ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo will need a new running mate after Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy announced he would not seek another term less than two weeks before Democrats 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 upstate but creates an opportunity to reshuffle the ticket as he prepares to 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.” He 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,” he said.
Cuomo is expected to tap a running mate from western New York or Long Island, considered political swing areas where the election could be decided. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and former U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul, of Buffalo, have been mentioned as possibilities.
An announcement is expected shortly before the Democratic convention.
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, which pays $151,500 a year. Bellone and Hochul didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.
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, is a woman or is 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.”
Republican candidate Rob Astorino also is expected to announce his running mate soon. The GOP will hold its convention next week in Westchester County, where Astorino serves as county executive.
Duffy played a key role in many of Cuomo’s efforts to boost the upstate economy, often acting as his top ambassador to an area that often feels underappreciated in New York City and Albany.
Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner called Duffy “a good vessel for the governor’s policy.”
“He was always accessible,” Zellner said. “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 that 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,” Duffy wrote. “We have remedied that and upstate New York has received unprecedented focus and resources and has responded with growth unseen in many years.”
Duffy said he will serve out the remainder of his term and has no plans to seek another elected office. He bought 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.