leads a team of well-connected Albany lobbyists with a history of getting things done, including Giorgio DeRosa, Ed Draves, Tom Connolly, Jack O’Donnell and Michelle Cummings. Representing a wide range of clients, including hospitals, copper manufacturers, horse racing investors, taxi drivers and tech giants like Airbnb, BSJ was fourth in total compensation in JCOPE’s 2015 report on lobbying activity.
President and CEO, Partnership for New York City
As president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, Wylde helps represent the city’s business leaders and its largest private sector employers – giving the nonprofit some significant political sway. As head of the organization, Wylde works with government, labor and nonprofits to promote their agenda. The organization’s fund has raised more than $135 million since its inception and has a powerful voice in both Albany and New York City politics.
Executive Director, New York State Nurses Association
While many of the larger private sector unions received most of the acclaim for the successful fight to raise the minimum wage, labor insiders were quick to credit Furillo and NYSNA for their role in pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to pass it. Furillo’s stature as a labor power broker will only increase if the Legislature passes the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, which would create a standard for nurse-to-patient ratios in the state.
Secretary, Assembly Ways and Means Committee
There are a handful of people in the room with the top legislative leaders when the budget is getting hammered out, and one of them is Washington. When Carl Heastie took over as speaker last year, one of his first moves was to install the veteran numbers guy to the position of secretary of ways and means, aka the conference’s goto guy on all things budget related.
Counsel for Senate Republicans
With the departure of Robert Mujica to the governor’s office, Garvey became a powerful voice for the Senate Republican conference when it comes to negotiating the state budget and will surely be in the room when any end-of-session deals are cut with the governor. The Albany Law School grad has more than a decade of behind-the-scenes experience in this high-stress environment, where deals are cut at the last second and legislation is written on the fly.
Chairwoman, New York State Thruway Authority
Mahoney is the Onondaga County executive, but that’s not why she’s on this list. She’s a close ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his goto Republican appointee for various task forces and commissions. One of her notable roles is chairwoman of the state Thruway Authority, and she may have a chance to prove her worth when it comes time to defend a plan to pay for – and, presumably, raise tolls on – the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
Albany Bureau Chief, New York Daily News
With more than two decades under his belt patrolling the halls of the state Capitol, Lovett has become the dean of the the Legislative Correspondents Association. He is a tenacious reporter who breaks news often and provides his paper with fantastic fodder for “the wood” – cover headlines, in tabloid parlance. He’s also usually the first to ask a question at press conferences,
wielding his boisterous personality to push politicians for answers.
Deputy Majority Leader, State Senate
After nearly becoming state Senate majority leader following the arrest of Dean Skelos last year, DeFrancisco was chosen by the eventual victor, John Flanagan, as deputy leader and continues to be his goto upstate guy. DeFrancisco’s word holds a lot of sway in the closely divided conference. And if Flanagan’s leadership ever came into question, he would be a key contender
for majority leader.
Host, “Capital Tonight”
If you ask any consultant how best to get their message to Albany insiders and the engaged public upstate, they will immediately say “Capital Tonight.” The Monday-through-Friday TV news hour shapes the conversation in Albany and keeps those outside the Capitol tapped into what’s happening inside the historic building. And when the show isn’t on, its State of Politics blog is a go-to source for minute-by-minute developments.
President, Greater New York Hospital Association
As New York continues to restructure how hospitals are run and how medical care is delivered, Raske remains a key player in navigating a path forward. Raske, who has served as president of the Greater New York Hospital Association since 1984, has plenty of experience on both the policy and political sides, and he is ensuring that hospitals get the best deal possible amid a move toward consolidation and away from the traditional fee-for-service model.
Ruben Diaz Jr.
Bronx Borough President
Díaz has become a goto Democrat for politicians like Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton on urban and Latino matters. The Bronx borough president also has a knack for distancing himself from people whose political stock is diminishing, like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Thanks to his years of service in the Assembly, he knows how the state Legislature works. This has helped him maintain good relationships with members of that body. Of course, it has also helped that he and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have been friends and political allies for a long time.
Chancellor, Board of Regents
Rosa’s successful election to chancellor of the state Board of Regents heralds a significant shift in the state’s education policies. Unlike her predecessor, Rosa is a Common Core critic and has even proposed making permanent the moratorium on using the state tests as a factor in teacher evaluations. Rosa, a former New York City principal and superintendent, has a much more collaborative relationship with the state teachers union, and will be sure to play a major part in the future of New York education.
