Dem fund-raiser ‘leaning toward’ anti-Cuomo L.G. run

Bill Samuels (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—Democratic activist and fund-raiser Bill Samuels says he'll decide by next week on a possible run for lieutenant governor, challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo's designee Kathy Hochul and, if successful, preventing Cuomo from combining his vote totals across party lines.

Samuels revealed his discontent with Hochul—the former congresswoman from a Buffalo-area district who in previous elections touted her N.R.A. membership and strong stances against undocumented immigrants—in Fred Dicker's Monday New York Post column.

In the days since she was revealed to be the replacement for outgoing L.G. Bob Duffy as Cuomo's running mate, she has already begun to evolve.

But Samuels says he is “leaning toward” a run to try and drag Cuomo to the left.

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Samuels has accused Cuomo of governing too far to the right to be considered a progressive, and during a Tuesday morning radio interview with Dicker, Samuels said Cuomo needs to “come home” to his version of the Democratic Party.

“Andrew Cuomo's got to change gears or he's going to be known as a mediocre governor with a Nixon personality,” said Samuels, the heir to a plastics fortune and a former finance chairman for State Senate Democrats.

“Emotionally, there's no doubt I want to run," Samuels continued. "But there are a lot of considerations. Andrew Cuomo has raised millions of dollars. I'm not willing to take corporate donations. I'm not willing to take money from David Koch. No matter how much of my own money I spend, it will be pittance to whatever Cuomo will spend. So one has to make a determination as to whether you can win and really move him back to the Democratic Party. I'm leaning [toward] running.”

Samuels said his decision would be influenced by the Working Families Party, which will decide at its Saturday night convention whether to nominate Cuomo. There is lingering discontent among the party's rank and file with the governor's fiscal record, but many of its allies at major unions are pushing to give the governor—who polls show with a strong chance of winning—the W.F.P. line.

Samuels doesn't have a clear path to actually winning, but in theory, his presence poses a threat to Cuomo.

If he beat Hochul, his presence on the ticket would not only embarrass Cuomo but would complicate Cuomo's attempt to create a fusion ticket, because while candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in party primaries, they are a single team in general elections. So Cuomo would be unable to combine votes received on the Democratic line with a Cuomo-Samuels joint ticket and on the Independence Party line with a Cuomo-Hochul ticket.

Cuomo aides did not immediately comment.

Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer, a Yonkers Democrat and onetime counsel to State Senate Democrats, issued a statement on Monday night blasting Samuels' plans, emphasizing that Hochul is the only woman running on either major party ticket.

"I am extremely disappointed that Bill Samuels would consider running,” Mayer said. “New York's women - and in fact all New Yorkers - will be best served by her experience, her honesty and her ability to get things done in state government. Samuels should reconsider what he's said and do what's best for the people of New York State.”