10:30 am Sep. 12, 2012
So far, Governor Andrew Cuomo has endorsed four incumbent Democratic legislators for re-election, but has not appeared with them on the campaign trail or appeared in ads for them.
Today, one day before the primary, Cuomo is in Albany and has not scheduled an appearance with any of his endorsed candidates. Three of those candidates are Democratic state senators who are expected to win re-election, despite spirited opposition and Republican-drawn district lines.
Cuomo has had a rocky relationship with the Senate Democratic caucus, which got considerably worse after redistricting. (Cuomo backed off a promise to veto lines drawn by the lawmakers themselves and allowed the majority party in each house to determine the shape of their districts, in exchange for permanent changes to the process to take effect during the next redistricting, in ten years.)
The fourth candidate Cuomo endorsed is an assemblyman who won his seat in Buffalo in a special election last year after the longtime incumbent took a job in the Cuomo administration. That incumbent, Sean Ryan, got a visit from Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, who relayed Cuomo's support in person.
Ryan's election, in which the upstate economy and scandals in Albany have been issues, is less certain.
Cuomo has not gotten involved in the primaries of the three Republican state senators who provided crucial support for his push to legalize same-sex marriage, arguably the most high-profile accomplishment of his two-year-old governorship. Mark Grisanti in Buffalo, Roy McDonald in Albany and Stephen Saland in Poughkeepsie are facing challengers from the right who oppose the legislation. In a Republican primary, an endorsement from Cuomo might do more harm than good: An aide working with one of these Republicans said a Cuomo endorsement before the primary would be the "kiss of death."
It will be interesting to watch what Cuomo does after the primary.
The Democratic candidates Cuomo endorsed are Adriano Espaillat in Manhattan, Neil Breslin near Albany, and Toby Stavisky in Queens. If they win, Cuomo will be able to claim partial credit for another round of victories. If any of them lose, he's kept a sufficiently low level of engagement to be able to claim to not have been a factor in the race at all.
Espaillat's challenger is Assemblyman Guillermo Linares. This race is in many ways a continuation of Espaillat's challenge against Rep. Charlie Rangel in the newly redrawn version of the congressional district Rangel has represented for decades. Linares backed Rangel over fellow Dominican Espaillat, which, Espaillat's campaign says in a mailer, was a betrayal of the Latino community.
Before that mailer was brought to reporters attention by Rangel, Cuomo said in a press release, "Adriano has been an important partner in making New York State’s government work for the people again."
State Senator Neil Breslin is facing a challenge from the left, from Albany County legislator and former firefighter Shawn Morse. According to Morse, Breslin works at a law firm that engages in "union-busting" and is "pro-hydrofracking."
Some of those criticisms Morse makes of Breslin could, potentially, be made of Cuomo. The governor has pushed for a new, less-generous pension tier for future public employees, and although he hasn't fully endorsed hydrofracking in the state, he has been the target of protests from critics of the maneuver who view his wait-and-see approach as delaying an inevitable embrace of the policy in selected portions of the state.
Cuomo endorsed Breslin in a press release, saying, "He is a progressive legislator who has provided effective and steady leadership in turbulent times."
In Queens, State Senator Toby Stavisky is facing John Messer, who is pumping a lot of his own money into the race and actually outspending Stavisky in direct mail and print ads. Her campaign has accused Messer of evicting homeowners during the mortgage crisis and employing campaign workers with criminal backgrounds. In an email to a local blogger, Messer argued the attacks on his staff means Stavisky is nervous about her re-election prospects.
Cuomo endorsed Stavisky in a press release, referring to her as his "good friend" and someone who pushed for "raising the minimum wage" and "passing historic ethics reforms."
Cuomo also endorsed an freshman assemblyman in Buffalo, Sean Ryan, who won the seat in a special election last year after the longtime Democratic incumbent, Sam Hoyt, took a job in Cuomo's administration.
Ryan, running for his first full term in a regularly scheduled election, is facing two Democratic primary challengers: Kevin Gaughan, who calls for downsizing government, and Joe Mascia, a former cement worker who stresses his lack of ties to Albany and political leaders. Gaughan has also called for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign for authorizing a non-public, six-figure payment to settle sexual-harassment allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn.
Cuomo's endorsement was relayed by Lt. Governor Bob Duffy, who told Ryan's supporters "The one thing we need in Albany is people with local government focus who are in touch with people every day."
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