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Audio from Albany: Vocal State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.

As part of a regular weekly feature on the Politics Now blog, Tom Precious of The News' Albany Bureau posts an audio interview with a newsmaker from the Capitol.


ALBANY — In a town where so many politicians save their best stuff for off-the-record whisper chats, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. is an anomaly. His detractors dismiss him as too off the charts to have his opinions be taken seriously.

Diaz, the pastor of a Bronx church and fierce social conservative in a liberal Senate Democratic conference, often says, lawmakers acknowledge, what his Democratic colleagues are thinking — but too nervous to say in public.

"I cannot be a hypocrite," Diaz said in an interview today.

RubendiazSo when it comes to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, no Democrat has been more willing to — publicly — throw darts at the Democratic governor than Diaz. He does it on the floor of the Senate, in hallway press gaggles and in regular email blasts to reporters and fellow lawmakers.

In today's interview, Diaz says Cuomo has been "the worst" when it comes to helping minorities, and "the worst" when it comes to helping fellow Democrats in their bid this fall to try to take back the state Senate.

"He's been working with the Republicans to keep the Republicans in power. ... He has done everything possible to keep the Republicans in power and to make it difficult for us Democrats to regain control," he said.

Why? To Diaz, it is all about Cuomo's goal of running for president in 2016.

"That's all he wants to do," Diaz said. "Whatever is good for him as a presidential candidate, he's been successful. Whatever is good for the minorities, education, senior citizens, health issues like Medicaid for our poor people, he's been the worst."

Diaz said Cuomo needs to put his energy into a stalled measure that will help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers: raising the minimum wage.

"When he wanted to push for gay marriage, he did everything in his power to make sure that happened," Diaz said.

With minimum wage, which is being pushed by Democrats over the objections of Senate Republicans, "If we don't get in this session minimum wage, it's all due to Gov. Cuomo. Stop blaming Republicans. Stop doing that like Barack Obama, blaming the Republicans for your failure.

Today, Diaz is the last of the Four Amigos, a group of New York City lawmakers who worked both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to, in part, elevate their own standing in the chamber. The other three — Pedro Espada, Carl Kruger and Hiram Monserrate — are all gone from office and have encountered various, well-publicized legal troubles.

Diaz defends his public support for the legally challenged former senators.

"I stood by them until they have been found guilty, because politicians are hypocrites. They're with you when you are in good standing [and] as soon as they accuse you of something they abandon you."

Diaz, in the interview in his legislative office building suite, talks about politics, religion and the significance of the cowboy hat he wears with his smartly styled business suits.

"I am a cowboy," he said.

Diaz gives, or tries to give, one-word descriptions for everyone from Cuomo to Sheldon Silver to Dean Skelos to President Obama and Mitt Romney.

--Tom Precious

Listen to the full conversation with Diaz here:

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