A Personal Perspective
By Marcia Moxam Comrie
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first Democratic challenger of this election cycle has declared.
Actress Cynthia Nixon, most famous for her role as Miranda Hobbs on Sex and the City, has declared her candidacy for governor of New York. It will probably be an uphill battle going against the incumbent governor—but hey, she’s been leading up to this for a while.
Nixon has long been a politically-engaged New Yorker who advocated for public education rights. She never had to do that because she’s had the wherewithal to send her own kids to expensive Manhattan private schools. Instead, she has chosen public education for them and demanded improvements in the system.
Cuomo has a $30-plus million war chest. It’s hard to beat a fairly popular incumbent with that kind of funding, plus the power of incumbency with its daily access to the press via conferences and events.
Nixon, who wants to be called by her first name only, appears to be serious about this challenge to the two-term governor. Cuomo is not the most beloved governor we’ve ever had. He is prickly, autocratic and disingenuous. He has aided and abetted a small group of rogue Democrats who broke off to found the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), led by Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein. The group caucuses with the Republicans, thereby keeping the real Senate Democrats in the minority, where they obviously have less power to do the things they’d want to do for their districts and the state.
Cuomo, the de facto party leader in the state, has been derelict for his failure in reuniting his party in the Senate. New York Democrats in Congress—and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi—called on him last year to fix the problem. He made a half-hearted effort and then walked away from it. The IDC is still in existence and the mainline Democrats are still in the minority.
The bottom line is that Senate Republicans are still in charge of the upper chamber. By making it possible for the IDC to form and continue to exist, Cuomo is saying that he does not care about his party and its success in the state Senate.
He has also steadfastly refused to approve a raise for the state legislature. They have not had one in nearly 20 years. Cuomo says that they don’t deserve it because it’s a part-time job. Even if that were so—and Lord knows nothing could be further from the truth—don’t part-time workers deserve raises too? If this were a union job, this could not happen.
Cuomo also wants to tie an eventual raise to ethics reform. We are all in favor of ethics reform. It’s ridiculous how many legislators have ended up betraying their oath of office. But has it occurred to Cuomo that some of those who have gone rogue have done so because they haven’t had a raise in umpteen years? On top of that, he wants to limit outside income to less than $20,000 per year.
Meanwhile, Joe Percoco, the guy he has called his father’s “third son,” is now on his way to jail for crooked activities in his state job with the governor. And another aid is up for trial for similar activities. Percoco’s office was right next to the governor’s. The hypocrisy is palpable.
Cuomo is also known for his constant bickering with Mayor de Blasio and it is hurting New York City. Cuomo acts as if he’s jealous of de Blasio’s progressive bona fides, so there is a constant sense of one-upmanship between them. The truth is that de Blasio is the real progressive here—and the governor needs to do his own thing, and let the mayor do his.
The governor needs to support the city. The mayor is only asking for the city’s fair share on our behalf. The governor needs to cough it up.
Nixon does not have experience as an elected official. She’s counting on her experience in protest and advocacy engagement. Cuomo will no doubt attack her. His first volley was Christine Quinn’s referring to her as “an unqualified lesbian.” As it turns out, Quinn was only repeating a line from Nixon’s own play book. She supposedly called Quinn that when she ran for mayor. Nonetheless, Quinn has taken a lot of heat for it and eventually apologized.
Quinn, the former City Council speaker, was more than qualified to run for mayor. De Blasio triumphed over her, but she was a fantastic speaker and would have been a good mayor. In the end, Cuomo will most likely win the Democratic primary. He will then face off against a Republican challenger in the fall. Does he deserve a third term? The voters will decide. In the meantime—run Cynthia, run!