CUOMO PICKS UP SUPPORT AT TOP

More county Democratic leaders are backing him over Paterson for ticket

JIMMY VIELKIND CAPITOL BUREAU
Section: Capital Region,  Page: D1

Date: Sunday, January 31, 2010

ALBANY -- At a private meeting, more Democratic Party officials called for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo - not Gov. David Paterson - to lead the Democratic slate in 2010.


"It's not working. Paterson's a decent man, but there's a question as to whether the leadership qualities are there," Vincent Monte, chairman of the Rockland County Democratic Committee, told the Times Union Saturday. "With Cuomo, there's no question. I'm very supportive of his candidacy."


Monte shared his concerns at a gathering of Democratic officials in Albany. Seventeen counties were represented at the conclave, which was called last week by Albany County Democratic Chairman Dan McCoy and Saratoga County Democratic Chairman Larry Bulman.


Both men have expressed concerns about Paterson, citing polls that show voters are not prepared to elect him and filings showing Cuomo has more than five times as much money in his campaign account and is far outpacing the governor in raising funds.


Cuomo has not announced an intention to run for governor, but the expectation is he will sometime this spring. As complaints about Paterson's leadership and political standing have crescendoed over the past month, the governor has insisted he will seek election regardless of what Cuomo does.


The Saturday gathering, at the Albany County party's Colvin Avenue headquarters, was intended by Bulman and McCoy to gauge the feelings of some other area Democratic chairs. As word of the conclave spread, almost every county chair in the state was invited. On Wednesday, Democratic State Chairman Jay Jacobs wrote in a letter to county chairs - obtained by the Times Union - that "we must not let the anxiety of the moment guide our process. We are best served by letting the process move forward in an open, fair manner."


Jacobs did not attend the meeting but was represented by an aide, Edgar Santana, and June O'Neill, a St. Lawrence County Democrat who chairs the state party's executive committee.


When the private conversations concluded, O'Neill told reporters waiting in a tundra-like parking lot that the party's nominees - and whether a primary contest will be held - will be decided at a formal convention in late May.


"You're not going to know what the statewide ticket is no matter how many ways you ask that," she said. "You've got to keep your powder dry a little bit longer."


Jacobs, speaking by phone, acknowledged that while there are "two individuals - one the incumbent governor, the other the attorney general who have shown some interest ... we have to let the process move a little bit further, and the longer we go down the road the more clarity I think there will be."


Despite his efforts, the meeting took place. While the attendees agreed not to openly discuss what was said, several chairs in attendance described the proceedings. No vote was taken, but several chairs - including Bulman, McCoy, Monte and Warren County Democratic Chairman Bill Montfort -- declared support for Cuomo.


Still others openly stated support for Paterson. Clinton County Democratic Chairman Marty Mannix, spoke most forcefully, the attendees said, calling Paterson a "modern-day Harry Truman."


Many other leaders hedged their position behind the closed doors. Later, both sides spun the conversation.


"The overwhelming consensus in the room was that Andrew Cuomo should run," said Orange County Democratic Chairman Jonathan Jacobson. "People expressed either outright support for him, or said he should run."


"I support the governor, and I think the governor has the overwhelming support of party leaders across the state," said Schenectady County Democratic Chairman Brian Quail.


But on its face, Saturday's gathering belied his statement. At its conclusion, Bulman smiled as he delivered the agreed-upon message to a group of television cameras.


"It was a great meeting," he said. "The one thing we were all unified on was that it was great to get everyone together in this political climate that we're in and make sure that we have dialogue and discussion so we can mount a great campaign here in 2010."


Jimmy Vielkind can be reached at 454-5081 or jvielkind@timesunion.com.