ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday continued his hiring of political veterans with presidential campaign experience in choosing a longtime Republican aide to be his chief of staff.
Cuomo hired Maria Comella, who most recently worked for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who ran for the GOP nomination for president last year before dropping out and supporting Donald Trump. Comella also worked on the 2004 presidential re-election campaign of President George W. Bush, and the failed Republican presidential campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain in 2008.
In New York, Comella succeeds Melissa DeRosa, who Cuomo appointed secretary to the governor earlier this month. Former Secretary to the Governor Bill Mulrow left the top post and will work to help Cuomo’s 2018 re-election campaign committee.
“Right now it is important to be an active participant in our democratic process and political party matters less than the things we can accomplish when working together,” she said in a statement. “At a time of turmoil in Washington, I believe the states can and will play an important role and Governor Cuomo has the ability to find common ground when it’s needed and get things done.”
Comella, a New York University graduate and native of the Albany County suburban neighborhood of Loudonville, has worked since 2016 in the private sector in strategic communications. She was chief messaging officer for Christie’s presidential campaign after serving as his deputy chief of staff for communications and strategic planning. After Christie dropped out, Comella endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
She was deputy communications director for Giuliani’s campaign, director of communications for the Bush-Cheney Republican ticket in 2004 and director of operations for former Republican Gov. George Pataki’s campaign committee in 2002.
She has a graduate degree in international affairs from The George Washington University.
Cuomo, a Democrat, plans to run for a third term in 2018, and is being encouraged by some to run for president in 2020. Cuomo has said he has no plans to run for president.
“The message that was communicated to the outside world [by Comella] wasn’t very successful, but he’s hiring people with national exposure through a variety of candidates — top-level presidential campaigns,” said Doug Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College. “She’s a Republican, so that means he can walk across the aisle.”
That could help Cuomo, son of liberal Democratic icon Gov. Mario Cuomo, in more conservative Democratic primaries for president in the key early tests of Iowa and New Hampshire, Muzzio said.
On March 21, Cuomo announced that he has hired some top talent from the Obama administration and from last year’s Democratic presidential campaign for Hillary Clinton.
On Tuesday, Cuomo announced that among his six new hires was Noah Rayman, a former corporate speechwriter and journalist at Time magazine, where he covered international affairs.
Cuomo hired a speechwriter in March — Andrew Tillman, a former speechwriter for Democratic President Barack Obama.
“Government service should transcend politics; unfortunately, these days, it is rarely the case,” said national political commentator Susan Del Percio, a former Republican campaign strategist who had worked for Cuomo as a top adviser in the governor’s office. “The governor is up for re-election in 2018. . . . That is the race he should stay focused on.”