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State Democratic Chairman Byron Brown talks pot, the presidency and the party

Byron W. Brown not only runs New York’s second largest city, but the state's Democratic Party, too.

As the state Democratic chairman, he expects to be directly involved this re-election year on behalf of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

Here are several take-aways from a conversation in Brown’s downtown campaign office:

 On being state chairman:
"The job entails keeping Democrats together and working to build a party organization with Democrats statewide. It’s easier now when you see the dysfunction in Washington. The Democratic base is very energized."

 On the governor’s chances of re-election:
"Obviously, every election is different, but I think the governor is in a very strong position. He’s well resourced [with about $30 million in his treasury] and viewed as a progressive leader not just in the State of New York but across the nation.
"His polling numbers are the highest since 2014. The governor is an incredibly focused hard worker who should not be taken for granted."

 On a potential presidential candidacy for Cuomo:
"There are a lot of frustrations when we look at Washington. There are issues like the president’s new tax law, DACA and criminal justice issues. When you look at all the mixed messages and inconsistencies, people are already looking for a change in leadership. Gov. Cuomo is a proven leader who I think could provide that leadership.
"But the reality is that first, he has to run for re-election.
"I certainly do [think he would make a good president] and I think there are many across the state and country who do too. But clearly, the governor’s full focus right now is on re-election."

 On this year’s potential Republican opposition:
"I don’t think the governor ever underestimates any opponent or takes any potential opponent in an election lightly. But as the state party chairman, I think the governor is in a very good position."

On the Democratic Party's increasingly progressive stances:
"New York is a state that has always had progressive values. It’s always a national leader in advancing progressive causes, and Gov. Cuomo is one of the leading governors in the nation in advancing progressive causes."

 On Cuomo’s proposal to study legalization of marijuana:
"He’s doing it in exactly the right way – doing a study – so that New Yorkers and he as governor can see what the impacts mean to the State of New York.
"I have always been strongly opposed to drug use of any type. That’s the way I was raised by my parents and grandparents. Growing up in New York City I saw directly how lives can be destroyed. I made a pact with a group of my high school friends at the time, and I have never used marijuana or any other drug. "To this day, I have never even puffed.
"I do know the attitude toward use of marijuana is changing dramatically. Millennials use it recreationally.
"So the study is exactly the right approach. It gives him the ability to listen to those pushing legalization, but also the ability to respond to the health impacts. The governor shares those concerns."

Cuomo considers legalizing recreational marijuana

 On the prospect of New York Republicans embracing President Trump in 2018 elections:
"The president has not been good at all to his home state. If you look at his poll numbers across the state and nation, they are the lowest in modern history at this stage of a presidency. It will be very tough for Republicans to win with Donald Trump in this election."

 On the strength of the state party he heads:
"I feel good that there is a clear realization that a strong party has to be built – from school boards to statewide electeds. There is work being done now to register people at the grass-roots levels, train volunteers, and build staff. I’m very pleased at that."

 On Hochul’s future as lieutenant governor:
"I think our lieutenant governor has done an excellent job and is well respected. I think the governor and the lieutenant governor will employ a timetable [for announcements] that they will roll out when they get ready."

Hochul makes it clear: She will run for re-election

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