July 28, 2017

Andrew Cuomo’s Bad Week: Primary Challengers And Campaign Finance Violations

Earlier this week Zephyr Teachout, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 primary opponent, sent out a trial balloon calling on progressives to organize a primary challenge to Governor Cuomo. Specifically, Teachout cited Governor Cuomo’s handling of the transit situation in New York City as a reason why the governor was politically vulnerable:

“In the interview, Teachout pointed to a vulnerability for Cuomo next year: The transit crisis, impacting commuters in what should be a geographic base for the party. ‘There’s a sense that Andrew Cuomo has run on I’m the guy who gets things done but things aren’t getting done,’ she said.”

Now the New York Post is reporting that at least one New York Democrat is looking to answer Teachout’s call. Former State Senator Terry Gipson, a friend of the radical Working Families Party, is talking with New York Democrats about taking up the challenge to Cuomo. In his appeals to party activists, Gipson has made sure to attack Governor Cuomo’s Democratic credentials, long a big weakness for the governor with left-wing activists:

“’Hello New Queens Democrats. I’m a former NY State Senator (D) and believe that New York deserves a real Democratic Governor that will lead our party and move true Democratic policy forward. In Trump’s new America we cannot afford to wait,’ Gipson said in a July 19 email.”

Gipson has also made Governor Cuomo’s connections to indicted former aide Joe Percoco an issue. The timing is auspicious for Gipson, given that the governor’s shady ethics has been big news all week. Just days ago, Government watchdog groups claimed that Governor Cuomo “[skirted] campaign finance rules” by coordinating with an outside group to promote his agenda and political career:

“To government watchdogs, the connections are evidence that Mr. Cuomo is once again skirting campaign finance rules by using a secretive nonprofit to advance his agenda. The rules limit donations to political campaigns and require disclosure, and politicians are not supposed to get around them by using organizations that can accept unlimited secret donations. But New Yorkers United Together is the third nonprofit formed by allies of Mr. Cuomo’s to emerge and support his policies.”

The ad in question is of particular interest for a primary challenge, because the spot was used to “appeal to skeptical liberals” ahead of his re-election campaign next year:

“The latest instance is particularly troubling, the watchdogs said, because the video ad is praising the governor’s immigration record at a time when Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, is trying to use that issue to appeal to skeptical liberals as he prepares to seek a third term in 2018 and possibly run for president in 2020.”

In 2014, when Governor Cuomo was significantly more popular, he had a serious primary challenge from Zephyr Teachout, an unserious, extreme, liberal activist. Now that the governor’s political stock has fallen to new lows, he’s never been more vulnerable to both a primary challenge or a strong, Republican contender.