Gov. Andrew Cuomo returned to Schenectady and the warm embrace of New York’s Democratic Rural Conference as he spoke at their 2011 convention on Friday evening at Proctors.
Introduced as the “son” of the DRC by conference chairwoman Irene Stein, Cuomo was enthusiastically welcomed by about 100 supporters. Most of the crowd was wearing their complimentary “Rural New York is Cuomo Country” buttons, with the most committed supporters displaying signs that expressed their love for the governor.
All of the fanfare was not lost on Cuomo, who immediately played to Stein’s comments, which had referenced the fact that the DRC had endorsed Cuomo in 2002 during his failed bid to win the Democratic nomination for governor.
“You can call me a son of the DRC anytime,” Cuomo said. “I was born from the DRC. The DRC was very good to me early on … and more importantly, they were with me in bad days.”
Echoing Stein’s contention that there is a new spirit of optimism in upstate New York, Cuomo promised that the upstate and rural areas of the state will get the attention they deserve from the government. He expressed an unwillingness to simply live on nostalgia for the good old days when it comes to upstate New York and said there needs to be a serious look toward improving the future of these regions.
“We’re going to bring jobs back to upstate New York,” Cuomo promised.
After touting the on-time passage of his budget, the governor addressed some of his liberal critics and said that the state will be a leader in progressive politics. Citing New York’s history on issues of civil rights, Cuomo argued that New York has a history of setting progressive precedents and said that tradition needs to be rekindled today.
“We led the way, and we’re going to do it again,” Cuomo said, as he promised that the state would be the progressive capital for women’s rights, reproductive rights, environmental rights and marriage equality.
The immediate reaction from one DRC member to the speech was, “Thank you, President Cuomo,” as a more subdued member suggested the governor would win that title in 2016.
For now, though, it appears that the governor is only focused on a second term, as the DRC members were given “Cuomo 2014” paraphernalia. He did not address the possibility of another gubernatorial campaign during his remarks at the opening reception.
Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Judith D’Agostino said she hoped that the excitement of the convention would translate into a strong cooperative effort throughout the state for the fall election season. She argued that the show of force would rally DRC members to enthusiastically take on the challenges in their local communities.
D’Agostino said that the attendance at the convention, built around the theme of “Building the Farm Team,” signified a good starting point for the Democratic Party to build off of as they begin seriously campaigning locally and across the state.
“I have attended many DRC conferences … and this is very well-attended,” she said.
D’Agostino added that the convention is a chance to showcase the improvements in the city since the last time the DRC came to Schenectady in 2005.
“For these people to come back today and walk around our city … is very encouraging,” she said. “I think it draws attention to us.”
The recent appearance by President Barack Obama and Friday’s cameo by the governor, said D’Agostino, highlight the fact that Schenectady is a place of which to take note.
This sentiment was echoed by acting Mayor Gary McCarthy, who contended that these prominent visitors help people recognize the city’s economic revitalization.
The two-day convention continues today with seminars for DRC members.