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The 2026 election is already taking shape

4 weeks ago 42

With help from Shawn Ness

New from New York

Happening now:

  • State Sen. Zellnor Myrie is running for mayor. He also might have his own Senate opponent.
  • Mayor Eric Adams will be featured on The Daily Show tonight. Details below.
  • The Brooklyn Maritime Terminal is getting an overhaul, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams announced.
  • Attorney General Tish James has officially appealed a state court decision to toss the Equal Rights Amendment.
State Sen. Zellnor Myrie might have a challenger in 2026 if he doesn’t win the mayor’s race.

NEVER TOO EARLY: State Sen. Zellnor Myrie’s challenge to Mayor Eric Adams might have just earned him his own challenger next cycle.

Assemblymember Brian Cunningham has got his eye on 2026 and filed a campaign committee Monday for Myrie’s District 20 seat in Central Brooklyn, first reported by Playbook.

So does Cunningham think Myrie will beat the mayor, and he’s preparing to run for the open seat? Or does Cunningham think Myrie will lose and is threatening to challenge him for daring to take on Adams?

After all, Cunningham is one of Adams’ top allies in Albany and is so close with the mayor’s top political adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin that he calls her “Mom,” a person familiar with the relationship told Playbook.

Myrie and Cunningham’s districts overlap, but they’ve never been close. When Cunningham won his seat in a 2022 special election, Adams endorsed him, while Myrie and his camp backed Jelanie DeShong, who was working for Hochul.

Cunningham downplayed the drama.

It’s “certainly not an endorsement” of Myrie winning, or of Adams, for that matter, he said in an interview with Playbook. “This is just a matter of exploring and seeing how I can best serve the 43rd Assembly District.”

Would he take on Myrie in 2026? “I would never run simply for retribution,” Cunningham said, and he is not challenging anyone “at this time.” Both he and Myrie are running uncontested for their legislative seats this year.

Myrie’s campaign declined to comment on the move.

But insiders were split over how to read Cunningham’s move. “If he’s doing that, I assume it’s to support Adams,” a Brooklyn Democratic consultant told Playbook.

But a progressive Democratic consultant thinks Cunningham’s filing means he thinks Myrie could be mayor.

“It sends a signal that folks think this Senate seat is going to be open in 2026, and there is good reason for that,” they said. “For those who think this is an attempt to mess with Zellnor, it's worth pointing out that filing a challenge after the petitioning deadline doesn't strike much fear into anyone's heart.”

Adams tried to brush off Myrie’s challenge, in his first public comments since he filed to fundraise on Wednesday. And despite one of his close political allies in Albany making moves against Myrie, Adams said he is not thinking about the election at all.

“The election is a year and [several] months away,” Adams said during a Tuesday press conference. “I’m just focused on governing.” — Jeff Coltin

Grassroots advocacy groups want a reallocation of funding away from highway developments and into projects that would improve transit, cycling and walking accessibility.

HIGHWAY EXPANSIONS: Advocacy groups convened in Albany earlier today to call on Hochul and state lawmakers to give more attention to investments that would improve transit, cycling and walking accessibility projects.

"New Yorkers all across the state deserve the freedom to get around, regardless of how old we are, how much money we have, and whether or not we're living with a disability," Riders Alliance senior organizer Danna Dennis said in a statement.

Many of the speakers want to see a reallocation of funding from downstate highway investments, like the $1 billion planned expansion of Route 17 in the Hudson Valley, and reinvest to projects that would increase accessibility. — Shawn Ness

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Prominent labor unions in New York are throwing their support to a measure meant to shorten prison sentences in exchange for vocational training.

The measure is among a handful of criminal justice law changes that have been sought in recent years in Albany.

And it is a proposal the labor groups, including influential organizations like 1199 SEIU, the United Federation of Teachers and the New York State Nurses Association argue could help alleviate a labor shortage in New York.

“This labor shortage has been exacerbated by the exclusion of people who are locked out of the workforce because of extremely long prison sentences and limited opportunities to earn release through educational and workforce development programs in prison,” the groups wrote in a letter to top state officials released today and obtained by Playbook.

The measure, backed by state Sen. Jeremy Cooney and Assemblymember Anna Kelles, would allow people in prison to earn time off if they participate in vocational, educational and rehabilitative programs.

