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WPCNR NEWS & COMMENT By Professor Stephen R. Rolandi. March 26, 2022:

Former Governor Andrew Cuomo, despite his resignation last summer, a scathing audit on the mishandling of the reporting of COVID-19 data in nursing homes, etc., has re-appeared in the news as well as a recent barrage of television commercials which appear to suggest another campaign this fall.

The last New York Governor  to win four terms was the late Governor and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller who served from 1959-73; Andrew’s father, Mario Cuomo, won three terms (1982; 1986; 1990) only to lose a fourth bid to George Pataki in 1994. Andrew Cuomo won three terms (2010; 2014; 2018) only to resign in disgrace with 17 months remaining in his term, with Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul succeeding him.

It now appears that Mr. Cuomo will not be able to compete in the June 28th Democratic Party primary – the filing deadline is April 7th.

An independent candidacy appears more likely, with that deadline May 31st (45,000 signatures are required).

Given his high name recognition, $ 16 million campaign war chest, and some significant support as measured in recent  polls, I do not believe that he would have any difficulty securing the necessary petitions nor identifying someone of stature to serve as the Lt. Governor nominee of the yet-to-be formed third party.

Current political party enrollment data may offer some encouragement for Mr. Cuomo. Of the state’s nearly 13 million enrolled voters, only 49% are registered Democrats.  Republicans account for only 22% of all voters. There are about 3.5 million voters who do not identify with any political party. Recent polling also seems to suggest that the former Governor still enjoys some support from women and minority voters.

There may be a large field of gubernatorial candidates – in addition to Governor Hochul and Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Libertarian Party has nominated activist Larry Sharpe and the Working Families Party NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. I would expect the Green Party to name a candidate;  the GP received 104,000 votes on its line for Governor in 2018.

The last third-party candidate to win a state-wide post was James L. Buckley who was elected U.S. Senator in 1970 with 39% of the vote. Several states – Maine, Minnesota, Vermont and Connecticut — have elected independent gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates, the most recent example being Senator Bernie Sanders.

In a 6 way race, Andrew Cuomo could conceivably win; a more likely outcome would be Cuomo’s draining enough votes away from Governor Hochul to elect Lee Zeldin.

Bear in mind, too, that if Andrew Cuomo were to come in second place, his new party would not only have official ballot status, but also equal representation on state, county and local election boards, as well as the patronage that goes with it.

Under this scenario, Andrew Cuomo could hold the balance of power in New York politics for the next several years.

Time will tell.   

(Professor Rolandi served in the administrations of Governors David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo from 2008-13 as Deputy Commissioner, New York State Division of Human Rights. A political scientist, he is an Adjunct Professor of Public Administration at Pace University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of his current/former employers).

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