Will Cuomo succeed where Spitzer, Paterson failed?

When I first started covering Albany politics, Governor George Pataki was the man in charge.  But he was, by and large, a status quo kind of guy.

There was plenty of money to spend, so he spent it.  He seemed eager to satisfy everyone with a shot of state cash, from the unions to the environmental groups, from county leader to the medical industry.

He didn’t invent the systemic overspending and debt that now define state government, but he certainly joined the party.

His immediate successors, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, took serious stabs at changing all that.  Where Pataki partnered more or less with the legislature, Spitzer went to war.

And after his implosion, Paterson took an even more militant posture, his hand forced by the economic downturn and the collapse of Wall Street.

Paterson, in turn, saw his political fortunes unravel, as he was attacked by everyone on the political landscape.  It was death by a thousand cuts, only these cuts were big, ugly knife-fight wounds.

And now, in 2010, it appears that another Democratic titan will enter the arena.  Andrew Cuomo says he’s coming to Albany to reinvent state government.

“We will be taking on very powerful special interests, which have much to lose,” Cuomo said. “We must change systems and cultures long in the making.”

For the time being, it appears that Cuomo will run practically speaking as an independent, unfettered by close party loyalties or by reliance on unions and other big special interests.

If he pulls it off — and so far the Republican Party seems unlikely to challenge him seriously — Cuomo may arrive in the state capital with more maneuvering room, more flexibility, and fewer favors owed.

He will also bring with him the powerful heft of the Cuomo dynasty.

Will that formula be enough?  Will he be able to wring significant concessions from the public employee unions?  Will industry groups accept modest tax increases?

No New York City bookie would give him better than fifty-fifty odds.

But what is certain is that at present Cuomo represents state government’s best shot at coming out of this mess without a full-scale, systemic collapse.  In doing so, he won’t just step out of his father’s shadow — indeed, Mario Cuomo was one of the architects of the current fiscal crisis.

He will take his place as one of the great New York governors, a reformer on par with the Roosevelts and Nelson Rockefeller.

20 Comments on “Will Cuomo succeed where Spitzer, Paterson failed?”

  1. Bret4207 says:

    I would hope we would have learned our lesson with his father. Bush v 2.0 didn;t work our so hot, I have even less faith in Cuomo V 2.0.

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  2. Mervel says:

    Well if he really is going to take on “powerful interests” he won’t be anymore popular than Patterson.

    I don’t think he will though, but I could be wrong I would like to think that he might.

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  3. Paul says:

    “But what is certain is that at present Cuomo represents state government’s best shot at coming out of this mess without a full-scale, systemic collapse.”

    Brian, I am curious. What makes you feel that this statement is correct? Obviously you are a supporter, but I am not sure what gives you the confidence to make this statement. He just threw in his hat, what do we know about his policies? He seems to have you pumped with just one speech as a candidate. I am curious to see what his comments are on what to do with the current budget. He will win, I don’t doubt that. This state is satisfied with the democrats, not sure from where the satisfaction emanates.

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  4. Bob says:

    I’ll be listening to see what he has to say about Wall St. and their significant gains that have not filled NYS coffers as they did in the past.

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  5. Brian Mann says:

    Paul –

    It’s a good question. I’m not actually a Cuomo supporter.

    As I’ve written here before, we don’t know enough about his policies yet to form a real opinion.

    But I do assume (perhaps incorrectly?) that he’ll be elected pretty handily.

    (This may be unfair to Lazio and others who hope to challenge him; we’ll see whether they can make a race of it.)

    And I guess I’m speculating (again, perhaps naively) that Cuomo will try to use some of that mandate to move the state away from the brink.

    Otherwise, why run?

    This just isn’t a time for a place-holder or status quo governor.

    The circumstances won’t allow him to behave like his father, or like Pataki.

    That said, I agree that it’s a big open question what he’ll actually do.
    Will he have ideas other than those thrown out by Paterson?

    Will he have a better political team, capable of pushing through reforms?

    Will he hold onto enough popularity to force Albany onto a different path?

    One final thought: In a weird way, Paterson may have pioneered the way for Cuomo.

    Paterson is a fairly inept politician, but he laid out a basic blueprint that might be reasonably close to what we’ll wind up with.

    I’ve heard a lot of people (commenting on this blog and elsewhere) express support for Paterson’s relatively conservative fiscal approach.

    If Cuomo follows a similar line, with better political firepower, the results might be interesting.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  6. Brian says:

    What’s working for Cuomo is David Paterson. While the Democratic establishment claims to hate the incumbent, I’m convinced they secretly love him. Paterson is taking the political crucifiction for doing the dirty work that all the Dems know needs to be done but who don’t have the guts to do it themselves. Paterson, disorganized as he may be, is the only person in Albany trying to lead. Cuomo hopes the unpopular but gutsy Paterson is successful so his job will be easier.

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  7. Brian says:

    My take is this. Lazio, Levy and Paladino talk a good game but even if either actually won the general election, would they really have the clout to move Sheldon Silver? Cuomo is the only candidate with the clout to implement the change if he really wanted to. The question is does he really want to. I don’t think he does but he, like Paterson, might find himself in a position where he has no choice.

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  8. Mervel says:

    There is always a choice. You can always find ways to borrow more and this is the likely way he will go.

    Like Hoffman on an earlier blog by Brian, what exactly are the specifics of what Cuomo will cut? He has been predictably silent on that; but very open about taking on bad guys and other forces of evil.

    If he is elected within and by the Democratic machine in NYS he has no chance at all of cutting anything or making any systematic changes at least without ending up as popular as our current gov.

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  9. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Poor Paterson, at least he’s trying. I wonder how many of the thousand cuts come from Cuomo, at least indirectly.

    I’m not yet convinced that it’s a cake walk for Cuomo but assuming he’s the guy, he has the job of not just reforming the state budget but also the 700-some state authorities. Just look at what happens when you try to take the plums away from ORDA or the courts force change on the Hudson Black River Regulating District.

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  10. scratchy says:

    We certainly don’t need another governor like Rockefeller.
    State spending went from 2.04 billion in 1959-60 to $8.8 billion in his last year, 1973-74. “Rockefeller sought and obtained eight tax increases during his fifteen years in office.


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  11. Bret4207 says:

    I find it hard to believe that Cuomo Jr. would be any different than any other NYC liberal in fiscal or regulatory terms. More of the same will not fix our issues, tax and spend or tax and borrow will just aggravate problem.

    In truth, I go with my gut and Jr. just has that same slimy, nasty look that Spitzer had. Of course Lazio is much the same, so whats the choice?

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  12. anon says:

    “Poor Paterson. At least he’s trying…” Seriously???
    Please. I can’t figure out the efforts of many people on this blog to make Paterson look like some kind of tragic hero.
    He was lazy, rarely deigning to work after 4 p.m., never missing a chance to take a vacation, and spending what ever was left of his tiny political capital tocover for a friend who appears to like to beat up girls. And he couldn’t even do that competently.
    Why do you think the legislature is utterly unafraid of him, to the point of completely ignoring him? They know he’s even more unprepared, lazy and inept than they are.
    Oh, and those conservative principles? I see today where he’s decided to reverse field on his big anti-spending stand, shutting down the state parks (which incidentally saves almost nothing, but it’s symbolic of all the sacrifices we need to make, and symbolism is more important than reality.)
    He said he didn’t want the office of governor, and his whole disastrous tenure has proven it. He’s also proven that there are Democrats who can be less interested in governing than W.
    That’s quite an achievement.

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  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Anon. I guess you’re right, none of them are trying including all of our north country representatives. I feel like such a loser.

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  14. Mervel says:

    I liked him even more when I found out that he was a total slacker.
    He is like Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation.

    He should just have fun with it. I mean the President of the US told him not to run, how can he expect to be or why should he even try to be popular?

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  15. anon says:

    Yeah. Total slacking is cool. On the taxpayer dime, especially.
    Maybe if he were in a union and slacking, that would make people around here angry.

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  16. Mervel says:

    So what is he supposed to do? The President of the country is personally him telling him effectively that he is too big of a political loser to even run, both parties hate him and of course no one that is going to lose money from his cuts likes him.

    I say party on; good for him. He is the LEAST expensive waste we have in Albany.

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  17. anon says:

    Mervel, I didn’t know you were so cynical. Oh, well
    And as an aside: The president of the country?
    Who listens to him? And what are the consequences of not listening to him?
    BP has happily ignored everything he’s told them to do, and doesn’t seem to be paying any price.
    At last, under the Democrats, we have our libertarian paradise, where government is no longer capable of doing anything, and where corporations can get away with everything.
    Viva la Free Market!
    Part on, indeed.

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  18. anon says:

    Party on, rather.
    Carry on.

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  19. Mervel says:

    I am not that cynical like it honestly does not bother me that Patterson is a slacker. So if Patterson worked harder he would do better and would have more support from those who are aligned against him?

    I live outside Canton and I just got a lovely flyer in the mail against against Senator Aubertine from the NYSUT a “union of professionals” with a Lathum NY address. You know one thing about those guys they KNOW the North Country and care. When Cuomo stands up and says these types of groups are the people that I am taking on he will then start to make a difference. If he does not, I would suggest he work the 10-2 shift that Patterson is working and work on his hair.

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  20. anon says:

    Does it bother you that he tried to use the power of his office to protect an employee who seems to have beaten up women?

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