The New York Daily News bY Adam Lisberg, Kenneth Lovett and Larry Mcshane - May 23, 2010
Like father, like son - but nothing like the last two governors.
Andrew Cuomo, following in the footsteps of dad Mario and two scandal-scarred predecessors, announced his long-expected campaign for governor by promising a crackdown on corruption. "I don't work for the lobbyists," Cuomo told his supporters Saturday afternoon in lower Manhattan. "I don't work for the politicians. I don't work for special interests. I work for the people of New York. Period." The attorney general, considered political roadkill after a disastrous 2002 gubernatorial run, stood beaming and blowing kisses before confirming the worst-kept secret in New York politics. He immediately becomes the prohibitive favorite to win the November election over any of the three possible GOP challengers. Polls last month showed Cuomo trouncing any of the other hopefuls by a better than 2-1 margin. Cuomo stood in the sunshine outside the Tweed Courthouse, an enduring symbol of New York corruption. The 52-year-old made it clear that cleaning house on crooked politicians was a top priority. "The government is part of the problem," he said. "The chronic dysfunction of Albany metastasized into the chronic corruption of Albany...Albany's antics today could make Boss Tweed blush. "Our message today is simple: Enough is enough." Cuomo mentioned no names, but incumbent Gov. Paterson is under investigation for interfering in a domestic violence case involving one of his top aides. And Paterson predecessor Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign two years ago over his pricey trysts with hookers. "It's time the people of the Empire State strike back, and that's what today is about," Cuomo said. "And in that effort, my friends, I think I can help." The son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo threw his hat in the ring eight years after his first try for the governor's job ended in bitter defeat. A beaming Cuomo, in a suit and red tie, blew kisses to the crowd and made a point of thanking his father and mother for their support. His dad held the job from 1983-1994. "Andrew! Andrew!" about 125 backers shouted. Cuomo, after delivering his remarks, left without taking questions. The state Republican Party, in a release, blasted Cuomo as the obvious and uninspired choice for their opposition. "Political nepotism and the Democrats' royal line of succession long ago determined the crowning of Prince Andrew that will ensue in Westchester this week," said GOP chairman Edward Cox, referring to the site of the state Democratic convention that begins Tuesday. Cuomo, the lone Democratic candidate for governor, will receive the nomination on Thursday. "If Andrew Cuomo wanted truly to lead and turn this state's government around, he could have started by rooting out corruption at the top of his own party," Cox said. Cuomo has already amassed $16 million in campaign funds to face one of three Republicans: upstate businessman Carl Paladino, former GOP Senate hopeful Rick Lazio or Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. Cuomo, entering to the sounds of Bon Jovi's "Work For the Working Man," stressed his commitment to representing average New Yorkers. "This campaign is not going to be about me, but we," said Cuomo, who promised to visit all of New York's 62 counties before Election Day. He focused on reforming Albany's ethical cesspool and fixing its fiscal mess. He pledged to cap state spending and local property taxes, while freezing state income and corporate taxes and salary increases for state employees. He also vowed to eliminate at least 20% of state agencies, and said he opposes additional state borrowing to fix the budget. Cuomo also promised comprehensive reform requiring full disclosure of outside income, independent ethics watchdogs and campaign finance reform. "New York was not always like this," he said. "This is not New York at its best. I'm old enough to remember when it was better than this." firstname.lastname@example.org
Cuomo Opens Campaign for New York Governor
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor on Saturday, saying he was seeking not only to lead New York but to remake a state mired in political scandal and paralyzed by financial crisis. In a direct confrontation with a Legislature controlled by his own party, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said he would pressure lawmakers this fall to state publicly whether they would embrace essential ethics changes, including disclosing their outside income, ceding control of redistricting to an independent panel and submitting to an outside ethics monitor. Appearing in front of the former Manhattan courthouse named for Boss Tweed, the corrupt political boss of Tammany Hall, Mr. Cuomo told a crowd of supporters: “Unfortunately, Albany’s antics today could make Boss Tweed blush. Our message today is simple. Enough is enough.”
