By Alan S. Chartock | February 16, 2019

Here it comes. For years, the scuttlebutt around Albany has been that both Andrew Cuomo and his father, Mario, wanted the Republicans to stay in control of the State Senate. They were both fiscal moderates and it was theorized that if the Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature, they would break the state and empty its coffers. Others suspected that if there was divided government, each governor in his own time could be the intermediary who negotiated between the parties and became the grand master of the game.

As a result, the hapless minority Democrats in the State Senate took whatever bits and scraps they could garner and groused about the unfairness of the gerrymander that kept the Republicans in power. Oh, the Cuomos always made noises about the need to elect Democrats but their money was all too often too far from their mouths, if you catch my drift.

As Andrew Cuomo grew closer to national aspirations, he seemed to not only have changed his rhetoric but his actions, too. Tongues were wagging that Cuomo was a little too close to the Republican enemies. How would it look if he was running for president and the word got out that he had kept the Republicans in power?

So Cuomo, who many suspected was behind the breakaway Democratic “traitors” (otherwise known as the Independent Democratic Conference who voted with the Republicans), turned on them and demanded that they disband. Rather than face Andrew’s wrath, they did just that. Too late, though — many of them were beaten in the primaries that many felt Andrew was behind. Loyalty only goes so far.

Many believed, and maybe the governor did too, that the Senate Democrats would forever be beholden to Cuomo for having delivered them from the political bondage that they had to endure for so long. Nonetheless, you had better believe that there was a smoldering anger among the regular Democrats that just wouldn’t go away. Apparently they were willing to take names and get even although, to try and be fair, they deny that. On the other hand, as the old saying goes, “Look what I do, not what I say.” Based on what I am seeing, the formerly repressed Democrats are not likely to forget Papa Cuomo’s old admonition that he reminded me of so many times. “Remember, Chartock,” he would say, “the world is round.” In other words, what goes around comes around.

Take the case of Simcha Felder who kept running as a Democrat but conferencing with the Republicans and keeping them in power. He continually reiterated that he would do what was best for his district but I always suspected that he meant what was good for him and not so much for the constituents. Many thought that when the Democrats won the Senate, they would welcome back Felder with open arms. Turns out they won so big that when the question as to whether to welcome Felder back where he belonged with the Democrats came up, the years of frustration with the man resulted in them delivering the message “Tough luck, Charlie (or Simcha). Go fish!” The world really is round. I say, good for them.

But now we return to Andrew. It’s pretty clear that the Senate Democrats and Speaker Carl Heastie are in no mind to let Cuomo push them around. In a clear declaration of war, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the take no garbage leader of the Democrats, appointed her deputy Mike Gianaris to the largely formulaic committee that has to rule on whether to take the Amazon deal giving that company three billion something dollars in exchange for what the governor claims will be thirty plus billion in return.

The gloves are off. As for me, I have great regard for Leader Stewart-Cousins and for Deputy Leader Gianaris. Not that it matters but on this one, I think Cuomo is right.


Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].