State Medicaid Director
Helgerson may not be in the public eye as much as other figures within the Cuomo administration, but as state Medicaid director he has been quietly and effectively carrying out the reforms tied to the state’s multi-billion-dollar federal Medicaid waiver. Not only is he slowing cost growth and helping improve care, but he has helped the governor maintain peace with the powerful health care unions, who have torpedoed the plans of past governors.
President, United Federation of Teachers
For card-carrying UFT members, there appears to be no wrong side that the union’s president can choose, as long as they feel that he's putting their priorities above all else. The skillful Mulgrew – with his union’s deep pockets and tens of thousands of active members – may not win all the educational battles he's engaged in, but he does win most in Albany. No one in New York, including the governor, can afford an all-out war with Mulgrew. Now that’s power.
Founder and CEO, Invemed Associates LLC
The billionaire is a well-known funder of Republican candidates, but also has close ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He led the Republicans for Cuomo fundraising effort when the Democrat first ran for governor and publicly supported his reelection, to the consternation of some of his GOP pals. While Cuomo has shifted more to the left, his pro-development stance and commitment to minimal budget growth has pleased Langone and many fellow donors who follow his lead.
Commissioner, state Department of Education
As commissioner of the state Department of Education, Elia oversees more than 700 school districts, 7,000 libraries and 900 museums. Now, she’s leading the review of the Common Core standards and redesigned state tests expected by spring 2019. As parents continue to have their children “opt out” of taking the state tests in protest, Elia will ultimately be responsible for pacifying those parents – or be held accountable if new state tests are flawed.
Assembly Majority Leader
Morelle was a top contender for the Assembly speakership when Sheldon Silver stepped down last year, and although he lost that race he ultimately stayed on as majority leader, an influential role typically held by the most powerful upstate lawmaker in the majority conference. The Rochesterarea lawmaker remains popular with fellow Democrats and the Cuomo administration, and is one of few legislative leaders who have avoided any rumors of political corruption in recent years.
Karen E. Magee
President, New York State United Teachers
The state teachers union went on the defensive last year after Cuomo tried to tie a new teacher evaluation system to the controversial Common Core state tests. The union successfully blocked the new teacher evaluations and forced the state to agree to review the Common Core standards. As head of the union, Magee was able to declare a rare win over one of Cuomo’s priorities last year – and her members are sure to remember that victory.
Managing Partner, Brown Weinraub
Brown is the more legal-minded member of this powerful duo, which is quickly becoming one of Albany’s top lobbying firms – if it isn’t already No. 1. His expertise on the legal details of everything from labor laws to health care to ethics makes him a trusted voice when crafting effective bills. Also a former Mario Cuomo staffer, Brown has been integral in the casino siting
for Lago Resort and Casino in Seneca County.
Managing Partner, Brown Weinraub
Once the top staffer to former Gov. Mario Cuomo, Weinraub understands the inner workings of state government as well as anyone. His background getting legislation passed has made him a highly effective lobbyist, with his most recent success being his work to pave the way for legalization of mixed martial arts in the state. Weinraub is more politically minded than his fellow managing partner, Patrick Brown, with a long history of running successful campaigns.
John Banks III
As head of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York, Banks represents a lot of deep-pocketed donors and wealthy developers in Albany. Banks, who replaced the long-serving Steven Spinola in 2014, is dealing with an expired 421a tax credit, which encouraged development while creating new affordable housing. A looming test for Banks is whether he can reach a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the construction unions.
President and CEO, Empire State Development
Empire State Development is a key tool for the governor, and Cuomo works closely with Zemsky on everything from overseas trade to the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils. Zemsky was appointed over a year ago, and his private-sector experience and knowledge of Western New York made him a strong fit, given Cuomo’s emphasis on revitalizing the region through the Buffalo Billion. Although that initiative is now under investigation, there’s no indication that Zemsky is under any scrutiny.
