While it is still four weeks away, and much can happen, it is likely that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will get a second term. The question, though, is whether or not he will win a majority of votes on Nov. 4. If not, does his becoming a “minority” governor, not only further destroy his stature on the national political scene, but more importantly, make it even more difficult for him to govern in Albany?
This wouldn’t be a question at this point, if he hadn’t been primaried by Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout and she didn’t get over a third of the Democratic vote in the primary last month. Yes, the governor and his supporters still point out that he won with 60-percent plus and that turnout was low — but those numbers do show a growing dissatisfaction with the “win at any costs” governor. The big question for the governor is whether those who don’t support him go vote next month and for whom. What has yet to be seen is whether those opposed to his original Common Core effort and SAFE Act will go out and vote against him or stay at home.
From day one it has been an uphill battle for Republican Rob Astorino to win the Governor’s Mansion. He, like the last two GOP gubernatorial candidates (Carl Paladino and John Faso), has not been able to get the traction to be competitive both in polling and fundraising. Much of that is attributable to the $30 million plus war chest the governor accumulated. Through negative ads, that money is pounding the Westchester County executive, who doesn’t have the funds to counter, let alone go on the offensive.
The wild card is still the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins. The question is whether those who voted for Professor Teachout will go to him, stick with the governor because he is a Democrat, or just stay at home. In the end, a combination of the first and last, along with a strong showing by Mr. Astorino, could still allow the governor to win, but get less than 50 percent of the vote.
It is imperative, from the governor’s perspective, that he not only wins, but wins big, if he wants to play the “strongman” role in Albany that he played in his first term. As it looks he may have to deal with a Democratically controlled Legislature, with the Senate Democrats, if the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) keeps its word, taking back the Senate from the Republicans who controlled it for decades, except for a topsy-turvy period three sessions ago. If that is the case, Assembly Democrats, under the leadership of Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and whomever the Senate Democrats chose as their Majority Leader (right now it looks to be Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Younkers, who would be the first woman to be part of “three men in a room” negotiations) would move the governor’s agenda left of center. That's something he has fought to avoid over the last four years.
In a weakened “political state,” even though the Empire State cedes more power to its governor than many other states, the dynamic of governance would have changed, with a whole host of non-centrist proposals not only getting to the floor of the Legislature, but with add-ons that the governor might find politically unpalatable, as he tries to re-build a national “centrist” image.
In the end, for Andrew Cuomo, it is not just about victory this November, it is about how large it is — a key factor on how he will govern in a second term.
Cosentino is a former mayor of Auburn and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org