Andy’s ascendency in New York

Roscoe Conkling Contributor
Font Size:

With New York Gov. David Paterson self-immolating, the New York political establishment has all but decided that crown prince Andrew Cuomo will ascend to the gubernatorial throne.

While there is some evidence that the angry, petulant, “know-it-all” Cuomo—of his last gubernatorial campaign and his days as his father’s campaign manager—is in recess, I don’t think a leopard changes his spots. Andrew Cuomo has an anger-management problem and a long gubernatorial campaign is the kind of experience that can expose those flaws.

Former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, nominally a Republican, and his sidekick, Kieran Mahoney, are squarely in the Cuomo camp and among Cuomo’s largest fundraisers. D’Amato has labored furiously to lock up the Republican gubernatorial nomination for weak candidate Rick Lazio in order to hand Andrew a weak challenge.

In Albany, it’s important to understand that all of them—Silver, Bruno, Spitzer, Paterson, Cuomo, D’Amato and Long—are all career pols unwilling to really challenge the political status quo.

Cuomo has massive vulnerabilities. As Housing and Urban Development secretary, he initiated the sub-prime housing meltdown by encouraging a dangerous decline in underwriting standards, advocated for more flexible lending standards, prompted the Federal Housing Authority for bigger loans and lower down payments, and established new affordable housing goals requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy $2.4 trillion in bad mortgages. His complicity cost the taxpayers a trillion dollars and a good part of their 401(k)s. Now Andrew has evolved to be the great prosecutor who, for some strange reason, can’t see corruption in Albany.

New York voters are more disgusted with all branches of government, politicians, political institutions and special interests than ever before. A constant barrage of public corruption stories including former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi and kickbacks in the state pension system, New York City councilmen double billing expenses to the city, corruption in the winning of a major voting-machine contract, Paterson using the state police to do political chores the same way Spitzer did and even Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morganthau hoarding money that should have properly gone back to the city. The anger level of New York voters is at the boiling point. New York has the highest taxes in the nation, including the highest income and property taxes. State legislators pass mandates for cities, towns and villages without providing funding to carry them out requiring counties in localities to raise property taxes.

From the nascent Tea Party movement comes a potential champion. New York Tea Party leaders are urging Buffalo millionaire businessman Carl Paladino to enter the Republican gubernatorial primary and also petition a Tea Party Party onto the ballot. New York has a unique system where candidates can accept multiple party endorsements and win the cumulative number of votes cast for them on Election Day regardless of which party ballot position they won the votes.

Paladino, who is both a developer and lawyer, has a reputation for outspokenness and candor in the Buffalo business community. Paladino has been a frequent critic of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver over Silver’s “no-show” job at a personal injury law firm, which pays him handsomely to kill tort reform in the New York Assembly. Silver refuses to disclose exactly how much the law firm pays or what he does for the money. Paladino is like the character in the movie “Network,” who shouts “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Brash, articulate and opinionated, Paladino is the kind of outsider who could bring the Republican Party back in the Empire State.

New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox has so far failed to find a viable alternative to Lazio, a D’Amato-controlled puppet using the services of D’Amato’s consultant /henchman Arthur Finklestein, most famous for attacking former U.S. Sen. Jacob Javits over his health when the senator was dying, a strategy D’Amato was only too happy to adopt.

Paladino is reportedly prepared to spend $10 million of his own money to run an unconventional campaign in which he takes on the entire dysfunctional “political class.” Paladino will decide in 30 days.

Andrew, don’t measure the drapes quite yet.

Roscoe Conkling (Oct. 30, 1829–April 18, 1888) was a politician from New York who served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He was the leader of the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party and the last person to refuse a U.S. Supreme Court appointment after he had been already been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The author has assumed this name to protect his anonymity.