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Dems target Collins, other NY Republicans in 2018 House elections

Democrats hope to take back control of the House of Representatives in next year's election, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is taking that fight into his own hands.

In a long and raucous rally in the same Manhattan convention hall where Hillary Clinton had expected to give a presidential election victory speech last November, Cuomo gave a campaign speech promising to help Democratic candidates for Congress all across the state in 2018.

Joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Cuomo said the fight for Democratic control of the House would start in New York.

And while he never mentioned President Trump by name, he targeted two Trump supporters in particular: Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and Rep. John J. Faso Jr., R-Kinderhook.

"Today I charge Congressmen Faso and Collins and their colleagues with violating their oath of office to represent the interests of the people of the State of New York," Cuomo said. "I also charge them with defrauding the voters of this state. They said they would help their districts. They said they would help the struggling middle class. They're doing the exact opposite."

Cuomo has been at political war with Collins and Faso since March, when they added an amendment to the Republican health care bill in the House that would bar New York from charging its counties for a share of the cost of Medicaid, the state/federal health care program for the poor and lower middle class.

Cuomo took that battle to an entirely new level Tuesday, saying House Republicans abandoned their constituents by voting for a health bill that will cost the state nearly $7 billion and by supporting a tax reform effort that could strip the state's homeowners of $40 billion in write-offs through the elimination of the state and local tax deduction.

"These are not moderate, responsible public officials," Cuomo said of the nine Republican House members from New York. "These are political pawns to the ultraconservative puppet masters in Washington."

Cuomo vowed to work to defeat House Republicans in 2018, when he, too, is expected to be on the ballot, running for a third term.

Albany buzz about Cuomo's presidential ambitions is absent everywhere else

Several of those GOP lawmakers from New York are expected to have difficult re-election battles if Trump's approval ratings remain mired below 40 percent. Both Cuomo and Pelosi said that means New York will be a key battleground in the fight for control of the House next year.

"We need a movement to fight back, and that movement starts in New York because New York is always the first," Cuomo said.

Pelosi agreed.

"New York will be on the front lines of the fight to restore sanity to Washington," she said.

The first line of attack in that fight emerged in cyberspace Tuesday, as the state Democratic Party unveiled a new website called New York Fights Back.

Detailing how Democrats say the House Republican agenda hurts New Yorkers, the website takes aim at four GOP lawmakers in addition to Collins and Faso: Reps. Tom Reed, R-Corning; Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford; Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro; and Lee Zeldin, R-Shirley.

And it includes a video that shows Collins saying he didn't read the health bill, along with protesters targeting Faso, Reed and Stefanik.

Republicans were not impressed with Cuomo's promise to target GOP lawmakers.

"New York's business climate is a national laughingstock, our residents are fleeing in droves for other states and there is corruption at the highest levels of the governor's administration, but all he cares about are his own national ambitions," said State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox. "The governor may have delusions of grandeur, but what he needs is a reality check."

Meanwhile, Collins' political adviser, Christopher M. Grant, said: “It’s laughable that Andrew Cuomo, who received 34 percent of the vote in the 27th District, and Nancy Pelosi, who has presided over one of the biggest Democrat losing streaks in history, would come together to attack Chris Collins and other New York House Republicans. ... The people of the 27th District have rejected them and their policies over and over again. The last thing they want is a handpicked candidate from these two.”

The rally at Manhattan's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was a late-starting, start-and-stop affair that also featured speeches from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and several other political and union officials.

The crowd included many members of Local 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which has been on strike against Charter Communications for three months. The red-hatted IBEW workers seemed more interested in their strike than in the Democrats on stage, interrupting several of the speakers.

Cuomo gave the union a shout-out, though, during a speech that veered between the wonky details the current governor usually favors and the soaring passages that his father, the late Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, delivered repeatedly as he mulled presidential bids in 1988 and 1992.

New Yorkers don't believe it's acceptable for only some members of society of thrive while others struggle, said the current governor, who has been speaking out more frequently on national issues amid the possibility that he himself may run for president in 2020.

"We believe that we are all connected, that there's a cord that connects me to you, to you, to you, to you," Cuomo said, pointing to people in the audience. "And that cord weaves a fabric and we call that fabric called community. And when one of us is raised, we're all raised, and when one of us is lowered, we are all lowered. We believe the New York credo that we are not at our best until every man, woman and child has the right to develop their God-given gifts and to contribute to society."

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