Regional Managing Partner, Wilson Elser
There’s no lobbyist in Albany whose name carries more weight than Shapiro. Over the years he’s built bipartisan credibility that makes him a goto guy for politicians in trouble or advocates looking to get something done in the chamber. The firm has been top dog for several years thanks to big clients including REBNY, HANYS, Entergy and the Catholic Church, though some of its top lobbyists left to form their own firm late last year.
Chairman and CEO, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Anyone charged with running the MTA has an enormous task, given its multibilliondollar budget and its status as North America’s largest transportation network. Prendergast has been particularly effective since taking over as head of the MTA in 2013, working well with elected officials and organized labor alike. He also is set to benefit from a citystate deal to fund the MTA’s $27 billion capital plan, including additional money dedicated to the Second Avenue Subway.
Managing Director, SKDKnickerbocker
There are very few serious political matters at the higher echelons of New York state in which Cunningham’s advice isn’t sought. Her understanding of how government works at all levels – and how that intertwines with the larger political processes – has helped the likes of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Cunningham has long been a key strategist, adviser and hands-on crisis manager for both men. Not only does she wield real power in New York, perhaps more importantly, she knows how and where to use it.
Founder/CEO, Metropolitan Public Strategies
Kwatra’s connections within the labor community – most notably as the former political director of the increasingly powerful Hotel Trades Council – and in the Second Floor and City Hall make him a key go-between for city and state interests. Kwatra’s relationships with organized labor proved invaluable as he helped wrangle a coalition of unions to get behind the governor’s newfound progressive agenda, most notably the successful fight to raise the state’s minimum wage.
President, Building and Construction Trades Council
Last year LaBarbera led the push to tie prevailing wage requirements to the renewal of the 421a tax abatement that New York City developers depend on. By the end of the session there was an unprecedented deal – the credit would only be approved if real estate could craft an agreement with LaBarbera’s team. Although it has yet to be renewed, it was a powerful show of the influence the labor leader wields in the Capitol.
Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor
Despite holding the powerful title of mayor of New York City, de Blasio’s political stock continues to fall in Albany. Not even Bronx native Carl Heastie’s rise to Assembly speaker has helped him gain gravitas with state legislators, as evidenced by their verbal rejection of his plea for a seven-year extension of mayoral control of New York City public schools. What little confidence the mayor had is vanishing as quickly as New Yorkers’ hopes of Albany being cleaned up.
Former secretary to the governor
Although Cohen left the Cuomo administration in 2011, he remains a top adviser. His advice and counsel are as important as ever, especially with another Cuomo confidant, Joe Percoco, under investigation, and others, like Bill Mulrow, Jim Malatras and Alphonso David, still proving themselves. In a reminder of Cohen’s importance, the governor is expected to make him vice chairman of the Port Authority, a key assignment at an entity that’s directly involved in several major Cuomo priorities.
President, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council
Ward is a top labor leader, and his close ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo underscore the point. When Cuomo announced a minimum wage increase for tipped employees last year, he joined Ward at the Hotel Trades Council’s auditorium. This year, Ward was a prominent part of Cuomo’s successful campaign to raise the minimum wage for all workers statewide. Additionally, Ward has an ally in Mayor Bill de Blasio, giving him powerful friends in the city and the state.
Chairman, Association for a Better New York CEO, Rudin Management Company
When it comes to representing the powerful interests of real estate and crafting a vision for the future of New York City, few people wield as much influence as Rudin. His close ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and consistent campaign contributions help get his message to the highest levels of government – and so do ABNY’s mustattend events, where politicians always try and break news for audiences filled with thought leaders and influencers.
Secretary to the governor
Mulrow has kept a relatively low public profile since becoming a top Cuomo aide in 2015, and the former senior managing director at Blackstone Group LP doesn’t instill fear the way his predecessor, Larry Schwartz, did. But he knows his way around both the private sector and Albany, and has been a point person on major initiatives, such as the governor’s “$100 billion” infrastructure program and renewal of the 421a affordable housing property-tax exemption.
While the junior senator from New York is still not as involved in her state’s politics as senior Sen. Charles Schumer, Gillibrand has nonetheless been a leading voice for issues of interest to many New Yorkers. And should Hillary Clinton be in the White House on January 20, 2017, Gillibrand may be in the best position to be a credible, articulate and powerful voice for women’s issues and LGBT rights for members of the military, among other concerns.
