I’ve covered politics for a quarter-century and in much of the country a candidate with top-flight ambition needs one thing: a spouse
But yesterday’s state-of-the-state address featured not one but two A-list New York politicians who were accompanied by their unmarried partners.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s significant other, Diana Taylor, was on-hand.
The 52-year-old businesswoman (I can’t bring myself to call her a “girlfriend”) regularly serves as Bloomberg’s unofficial first lady, hosting public events, campaigning, and marching in parades.
Also sitting in the audience was Governor Andrew Cuomo’s partner, food-and-decorating entrepreneur Sandra Lee.
The 44-year-old hosts a show on the Food Network and will apparently serve as New York state’s ersatz first lady.
Having an unmarried governor in office isn’t a first for New York. Hugh Carey’s first wife Helen passed away a year before he took office in 1975.
Cuomo divorced his first wife, Kerry Kennedy, in 2005.
In the past, marriage was seen as a sign of social stability and groundedness. It was also a crucial factor for many the state’s more socially-conservative Jewish and Roman Catholic voters.
A first-spouse can also be an important adviser for policy and strategy — think Hillary Rodham Clinton or Todd Palin — not to mention a key ally when times are tough.
But times have changed and in the post-Spitzer era, being safely single might be an equal asset.
Of course, the North Country has also had experience with unmarried politicians.
Former Rep. John McHugh — now Army Secretary — was married briefly when he entered politics, but divorced early, and served most of his congressional career as a bachelor.