The politics of disruption, New York-style

The politics of disruption, New York-style

Buffalo News, June 23, 2018

by Bob McCarthy

Some random observations about politics around here:

• Stephanie Miner, the former mayor of Syracuse, at one time maintained such a close political relationship with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that she served as his co-chairwoman of the Democratic State Committee – the same post now held by Mayor Byron Brown.

But things soured when Miner penned a New York Times op-ed railing against the governor’s borrowing plan for future pension obligations. That friendship quickly ended.

Now Miner has emerged as an independent challenger to the governor after flirting with a Democratic candidacy. Though nobody is rushing off to Las Vegas with wagers she will win in November, it’s a sure bet she will cause all kinds of problems for Cuomo’s re-election bid.

Ditto for Cynthia Nixon if she loses the Democratic primary but stays on the Working Families line. So will Howie Hawkins of the Greens, who was in town Thursday to advocate state divestiture of fossil fuel investments from the state pension fund.

Miner, meanwhile, will emerge as a much more effective general election challenger than within a Democratic Party that shows every indication of remaining with the governor.

And Miner will prove a skillful opponent on the debate stage, raising the interesting question of whether Cuomo will continue his traditional insistence that every opponent – right down to the Rent’s Too Damn High Party – join in. That might prove a case of being careful what you wish for.

• Remember when Cuomo was around Buffalo so often that he could apply for official residency here? Indeed, reporters frequently wrote stories about the phenomenon, prompting sometimes nasty phone calls from gubernatorial aides.
“Would you rather he not come at all?” they asked back then.

But with the governor rarely venturing this far west in recent months, those keeping score at home have to wonder if he might be avoiding anything connected with “Buffalo” as a “Buffalo Billion” trial gets under way in New York City.

• Cuomo can continue to rely on one Buffalo guy – state economic czar Howard Zemsky. A longtime Buffalo booster, Zemsky recently extolled to The Buffalo News editorial board the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s $1.2 billion plan to extend Metro Rail to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus and beyond.

The former NFTA chairman’s support signals the Cuomo administration’s commitment to the project, even if trains might not start rolling for more than a decade. And his backing follows Rep. Brian Higgins’ revelation that he will not support extension and instead seek major upgrades to the existing system.

“The governor was right to invest $5 million [for an environmental review] in a key infrastructure project for the region,” he said. “Hopefully we can all get on the same page.”

• Last weekend’s Juneteenth Festival crawled with politicians eager to shake hands with the tens of thousands of people attending. Jumaane Williams, a New York City Council member seeking the Democratic nod for lieutenant governor marched in the parade, as did the incumbent – Kathy Hochul.

Others included Democratic attorney general hopefuls Tish James, the New York City public advocate, and Leecia Eve, the Buffalo native and former aide to Cuomo as well as former Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Sources close to Eve say she continues building her campaign in spite of the early backing James has gained from Cuomo and the state Democratic establishment. Her key advisers include former Hillary Clinton insiders such as Harold Ickes Jr. and Anne Lewis.

• Marc Molinaro, the Republican candidate for governor, holds his first Western New York fund-raiser on July 11 when Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy and his wife, Erin Baker, host an event at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens. Much of the county’s top Republican leadership are co-sponsors, including County Clerk Mickey Kearns, a Democrat who pretty much hangs out with the GOP these days.

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