I’m not referring here to former two-term Ulster legislator Brian Cahill, legislative majority leader in 2008-09, but to his brother, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, recently mentioned as a possibility for majority leader of the state Assembly next year.
Capital Confidential, an Albany-based blog, was reporting last week that Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari would be stepping down at the end of the year, driving speculation on the chain of succession. By tradition, the majority leader, second in command to the speaker in the city-dominated Democratic caucus, is from upstate.
Named as front-runners were Buffalonians Robin Schimminger and Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Joe Morelle of Rochester and Cahill.
Cahill, reached during a break in training for last week’s Kingston Classic road race, was noncommittal.
“This is not something you campaign for,” he said. “The majority leader is a key member of the speaker’s leadership team. We elect the speaker. By tradition, it’s the speaker’s choice.”
And if the speaker were to offer the post, would Cahill accept?
“We’ve been having really nice weather this spring, don’t you think?” he replied airily.
Cahill, as chairman of the Assembly Energy Committee, draws a $15,000 lulu in addition to his base salary of $79,500. Majority leader pays $34,500 and with it the ear of the speaker. Cahill as majority leader would be in hog heaven and just in time to fill in part the gap left by the departure of Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who leaves office on Dec. 31.
As a sidebar, there are bragging rights at stake between the competitive Cahill brothers. The younger Cahill was minority leader of the Ulster legislature before succeeding Hinchey in the Assembly in 1992. The only majority leader in the family never lets him forget that.
Cat and mice
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein issued an executive order last week banning the use of fracking brine — a residue of drilling for natural gas, cheaper than salt — on county roads. No news there. Hein has been skeptical of the fracking process which has, to put it mildly, come in for criticism by environmentalists. But the timing had the appearance of claim-jumping. Last month the legislature scheduled a public hearing (for April 17) on a proposed countywide fracking ban. That it took Hein and his braintrust several weeks to upstage the legislature suggests headquarters might be losing its edge.
Pass that legislation, the executive advised — this after pre-empting the legislature — and he would quickly sign it.
The gesture is mostly for show, in any event. As Hein himself pointed out in a recent speech in Saugerties, most of Ulster County is either in the New York City watershed or in the Catskill Park where the only drilling allowed is by dentists.
Look for this cat-and-mouse game to continue on multiple fronts as the legislature attempts to rebalance power with the executive. Right now, most of the balls are in the latter’s court. The fracking sideshow indicates that Hein has every intention of holding serve.
Some have found Maurice Hinchey too “liberal.” He’s a big-government guy for sure, a founding member of the Progressive Caucus in Congress and a longtime admirer of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
But a “communist?”
You bet, responded a spokesperson for Florida Republican Congressman Allen West.
Channeling the late Joe McCarthy, West told the Associated Press he believed the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus were “card-carrying Marxists.”
A West spokesman said Progressives “certainly aren’t proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom.” Really? That’s not the Maurice Hinchey I know.
Co-chairs of the caucus rejected West’s claims as, well, just plain nuts.
Slideshow image: Kevin Cahill, seen here with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens at an appearance in Kingston last summer. (Photo by Dan Barton)