Cuomo and Pelosi rally in push for House seats

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said she is targeting eight seats in New York in next year’s midterm elections, urging several thousand people at a Manhattan rally with Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday to organize for 2018.

“Republicans in Washington are trying to drag our country back, but New York Democrats will lead us forward, armed with the strength of our values,” Pelosi said during an event at the Javits Center. “There are eight Republican seats we can and must win in November 2018. Defeating in 2018 means laying the foundation for victory right now, and we have a powerful ally in this fight with Governor Andrew Cuomo.”

She did not mention any specific districts or targets in her speech, but the number of Republicans in New York’s delegation has grown from two out of 29 in 2009 to nine out of 27 now.

The New York Daily News, citing Cuomo allies speaking on background, reported Democrats are targeting six Republican representatives: Lee Zeldin of Long Island, John Faso of the Hudson Valley, Elise Stefanik of the North Country, Claudia Tenney of Utica, Tom Reed of the Southern Tier and Chris Collins of Buffalo.

The Democratic governor, who is laying down markers for a possible 2020 presidential bid, mentioned Collins and Faso by name during his own speech at the rally. They were the architects of an amendment to the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act that would effectively shift $2.3 billion in Medicaid costs currently borne by the state’s counties onto Cuomo’s books. For several weeks in March, Cuomo went ballistic over the proposal, which helped swing some of New York’s Republican delegation to support the bill.

“I charge Congressmen Faso and Collins with violating their office to represent the people of the State of New York,” the governor said Tuesday. “We say to these Congress people: we promise you, if you violate your office, you defraud the voters, you hurt the people of this state, we will remove you from office on November [6]. … Our message to Leader Pelosi is this; we stand to fight with you and the fight to take back America starts in New York and it starts today.”

The room was packed with members of several Cuomo-friendly unions, including the Hotel Trades Council, RWDSU and several building trades locals. Cuomo and Pelosi have an alliance that dates to the administration of the governor’s late father, Mario Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo has often recounted that Mario Cuomo, as he aged, would shush his family whenever Pelosi appeared on television.

The governor spoke extensively Tuesday about his recent state initiatives, including a new scholarship for students at public universities and a building program that will include upgrades to the city’s airports and Penn Station. Pelosi, reading from a script, also lauded Cuomo’s achievements and praised him as a “bold, progressive leader.”

Cuomo also referenced the simmering White House plan to eliminate the deductibility of state and local taxes, which he called an “arrow aimed at the heart of New York” that could cost Empire State filers $17.3 billion.

The governor also made a strong statement in support of reproductive health. “You attack our women and you de-fund Planned Parenthood, then the State of New York will step in and fund it ourselves,” he said.

Cuomo aides say the governor will take a strong and direct role in upcoming House races, an abnormality from a governor who husbands his political support and who has focused in previous years on state races.

Cuomo has, in previous election cycles, endorsed some Democrats in tight races and helped raise funds for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His involvement this cycle will flow through the Democratic State Committee, which he controls, and include advertising and organizing efforts in addition to personal appearances.

The move was greeted with skeptical guffaws from some members of New York’s institutional left, who charge Cuomo has been absent from efforts to bring Democrats to control in the state Senate, and from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Top aides arrested, signature initiatives plagued by corruption, widening scandals at every turn,” Chris Martin, an NRCC spokesman, said in an email, referencing federal charges against Cuomo’s one-time top aide Joe Percoco. “But Andrew Cuomo sees a perfect opportunity to campaign for Democratic House candidates – baggage in tow.”

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