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Cuomo chose North Country farmer Darrell Aubertine to be the head of the state’s Agriculture Department. Aubertine, a conservative Democrat, lost his Senate seat last November to Republican Pattie Ritchie.
Ritchie joked at the committee meeting to approve Aubertine’s nomination that it marked the only time to date she’d ever voted for her former opponent.
“It is my pleasure for the first time to vote for you,” she said with a laugh.
On the floor of the Senate, where Republicans control the chamber by just one vote, partly due to Aubertine loss in November, Senator Eric Adams, a Democrat, quipped that there were Senators from the other party who also might like a job in the new Administration.
“You let the governor know that there a lot more commissioners on that side of the aisle that he could appoint,” said Adams.
All joking aside, both Democrats and Republicans praised Aubertine, saying he was known for his unwavering devotion to farm interests during his two and half years in the Senate. Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous is a Republican from Binghamton said Aubertine was someone who “has the passion for the job, the commitment to the job”.
During the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, Aubertine said that farm interests affect people all over the state, not just New Yorkers in rural areas, and he praised his new boss, Governor Cuomo.
“Whether you represent an urban area like Buffalo or a very rural area,” said Aubertine. “All those places are interconnected. For the first time, as I see it, we have an administration that’s made that connection.”
Manhattan Senator Liz Krueger agrees, saying people in her district want more fresh food.
“We want it grown, we want it healthy, we want it local,” said Kruegger, who called bringing upstate produce to New York city markets a “win-win”.
The former head of the State’s Business Council, Ken Adams, was also confirmed as head of the Empire State Development Corporation, which oversees the state’s economic development initiatives. Adams was also confirmed with bi-partisan support.
At the Senate committee meeting, Adams said he intends to remove obstacles to private sector growth, and says the state has no future as what he terms “the tax capital of the world”.
“We’re going to need to continue to hammer away at reforming the state’s business climate and making it more hospitable to employers,” Adams said.
In the committee hearing, Adams refused to get drawn into the controversy surrounding hydrofracking of natural gas in the Marcellus shale. He says the Cuomo Administration’s Department of Environmental Conservation is still reviewing the process to determine whether it’s safe, but if it’s approved will use the natural gas resources as an economic development tool to create jobs.
Adams will have a tall task on his hands, the upstate economy has been ailing for years, and downstate is still recovering from the Wall Street crash of 2008.