Here’s an expanded version of the third item from my “Albany Insider” column that was cut for space from Monday’s print editions:
Maria Comella, Gov. Cuomo’s new chief of staff, is already one of state government’s highest paid staffers.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said Comella is being paid $ 175,000-a-year by the executive chamber. The state Controller’s Office on Friday said it did not yet have a record of her hiring, which Cuomo announced on April 25.
Comella is a lifelong Republican and a former top aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. She also worked on campaigns for GOPers George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani.
As Cuomo’s chief of staff, Comella replaced Melissa DeRosa, who was promoted to the top spot of secretary to the governor.
She made national headlines in 2016 when she broke with Christie by saying she would support Democrat Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump for President.
Though she comes with a solid reputation, her hiring left some of Cuomo’s fellow Democrats scratching their heads as she is the latest Republican to be hired by the governor at a time when he has spent the past year trying to rebuild his relationship with the left wing of his own party and also as he has been mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.
Further upsetting Dems was Cuomo’s comments last week when asked if a Democratic takeover of the state Senate would be a benefit for the state. Cuomo answered by referring to the chaos and dysfunction that occured the last time the Dems controlled the Senate in 2009-10.
“Unforced errors,” said one veteran Democratic operative and long-time Cuomo observer.
Cuomo defenders note he recently has hired a number of experienced hands from former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s operation.
They note he has also successfully pushed the past year a number of progressive issues ranging from a $ 15 minimum wage and the creation of a statewide paid family leave program to the raising of the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and a free public college tuition plan for those from families with household incomes of under $ 125,000.