The state Republican chairman said Wednesday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s endorsement of Democratic State Senate candidates will backfire because a federal corruption investigation has tainted his administration.
“Cuomo, with the cloud of political corruption around him, is now endorsing Democratic Senate candidates on Long Island, and that aura is going to be a shadow over them also,” said Ed Cox, state Republican chairman. “His endorsement brings that along . . . We’re going to make clear that the two are tied together.”
A Cuomo spokesman accused Cox of trying to “distract” attention from the fact that the GOP ticket is tied to “Donald Trump and his sinking, anti-woman campaign for President.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, largely has stayed out of state legislative races during his six years in office — angering some fellow Democrats who have said that he is too cozy with the GOP and that he should have worked harder to wrest control of the State Senate from Republicans. But this week, the governor attended fundraising events on Long Island to announce that he’s backing Democrats in three key races in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Republicans now are trying to counter Cuomo’s moves in the legislative races.
Cox and others are pointing out that Cuomo’s former closest adviser was one of nine people charged in September by federal prosecutors who alleged a wide-ranging scheme to rig lucrative contracts for Cuomo campaign contributors. The governor has said he knew nothing of the alleged conspiracy involving Joseph Percoco, a longtime aide. The contracts included high-profile economic-development projects in Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and the Hudson Valley.
One defendant, Todd Howe, who is a former lobbyist with ties to the governor and his father, the late Mario Cuomo, already has pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy and bribery charges and is expected to testify in the case.
Cox contended the allegations make a Cuomo endorsement undesirable. “It’s a huge negative for the Democratic candidates,” Cox said, calling the federal criminal complaint a “sordid tale of the misuse” of public funds.
In an email, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi countered: “This is yet another pathetic attempt by Ed Cox and his Nixonian henchmen to distract from the fact that he . . . the rest of the New York GOP machine are all in for Donald Trump . . . Peddling lies based off hearsay testimony from a convicted felon is shameful, but not surprising from this crowd.” Cox is married to the former Patricia Nixon, a daughter of the late President Richard M. Nixon.
Cuomo this week said he backs Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Adam Haber in key Senate races in Nassau County — insiders expect both of them to win.
Kaminsky is facing Christopher McGrath, a private attorney, in a rematch after Kaminsky won a special election earlier this year to replace ex-Sen. Dean Skelos, a Republican who was convicted on corruption charges in 2015.
Haber is facing Republican Flower Hill Mayor Elaine Phillips in a battle for a seat vacated by Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), who is running for Congress.
Cuomo also said Democrat James Gaughran is the “kind of guy we want to have” in Albany. Gaughran, chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, is challenging State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset).