Cuomo is running for a seat on the Schenectady County Legislature. He’s also running unopposed for a council seat in the town of Root.
We’re not talking about former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned from office this August after probes of a slew of sexual harassment allegations left him likely to be impeached.
No, we’re talking about two local Republicans who share no relation to each other or the former governor, other than a common surname. Yet even at a time when the ex-governor’s approval rating stands at 33% favorable and 60% unfavorable with New York state voters, according to Siena College’s most recent polling, sharing a last name isn’t likely to have much impact on the outcome of local elections, says Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.
“I believe that in local races, the voters – and we know we don’t get huge turnout in odd-year elections – I believe that those voters who turn out know the candidates,” he said. “I don’t think in local races having that name is likely to hurt them, nor is there any chance it’ll help them.”
Yet using the famous name you were born with may be worth a try. Joshua Cuomo, who is running for the District 4 seat of the Schenectady County Legislature, has used his surname playfully on his yard signs. He said about 300 have been placed around the district, which includes the towns of Duanesburg, Princetown, Rotterdam and the village of Delanson.
His signs say, “The Right Cuomo.” Josh Cuomo says the name has largely helped him gain interest from voters, especially as a newcomer to politics who is facing incumbents Holly Vellano and Randy Pascarella.
“It generates a lot of talk and a lot of buzz,” he said. “It piques people’s interest.”
He said the signs have inspired some voters to look him up and learn more about his platform. Josh Cuomo said his faith as a devout Christian guides much of his political beliefs.
“I don’t like the direction our country is going,” he said. “I’m seeing America get away from its core values.”
Josh Cuomo said he is pro-guns and an advocate for small businesses. His family owns Cuomo Country Pools in Duanesburg, and he said, in his community, where he has lived all of his life, voters are probably more likely to associate his last name with the family business than the ex-governor.
Dominic Cuomo in Root in Montgomery County also said he doesn’t see his last name affecting voters in town. He said people in Root simply know him too well, because he has lived there 20 years, has raised two daughters with his wife and is currently seeking his third term on the Town Council.
“I often hear, ‘You’re the Cuomo we like,’” he said.
Other than a name, Dominic Cuomo said he doesn’t share much in common with Andrew Cuomo, particularly when it comes to politics. Dominic Cuomo describes himself as a conservative-to-moderate thinker who prizes fiscal responsibility. The town largely shares Dominic Cuomo’s politics. It has 631 registered Democrats compared to 1,052 registered Republicans, according to the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
Still, Dominic Cuomo said he doesn’t hate the governor and maintains the belief that Andrew Cuomo’s ouster was politically motivated, with New York state Democrats not wanting Cuomo to be the face of the party.
“I wonder about the way he was pushed out. I can’t help but wonder if someone like Andrew just maybe wasn’t serving a purpose,” Dominic Cuomo said. “Maybe he was more of a drag on the Democratic party.”
During the early days of the pandemic, Gov. Cuomo was a mainstay on national television, boosting his profile as a fair governor unafraid to speak frankly about the state of Covid-19. If that positive reputation had remained, Dominic Cuomo said, perhaps, it would have made sense to play up his last name.
After all, names can matter in politics, according to Greenberg, the Siena pollster.
As an example, he offered the following polling data from the bid to be New York state’s Republican gubernatorial candidate.
Greenberg said Rob Astorino, a former Westchester County executive, has a favorability rate of 17% to 16% with a rate of 67% unknown. Lee Zeldin, the U.S. representative representing New York’s 1st District, has slightly more name recognition, with 64% unknown, and a 17% to 19% favorable-to-unfavorable rating. Meanwhile, Andrew Giuliani, son of the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has a 27% to 49% favorable-to-unfavorable rating, with an unknown rate of just 24%.
“There is no way on this planet that just about 75% of New Yorkers have an opinion of Andrew Giuliani and that it’s virtually 2-to-1 negative,” Greenberg said. “Our people on the phone said, do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of Andrew Giuliani, and those people – the vast majority of people who had an opinion, either favorable or unfavorable – didn’t hear ‘Andrew Giuliani,’ they heard ‘Rudy Giuliani.’”
Regardless of the impact a name can have on polling, Dominic Cuomo says he is going to keep answering the question of “Cuomo? Any relation?” the same way:
“No, I’m on the Republican side of the family.”