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Cuomo chooses Hochul as running mate, still faces potential trouble from the left

Kathy Hochul/Facebook

Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed his choice for lieutenant governor via a video address to delegates at the state Democratic Party convention on Long Island. The announcement of former western New York Rep. Kathy Hochul comes at the same time a new poll shows Cuomo continuing to face a threat from some in the left wing of his party.

Cuomo will not actually attend the convention until the day of his own nomination, but he did record a message announcing his choice of Hochul as his running mate.

Cuomo says Hochul is a person “who knows the needs of upstate New York” and “the particular needs of western New York.”

In a scripted delivery, Hochul talked up Buffalo and credited Cuomo.

“In my home town of Buffalo, we have seen an economic recovery that many politicians promised, but only Gov. Cuomo was able to deliver,” Hochul said.

Cuomo lost in the Buffalo region in 2010, so the choice of Hochul, who was also Erie County clerk, can help him there, as well as appeal to women statewide. Hochul, like Cuomo, is considered a moderate Democrat.

A Quinnipiac University poll finds the incumbent governor continues to face challenges pleasing the more progressive wing of his party. The poll shows while Cuomo is still nearly 30 points ahead of his Republican opponent Rob Astorino, a candidate running to the left of the incumbent governor would get 22 percent of the vote if the election were held today.

Democrats have come up with one solution to the sentiments expressed in the poll, and that is to paint their Republican opponents as right wing extremists linked to the tea party. A video shown to delegates was highly critical of GOP gubernatorial nominee Rob Astorino, and urged them to “reject the ultra-conservative take over of New York.”

A narrator, with ominous music in the background, accuses Astorino of calling a woman’s right to choose abortion ghastly, and says he told seniors who can’t afford dentures "to just eat soup.”

A spokesman for Astorino, Jessica Proud, clarifies that the GOP candidate said abortion in the ninth month was ghastly, which she says is a position held by most pro-choice New Yorkers. She says the soup comment was a joke.

Hank Scheinkopf, a political consultant who is now working for Cuomo, brushed off concerns of a threat from the left. He says Cuomo’s moderate record of social liberalism on issues like legalizing gay marriage, and fiscal conservatism, including imposing a property tax cap, will prove a winning formula.

“When you run from the center, you’re able to draw all kinds of people in,” Scheinkopf said. “When you run all the way to the right, which is what the nominee of the other party has decided to do, you tend to alienate people and that’s the difference.”

Credit Karen Dewitt / WRVO
David Paterson speaks with reporters during the Democratic Party convention Wednesday.

Ironically, the man Cuomo replaced as the party’s candidate for governor four years ago in 2010, former Gov. David Paterson, may help Cuomo energize the left as well as the rest of his party. Paterson was named the new chairman of the Democratic Party and spoke to the delegates.

“So you thought you were rid of me,” Paterson said, to laughter. The former governor received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Paterson replaces Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who feuded with Cuomo and resigned, and her co-chairman Assemblyman Keith Wright. Paterson, like Wright, lives in Harlem.

The former governor echoed a claim frequently made by Cuomo; that Westchester County, where GOP opponent Astorino is county executive, has the highest taxes in the nation.

“This is like getting Bernie Madoff to run the SEC,” Paterson said.

Paterson, who famously got along with the then-Republican leader of the Senate, Joe Bruno, says he “could like Republicans if they were really Republicans.”

When Cuomo is nominated on Thursday, he will get an additional boost from another politician popular with the progressive elements of his party. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is scheduled to deliver the nominating speech.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.