Philadelphia News & Search
A former top aide to Gov. Christie who helped cultivate the New Jersey Republican’s national profile has joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration as chief of staff.
Maria Comella was Christie’s longtime communications director in Trenton and a senior adviser to his 2016 presidential campaign. Now she’s working for a Democrat who, like his late father, Mario Cuomo, is said to harbor presidential ambitions.
“Right now it is important to be an active participant in our democratic process, and political party matters less than the things we can accomplish when working together,” Comella said in a statement released by Cuomo’s office on Tuesday.
“At a time of turmoil in Washington, I believe the states can and will play an important role, and Governor Cuomo has the ability to find common ground when it’s needed and get things done,” Comella said.
Her cross-Hudson move was first reported by CNN. Christie and Cuomo have projected an image of bipartisan cooperation over the years, even as their appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey clashed over agency priorities.
In the general election, she bucked Christie, a friend and supporter of Donald Trump’s campaign, by endorsing Hillary Clinton and calling Trump a “demagogue” who preyed “on people’s anxieties with loose information and salacious rhetoric, drumming up fear and hatred of the ‘other.'”
Comella began advising Cuomo earlier this year to “help craft our state of the state and budget message,” the governor’s office said.
She replaces Melissa DeRosa, whom Cuomo recently promoted to the position of secretary to the governor. DeRosa recruited Comella to the administration, according to the governor’s office.
“This administration has forged a bold progressive agenda, uplifting the middle class and providing greater opportunities for all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in announcing a broad staff reorganization. “These new additions will strengthen our team and bring new ideas and talent to strengthen our team, and I look forward to working together to continue to move New York forward.”
Before joining the Christie administration in 2010, Comella worked on the presidential campaigns of such Republicans as George W. Bush in 2004 and Rudy Giuliani and John McCain in 2008.
Comella, who grew up in upstate New York, said she was eager to work for “a governor I respect and to be part of his ambitious agenda to create upward economic mobility for the middle class and give voice to those who need it most.”
“The fact Governor Cuomo is willing to listen to different viewpoints and work with people from the other side of the aisle is something we should welcome and quite frankly should want to see happen more often,” she said.
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