Criminal justice reforms have come under scrutiny, however, amid criticism from Republicans — potentially making moderate Democrats less inclined to take up the proposals, especially in an election year.

But labor support could help push some of these sentencing law changes over the finish line.

“It is imperative that our elected leaders prioritize these reforms during this legislative session to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their past mistakes, have a chance to successfully reintegrate into society,” Tori Newman-Campbell, the legislative coordinator for 1199 SEIU said. Nick Reisman

UPK FUNDING: School districts across the state are gaining access to $34 million in universal pre-kindergarten funding that will go towards 64 school districts across the state, the state Education Department announced today.

This comes after significant changes to pre-kindergarten funding were made in the 2025 enacted budget that streamlined the funding process for schools looking to create or expand their programs. The budget consolidated its funding into one funding source with $10,000 per-per-pupil for programs run by a certified teacher and $7,000 for per-pupil for programs run by a teacher without the early childhood certification.

“When we provide equitable opportunities for children in their early years, they reap the benefits throughout their lives,” Commissioner Betty Rosa said in a statement. — Katelyn Cordero 

JAMES FILES ERA APPEAL: Attorney General Tish James’ office filed an appeal today to a Livingston County court’s decision to block the state Equal Rights Amendment from appearing on November’s ballot.

The appeal has been expected. The filing confirmed that James will bring the case to a mid-level court based in Rochester, rather than attempting a rarely-successful maneuver to take arguments directly to the Court of Appeals.

“This appeal is a crucial step toward ensuring that the voters — not a single, anti-abortion litigant or backward politicians — get to decide the future of our rights and reproductive freedoms,” New Yorkers for Equal Rights campaign director Sasha Ahuja said in a statement. “We are confident the amendment will be on the ballot.” — Bill Mahoney

Mayor Eric Adams, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Port Authority, and New York City Economic Development Corporation announced a plan to transform the Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

BROOKLYN IN THE HOUSE: Hochul, Adams and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have come to a deal — in principle — that would transform the Brooklyn Maritime Terminal into a more modern ship port.

The project would entail building a 122-acre waterfront project to generate more jobs for the region and stimulate the economy. The Democratic governor and mayor were together this morning to discuss the deal.

“Today’s announcement marks the next great chapter for Brooklyn’s storied waterfront and is a win for the people of New York City,” Hochul said in a statement. “Our partners at the Port Authority will ensure that the marine terminal at Howland Hook remains a thriving shipping hub…”

A task force will be created to assist in the engagement process. It will be chaired by Brooklyn lawmakers Rep. Dan Goldman, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes and City Council Member Alexa Aviles.

The engagement process will take input from local elected officials, unions, waterfront companies, businesses and the local community to come up with a shared vision for what the waterfront should look like. — Shawn Ness

DAILY SHOW PLAYS THE HITS: Is Adams merely the mayor, or the “Philosopher King of New York?”

Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” has taken the mayor’s most hilarious moments — both purposefully funny and otherwise — and turned it to a seven minute “Daily Showography of Eric Adams.” 

The video is airing tonight, but was shared first with Playbook.

Adams is introduced as “an enlightened thinker” who “saw his city as a playground of transcendental possibilities.”

Then the video runs through some of Adams’ greatest hits, familiar to New Yorkers.

There’s his “plane crashing into our Trade Center” quote, and declaring himself “Gandhi-like,” plus hits from the archives like his state senate “Stop the Sag” campaign against young men showing their underwear.

The Daily Show takes a progressive bent, hitting him for budget cuts to schools while spending more on cops. But it’s largely a meditation on the bizarre.

“Not since Biggie, had New York seen a philosopher with such flow," the narrator says. “And not since 50 Cent had New York seen a leader who spent so much time in da club.” — Jeff Coltin

OPERATION PADLOCK TO PROTECT: After one week of “Operation Padlock to Protect” — an enforcement effort to close illegal weed shops — the city shuttered 75 locations and issued nearly $6 million in penalties, City Hall said today.

The effort was undertaken during four days earlier this month. Locks were administered by the city’s Sheriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force and the NYPD.

“Week one of ‘Operation Padlock to Protect,’ reaffirms what we’ve long said: With the backing of legal authority behind us, our administration will act swiftly to combat illegal cannabis and smoke shop operators,” Adams said in a statement.

Adams had long been asking Albany for help to close down the illegal shops, and he got more power to do so in the state budget.