Chief of Staff, Governor’s Office
With so much turnover in the governor’s office after the departure of Howard Glaser and Larry Schwartz, insiders say DeRosa has become one of Andrew Cuomo’s most trusted advisers. DeRosa’s forte is communications and messaging, but her strategic portfolio has increased due to her being the longest-tenured member of the governor’s inner circle. DeRosa is also one of the few people who keeps in regular contact with City Hall, despite the governor’s continued marginalization of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Counsel to the Governor
Those in state government who still doubt the power of the counsel to the governor must be letting their envy get the best of them. The recent unwanted attention on the administration must make the behind-the-scenes David feel uncomfortable. However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will continue to regularly consult him for the foreseeable future. He’s the top black member of the administration, and as an openly gay man has also become a symbol of success and power for the LGBT community.
President and CEO, Tishman Speyer
There are some New Yorkers whose mere stature in their respective industries makes them key political players. This is true for Speyer, given that the real estate industry has long been a titan in New York and he sits as chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York.
But those titles don’t tell the story of the political power he wields. The former Daily News metro reporter understands media, marketing, messaging and raw politics like few others in the state. He has close ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and to top Republicans, and has often been used as a broker on complicated policy or campaign strategy. Unlike the traditional super-rich campaign donors who don’t really understand how government works, Speyer is basically a connected operative who just happens to run a billion-dollar business.
The expiration of the 421a tax abatement was the first setback Speyer and REBNY have had in a long time, but it’s a good bet Speyer will find a way to get it back on the books considering his political acumen and deep connections.
State Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader
Klein leads the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that’s more influential than its numbers suggest.
The Bronx state senator has positioned his conference into power-sharing agreements with Republicans, although he angered many Democrats when his alliance allowed the GOP to maintain control of the chamber despite losing an outright majority in the 2012 elections.
However, the bipartisan pact has given Klein the power and prominence he seeks, bringing him into budget talks with the governor, Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker. Even after former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was ousted, Klein continued to join the budget negotiations and even enjoyed a victory with the passage of groundbreaking paid family leave legislation.
Klein is also effective at mixing the politics and policy aspects of his work. He’s an adept fundraiser, and has delivered government dollars to his district. Meanwhile, his office churns out proposals that contribute to the policy debates in Albany.
With the Senate still closely divided between Democrats and Republicans, Klein may determine control of the chamber after the fall election – and increase his own clout in the process.
New York State Budget Director
On last year’s list we pointed to reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration was trying to poach the veteran Senate Republican staffer as reason to bump him up a few spots. Well, the rumors came true. Cuomo tapped him to be his new budget director late last year, and in this year’s negotiations Mujica found himself on the other side of the table.
By all accounts he seemed to take to the new role well. With much of the logjam surrounding the budget negotiations centered around conflicts between Cuomo and the Republican-controlled state Senate, Mujica’s nearly 20-year history with the GOP conference was invaluable in reaching an agreement where all sides could walk away happy.
The respect he commands across the aisle and his vast experience negotiating legislation is sure to make him an integral player in the upcoming end-ofsession rush, where the passage of dozens of bills often hinges on the ability of internal staff to think fast and nimbly navigate closed-door negotiations.
President, 1199 SEIU
In years past, the health care workers union 1199 SEIU has been a thorn in the side of New York governors. Gresham has taken a different approach with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and it appears to have been the right one.
When Cuomo took office, Gresham became directly involved in Cuomo’s efforts to contain health care costs, which make up a substantial portion of the state budget, allowing the labor leader to ensure his unionized workforce gets the best possible deal.More recently, he has been at Cuomo’s side during the governor’s successful push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour while serving as chairman of the Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice.
But Gresham’s power didn’t begin with Cuomo. Gresham has been one of the state’s most influential labor leaders since he became 1199 SEIU’s president nearly a decade ago, thanks to the union’s sheer size and its political savvy.
Today, even as many unions face threats from all sides, Gresham still has the political clout to protect his members and get things done.
Director of State Operations
Given the heavy turnover among top staffers in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration in recent years, it has been hard to determine whom the governor trusts. All the political insiders we spoke to agreed that Malatras is one person who clearly has Cuomo’s respect. While he may not be as power hungry or play political games like his predecessor, Howard Glaser, it’s clear that Malatras has established himself as a trusted voice in the administration.
