Governor Cuomo’s upstate strategy is working
The late Mayor Ed Koch once got into terrible political trouble by mocking folks in upstate New York. He spoke of gingham dresses, pickup trucks with mounted rifle racks and a lack of Chinese restaurants. He was engaged in a political death struggle with Mario Cuomo over the New York governorship at the time and the gaffe, even if humorously intended, may well have cost him the election. He forgot that upstaters have their pride. What may have been popular in “The City” didn’t pass upstate.
When Mario Cuomo finally lost after a very successful tenure as governor, it was upstate that did him in, and his son, the present governor, never forgot that. Hence, young Andrew is spending a lot of time touting upstate. Cuomo knows that if he is to become president, he will have to knock everyone’s socks off in the upcoming gubernatorial election. Upstate voters are the key. That’s why he spends so much time there, trying to bring economic stability and expansion to the region and why he appeared to support fracking. The idea was to bring an economic engine to upstate. He never expected the political blowback that he got. That’s why he is always in the Adirondacks, rafting and racing Mayor Bloomberg, among others, on the whitewater. That’s why he has started various projects intended to bring economic revitalization to upstate — things like economic councils and business incubators and tax free zones for emerging new businesses. Of course, if Democrat Cuomo does as well in New York as it appears he will, he will bring other Democrats along with him including some state Senate hopefuls. That could be problematic since no upstate Democrat will ever be the head guy in the Senate. When the Democrats won the last time, a bunch of questionable New York City Democrats almost ruined the state. That could be a problem for Cuomo.
As almost every New Yorker knows, New York is politically divided into two geographic and psychological districts, upstate and downstate. The region called upstate, according to many, starts at Yonkers and extends to Buffalo. The rest is downstate. Each entity has rich and poor people and each has Republicans and Democrats. New York City, AKA The Big Apple, is the most important city in the world — so important that upstate got the capital, Albany, to even things out. In the old days, upstate was solidly Republican and was represented by the Republicans in the state Senate. Not so much anymore. The state is getting bluer and bluer. Dividing the goodies between the upstaters and the downstaters has always been problematic. When the city folks showed that they could take the state Senate, those in power made sure that the game was rigged. They figured out a way to keep the state Senate Republican so that equilibrium between the two was preserved.
When Cuomo showed real courage and did the right thing on gun control in New York, his popularity took a predictable nose dive. Upstate, as Mayor Koch seems to have opined, is the land of the hunter and the gun and a lot of upstaters were madder than hornets. But Andrew, like his father before him, got a lot of credit for doing the right, rather than the politically popular, thing by calling the gun scourge for what it was: awful and insidious. Papa did the right thing on the death penalty and abortion. Young Andrew did the same principled thing with guns. People respect that.
Upstaters grudgingly recognized Cuomo’s courage on guns and realized that the NRA types who tried whipping them into a frenzy were wrong. Andrew never took their guns away. They could still shoot deer with their shotguns. As a result, Andrew’s polling numbers, which had dropped like a stone, took off again. His upstate strategy has been working and we can expect a lot more of the same.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 8/19/13