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Mayoral race swirling, Gov. Cuomo cuts back on downstate days

A year after lavishing attention on the city, New York's governor spent majority of summer upstate

Asked last December whether or not he’d endorse a candidate in New York City’s mayoral race, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was unequivocal.

“I’m not expecting to, no,” he said. “I’m going to try to stay out of the politics of New York City if I can avoid it.”

His avoidance strategy is working. Last June, July and August, he spent nearly three out of four days in the “New York City area” according to daily agendas released by the governor’s office, which uses the label to encompass Long Island and the governor’s home in Westchester County as well as the five boroughs.

This year, however, Cuomo has not appeared at a single public event in New York City since July 3, and has spent less than half of the summer months so far — 42 out of 86 days — in or near New York City.

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A Cuomo spokesman declined to comment on whether the governor is deliberately steering clear of the city’s politics this summer. But political consultants said they believe Cuomo, de facto head of the state’s Democratic party, is trying to stay away from the mayoral contest, going so far as to remain neutral even behind the scenes.

“He’s trying as hard as he can not to get involved or even hint that he’s trying to get involved,” said Brooklyn Strategies consultant Evan Thies, who is not working with any of the mayoral candidates.

The governor is also taking pains to dissociate himself from a spate of political corruption indictments that ensnared Albany politicians earlier in the year, and has reason to stay as far away from the scandal-scarred Anthony Weiner campaign as possible. The governor repeatedly expressed dismay at Weiner’s entry into the race, which he called “great political theater” in an interview last month.

Cuomo also has ties to many of the candidates in the race, and endorsing anyone publicly or privately would be politically tricky, said Tom Doherty, a political consultant with Mercury Public Affairs who is not affiliated with any mayoral campaign.

“A primary of this magnitude, particularly a close primary, why would you put yourself out there and offend one of the candidates?” he said.

Cuomo’s upstate tour doesn’t just allow him to avoid New York City — it’s also a charm offensive, a deliberate strategy to boost that region’s flagging economy by promoting development initiatives like July’s whitewater rafting competition, a zero-tax plan for businesses relocating near college campuses and a plan to expand casino gambling.

Cuomo is trying to boost his support among upstate voters, after his poll numbers sank outside New York City in the wake of new gun-ownership restrictions imposed in January. By June this year, a Siena poll showed 48 percent of upstate voters held an unfavorable opinion of the governor, bringing Cuomo’s overall approval rating down to 58 percent, his lowest numbers since he took office in January 2011.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the helm of a signature summer event, the Adirondack Challenge, in July. AP Photo/Mike Groll

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the helm of a signature summer event, the Adirondack Challenge, in July. AP Photo/Mike Groll

Cuomo told reporters at a fishing event earlier this month the increase in his upstate appearances has nothing to do with his standing in the polls.

“I’m here when the poll numbers are going up, I’m here when the poll numbers are going down,” he said. ”Whatever they’re going to say, they’re going to say and especially in this case, the critics will say anything. We’ve been working on the upstate economy from day one.”

The trips are working to improve his favorability: an August 12 Siena poll showed the share of voters with a favorable opinion of the governor had risen to 55 percent upstate, nudging his overall favorable rating to 65 percent.

Cuomo is likely mindful of his father former Governor Mario Cuomo’s difficulty uniting downstate and upstate New Yorkers, particularly as he sought his fourth term as governor, said Alan Chartock, a journalist who covered the Mario Cuomo administration and is president of WAMC Public Radio. “His father probably lost [to successor George Pataki] because of upstate,” he said.

Andrew Cuomo wouldn’t make the same mistakes, Chartock said. “He’s spending an enormous amount of time upstate. He’s a very sharp analyst of what he has to do to do better.”

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3 Comments

  1. Maybe he is in hiding from all the bad press he should have when it comes to the public authorities his name is on.

    1. Why are there board members of the Battery Park Authority who don’t live in Battery Park, but are largest donors to Cuomo’s campaign fund?
    2. Joe Peseco his personal assistant, butler is a waste of tax payers dollars and should be fired. He should be fired with all the political appointees at Empire State Development.
    3. Tappan Zee Bridge design – laughable.

  2. Here’s the reality… Under Cuomo NY has experienced the demise of 39,453 NY state businesses last year, Cuomo has raided $1.75 billion from the reserves of the already over budget State Insurance Fund (SIF) and now raising Workers Compensation business costs a staggering 10%. Cuomo can not even hold on to his democratic majority which is in the middle of a sexual harassment and corruption scandal with “show-me-the-money culture” and “pay-to-play politics” throughout Albany. Cuomo has disenfranchised the Northern and Western part of New York with his ill conceived and hastily prepared SAFE Act. He has been unable to obtain funding for the flood stricken residents of upstate New York after being caught using 40 million in Sandy aid for a self promotion campaign. Cuomo is afraid to take a stand and make a decision, either way with respect to Marijuana or Fracking. No matter what your position is, Cuomo has left New Yorkers with no resolution to these issues or the ability to move forward. NY has experienced a 67% surge in Food Stamps users, and unbelievably, Cuomo is fighting to cease fingerprinting requirements which combat double dipping and identity fraud. Cuomo has broken all state records for “soft money” contributions which skirt campaign rules despite his campaigning to end this practice. Cuomo is now listed as one of the worst governors in America by the left-leaning good government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. New York has the highest taxes in the nation, is the most indebted state, with 33 percent of income dedicated to borrowing. It is ranked as the least “business-friendly” state in the country and if that were not bad enough NY has the distinction of being the least free state in the union and is called the “Nanny State” with politicians legislating what we eat and drink. Municipal governments from Nassau County to Yonkers to Syracuse are teetering. And during Mr. Cuomo’s time in office, unemployment has risen above the national average. 9% of the state’s 2000 population left for another state between 2000 and 2011 — the highest such figure in the nation, see the study by George Mason’s independent libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center.

  3. Here’s the reality… Under Cuomo NY has experienced the demise of 39,453 NY state businesses last year, Cuomo is raiding $1.75 billion from the reserves of the already over budget State Insurance Fund (SIF). Cuomo can not even hold on to his democratic majority which is in the middle of a corruption scandal with “show-me-the-money culture” and “pay-to-play politics” throughout Albany. Cuomo has disenfranchised the Northern and Western part of New York with his SAFE Act. Cuomo is afraid to take a stand and make a decision, either way with respect to Marijuana or fracking. No matter what your position is, Cuomo is leaving New Yorkers with no resolution to these issues or the ability to move forward. New York has the highest taxes in the nation, is the most indebted state, with 33 percent of income dedicated to borrowing. It is ranked as the least “business-friendly” state in the country and if that were not bad enough NY has the distinction of being the least free state in the union and is called the “Nanny State” with politicians legislating what we eat and drink. Municipal governments from Nassau County to Yonkers to Syracuse are teetering. And during Mr. Cuomo’s time in office, unemployment has risen above the national average. 9% of the state’s 2000 population left for another state between 2000 and 2011 — the highest such figure in the nation, see the study by George Mason’s independent libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center.