WXXI Local Stories
Mon December 28, 2009
Looking Ahead to the 2010 Governor's Race
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, New York – The New Year will be starting without an announced Democratic candidate in the 2010 race for governor. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, is keeping mum on his plans, while the current Governor, David Paterson, says he wants to run- but has not made it official.
The state's Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo is the most popular politician in the state, when most elected officials are suffering from public discontent. Cuomo, in his three years as AG, has become known for fighting corruption ranging from abuses in the nation's student loan program, to cracking down on sexual predators on social network sites, and going after illegal kickbacks to administrators of the state's pension fund.
"Enough is enough", said Cuomo recently, announcing developments in the pension fund probe. "It's about restoring trust in government. It's about restoring the taxpayer's trust."
Cuomo runs consistently 40 points ahead of current Governor David Paterson in polls of possible match ups for a Democratic primary for the governor's race. But the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, while widely believed to want the job his father once held, has been circumspect about his future plans, saying repeatedly through out the year that he currently plans to seek reelection as Attorney General.
"What I'm working on today is just doing the best job I an as Attorney General, " said Cuomo, in a typical answer that Cuomo gives when pressed about his future plans.
Governor David Paterson, on the other hand, has said repeatedly he does intend to run for election to the job he obtained when Eliot Spitzer resigned- despite extremely low poll ratings and a perception that he has not done enough to lead the state. Paterson has managed to change that image somewhat in recent weeks, portraying himself as the only politician with the courage to make the hard choices in face of a multi billion dollar budget deficit. Paterson acted unilaterally to cut spending to schools and local governments when the legislature refused to act.
"We are actually saving the state of New York from absolute chaos," Paterson declared at the time.
But the constant bad budget news has worn Paterson down. He believes his popularity has eroded because of the recession, and the decisions he's had to make to cut spending on key programs as well as raise taxes and numerous fees. The governor says other potential candidates for governor who he's termed "phantom candidates" would not be so popular, either, if they had to deal with the worst budget crisis in decades.
"No one ever got knocked out when they were standing outside the ring," said Paterson
In recent statewide election cycles, major party candidates have announced their intentions to run, at least eleven months before Election Day. But New York will enter into 2010 without a major Democrat declaring. Republican candidate Rick Lazio made a formal announcement in September, and has campaigned actively.
Steve Greenberg, with Siena College Research Institute, says this year is different. Cuomo, or any announced candidate, especially one perceived as a front runner, would have to answer questions about how to solve the state's budget problems, and get drawn in to a quagmire where there are no clear political winners.
"Andrew Cuomo is staying above the fiscal fray, and the longer he can do that, the more it benefits him," said Greenberg. "Right now, voters are not clamoring for him to make a decision."
Candidates usually announce early because they need to gain name recognition and raise money for the state's notoriously expensive races. But Greenberg says, in Cuomo's case, he does not need either of those things right now. His name is well known, and in the last reported campaign filing, he had raised twice as much cash as Paterson.
Cuomo seems to realize that expressing political ambitions too early would not be helpful, if he indeed decides to run for governor.
"The longer I can stay away from the politics, the better, as far as I'm concerned." said Cuomo.
Cuomo could conceivably wait until after the state budget, which is due in April, is decided. Party conventions are not likely to be held until late May or early June.
In the meantime Paterson's political challenge, says Greenberg, is to press Cuomo to weigh in on the fiscal crisis.
And, from Paterson's point of view, the longer Cuomo waits, the greater the present governor's chances are of regaining some momentum and becoming more than just a long shot in the 2010 race.