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Cuomo campaign drives into Ithaca


Ithacans learned a lot about their attorney general and potential future governor, Andrew Cuomo, on Thursday. He loves to drive. He's a loser when it comes to pingpong. And he also wants to reform Albany.

Many of the fun facts came from Michaela, one of Cuomo's three daughters and the first of the family to address the capacity crowd of around 300 who gathered at the Women's Community Building.

"I've lived with this man for my whole life," the 12-year-old quipped. "In those years, I've come to this conclusion: he loves New York and he'll fight for it."

The Democrat and former federal secretary for Housing and Urban Development pulled into the parking lot behind the wheel of an RV. It was the first stop of the day and one of many in Cuomo's "Drive for a New NY" tour, which he explained is part vacation, part campaign tour.

Cuomo said he spent the trip down from Geneva trying to explain to his daughters the history and ethics of Ithaca, where "people like to question authority."

"And then we pulled into town and it was all said for me," Cuomo said, referring to the mass of hydraulic fracturing protesters who lined the streets and surrounded the building.

His "wait and see what the studies say" stance on the gas drilling issue did not seem to satisfy those who swarmed around him afterward, but he did try to appeal to their spirit of activism.

A leader in several major reform movements, including women's suffrage and worker's rights, New York must "raise the progressive beacon once again," Cuomo said.

"You want to know when things are going to change? They are going to change when the people of this state demand change," Cuomo said. "You know this better in Ithaca than anyone: Activism counts. We need to mobilize; we need to make people get engaged."

Most of Cuomo's 15 minutes at the podium were devoted to pushing his reform agenda.

He vowed to clean up the ethical mess in Albany, get the state's fiscal house in order and regain the trust of its people.

Cuomo said he opposed raising taxes, both on property and income, arguing that the state must deal with its spending rather than rely on raising revenue.

"I'm not in favor of raising taxes; I think it's irresponsible," he said.

He would start by downsizing, both internally and throughout the state, and said he is a proponent of municipal mergers and consolidation.

"There are around 1,000 state agencies now -- we think. No one is really sure," Cuomo said. "When you don't even know how many agencies you have, you have too many agencies."

Asked afterward about his vow to push for campaign finance reform while still accepting large campaign contributions, Cuomo replied: "I want to reform the campaign finance system. To do that, I have to get elected. To get elected, I have to raise money."

Hank Dullea, who worked for Andrew's father, Mario, when he was governor in the 1980s, said he was pleased with the presentation and Cuomo's record thus far, both in Washington and as attorney general in New York since 2006.

"He is for change and he has the capacity to motivate the people of this state to get behind the change agenda," Dullea said.

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