Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has accepted the Democratic nomination for Governor of New York with a rousing speech, invoking past Democratic glories and promising reform and good times.
He was pounced on immediately by Republicans casting doubt on whether he could deliver on his promises.
With Cuomo soaring in the polls, with at least a 30-point lead over leading GOP contenders, he has virtually been anointed as the next governor by some pundits and analysts. He is a handsome, articulate candidate. He is basking in his apparent popularity. But there’s one drawback: he will be running against the mess in Albany created by his own party.
In the old days, state party conventions were tumultuous affairs in which I saw bosses repair to private rooms to make deals while delegates whooped it up in the main hall. Those old-time Democratic gatherings have virtually faded into the mists of history.
But the memories of the party’s past glories live on. The candidate himself recalled great Democratic governors of the past, including Franklin Roosevelt and his own father, Mario Cuomo, who served three terms as governor.
On October 16, 1928, Roosevelt accepted the nomination for governor in a speech in which he said he looked forward to the day when the leaders of this country "will look to Albany as a model for business efficiency…take into consideration the human element as well as mere dollars and cents."
Fifty-four years later, Mario Cuomo, as he took office as Governor, pledged to build a government that "will find room at the table, shelter for the homeless, work for the idle, care for the elderly and infirm and hope for the destitute." He promised to work for "the family of New York."
Andrew Cuomo’s address today resonated with what might be called that old-time Democratic religion. He was applauded time after time as he promised, among other things to: create jobs because "people are hurting"; put a cap on property taxes; restore "public trust in government"; call a constitutional convention, "a people’s convention to re-write the rules"; get the Legislature to pass a bill allowing more charter schools; fight discrimination in housing.
He said that the people are angry and nervous. He warned that the people’s fears can be exploited but he wants to unite all New Yorkers to make progress on all fronts in the future.
It was not surprising that the Republican State Chairman, Ed Cox, responded with vehemence to Cuomo’s address.
"I listened to his speech and what I heard was an attorney general who failed to fight corruption promise to reform government," he told me. "Yet it’s corrupt Democratic politicians who have caused gridlock in Albany."
Cox pointed out that two major state leaders, Governor Paterson and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, were not elected.
"I didn’t hear him talk about job growth and creating jobs," Cox added. "And he did little or nothing to expose corruption in the Senate."
Cox cited the investigations of Senators Pedro Espada Jr., Malcolm Smith and John Sampson, which he said failed to attract much attention from the attorney general’s office.
The Republican leader seemed to be writing a blueprint for the GOP campaign. "For the first time since 1935," he said, "the Democrats occupy all the top offices in Albany and what have they brought us? Corruption and gridlock."
I have watched state elections for more than 50 years. Clearly, concern about jobs and the economy are very much in the minds of voters this time. As Cuomo said today, there are 831,000 unemployed New Yorkers and hundreds of thousands more under-employed.
The culture of corruption and dysfunction in Albany has largely involved Democrats. It would seem Cuomo may have to distance himself from his own party to be the advocate of reform and clean government.
The rumblings on New York’s political front -- and the unrest among voters -- indicate the campaign ahead may be angry and bitter.