The following appears in the June 20-26, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Four years ago, gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo told the radical leftist Working Families Party that if he were to accept its nomination, the party would have to support his “New New York” agenda, which stated that, as governor, Cuomo would “veto any increase in personal or corporate income taxes or sales tax.”
Cuomo made it perfectly clear to the WFP that he was opposed to extending the state’s so-called Millionaire’s Surcharge Tax, which was set to expire at the end of 2011. “I was against it at the time, and I still am,” the candidate told the party. “It’s a new tax. It was supposed to sunset. If it doesn’t sunset, it’s a tax.”
Comparing his refusal to extend the surcharge to his father’s principled opposition to the death penalty in the 1980s, Cuomo stood up to WFP and its “soak the rich” ideology. He let them know it had to be his way or the highway.
Fearful it might fail to get the 50,000 votes required to maintain its legal party status if it ran its own candidate in 2010, WFP capitulated. It chucked its principles and agreed to Cuomo’s conditions.
Fast forward four years and the proverbial political shoe is on the other foot. This year, the WFP would be the one to put conditions on its nomination.
Knowing that Cuomo is desperate to rack up a huge victory – one that not only surpasses Mario Cuomo’s second term total of 64.6 percent but one that could jumpstart a 2016 presidential run, if Hillary Clinton doesn’t enter the race – WFP figured it had the upper hand. Party leaders felt even more empowered when opinion polls indicated that a WFP candidate running against Cuomo and Republican-Conservative Rob Astorino could garner as much as 15 percent of the vote. That high a total could cost Cuomo the election or reduce him to a plurality victory.
Despite the fact that Cuomo had broken his word and raised taxes, this was not good enough for WFP’s members. At their May 31 convention, delegates were out for blood – and many were prepared to support announced challenger Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor.
What did the governor do to fend off a November challenge? He groveled.
The man who ran in 2010 as a centrist did a 180-degree flip-flop and signed onto the WFP’s hard-left platform, which the National Federation of Independent Business has denounced as “completely incompatible with the pro-growth policies New York needs.”
Cuomo pledged to support a $10.10 minimum wage plan that would also permit individual municipalities to increase it an additional 30 percent – a formula guaranteed to kill jobs. He agreed to push through the legislature public campaign financing which the Wall Street Journal pointed out “will further limit political competition and enhance the power of public unions backed by coerced dues.” And he agreed to abandon the coalition of Republicans and independent Democrats that has controlled the Senate – a coalition he boasted time and again was essential in implementing his first-term agenda.
Even though he ate plenty of crow, Cuomo still managed to receive only 58 percent of the delegates’ vote versus 41 percent for the novice Teachout. Dissenting party leaders called him Cuomocchio, a play on Pinocchio. Others said bluntly that they just don’t trust him.
When asked by a reporter if he was now “a true-believing progressive,” the ever-cagey governor dismissed the inquiry and said, “At these political conventions you win or lose. I won.”
Cuomo won, but the price was high. He revealed to the public that he’s a man lacking character and core principles – a political empty suit willing to embrace any heterodoxy to get by.