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Cuomo flexes muscles with big convention wins

HEMPSTEAD – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will leave Hofstra University and the Democratic State Convention Thursday as his party's undisputed leader.

He crushed a convention challenge to his bid for a third term from actress-activist Cynthia Nixon, and the rest of his favored candidates also prevailed in major fashion – especially Letitia "Tish" James, his choice for attorney general.

James, a New York City public advocate, gained the convention's overwhelming endorsement, with over 85 percent of the vote. Buffalo's Leecia R. Eve took over 9 percent and 2014 gubernatorial primary contender Zephyr Teachout got about 5 percent. Eve and Teachout both say they will attempt to petition their way onto the ballot.

Much of the Erie County delegation under Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner stuck with Eve, a former Senate staffer, law partner and lieutenant governor hopeful. Two Cuomo supporters, however, backed the governor's choice of James: Mayor Byron W. Brown (who is also the state Democratic chairman) and Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes of Buffalo, who seconded James's nomination.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul also easily won nomination for a second term, beating New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn with 94 percent of the convention vote. Williams is now expected to challenge her in the primary.

Earlier Cuomo demonstrated his vast control over the state Democratic Party by garnering 95 percent of the convention vote. In reviewing his victory with reporters, Cuomo did not hesitate to mention the margin, which he said he did not expect.

"I am very grateful that not only did I get the nomination, but by an overwhelming vote," he said. "It was an affirmation of everything we've done."

Still, Nixon is succeeding in waking up the party's most ardent progressive factions by claiming the governor has abandoned the state's progressive principles. She now vows to gather the necessary signatures on designating petitions statewide to qualify for a spot on the Democratic primary ballot in September.

"His progressive record is incredibly weak and that's why he's attacking," she said of Cuomo. "I'm not a protest candidate. I'm a viable candidate."

Early on Wednesday, Nixon seemed to realize she would be afforded no opportunity to speak before the convention, and made her case to reporters at the Hempstead Transit Center via the Long Island Railroad.

"I will not be scared out of the room," she said. "I'm here to tell voters they have an alternative."

Throughout the long roll call of 150 Assembly districts, it became more and more apparent than Nixon was generating little enthusiasm among party regulars. As each district representative took the microphone and called out "Andrew Cuomo" with only an occasional vote for Nixon, the challenger's prediction of little organizational support proved true.

Convention delegates warmly received Hillary Clinton as their keynote speaker. It was the former secretary of state's first appearance before her home delegation since she lost the presidential race in 2016. She praised the Democratic Party as a bulwark against Trump administration policies, pointing out the party has defended against efforts to weaken immigration rights, water down the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood.

She said Cuomo and Hochul together "stand up to the onslaught from this president."

"I'm inspired by the wave of grassroots activism and how people in every corner of this state are raised up in massive resistance," Clinton said. "I am also really inspired by the women who are making their voices heard like never before."

Cuomo presented Clinton with a bouquet of flowers in a surprise appearance at the conclusion of her speech.

Hochul, meanwhile, demonstrated significant resilience by trouncing Williams for the second spot. The lieutenant governor was lauded by a host of major speakers seconding her nomination, and nobody ever mentioned that Cuomo forces were attempting to evict her from the ticket just a month ago. Those efforts to substitute Hochul into the race against Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, never gained traction and she prevailed without difficulty at Hofstra.

The convention worked hard to portray Cuomo as a governor "who gets things done." In a style typical of the governor's own presentations, speaker after speaker outlined his brick and mortar accomplishments as well as his progressive advances via PowerPoint presentations.

Matilda Cuomo, the governor's mother and widow of former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, placed her son's name in nomination with a recitation of accomplishments, including linking upstate and downstate with a new Tappan Zee bridge over the Hudson River, a bridge now named for her late husband.

And Brown, the state Democratic chairman, didn't waste a second in underscoring Cuomo's progressive accomplishments as he opened the convention at Hofstra University – all of it aimed at blunting Nixon's criticism that Cuomo lacks true progressive credentials.

Also on Wednesday, the convention unanimously nominated Thomas P. DiNapoli of Nassau County for a third term as comptroller. He was unchallenged.

Cuomo much-anticipated address to the convention on Thursday is expected to highlight his accomplishments and outline his campaign. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden will speak before the delegates.

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