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Gov. Cuomo Ignores Primary Opponent, NY Issues, and New Controversies During Syracuse Campaign Stop

Scott Willis

Governor Cuomo all but ignored his primary opponent during a campaign rally Monday in Syracuse, and instead continued to rail against the Trump administration.  It was part of a final swing across upstate New York ahead of Thursday's primary against actress and activist Cynthia Nixon. 

Cuomo addressed a friendly crowd of supporters at the Ironworkers Local 60 union hall…

"If I have to pick, I'm going to support the middle class because they're the one's getting squeezed.  And yes, I'm 100 percent pro-labor because they built the middle class and they protect the middle class," Cuomo said to applause.

President of the Central New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO Ann Marie Taliercio praised Cuomo for standing up for working families.  

Credit Ellen Abbott
Gov. Cuomo addresses a crowd of supporters Monday at Ironworkers Local 60. Seated are Assemblymember Pamela Hunter (behind lectern), and Ann Marie Taliercio. Cuomo is hoping to capture the democratic nomination for governor in Thursday's primary.

"When the U.S. Supreme Court recently threatened organized labor's ability to organize and collectively bargain, Governor Cuomo stepped up and said, 'No no no.  Not in New York.'  We don't go backwards, not one inch."

Taliercio also told the crowd Cuomo has made Central New York a priority through the regional development councils.

"The results can be seen across the region, from creating good-paying job, to protecting and fighting for  union labor, to revitalizing Syracuse's infrastructure."

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Supporters hold up signs and cheer Gov. Cuomo.

For his part, Cuomo didn't discuss any current issues facing New York State or what's on his agenda if re-elected.  Instead, he contrasted a number of his accomplishments on immigration, women’s rights, and taxes to what he called the Trump administration’s narrow, insular, and bigoted approach.   Cuomo told the crowd he’s the one best suited to take on the president and Republicans on behalf of New York.

"Let's stand in unity!  Let's fight back!  Let's show him that his nonsense doesn't sell here!  Let's show the Trump mini-me's that New York is not going to take it!" Cuomo yelled to applause and cheers.

Numbers from a recent Siena College poll show Cuomo ahead of Cynthia Nixon by a commanding 41 points.  Nixon told NPR's All Things Considered that progressive candidates such as herself are routinely under-estimated in the lead-up to election day.


Governor Cuomo had been gaining momentum in the days leading up to the September 13th Democratic primary for governor, but two controversial incidents over the weekend could set the governor back in his race against challenger Cynthia Nixon.

Credit Governor Cuomo's flickr page
An aerial view of the Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge, alongside the remains of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Officials were concerned part of the old bridge could collapse into the new one, so the opening of the final span has been delayed.

Cuomo spent the first few days of September making daily announcements on infrastructure achievements including the ground breaking of a third track for the Long Island Railroad, a new and brighter entrance to the beleaguered Penn Station, and last Friday, the opening of the final span of the  Mario Cuomo bridge, named after the governor’s late father. It replaces the old Tappan Zee bridge on the New York Thruway.

Cuomo, joined by former first lady Hillary Clinton, rode FDR’s 1932 Packard across the bridge.

This bridge restores confidence in ourselves”, Cuomo told the audience. “As the largest infrastructure project in the nation, I think this project is of national significance.”

But just hours later, the planned Saturday opening of the  new span of the bridge was delayed after engineers heard a loud popping noise from the old bridge, which is in the process of being disassembled.  They feared the old bridge could buckle and fall on part of the new bridge. Boat traffic on the Hudson River below was also halted.

Credit Governor Cuomo's flickr page
Gov. Cuomo drives FDR's 1932 Packard across the new bridge in his father's name. But the opening was ultimately delayed until Tuesday.

Cuomo on Sunday called it a “bizarre coincidence”, and said he wasn’t responsible for the old bridge anymore.

The state does not own the old Tappan Zee Bridge. The contractor called Tappan Zee Contractors owns the old Tappan Zee Bridge,” Cuomo said. “ So it is not our bridge. We are not responsible for it."

Cuomo’s opponents pounced, saying the governor rushed the bridge opening for political reasons and should have waited until he was sure it was safe. Actor Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo from the left in the primary, held a news conference at the foot of the bridge, in Tarrytown.

It seems very clear that the bridge was not ready to open,” Nixon said Sunday. “And that the decision of the bridge that Andrew Cuomo pushed through was based on a political calculation, on a great photo op for him, he thought, a week before Election Day.”

The Republican candidate, Marc Molinaro is calling for a federal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. 

The new bridge has now been declared safe by the contractors. In a statement,  they say the old bridge may still collapse, but will not harm the new bridge, which  will reopen later Tuesday, weather permitting.

Perhaps more damaging to Cuomo is a mailer sent out by the Democratic State Party, which the governor controls. It was addressed to Jewish voters, and called Nixon anti-Semitic and says she “won’t stand strong for our Jewish communities”.  Nixon attends a synagogue regularly and is raising her children in the Jewish faith.   

I am the mother of Jewish children and I am very alarmed at the rise of anti Semitism in this country and globally ,” said Nixon Sunday. “To us this kind of unfounded charge as a political weapon in a smear campaign is unworthy of Cuomo’s Democratic Party.”

The mailer sparked outrage, and condemnation from leading Democratic politicians, including New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, who called it “Trumpian”. 

The New York Times, which endorsed Cuomo, issued a scathing editorial calling the move “sleazy” and “dirty politics” and demanding an apology from Cuomo.

Cuomo says the mailer was “mistake” and “inappropriate”, but he says he didn’t have anything to do with it.

I didn’t know about the mailer,” Cuomo sad. “I heard about the mailer. I haven’t seen the mailer.”

The executive director of the state party, Geoff Berman, says a new mailer will be sent correcting the record, but Nixon and her supporters say voters won’t see it before Thursday’s primary election . They are asking for Cuomo to personally record a robocall apologizing for the mailing and setting the record straight.

Meanwhile, a Siena College poll conducted before the weekend shows Cuomo’s lead widening over Nixon to 41 points, at 63 percent  to 22 percent. 

Nixon’s campaign points out that the survey was conducted before what they say was a “game changing weekend” for the governor. Spokeswoman Lauren Hitt says in a statement that polls have missed the mark several times this year, including the surprise election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Congressman Joe Crowley in a June primary.

Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg says his poll accurately reflects those surveyed, but he says “anything could happen”.

He says the real poll occurs when Democrats come to the voting booth on Thursday.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at