ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Governor Andrew Cuomo will need to find a new running mate, since Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy has decided he will not be seeking another term.
Duffy’s announcement came less than two weeks before Democrats are set to gather to nominate their candidates for the fall elections.
Duffy, the former mayor of Rochester, informed Cuomo of his intentions in a letter dated Wednesday. The departure will leave Cuomo without one of his strongest political links to the upstate but creates an opportunity to reshuffle the ticket as he prepares to formally launch his bid for a second term.
Duffy, 59, said that while he is proud of the administration’s work, the job’s travel demands were causing “constant back and leg pain.” Duffy said he also wants to spend more time with his family. He said he made the decision with “mixed emotions.”
“I have often traveled thousands of miles weekly because of the importance of being on the ground and reaching out to our constituents,” he wrote in the letter, first reported by the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper.
Cuomo praised Duffy’s service, noting he rose from being a police officer to Rochester’s chief of police to mayor.
“Few people have traveled more miles, heard from more New Yorkers, or had a greater impact on this state than Bob Duffy,” the governor said.
Cuomo is widely expected to tap a running mate from western New York or Long Island — both considered political tossups. Among those mentioned as possible candidates are:
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown: A former lawmaker, Brown was first elected mayor in 2005 and has been a close Cuomo ally.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone: Elected in 2011, Bellone’s help could prove vital in voter-rich Long Island, once a Republican stronghold but now a political toss-up.
Former U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul of western New York: Many observers say a female candidate would help balance the ticket, and Hochul could help build support in Buffalo, upstate New York’s largest city.
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney: A Republican who grew up in Syracuse, Mahoney would appeal to moderate voters from both parties and to central New York residents.
An announcement is expected soon. Cuomo’s office has not offered a timetable for a decision on a running mate.
Brown said in a statement that he enjoys a good relationship with Cuomo but declined to say if he is interested in the No. 2 position. “Any decision regarding the next lieutenant governor will be made by the governor,” Brown said.
Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at SUNY New Paltz, noted that like Cuomo, the other prominent Democrats seeking re-election — Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli — are white men from downstate. He predicted that Cuomo would look for a candidate who is a minority, a woman, or from upstate.
“There’s the classic issue of downstate dominance in state politics,” Benjamin said. “The theme here has to be political balance as a priority.”
Duffy played a key role in many of Cuomo’s efforts to boost the upstate economy, often acting as Cuomo’s top ambassador to an area that often feels underappreciated in New York City and Albany.
“He’s been a good vessel for the governor’s policy,” said Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner. “He was always accessible. His work represents the idea that the governor hasn’t forgotten us — We would be delighted to have someone from western New York be the next lieutenant governor.”
Duffy said he planned to campaign for Cuomo and his running mate, and that he considered the governor a friend. He cited the successful passage of gay marriage, the administration’s response to Superstorm Sandy and its focus on fiscal restraint and economic development as highlights of their work together.
“As you and I discussed many times, upstate New York was all but abandoned by past administrations and downstate received much of the focus,” he wrote. “We have remedied that and upstate New York has received unprecedented focus and resources and has responded with growth unseen in many years.”
The former police officer-turned-politician said he will serve out the remainder of his term and has no plans to seek another elected office. Duffy purchased a lakefront home in the Finger Lakes last year and wrote in his letter that he plans to spend the rest of his life in the region.
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