How would Cuomo fare with a liberal Senate?

Mario Cuomo always had the Republicans in the state Senate to blame when he had to act responsibly and not give away the store. His son Andrew was his top counsel and obviously learned something from the old man. When Eliot Spitzer was elected governor he decided it was time for blue state New York to have a real democracy and he set out to conquer the years-old gerrymander, which perpetually gave New York’s upper house to the Republicans despite the fact that in the Empire State, there were many more Democrats than Republicans. After all, the Assembly was overwhelmingly Democratic. How could it be that the Senate was always Republican by a few votes? The answer was simple, the whole deal was fixed. The Republicans were allowed to draw their own lines. It was as if a Steinbrenner umpired the Yankee games. The fix was in. In fact, Spitzer had his way and turned the Senate Democratic and then the trouble began. The Democrats behaved abysmally. There was greed and worse, and eventually several of them headed to the hoosegow. The voters were sickened but the state was, and is, still Democratic in orientation. A fair deal and an honest reapportionment effort would have undoubtedly led to a Democratic Senate. It still would.

Enter Andrew Cuomo. Like his father, he needed a group of Republicans to help him keep the lid on things. But, unlike his father Mario, Cuomo-the-younger had turned from a passionate liberal into a much more conservative type governor. The times dictated that he did that and he wanted to be president. The state was hemorrhaging money just like the other states and whole countries around the world. With the help of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post and the Daily News’ Mort Zuckerman, Cuomo went after pensions and the state workforce and received the overwhelming approval of the voters. Our teachers were targeted and education took a huge kick in the rump. The last thing the governor needed was a bunch of progressive Democrats running the state Senate who would spend everything in sight. So, he went back on his word that he would veto an unfair redistricting bill. The country was sending its kids to fight in other countries so that the other countries could have democracy. In New York state the elections were fixed by allowing Dean Skelos to construct the electoral map. A mainstay of the Cuomo electoral effort was to ensure that New York had a democracy. “I will veto that bill,” was central to his campaign but when the time came he said that it couldn’t be done. He said that he didn’t have the clout so he allowed Skelos to draw his districts and just to make sure that the Republicans won, he allowed the Republicans to add yet another Senate district so that they had more flexibility in constructing the fix. The voters couldn’t have cared less that Cuomo went back on his word.

But, Cuomo has a real problem. There is an election coming up here in blue state New York. Turnout will be huge. Sure the fix may be in, but if Obama does as well in the state as I suspect he will, and if nontraditional voters come to the polls in November we just may have a Democratic rout in the state. Then the Senate, despite Cuomo’s need for a conservative Senate, may turn blue once again. It will be fascinating to see whether Cuomo is forced to subtly, or not so subtly, campaign for some Republicans.

However, should the Democrats take the Senate, does anyone really believe that anything will change? A rump group of “independent” Democrats may well end up voting with the Republicans because they are so sickened by their Democratic colleagues’ actions. It’s all enough to make anyone in the know lose their cookies.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 6/11/12

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