By Alan S. Chartock | June 8, 2018

WAMC Northeast Public Radio recently sponsored a debate among the seven Democrats who are vying to oust John Faso from his Congressional seat representing New York’s19th Congressional district. Faso is a brilliant debater and we’ve had him on the radio many times. When Zephyr Teachout ran against Faso the last time out, Faso demonstrated his eloquence as a life-long politician. I’ve known John Faso for a lot of years and if I lived in his district, I would not vote for him. I like the man but come on — it is critical that the Democrats take back the House of Representatives if Donald Trump is to be stopped in his campaign to destroy America’s democratic traditions.

Each of the seven would-be candidates had the opportunity to answer the same questions. I was really fascinated by their responses to one particular question: who would they support for governor in the upcoming gubernatorial sweepstakes. Only one candidate gave what could only be called a lukewarm half-baked endorsement of Andrew Cuomo, despite the fact that the recent Democratic Convention gave almost all of its votes to Cuomo and almost no one to his spirited primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon. I found that fascinating. All the polls are showing Andrew way ahead. Even though he got almost all the votes at the convention, these people wanting to run against Faso would not endorse the sitting governor.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. One is that upstate New York is hardly in love with Cuomo, where Zephyr Teachout beat his pants off when she primaried him just a few short years ago. Despite Cuomo’s attempted to win upstate voters over, he really hasn’t done very well. I have spent some quality time with Nixon. She is a real pistol and she speaks “Democratic” better than Cuomo, who hardly is an exemplar of the King’s English.

But back to the potential Democratic candidates in the 19th district. It could be that by choosing sides in the gubernatorial primary they would alienate someone on either side so they stay neutral. We all know that Andrew has a long memory and tends to get even with those he perceives as having done him wrong. You had better believe that he had his eye on the debate and he and his people were taking names. Some office holders I regularly interview on the radio are very, very careful not to even hint at reservations about Andrew. Take Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney who I have regularly asked about Cuomo only to be met with what could only be called slavish devotion to the son of Mario.

Even with all of that said, there must be something that’s dangerous to these folks about a pro-Andrew position. On the one hand stands Andrew’s historic anger patterns and on the other, a sense that all might not be well in the minds of upstate voters when it comes to supporting their sitting governor. It may well be the heavy stink of corruption that surrounds Andrew as his closest friends go on trial for pay to play politics. It may be that the closer you get to Albany, the more you know about what’s going on there. It may be that Trump is more popular in the upstate counties than he is in New York City. It may be that some politicians have the ability to make you like them when you meet them. Andrew’s father Mario had it big time. In the case of Andrew, you will seldom have anyone tell you that they met Andrew and “…he’s a really nice guy.”

So why is Andrew doing so well in the polls against Nixon? Well, the race has not yet quickened as they always do when elections approach. This is an electric time in New York and American politics and anything can and will happen. I can guarantee that.

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]