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Cuomo promises eye on corruption if elected

Five of them were. But to Zaragoza's surprise, one named Bobby approached him with the news that he had found an apartment in Manhattan's Upper Westside through "some HUD program they got me into.""It's the first time in my five years of visiting there that I heard of anyone getting an apartment," said Zaragoza, president of St. Nicholas' pastoral council. "Someone who fell through the cracks finally got an out."It was one of the more specific showings of appreciation the roomful of Queens Democrats gave to the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Andrew Cuomo, who spoke last Thursday at the John F. Kennedy Regular Democratic Club in Fresh Meadows.With his days in the Manhattan district attorney's office and the four years serving President Clinton at HUD , the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo now talked to the borough constituents as a Democratic candidate for state attorney general -- a post that will be vacated when Eliot Spitzer's term ends in November 2006.Cuomo, who recently gained the endorsement of the large hospital workers' union, SEIU Local 1199, appears to be a frontrunner in a field of at least seven other Democratic candidates, including 2001 mayoral hopeful Mark Green and state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx).Choosing Queens to hold one of his first appearances as a candidate is a logical one for Cuomo, who was born in the borough and lived in Douglaston. "Andy is trying to build his base here," said Morton Povman, a district leader for the club who served as city councilman for 30 years.Some issues Cuomo stumped at the meeting included protecting Wall Street from scandal, policing Albany, strengthening his "social justice agenda" as a "crusader" for a cleaner environment and battling the Bush administration's pursuit of a smaller government.Several in the crowd encouraged Cuomo to bring morality back to state government and its independent agencies, exposing what they claimed to be underhanded payments and shady dealings among powerful legislators and lobbyists. "(Independent agencies) have now become vehicles of corruption, not vehicles of performance," agreed Cuomo, who, referring to Spitzer's crackdown on corruption in such companies as Enron, vowed to "be as tough on Albany Street as Spitzer was on Wall Street."Immigration was another concern voiced in the audience."My opinion is that the immigration policy in this country stinks," Cuomo said. "There's a phobia right now that screams, 'Don't let them in!'" To that, Marsha Livson of New Hyde Park said, "Yes, but you're talking about legal immigrants."She was right, Cuomo said, "And the job of attorney general is primarily to enforce the law."Cuomo acknowledged some past political pursuits where he came up short -- his run for governor four years ago resulted in, as he put it, "getting knocked on my tuchus" -- but said he has the qualifications to be attorney general.That will be up to the voters, but according to the 50 or so at the meeting, he has a fighting chance.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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