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Cuomo: Plying the benefits of incumbency

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to members of

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to members of the Congressional Black Caucus on July 21. Photo Credit: Louis Lanzano

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo doesn’t just have a campaign-funds advantage over his election opponents. He’s also been able to use the state’s purse.

A review shows that Cuomo has made about 60 announcements over the past seven weeks to tout the use of state funds to spruce up local downtowns, repair roads, rebuild sewers, open playgrounds, refurbish cat and dog shelters, expand addiction-treatment clinics, renovate a Cooperstown baseball field and even open a cafe at Jones Beach.

That is better than one per day.

Some came with ribbon-cutting style events. Those aren’t technically campaign events. But they can serve to boost the incumbent’s profile just weeks before he faces actress Cynthia Nixon in a Democratic primary.

Disbursing taxpayers’ money during election season is a tried-and-true political tactic, experts note. And it is a tactic available only to Cuomo, not Nixon, Republican Marc Molinaro or any of the other Cuomo opponents.

“In the old days, it was called ‘pork barrel,’” said Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Cortland.

Spitzer said there are “two specific benefits” for an incumbent: Delivering money for a “tangible” project for which the “local people are always grateful,” and “creating a news platform that puts the incumbent in the headlines and crowds out the challengers.”

“Cuomo has been very good at this and he’s been especially busy this year,” Spitzer said.

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In the crowded race for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general, the elbowing isn’t so much about a particular issue but about which candidate is the most anti-Trump.

In ad after ad, the four candidates tout their progressive credentials and pledge no one will do more to oppose the policies of Republican President Donald Trump.

In the latest, Leecia Eve stands before a courthouse with manacles in her hands talking about her role in challenging an old law that forced imprisoned, pregnant women to give birth while shackled. She pivots from that to promising to fight Trump.

“As a young lawyer, I took on a prison system so no woman had to give birth shackled to a bed,” Eve says. “Now I’m running for attorney general to stand up to Donald Trump’s assault on our rights.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said, figuratively, he would fight the Trump administration with a baseball bat. Tish James promises to “be that fighter” to take on Trump. Zephyr Teachout, who arguably has focused on the Trump issue more than her rivals, recently held a campaign rally at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

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