Here is an expanded version of the second item from my “Albany Insider” column from Monday’s editions:
After Senate Republicans in the new budget gave Gov. Cuomo his top two priorities–a $15 minimum wage and creation of a statewide paid family leave program–some suggested the governor would stay on the sidelines in upcoming battle for control of the Senate.
With just a day to go before a crucial Senate special election on Long Island, the results have been mixed. Cuomo early on endorsed Todd Kaminsky, the Democrat in the race–but has not campaigned once for him in the Nassau County district where the governor remains popular even as he has made numerous appearances elsewhere on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
Cuomo and the state Democratic committee he controls also donated more than $100,000 combined to Kaminsky since April 4 even as Service Employees International Union Local 1199, whose president George Gresham chaired the advocacy effort on behalf of Cuomo’s minimum wage push, last week endorsed Kaminsky’s Republican opponent, Chris McGrath.
Cuomo has frequently been attacked by the liberal wing of his Democratic party for not doing enought to try and help the Democrats grab control of the Senate.
The $11,000 he donated to Kaminsky is the maximum amount he is allowed to give by law.
“No one can say the governor didn’t do anything to help his fellow Democrats,” said veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who in the past worked for Cuomo’s campaign.
Cuomo gave the same $11,000 maximum donation to the Democratic candidate in a Binghamton special election last year, but did virtually nothing else for her as she went down in stunning defeat.
Cuomo, insiders said, used the threat of going all in on the Kaminsky race had the Senate GOP not cut deals to hike the minimum wage and create a paid family leave program.
Once he got what he wanted, some say the governor has done just enough to avoid criticism that he abandoned the Senate Dems.
One Dem insider said “it would be crazy to think that anyone could be out actively campaigning in the middle of the budget and the legislative session.”
But the budget was passed on April 1, more than two weeks agao. Since then, Cuomo has been active campaigning for Clinton, including appearances on her behalf with former President Bill Clinton in Albany this past Saturday and more scheduled for Rochester and Buffalo on Monday.
The Senate Republicans heading into Tuesday’s special election have 31 members but have control of the chamber because Democrat Sen. Simcha Felder, of Brooklyn, sits with the GOP conference.
The mainline Democrats have 25 members. In addition, there are five breakaway Democrats who have aligned with the Republicans.
Tuesday’s special election is to fill the seat vacated after former Senate GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos was convicted on federal corruption charges in December. Skelos is set to be sentenced next month.