Malatras has spent nearly a decade working for Cuomo as a top policy guy, starting in 2007 when Cuomo was attorney general. He has advised the governor on most major decisions throughout the years, with a keen expertise on education policy. Since taking over as director of state operations in 2014, Malatras has been a point person in the contentious fight over Common Core and its implementation. He has also been tapped to restructure the City University of New York’s administrative costs after the issue became a political piñata in this year’s budget cycle.
DiNapoli has not used his office as a political cudgel against Gov. Andrew Cuomo the way former New York City Comptroller John Liu did against Mayor Michael Bloomberg or as current New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has against Mayor Bill de Blasio. But the state comptroller has effectively carried out his role of holding the governor accountable by analyzing his budgets, offering an independent assessment of the financial climate and carefully reviewing state contracts.
DiNapoli, who has a staff of more than 2,600, also manages the state’s debt and audits state agencies and authorities and hundreds of municipal governments. Just this month, he released a wellreceived set of recommendations to reform the state’s finances and make them more transparent.
He also has a huge responsibility as the sole trustee of the state’s vast retirement fund, and he has capitalized on its sheer size to pressure major companies to improve their corporate practices.
While DiNapoli is certainly a less threatening figure than Cuomo, his warm relationships with many in Albany could position him well for a run at higher office.
State Attorney General
Schneiderman isn’t a flashy prosecutor like Eliot Spitzer, nor has he dominated the headlines like U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. But after making a national name for himself as a progressive prosecutor early in his tenure as attorney general, he has built a solid body of work on a number of fronts.
Many of his investigations continue to generate buzz, such as his actions against fantasy sports betting sites and his case against Trump University, which was founded by the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
Schneiderman’s office is also scrutinizing the de Blasio administration’s involvement in the sale of a Manhattan AIDS facility to a luxury condo developer; how tickets to sporting events and concerts are sold; and the New York City Board of Elections, which somehow removed thousands of voters from the rolls before the state’s presidential primary.
He’s also capitalized on his temporary role as the state’s special prosecutor, actively taking over local cases in which police kill unarmed civilians.
Schneiderman’s record could serve him well if he tries to follow the wellworn path from the attorney general’s office to the governor’s mansion.
Senate Majority Leader
Being the leader of the state Legislature’s Republicancontrolled house isn’t an easy job.
Flanagan has been faced with the challenge of fighting or balancing out Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s more liberal agendas, such as paid family leave and raising the minimum wage, while keeping the members of his conference happy. He was elected last April after former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos became the latest focus of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s corruption investigations and was forced to step down.
Flanagan, also a Long Island Republican, now faces the task of retaining the party’s very narrow majority in the chamber through the November elections. Currently, Republicans only hold a numerical majority because a Democrat conferences with them – and they were dealt a blow in April when Democratic Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky won the race to fill Skelos’ former district seat. Now, Republicans from all around the state are relying on Flanagan to maintain control. His true test will depend on the outcome of November’s general election.
The Bronx assemblyman was elected to lead the Assembly’s powerful Democratic Conference last year after former Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on corruption charges. Though he may not retain his predecessor’s tight control over the conference, members have praised his leadership style in allowing a more democratic process in the chamber. Under his leadership, mixed martial arts finally successfully passed in the Assembly, and more junior members now have a voice in the conference’s legislative agenda – one they didn’t have under Silver’s reign. Relatively new to the position, Heastie has largely been on the same page with the governor’s agenda against state Senate Republicans, though he hasn’t built up the clout that Silver once had during negotiations; a big push by Assembly Democrats during this year’s budget process for a socalled millionaire’s tax ultimately failed to be included in the agreement. But as long as lawmakers don’t pass term limits for legislative leadership positions, Heastie has plenty of time to build up his reputation in the Assembly as speaker.
Schumer is all over the place – literally.
He visits every county in New York each year, and not just to shake hands and smile for the cameras. In upstate communities, he champions local issues like combating lead contamination, protecting the dairy industry and preserving historic buildings. In his hometown of New York City, he is pushing for everything from new transit infrastructure to more Sandy recovery funding.
And all across the state, he has a network of former staffers and allies he can count on. In fact, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who dislodged him from the No. 2 slot this year, is a former Schumer aide.
