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Cuomo asks New Yorkers to help him fix Albany

ALBANY –- Governor-elect Andrew M. Cuomo, who has taken a mostly low public profile since his election win eight days ago, today toured a downstate state prison and a state psychiatric facility as his campaign released a three-minute video in which the Democrat thanks -– repeatedly -– New Yorkers.

But, in setting up what could be a bruising session come January, Cuomo asks residents to get involved “and be part of this effort" to tackle the problems in Albany.

“Only you can hold your local legislators accountable," Cuomo said in the video.

Cuomo vowed to turn his campaign promises into action. “I heard and understand your pain from this economy and from your frustration with this government. ... We are going to clean up Albany and restore competence and integrity," Cuomo said.

"The special interests that control Albany will not give up without a fight," the governor-elect said in a television ad his campaign says will air statewide on Thursday evening. It can be viewed below.

“I will never betray your trust," Cuomo vowed.

Earlier in the day, Cuomo began what he said will be a statewide tour of state government facilities. His first stop was Sing Sing prison, which had been home to “Old Sparky" when New York had a death penalty. Sing Sing was also the site of a 1983 prison riot shortly after Mario Cuomo, the governor-elect’s father, took office as governor.

“It was very frightening. I remember like it was yesterday," Cuomo recalled of the 1983 episode. (He was a special assistant to his father at the time, and Tim Russert, who was Mario Cuomo’s communications director, served as the face of the administration during the uprising.)

Cuomo dismissed a published report with criticism by Rev. Al Sharpton for a lack of diversity in his transition team. “I don’t know how you can complain about something that hasn’t been formed yet," Cuomo said of his transition committee. He said he plans on having “the most diverse" administration in state history.

Asked by a reporter after the Sing Sing visit about “rumblings of an engagement" –- Cuomo’s girlfriend is Sandra Lee, a Food Network show host -- Cuomo said, “I haven’t heard those rumblings."

Cuomo said he will take his state facility tour upstate sometime next week.

--Tom Precious

Schroeder challenges Silver -- again

ALBANY -- In the words of Ronald Reagan, "There you go again.''

Assemblyman Mark Schroeder has been tweaking Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver since before coming to the Assembly in 2005. Dismissing Democratic Party loyalties for what he says is a desire to stick up for his district, Schroeder is at it again with another "Dear Mr. Speaker'' letter.

Not unlike his sharp criticism earlier this summer when the UB2020 deal fell apart at the Capitol. Schroeder, a South Buffalo Democrat, now says it is "impossible'' for him to back Silver for another term as Assembly leader "unless you can demonstrate to me that you are genuinely serious about addressing the issues that are plaguing upstate New York.''

The Nov. 8 letter calls on Silver to come to Schroeder's district and be part of a roundtable discussion focusing "on the problems that state government is either causing, or refusing to correct, in our part of the state.''

Schroeder said the death of UB2020 this year made it "abundantly clear that those of us who live north of New York City have no say in how we are governed, and have no power to save our struggling cities.''

The Schroeder letter comes as a whispering campaign has begun among some Democrats before a new legislative term starts in January about whether Silver might face a challenge to the Speaker's job -- a post he has held since 1994.

-- Tom Precious

Error could change winner in Long Island congressional race

The 60th State Senate district isn't the only New York race that's too close to call. On Long Island, the result of a congressional race that appeared to have been settled on Election Night is now up in the air after officials discovered they misreported results. From the Associated Press:

A congressional election on eastern Long Island that had appeared to end in victory for a four-term Democrat, U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, is now up for grabs after authorities discovered they had misreported the result of the vote. 

Officials with the Suffolk County Board of Elections said they discovered Friday that the unofficial tally released in the hours after the polls closed was off by thousands. 

A routine check of voting machine memory cards showed that instead of leading by about 3,500 votes, Bishop was trailing Republican challenger Randy Altschuler by a little less than 400. 

Board of Elections commissioner Wayne Rogers said the original numbers were reported by telephone and relayed through intermediaries before being entered into the county's computer system.

Paterson already talking of Senate GOP control

ALBANY –- Gov. David Paterson today sounded close to throwing in the towel on the Democrats’ chances to hold onto the state Senate.

Indeed, Paterson today already was lining up ways the Senate Republicans could help the incoming governor, Andrew Cuomo.

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos has already declared victory in the fight to re-take control of the 62-member Senate. He said Republicans will win re-counts in Buffalo and Nassau County to push the GOP into the majority after two years out of power.

“I would say it is probable that Senator Skelos is right, that he will be the majority leader of the Senate in 2011," Paterson said on WOR radio this morning in New York.

When the discussion flipped to whether a GOP-led Senate will be better for Cuomo, Paterson noted the Republicans did not jump to help him in 2008 with efforts to cut state spending. He noted the Senate Democrats also left the job un-done last year, forcing the state into a cash flow crisis.

“A pox on both their houses," Paterson said of Senate Democrats and Republicans.

But, he added, “Where I think the Senate Republicans can join with the governor, and hopefully the Assembly Democrats, is to start letting these special interests know that everybody is going to make sacrifices this time.’’

Talking as if the Senate GOP control is a sure thing, the governor added, “If the Senate Republicans and the new governor take that new attitude the bipartisan push would be far more powerful than one party trying to do it."

Senate Democrats disputed Paterson's political theories. "The Governor is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Once every vote is counted, it will be clear Democrats have retained the Majority," said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

-- Tom Precious

Cuomo: not everything can change on Day One

Albany – Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo is downplaying expectations for major changes at the state Capitol right away after he takes office Jan. 1.

