Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pronounced a strong endorsement of Kathy Hochul’s political skills Thursday – for the House of Representatives.
But when asked at the University at Buffalo Medical School about whether she would continue as his lieutenant governor, Cuomo was less enthusiastic.
“Nothing has changed from my point of view. Yeah,” he said. “It’s up to Kathy.”
Following an appearance at the gleaming new UB facility the state helped build, Cuomo delved into election year politics by acknowledging that intense weekend efforts attempted to woo Hochul away from the second spot and, instead, into a rematch with Republican Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence. Not only were local figures involved, he said, but national Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Joseph Crowley of Queens were unsuccessfully involved in attempting to persuade Hochul to run against Collins.
“There is a very strong feeling that Kathy Hochul would be a great congressional candidate for that race and that she would be the strongest Democrat,” he told reporters. “If you want to win, what you try to do is get the strongest candidate.”
But the governor noted that the discussion about her potential candidacy is “moot because Kathy Hochul doesn’t want to run and it’s her decision.” He added that it is “no secret” that many top Democrats were urging his lieutenant governor to leave the statewide ticket and challenge Collins, to whom she lost a close race in the heavily Republican district in 2012.
“Many many people say she will be a stronger candidate than Nate McMurray,” he said, referring to the candidate that Democratic county leaders endorsed. “If Kathy were willing to run, I think that would be the best chance the Democrats have. There’s no doubt about that. But she’s not willing to run.
“I said to Kathy ‘if you want to run I support that; if you don’t want to run, I support that,’” he added. “From my position, nothing has changed.”
The governor’s remarks landed with a thud for McMurray, the attorney and Grand Island supervisor who noted months of effort and expenditure of his own money to solidify his bid against Collins.
“It’s not very helpful and I don’t know the importance of why he said that,” McMurray said. “It seems irresponsible. I respect the governor and what he has done, but I don’t think anyone would ask him what’s best for the 27th District.”
McMurray added that he is “obviously angry.”
“I’ve put up my money and am taking on a powerful incumbent and don’t need a downstate guy to come in here and tell us how to do things in the 27th District,” he said.
The Buffalo News reported earlier this week that sources indicated the efforts to woo Hochul followed Saturday’s vote by the Working Families Party state committee to endorse Cynthia Nixon against Cuomo for governor and New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams over Hochul for lieutenant governor. They indicated that those making calls over the weekend included Sam Hoyt, the former assemblyman and state economic development official who is now an Albany lobbyist.
Hoyt said he called only to suggest that McMurray consider running for the State Senate against Republican incumbent Christopher L. Jacobs this year instead of taking on Collins.
Nixon and Williams are also running against Cuomo and Hochul in the September Democratic primary, in which the offices of governor and lieutenant governor are contested separately.
That means if Hochul were to lose the primary to Williams, who hails from vote-rich Brooklyn, Cuomo could be saddled with a running mate he did not support. It would also mean that Williams could tally separate votes for lieutenant governor in November as the Working Families candidate.
Cuomo once again offered sharp criticism for some of the state’s GOP congressional representatives because of votes stripping New York taxpayers of their ability to deduct some state and local taxes.
“This congressional district is key,” he said, referring to the Collins seat. “I have said it is my priority to elect Democrats to these congressional seats.”