The state’s senior senator is just as influential in Washington, D.C., where he is a prodigious fundraiser and has a hand in prominent policy battles, from gun control to the Iran nuclear deal to Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination.
Schumer, who is expected to coast to reelection, is also the heir apparent to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid – and, if Republicans lose the Senate, he could even be majority leader next year.
U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York
The recent prison sentences for former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos highlighted how much Preet Bharara has changed the political culture in Albany, but also how little has changed since he made a great spectacle of their indictments a year ago.
When Bharara read aloud the charges against Silver in February 2015 and those against Skelos several months later, the prevailing notion was that putting away two of the three “men in a room” would usher in a new era of honest government. At the very least, Bharara got the governor to acknowledge ethics reform as part of his policy agenda, even if Cuomo’s follow-up efforts have been lukewarm, at best.
Where Bharara has had the most pronounced impact is by wielding his subpoena power as the ultimate check on the behavior of state and city lawmakers. Bharara’s appetite for pursuing public integrity cases makes him, by default, the most effective regulator of unethical behavior – dwarfing the politically compromised JCOPE and the toothless reform efforts of the Legislature. Bharara’s political future is still mostly a mystery. He does not appear to be an imminent threat to Cuomo’s re-election prospects, nor does he seem to have much interest in challenging Bill de Blasio for the mayoralty. In fact, the opacity of his ambitions beyond serving the Southern District feeds the well-worn narrative of Bharara as the wholesome White Knight – a good-
governmentminded individual who is more than willing to use the megaphone of his position to rail against the evils of cronyism in the state Capitol.
However, the recent investigation into the executive chamber regarding alleged political graft is proof that Bharara’s chest-thumping and sharp rhetoric can only go so far. He can pursue as many high-profile cases as he wants and nail legislative scalps to the wall, but the flimsy interpretation of fiduciary duty in Albany will reign supreme as long as the members of the Legislature have no desire to change the way they conduct themselves on behalf of the public. But even with the absence of ethics reforms, as long as Bharara continues to bang the drum against backroom politics in New York, he will remain the one true threat to Cuomo’s grip on power in the state.
When we placed Andrew Cuomo atop the New York City Power 100 list earlier this year, it was more of a commentary on the governor’s bullying tactics against Bill de Blasio and subsequent co-opting of the mayor’s agenda. A détente between City Hall and the Second Floor, and a stronger, more independent executive in the city (as Michael Bloomberg was) would probably
alter that power dynamic.
When it comes to state politics, however, there is no question who holds the juice card. Entering his sixth year in office, Cuomo has been proving ever more adept at employing his brand of chameleon politics.
Long criticized by progressive state Democrats for his comfort working with the opposite side of the aisle, Cuomo stuck his finger in the air and correctly determined that the winds were shifting leftward. As such, the governor wasted no time taking ownership of one of the most vocal statewide grass-roots movements in recent memory – the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
The adoption of the minimum wage hike as his signature issue not only placated organized labor – a sector Cuomo has often clashed with, partly due to hard feelings left over from Tier VI pension reform – it burnished his progressive credentials nationally. Cuomo stood next to Joe Biden at a Fight for $15 rally and has been a highly regarded surrogate for Hillary Clinton during her march to a likely Democratic presidential nomination. The worstkept secret about Cuomo is that he harbors higher political ambitions, and by making New York one of two states (along with California) to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, he now has some wind in his national sails where previously there was nary a breeze.
The wage hike was not the only progressive measure Cuomo pushed through during budget negotiations. The governor used the recent passing of his father, Mario, as the touchstone for a statewide paid family leave program, noting that no individual should have to make the tough choice between their job and caring for a family member.
In a somewhat ironic twist, the fact that both the minimum wage hike and paid family leave were included in the state budget is a testament to his controversially productive relationship with Senate Republicans. A more partisan executive would likely have had great difficulty getting Republicans to cooperate with his legislative agenda – in an election year, no less – but Cuomo compromised both measures just enough to satisfy Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and keep their tenuous alliance intact.
The specter of federal investigators looking into potential graft in Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion program, as well as his former aide Joe Percoco, certainly runs counter to the governor’s rhetoric that he is committed to ethics reform. But for now, the job of cleaning up Albany will have to be done by the runner-up on this list. Until one of these scandals directly engulfs Cuomo, he will remain the state’s most powerful politician.