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Cuomo, tight with Senate GOP, backs a Democrat

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sent plenty of signals over the months that he sure wouldn’t mind if the Republicans kept control of the State Senate after next month's elections.

So, his endorsement this morning of Democratic Sen. Joseph Addabbo is certain to spawn a long line of theories about Cuomo’s real or perceived motivations.

The governor made the announcement of his Addabbo endorsement before the start of the Columbus Day parade in Manhattan. Addabbo is from Queens, the borough where Cuomo grew up, and both are Italian-Americans.

The endorsement came just hours after Siena College released a poll showing Addabbo and his GOP challenger, Eric Ulrich, in a statistical tie for next month’s election.

Privately, Senate Democrats have expressed frustration that Cuomo was too cozy the past two years with Senate Republicans. His chief gift to the GOP was approving new Senate boundary lines – as part of this year’s redistricting process – that Democrats say favor GOP control of the Senate. The working theory in Albany is that Cuomo, above all else, wants to avoid any chaos or confusion in the Legislature. He has gotten many deals from Senate Republicans in his two years in office, and many Cuomo allies say the governor worries the Senate could return to the kind of dysfunction Albany witnessed when his party ran the house for two years before the GOP took back control in the 2010 elections.

Cuomo was coy Monday about possible backing of other Senate Democrats or Republicans, saying any other endorsements in the weeks ahead would be made on “a case by case’’ basis.

In Western New York, all eyes are on whether Cuomo will jump into the 60th Senate District race with an endorsement of Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican, who Cuomo has praised -– often -– for backing gay marriage rights last year. Republicans say even if Cuomo remains neutral in the race -– and does not back Democrat Mike Amodeo -– it will end up benefiting Grisanti.

Does Cuomo's backing of Addabbo -- something to make his fellow Democrats happy -- now clear the way for him to endorse Republicans like Grisanti that, in the end, will help Republicans maintain their Senate power?

"It could,'' acknowledged the Senate’s deputy majority leader, Thomas Libous, a Binghamton Republican. He said Cuomo’s endorsement of Addabbo was expected because the Queens Democrat changed his 2009 vote against gay marriage to a yes vote last year at the request of Cuomo.

“I don’t think it helps Addabbo,’’ Libous said this morning of the Cuomo endorsement, citing problems the Queens lawmaker is facing in the relatively conservative district for his gay marriage vote and votes on fiscal matters.

As for Grisanti, Libous said the governor has already offered “somewhat of an endorsement’’ of the Buffalo Republican through appearances with the senator in Western New York and by helping him to get approved locally important pieces of legislation. He noted Grisanti, as well as Libous himself, used Cuomo’s image in recent campaign television ads -– a move Cuomo did not protest.

“I’m not certain the old fashioned, ‘I support Joe Jones’ has to be done. There are other ways you can show support … and I think the governor has been supportive of key members of our (GOP) conference, and Mark is one of them,’’ Libous said.

--Tom Precious



Albany | Andrew Cuomo
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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.

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.

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 |

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 |