For Democrats, Cuomo is an alternative to Clinton in 2016

Campaign 2016
by Kent Covington & Nick Eicher
Posted 9/10/14, 02:14 pm

This article is the eighth in a series called White House Wednesday, by the staff of The World and Everything in It, looking at potential 2016 candidates for president. Earlier installments profiled Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Vice President Joe Biden, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Congressman Paul Ryan, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Rand Paul, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not the first in his family line to govern the Empire State, nor is he the first Cuomo to be rumored as a possible White House contender. 

Many believe had his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, not stayed on the sidelines through two national elections, the words “President Cuomo” would already be etched into American history books. With New York’s sittinggovernor wrapping up his first term in office, a Cuomo in the White House remains a real possibility. 

In November 2010, Andrew Cuomo celebrated a blowout victory over Republican Carl Paladino. Cuomo grabbed two of every three votes to become New York’s 56th governor.

Before moving into the governor’s mansion, Cuomo was the attorney general of New York. Prior to that office, he served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton. 

Cuomo was exposed to politics and public service at a young age. He was still in high school when his father was appointed New York’s secretary of state in 1975. He would later serve as manager of his father’s successful campaign for governor in 1982 and as chairman of his reelection bid four years later. 

As governor, Andrew Cuomo has been reliably liberal on social issues. In 2011, he signed a bill into law that would allowed same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses from the state to get them.

“New York made a powerful statement, not just for New York, but the people all across this nation,” Cuomo said at the time. “We reached a new level of social justice this evening: marriage equality.”

But on fiscal matters, Cuomo is widely seen as a more centrist Democrat. In his first year in office, he pressed for and won new controls on property tax increases. Yearly property tax hikes are now capped at 2 percent in New York. 

Cuomo has also taken steps to make the state friendlier to job creators. His fiscal pragmatism would sell with voters on a national stage. And his re-election for governor in just eight weeks looks like it will be a slam dunk.

But should he decide to run for president, Cuomo will have to overcome an ethics controversy brewing at home. The governor campaigned on cleaning up Albany, and last year he formed the Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption. According to The New York Times, just a couple of months after the commission was formed, investigators started looking for violations of campaign finance law. They wound up issuing a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had handled millions of dollars worth of campaign ads for the state’s Democratic Party. The investigators didnot realize Cuomo had been one of the firm’s clients. 

According to The Times, Cuomo’s top aide called the investigators and said, hey, this is wrong; pull it back. And they withdrew the subpoena.  

The Times says there are many examples of the Cuomo administration deeply compromising the panel’s work, and there’s now a federal probe into the whole ordeal. The governor has since pulled the plug on that commission. It was supposed to have a lifespan of 18 months, but he abruptly dissolved it after just nine months.

There’s another potential complication if he does make a White House run. Cuomo has some problems with the hard-left base of his party.

“The left really does not like Cuomo,” said Kyle Kondik at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “There’s been some various disputes in New York state where Cuomo was seen as turning his back on the more liberal folks in the Democratic Party. … I certainly think somebody like Elizabeth Warren would be more appealing to the more activist wing of the party.”

Many Democrats strongly believe Cuomo wants Republicans in control of the New York legislature because it helps him build a more moderate and bipartisan resume for a future White House run. Whether or not that’s true, it could haunt him in a Democratic primary.

If he can get through this ethics ordeal without too much scarring, then he could be a strong candidate. He would appeal to the same type of voters as Hillary Clinton. For that reason, many feel that if Clinton runs, Cuomo will hold off and run further down the road.

Listen to Kent Covington and Nick Eicher’s White House Wednesday segment on The World and Everything in It:

Nick Eicher

Nick lives in St. Louis, loves the Blues (as in the NHL), is executive producer of WORLD Radio, and co-hosts WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickEicher.

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