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State GOP leader blames Cuomo for economic problems upstate

ALBANY — The declining population of upstate New York is being turned into a political weapon by the new leader of the state’s Republican Party, who suggests the blame rests squarely with the policies of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Nick Langworthy, who recently took over as the GOP chairman, argued in a stop at the statehouse Tuesday that the Interstate 90 corridor, stretching from Albany to Buffalo, has become “a trail of broken promises,” citing several Cuomo administration projects that he said never delivered on job creation targets.

“Our out-migration crisis is real,” said Langworthy, suggesting the state has failed to capitalize on billions of dollars in investment in public education due to high school and college graduates leaving the state in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

Langworthy’s jab at Cuomo, a Democrat in the first year of his third term as the state’s chief executive, came a day after the governor gave his own economic development efforts high marks in an interview with an Albany radio station.

“I’ve invested more money in upstate New York than any governor probably in history,” said Cuomo, suggesting that his administration’s efforts to spark the upstate economy could even exceed the public expenditure made to construct the Erie Canal in the 19th century.

“From Day 1, I’ve made an unprecedented effort in upstate New York,” he added.

Cuomo also cited his administration’s efforts to update the grounds at the New York State Fair, which opens Wednesday, near Syracuse. The governor is planning to attend the fair’s opening day festivities and traveled there by train from Albany with an entourage of state bureaucrats.

Langworthy’s eagerness to attack Cuomo on the upstate economy — and the governor’s vigorous defense of his economic development programs — come a week after a Siena College poll found that 64% of respondents gave Cuomo a negative job performance rating.

The poll found that just 31% of upstate voters approve of his job performance.

While Cuomo is not up for reelection until 2022, the coming year is a crucial one for the GOP as it seeks to make the case that checks and balances need to be restored at the statehouse in the form of Republicans having a stronger voice at the statehouse.

Langworthy said the most significant finding of the Siena poll is an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers favor having both major parties in control of at least one branch of state government. Currently, Democrats control the executive branch as well as both chambers of the state.

Labeling Cuomo “a bully,” Langworthy said the governor has surrounded himself with a “culture of intimidation,” noting some donors to GOP campaigns have confided they faced retribution from Cuomo allies for helping Republicans.

The Republican boss insisted on an end to Albany’s “pay-to-play culture,” arguing Cuomo’s campaign has continued to rake in hefty donations from companies that were the successful bidders for state contracts.

Langworthy, from Erie County, was ripped by a Cuomo senior advisor, Rich Azzopardi. “If that hypocrite wants to fight corruption, how about doing something about indicted Wall Street fraudster (Rep.) Chris Collins, who lives in his own back yard?” he said.

The Cuomo spokesman was referring to the fact that Collins, a Republican from Erie County, is facing federal charges for his alleged involvement in an insider trading scheme relating to trades of stock in an Australian company.

Langworthy, in attacking Cuomo, also called attention to the unfulfilled job creation targets at the Buffalo Billion project where Tesla operates a factory that was built with the help of $750 million in state funds.

Tesla, as of May, had only filled about half of the 1,460 jobs it has pledged to have at the Buffalo plant by April 2020.

The Buffalo Billion project was ushered in by the Empire State Development agency, a public authority controlled by the Cuomo administration. Its top executive, Howard Zemsky, recently signaled his plans to retire.

Cuomo announced this week Zemsky will be replaced by Eric Gertler, who operates a New York City investment firm and was previously the publisher of the New York Daily News.

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Joe Mahoney covers the New York Capitol for CNHI’s newspapers and websites, including the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh.