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Cuomo picks Kathy Hochul as running mate; Dems nominate DiNapoli, Schneiderman

Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman from the Buffalo

Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman from the Buffalo area, has been nominated to be the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. This photo is from May 9, 2011. Credit: AP / David Duprey

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo selected former Buffalo-area Rep. Kathy Hochul to run for lieutenant governor Wednesday, signaling the Democrat is still concerned about improving his showing with upstate voters.

Cuomo made the announcement in a video address to delegates of the Democratic convention at the Huntington Hilton in Melville. On the convention's opening day, Democrats nominated Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of Manhattan and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli of Great Neck for re-election. They also engaged in heated debate about whether Cuomo should reject the endorsement of a minor party, the Independence Party, before tabling the idea indefinitely.

And they approved former Gov. David A. Paterson as the party's new state chairman, replacing Assemb. Keith Wright (D-Manhattan).

Cuomo said Hochul, who served less than two years in Congress before losing in 2012, "knows the needs of upstate New York, knows Western New York and the particular needs of Western New York."

A high-ranking Democratic source said the selection shows the governor "really wants to win Western New York and paint [GOP challenger Rob] Astorino as an extremist on women's issues."

The governor easily won election in 2010, garnering about 62.6 percent of the vote. But he lost 11 upstate counties, mostly around Buffalo, to Republican Carl Paladino. His opponent this time, Astorino, of Mount Pleasant, is banking on upstate unrest about the economy and a gun-control law Cuomo enacted.

Hochul, 55, who worked for M&T Bank after leaving Congress, long had been considered a leading replacement for Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy, who won't run for re-election. "I am proud to join the governor as a voice for the communities of upstate New York," she said on the video announcement.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone had been among a handful of Democrats considered as Cuomo running mates.

Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said Hochul could help Cuomo not only with upstate voters but female and suburban voters as well.

"She's a seasoned campaigner," Levy said. "She brings a woman to the ticket -- a woman in a race where Democrats have signaled that they want to turn Astorino into a scary person on women's issues."

Democrats formally nominated Cuomo and Hochul Wednesday. Thursday, the two are expected to address the delegates.

Democrats, who currently hold all statewide elected offices, enthusiastically nominated Schneiderman and DiNapoli for re-election.

DiNapoli, in his acceptance speech, said he's restored confidence in a state pension system that had been "dragged into scandal" -- a reference to his predecessor, Alan Hevesi, who was convicted in two separate cases and resigned in disgrace in 2006.

DiNapoli, who took office in 2007, also talked of his upbringing, choking up when talking about the sacrifices his mother and father made for him. He talked of his father, a "cable splicer for the phone company" and of growing up in a union household.

"They taught me the value of hard work, family loyalty and the importance of being a good neighbor," the Great Neck Democrat said.

Schneiderman said Democrats "are not the party of offshore tax avoidance" as part of his theme of "equal justice under the law." He also touted his role in a national mortgage settlement -- Schneiderman led a push to get banks to pay more -- and to fight heroin overdose deaths by supplying police with an antidote.

The convention began in discord Wednesday morning.

Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs led an insurgent charge to get Cuomo to reject the endorsement of the Independence Party. Jacobs said the party leaders use their ballot line -- the party is on Row "E" on New York ballots -- to enrich themselves. He said the party has a "corrupting influence." He had backing from the Democrats' Progressive Caucus.

But in their last act of the day, Democratic committee members indefinitely tabled Jacobs' petition.

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