Later this week, Democrats will meet at their state party convention, where they will nominate incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo for reelection.
Nearly three and half years into his first term, Cuomo remains relatively popular with New York voters, after governing in a style that’s been a mix of fiscal conservatism and social progressivism.
Cuomo championed same sex marriage, which became legal during his first year in office, in 2011, and stricter gun control laws in 2013, when the governor spoke passionately in favor of the proposal during his State of the State speech.
“No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer,” Cuomo bellowed, to cheers.
At the same time, Cuomo has enacted a property tax cap that limits spending growth to two percent or less per year. In this year’s budget he and the legislature set up a tax rebate program that could freeze property taxes for many New Yorkers.
The governor focuses on bringing down high taxes in his standard stump speech on the state’s finances that he takes on the road throughout the state. Recently, in Syracuse, he also touted his efforts to cut business taxes and the estate tax, and to hold the line on state spending for the past three years to a growth rate of two percent or less.
“This government has spent money at the lowest rate in 50 years,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo has also appointed a number of commissions to tackle big issues, including education policy and corruption in the legislature.
The governor’s decisions do have their share of detractors. Upstate gun owners are incensed over the gun control laws. Liberals and reformers are annoyed that Cuomo’s progressive agenda has stalled over the past year. He’s tried twice and failed to enact public campaign finance reform for all statewide offices, and last year lost a battle to enact a Women’s Equality Act that contained an abortion rights provision.
Tensions are so high that the Working Families Party, a coalition of labor unions and government reformers, is considering running an alternative candidate when it meets at the end of the month. Karen Scharff is with Citizen Action, an affiliate of the party, is one of those who has been promoting the possibility of running a candidate to Cuomo's left.
“As we lead up to our convention, we’re interested in getting a sense of what all different parts of the party think about what that decision should be,” Scharff said.
Cuomo recently addressed concerns from the progressive members of the Working Families Party and even his own Democratic Party, saying that he’s the strongest candidate for their concerns.
“I don’t know that there’s a lot of space to my left,” said Cuomo. “Does that mean that we’ve done everything we’d like to do? No.”
The leader of the Senate Republicans recently confirmed that talks about a public campaign finance bill are ongoing.
Conservatives and Republicans unhappy with Cuomo have the choice of voting for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the GOP nominee for governor. But Astorino, little known and underfunded, faces an uphill battle.
Even the governor’s penchant for appointing commissions has drawn some ire. Cuomo, as part of this year's budget deal in April, agreed to disband the Moreland Act Commission that was actively investigating potential wrongdoing in the legislature.
That angered U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who has subpoenaed the disbanded commission’s records and launched a grand jury probe into whether Cuomo’s appointees on the commission tried to steer probes away form anyone associated with the governor.