Bill Samuels finally falls in behind Cuomo

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Samuels. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—Bill Samuels, a Democratic fund-raiser and frequent critic of Andrew Cuomo, is backing the governor for re-election, sort of.

“I'm willing to give him a chance," Samuels told Capital. "He did what a bunch of us asked him to do."

Samuels had previously castigated the governor for not backing a Democratic state Senate, calling it "bizarre" that Cuomo would risk alienating progressives by tacitly supporting a Republican-led coalition.

In explaining his support, Samuels mentioned the negotiations between Cuomo and the Working Families Party, which backed the governor after he promised (on video) to campaign for Democrats to re-take the State Senate, and then helped broker a deal to make a deal between the wayward Independent Democratic Conference and their mainstream Democratic colleagues. Cuomo also recommitted to push for several progressive priorities that eluded him during his first term.

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The W.F.P.'s endorsement prompted Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor who also vied for its line, to challenge Cuomo in a Democratic primary. Earlier this year, Samuels had flirted with a run for lieutenant governor and was looking for a Democratic primary challenger for Cuomo.

Samuels, who has the means to self-finance, said top Cuomo confidantes Larry Schwartz and Michael Del Giudice visited him at his office to ask him not to run for lieutenant governor, as did Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo who Cuomo ended up tapping as his running mate.

Teachout's campaign filing shows $2,750 of in-kind contributions for temporary office space and a voter database from EffectiveNY, Samuels' nonprofit, but the man himself said he wouldn't be giving any money.

“I just can't conceive there's enough momentum to Teachout,” he said. “Assuming he wins a second term, which I assume, Cuomo has been given an opportunity to re-win his reputation. He will win despite himself. The question is, since he made the major change to come back to the party under pressure and under fear, will he use the second term to look at himself and say, 'I've got to do some things differently.'”