So Andrew Cuomo will be returning to the governor’s office next year, to the surprise of exactly no one. He may not have achieved quite the landslide he was hoping for, but there’s only one guy who really cares about that. And that guy will be living on Eagle Street in Albany for another four years.
Mr. Cuomo’s victory after a languid general election campaign was to be expected. After all, Democrats monopolize all statewide offices, and most need only to retain a pulse to ensure their re-election year in and year out. That’s great news if you’re a Democratic politician or patronage appointee. Not so good news if you’re a mere voter.
A vibrant democracy requires competitive elections. If you can recall such an election in a high-profile statewide contest, you have a wonderful memory. Perhaps the last one was Charles Schumer’s defeat of incumbent U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato in 1998. That was so last century.
In the race for governor of New York in 2014, the biggest issue was not whether Mr. Cuomo would be re-elected, but whether progressive voters should vote for him on the Democratic Party line or the Working Families line. Such a dilemma!
Mr. Cuomo will surely begin planning a second term that will inspire talk of his inevitable promotion from Eagle Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. There are two ways he can do this: The first, more-traditional, avenue is to travel widely, issue pronouncements on important national and international events, and appear on Sunday morning cable news shows. Writing a badly-selling book also has been known to help this process.
The second method is not nearly as exciting but arguably more effective: Make your state a model of government efficiency, flexibility and creativity. Success often leads to publicity, and publicity can lead to a fancier house, a bigger lawn, and great views of the Washington Monument.
Mr. Cuomo seems to be leaning toward the first option. He already has produced a memoir of sorts and he has plans to travel to China, Italy and Israel. None of this has much to do with making New York a better-governed, more-prosperous state.
The governor’s ambitions can best be served by making difficult decisions that benefit the only constituents that matter—his fellow New Yorkers. He needs to make a decision about fracking. He needs to figure out how to rid the state of its crippling culture of corruption. And he has to find a cure for the ailments that have made upstate New York an economic basket case for a generation or more.
Mr. Cuomo deserved re-election, but there is nothing about his record thus far that suggests national stardom. The resurgence downstate during his watch is great, but it has not been matched by growth in the old manufacturing centers of Central and Western New York, or many of the river towns in the Hudson Valley north of Westchester.
If Mr. Cuomo can put New Yorkers to work in the state’s most-beleaguered towns and cities, he’ll have a knockout campaign commercial for 2016 or 2020. But first he has to take care of business.