Without using his name, Cuomo poked a bit at former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who famously vowed before taking office in 2008 that on “day one everything changes.’’

“I’m saying if someone wants to say everything should change on day one I’m going to say, ‘Been there, done that,’’’ Cuomo said in an interview today on WGDJ radio in Albany.

“People expect to see progress and realistic progress. No one informed would say everything is going to change on day one … I expect to achieve progress. That’s what this is all about,’’ Cuomo said.

The governor-elect said his focus during the transition period will be on assembling a team to run the executive branch and its agencies. He said a “big part’’ of the usual transition work has already been done with the publication of several booklets over the past months on a variety of policy matters – which would have to be turned into actual legislation with, in many cases, more details before the Legislature could consider any of them.

“The focus is going to be on the personnel side, and working very hard to attract new talent to state government,’’ Cuomo said. He said part of the problem will be convincing people to come to a state Capitol that has seen a national reputation for its many scandals in recent years.

“That is not an easy sell,’’ Cuomo said.

Cuomo said he is also not going to be rushed into decision-making. “I understand the press’ need to write a story every day … I’m not going to allow that to dictate the pace of government. Government is going to happen in an orderly process.’’

The incoming governor, who regularly railed against the Legislature on the campaign trail, was sounding more positive Thursday. “I believe these politicians really got it this year,’’ he said of the election results. He said voters are demanding a change in attitude in Albany. “They heard that in stereo, and I think they’re going to come to Albany with that recognition,’’ he said of the Legislature.

Cuomo offered no predictions on whether the Senate would flip to Republican following recounts in three battleground races, including an Erie County district now held by Sen. Antoine Thompson.

“Special interests dominate the Legislature. That’s the truth … The question is is it going to be different this year?’’ Cuomo said. He said he believes both parties, no matter who controls the Senate, will come together in the Legislature to back efforts on resolving the rising state deficit and to enact new ethics legislation.

Cuomo said he won’t get involved in leadership fights in the Senate, but said he could “work well with John Sampson.’’ A Brooklyn Democrat, Sampson is the current Democratic Conference Leader; he has been caught up in a scandal over a state contract for a lucrative downstate casino.

-- Tom Precious 

Relive Election Night

If you missed any of Tuesday night's six-hour live chat, featuring election updates and insight from more than a dozen News reporters, check it out (and don't forget that you can also access Election Night photos, videos and full results -- plus stories on virtually every race):

DiNapoli and Wilson officially end their battle

New York – With his victory now certain, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and his GOP opponent, Harry Wilson, are offering up nice things to say about each other for what might be the first time.

“I received a call from Harry Wilson this morning and he was very gracious in conceding this close and hard fought contest. Mr. Wilson ran a strong campaign and I wish him the very best,’’ DiNapoli said in a statement.

Wilson conceded the race this morning in an appearance at a Manhattan hotel.

"I congratulate my opponent, Tom DiNapoli, for his win yesterday. I hope that the critically important issues we raised during this campaign are addressed for the benefit of the people of New York State," Wilson said in a statement.

DiNapoli, a Democrat, did offer congratulations to Andrew Cuomo, the governor-elect who endorsed nearly every other Democrat running around the state – except DiNapoli.

With 97 percent of the precincts around the state reporting, DiNapoli is ahead with 49.8 percent to Wilson’s 47 percent.

-- Tom Precious

GOP boss takes a New York bow

New York -- The Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, doesn't get to boast much about congressional victories in a blue state like New York. But boast he is doing after last night's big GOP congressional showing, including in New York state.

“Over the past two years, New Yorkers have witnessed the results of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi’s reckless tax-and-spend policies, and last night they told Washington that they have had enough by electing five new Republican candidates to the U.S. House.  These Republican victories are clear evidence of the rising tide of the Republican Party in New York and the failure of the Democrat leadership in Washington, D.C.  These outstanding Republican candidates were elected because of their willingness to stand up to President Obama’s job-killing policies, which have stalled New York’s economic recovery.  On behalf of the Republican Party, I would like to congratulate new Representatives Michael Grimm, Nan Hayworth, Chris Gibson, Richard Hanna, and Tom Reed on their successful campaigns for limited government and fiscal responsibility.”

-- Tom Precious

All quiet on the Cuomo/Paladino front -- so far

 Carl Paladino, who didn’t miss an opportunity to criticize the news media over the past several months, has just canceled a scheduled press conference.

The Republican, who lost badly in last night’s election to Andrew Cuomo, was to make himself available to reporters in Buffalo at 1p.m. But his campaign sent around word a half hour before calling off the event.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has so far had a remarkably quiet day – publicly at least. His campaign was not planning – yet anyway – any appearances often traditional for gubernatorial winners in New York, such as a day-after press conference or a victory “fly-around’’ to communities outside Manhattan.

There was some talk of an announcement or two from his campaign today, but that has not happened yet. Whether it would be transition-team related, or some sort of pronouncement on the worsening condition of the state budget is uncertain.

-- Tom Precious

GOP chief feeling "optimistic" about Grisanti's chances

Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy isn't claiming victory yet, but he said early Wednesday morning he's "feeling good" about the prospects of Republican Mark J. Grisanti joining the ranks of the New York State Senate.

"I'm really optimistic about this race," he said.

Langworthy said Grisanti is leading Democratic incumbent Antoine M. Thompson as of early this morning by 683 votes, with nine districts yet to report.

He credited the coat tails of GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino for boosting the Grisanti bid.

"It was definitely a boost," he said. "If we didn't have that turnout coming from the top of the ticket, I just don't think we would have the same effect."

--Robert J. McCarthy

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

tprecious@buffnews.com


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | jterreri@buffnews.com


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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