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Gov. Cuomo hires ex-Obama, Clinton campaign staff to NY payroll

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Tuesday that he has hired some top talent from the Obama administration and from last year’s presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton to bolster his staff as he plans to run for a third term in 2018 and as he is encouraged by some to run for president in 2020.

Hours later, Cuomo went on his biggest tear yet against the Republican Congress and President Donald Trump’s budget proposal. The bared-teeth attack against “rabid conservative orthodoxy” and “cheap rhetoric” came after months of speeches since the November election that avoided a fight with Washington for fear of losing funding for New York.

“It’s about national ambition,” said Doug Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College. “He’s upgrading his rhetoric. He’s speechifying . . . these folks are making a bet on Cuomo actually going to run for president and they want to be associated with having just come off a loser to being associated with a Democratic winner.”

One of more than two dozen new hires to the state payroll is Andrew Tillman, who will serve as Cuomo’s speechwriter. Tillman was a senior research associate and speechwriter for former President Barack Obama.

Cuomo also hired Jen Darley, who held the critical position of “advance woman” for Clinton’s campaign last year in which she organized the candidate’s upcoming appearances. He also hired Valery Galasso, who as special adviser for Cabinet nominations on the Clinton transition team worked with influential Democrats nationwide and could help expand Cuomo’s image. She will serve as a senior policy adviser to Cuomo.

“Hiring staff with highest levels of national political experience tells 2018 Cuomo re-election opponents to think twice,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a national political strategist who has advised former President Bill Clinton and Cuomo. “It scares off the competition.”

Cuomo also bolstered his staff that deals with the news media, with which he’s had a sometimes rocky relationship.

Cuomo hired Elizabeth Bibi to be his deputy director of media relations, after working on the national press advance desk for Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine; and Diana Brown, who worked on the Clinton campaign as a filmmaker, to serve as a video producer.

Jonathan Weinstein didn’t work for Clinton or Obama, but he is a former NY1 News anchor and reporter who will serve as Cuomo’s deputy communications director for transportation issues.

A Cuomo spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for the salaries of the new appointees. But he discounted what he called tea-leaf reading into the hires.

“We always aim to hire the best and brightest and many talented people were available,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “We’re proud they’re now part of Team Cuomo and will help us move New York forward.“

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