BUFFALO, N.Y. — As he took the stage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recalled a conversation he had with Empire State Development Chairman Howard Zemsky more than a year and a half ago.
“He said ‘there are two important reasons why we should take this trade mission to Cuba,’ and he leaned in like that, ‘two important reasons,'” Cuomo recalled. “I said yes? ‘The reasons are cigars and rum.'”
Jokes aside, Cuomo’s message on Wednesday was that last year’s trade mission to Cuba was about more than that.
“It could literally save lives,” he said.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo said it’s received federal permission to begin clinical trials on a lung cancer vaccine and begin a joint business venture with the Cuban institution that developed it.
“Let me just tell ya, this would not have happened without Governor Cuomo and his vision and his historic trade mission in April of 2015,” Roswell Park President and CEO Candace Johnson said.
Cuomo has taken some heat for the well-publicized trip, but he said this development is an example of it’s effectiveness. He said the Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology would’ve had partners lining up.
“The idea was, let’s be the first state to Cuba,” he said. “Let’s get our institutions to Cuba before anyone else.”
Wednesday, meanwhile, was the first time the governor took questions in Buffalo since a marathon session in September, immediately following news of bid-rigging charges connected to his Buffalo Billion initiative. This time he had little to say about the investigation
“Is there anything new that you know of?” a reporter asked.
“Nothing new that I know of,” Cuomo said then moved on.
The governor did address his push to help Democrats retake control of the New York State Senate. The 60th district, where he spent part of the day, is considered a crucial seat to both parties.
“I’m talking to a number of races,” Cuomo said. “I have not had a conversation in that race.”
He did not say if he would endorse Democratic candidate Amber Small, but reiterated he won’t support a Dem just for the sake of it.
“Before I endorse anyone, I need to know what’s your position on fiscal responsibility and what’s your position on ethics and cleaning up Albany and outside income for legislators,” he said.
See video here.
Ryan Whalen, Time Warner Cable News
October 27, 2016