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At fall meeting, Dems focus on portraying GOP opponents in a negative light

Karen Dewitt
Kathy Hochul, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, speaks at the fall meeting of the New York State Democratic Committee.

State Democrats say their prime strategy to motivate voters this fall will be to paint Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican opponent as an ultra-conservative who has a negative view about New York.  

Kathy Hochul, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, went on the attack against Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino, saying the GOP opponent and his running mate are too conservative and his portrayal of the state as economically troubled and dysfunctional is too pessimistic.

“You want to convince people that you are worse off, well, that’s just running a blind eye to the facts folks,” Hochul said. “You cannot deny that fact.”

Credit Karen Dewitt / WRVO
Hochul is running for lieutenant governor of New York, alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not attend the fall meeting of the New York State Democratic Committee, an unusual decision for a governor who is the head of the party and running for reelection.

Astorino has been complaining that it’s the Cuomo campaign that is too negative, with TV ads that portray the Republican candidate as corrupt, which Astorino says are lies.

Speaking in Syracuse, Astorino says the state is not doing so well, and criticized Cuomo’s plan to give tax-free breaks to some new businesses, known as Start-Up New York, inadequate.

“No matter what spin the Start-Up New York ads or Andrew Cuomo is trying to put on things, things are not good,” Astorino said.

Astorino has even tried to poke fun at the dark campaign ads, producing a humorous ad that said Cuomo wants to kill unicorns.

Hochul tuned the unicorn analogy against the Republican candidate.

“As much as you want to talk about unicorns,” Hochul said. “Well, if you want to, run for governor of Fairyland.”

The Democratic meeting also featured a presentation from consultant Peter Kauffman, who explained the strategy for convincing what he calls persuadable voters to cast their ballot for Cuomo and Hochul.

“What do we tell them about Rob Astorino’s record that confirms to them that Rob Astorino is not a Rockefeller republican?" Kauffman said. “He’s an ultra-conservative.”

Kauffman says voters should next be told that Cuomo has been successful, creating 500,000 new jobs and lowering middle-class taxes.

“Those kinds of things resonate with independent voters,” Kauffman said.  

Kauffman says Democrats have a sophisticated target marketing system that will send tailored digital ads to individual voters, based on the kinds of websites they frequent.  

The Astorino campaign, reacting to the Democrats’ strategy, stayed with the fantasy theme, saying Cuomo’s plan to falsely portray their candidate negatively and the state positively is the equivalent of Oz behind the curtain.

The tiff between the candidates over the financial health of New York state comes on the same day that a Siena College poll, conducted for the Albany Times-Union newspaper, found the majority of upstate New Yorkers are worried about money and are treading water financially.

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.