Cuomo’s unusual endorsement of Joe Addabbo

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In retrospect, there was almost no way for Governor Andrew Cuomo not to endorse incumbent state senator Joseph Addabbo.

Yes, they're both Italian Democrats with roots in Eastern Queens.

But there's also gay marriage.

Despite Addabbo's dim view of Cuomo's push for a less-generous pension package for future state workers, he did drop his opposition to same-sex marriage last year and help the freshman governor score his biggest legislative accomplishment to date.

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Unlike Cuomo, Addabbo—a conservative Democrat from Eastern Queens who is facing a stiff challenge from City Councilman Eric Ulrich—didn't frame the issue in the context or human rights, morality or the long arc of history bending toward justice. It simply became more popular in his district, he said. (After voting against same-sex marriage in 2009, Addabbo inexplicably told reporters the issue transcended the idea of equal rights.) But, like the Republican State Senate candidates who earned Cuomo's support by eventually voting for the bill, he came through. 

Still, the endorsement is an unusual one in several ways.

Candidates for legislative office who are endorsed by Cuomo tend to win, an indication both of Cuomo's popularity and his reluctance to involve himself when there's a good chance he'll end up on the losing side. The Addabbo race is a tight one, though: a Siena poll came out today showing him neck-and-neck with his Republican opponent, 45-43 percent, with 12 percent undecided. Addabbo trails Ulrich among independent voters 57-27 percent, according to the poll.

In dollar terms, too, Addabbo is trailing Ulrich (who is already running television ads), by about $140,000.

It's also an unusual endorsement for Cuomo because it puts him at odds with the Republicans in the State Senate, with whom he has an informal alliance and whose hold on the he all but guaranttes by signing into law a heavily gerrymandered redistricting plan that he previously promised to veto.

In fact, odds are the Republicans will keep their working majority (perhaps with help from a four-member breakaway Democratic caucus) even if Addabbo wins, meaning that Cuomo may simply be taking a cost-free opportunity, as Nick Reisman suggests, to reaffirm his Democratic bona fides.