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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Ideologies clash, but for a short season

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shown

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shown in this file photo. (Jan. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

In New York elections, clashes of ideology seem to last only a short season.

One such season is under way, with political party activists wrestling over a few final key nominations.

Saturday, the Working Families Party is due to convene near Albany on whether to back an alternative candidate against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Four years ago, after agreeing to back Cuomo's policy agenda, the party supported him. But WFP positions keep landing to the left of the governor's -- on minimum wage, property-tax caps, schools, public-employee contracts, the Koch brothers' contributions, and even Occupy Wall Street.

Last week, state Democrats staged a carefully teased show of unity at their convention in Melville. Still, maverick Bill Samuels, dissatisfied with Cuomo as too Republican-leaning, has talked about mounting a progressive primary challenge to Cuomo's preferred lieutenant governor candidate, Kathy Hochul. Further out on the margins, the Green Party has talked of seeking a left-wing coalition to oust Cuomo.

Across the ideological divide, Conservative Party state chairman Michael Long these days plays his accustomed role of trying to tug elected Republicans rightward. He supports GOP candidates Rob Astorino for governor, John Cahill for attorney general and Robert Antonacci for comptroller.

But Long has also let it be known that, down-ballot, his Conservatives would frown on the prospect of State Senate Republicans supporting a full public campaign-finance bill in coming weeks, as advocated by liberals.

He said he would regard its enactment as a "payoff" from Cuomo to WFP for that party's support, and warns that if circumstances demand, he'd consult with his executive committee to reconsider endorsements of those who capitulate.

Adherence to party platforms, or ideology, plays a role in the early congressional primaries set for June 24. When state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and lawyer George Demos debated last Friday in their race for the Suffolk GOP nomination in the 1st Congressional District, each sought to portray himself as the real conservative candidate and the other as an unreliable opportunist.

But once the dust settles, and the general election campaign commences, the Republican nominee will set his sights, at least partially, on trying to draw Democratic and unaligned voters away from Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) while maximizing GOP turnout. Whether the race comes up Bishop-Zeldin or Bishop-Demos, expect the rhetoric on issues to sound a lot like many other contested House races around the nation.

For the major parties, ballots in the making are devoid so far of statewide September primaries.

As November nears, ideology will give way more and more to individual candidacies. With Cuomo the front-runner for governor, for example, some consultants behind the scenes already are measuring the prospect of a Cuomo-Cahill party crossover vote in places such as Long Island, giving Republicans a chance to unseat first-term Democratic Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

This ideological season, the state's Independence Party has drawn fire from other, rival parties as not standing for anything but trading on an attractive name.

Presumably, different parties do represent different ideas.

The immediate questions are how much and when.

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