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Long IslandPolitics

Joe Biden backs Gov. Cuomo at Democratic convention

The former vice president urges Dems not to fall for the ‘phony choice’ between progressive values and the ‘practical needs of hard-working people.’

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at the New York State Democratic Convention at Hofstra University in Hempstead on Thursday, May 24.  (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday urged New York Democrats to stick with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and not fall for a “phony” choice between “our fundamental progressive values and the practical needs of hardworking people.”

Although he never mentioned Cuomo’s Democratic opponent by name, Biden said party members didn’t have to just “yield only to our progressive values.” It was a shot at Cuomo critics who call him too centrist, and Cynthia Nixon, who is running against him in a primary.

“You don’t have to choose between your heart and your soul. It’s a phony” choice, Biden told the more than 400 delegates at the Democratic state convention at Hofstra University’s Mack Center.

It was part of a double-barreled, local/national theme state Democrats sought to project on the final day of their convention. The intended message was Cuomo is a progressive and New York is the “alternative state to Trump’s America,” as Cuomo has put it.

“The Democratic Party must counter the fools’ gold sold by Trump,” Cuomo said, referring to President Donald Trump, who appeared on Long Island Wednesday to talk about gang violence.

Cuomo closed the convention with a 48-minute nomination acceptance speech that largely looked beyond New York.

He rattled off a list of accomplishments and alluded to the Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro.

But Cuomo focused primarily on national politics, including his party’s failures, U.S. Supreme Court rulings, immigration and “mass shootings which seem to happen every week.”

Cuomo criticized Trump’s lack of action on gun violence and called him “hellbent” on deporting “new immigrants.”

But Cuomo admonished his own party for what he called too much talk and not enough action. Cuomo, who has called himself a governor who gets things done, said the party “needs to adjust.” He said voters in 2016 went for Trump not because of the candidate but out of “despair.”

Cuomo said voters, “got tired of waiting for the Democratic Party to make a difference. It is the Democratic Party that must adjust. No more platitudes. No more delays. No more hyperbole . . . They want action.”

Biden was one of several party stalwarts Cuomo brought in to vouch for his re-election at the convention. Democratic National chairman Tom Perez led off the day Thursday, and Hillary Clinton gave the keynote speech Wednesday.

Biden focused heavily on what he called a Republican Party that has changed under Trump. Biden said the GOP is sending a “damaging” and “distorting” picture of the United States.

“This is not your father’s Republican’s Party. This is different. They are not who America” is, Biden said.

“They are sending a vision around the world that is damaging — that is distorting us with this phony populism and this fake nationalism,” “It’s designed to step back and let the wealthy and the powerful control, and then blame it on the other: the immigrant, the black, the woman. And that is everything we are not.”

The former vice president, who drew a standing ovation from party loyalists, gave a 45 minute speech that touched on xenophobia; a decades-old Mario Cuomo debate; high school football; LaGuardia Airport; trade wars with China; a trip to Mumbai, India; “fake nationalism;” Sputnik; his ancestors’ immigration from Ireland and his Corvette, which Biden said was “better looking” than Cuomo’s.

Biden closed with, “Re-elect Andrew!”

The choreography was meant to place Cuomo on a national stage, one analyst said.

“It’s all part of a package. Having Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Tom Perez come to the state convention says that Andrew Cuomo is considered a national player,” Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra’s National Center for Suburban Studies, said.

Even as some Democrats criticize Cuomo as insufficiently progressive and too centrist, Levy said the convention shows Cuomo isn’t uncomfortable with the labels.

“It makes clear Andrew Cuomo is very comfortable being seen as a pragmatic progressive, because he’s bringing in some of the biggest establishment Democrats in the country,” Levy said.

Even though Cuomo easily won the delegates’ vote at the convention, he still may face a Democratic primary. Nixon, a former star of “Sex In the City,” has said she intends to gather the 15,000 petition signatures necessary to qualify to run against Cuomo in September.

While Biden was endorsing Cuomo, Nixon released a video highlighting what she called the governor’s “Republican record.”

The video included Cuomo’s signing off on a redistricting plan endorsed by state Senate Republicans and, until earlier this year, tacitly supporting a band of breakaway Democrats who formed a governing coalition that allowed the GOP to maintain Senate control.

“All the big names in the world can’t hide the governor’s Republican record,” Nixon spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said.

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