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Why is Cuomo spending so much time upstate?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s name is frequently mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2016, that is if former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton doesn’t run.

But the governor first has to think about an earlier date 2014 and his re-election race, and how to shore up his support in upstate, where he’s been flagging in the polls.  

During the past several weeks, Cuomo has spent much of his time in upstate New York.

He paddled in a whitewater rafting contest he organized  in the Adirondacks, to boost tourism.

“Tourism is a big business for us, it’s a big part of the economy, and this has great potential,” said an enthusiastic Cuomo.

And he’s been fishing on the St. Lawrence River where he announced a fishing competition as a sporting challenge for next year.

But the governor has made even more visits to the Buffalo region. Since the beginning of June he’s been there six times and held eight events, which was noted by Dotty Gallagher, of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

“In fact governor, you’ve been here so often, I almost think it’s time for you to get a place here,” Gallagher joked.

In contrast, the governor has not had a single public event in New York City since July 1.

There’s been good reason politically for Cuomo to lavish all of the attention on portions of upstate. While he won election in a landslide in 2010, he lost all of the counties in the western most part of the state, where his Republican opponent, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, prevailed.

Until recently, Cuomo enjoyed sky high approval ratings from nearly all New Yorkers, in the 70 percent range. But, after he championed strict new gun control laws in January, and pursued a left leaning agenda during the legislative session, his support upstate has declined precipitously.

In New York City, his popularity is still high, but in upstate about half of voters say they’d prefer someone else as governor.

Cuomo’s Buffalo visits reached a high point when he made three stops on the same day in late July to the region. The purpose was to receive money owed to local governments by the Seneca Indian Nation, which has recently settled past differences with the state. Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder presented a ceremonial oversized check in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca.

Cuomo, for his part, made a joke, twice.

“I’m going to take the check and I’ll be going on vacation now to an undisclosed location. I’ll send a postcard,” he joke in Salamanca.  

In Buffalo, he said “I want you to know I plan to take a vacation to an undisclosed location, and I’m leaving immediately.”

The governor expressed a rare public moment of  annoyance when a Buffalo TV reporter asked him whether it was necessary to hold the same event three times, all financed by the taxpayers.

“It’s my job to represent the people of Niagara Falls and to represent the people of Buffalo, and to represent the people of Salamanca,” said Cuomo. “And it’s nice of you to say the people of Salamanca don’t need to see the governor, or the people of Buffalo don’t need to see the governor, but that’s really not up to you.”

Cuomo has continued his upstate travels. Heavy rains bought flooding to the Mohawk River Valley, in late June and early July. Cuomo went to Oneida on July 1, Mohawk on July 2, and Herkimer on July 7 and 17.

The flood zone includes the site of New York’s biggest gun factory, Remington Arms, in Ilion. Workers from the plant have protested the passage of the gun control act.

Even at the whitewater rafting event in the Adirondacks,  the resentment was reflected  by a small band of protesters. Bill Fox, of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, traveled for hours from western New York.

“These laws he has passed are not going to save anybody. I mean, it’s gone beyond guns, it really has. It’s about our constitutional rights,” Fox said. 

Undaunted, Cuomo is next heading to the Finger Lakes, where he’ll be promoting New York State wines.