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Scoring the Cuomo Visit: Hoyt vs. Brown

This is not an analysis of the message Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered yesterday morning at Buffalo State College. For that, I suggest an unmediated look at his People First campaign. Cuomo never strayed off-message, so you’ll get the gist from browsing that site or reading any of the dozens of analyses that his campaign will generate.

This is about how his visit underscored the rivalry between Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and Mayor Byron Brown, and the roles into which Cuomo cast each yesterday.

If the anti-union strain of education reformers in New York State ever perfect that robot fourth-grade teacher they hope will usurp the role of humans in the classroom, I imagine its speech patterns may resemble those of Byron Brown.

Brown is a smart guy, certainly, and as the audience at Cuomo’s address yesterday were reminded, he’s got a college degree. (From Buff State. “Go Bengals!” Brown said near the beginning of his brief remarks, referring to an unspecified athletic team at his alma mater, and drawing mild approval from the audience.) But his delivery of scripted remarks isn’t simply wooden: He reads his scripts slowly, as if his audience were incapable of absorbing more than one word per second, and hits certain words with such pondering emphasis that one suspects he is suggesting there may be a vocabulary quiz later. Yet at the same time, despite his intelligence, one feels that Brown himself is not conscious of the meanings of the words he uses.

His lack of affect is, simply, robotic.

Perhaps Brown’s heart wasn’t in his performance, as Cuomo came to town on his statewide tour stumping for the next four items in his legislative agenda: a property tax cap, public workers pension reform, ethics reform, and marriage equality. (The last drew a loud standing ovation from the audience, excepting the orange-shirted guys from Laborers Local 210 and one woman seated right in front of me who stood and shouted, “No! No! Don’t do it!) Brown was not even second banana in Cuomo’s roadshow: Instead, he was forced to be the opening act for the opening act. Hoyt, Brown’s hated rival in local Democratic politics, was given the honor of introducing the governor.

As the host, Buffalo State’s new president, Aaron Podolefsky, opened with a few words, then introduced Brown, who made his remarks to an appreciative but not especially inspired crowd. Then the mayor sat down while Podolefsky summoned Hoyt, also a Buff State alumnus, to the podium. One can think what one will of Hoyt as a legislator; he’s been around a long time and has won many friends and many enemies, many supporters and many critics. (Cuomo heaped praise on him, as might be expected of a visiting politician.) But whatever one thinks of him, he is not wooden. He’s engaging and funny, and his speeches rarely feel scripted. In short order he had the crowd laughing, and clapping, and ready for the main event.

Brown must have been miserable.

When the governor took to the stage and asked the audience to give hand, in turn, to Podolefsky, Brown, and then Hoyt, the crowd clapped politely for Brown and roared for Hoyt. I could not see Brown’s reaction from where I sat, but I looked quickly to where Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, Brown’s chief political advisor, stood beside the stage. Casey tepidly brought his hands together once, then started fiddling with his phone, as if checking for messages.

Cuomo said kind things about the mayor, calling him a “superstar” among elected officials, but he always referred to him as “the mayor” or “Mayor Brown.” He called Hoyt “Sam” or “my friend Sam.” The difference in the relationship was clear.

There was a brief press conference in the basement of Upton Hall after the speech, and there Brown managed to occupy prime real estate right next to the governor as he took questions, while Hoyt stood behind both men. But, in the political world where appearances and semantics carry so much weight, Hoyt already had won the day.

Do any of these political flocking patterns and ceremonial arrangements mean anything? Well, they won’t get your sewer system updated, or create new slots for nursing students at ECC’s city campus, or result in a property tax system that rewards downtown property owners for developing their lots instead of selling parking spaces on them. But they shed a little light on whose claims to a close working alliance with the governor ring most true.


  • WNY Patriot

    Well, another fine “unbiased” article from Mr. Kelly. Mr Hoyt, once again, is the greatest politician EVER! I mean, really Geoff, ask Sam for a job already. I mean with the praise you shower on him, you make Antoine Thompson seem like a secondary perform in the world of politician promotion!

  • Bruce Kogan

    Well I was there and it’s definitely true that Sam got more applause than Byron.
    That he deserved them is another issue, point is he got them. There were a lot
    of gay activists in the crowd and being a gay activist and a friend of Sam is
    synonymous these days. The only gay people supporting Byron these days are those with an economic interest to do so.

    Geoff Kelly is right on the money, Byron Brown is an empty suit. One shudders
    to think what will happen if Steve Casey leaves and Byron becomes Mayor. One
    really shudders with Casey at the Bat.

  • @WNY Patriot: I’m not sure what this phrase is intended to mean: “…you make Antoine Thompson seem like a secondary perform in the world of politician promotion!”

    In any case, I’m not looking for a job and this paper has been no particular fan of Hoyt over the years. You have decided nonetheless what my bias is, yet you post anonymously, so that no one else can gauge what your bias might be. Why is that? Who are you? Answer those two questions, and I’d be happy to engage in a conversation with you. Otherwise, I’ll leave you to rail against me and build straw men by yourself.

    Thanks for reading.

  • Eddie

    I suspect that everyone is a little bit correct here. I was in the room, and while there is undoubted affinity on the Governor’s behalf for both men, I suspect that the extra love shown to Sam is more innocently explained. It’s pretty clear that Sam worked to get bodies in the room. They would quite naturally be louder in support of him than the Mayor. I think that the Governor is just very good at reading a crowd, and he played to that. This is not to in any way diminish the conclusion that the Governor thinks highly of Sam, but I am not sure that any sub rosa message was being sent by the Governor about which person he loves more than the other.

  • Lancey Howard

    I am a fan of the mayor and I think he’s doing a good job. But a reporter telling something accuratey is his job and shouldn’t bother anyone. I wasn’t able to make the event, but friends tell me Kelly’s report is accurate.

    If you want truly biased reporting read McCarthy in the Buffalo News. You’ll have no doubt he’s been promised something by Jane (the Ice Queen) Corwin.

  • @Eddie: You’re probably correct on all those points.

  • RaChaCha

    Interesting to read, Geoff. I had been wondering about this after seeing tweets from both Brown (@MayorByronBrown) and Hoyt (@Sam_Hoyt) yesterday afternoon, both claiming to have introduced the Governor. Even more interesting to find that the Mayor’s tweet has now been taken down.

  • Simon Magus

    RaChaCha, it is Byron Brown that needs to be taken down

  • Jonathan Wellinton-Fidrych III

    I have met this Geoff Kelly fellow and I can tell you that he is definitely NOT Buffalo Club material.

  • Bruce Kogan

    There were a whole lot of GLBT activists who were there and we know who are
    friends in government are. That’s why Sam got the applause, no more, no less.

  • Taxpayer456

    Wow, Mayor Erkle has a BA in Poly Sci from Buff State. He is so over qualified. He is a moron devoid of any intelligence or even street smarts. Hoyt looks like a genius every time he appears around Brown.