Who’s Ready to Move Into the Governor’s Mansion?

Issue 262

Who is likely to lead a post-Cuomo New York and, if necessary, finish him off in a 2022 Democratic primary if he refuses to exit the stage?

John Tarleton Mar 14, 2021

Also see “Why Cuomo Has Got to Go” by John Tarleton

Whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo limps to the end of his third term or is impeached or forced to resign in the coming weeks or months, his chances of winning a fourth term in office seem vanishingly small at this point.

The New York attorney general is the clear frontrunner to replace Cuomo. She has won statewide office once (2018), citywide office twice as public advocate (2017 & 2013) and was a Working Families Party-backed Brooklyn City Councilmember for 10 years before that.

For resistance liberals, she can tout the scorched-earth legal war she has waged against Donald Trump and his scofflaw family since becoming New York AG. She’s also well-liked by the state’s powerful labor unions and could unlock the Black vote in New York City, which has been Cuomo’s bulwark when facing previous primary challenges from progressives Zephyr Teachout and Cynthia Nixon.

James was recruited by Cuomo to run for AG in 2018 as the official Democratic Party candidate. Many in the party’s left wing have wondered since then where her real allegiances lie. However, it was James’ January report on the undercount of nursing home deaths that put the issue on the front burner. And it’s James who is overseeing the investigation into Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal. If she issues a damning report, Cuomo will quickly find himself in Nixonian resign-or-be-impeached territory with his former ally poised to pick up the pieces.

He has followed a similar track as Letitia James — WFP-backed City Councilmember from Brooklyn and NYC public advocate. He would also match James in being able to build a coalition of Black voters and white progressives. Unlike James, he hasn’t held statewide office though he did make a strong showing in 2018 when he carried New York City and fell short by only six points in his outsider run for lieutenant governor.

This progressive firebrand laid waste to Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) kingpen Jeff Klein in 2018 to win her state senate seat representing parts of northern Bronx and Westchester County. Since then, she hasn’t been afraid to mix it up with Cuomo. But she’s only 34 years old — so if Letitia James runs for governor, making a bid for attorney general could be her next move.

Another dynamic, young state senator who rode into office on the 2018 blue wave and seems destined to run for higher office. And like Biaggi, 2022 may be too soon to take aim at the governor’s mansion, especially if James or Williams is in the race. A former aide to Bill de Blasio, she could run for mayor or public advocate in a future cycle (without risking her Queens senate seat) or snag a seat in Congress if AOC runs for higher office.

Speaking of de Blasio, he’s now said to be interested in getting into the governor’s race. Ugh, please no. Not that. He still has a strong base of support in the Black community and his 2014 rollout of universal pre-K for four-year-olds was brilliant. But after spending much of his eight years as mayor pursuing a quixotic bid for the presidency, the last thing we need is more of his checked-out, lackluster leadership.

No one in Albany has been more consistent and fearless in holding Andrew Cuomo accountable for the Covid-19 nightmare that unfolded in New York’s nursing homes than this fifth-term Assemblymember from Flushing, Queens. He would be a powerful foil to the corrupt, amoral Cuomo. When he ran in the 2019 special election for public advocate won by Jumaane Williams, he only got 3% of the vote. That won’t be the case if he runs for that office again. He’s already shown what one elected official can do when they’re serious about advocating for the public.

Okay, he’s been in Congress for less than three months, so running for higher office in 2022 would probably be premature. But let’s hope he does so before too long. The former middle school principal is unabashedly Black and left, yet has a disarming happy-warrior persona that makes him a natural to lead a broad multi-racial coalition like the one he mobilized last year to handily defeat the 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel.

For as long as this political supernova holds her Queens/Bronx congressional seat, there will be chatter about which higher office she will run for next. However, she’s shown little interest in state politics. She seems destined to run for higher office at the federal level. In case you were wondering, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turns 35 on October 13, 2024.

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