New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (307411)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

Don’t call it a comeback.

Former New York state governor Andrew Cuomo is looking for a gap to run through that would give him his reputation back. He possibly could be looking back at Albany.

“I think that Governor Cuomo is politics 24/7. Everything he does has something to do with politics,” former governor David Paterson told the Amsterdam News in a no-holds-barred interview. “I think he’s been looking for a way back in since last August. But I don’t think that he and his associates know the antagonism that he has stirred up, particularly among Democratic voters.”

Floating like a lead balloon, last week Cuomo was in the news for consecutive days, promoting the notion that efforts were being made to stage a comeback.

During an interview with Bloomberg News, Cuomo said that he regretted resigning and that there were ulterior motives concerning the investigation into sexual harassment. Cuomo said that the transcripts of New York State Attorney Letitia James’ investigation vindicate him and stated that the investigation was “politically motivated.”

“I never resigned because I said I did something wrong. I said, I’m resigning because I don’t want to be a distraction.”

Too late. Cuomo has spent the last several weeks taking aim at his investigation, the women who accused him of sexual harassment. But it wasn’t just the sexual harassment scandal that dominated his last months as governor. There were alleged attempts to strong-arm other elected officials hoping they’d acquiesce to his wants.

“He’s just out there creating problems,” said Paterson. “With all of the allegations and all of the situations, you think he’d just take a year or two and just digest it, and think about the things he did wrong, think about what he was accused of. But he never stops. It’s always a new campaign, a new plan. But I think for the Democratic Party this is a needless distraction.”

Cuomo making himself the topic of discussion is distracting from the current gubernatorial race as it stands. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Long Island-based Congressman Tom Suozzi and Gov. Hochul are all vying for the Democratic ticket.

Paterson told the AmNews, “I think if he thought he could beat Tish James, he’d run for attorney general, if he thought he could beat [current New York State Gov.] Kathy Hochul, he’d run for governor. But his conduct is starting to remind me more of Trump than a Democrat. This thing where, ‘I have this following, and because I have this following, I can say what I want, and do what I want.’ Look at Trump. He will be the nominee of the Republican Party if he decides to run. No Republican is going to beat him in a primary, and I think that Governor Cuomo has come to the same point of view with $16 million, and a record of a lot of successes. He could run, but I think he would be surprised. If he runs, the women’s groups would tear him apart.”

Paterson predicted, “And the other groups will not stand up for him because they don’t want to get in the middle of the attack on him from the women’s groups. The fact that none of the DAs indicted him, they all condemned the conduct. In other words, sexual harassment in the work place is not a criminal offense, but most people who do it get fired. That’s what happened to Charlie Rose…Matt Lauer…those chefs and all that.

So they are not saying that he has to go to jail, but they are saying that he has to lose his job. He’s saying, ‘I’ll just come back, deny everything, like I always do, and I’ll beat Kathy Hochul or Tish James in a primary.’ I don’t think the mood is there from the party to allow that to happen. Remember, one of the reasons he resigned is they had 213 legislators—150 assembly members, and 63 senators—they had about 190 votes against him. This wasn’t going to be close.”

So where does that leave current Gov. Hochul, who took over for Cuomo once he resigned?

Even though this is her official first real campaign for governor, Hochul has established herself in Albany. Political strategist Basil Smikle said that her quickness in developing a rapport with local political figures puts her in the driver’s seat.

“She’s running in some respects as an incumbent because even though, after a very short period of time, she’s established herself,” Smikle said. “She’s negotiated a budget, which has an opportunity to really do a lot for different communities across the state. She’s developed a really good relationship with Eric Adams and has made herself known downstate. She’s certainly done a lot of work since she became governor.”

But technically since Cuomo wasn’t officially impeached during the sexual misconduct scandal, he’s still able to run for office…including the gubernatorial race.
And voters left to sort through the electoral quagmire, say if it came down to a choice between Cuomo and his former lieutenant governor Hochul?

“I think white Democratic men would be more inclined to vote for Hochul,” Paterson mused. “I think Cuomo still gets some votes from the Black community, because he makes the attacks on him look like the attacks on some of the rest of us.

“The anti-women people are Republicans. The Democratic male voter can support women candidates. That’s why in the City Council there are more women than men.

“The other problem he’s got, is that all of his major supporters have all gone to Hochul, so whatever money he has, I don’t think he could raise much more on top of it. If he gets in the race, she can go back to the same people and raise $25 million before you know it, and he is still stuck on $16 million.

“I don’t think he’ll enter the race.”

Meanwhile, Hochul has done as much as possible to distance herself from the governor. She’s already stated that she wasn’t close to Cuomo. She’s gone on record saying that Cuomo actively tried to push her out of her lieutenant governor’s seat and find a new running mate. It was something Hochul called an “open secret.” The talk was that Cuomo wanted to replace her with a woman of color.

No matter what Hochul, Williams, Suozzi or the rest do, Cuomo may remain a significant presence in the race.

Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf spoke to the AmNews and said that crime was a main concern to not only New York City, but in cities such as Rochester and Buffalo as well.

“There is not much else that people are obsessed with,” Sheinkopf said. “Certainly upstate cities, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, there’s this general sense that things are out of control.

“It has a lot to do with race,” Sheinkopf said. “And then it also has a lot to do with reality as a general sense that things are out of control. It makes it difficult in race relations. It makes the issue of crime difficult. The fact is that [the belief] exists tends to benefit people who are not in power, whether they be Republicans and/or Democrats that are more conservative.”

Cuomo’s tough guy bravado, the type he displayed in the early days of the pandemic, and the type that allegedly tried to ruin political careers, could move the needle in the “tough on crime” revival of local politics.

But Paterson said Cuomo is doing way too much, believing his own public persona and not weighing the reality of his situation. “My issue is this: Elliot Spitzer resigned in 2008, he came back five years later and ran for comptroller in 2013 against Scott Stringer. We didn’t hear from him for five years, and when he came back he talked about some things he had done to try and clean up his life. Here’s Andrew. He resigned on August 24 and then started the campaign to try and run for something on August 25. In other words he never stops talking. He never stops calling people. He called about a county committee vote in Harlem back in late September.

He was out of office for a month and he was calling about one of the candidates. In other words he was born in politics and he doesn’t know how to get out. He doesn’t know how to do anything else.”

Both Attorney General Tish James and Mayor Adams replied to AmNews’ requests for a response with separate “No comment” statements.

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