Some notes, news and observations on politics around here:
• Polling numbers for Gov. Andrew Cuomo dropped to their lowest point of the last year and a half, according to the latest Siena College survey. And it has everything to do with late subways and deteriorating commuter rail service in New York City.
Siena reported that Cuomo’s favorable rating dropped from 61 percent in May to 52 percent in July. Now, 46 percent of voters say they’re prepared to re-elect Cuomo and 46 percent prefer “someone else,” down from 53 to 36 percent in support of his re-election in May.
But upstate, subways run for only 6.4 miles along Main Street in Buffalo, and pretty much on time. With no similar problem, Siena reports that the governor’s upstate numbers remain strong as opposed to the downstate counties served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Cuomo’s re-elect and job performance ratings respectively fell by 23 and 27 points among voters in the MTA region, but they both ticked down only a single point among other voters.
Now the calendar poses more problems for the governor. Former Cuomo confidante Joe Percoco and others linked to the scandal-tainted Buffalo Billion program will go on trial in mid-May of 2018, just as re-election efforts get underway. All of this can only sharpen the interest of potential Republican challengers like financier Harry Wilson, who continues seeking support around the state.
• Democrats appear to have landed a strong challenger to Republican Congressman Chris Collins in 2018. Erin Cole, an Army veteran with an economic development background, emerged last week. She starts with a similar high profile as the late Tom Fricano against entrenched Republican Bill Paxon in 1996 – someone strong enough from the outset to make life miserable for the incumbent.
Cole still faces an uphill struggle in New York’s most Republican congressional district. But when Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi takes the unusual step of blasting Collins in conjunction with Cole’s new candidacy, it strongly hints the governor takes this one personally and may very well get involved.
• Speaking of gubernatorial support, Mayor Byron Brown will almost certainly look for Cuomo’s endorsement as he seeks a fourth term this year. Cuomo has also proven close to challenger Mark Schroeder over the years, but the governor will face a powerful obligation to back his state Democratic chairman.
• After Republican Mary Jo Carroll filed designating petitions for mayor earlier this month, election purists envisioned a good, old-fashioned Democrat vs. Republican contest for November. But that won’t happen after Carroll declined the nomination in a move observers saw as a “protect the line” effort by the GOP.
The short-lived Carroll candidacy was apparently designed to thwart any unofficial “interloper” from gaining the party line through a write-in candidacy. With Dems holding a 7½ to 1 registration edge in Buffalo, a traditional November election for mayor will not take place for a long time.
• That doesn’t mean Buffalo Republicans can’t practice one of their favorite pastimes – raising money. A local group is expected to rake in a substantial sum for Corning Congressman Tom Reed on Aug. 23 during a Saturn Club event. Veteran political money men Tony Gioia, Patrick Lee and Charles Banta are among those hosting the affair for Reed, who is almost rivaling Collins these days as a national commentator on cable television.
• Former Congressman Jack Quinn took more interest than other Western New Yorkers in the recent election of Leo Varadkar as prime minister – or taoiseach – of Ireland. The new leader interned in Quinn’s Washington office during 2000 as part of the Washington Ireland Program, which cultivates young Irish leaders through a variety of programs.
Quinn told the group’s website that Varadkar was “an ambitious young man bound for success in a lot of different ways.”
“I hope the experience was helpful,” the former congressman said, “but he gave us more than we gave him.”