ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Melissa Hart was at the keyboard in a cramped chair on the second floor of the St. Petersburg Center Monday, spinning the shiny sound of her preternaturally sharp guitar, when the photographer brought his camera down.
As millions of progressive voters in New York (and New Jersey, according to Hart) are talking this week about whether Governor Andrew Cuomo should turn down or accept his party’s endorsement for reelection, the four-time late night host sought to explain the merits of that decision.
“It’s a 5 to 1 vote, he doesn’t have to do it,” Hart laughed.
A conference room at the St. Petersburg Center, a recent conversion into a posh ballroom by conservative mega donor Sheldon Adelson, was nearly empty on Monday night as Adelson’s 6th Amendment festival drew a swank assortment of the state’s business community, some of whom have worried Cuomo is willing to abandon the pro-business approach he started taking while running for governor in 2014.
In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Adelson said that a state like New York is important, and should have governors with an independent-minded vision.
“Governors in particular, what would differentiate them is that they would have a vision,” said Adelson. “They would be looking for a different way. That’s really what is important to me.”
That vision has been overshadowed recently by a good dose of self-inflicted damage. Of several controversies Cuomo has wrestled with in recent months, perhaps the most stunning was the alleged cover-up of a prostitution scandal involving top members of his “Small Business Corps.”
Cuomo has repeatedly stonewalled calls for the firing of anyone involved. And his major domestic policy accomplishment — legalizing abortion — was blocked by the state senate, a body long dominated by anti-abortion conservatives.
With New York Election Day just six weeks away, the debate over whether Cuomo should turn down the endorsement of the party’s powerful Committee to Save New York is raging.
New York state party chair Robin Schimminger reiterated Monday night, as he has in recent weeks, that Cuomo has already committed to meeting with the committee if he is the nominee.
Schimminger explained that the leadership of the CCNY remains committed to Cuomo, even if he chooses not to turn down their endorsement.
“I have a pen. And there is a memo in there with the commitment he’s made and we are going to honor that commitment,” said Schimminger.
As the CCNY board meets next week, activists from the liberal Working Families Party are lobbying hard to have Cuomo turn down the CCNY endorsement. And while the large organization is supported by the likes of billionaire socialist Tom Steyer, Terence Blanchard, Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton, it’s not that well-organized or affiliated with the national party.
One of the most enthusiastic CCNY supporters is outgoing Senate minority leader Jeff Klein, who was assigned to Adelson’s room on Monday.
At the table, Klein gave the Times an in-depth interview that included comments about Mark Grisanti’s race for NYS senate, which most observers believe will be “zoned” (one of many political gamesmanship tricks Klein employs to get his way).
But Klein’s big story came before Monday night’s big show at the CCNY.
Now that Klein is finished with the Senate, his primary concern is making sure that the Democratic field for governor is free from the candidate Mack Sheehy, who effectively replaced the late Sen. Carl Kruger (who faces federal tax evasion charges) with Blanchard’s help.
The result of that decision could define the fortunes of a top-tier candidate such as Cuomo, who is slowly circling back to his 2014 description of himself as the president’s son in waiting.