The approach underscores Mr. Cuomo’s determination to avoid the fate of the current governor, David A. Paterson, and the previous one, Eliot Spitzer, who both promised change but were quickly stymied by an obstinate Legislature, and later fell victim to their own scandals. In a year in which incumbents everywhere are under attack, Mr. Cuomo is trying to run against Albany, which could be difficult to sell, given his history. He is the son of former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, for whom he served as political director, and he has deep connections in state and national politics. But Andrew Cuomo is hoping to exploit his broad popularity and his status as the overwhelming favorite in the governor’s race to begin overhauling the state before next year. His words could be a jolt to rank-and-file Democrats, who consider him a savior capable of restoring their party after several years of embarrassment and disappointment. And the comments could antagonize the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a legendarily shrewd strategist who has outmaneuvered many a governor and has fiercely defended the Legislature’s authority to police itself and set its own rules. Mr. Cuomo said that “politicians of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, share the blame” for Albany’s rash of scandals and corruption. Further, he said, the state government, which is controlled by fellow Democrats, “has failed and the people have the right, indeed the people have the obligation, to act.”
In addition to making the appearance in Manhattan, Mr. Cuomo released two videos on Saturday, one introducing himself and a longer one detailing his policy positions. Wading for the first time into the budget impasse, he said he opposed a plan being pushed by Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch to borrow $6 billion over the next three years in exchange for a series of fiscal controls, including the creation of a financial review board. He also spoke directly to New York’s powerful public employee unions, saying he would freeze salaries of state workers. And he said he opposed raising taxes. He proposed capping state spending and limiting local property tax increases to no more than 2 percent annually. But his announcement did not grapple with what will be the next governor’s greatest challenge: plugging a yawning budget deficit next year. Mr. Cuomo made his bid official as Democrats prepared to open their state convention in Rye Brook on Tuesday. He had spent months privately plotting the campaign. His release of the videos, including a 21-minute segment in which he describes his policy positions, is in part a response to criticism that he has ducked questions about what he would do as governor. That criticism has grown louder as the state’s economic condition has worsened.
In the longer video, Mr. Cuomo described his philosophy as “fiscally prudent and socially progressive,” and focused mostly on his plans to reshape the government and rein in legislative excesses. Those plans include a proposal to eliminate 20 percent of the state’s more than 1,000 agencies, authorities, commissions and the like, part of a broad reorganization effort. He has approached former Vice President Al Gore, who presided over an effort to reinvent government during the Clinton administration, to serve on a reorganization commission in New York. Mr. Cuomo also laid out components of an economic agenda, including a plan to create a $3,000-a-head tax credit for businesses that hire unemployed New Yorkers. He described his positions on social issues: He said he supported same-sex marriage, opposed the death penalty and supported increasing the number of charter schools. He pledged to fight discrimination and to further women’s rights in the workplace. The Republican primary for governor is expected to come down to a battle between two men: former Representative Rick A. Lazio of Long Island and the Suffolk County executive, Steve Levy, who switched his party affiliation in March. Republicans will hold their state convention early next month. Mr. Cuomo begins his campaign bolstered by his popularity, at a time when few political figures in the state have much to cheer about in their poll numbers. In a Marist poll this month, 64 percent of voters said they believed Mr. Cuomo was doing either an excellent or a good job. Still, it is not clear how much voters know about Mr. Cuomo beyond his family name. In the longer video, he struck a personal note. Appearing in an office, flanked by shelves of law books and photographs of his father, he linked the state’s need for revival to his own political and personal rebound.
Mr. Cuomo suffered a bruising setback in his abortive run for governor in 2002, when he dropped out of the race after it became clear he would not prevail against H. Carl McCall in a Democratic primary. That loss was followed by a bitter divorce from Kerry Kennedy, the mother of his three daughters. “Sure it’s hard to come back,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I saw it in my own life. A few years ago, I ran for governor and I lost. And I then went through a very difficult time in my personal life. It was a public humiliation. “People said it was over for me; they said my public service career was finished — there was no way I could come back,” he said. “Some days even I thought they were right.” He added, “With the compassion and empathy of New Yorkers, you gave me a second chance.” While Mr. Cuomo’s supporters were enthusiastic about his entry into the race, others were more circumspect. Labor leaders had no immediate reaction to his call for austerity, though New York State United Teachers, which has bristled at proposals to increase the number of charter schools or limit property taxes, has indicated it may decline to endorse him. Many Democrats see Mr. Cuomo’s election as inevitable and are planning for his ascension. Mr. Paterson, who said he had spoken with Mr. Cuomo on Saturday morning, said he would be making some modifications to the sports facilities at the governor’s mansion. “I’m adjusting the basketball rim at the mansion a little lower so he can dunk on it,” Mr. Paterson joked.