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Cuomo-GOP alliance benefits both

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There was a bit of a love fest last month in Potsdam, as State Senator Betty Little, a Republican from Queensbury, introduced Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Democrat. Good things are happening in Albany, the senator indicated, because of the Cuomo's leadership over the first six months of his term.

As Albany reporter Karen DeWitt reports, the Democratic governor and Senate Republicans have a mutual interest in keeping their alliance strong.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

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Governor Cuomo, a Democrat, has lately been lavishing praise on Senate Republicans.  Here he is in Rochester singling out GOP Senator  Jim Alesi for recognition at an economic development announcement. Senator Alesi was one of four key GOP Senators who changed their mind on the issue of gay marriage, and provided enough votes for the bill to pass in the Senate.

“In politics you can agree, you can disagree,” said Cuomo. “But a person who’s about conviction and a person who’s about principle, that’s more important than anything else.”

Cuomo, traveling around the state to announce the formation of regional economic development councils, did not reserve his kind words just for Senators who helped put the same sex marriage bill over the top.   The Governor, in Schenectady, also heaped praise on GOP Senator Hugh Farley, who did not vote for the measure.

 “He is unparalleled in his statesmanship, his quality of public service,” said Cuomo. “It’s an honor to work with him.”

Moments earlier, Senator Farley had matched Cuomo in effusive praise, when he introduced the governor at the podium, saying the governor is helping the state be more welcoming to business. Farley, who’s been a Senator for more than 30 years, says Cuomo has already gained national recognition as “one of the most successful and dynamic governors” in the country.

“This young man knows how to work with the legislature, how to work with people,” said Farley. “He has an absolutely awesome work ethic. He has the respect of my colleagues.”

Cuomo’s exchanges with the Senator contrast sharply with a recent predecessor, former governor Eliot Spitzer,  who travelled to Schenectady during a budget battle to personally denounce Senator Farley on the steps of City Hall. 

It’s also the polar opposite of the atmosphere in Washington these days, with Democrats and Republicans nearly at each other’s throats.

Bruce Gyory, political consultant and SUNY Albany political science professor, says Cuomo has good reason to be happy with the Senate GOP, they gave him nearly everything he wanted in the recently concluded legislative session. While not all GOP Senators approved gay marriage, they delivered other key items like a property tax cap and an on time balanced state budget.

Senate Republicans are not as strong as they once were, they lost control of the chamber for two years, and now hold just a one vote majority. Democrats are further split into two camps. Gyory says Cuomo, during the session, used the potential instability in the Senate to his advantage.

“He turned that political instability into a tool that made the Senate his ally,” said Gyory.

Allying with the Democratic governor may help the GOP Senators in their future political campaigns. Cuomo is far more popular in public opinion polls than any members of the legislature, Democrat or Republican.

Cuomo, who worked to earn the Senate’s cooperation, inviting Senators for dinner at the governor’s mansion, and personally meeting with some in his office,  will also continue to need the GOP Senators if he wants a second successful session.

The state is already facing a more than $2 billion dollar structural deficit, and if the downturn on Wall Street continues, things could get much worse.

And so the mutual admiration society will likely continue. The 53 year old Cuomo got the last word back on that day in Schenectady during his appearance with the 79 year old Senator Farley.

“Nicest thing was that I should still be called a young man,” Cuomo quipped.

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