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GOP hits Cuomo on '180-degree flip-flop'

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during the New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during the New York State Democratic Convention at the Huntington Hilton in Melville Thursday, May 22, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

ALBANY -- Republicans Thursday mocked Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for vowing to help Democrats take over the State Senate, and then, days later, touting his ties with GOP legislators.

Republicans called it a "180-degree flip-flop."

A Democratic spokesman said there was no inconsistency about the governor highlighting his record getting legislation through and promoting party candidates.

On Saturday, Cuomo, a Democrat, blasted Republicans as "ultra cons," or conservatives, and said they should be removed from power in the Senate. He did so as a condition to win the endorsement of the liberal Working Families Party.

Then, on a western New York swing Wednesday, Cuomo appeared at a news conference with a Republican senator and touted that he'd "reversed that partisanship that existed in Albany."

Asked if residents now represented by Republicans should worry about losing influence, he said no.

"How can anyone trust this guy?" the state Republican Committee said in a news release.

"Andrew Cuomo is trying to have it both ways, playing to his liberal base downstate while feigning bipartisanship upstate."

The first-term governor, pressed about the issue in Rochester, said that in general a Democrat supporting fellow Democrats isn't "ultimately shocking news for anyone."

The back-and-forth underlies the uncertainty in political circles about how much Cuomo will do to help his party gain control of the one branch of state government it currently doesn't control.

The Senate currently is made up of 32 Democrats and 29 Republicans, but it is run by the Republicans and six breakaway Democrats. Though Cuomo tacitly has supported the coalition, liberal groups have said it has blocked progressive legislation.

Cuomo has a 30-point lead over Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, but polls have shown that advantage could be cut in half if a more liberal candidate runs on a minor-party line.

Last Saturday, Cuomo secured the endorsement of the labor-backed Working Families Party. He sent a video message to delegates, agreed to support certain legislation, back Senate Democrats and pressure renegade Democrats back to the fold.

One analyst said Republicans now will try to use the endorsement against him -- the same way George Pataki in 1994 criticized then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for endorsing then-Gov. Mario Cuomo. "Astorino will try to gain some traction by portraying the ego endorsement as a sellout of the rest of the state to liberal city interests," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.

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