The rumor that Bob Duffy will depart the Cuomo administration to head the Rochester Business Alliance when current RBA leader Sandra Parker retires at the end of the year is sprouting legs. Neither Duffy nor Cuomo have done anything to quash the speculation. Instead, Duffy’s refusal to discuss it has stoked the buzz into a near roar.
Duffy’s selection as lieutenant governor was always a bit curious and was likely meant to burnish Cuomo’s appeal upstate — though Duffy’s background may have hurt him. Downstate drives Albany’s machinery and some say that the cognoscente didn’t know how to take this too-tall ex-cop with the nasal “a.”
Rochesterians consoled themselves for the loss of Duffy with the knowledge that at least their former mayor would have the governor’s ear — whatever that meant (possibly, yelling “Rochester!” whenever he ran into Cuomo in the Capitol Building’s men’s room).
Duffy’s tenure as Cuomo’s right-hand man hasn’t been particularly remarkable — though short of an Eliot Spitzer-like detonation, it’s tough for a lieutenant governor to stand out. Duffy has been a traveling salesman for Cuomo’s budgets, and he chairs all 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, though the councils’ locally based representatives seem to do the heavy lifting there.
Duffy hasn’t hurt Cuomo, either, though his intrusion into Rochester’s mayoral race was ill-conceived — a fact he later acknowledged. (Duffy told the Democrat and Chronicle in January that Lovely Warren should stay out of the mayor’s race. Warren entered the race anyway and wound up winning the primary election. And Duffy got singed for opening his mouth.)
It’s unclear what Duffy’s future as an elected representative might be. Governor seems out of reach, and though Duffy was once talked about as a successor to Louise Slaughter in Congress, Slaughter seems to have the constitution of a triathlete.
As head of the RBA, Duffy would spend a lot of time promoting the city to investors — a task that he’s very familiar with and for which he is well-suited. He would also be the face and the voice of Rochester’s business community. Duffy certainly knows the economic and financial topography here, so in that sense, he’s a good match for the RBA. But in the past, his indecisiveness and impulsiveness have been counterproductive.
Duffy’s relationship with Warren is another question. He has been one of Warren’s strongest supporters, but it’s not clear if his ill-timed remarks about the mayor’s race damaged that bond. If Duffy does get the RBA job and he and Warren are able to mend fences, it could help settle the business community’s stomachs over a possible Warren administration.