New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo named former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul of Buffalo as his pick for lieutenant governor Wednesday as the state Democratic Party gathered on Long Island to endorse its candidates for the fall elections.
Cuomo called Hochul, the only female candidate for statewide office from a major party this year, "a person who knows the needs of western New York."
Hochul, sitting next to Cuomo in an announcement video played to convention delegates, said she doesn't "want to be on the sidelines for what the future holds."
"I am proud to join the governor as a new voice for the communities in upstate New York," she said.
Hochul and Cuomo were nominated moments later. Democrats also endorsed Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for re-election.
Cuomo and Hochul are scheduled to address the convention Thursday. This will face Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, and his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss.
Hochul is an attorney and a former Erie County clerk who served in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2013 before losing a re-election bid. She is married to William J. Hochul, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.
Cuomo had been widely expected to pick a running mate from western New York, a region where he's expected to face his greatest challenge as he seeks a second term. Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, a former mayor of Rochester, is not running again.
"I'm very happy with the governor's pick," Duffy told The Associated Press. "I campaigned for her when she was running for Congress. It's important for the governor who has put such an emphasis on western New York."
Speakers at the convention — the symbolic start to the campaign season — tried to paint Republican candidates as conservative extremists out of step with the heavily Democratic state. The GOP would need to win over independents and some Democrats to win statewide office, something it hasn't done since 2002.
"Their conduct is to cater to the whims and the wills of Republicans in Washington who want to turn the clock back on justice," said former Gov. David Paterson, who was tapped Wednesday as party chairman.
Multiple polls suggest Cuomo is well ahead of Astorino but could see some support siphoned off by a more liberal candidate running on the Working Families Party line.
Republicans argue that Astorino is positioned to compete for independent and Democratic voters, noting he was easily re-elected last year in a county where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1. Astorino was campaigning in western New York on Wednesday, but his spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, objected to Democratic characterizations of Astorino.
"He (Cuomo) will do anything to avoid talking about his own record," Proud said.
In the attorney general's race, Schneiderman faces John Cahill, a former top aide to former Gov. George Pataki. DiNapoli faces Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci. The two Democratic incumbents are also ahead in polls, but those same surveys show they aren't well known among many voters.