ALBANY — The union representing retail and wholesale workers is throwing its support behind Gov. Cuomo’s re-election effort.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said the early endorsement is designed to send a message to progressive groups that the Democrats should be working to win back the House and state Senate rather than focusing on a potential primary against Cuomo.
“We want to send a message that with everything else that is going on in this country, we cannot afford to be divided,” Appelbaum said. “The message is we shouldn’t have a (gubernatorial) primary.”
Several liberal Democrats have been mentioned as possible primary opponents, including former Hudson Valley state Sen. Terry Gipson, who opened a campaign account and has been traveling around the state.
“What we should be using our resources and energy on is ensuring a Democratic state Senate and making sure New York does its part in taking back the U.S. House of Representatives,” Appelbaum said. “That means we should be uniting behind our Democratic governor who achieves progressive reforms.”
A long-time supporter of Cuomo, the union was the first to back his successful run for attorney general in 2006 and called on him to run for governor in 2009 before he became a declared candidate.
Appelbaum, who is also a member of the Democratic National Convention executive committee, praised Cuomo for progressive accomplishments during his first two terms — like the legalization of same-sex marriage, enactment of a statewide paid family leave program, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage — even while working with a Republican-controlled state Senate.
“He’s done these things in a way that is in sharp contrast with what is happening in Washington,” Appelbaum said. “He’s been able to work with both sides of the aisle to get his agenda through and that’s impressive.”
Appelbaum downplayed criticism of Cuomo from the left.
“We’re arguing about how far we’re going to advance, not protecting ourselves from retreating,” he said.
“Despite people doubting that he’d be able to, he was still able to achieve (progressive) things. I think that’s a lesson for the country. New York is showing that we can make progressive advances and govern effectively. Wouldn’t that be nice if that was what was happening in Washington?”
New York Republican consultants want to borrow a page from new Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s campaign playbook by focusing relentlessly on the issue of corruption when challenging Cuomo this year.
Manhattan GOP Chairwoman Andrea Catsimatidis last Wednesday held a meeting with more than 15 GOP operatives for the second time in recent weeks to discuss the race.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, says “we should be uniting behind our Democratic governor who achieves progress reforms.”
(Shawn Inglima/New York Daily News)
Catsimatidis said the heavy focus was on how to use the upcoming federal corruption trials of former Cuomo aides and associates, including one set to begin next week involving long-time close aide and friend Joseph Percoco, against the governor.
Consultant O’Brien Murray, who attended the meeting and was on the wrong side of Curran’s victory over GOP candidate Jack Martins, said the Democrat hammered Martins non-stop over ties to Nassau County Republicans hit with corruption charges.
“It worked in Nassau when there wasn’t an issue about the candidate,” Murray said. “Here you have a case where the issue is right at (Cuomo’s) doorstep.”
Another consultant who attended the meeting said the discussion was how to “leverage the trials to educate voters.” Ideas included ads, even before the party picks its candidate to head the ticket. It should also be a central theme to the campaign once a candidate is selected, he said.
“The race is about Cuomo, we just need an acceptable person,” said GOP consultant Rob Cole.
A Democratic insider referenced Republican corruption scandals both in New York and nationally.
“New Yorkers are concerned about the Republican tax assault on New York, but if Republican consultants want to talk about (GOP corruption), then by all means.”
The state Reform Party, led by Guardian Angels founder and radio host Curtis Sliwa, has begun the process of interviewing candidates to take on Cuomo and hopes to have its pack by late March.
Sliwa and party official Frank Morano already interviewed former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, who is also seeking the Republican nomination, and liberal activist Bill Samuels, who has not made a decision to run but wanted to gauge the possibility of getting the Reform Party line if he does.
Next on tap is Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, the only other declared Republican candidate. State Senate GOP Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, also considering a run, has not contacted Reform Party officials about their line, Sliwa said.
Sliwa seemed impressed by Giambra. He said any potential Reform Party candidate needs to be in favor of term limits, non-partisan elections, and allowing voters to directly bring initiatives and referendums to the ballot.
The minor party plans to hold an early March debate for candidates seeking its line, similar to what was done during last year’s mayoral campaign, Sliwa said.