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Samuels weighs primary for lieutenant governor

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, whom 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 yesterday.

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 businessman who has advocated for transparency in government and backing reform candidates. He 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.

Cuomo's supporters reacted quickly. "Mr. Samuels' 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.

"My thought has nothing do with Kathy Hochul," Samuels said. "She is a qualified candidate . . . 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.

State & Region