ALBANY -- Wealthy political activist Bill Samuels said he may enter a Democratic primary for lieutenant governor to force his way onto the ticket of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who Samuels has called a betrayer of liberal causes.
“I’d like to do it; I’m leaning to do it,” Samuels said in an interview Tuesday.
He said he is considering challenging Cuomo’s running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul of Buffalo, in a Democratic primary in September. If Samuels won, he would be Cuomo’s running mate in November’s general election.
Samuels, a Manhattan Democrat, said he will wait to see if the liberal Working Families Party takes Cuomo on first. The Working Families Party, closely associated with the Democratic Party, holds its nominating convention this weekend. The labor-backed party is threatening to dump Cuomo for a more liberal candidate.
Cuomo maintains strong support from liberals in polls, but has angered several liberal leaders as he spent a term balancing fiscal conservatism with liberal social initiatives such as legalizing gay marriage.
Samuels, 71, is a wealthy businessman who has devoted recent years to advocating for transparency in government and backing reform candidates.
Samuels has aimed most of his criticism in recent months at Cuomo. Samuels and other liberals fault Cuomo for not passing a robust, permanent system to use public funds for campaigns to limit the influence of money in politics and for failing to raise the minimum wage high enough, among several issues.
“He has betrayed me and all of his supporters,” said Samuels, who briefly ran for lieutenant governor once before. “What motivates me is what always motivates me: Progressive policy and pro-business policies.”
Cuomo’s supporters quickly reacted.
“Mr. Samuel’s pledge to run a Democratic primary challenge against Kathy would be unbelievably misguided and would be met with the full force of New York Democratic women’s dismay and disapproval,” said Judith Hope, former state Democratic chairwoman. “The Working Families Party, whose creation I supported, should divorce themselves from this charade and immediately disavow this ego trip.”
“My thought has nothing do with Kathy Hochul,” Samuels said. “She is a qualified candidate, and nominating a woman is good. We need more women in Albany.”
In 1974, Samuels father, Howard J. Samuels, ran as a lieutenant governor candidate with Mario Cuomo, who was running for governor. They lost the Democratic primary to the ticket led by Gov. Hugh L. Carey.
Samuels said he could serve as Cuomo’s No. 2 despite his harsh criticism of the governor.
“I would have to be more diplomatic, and would be,” Samuels said. “That’s a skill set I have and I can work as a team. And after all, Cuomo and Samuels ran before in 1974... there’s no reason it can’t be done again.”