One of the more engaging pursuits for political observers over the next 16 months will be guessing where, when and how closely Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo chooses to identify himself with the state's Democratic Party, at whose summit he sits.
One example: It is unknown if Cuomo will endorse Antonio Reynoso in a Brooklyn Democratic primary against the newly dislodged ex-Assemb. Vito Lopez for a City Council seat in the fall.
The hour remains early for big-name 2013 endorsements -- and the question might answer itself if Lopez, 71, who's been vilified for a pattern of allegedly sexually harassing female staffers in his legislative office, forgoes the run. Overall, an aide said, "the governor judges individual races based on the quality of the candidates."
Also, this fall, suspense will build over whether and when Cuomo will make an endorsement for Nassau County executive. Thomas Suozzi, no chum of the governor, and Adam Haber, a newcomer, are competing for the Democratic nod against the Cuomo-cordial GOP incumbent, Edward Mangano. In 2011, Cuomo swept through Suffolk to campaign for Democrat Steve Bellone, who became county executive.
Cuomo, meanwhile, is professing neutrality in the New York City mayor's race, the biggest contest in the state until the governor's re-election bid next year.
When three State Senate Democrats from the city were recently embroiled in federal prosecutions, Cuomo may have looked prudent in hindsight. He'd refused to push last year for his party members to win the Senate majority -- a position some Democrats criticized.
Others within the party, however, voice a dissent separate from last year's legislative races.
"He's a Cuomo-crat," said one longtime party activist, who asked not to be quoted by name. "He uses the party as a pass-through operation" for his own political efforts. "He seems to have a lack of respect for the party and its structure."
Also critical, though less acerbic, is Manhattan reform Democrat Bill Samuels of the New Roosevelt Initiative group. Samuels said he sees increased interest from younger people in places such as Brooklyn, where Lopez was dumped last year as county party chairman. He said, however, that New York's Democratic committee falls short in "civic engagement" and "party-building" efforts compared with such states as Michigan and Arizona.
But Peter Kauffmann, a consultant for the state Democratic committee, says efforts are under way to rally interest, issue by issue, through social media. "I think we're going to have the best digital operation of any state," he said Friday.