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NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo shows it's good to be governor at election time, using incumbency to dominate Astorino, Hawkins.
NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo shows it's good to be governor at election time, using incumbency to dominate Astorino, Hawkins.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 3) – If you're running for governor, there's no substitute for actually being the governor.

That fundamental rule of New York politics is being demonstrated once again by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is using all the advantages of incumbency to so far dominate challengers Rob Astorino, the Republican nominee, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

In the past week, Cuomo's official schedule included appearances at a conference to announce a set aside quota of 30 percent of state contracts for minority and women owned businesses, dropping in on a SUNY board of trustees meeting to order a new policy to protect students against date rape and sexual assaults, and traveling to Afghanistan to declare his resolve to fight terrorism.

"As the governor of New York, New York is at the top of everybody’s threat lists ... and my goal is to have the most sophisticated homeland defense system ever designed by any state, period," he said in a call to the media back home.

As each tightly scripted event unfolded, the governor's large public relations team sprang into action, distributing transcripts, photos, audio and video feeds via satellite, Youtube and other digital means.

Friday, Cuomo disclosed he's crushing Astorino in fundraising, with $23.7 million on hand with a month to go until election day. Astorino reported having just $1.2 million.

Cuomo begin the week by unilaterally declaring he would participate in two debates, one on television in Buffalo and one only heard on public radio in New York City. Cuomo shrugged off questions about why he will only participate in a TV debate in western New York, not in the Hudson Valley or downstate where the majority of New Yorkers reside.

"I think, you know, we struck the right balance," Cuomo said at his first Albany press conference in two months. He affirmatively answered a follow-up question about whether his debate strategy was consistent with his 2010 pledge to have the most transparent administration in state history.

"Yes, I think, totally. Because I believe it is," Cuomo told the reporter. "You believe it’s not, that’s your opinion. And when you’re governor, you (can) do it your way."

Astorino's campaign said Cuomo's announcement and justification was absurd and an insult to voters. Cuomo did not debate his opponents at all in the Democratic primary, which saw 37 percent of Democrats vote for a candidate other than Cuomo.

As the days dwindle down until election day, Cuomo is demonstrating another advantage of incumbency – the ability to hand out money.

An estimated 1.2 million New Yorkers who claim minors on their tax returns are being mailed $350 "Family Tax Relief Credit" checks. "This tax relief is part of New York State's new efforts to reduce taxes," reads a printed message on the checks.

The payday was included as part of the budget, and critic E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center called it "as shameless a political ploy as we have ever seen."

The $350 checks began to be mailed out the same week Cuomo announced the state would spend $750 million to build and outfit a solar equipment factory in economically depressed Buffalo, a rich source of Democratic votes. The factory itself and the investment risk it entails will belong to state taxpayers, but the solar business will be owned by Elon Musk, the Canadian-American billionaire behind the Tesla electric car.