Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy once said that working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo is like “taking a painting class from Picasso.”
There has been increased speculation in recent days that Duffy, the former Rochester mayor, might be considering leaving the Cuomo administration to head the Rochester Business Alliance.
On Wednesday, Duffy declined to dismiss the speculation, saying, “I’ve heard the rumors, and I’m not going to comment.”
On Thursday in Utica, Cuomo was asked about Duffy’s future. He also did not vow that Duffy would be his running mate next year when the Democratic governor seeks re-election.
“I think the lieutenant governor has said we’re going to leave the politics to next year,” Cuomo said in Utica, according to YNN. “That’s when we talk politics and we talk campaigns. We’re talking about governing now and that’s what we want to focus on.”
YNN said Cuomo wouldn’t say if Duffy had spoken to him about leaving.
“He’s done a fantastic job as lieutenant governor, but I don’t want to get into the politics this year,” he said. ”That’s next year.”
Cuomo’s office on Thursday offered no immediate comment on whether Duffy is considering leaving, or to clarify Duffy’s remarks from Wednesday.
In August, Cuomo’s office released a statement that said Duffy would be on the 2014 ticket. Duffy resigned as mayor in 2010 to run with Cuomo.
“The governor and I have the same plans,” Duffy said in a statement at the time. “We plan to seek re-election and will formally announce it at the appropriate time.”
Assemblyman Bill Reilich, R-Greece, Monroe County, said if Duffy plans to stay as lieutenant governor, he should make that clear to the public to quash the rumors.
“If he’s refusing to talk about it, there must be something to it because if it was absolutely out of the question, I think it would easy enough to end the rumors and speculations by saying that,” said Reilich, who heads the Monroe County Republican Committee.
Duffy, 59, has taken a public role as lieutenant governor, traveling the state on behalf of Cuomo and touting the governor’ s agenda. He also heads the state’s 10 regional councils for economic development.
But Duffy and his wife, who have two grown daughters, recently bought a lakefront home in the Finger Lakes from Business Alliance CEO Sandra Parker for $527,000. Parker is retiring from the post at year’s end, creating the vacancy.
A spokesman for the Business Alliance declined comment on the search, saying it is being handled by an outside committee. Parker on Wednesday declined to comment on whether Duffy is a candidate.
Duffy collects a $70,000-a-year pension for his years as a Rochester police officer, which included time as chief, and a $151,500 salary as lieutenant governor.
The Rochester Business Alliance job, essentially the head of the chamber of commerce for the Rochester area, likely pays more. Parker earned nearly $308,000 in 2010, plus nearly $67,000 in additional compensation, according to the group’s income tax forms.
Douglas Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College in Manhattan, said he would be surprised if Duffy left the Cuomo administration. Unlike tense relationships between governors and their lieutenant governors in the past, he said Cuomo and Duffy appear to have had a close one.
“Given the potential influence he’s got on policy, clearly that would be a very difficult position to walk away,” Muzzio said.
And if Duffy has a political future, he would be better off staying where he is, Muzzio said. Cuomo is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
“If in fact he has larger political aspirations post-Cuomo, he’s building a résumé and contacts through the state that would serve him well in a gubernatorial campaign,” Muzzio said.