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Times’ support of rival has Hochul scrambling

ALBANY – Her opponent has been endorsed by a big public employees union, an environmental group and a women’s rights organization.

But it took the New York Times’ endorsement of Columbia University law professor Tim Wu to move Kathy Hochul away from a campaign dominated by Twitter photographs of her stops across the state to address head-on some of the criticisms pointed her way.

With the Sept. 9 primary closing in, Democrats statewide are not ruling out the possibility of Wu defeating Hochul in the primary for lieutenant governor, thereby forcing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to take on the left-leaning Wu as his running mate and forgoing other ballot lines on which the governor already is set to run with Hochul.

Hochul, a former one-term congresswoman from Erie County, has declined to debate Wu, who has attacked her as too conservative for New York. He has criticized her positions or votes on immigration and health care and her past support from the National Rifle Association.

Following the Times endorsement of her opponent, Hochul’s campaign Thursday posted a 3-minute video on YouTube, with Hochul issuing what essentially amounted to an appeal to the liberal base of the New York Democratic Party. Though she was tapped as Cuomo’s running mate back in June, the video was titled “Meet Kathy Hochul.”

In the video, Hochul talked of being “influenced” by President John F. Kennedy and “inspired” by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and working with New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan as a staff attorney on legislation that “gave a path to citizenship” to millions of people. She talked of her work against major corporations, such as big-box retailers like Walmart. She said she never lost her progressive values, including abortion rights and support for legalizing gay marriage even while she was a Democrat from Erie County serving in the most Republican congressional district in New York.

Despite her NRA endorsement in that congressional bid, Hochul later said in a radio interview that past backing is not inconsistent with her support now of Cuomo’s SAFE Act gun-control law. She also said she supports the DREAM Act, a measure to provide state financial college aid to children of illegal immigrants.

The Times, which posted the endorsement of Wu on its website Wednesday night, said Hochul’s record on a number of issues is “deeply troubling.”

Shortly after release of her video, Hochul went on “The Capitol Pressroom,” a public radio program that is a regular stopping point for Cuomo.

Hochul said she was a strong backer of the Affordable Care Act, noting that if she opposed President Obama’s health care law, “I’d still be a member of Congress.”’

Hochul dismissed Wu’s criticism of her stance, when she was the Erie County clerk, of opposing then-Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer’s plan to let illegal immigrants obtain driver’s licenses. She described that as a “very narrow position” on immigration that she took because of Erie County’s proximity to Canada.

Hochul said she fully supports Cuomo’s position to continue to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas until the state Health Department issues a long-promised study of the safety of the drilling method.

Hochul, now on the defensive for the first time in the campaign, pushed back about the criticisms of her record.

“I’ve got a lifetime of accomplishments that is being overlooked,” she said on the radio interview.

Meanwhile, Wu was in Albany releasing another what he called “dossier” on Hochul’s record, this time on environmental issues that he sought to portray her as right-of-center.

Wu, who is the running mate of Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor, is appealing to the left of the Democratic Party in next month’s primary – a strong base of voters who tend to turn out for primary elections.

While Teachout and Wu have been holding near-daily appearances together, including a bus tour this week, Hochul has been largely on her own, with regular trips to gatherings with Democratic officeholders and party leaders in New York City. Several members of Congress have sought to rally support for her campaign.

Wednesday evening, Erie County Democrats came together to show their support of Hochul, presenting her with a cake on her 56th birthday.

“Happy birthday to our favorite daughter,” the cake’s inscription read.