Democrats look to LG pick for convention excitement

Andrew Cuomo. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will formally nominate Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for re-election at the Democratic State Committee's annual convention this week, a campaign aide said.

DiNapoli and Diaz Jr. were colleagues in the State Assembly before DiNapoli's appointment to succeed Alan Hevesi. Diaz's father, the trouble-making state senator, attended the G.O.P. convention last week in Westchester County.

The convention at the Long Island Hilton will mostly be a scripted affair, full of a cheering review of Governor Andrew Cuomo's record and the pro-forma selection of candidates. (Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who took office this year, will nominate Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.)

The biggest point of drama is who Governor Andrew Cuomo will name as his running mate.

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“We're all kind of anticipating the lieutenant governor thing with bated breath,” said Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner. “Obviously it would be great if it was someone from our community.”

Two potential picks from Western New York were in the running—Buffalo mayor Byron Brown and ex-congresswoman Kathy Hochul—but people advising Cuomo on his pick suggested neither would get the nod.

In recent days, Cuomo's top aides have vetted Secretary of State Cesar Perales, who would be the first Latino to hold the post and would bring racial balance to a ticket that, absent the retirement of current Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, is composed of white men.

Candidates have fallen in and out of favor in the quiet speculating game, and some recent risers in the chattering class include Environmental Facilities Corp. president Matt Driscoll (the former mayor of Syracuse), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Bill Thompson, the former New York City comptroller.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate, nominated Chemung County sheriff Chris Moss to the ticket, marking the first time an African-American has won a spot on the G.O.P. statewide ticket.

Some Republicans said this would pressure Cuomo, but he and his allies have responded that competence and a solid working relationship are the most important factors at play.

“Andrew Cuomo, he is our governor, we trust his choices, we trust who he picks to be lieutenant governor,” Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Harlem Democrat who chairs the state party, told "Capital Tonight". “Some of the thinking that’s going into the picking of the next lieutenant governor is will that person be able to govern just in case.”

Cuomo and his aides have been similarly tight-lipped. In 2010, Duffy's appointment was not leaked to any papers and announced early on the convention's first day. The strategy allowed Cuomo to dominate two days of news coverage from the convention, which is otherwise a fairly scripted affair.

Otherwise, expect events at the Hilton to center around an upbeat recap of the administration's achievements built around Bill Clinton's variation on Ronald Reagan: New York is better—not just better off—than it was four years ago. Unemployment is down, the state budget is in better shape, and same-sex marriage is law.

“There's a complete difference between what Astorino and the G.O.P. had to do and what the Democrats need to do,” said one Democratic operative. “Astorino needs to run against facts, statistics and math: it's an empirical fact that state government is working better than it was four years ago. The state is doing better than it was four years ago.”

It will be up to Cuomo, then, to make more of the same as exciting as possible.