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Democrat rivals for NY governor unite on wage hike

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The two men competing to be the Democratic candidate for governor in New York held a rare joint appearance Thursday, smiling and shaking hands in a show of unity for an issue that both men support: raising the minimum wage.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo and state Comptroller Carl McCall used the joint press conference, called by the Working Families Party, to criticize Gov. George Pataki for what they call his poor leadership of the New York economy.

"Eleven states and the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage than we have here in New York," Cuomo said, calling New York the "caboose on the economic train."

The minimum wage bill that both candidates support has already been passed by the state Assembly, and is now awaiting approval by the state Senate. The bill would raise the minimum wage to $6.75 an hour and index it to inflation. Both candidates said that if the Senate does not act on the bill, then Pataki should raise the minimum wage through executive order.

"If you're a friend to the working people of New York, and you're a friend to the labor movement, then raise the minimum wage," Cuomo said.

McCall echoed that sentiment, saying the Pataki administration has failed "people who are struggling to earn enough bread to take care of their families."

Both men pledged that, if elected, they would raise the minimum wage.

After the press conference, Cuomo addressed the continued fallout from his widely publicized criticism of Pataki's performance after the events of September 11.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that Cuomo has slipped in the polls against Pataki since his comments were made. But Thursday, Cuomo did not concede that the comments were a mistake, and in fact reiterated them.

"I believe that Rudy Giuliani did an extraordinary job around 9-11. I don't think that's a unique opinion. Giuliani has been knighted. Rudy Giuliani has been celebrated all across the country," he said. "I think the position of Rudy Giuliani was extraordinary, and George was second to Rudy. That's what I believe."

When asked if his competitor had made a mistake in how he criticized the governor, McCall said he had "paid no attention to what some other candidate says or when he said it or whether he should say it. I am focusing on my vision for what we have to do for New Yorkers."




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