Some GOP state senators use Cuomo's image to bolster campaigns

Oct 19, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo is not running for office this year, but his face and name are still appearing in election mailers in many New York homes.  That is because state lawmakers from both parties running for reelection are using the popular governor’s image in their campaign literature.

George Amedore, an Assemblyman who is seeking to fill the newly created 63rd Senate seat in the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys, has sent a full color flyer to homes in the district, prominently featuring Amedore clasping hands with a smiling Governor Cuomo.

Senator Mark Grisanti, from the Buffalo area, is running for re-election. He features Cuomo in a television commercial, using an excerpt from a speech the governor made congratulating Grisanti for working on a new plan for SUNY Buffalo.  

“The Senator has worked on this project, with his colleagues from day one, and they’ve been tireless,” Cuomo says in the ad.

You would expect Democratic candidates running for the state legislature to use the popular Democratic governor’s image to help their campaigns, but Amedore and Grisanti are Republicans. They are among several GOP legislators who are using Democrat Cuomo, to bolster their own election chances.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous, a Republican from Binghamton, is running the Senate GOP’s election efforts.  Libous has sent out a mailer that shows himself smiling and clutching Cuomo’s arm and says that he “works closely with the governor.”

Libous says those words are true. He says the GOP worked cooperatively with Cuomo to allow the gay marriage vote, cut the budget and impose a property tax cap.  And he says the association helps both.

“I think it’s good for the governor, it’s good for us,” said Libous. “People like the fact that the Republicans are working with the Democratic governor.”

Libous admits the tactic could help the GOP, which holds the Senate by three seats, keep the majority in November.

Steve Greenberg, with Siena College polling, says it is a smart move for the GOP candidates.

“Republican lawmakers can read polls as well as Democratic lawmakers, and what they see is that the governor is extraordinarily popular,” says Greenberg, who says recent polls show the governor’s approval rating at percent. “They want to try to bask in that glow a little bit.”

Greenberg agrees that the bipartisan images boosts both the candidates and Cuomo. He says they portray an Albany that is less dysfunctional than it used to be.

Cuomo, however, has not actually endorsed  Libous, Grisanti, or Amedore, who are using his image in mailers and on television. The governor did late Thursday signal that he will endorse Republican Senator Stephen Saland of the Hudson Valley, who provided one of several swing votes for Cuomo's gay marriage bill in 2011.

Cuomo has also backed two Senate Democrats. One, Joseph Addabbo of Queens, is locked in a tight reelection race. Addabo provided one of several votes needed to pass the gay marriage law, which Cuomo championed last year.

The other Democrat is David Carlucci, a Senator aligned with the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of four Democratic Senators who are separate from both parties in the Senate, but often side with the Republican majority.   

The governor offered to endorse a Republican Senator, Roy McDonald, who lost a GOP primary after voting for same-sex marriage, but McDonald decided to drop out of the race.

Cuomo, who prides himself on his ability to work with both parties during his first two years in office, has not objected to the use of his image by Republicans that he has not officially endorsed.

“If it’s factually accurate, I don’t have an issue with it.,” said Cuomo a few weeks ago.

The governor, who has had a friendly relationship with the Senate Republicans, more recently has offered a veiled warning to Democrats running for office who disagree with some of his compacts with incumbent legislators.  Cuomo did not mention anyone by name, but Senator Grisanti’s Democratic opponent , Michael Amodeo, has said he is against the property tax cap, as well as a new pension tier enacted by Cuomo and the legislature.

“Theoretically, we are both Democrats, but you oppose everything that I’m trying to get done,” said Cuomo. “So what is the point, that we happen to share this label?”

Republican Grisanti is also one of several senators who provided a "yes" vote to help same-sex marriage pass.

Cuomo, when asked whether he wanted the Republicans to retain control of the Senate, or have the Democrats take over in November, offered a neutral response.

“I want the Senate that the people of the state elect,” said Cuomo.

And the governor’s image on the flyers and in TV ads may help voters decide that they want to elect a Republican.