Things are getting interesting

When all was said and done, it looked like a clear victory for Governor Andrew Cuomo. The bottom line is that he won the endorsement of the Working Families Party, the group that purports to represent the more progressive side of the Democratic Party. There was a lot at stake — nothing less than an eventual shot at the presidency was on the table for the relatively young governor. Polls show that had he not won the Working Families endorsement, his margin of victory in the coming gubernatorial election against Republican Rob Astorino would have been seriously and negatively affected.

First looks, however, can be deceiving. At their convention, the party’s left, populist side actually started to boo the governor, whose taxation policy has made many of them very unhappy. In the end, it was the populist mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio who saved his hash. The single issue whose resolution gave Cuomo the endorsement was the control of the State Senate by the Republicans, which many members of the Working Families Party believe was aided and abetted by Cuomo. To get the party’s nod, Cuomo had to promise that he would help the Democrats take back the Senate, which actually has more Democratic members than Republicans. The Republicans have stayed in power with the help of five wandering Democrats, known as the Independent Democratic Conference.

I have always believed that the newly minted conservative Cuomo wanted the Republicans to control the Senate. That way, he could make them into the heavies when it came to progressive legislation involving things like a higher minimum wage, a progressive state Dream Act to help undocumented immigrants and the granddaddy of them all, a statewide campaign finance law to reduce the influence of money in politics.

Cuomo has the power to make things right for the Democrats. All he has to do is to call the wandering Democrats under the leadership of Bronx Democrat Jeff Klein into a room and tell them to get back where they belong or else he would support primaries against them. As a result of the Working Families Party uprising, he has now promised to win the Senate for the Democrats. Of course, he could make that change tomorrow by telling the errant Democrats to come back. They would have to listen to him. Cuomo is known to be very forceful when it comes to getting his way.

Now Cuomo has to worry that his hard won popularity with anti-tax middle class New Yorkers will be exploited by Republican Astorino, whose popularity in heavily Democratic Westchester County was won just because the taxes were too damn high. For his part, Astorino jumped on the Working Families endorsement of Cuomo. His team was quick to put out a press release that said, “The real Andrew Cuomo just handed the keys to New York to a bunch of radicals hell-bent on increasing taxes and spending, which will force out more middle class families and jobs to other states. I will put an end to this tax madness and bring New York back into the winning column again.”

Unfortunately for Astorino, his social policies on guns and women’s reproductive rights are at odds with those of many New Yorkers. There is no way he can embrace statewide campaign finance reform in which New Yorkers pay for people to run for office. Cuomo says he is for campaign finance reform but he will run with fifty million dollars in his campaign coffers.

Cuomo had to promise to put the Democrats back in control of the State Senate. He could do it tomorrow or drag his feet on the issue. If he goes back on his word, he risks further alienating the left in his own party.

Things are getting interesting.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 6/2/14

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