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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Democrats mask tensions as Andrew Cuomo accepts nomination

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 14, 2014 in

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 14, 2014 in Tarrytown, New York. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

For their convention's closing day, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's New York Democrats staged a procession of speeches and video testimonials that masked from public view all tensions within the state's dominant political party.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stepped up to deliver an introductory speech for Cuomo. "There are so many times when as Democrats, we're called on to live up to our ideals," said de Blasio, elected last November. "Time and time again the governor has stepped forward."

"Wasn't he fantastic?" Cuomo said in thanking de Blasio at the outset of his own 28-minute address.

Hearing this, you would not guess that three months ago Cuomo slapped down de Blasio's call for a city minimum wage higher than the state's -- or did the same with the mayor's proposal to allow the city to impose a new income-tax surcharge on its top-earning residents.

Neither partner in New York's premiere power couple, Bill and Hillary Clinton, made it in person to the two-day Melville convention. But the former president boosted Cuomo, his former Housing and Urban Development secretary, in a video shown moments before the governor spoke.

"I told New Yorkers that Andrew would do great things as attorney general and as governor, and he has," Clinton said. "New York state government has been transformed into an engine of action, standing in stark contrast to the gridlock that plagues Washington, D.C."

From this you would not recall all the supposition that the still-unknown plans of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stand in the way of Cuomo possibly seeking the 2016 Democratic nomination for president.

One veteran delegate, noting what he called "labor-left" activists in the seats at the Huntington Hilton who might be considered ideological rivals of the governor, said: "They made it look like there isn't a problem."

And George Gresham, president of 1199/SEIU; Hector Figueroa, president of 32B-J/SEIU, and Chris Shelton, vice president of Communications Workers of America District 1, appeared on the giant video screen delivering short Cuomo promotions as a lead-up to the governor's appearance.

From this you might never know that the Working Families Party -- backed by unions like Gresham's, Figueroa's and Shelton's -- remains divided on whether to cross-endorse Cuomo, given differences with him over how the wealthiest residents should be taxed and how public schools should be run.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a video message he was "proud to nominate" Cuomo (it was symbolic; the nominations were completed Wednesday). And he joined Cuomo for an embrace on stage following the acceptance speech.

From this you would not guess that the two differed sharply over Cuomo's proposal for an optional 401(k) alternative to a fixed pension for public employees, and over cheaper pension deals for future employees. More recently, a report from DiNapoli's office challenged the underpinnings of Cuomo's claim of having turned deficits into a $2 billion surplus.

By all accounts, Cuomo's relationship with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has had its tensions. But Schneiderman, like most of the other players, took part in the kumbaya before everyone returned to their separate political lives outside the convention spotlight.

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