A tale of three governors on the rise
Three governors: Chris Christie, Deval Patrick and Andrew Cuomo. Each has a different character, a different history and a different way of running things. Each has a different degree of control and ambition.
Republican Chris Christie lives in an increasingly Democratic state but has endeared himself to many independent and Democratic voters. The course he has charted for himself suggests to his constituents that he is fiercely committed to thinking each decision through and not being held prisoner to Republican Party orthodoxy. A big man, he has been unfairly targeted with fat jokes. Like so many Americans who carry too much weight, he has struggled with this problem and lots of people like him precisely because he is so human. When the president came to New Jersey after Super Storm Sandy, he and Christie embraced. I personally think that hug went a long way toward assuring the president’s reelection. Christie won his governorship in part because the Democrats had presented one scandal after another. It didn’t hurt that Christie had been the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. He seems to be a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy. When Obama arrived in New Jersey, the governor said he wished his mother could have seen him riding in the presidential helicopter. Forget about the pomposity of so many politicians. This guy is down-to-earth and the real deal. When he had an opportunity to get into the presidential sweepstakes, he declined. As the next round approaches, he would have a very good chance to turn things around for a Republican Party that all of a sudden can’t seem to get out of its own way.
Governor number two is Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. Patrick, the first black governor of the state, is a brilliant, articulate and modest man whose real strength is policy. As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights, a major corporate lawyer and a close friend of President Obama, one can assume that this guy is going places. He is often mentioned as a potential U.S. Attorney General or as Obama’s next Supreme Court appointment. While he is not given to hyperbole or outward political diatribes, he can be a top-notch speaker as evidenced by his superb speech at the Democratic convention. He so inspired delegates that he had them rising to their feet again and again and not a few of them were wiping away tears as he painted a poignant portrait of an America that could do better. Patrick said that he would run for two terms only and he is intent on keeping his word. I’ve gotten to know this gentle man and to appreciate his decency and honesty. In politics, perceived character is everything
Then there is Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York. Of these three governors, I have been watching him the longest. Once a fierce front man and tough guy for his own father, he now argues that he has changed. While Freud tells us that character is set at an early age, one hopes that Cuomo knows what he is about. We do know that he is a man who likes to control his political environment. He is immensely popular in New York, having come to office at a time when voters thought Albany was completely out of control. Like Governor Christie, he came into office calling for fiscal austerity but in his third year of office, he demonstrated a liberal streak when he passed the nation’s toughest gun laws. He has not always kept his word on issues, like his campaign promise to veto any reapportionment bill that didn’t allow an outside group of experts to redistrict the state in a fair and impartial way. He has alienated a lot of voters on the hydrofracking question, both pro and con. He denies that he is running for president but a lot of people are quite sure that he is. I’m one of them.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 2/18/13