A Treacherous Deal on Long Island?

Did Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and State Senator Dean Skelos, a Republican, cut a deal to help each other in this year’s general election?

That’s the explosive charge a Republican operative made to the Post’s Fred Dicker days after Mr. Cuomo won re-election and Republicans gained full control of the State Senate. According to Michael Lawler, who managed the campaign of the governor’s opponent, Rob Astorino, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Skelos formed a tacit non-aggression pact designed to advance their own political agendas—but hardly in keeping with the spirit of a vibrant democracy.

According to Mr. Lawler, Mr. Cuomo did very little to help his party’s candidates for State Senate on Long Island—which is the power base of the Republican caucus in the Senate—while Mr. Skelos supposedly arranged for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s cross-party endorsement of the governor.

All parties concerned deny the story. And it may well be the fantasy of an embittered operative who believes his candidate was stabbed in the back. But the fact that he attached his name to the charge rather than grouse anonymously suggests that there’s something to Mr. Lawler’s assertion.

This is hardly the first time politicians from opposite parties have been accused of reaching a private understanding about little things like elections. Back in the 1980s, critics suggested that New York’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Republican Alfonse D’Amato, had a tacit understanding that neither would actively seek the other’s defeat. (This, too, was denied.) And let us recall that across the Hudson River, Chris Christie’s Democratic allies sat on their hands—or supported Mr. Christie outright—during the governor’s re-election campaign last year. And wouldn’t you know it, Gov. Christie publicly declined to support Mr. Astorino this year, in a convenient coincidence.

It’s easy to understand Mr. Lawlor’s frustration, even if it is not entirely based in reality. While bipartisanship can be a good thing when both parties come to an agreement in the public interest, democracy requires a vibrant debate and truly competitive elections. This fall’s campaigns were neither vibrant nor competitive. Incumbents prevailed. Members of the bipartisan “Incumbent Protection Society” did little to disrupt the status quo.

This page has no problems with a Republican-led state Senate. We endorsed Mr. Cuomo for re-election. But we also believe that private deal making to subvert the electoral process is dangerously cynical, even by New York standards. A Treacherous Deal on Long Island?