On Saturday, July 26, in his first scheduled bout of Capital-region shmoozing since an April appearance at the Democratic Rural Conference, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo spoke to about 50 party activists at the Desmond Hotel in Colonie. More significantly, as far as his audience was concerned, they spoke to him.
“He really wanted to listen and to hear our concerns,” said Todd Kerner, a Democratic state committeeman from Clifton Park. “You’re not getting that from a lot of people these days.” (Mr. Kerner didn’t mention the current governor. Maybe he didn’t have to.)
Mr. Cuomo arrived after many of the other invitees, who had helped themselves to a lunch buffet of carved turkey, salads and sandwiches. He sat briefly at the head table, which was populated by Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings; County Executive Michael Breslin; the Democratic chairmen of four local counties; and Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan. Daniel McCoy, the Albany County chairman, introduced him.
Mr. Cuomo talked about forcing a major health care company to end rate-fixing; his successful shake-up of the student loan industry; and then the achievement he considers most important: a bill that will allow referendums to consolidate local governments.
“He’s a doer. He gets things done,” said Tom Wade, chairman of the Rensselaer County Democratic Party. Mr. Cuomo then took questions from the audience. One on Medicaid costs. Another on what he thought of Governor David Paterson’s pledge to follow up on the consolidation by halting local government mandates.
“He basically said that he thought the Legislature had learned its lesson with this Senate stuff and would have to be more careful,” said one attendee. “Come to think of it, he answered every question by agreeing. I guess that makes sense for a listening tour.”
Mr. Wade said the luncheon was fairly impromptu; he had been invited by a Cuomo-allied operative on Monday. Other, lower-level attendees were invited as late in the week as Friday.
He emphasized, as did everybody in attendance who spoke about the lunch, that as usual, Mr. Cuomo took care not to mention Mr. Paterson. And he never said anything about his future plans.
“In the next few months, people will start making judgments about Paterson,” said one Democratic county chair. “Andrew, then, has a sort of enviable position in American politics. The burden almost rests with the governor to show that he’s viable.”