By EDITORIAL BOARD
In the Democratic primary for governor between incumbent Andrew Cuomo and challenger Cynthia Nixon, there is a clear choice for voters to make between the two candidates. But, despite much media coverage and political posturing, it is not a choice between a progressive challenger and a moderate incumbent, as many, including the Nixon campaign, have painted the race.
This is a race about the content of character of the person who holds the most powerful office in the state of New York, and how important that is versus effective governance.
The way Gov. Andrew Cuomo conducts himself in the office leaves voters much to criticize. He is combative, vindictive, manipulative and untrustworthy. Yet all of these traits have allowed him to be one of the most effective governors in recent history, ushering in a laundry list of progressive policies.
Cynthia Nixon is a talented and capable leader, passionate and educated about policy and the issues that matter to millions of New Yorkers. If elected, we have no doubt that she would represent the office well, advocate for many things Queens residents want, and likely struggle to get much of her agenda done for at least several years as she navigated the Albany learning curve.
The editorial board of the Queens Tribune could not reach a consensus about whom to endorse in this race, but we do feel that we owe our readers a detailed accounting of our thinking. It is our feeling that the best way to do this is by making the case for each candidate, so Democrats head to the polls better educated as they make their choice.
CASE FOR CUOMO
The list of legislative and governmental accomplishments that Cuomo has achieved over the past seven years is nothing short of remarkable. He passed the Marriage Equality Act through a Republican-controlled state Senate, giving the gay marriage movement a huge boost on its way toward eventual U.S. Supreme Court validation. He passed the SAFE Act, which although flawed in some of its detail, is the most comprehensive gun restriction legislation in the country. He set in motion legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 in most parts of the state. He has also implemented some of the most-ambitious environmental regulations in the country, rebuilt some of the state’s most-decrepit bridges, embarked on renovating New York City’s two major airports, and paved the way for free college tuition for middle-class New York residents.
Each of these achievements can be picked apart individually, either on the details of the policy or the process through which it got done—and Progressives who dislike the governor have gleefully done so. But even the Progressives who dislike and will vote against the governor have to admit the truth that passing legislation in Albany is always ugly: It’s so ugly, that everyone has just come to general agreement to call the potpourri of bills that get mixed into a stew at the end of the session and then passed in the middle of the night by bleary-eyed legislators THE BIG UGLY.
This was the reality of Albany before Andrew Cuomo arrived. It is the reality of the current Albany. And it will likely be the reality of the Albany of the future—even if Democrats win control of the state Senate and hold on to all the power.
Cuomo’s much-more–articulate father, Mario, once said that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Andrew Cuomo is clearly no poet. You can’t condense his self-described talents into a bumper sticker:
“I have institutional knowledge and fully understand the dark inner workings of state government. Plus, I know how to apply appropriate amounts of pressure on people to make them do what I want. And, through these methods I have been able to get a lot done.”
It’s a far cry from “Yes We Can” or even “Day 1, Everything Changes” (which seems like a generation ago).
For Democrats, the case for Cuomo is that he has proven the ability to reinvent (or contort) himself as necessary to implement progressive policies. He may often be half a step behind the base of the party, but in doing so he has been able to usher ideas and desires to completion.
Re-electing Cuomo likely guarantees that the five or six progressive policy items Democrats would most like to see accomplished in the next four years will end up becoming reality, even if the process is ugly and the final piece of legislation is only 80 percent of what they want.
CASE FOR NIXON
There has to be a better way.
For decades, Albany has been synonymous with corruption, backroom dealing and insider influence. Both parties are guilty—of participating in the corruption as well as failing to do anything to reform the system. But all of that is in the past now. Democrats stand poised to take control of the state Senate, giving them all three chambers of government. And if they do hold on to all levers of power in the government, they will have no excuses when it comes to delivering for voters.
The best way for Democrats to effectively govern, and implement large-scale progressive changes they desire, is to avoid being bogged down by scandals. This is why Cynthia Nixon would be a better choice for the office.
Gov. Cuomo has seen his most trusted aide and lifelong friend convicted of corruption. His signature development project—the “Buffalo Billion”—has been marred by indictments and guilty verdicts for corruption. While there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Cuomo, and no legitimate allegations that he did anything illegal, the scandals will follow him around for the rest of his political career.
Putting the scandals aside, Cuomo’s time in government has been far from a portrait of utopian public service. He has raised massive amounts of money from corporate entities, been ensnared in ambiguous interactions with donors, infamously shut down a commission he formed to investigate government corruption when state lawmakers asked him to back off, and has made dozens of gaffes that paint him as egotistical and out of touch.
In short, he has demonstrated all of the qualities that people hate about government. He is a living example of why many people tune out politicians, and often don’t turn up to vote when Democrats need them.
This is a rare opportunity for the party to make massive strides forward, enacting legislation and crafting budgets that make New York City more sustainable, improve the quality of life for the working class, and modernize government.
It’s best to move forward with a scandal-free leader who will allow Democrats to govern without the air of insider dealing, because maintaining credibility as the party people can trust is the most important thing if you want to make true progress.