Andrew Cuomo's Pledge Proving Tricky for Fellow Dems

By Gavin Aronsen

Andrew Cuomo, New York's likely next governor, has made it known that fellow Democratic office seekers should sign onto a single-page pledge to reform Albany if they expect to win his endorsement for this fall's election. But only two of his hopeful AG successors, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice and attorney Sean Coffey, have chosen to do so, and there is similar hesitation elsewhere on the ticket.

In the contested primary for the AG nomination, Rice, whom Cuomo's camp has favored in the shadows for weeks, has embraced the pledge, and Coffey spokesperson Tammy Sun, in an e-mail to the Voice, wrote, "Sean has signed and submitted the pledge."

Said Rice spokesperson Eric Phillips, "Yes, she is planning to sign it." He elaborated in an e-mail: "Andrew Cuomo's plan is all about increasing transparency and accountability in government, and reforming the way we govern our state. As a career non-political and independent law enforcement official, these are certainly goals shared by the district attorney. She is supporting his plan and she is also signing and supporting the reform plan offered by Mayor Koch."

Eric Dinallo, a Spitzer-era Wall Street prosecutor, is so far the only AG candidate to say no to the pledge. In an e-mail, his spokesperson Lauren Passalacqua told the Voice, "The AG's office must remain separate from the governor's, so Eric would refrain from signing the pledge." In that same message, however, she indicated Dinallo's support of the platform: "Eric does share Andrew Cuomo's goal to reform state government and agrees with much of the New NY Agenda."

The two other AG candidates, attorney Eric Schneiderman and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, don't yet have answers to the pledge. Schneiderman "is reviewing the pledge," his spokesperson James Freedland e-mailed the Voice on June 4. A week later, Freedland said that was still the case. Brodsky said he would wait for Cuomo to show him the pledge before reviewing it. (The Cuomo camp is focusing its efforts on citizens and has yet to ask legislators to sign on, a source familiar with the situation said in an e-mail.)

From the sound of things, Cuomo may not have an easy go at collecting endorsements from the other candidates on the statewide Democratic ticket either. New York's two sitting senators were noncommittal when their offices were contacted by the Voice.

Asked whether Kirstin Gillibrand would sign the pledge, press secretary Glen Caplin replied with an evasive e-mail which said only that the senator "commends Andrew Cuomo for making job creation and ethics reform central issues of his campaign and wholeheartedly supports his goals." (A follow-up call confirmed Gillibrand is presently refraining from signing the pledge.) Chuck Schumer's office, which the Voice has contacted on five separate occasions requesting an answer, has yet to provide one.

After a number of initial contacts with the campaign of State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who is also running for re-election this fall, spokesperson Dennis Tompkins indicated he would respond to the pledge question then failed to return several messages asking for comment. DiNapoli's dodging may mean his allegiance lies with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, also a Democrat but whom Cuomo has clearly targeted in his call to reform Albany. "I don't sign anybody's pledge," Silver told the media in response to the challenge.

Brodsky and Schumer are Silver sympathizers as well, and Eric Schneiderman is a chief opponent of Kathleen Rice in the AG race, so their reluctance comes as little surprise.

Additional reporting by Jenny Tai


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