The task force conducted 150 inspections of businesses that were allegedly selling illegal cannabis products or untaxed cigarettes. Out of those inspections, 77 businesses were issued cease and desist orders (in addition to the 75 stores being locked).

“For too long, illegal operators have posed a threat to our children, our public safety, and our quality of life, and they have undermined those justice-involved, legal businesses that are trying to succeed. With this coordinated and sustained multi-agency enforcement, we will help usher in a thriving, safe, and just legal cannabis market that our city deserves,” Adams added. — Shawn Ness

Assemblymember Ron Kim's reelection campaign has been endorsed by two key labor unions.

ENDORSEMENT WATCH: Democratic Assemblymember Ron Kim’s reelection bid won the nods of two prominent labor unions today as he faces a primary challenge from Andy Chen for the Queens seat.

Kim was endorsed by District Council 37 and the New York State United Teachers.

Chen’s bid, meanwhile, was endorsed by the Chinese American Trucker Association, he announced via X. Nick Reisman

CELEBRATING HISTORY: Hochul announced today the inception of the 250th Commemoration Commission to recognize the American Revolution and signing of the Declaration of Independence.

“New York State played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, and we look forward to welcoming people from all over the world to join us in commemorating the 250th anniversary in 2026,” Hochul said in a statement.

The commission will be co-chaired by Randy Simons, the commissioner pro tempore of the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, as well as Dr. Betty Rosa, the education commissioner.

The commission’s goal in its first year is to support the state’s heritage organizations in developing exhibits, coordinate state learning standards and promote heritage tourism.

The commemoration will take place in 2026. — Shawn Ness

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LEGISLATION: The Senate is gearing up to pass legislation that would further protections for domestic violence victims in New York. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced a package of legislation set to pass the Senate on Tuesday.

The package includes legislation that would eliminate voluntary intoxication of a victim from use as a permissible defense in sex crimes. Other bills include a requirement that extreme risk protection orders be added to a statewide registry; a bill that would clarify the definition of “welfare” to increase awards made to crime victims; and another bill that would help to inform victims of their rights upon conviction.

“Those who have survived domestic and sexual violence should have access to all available resources and protection during their journey toward recovery,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, existing regulations and practices often create unnecessary obstacles, bureaucratic processes, and discourage individuals from seeking essential services. Through this legislative package, we aim to clarify procedures and genuinely prioritize the rights of victims.” — Katelyn Cordero 

A SURPRISINGLY QUIET COLUMBIA GRADUATION: Columbia College students graduated in a relatively calm atmosphere this morning despite recent pro-Palestinian protests on campus.

To be sure, there were brief moments in which students expressed solidarity with Palestinians at the ceremony, the institution’s largest for graduating seniors. But overall, the event went down without significant demonstrations. Columbia President Minouche Shafik decided to skip the ceremony.

Kathy Fang, the college’s valedictorian, arrived onstage with a keffiyeh and held up her hand to show off a “Free Palestine” sticker.

The salutatorian — Priya Chainani, president of Columbia College Student Council, which offered support to students — lauded student-run publications Columbia Daily Spectator, a newspaper, and WKCR, a radio station, as “the best, most reliable sources for on the ground reporting.”

"In the past weeks, students continue to uphold the true values of Columbia even when many of the adults in the room or not in this room did not,” Chainani said to loud and continuous cheers.

Longtime CNN anchor Poppy Harlow’s speech was largely well-received by students.

“Now like some of you I am considering my options. I am unemployed, find me on LinkedIn,” Harlow said, to laughter and cheers, referring to her recent exit from CNN. The crowd was also supportive when she fought back tears as she honored her late father, a 1969 Columbia graduate.

She praised student journalists on campus, adding that over 300 journalists are currently in jail, including The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. "You have blown me away, you have worked day and night in such difficult circumstances to document history," Harlow said.

Columbia College Dean Josef Sorett also called for acknowledging everyone’s pain, noting the deaths of Palestinian and Israeli people due to the Israel-Hamas war as well as conflicts in Armenia and Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Yemen, Haiti, Sudan and the Congo. — Madina Touré and Irie Sentner

— Central New York’s Regional Market Authority is in a poor financial situation, an audit from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found. (State of Politics)

— Adams wants to restructure the police academy to consolidate training programs for various agencies. (Daily News)

— More chemical barrels were found underneath a park on Long Island. (Newsday)

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