COLONIE—This was not a political event, Andrew Cuomo insisted before and after speaking to a gathering of the New York State Conservative Party. But he sure played to the crowd.
There were the two times Cuomo slipped into Italian. There was the opening praise of Mike Long, the long-time Conservative chairman, which segued into a cute story about his daughter. There was Andrew posing for pictures with attendees – most of whom are the party faithful of an organization that tipped the balance in the 1994 loss of his father Mario Cuomo to George Pataki – as he walked out of the room. (I didn't notice anybody bidding for the same honor with Rick Lazio when he spoke yesterday.)
And there was a faster-paced version of the same sharply produced Powerpoint Cuomo gave in December about the need to reduce the number of local governments. (Cuomo admitted that no bill has yet been advanced on the topic, but he said when asked that he is in discussions with legislative leaders.")
The hundred or so people who listened to Cuomo at the Holiday Inn Turf in exurban Albany sat quietly, some with hands hiding their facial expressions. Cuomo's speech was dynamic and polished. At the end, he took questions on the matter and pledged his staff would connect with attendees interested in carrying the same torch.
"We always receive people courteously," said Jim Duffy, a member of the state party's executive board. Cuomo was "talking our talk," but Duffy said there was no way he would ever support him in a possible run for governor.
Michael Freeman-Saulsberre, a Bushwick man seeking a City Council seat, asked Cuomo whether he was running for governor, and what his stance was on abortion.
Chairman Long approached the podium from his spot standing behind Cuomo, and said that he invited Cuomo to present ideas that people could work together on. When asked after the speech, Cuomo repeated that his only political plan is to run for attorney general.
Linda Kupidlowski, a party member from Queens, said, "We'll see," when asked if she would support Cuomo. She liked his message.
As did Michael Russo, also from Queens. "He had some really good ideas about cutting taxes and reducing government, which are very conservative positions," he said.
Cuomo got grilled harder by the press corps. Kyle Hughes, of nysnys.com, asked whether Cuomo was being disloyal to Paterson by speaking to an overwhelmingly anti-Paterson crowd. He circled for a minute, then moved on, calling Hughes' question "ridiculous."
When asked if he would seek the Conservative Party line in a statewide race (no matter which one,) he said, "I don't know." Asked whether he would support the governor for re-election, he said only, "Yes."