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Cuomo leans on Black Democrats and old friends as he fights for his political future

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He marked his relationships with each leader in his speech, reminded New Yorkers of the state’s long struggle with the coronavirus, and even sang “Happy Birthday” to the president of the New York State Conference. the NAACP, Hazel Dukes, a woman he referred to as his second mother. All of this happened before Cuomo received the coronavirus vaccine with a big smile and thumbs up.

The subtext of Wednesday’s visit to Harlem was not lost on many in Albany. As Cuomo faces a host of investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted touching, as well as the mismanagement he made to report deaths in nursing homes during the coronavirus crisis, the governor directs Their attention to black civilian and elected leaders, family for decades. And these same leaders are paying that attention not only by supporting Cuomo, but by loudly supporting the “due process” and the time the governor is now asking for.

These calls for a due process contrast with the rain of statements from most Democrats in the New York congressional delegation, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who demanded that Cuomo leave. the charge.

It should be noted that two of the few Democrats in the New York Congress delegation who have waited to call for Cuomo’s resignation are Representatives Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries, two of the highest-ranking black politicians in the state.

“He has had a relationship with many of my predecessors and members of the community that has not changed,” said Alicia Hyndman, the assistant majority leader in the state Assembly representing parts of Queens. “I don’t think he’s reassuring or playing in front of an audience. I know, sometimes, when people are worried and going to support areas and maybe that’s what they think they’re doing.”

With that in mind, the event at Mount Neboh Baptist Church became a dual-purpose affair, in which Cuomo tried to urge black New Yorkers to get vaccinated, while also receiving the support of many leaders. remarkable blacks.

Next to Cuomo was the president of the Urban League, Marc Morial. The two have known each other for decades; their work together dates back to when Cuomo was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development of then-President Bill Clinton and Morial was mayor of New Orleans.

Former MP Charles Rangel also appeared with Cuomo on Wednesday. The former congressman, who was one of the most serving members of the House when he retired in 2016, described Cuomo’s decision to come to Harlem at this time as “where you go to your family and go to the your friends because you know they will be with you. “

“If he is now supported (in black leaders),” Rangel told CNN after the event, “he has been cursed for a long time.”

Rangel used his speech in church to praise Cuomo and assert the need for due process in all investigations, a not-so-subtle gesture in the cloud swirling over the governor. Speaking about the decision of the State Assembly, Inez Dickens, to defend himself vocally from Cuomo until investigations into his actions are complete, Rangel said: who spoke for our community. “

“(He said) step back until you get some facts,” Rangel recalled.

Dickens, who represents Harlem in the state assembly, told CNN after the event that his decision to give Cuomo the time he asked for was a reflection of what his largely black members wanted.

“The right process is very important to the black community and the reason is that it’s important that for years we were subjected to charges and then we learned for years in prison that they were innocent,” Dickens said. He added that while he did not want to “undermine the seriousness” of the allegations against Cuomo, he noted that his office “has not received any calls from my constituents to complain” about the allegations against Cuomo.

Cuomo’s activities on Wednesday represent the public strategy the governor uses: highlighting his work on the coronavirus, relying on longtime supporters and refusing to answer questions about allegations against him, as he did several times. Wednesday. The goal is to remind New Yorkers of all the work the governor did during the fight against coronavirus, when the Democrat was the most popular.

In private, however, the governor maintains a fervent struggle.

The New York Times reported this week that shortly after Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment, tweeted her allegations in December, people close to the governor began circulating an open letter attacking the former assistant to Cuomo and delved into it. personnel file. The letter was never released and Cuomo’s office did not comment on the newspaper (and did not respond to CNN’s request for comment), but the strategy represents how Cuomo seeks to subvert the allegations in private.

However, this struggle has done little to elevate the mood in Cuomo’s office. A source familiar with Cuomo’s office described the mood inside the executive chamber as “completely demoralized.”

“The feeling there is that it’s only a matter of time before the clock runs out,” the source said, meaning Cuomo could be forced to step down; or who is unable to run for a fourth term.

Cuomo has also stopped answering questions about the allegations.

During a press conference Wednesday, Cuomo was asked several times about specific allegations and each time he declined, arguing that he cannot answer questions because of the two ongoing investigations.

On Thursday, the governor held a briefing, flanked by former New York Mets and Yankees stars to announce that there was a plan to reopen outdoor entertainment venues to fans. A smiling Cuomo laughed about a possible Metro Series with the Mets and Yankees and did not address the controversies. He also did not receive any questions from the media.

When Cuomo left the stage on Thursday, it became clear that his strategy for fighting the allegations was to change the conversation.

Cuomo presents Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State chapter of the NAACP, a cake to celebrate her birthday.

Back in Harlem, after Cuomo finished singing to Dukes and giving him a cake, the civil rights leader grabbed the microphone and picked up a photo with Cuomo’s father, Mario.

“I’m coming today to thank my son,” she said, lifting the photo. “I want to thank my son for his leadership. Someone called me and said, ‘I didn’t know you had a white son,’ and I said, ‘He’s not white.’

To laugh, she added, “I always like it when you call me your second mother.”

“You wonder why I’m the way I am,” Cuomo said after Dukes ’speech. “You see how I grew up.”

CNN’s Mark Morales contributed to this report.

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