Via Gannett’s Jessica Bakeman:
INDIAN LAKE, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the rapids Sunday for a three-mile whitewater rafting competition in the Adirondacks, challenging legislative leaders, members of his administration and even reporters in an effort to attract tourists to northern New York.
“Tourism is a big business for us; it’s a big part of the economy. And this has great potential for a tourism opportunity,” Cuomo said, shortly after the race. “When people think of New York, they think of New York City. There’s a lot more to the state.”
Cuomo first outlined the Adirondack Challenge in his State of the State address last January, part of a larger plan to promote tourism upstate and create jobs.
The rafts launched in intervals, so it won’t be clear which team won until the times were announced. Later in the day at an awards ceremony at Gore Mountain in Warren County, Cuomo announced his team finished first, beating a Senate coalition team by about a minute.
There was plenty of trash talking among the teams before the event.
“I want to see the times, but I would be shocked if we didn’t win,” joked Cuomo, who is an frequent visitor to the Adirondacks.
The event cost the state about $175,000, which is part of a $60 million tourism fund the state announced earlier this year, a Cuomo spokesman said.
Competition for spots in the governor’s raft was said to be stiff. Cuomo’s teenage daughters Michaela and Cara joined him for the race, along with top aides.
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy manned a raft, and the state Senate and Assembly fielded teams. Three rafts carried reporters from New York media as well as national organizations, such as National Public Radio and Men’s Health magazine.
Duffy, the former Rochester mayor, touted the event as an economic generator for Indian Lake, Hamilton County.
“The Adirondack region is God’s country. I am from the Finger Lakes, and I’d (use) the same words there. But it’s a beautiful area, and the governor wanted to bring people up that aren’t used to it,” Duffy said. “That was a huge success, and all I’ve seen today is just a lot of great, happy people.”
Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein, D-Bronx, felt confident about his performance in the Senate majority raft, which included representatives from the Senate GOP. In Albany, the IDC shares power with Senate Republicans.
The team sported blue T-shirts that read: “Team Majority Coalition: Democrats and Republicans Paddling in Perfect Harmony.”
“I think when people come up here and see the beauty of the Adirondacks –white-water rafting, fishing, outdoor sports – I think people are going to want to come up here,” said Klein, who represents parts of Westchester County.
“So I’m very proud of the work we did here today and really bringing attention to tourism in New York.”
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, praised the beauty of Indian River and the surrounding mountains. She participated in the race.
“Team Assembly did very well,” she said. “We think we beat the Senate; we’re just waiting for the numbers to come in.”
The event continues Monday when Cuomo will race New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The governor said Sunday’s competition was merely a warm up.
“We actually perfected our technique coming down the river,” Cuomo said. “The mayor is going to have his hands full.”
Here’s video that Cuomo’s office took of the rafting trip.