Gov. Andrew Cuomo has had a frosty relationship with some of the state’s most powerful labor unions, but at a carefully choreographed rally this afternoon, he was portrayed as one of labor’s great champions.
Mr. Cuomo, along with Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman and candidate for lieutenant governor, was feted at the headquarters of the Hotel Trades Council in Midtown Manhattan, where hundreds of hotel workers packed an auditorium to cheer on the Democratic governor’s re-election bid.
“The election is very simple,” Mr. Cuomo declared in the HTC’s auditorium, where red, white and blue Cuomo Hochul signs festooned the walls. “You remember where we were four years ago when we took office. New York was in a bad way.”
“The state was almost bankrupt. It had a $10 billion deficit when we started and we’ve come a long way in those four years and this is a fundamentally different state and we’re not going back,” he said. “We went from a $10 billion deficit to a $4 million surplus.”
The state, Mr. Cuomo continued, added a half million jobs, cut taxes for “working families” to historically low levels, passed on time budgets, ended Albany gridlock and became, under his watch, the “progressive capital” once again. “When you have gridlock, you have paralysis. When you have paralysis, everybody loses. And that’s what happening in Washington but Washington didn’t discover gridlock: we had gridlock in Albany before we had it in Washington. They copied it from Albany,” he said.
The rally, also held to boost State Senator Adriano Espaillat’s re-election bid, was one of several Mr. Cuomo has attended in the past few days after avoiding the campaign trail entirely throughout the primary. Mr. Cuomo is heavily favored to win against law professor Zephyr Teachout and his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, who he will face in November. But the governor has endured mounting criticism from some liberals who feel Mr. Cuomo, a proud centrist, has not tacked far enough left during his four years at the governor’s mansion.
Anger from the left–at least those beyond the Democratic establishment–failed to dissipate after Mr. Cuomo named Ms. Hochul, a relatively conservative Buffalo area Democrat who once bragged about snagging the endorsements of the Conservative Party and National Rifle Association, as his running mate. Liberals like Mayor Bill de Blasio have hustled to recast Ms. Hochul as a progressive in the days leading up to tomorrow’s primary.
Ms. Hochul’s opponent, law professor Tim Wu, is hoping to ride liberal dissatisfaction to an upset victory over Ms. Hochul, who is not well known outside of her old district upstate. “Experience matters,” Mr. Cuomo told the crowd, alluding to Mr. Wu’s first-time bid for elected office. “If you’re gonna call a plumber to come into your house to fix your sink, you wanna know that the plumber knows how to handle a wrench, right?”
And at least in the eyes of Peter Ward, the president of the increasingly influential hotel workers union, Ms. Hochul has plenty of liberal cred.
“Kathy knows how to fight. She’s a lot like us. She’s not the biggest in size but she packs a real punch,” Mr. Ward said. “In Congress, she had a 100 percent pro-worker rating. She comes from a family of laborers who worked in the steel mills in Buffalo. And when extremist Republicans launched an attack on the minimum wage, a war on workers, Kathy stood up strong for us.”
Though the labor-backed Working Families Party nearly decided to back Ms. Teachout over Mr. Cuomo several months ago, HTC’s support of Mr. Cuomo was never in question. Known for its robust get-out-the-vote operation and political pragmatism–the union sided with Christine Quinn over Mr. de Blasio last year when it looked like she was the front-runner in the mayoral race–HTC has enjoyed a strong relationship with Mr. Cuomo, who pushed for the creation of a racino in Queens that recently showered pay raises on the unionized workforce there.
“That endorsement meant so much to the governor and I,” Ms. Hochul said, referring to HTC’s recent and expected decision to endorse the Cuomo Hochul ticket. “I’m gonna tell you right now, folks, if you like what we’ve done for four years, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”