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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Dance between GOP and Dems worth watching

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, with from left, Assembly

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, with from left, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). (March 27, 2011) Credit: AP

Instantly upon election, any New York governor becomes his state party's head honcho.

But, in stark contrast to former Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has made a public point of collaborating with the State Senate's Republican majority, now headed by Nassau County's Dean Skelos.

Members of Skelos' razor-thin majority, some of whom represent majority-Democratic districts, continually appear with Cuomo at bill-signings and news conferences professing mutually beneficial "bipartisanship."

Skelos and Cuomo, often collegial, have exchanged widely publicized accolades. The governor recently signed up for a fundraiser for Assembly Democrats (a group better ensconced in its majority) but not yet for an occasion to support Senate Democrats.

What's more, the governor ended up abandoning his campaign pledge to veto any partisan-gerrymandered redistricting map -- a big potential 10-year power boost for Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

And locally, to this point, Cuomo has been nothing but cordial with GOP Nassau Executive Edward Mangano, whose county's budget is under the control of a state financial control board.

Behind the scenes, multiple sources on both sides say Cuomo's top aide, Larry Schwartz, has more than once carried messages to members of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to relax its vise on the Mangano administration's stated plans for escaping financial doom.

For what it's worth, a couple of longtime Senate GOP hands with ties to Skelos, fiscal expert Abraham Lachman and press strategist John McArdle, have advised and accompanied Mangano in addition to his county staff. In 2009, it was Mangano who unseated Democrat Thomas Suozzi -- who, to put it politely, never enlisted in the Cuomo circle, or vice versa.

Against that landscape, Jay Jacobs -- a Gov. David A. Paterson appointee as state Democratic chairman who's also served as Nassau party chairman for a decade -- announced this week he's leaving the statewide post. Though insisting it was a matter of strategic timing for the election season, his dual chairmanships clearly became awkward. Jacobs as county leader has helped sound the charge denouncing all things Mangano -- while top state Democrat Cuomo in Albany praises avoidance of all partisan "gridlock."

Take the nasty blowup over Nassau debt. Some see it in a rough political way as featuring the county's Democrats in the role of congressional Republicans for their almost reflexive resistance to borrowing measures backed by the executive branch of the opposite party.

Last month, county Democratic legislators wrote in a letter, "Until there is fair nonpartisan [county] redistricting there will be no bonding" for tax refunds.

Mangano's county attorney, John Ciampoli, called this "an illegal quid pro quo" -- and sought a probe from the state inspector general, which in turn referred the matter to Democratic District Attorney Kathleen Rice for review. This is the state of the legislative conversation in Nassau.

Thursday, NIFA dealt a blow to Mangano's big-dollar plan for selling the sewer system. More than ever, the state-county dance -- and who coalesces and who wrestles with whom -- will be worth watching.


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