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Cuomo, Pelosi rally to take back the House for Democrats

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (left) is taking on Republicans like Congressman Chris Collins up for election.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed Tuesday to help defeat the state’s Republican members of the House of Representatives when they are up for election next year.

House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced Cuomo at a rally of union workers at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City, where he made his remarks.

“We will remove you from office,” Cuomo shouted. “And we are telling you those are not just words — you can bet your political life that New Yorkers will do just that!”

While Cuomo said he’s working to defeat all of the state’s GOP congressional representatives, he directed his ire at western New York Rep. Chris Collins and the Hudson Valley’s Rep. John Faso. The two angered Cuomo earlier this year when they successfully included in the House repeal of the Affordable Care Act a plan to force the state to take over billions of dollars in county Medicaid costs.

“Today, I charge Congressman Faso and Collins and their colleagues with violating their oath of office to represent the interest of the people of the state of New York,” Cuomo told the cheering crowd. “I also charge them with defrauding the voters of this state. They said they would help their districts, they said they would help the struggling middle class. They are doing the exact opposite.”

Cuomo never mentioned President Donald Trump by name.

A spokesman for Collins called Cuomo’s attempt to defeat the congressman “laughable” and said that Cuomo received only 34 percent of the vote in the district during the governor’s last re-election campaign.

Cuomo’s actions also drew notice and a critique from the Republican National Committee, which connected the governor to a former top aide, Joe Percoco, who is facing trial on bribery and other charges. They referenced Percoco’s use of code words from The Sopranos television series including saying “boxes of ziti” for “money” while Percoco allegedly carried out pay-to-play schemes.

The governor has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

State GOP Chair Ed Cox accused Cuomo of having “delusions of grandeur” and putting his national interests ahead of the state.

Groups on the left also are critical of Cuomo, saying the governor has more work to do closer to home.  Bill Lipton, the state’s Working Families Party director, said while it’s “great” that Cuomo wants to help take the House back for Democrats, he should be working just as hard to reunite Democrats in the New York state Senate.

“We have this contradiction of the governor being out there fighting to take back the House, and we have the state Senate controlled by Trump Republicans,” Lipton said. “And he’s turned a blind eye to that.”

The state Senate is currently ruled by Republicans, with the help of several breakaway Democrats. Democrats have 32 seats, numerically enough to rule the chamber, but are divided into different feuding factions. There are the mainstream Democrats, the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and one lone Democratic senator who conferences with the Republicans.

Lipton said when the governor was seeking re-election in 2014, he pledged to help elect more Democrats to the state Senate in exchange for the Working Families Party endorsement. Lipton said that promise was never fulfilled.

“The governor is not just the governor, he’s also the head of the New York State Democratic Party,” Lipton said. “The Democratic Party needs to rediscover a mission, a purpose.”

Cuomo did raise money and endorse some Democratic candidates for the state Senate in 2016.  

Democrats already control the state Assembly, and, of course, the governor’s office. Lipton said if Democrats also ruled the state Senate, New York would be in a stronger position, like that of the state of California, to provide a counter-vision to Trump and the Republican-led Congress.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said even with the state’s current political divisions, New York still has some policies that are more progressive than California’s, including paid family leave.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.