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Senate GOP Use Cuomo's Image to Bolster Campaigns

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Courtesy of Gov. Cuomo's Office)

Governor Andrew Cuomo is not running for office this year but his face and name are still appearing in election mailers in many New York homes. State lawmakers from both parties running for re-election are using the popular governor’s image in their campaign literature. 

George Amedore, an assemblyman who is seeking to fill the newly created 63rd Senate seat in the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys, has sent a full color flyer to homes in the district, prominently featuring Amedore clasping hands with a smiling Governor Cuomo. 

Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo area state senator running for re-election, features Cuomo in a television commercial, using an excerpt from a speech the governor made congratulating Grisanti for working on a new plan for SUNY Buffalo. 

“The senator has worked on this project, with his colleagues from day one, and they’ve been tireless,” Cuomo said in the ad.

You’d expect Democratic candidates running for the State  Legislature to use the popular Democratic governor’s image to help their campaigns, but Amedore and Grisanti are Republicans. They are among several GOP legislators who are using Democrat Cuomo, to bolster their own election chances.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous, a Republican from Binghamton, is running the Senate GOP’s election efforts. Libous has sent out a mailer showing the Senator smiling and clutching Cuomo’s arm, which says Libous “works closely with the governor.”

Senator Libous says those words are true, adding that the GOP worked cooperatively with Cuomo to allow the gay marriage vote, cut the budget and impose a property tax cap.  And he says the association helps both.

“I think it’s good for the governor, it’s good for us,” Libous said. “People like the fact that the Republicans are working with the Democratic governor.”

Libous admits the tactic could help the GOP, which holds the Senate by three seats,  keep the majority in November.

Steve Greenberg, with Siena College polling, says it’s a smart move for the GOP candidates.

“Republican lawmakers can read polls as well as Democratic lawmaker, and what they see is that the governor is extraordinarily popular,” said Greenberg, pointing to recent polls that show the governor’s approval rating at 70 percent.

“They want to try to bask in that glow a little bit,” said Greenberg.

Greenberg agrees that the bipartisan images boost both the candidates and Cuomo. He says they portray an Albany that is less dysfunctional than it used to be.

Governor Cuomo, however has not actually endorsed  Libous or any of the Republican  candidates who are using his image in mailers and on television. The governor did late Thursday signal that he'll endorse Republican Senator Stephen Saland of the Hudson Valley, who provided one of several swing votes for Cuomo's gay marriage bill in 2011. He’s also backed two Senate candidates so far, and they have been Democrats. Joseph Addabbo of Queens, is locked in a tight re-election race. Addabbo provided one of several votes needed to pass the gay marriage law, which Cuomo championed last year. The other is Democrat David Carlucci, a Senator aligned with the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of four Democratic Senators who are separate from both parties in the Senate, but often side with the Republican majority.  

The governor offered to endorse a Republican Senator, Roy McDonald, who lost a GOP primary after voting for same sex marriage, but McDonald decided to drop out of the race.

Cuomo, who prides himself on his ability to work with both parties during his first two years in office, has not  objected  to the use of his image by Republicans.

“If it’s factually accurate, I don’t have an issue with it,” said Cuomo a few weeks ago.

Cuomo, who’s had a friendly relationship with the Senate Republicans, more recently has offered a veiled warning to Democrats running for office who disagree with some of his compacts with incumbent legislators. 

Cuomo did not mention anyone by name, but Senator  Grisanti’s Democratic opponent, Michael Amodeo has said  he’s against the property tax cap, as well as a new pension tier enacted by Cuomo and the legislature.

“Theoretically, we are both democrats, but you oppose everything that I’m trying to get done,” said Cuomo. “So what is the point — that we happen to share this label.”

Republican Grisanti is also one of several Democratic and GOP Senators who provided a yes vote to help same sex marriage pass.

Cuomo when asked whether he wanted the Republicans to retain control of the Senate, or have the Democrats take over in November, offered a neutral response.

“I want the Senate that the people of the state elect,” said Cuomo.

The governor’s image on the flyers and in TV ads may help voters decide that they want to elect a Republican. 

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