Governors’ race ends in tie

INDIAN LAKE – Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin tied in a whitewater rafting race here on the Indian River, part of the Adirondack Challenge held Sunday afternoon, a lighthearted competition that promotes the Adirondacks.

Both rafts finished at a time of 19 minutes and 20 seconds, a “dead tie,” according to Cuomo.

Cuomo and Shumlin arrived at the river around 11:30 a.m., each bringing along his daughters and an entourage. Cuomo, his family and most of his staff wore navy blue shirts with “Team Cuomo” on the back. Likewise for “Team Shumlin,” except their shirts were green. There was a friendly competitive spirit between the two teams and some trash talk prior to the event. Cuomo looked to be enjoying himself, splashing several rafters with his paddle as they entered the water.

The rafting trip on Indian River was 2.7 miles, about a 20 to 25 minute ride. The water on Sunday was class 2 to 3 rapids. Twenty-one rafts competed in the event with seven people on each.

“It was fantastic,” Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston said. “We passed three rafts.”

Preston was on the Essex County raft along with other county officials like Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas of Jay.

The event is probably best described as kind of field trip for politicians, many of whom are from downstate. After the rafting race, several buses were loaded with participants. About 25 state and local politicians were chatting about the experience in one bus.

Franklin County Board of Legislators Chairman Billy Jones, of Chateaugay, told the Enterprise the governor’s challenge appears to be helping tourism.

“He (Cuomo) did it last year, and I think we’re seeing an uptick in tourism, and hopefully it continues,” Jones said.

State Sen. Betty Little of Queensbury agreed. She also rafted Sunday, sitting in the front of a North Country team raft.

“I know last year after the challenge I talked to some of the rafters, and they said more people came, the numbers went up,” Little said. “I think we are really expanding and showing people what we have here.”

Later the group met up at Gore Mountain Ski Center for a reception. The ski center is run by the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.

Assemblyman Dan Stec of Queensbury said he sat out of the rafting event, deciding instead to hike in to OK Slip Falls. The 3-mile hike was formerly on Finch, Pruyn timberland that the state bought in 2013 and “the highlight” of the purchase, Stec said. Other visitors also went golfing, hiking, fly-fishing and canoeing.

Stec said there is value in the media buzz the event creates. According to Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi, “Thirty or so” media outlets were at the event. He added that it’s important downstate politicians know the Adirondacks.

“The big value I see, from a local perspective, is making a connection with legislators,” Stec said. “I assume Governor Cuomo will continue it.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, of New York City, told the Enterprise it was his first time in the Indian Lake region.

“It’s beautiful – terrific,” Silver said. “I think everybody ought to spend some time in the Adirondacks.”

Silver would later deliver a speech at the reception where he said, “There is still a disconnect from upstate and downstate,” and that this event helps “to show we are one New York.”

During the reception, Shumlin and Cuomo talked of cooperation and mutual goals for both the North Country and Vermont.

“What’s good for the Adirondacks is good for the Green Mountain state,” Shumlin said. “We are in this together.”

Cuomo said “what works for the Adirondacks works for Vermont.”

It’s an election year for both governors, and Cuomo also boasted about economic development and jobs created in New York.

“Everywhere you go – you go through Saranac (Lake), and they’re talking about Hotel Saranac and how they can’t wait for the restoration of Hotel Saranac,” Cuomo said. “People are talking about Finch, Pruyn. People are talking about the repairs on (state) Route 73.”

He toured the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake on Saturday afternoon while visiting Saranac Lake, where he went fishing and spent some time downtown.

Cuomo also said unemployment in upstate has dropped and that “all across the state there is a new energy.”

Jobs are coming back and they are going upstate and that’s where we need them,” Cuomo said.