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Cuomo Working Hard to Boost Upstate Numbers

By Tony Farina

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a billion dollars for Buffalo, but lest we forget, it isn't his money. It came, after
being taken by force, from the same people it will go back to, minus hefty holding and carrying costs....
I take from you in taxes then give it back to you in economic development plans.

Andrew Cuomo’s weakening poll numbers may not be enough to entice a strong Republican challenge next year given his bulging campaign war chest that has already hit $27.8 million with $6.2 million of that coming in the last six months.

This is the same governor who championed campaign finance reform before and after his election but who continues to operate fast and loose under the current laws and he’s likely to easily top the $28.4 million he spent in 2010 on his way to his first term.

A recent Siena College poll found some weakening in Cuomo’s numbers, especially upstate where only 37 percent of those surveyed like the job he’s doing. Much of that displeasure among upstate voters is likely the result of their anger with the governor’s tough gun control law that was passed into law last January after the shootings in Newtown, Conn.

But Cuomo, a consummate politician with a wealth of experience dating back to his father’s days in the governor’s mansion and his time as HUD secretary and New York attorney general, has been spending an extraordinary amount of time upstate in recent months, his way of wooing back voters who were angry with him over the gun law and the economy.

And a lot of what he’s doing is to try and convince voters he’s on their side, like helping to close the state-backed Hamister hotel project in Niagara Falls that will, if all goes well, deliver some construction jobs and send a signal to developers that he’s willing to put up taxpayer money to subsidize their efforts.

The Hamister deal was followed by the governor’s announcement that he will establish a $40 million pot of money, half of it coming from Niagara Falls casino revenue and the rest from the state’s Buffalo Billion fund, to help spur private development in the ailing cataract city over the next five years.

Developers, as in the case of Mark Hamister, are usually big campaign donors and Cuomo’s clever development plan could accomplish two goals: show that he cares about Western New York and make developers and the construction industry happy by subsidizing their efforts with money and tax breaks.

That same recent Siena poll also found that only 49 percent of state voters think he is doing an excellent or good job, which is a new low for the governor who last year was riding quite high in all the polls. But he is still viewed favorably by 64 percent of those surveyed even though just 52 percent say they are ready to reelect him next year.

The governor is still very strong in New York City and its suburbs where he’s viewed favorably by 62 percent and 54 percent are ready to vote for him next year.

Cuomo has another political card in his arsenal to appeal to voters as he and his supporters, many of them major contributors, are pushing hard for approval of the statewide gaming referendum on Nov. 5, passage of which, according to the Cuomo administration, would bring in $430 million a year which will be doled out to struggling cities and school districts across the state.

When that message is driven home to voters across the state by the big-spending gaming interests over the next month, supported by unions and the governor, it looks like it will overwhelm the underfunded gaming opposition and win approval, creating jobs and giving the state and the governor a major new revenue source.

Whether transferring land from the NFTA to the state to help develop Buffalo’s waterfront, or announcing a new company being lured to Buffalo under his billion dollar commitment to the city, Cuomo, who rarely traveled to Western New York during his first two years in office, has piled up the mileage over the last several months, mostly in state planes, to increase his visibility to voters who may have been wondering what he looked like.

The governor even attended a tailgating party at Ralph Wilson Stadium the same weekend (Sept. 8) he personally called Hamister and asked him not to pull out of his Niagara Falls hotel project as he was threatening to do because he didn’t like being called a “con man” in a political mailer. With Cuomo publicly invested in the project, Hamister stayed his course and eventually won approval from the Niagara Falls City Council when one of its members was convinced that it was a good deal for the city by Cuomo aides despite having had some reservations.

If Cuomo would like to run for president in 2016, he must first win big in New York next year in his reelection bid. Even a smashing victory in 2014 might not be enough to win Cuomo the Democratic nomination unless Hillary Clinton, the current favorite, steps aside.

If we’ve learned anything about Andrew Cuomo during his time in the statehouse, it’s that he’s not afraid to take on challenges, and in some cases goes out of his way to look for them. The governor went after his Canadian partners on the Peace Bridge Authority, took on the strong pro-gun lobby, and went toe-to-toe with the Seneca Nation over gaming after the state angered the Senecas by cashing in on raceway racinos in apparent violation of the 2002 gaming compact.

The governor’s office is churning out press releases like never before, whether on strong penalties for texting-while-driving or expanded wildlife hunting to keep the hunters happy.

As the governor makes his pitch for another term and possibly a shot at the White House, his younger brother Chris is making a name for himself as the new morning anchor on CNN.

Chris Cuomo’s “New Day,” which recently marked three months on the air, runs behind “Fox and Friends” and ‘Morning Joe” in the ratings, but it is the only one of the three to grow compared to the same time period last year.

The younger Cuomo is an appealing and informed presence on the air, but he can still show flashes of the Cuomo firebrand style that marks his older brother.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

OCT 08, 2013