Listening to the latest discussion about a potential change in the timing of New York's 2020 presidential primary is akin to observing a tennis match - in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes on himself.

Our statehouse colleague, reporter Zack Fink of the NY1 cable news outlet, reported that Cuomo tried to get the Legislature to go along with his wish to have all three New York primaries — for state legislative seats, Congress and presidential — all held on the same day in February. But legislative leaders flatly rejected that plan.

Meanwhile, legislation that has arrived on Cuomo's desk would fix the presidential primary date for April 28. The primaries for statehouse and congressional seats is slated for June 23.

Cuomo, in a radio interview, questioned how New York could be at all relevant in the presidential contest with its primary coming so late, suggesting a February date would be beneficial. "April 28, on the presidential primary, you are sort of in no man's land, no person's land, because you're after Super Tuesday, so are you really impactful as a state?" he said.

Pouncing on Cuomo's suggestion to retool primary dates was state GOP boss Nick Langworthy. "Here we go again," he tweeted. "More potential changes to legalize rigged elections by Cuomo’s Democrat Party. This scheme must be rejected if they try to act."

A spokeswoman for Cuomo, after the governor talked up a February primary date, said he now supports having all three elections April 28.

If you're having a hard time following that one: Welcome to the tennis match.

PIPELINE FIGHT

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has become a powerful ally of environmental activists fighting proposed natural gas infrastructure projects, took a shot at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after it gave the green light to the snarled Constitution Pipeline project. The underground line would carry gas from Pennsylvania to a compressor in Schoharie.

Cuomo told a public radio station the federal agency's decision was "disrespectful" of state's rights, noting: "Any way we can challenge it, we will."

Cuomo's energy policies are regularly spanked by pro-fracking agitators, such as the web site Natural Gas Now. It pointed out that while New York gives the cold shoulder to natural gas, power generation from gas in Pennsylvania will in three years account for 45 percent of that state's energy mix, up from 30 percent now.

BATTLE FOR CONGRESS

Despite being vastly outspent, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, as the GOP's candidate for governor in 2018, came out on top in most upstate counties in his challenge to Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Now Molinaro, a former state lawmaker, is being eyed as a potential candidate for the 19th Congressional District, a seat won by Rep. Antonio Delgado, a Democrat who resides in Rhinebeck, in the "blue wave" election of 2018. The seat was previously occupied by two Republicans — John Faso (one term) and Chris Gibson (three terms).

This is a swing district, and Republicans want it back in their fold. Our prediction: combined campaign spending on New York 19 in 2020 will easily exceed $10 million.

LIMO TRAGEDY

When high profile criminal court trials approach, we keep an ear to the ground for the potential of plea deals allowing defendants to admit to a lesser offense.

But at least so far, we have seen no sign of anything to derail the scheduled Jan. 6 trial of Nauman Hussain, the operator of Prestige Limousine. He faces multiple counts of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in connection with one of the deadliest vehicular mishaps in the nation's history, arising from the Oct. 6, 2018 crash of a stretch limousine in the town of Schoharie. Twenty people were killed that day.

Some observers of this case are hoping it will yield more information about how state officials handled information they had before the crash regarding the dangerous condition of the vehicle, which had been stretched after it left the factory.

A key piece of prosecution evidence, as reported by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady, is the allegation that Hussain, 29, removed an "out of service" state sticker from the ill-fated limo before the crash. Prosecution evidence suggests that Hussain's DNA was found on the discarded sticker.

Those killed in the horrendous calamity included: all 17 passengers, the driver, an employee of Hussain; and two pedestrians struck by the limo when its brakes failed.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com

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