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Cuomo plies national themes in accepting nomination for 2nd term as governor

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during the New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during the New York State Democratic Convention at the Huntington Hilton in Melville Thursday, May 22, 2014.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo formally accepted his party's nomination Thursday for a second term, while delivering a stage show and a speech with sights set on a larger stage.

In a 28-minute address to the state Democratic convention in Melville, Cuomo outlined goals and accomplishments designed to woo liberals, suburbanites and Western New Yorkers. It was part of an effort to roll up an even bigger victory than in 2010, when he won nearly 63 percent of the vote, Democrats and analysts said.

Cuomo, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, also played to a national stage.

Former President Bill Clinton gave a nominating speech, via video. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was piped in over the phone to praise Cuomo. Cuomo's own promotional video sought to address potential vulnerabilities, including the pace of recovery from superstorm Sandy.

Cuomo's speech at the Huntington Hilton touched on differences between national Democrats and Republicans, and he altogether skipped mentioning Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino.

"This was a state speech with national overtones," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. "Cuomo is playing for an enormous mandate both in Albany and within the national party."

Levy added: "The way he is nationalizing the [governor's] race, he is aiming squarely at suburban moderates."

Cuomo, 56, relied heavily on the same themes he's used in State of the State speeches. He hit on legalizing same-sex marriage, implementing a property-tax cap and enacting tighter gun-control measures. He talked about Sandy, renovating airports and targeting money for Buffalo.

Primarily, Cuomo tried to paint a narrative of what he considers an astonishing turnaround for the state since he took office.

"Four years later . . . we have turned around the state of New York," Cuomo told delegates. "There is a sense of hope and optimism. It was unprecedented, what we did . . . New York is on the move and we ain't going back."

Though he never mentioned Astorino, Cuomo said Republicans are led by an "ultraconservative social agenda that sees society through a lens of fear and division."

Aiming beyond New York, Cuomo said: "The Democratic Party has a new credibility."

"The goal here is to do better than last time and to do better than his father," said veteran Assemb. Herman "Denny" Farrell (D-Manhattan), a former state Democratic chairman.

Farrell was referring to former Gov. Mario Cuomo -- who was sitting in the front row Thursday -- who got about 65 percent of the vote in 1986 when he won the second of three terms. That was a record for a gubernatorial election until 2006, when Eliot Spitzer earned more than 69 percent.

Farrell said Cuomo wants to create an air of inevitability about this year's race.

"You want to make sure" Astorino doesn't get momentum, Farrell said.Cuomo led Astorino, the Westchester County executive, by 29 points in the latest Siena College poll. The survey also said a more liberal candidate running on a minor-party line could cut into Cuomo's total by about 15 percentage points. Cuomo has been trying to mend fences with unions and other liberals upset with his tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. In his speech Thursday, Cuomo vowed to win passage of abortion, immigration and campaign-finance legislation.

Cuomo also is trying to improve his showing in Western New York. In 2010, he lost in just 11 of the state's 62 counties, most of them orbiting Buffalo.

Toward that end, he selected former Buffalo-area Rep. Kathy Hochul as his running mate. Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy of Rochester decided not to run again.

Hochul, a government relations specialist for M&T Bank and an attorney, is a former Erie County clerk who won a special congressional election in 2011, but served just 22 months before losing in 2012. Her husband, William Hochul, is the U.S. attorney in Buffalo, appointed by President Barack Obama.

Her address Thursday centered heavily on Buffalo -- even taking Astorino to task for not promising to support an aid program that Cuomo calls the "Buffalo Billion."

"It doesn't fit into their narrative of negativity," said Hochul, who, like Cuomo, avoided mentioning Astorino by name.

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