New York

Foss: Cuomo’s grip on power weakens

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Categories: News, Opinion

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month that he would run for a fourth term, I scratched my head. 

Why did he make this announcement? 

It couldn’t have been out of a sense of urgency. 

The public isn’t exactly clamoring for news of the 2022 gubernatorial election, or devoting too much thought to Cuomo’s re-election prospects. 

Perhaps the announcement was intended to make it clear the governor no longer harbors national ambitions, or to serve as a public demonstration of his commitment to New York. Maybe he just wanted to scare off challengers. 

I’m not a mind-reader, and I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on what motivated Cuomo to announce that he would seek a fourth term less than six months after he was re-elected. 

But last week, as the legislative session wound down, I found myself once again pondering why Cuomo had been so vocal, so early, about his intentions. After all, things do change. How can he be so sure he’ll want to be governor in three years? 

Now, this is not a question I would have asked during Cuomo’s previous two years. 

But the balance of power in the Capitol shifted this year, and Cuomo is no longer the all-powerful, Sun King-like ruler he once was. He’s still a powerful guy, for sure. But this year’s legislative session revealed that his power has diminished. 

Now that Democrats control both the Senate and the Assembly, the governor can no longer rely on a Republican-controlled Senate to stymie progressive legislation in partnership with the defunct Independent Democratic Conference. 

The result was an emboldened Legislature that flexed its muscles, passing legislation that in previous years would have died as a result of gridlock and dysfunction. 

As the political writer Ross Barkan observed, on the news site The Gothamist, “In past years, the governor was the chief driver of every significant negotiation in Albany. If an agreement with legislative leaders was reached, it would be Cuomo touting it to the public, with legislative leaders as his junior partners.” 

But this year was different. 

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins were able to reach an agreement on rent reform without involvement from Cuomo and, Barkan writes, dare him “to reject the bill. He did not.” 

This is a new dynamic for Cuomo, and how he responds to it remains to be seen. 

But it wouldn’t surprise me if it caused some weariness to set in, and to prompt some soul-searching about whether a fourth term is really all that desirable.

Cuomo might feel that there’s no place he’d rather be than in the governor’s mansion, but an independent Legislature and weakened grip on power might test his resolve.

Leave a Reply