New York is the place I was born, went to school, and had my first job teaching elementary school in Harlem. I first met Andrew Cuomo when he was 19 years old and we both worked for his dad’s run-off campaign against Ed Koch for mayor of New York. He has come a very long way since then.
In the intervening years, no one can question the successes he has had both in his own career or his many accomplishments for the people of the State of New York and the nation. The son of a highly respected three-term governor he always had to work doubly hard to prove his own merit. By the time Andrew Cuomo won his first term as governor in 2010 he had a wealth of experience enabling him to hit the ground running and successfully turn around the $10 billion deficit the state faced when he assumed office.
Cuomo first learned about state government as an aide to his father. He then served in the Clinton administration in positions leading to his becoming Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He was elected and served successfully as Attorney General of the State of New York. Cuomo did his homework.
Cuomo is a pragmatist and that has often gotten him criticized by both the left and the right. But he has used his pragmatism to move the state forward in a very progressive direction. In one major success he joined with the LGBTQ+ community and put his reputation on the line to push through the 2011 marriage equality act in New York.
But Cuomo has been able to accomplish much more in his seven years as governor with his talent for governing. By any standard he is a progressive who has managed to move forward and sign progressive legislation, including: a statewide $15 minimum wage; the nation’s strongest paid family leave program; one of the strictest gun control laws in the nation; and protected the state’s water supply with a ban on hydraulic fracturing, just to mention some of his signature accomplishments.
Cuomo has implemented comprehensive policies to combat sexual violence on college campuses; passed reforms to combat New York’s heroin and opioid epidemic; and created a path to ending the AIDS epidemic in New York State by 2020.
In the seven years since he became governor state education aid has increased by $6.1 billion or 31 percent to its highest level ever. And in the new budget just passed he added another $1 billion. He is committed to providing a quality education for every child.
While the federal government has not been able to move forward an infrastructure plan, Cuomo has advanced a host of infrastructure projects, including the long-stalled Second Avenue Subway extension and the much-needed improvements to LaGuardia Airport. Since Cuomo became governor the unemployment rate has declined in every region of the state, and New York now has 7.9 million private sector jobs, more than at any point in state history.
Despite this strong, progressive record, politics today basically guarantees incumbents will face a primary and Cuomo is no exception. He is being challenged by a wealthy celebrity who will have a host of supporters who claim Cuomo isn’t progressive enough despite all he has done. This celebrity happens to have zero administrative experience but feels ready to run the nation’s third largest economy and will attract attention and more money that will intrigue the media. We have seen it before. It is good to see at least one New York Times columnist has already written about her lack of experience.
Politics today seems more ego driven than ever before. Celebrities with some money or access to it apparently feel that is enough to enable them to govern. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has announced he is seriously considering running for president and, why not, Trump did it? But governing is serious business. Unfortunately political jobs such as governor don’t have any requirements other than being of age and your place of residence. You can’t be a teacher without a license; you can’t cut hair in New York without a license; but you can be governor without any relevant experience.
The current celebrity running in the Democratic primary for governor of New York is a smart person and claims many years of advocacy for education, women’s rights and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community are enough experience for the job. Unfortunately for her she is running against an incumbent who has actually done something positive about each of those issues. I urge New Yorkers not to be fooled by the gloss and the claim that being a smart advocate and hosting political fundraisers for other candidates makes one ready to run the State of New York, the 12th or 13th largest economy in the world. It doesn’t!
Based on his stellar progressive record I urge New Yorkers to elect Andrew Cuomo to a third term.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.