The Diaz Factor
Senator Ruben Diaz of the Bronx had a busy day yesterday. According to the good reverend, he fielded three separate phone calls from Team Cuomo. First it was Secretary of State Cesar Perales, then it was Cuomo confidante Joe Percoco, and finally the Governor himself dialed the Senator. The issue is an impending rally and endorsement for Cuomo’s Opponent in the Governor’s race, Rob Astorino. Diaz hasn’t committed to go with Astorino yet, but he is planning on hosting him in The Bronx sometime next month. And by “next month” I mean before the election.
The Cuomo camp ( as you might imagine ) is not thrilled about this. Hence the three phone calls. Question: Do you know who doesn’t have much sway with Reverend Diaz? Answer: Democrats.
This morning, Diaz invited Republican Attorney General candidate John Cahill to speak to his congregation in the Bronx. It wasn’t quite an endorsement, but it certainly looked like that as the two men laughed and slapped each other on the back. Cahill recently submitted poll data to the Board of Elections that shows a tighter-than-expected race. Cahill is behind Attorney General Eric Schneiderman by only seven points, which is significant considering Schneiderman has been in office for four years. So, every little bit of help for Cahill can make a difference in the race.
But back to the Reverend and the Governor. Earlier this month, Capital reported that Diaz and Cuomo had lunch. The Governor has been trying to avoid Diaz’s endorsement of his opponent, but he did the one thing Diaz cannot tolerate. Diaz is adamantly pro-life, and Cuomo recently went all-in with his campaign to get the Women’s Equality Agenda passed. The 10-point plan includes an abortion component. Republicans in the Senate refused to approve that tenth plank, but voted for nine others. Cuomo and his running mate Kathy Hochul are now trying to get all candidates running for state office in New York to sign a pledge to support the full ten point plan. They have even recruited Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to spearhead the effort. It’s actually nice to see Quinn back in action. She enjoys the work and genuinely enjoys being around people. But Diaz is having none of it. And as a result Cuomo could end up angrily on the sidelines when Diaz endorses his opponent.
There are a lot of theories on why Cuomo went so big on the Women’s Equality Agenda. He even started a new party! Clearly the first answer is that it was Cuomo’s bill, and he believes in it. But the issue also polls well in New York State, and it’s an easy way to wedge Republicans who are less-than-eager to cast a vote – any vote at all – on a controversial issue like abortion. People who feel strongly about this issue on either side will punish them at the polls one way or another. Dean Skelos wouldn’t even bring it to the floor last year. It took Senate Independent Conference Jeff Klein to force the issue with a hostile amendment. During the debate Diaz made an impassioned plea against the bill, which ultimately failed. He thought he had won. But now, the issue is coming back.
Another thought about why Cuomo started a new party around this issue is that he wants to pull votes away from the Working Families Party, which made him dance for their endorsement in May. Finally, in order to get that endorsement, Cuomo pledged to help elect a Democratic Senate, and by forcing a pledge to support a pro-choice bill, one could make the argument that he is helping all Democrats running for office including Senators and Senate Candidates. But with all this talk about the necessity of a Democratic Senate, people seem to forget that not every Democrat votes with conference, which means a Senate takeover could prove even more frustrating. Just ask Rev. Diaz.
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