Gov. Andrew Cuomo drew a standing room only crowd when he spoke Monday night at the Suffolk Democrats’ fall fundraising dinner in support of Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone’s campaign for county executive.
The Gold Ballroom at the Huntington Hilton was packed with at least 600 people, and at $400 a ticket, plus $5,000 to $15,000 more for a special VIP audience with the governor, the event may have added another half a million dollars to the party’s war chest, according to Suffolk Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer. He said the money would also be used to help Democrats in other local races.
“I am very concerned about this election,” Schaffer told the upbeat audience, noting that 42 days remained until Election Day on Nov. 8. “The public is in a very bad mood….Nobody’s a shoe-in this year.”
He told the partisan crowd that New York Democrats are “lucky” to have Cuomo in Albany because he acts as a kind of “firewall” against the anti-government fervor running rampant in the national electorate right now because he’s overcome the dysfunction so typical of the Empire State.
“We are the party that understands that government matters,” Schaffer said. “We can show that we can govern.”
Schaffer then introduced Bellone while Cuomo stood to the side of the stage smiling as the Babylon Town supervisor extolled his accomplishments in the state. He thanked the governor for passing the 2-percent tax cap, which drew some applause, but some legislators in the crowd had to know that, without reforming the state mandates, the municipal governments will have a tough time ahead balancing their budgets with the cap in place.
When Bellone mentioned that “through sheer force of will” Cuomo enacted the marriage equality law in New York, the ballroom rocked with energy and the governor beamed with pride.
Cuomo praised Bellone for having a “tremendous record” and being “nationally acclaimed” for his environmental programs and community redevelopment agenda—all while “showing fiscal discipline” and “respecting the taxpayers.” Cuomo said Bellone has acted with the “same restraint” at the local level that he’s done in Albany, by closing the deficit without imposing new taxes.
“We have to stop the insanity of property tax hikes,” Cuomo said, because they’re “driving people away.” Referring to the recession, he observed that taxpayers aren’t getting a raise, so why should “their taxes go up?”
Then Cuomo assumed the high ground.
“We are the party of progress,” the governor said, mentioning that “great social movements” have started in New York, from workers’ rights, to women’s rights, to civil rights and now gay rights. New York, Cuomo said, can “point the way forward.”
Contrasting the vision of the two major political parties, Cuomo said, “The other side wants to argue [that] we can’t do it. Our argument is [that] we believe we can.”
Whether the enthusiasm Cuomo generated Monday night in Huntington will carry Bellone to victory in November is anybody’s guess. His Republican opponent in the race, Suffolk Treasurer Angie Carpenter, doesn’t have a popular New York governor she can campaign with, but that didn’t matter to her campaign manager, Rick Belyea.
“It’s always great when the governor comes to Long Island to take a look at our beautiful county,” Belyea said. “We have a grassroots race. [Cuomo’s presence here] doesn’t help or hurt. We’re going to win this thing on the issues. We’re not going to win it by who comes to our fundraisers.”