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Last Week Ed Cox, Next Week Andrew Cuomo

New York State GOP chairman Ed Cox: Will he step in to run for governor next year? Or will it be Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino?

Next Tuesday, November 19, Governor Andrew Cuomo will be in town for, among other things, a fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown.

That fundraiser originally had been scheduled for last Wednesday at the same location. It was the moved to Templeton Landing, then rescheduled entirely, perhaps because New York State Republican Party chairman Ed Cox—who this week demurred comment on speculation that he himself might be the GOP challenger to Cuomo next year—was at the Hyatt that same evening to meet with the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York. IOGA and Cox have accused the Cuomo administration of dragging feet on approving high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing , or fracking, for natural gas in New York State.

Whatever the cause of the cancellation, Cox’s presence led Cuomo’s political operation to quickly organize a rally of local Democratic elected officials and foot soldiers across the street from the Hyatt in Roosevelt Square. Though it had the tone of an anti-fracking rally—the lead speaker, Buffalo Common Councilman Darius Pridgen, was explicit and rousing in proclaiming his opposition to the controversial drilling method, and New York State Senator Tim Kennedy called Cox’s personal investment in oil and gas companies a conflict of interest—it was absolutely, first and foremost, a political rally. The speakers list comprised Democratic politicians, not environmental activists; the rhetoric was pro-Cuomo, start to finish. The only environmental activist afforded a moment at the microphone was Rita Yelda of of Food and Water Watch and WNY Drilling Defense, and she only got to speak because Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant yielded her time.

Here’s what Yelda had to say:

Hypocrisy—Ed Cox knows hypocrisy. His position on the board of Noble Energy, an oil and gas drilling company, underscores his complete lack of credibility and makes his motivation crystal clear. It’s not terribly surprising that someone on the board of directors of a huge energy company would be supporting fracking. Ed Cox is denying the science on fracking, which shows serious demonstrable harms to public health. Fracking would harm our health, our water and our air. Ed Cox it out of touch with reality, including the science and the fact that New Yorkers from all political parties across all of New York State oppose fracking. If New York Republicans decide to tie themselves to fracking in the coming year, they’ll do so at their own peril. As statewide polls show, New Yorkers are consistently looking at the alarming science and facts on fracking, and turning against this dangerous, harmful drilling method. Republicans looking to keep their jobs would be wise to consider this. And Governor Cuomo must be our hero and ban fracking now in New York State.

A pefectly politic statment to read at a Democratic rally organized on behalf of Cuomo’s re-election campaign. However, Yelda and her colleagues in opposition to fracking in New York State will be back at the Hyatt next Tuesday, too, and this time they’ll be delivering their speeches to Cuomo, rather than to his political opposition. I wonder what the message will be then.

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