Heard Around Town, March 26, 2012

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* Gov. Andrew Cuomo was supposedly in Albany with no public schedule March 7, but that he made time to come to the Casa Lever restaurant on Park Avenue in Manhattan for a $15,000-a-head fundraiser. Maybe that's not unusual for a popular governor with at least $14 million in his war chest, but given the pension battles brewing at the time, it's notable that several labor figures were there including Hotel Trades Council President Peter Ward. Private-sector unions and the building trades are apparently still in the governor's corner, even as public-sector unions fume. Also notable: Casa Lever is on the ground floor of Lever House, owned by Michael Fuchs (a $45,000 Cuomo donor) and Aby Rosen (a $105,900 Cuomo donor with his wife), who Cuomo appointed last year to chair the Council of the Arts.

* Rep. Charles Rangel scored his first clubhouse endorsement of this cycle late Friday afternoon, when the Arturo Schomberg Democratic Club of Harlem backed the veteran congressman's re-election. "The Congressman has never lost that drive to not just be a great lawmaker, but to be a force of change and progress," said its president, Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez. Rangel's re-election was a matter of some consternation for lawmakers during redistricting this year, as his Harlem base lost black voters, and not everyone is convinced he is really running. The newly-drawn district now includes Hispanic areas of South Bronx, leading Sen. Adriano Espaillat to jump into the race along with Vince Morgan, Clyde Williams and Joyce Johnson. Still, speculation holds that Rangel will run, win and step aside, making way for the Manhattan Democratic chairman, Assemblyman Keith Wright.

* One of Brooklyn's most influential political clubs, the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association in Bedford-Stuyvesant, will announce today it is backing Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' congressional challenge after three decades of support for incumbent Rep. Ed Towns. "Jeffries has a strong legislative record in Albany on stop-and-frisk, affordable housing, tax reform to help working families, job and small business development, and many of the other critical issues affecting Bedford-Stuyvesant and all of central Brooklyn," said Councilman Al Vann, a VIDA founder and executive member. Bed-Stuy is seen as a key swing area in the race, which also includes Councilman Charles Barron, and Vann's club remains quite politically influential in the neighborhood. "It is an honor to receive the endorsement of a central Brooklyn political institution with a long and storied history of advocating for community and economic empowerment through participation in the electoral process," said Jeffries. Neither Barron nor Towns showed up at a public candidates' day session to seek the club's endorsement, which couldn't have helped their odds.

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