Gov. Andrew Cuomo has rightfully come under heavy criticism in the past year for a number of issues. The governor's infamous Moreland Commission meddling, his reluctance to take a position on hydrofracking in New York state, the rushed passage of new gun control legislation and the poor implementation of the Common Core learning standards in schools are all legitimate knocks against the Democratic incumbent.
There's also an undercurrent of disengagement that connects all of those issues. Cuomo and his top aides have continually shown little regard for meaningful public interaction on policies and performance.
But as real as those concerns are, we also cannot ignore what this governor has accomplished in his first term. Cuomo came into office during a time of remarkable instability in Albany, with former Gov. David Paterson unable to lead effectively and a Legislature that could barely function at times.
Cuomo almost immediately changed the tone, and he did what a long line of other New York governors failed to accomplish: he got state budgets passed that brought unsustainable spending patterns under control, and he got them done on time and in bipartisan fashion. He was the first governor to succeed in getting meaningful property tax reform achieved; though the property tax cap is not without some flaws, its overall impact on keeping local government spending checked has been crucial. The governor's work to legalize gay marriage in New York was another example of his talent at getting Albany to move forward on key social issues, compared with a past in which gridlock ruled the day.
Cuomo's Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, has struggled to gain traction ever since he secured his party's nomination. Yes, a big factor is Cuomo's considerable fundraising advantage, not to mention the edge he has running as an incumbent. But the bigger problem for Astorino has been his lack of a clear vision for how he could do a better job. Astorino has spent much of this campaign trying to convince voters that New York state is a third-world country, but New Yorkers know better. Yes, there's plenty of room for improvement, but there's no question that the state is in a better position today than it was four years ago.
Given some of Cuomo's missteps, we wish there had been a stronger Republican candidate. We also considered the third-party candidates running for governor, especially Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, of Syracuse, but none demonstrated to us that they could effectively lead New York state's vast executive branch and work with the Legislature to keep the state's economic momentum going.
In the end, the man who now holds the office remains the best choice on the ballot. The Citizen endorses Andrew Cuomo for governor.
Much has been made of Albany corruption culture through the years, a problem that has resulted in a long list of elected officials charged with criminal wrongdoing. When Democratic incumbent Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stepped into his role, there was hope that he would put a stronger focus on this issue with the tools at his disposal, but Schneiderman has done very little in this area, leaving it to local and federal prosecutors to do the heavy lifting. We had concerns about Schneiderman's willingness to take on politically dicey cases almost immediately, when he ignored the case of a town clerk in Cayuga County who refused to follow the new gay marriage law. Schneiderman's opponent, John Cahill, has been clear that he would put considerable effort into rooting out lawbreaking within state government. Cahill has solid experience in both law and politics, having served as a commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and chief of staff to former Gov. George Pataki, and that background would serve him well as the state's lawyer. The Citizen endorses John Cahill for attorney general.
One key to a well-run state, especially from a financial perspective, is to have an effective comptroller who is willing to be the fiscal watchdog that taxpayers need. Democrat Thomas DiNapoli, now on the job for roughly eight years, has proven that he fits the job description well. DiNapoli has not hesitated to take on governors in his own party when he spots budget or fiscal policy concerns. He's also been adept in his role overseeing the public employees retirement funds, and his office has helped root out a long list of government financial abuse cases at all levels. We're also impressed with the work he's done to establish fiscal rating programs to help taxpayers know, from an independent perspective, how well their local county, town, village, city, school district, etc. is functioning financially. DiNapoli's opponent, Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci, has a solid resume, but he failed to show us that he's the better choice in this race, and in some cases, his attempts to criticize the incumbent actually showed a lack of understanding of a state comptroller's legal responsibilities. The Citizen endorses Thomas DiNapoli for state comptroller.