New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Associated Press

Last Tuesday, precisely one month before the Nov. 4 election, hundreds of business executives gathered in Midtown to hear New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pitch his economic-development plan for a second term.

As Mr. Cuomo sat beaming in the front row, the Danish owner of a company that received tax incentives from his administration to open in Buffalo extolled the virtues of his leadership.

“Even if I’m not campaigning for Gov. Cuomo—maybe I should,” said the executive, Ulla Bak, eliciting knowing laughter from the crowd.

No, this wasn’t a campaign rally, as Ms. Bak noted; it was a government event, complete with a lectern bearing the state seal and location at the state-owned Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. But given the rhetoric, attendees could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Since the start of the general-election race in mid-September, Mr. Cuomo has relied heavily on leveraging the advantages afforded him by his incumbency to campaign for re-election.

Four of the seven policy agenda items he has pledged to advance in a second term have been announced at government events. They include a plan to adopt uniform sexual-assault policies at private colleges, the creation of a $35 million export-import bank and a boost to the percentage of state contracts awarded to businesses owned by minorities or women.

At the event to introduce sexual-assault policies, at a State University of New York board meeting, the college system’s chairman Carl McCall noted that Mr. Cuomo’s appearance at a board meeting was the first by a governor in recent memory.

“I know it’s unique,” Mr. Cuomo said, “but I think this situation deserved it and mandated it, and I thank you for the courtesy.” The policies were implemented at SUNY and Mr. Cuomo said he would seek to codify them into law in his second term.

Mr. Cuomo has seized other opportunities available to him only as a sitting governor, including a U.S. military-sponsored trip to Afghanistan last month with three other governors—an attention-grabbing event his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, would have trouble matching.

“This is the imperialistic governor,” Mr. Astorino said in an interview. “He doesn’t want to shake anyone’s hand unless his function is invite-only.”

To be sure, Mr. Cuomo has hit the campaign trail and shaken quite a few hands in recent weeks. He has traveled around upstate New York and Long Island on a bus tour to raise awareness of gender-equity legislation, spoken before a group of state business leaders to seek their endorsement, stumped at a number of African-American churches and on Sunday swung by the Buffalo Bills game.

Next week, he is expected to participate in the one debate to which both he and Mr. Astorino have agreed, in Buffalo. And the governor is considering a campaign trip to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to court the Latino vote back home.

Still, Mr. Cuomo has remained highly active in his government role, even as the candidates inch closer to election night. To political operatives who have helped other gubernatorial incumbents successfully seek re-election, that’s no surprise.

“We were counting down the days,” said a former aide to Gov. George Pataki, of his 1998 re-election campaign. Mr. Pataki defeated his Democratic opponent in that race, New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, 54% to 33%.

If a sitting governor is on top by a healthy margin in the polls—which Mr. Cuomo is and which Mr. Pataki was—“you just want to go somewhere and do governmental events and wait for it to be over,” this person said. “If you’re an incumbent and you’re up, the only thing you can do by hitting the campaign trail is screw it up.”

The most recent gubernatorial poll, from Quinnipiac University, showed Mr. Cuomo with a 20-point lead over Mr. Astorino: 51% to 31%.

Democratic consultant Bruce Gyory said that because of Mr. Cuomo’s polling and fundraising advantages, “he’s been a little bit circumspect as a consequence.” But when he does do events, Mr. Gyory said, Mr. Cuomo has stuck to government opportunities to capitalize on the public perception that he is highly attentive to his duties in office.

“No one says he doesn’t spend a lot of hours at his day job, and that’s a plus,” said Mr. Gyory, who isn’t affiliated with Mr. Cuomo’s campaign. “That’s something you can’t create in a campaign, but you play off of in a campaign.”

Mr. Cuomo, it seems, agrees with that assessment. Asked recently about his campaign practices, he said: “I’ve been working as hard as I can, seven days a week, as governor of the state…and my campaign is basically my performance in office.”

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