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Six takeaways from the state political conventions

Democrats gathered in convention on Long Island and Republicans in Manhattan earlier this week to name their statewide slates, kicking off the 2018 campaign.

Democrats nominated for another term Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. And following the resignation of Eric T. Schneiderman, they chose New York City Public Advocate Letitia A. James to run for attorney general.

For the GOP, Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro will run for governor, with Julie Killian of Westchester County for lieutenant governor, former JPMorgan executive Jonathan Trichter for comptroller and Buffalo native Keith Wofford, a Manhattan attorney, for attorney general.

Here are a few notes, observations and impressions from the week's two political conclaves:

This is Andrew Cuomo’s party

The governor may face a tough challenge from actress-activist Cynthia Nixon in the September primary, but he remains large and in charge – at least among party regulars.

Cuomo received 95 percent of the convention vote Wednesday, stemming from all his loyal party chairmen and committee members from across the state. And if he has any problems convincing other Democrats about just how “progressive” he is, he underscored his own credentials throughout the two-day event.

Virtually no speaker – from Mayor Byron Brown to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to former Vice President Joe Biden – failed to highlight the same litany of progressive accomplishments noted by the Cuomo administration.

All of this aims to blunt the serious assault waged by Nixon, who says Cuomo is not progressive enough.

For Kathy Hochul, all is semi-forgotten

Just over a month ago, Cuomo forces were attempting to ease the lieutenant governor off the ticket and drop her into a congressional race against Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence. The move followed Hochul’s own 2012 loss to Collins in the state’s most Republican district and after New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams launched a 2018 primary challenge against her.

That move went nowhere, and Democrats at Hofstra stuck to their script: “It was always Kathy’s decision.”

But Hochul prevailed with 94 percent of the convention vote, even though she could face a tough fight against Williams, an African-American from vote-rich Brooklyn whom Cuomo does not want as his second-in-command.

Now all seems well on the Cuomo-Hochul ticket – sort of.

A bruising primary for attorney general looms

Tish James, the New York City public advocate also backed by Cuomo, emerged as a big winner at the convention. She will be considered the primary favorite as a citywide office holder.

But two other women are challenging her – Zephyr Teachout and Leecia Eve.

Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary, stems from Nixon’s far left wing of the party. She could benefit from that energized base.

But Eve left the convention proud of garnering more than 9 percent of delegate votes. With strong support from Western New York and her current Harlem neighborhood, she demonstrated she will prove a force in the primary.

Old grudges still fester

Eve gained most of her support from Western New York Democrats, including many of those from outlying counties. But when the roll was called, big-time Democrats like Brown and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes followed Cuomo’s lead and voted for James.

Both are Cuomo loyalists, Brown as chairman of the state Democratic Party and Peoples-Stokes as a key Assembly ally often mentioned as the next majority leader.

And it should be noted that both were early leaders of the Grassroots organization that years ago successfully challenged Eve’s father – former Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve – for supremacy among Buffalo’s African-American Democratic factions.

Republicans didn’t have a prayer

Or, at least a prayer delivered by a member of the clergy.

On the second day of the GOP convention in a ballroom at a former movie theater in midtown Manhattan, Ed Cox, the party chairman, started things off by noting that his staff had scratched off the invocation from the day’s agenda.

Cox said that wouldn’t do. Invocations are long traditions at political affairs, where God is invoked at the start of at-times political slugfests between knuckle-bloodied politicians. At the Democratic Party convention taking place the same two days last week on Long Island, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo turned to several members of the clergy for the opening prayers, one of which reporters described as more of a Cuomo endorsement than religious message.

So, Cox, the son-in-law of President Nixon, on Thursday morning took matters into his own hands. Usually kept busy trying to raise money and the profile of the state GOP, Cox became a temporary – if un-ordained – minister.

“May you guide us in our deliberations today and bless this meeting,’’ said Cox in brief comments that marked the first time in memory that the top state political boss of a major party has given a convention’s prayer.

Wanted: People

There was loud, upbeat music. The usual decorations. Signs. Speeches. Videos. All the familiar trappings of a political convention.

The only thing missing at the GOP convention last week: a crowd. On Wednesday, the first of two days, dozens of seats sat empty, except for the un-waved placards, were scattered around the relatively small ballroom. “As far as delegates were concerned, the people who really matter, it was full,’’ said Ed Cox, the GOP chairman and emcee for the event.

Republicans in control of the state Senate went so far as to cancel Wednesday’s session in Albany so lawmakers could travel to Manhattan to attend the convention. Few did during the day’s official nominating sessions. By Thursday morning, the session was delayed while officials had to get a picture of the proxy vote situation because so many delegates had already left or just not shown up. “It’s embarrassing,’’ said one delegate. It stood in stark contrast to the Democratic convention on Long Island during the same two days, an event packed by loyalists and campaign and state staffers to Cuomo – a governor not shy about insisting on highly scripted and lavishly choreographed events in which he is the star.

One Republican who might have brought in a crowd Wednesday: President Donald Trump. That evening, he attended a fundraiser at a mid-town hotel just four blocks away from where the New York Republican Party – his home-state party – was meeting. But Trump has never been especially tight with some state GOP leaders, so the idea of Trump stopping by was never in the cards.

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