By Alan S. Chartock | September 16, 2018

On the subject of endorsements.

Some of the best papers in New York, including the New York Times, have endorsed Andrew Cuomo for governor, Jumaane Williams, an oftentimes critic of Cuomo for lieutenant governor and none other than one of my all time favorites, Zephyr Teachout, for attorney general. They are not the only newspaper in New York to do so. Clearly, they have their doubts about Cuomo and want to install some fierce watchdogs to keep an eye on him.

On the one hand, these newspapers generally want to applaud the sitting governor for getting things done but they seem queasy about his methods for making the “getting done” happen.

For his part, Cuomo was forced to stick with his present lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, despite the fact that he wanted her to go, an action that she refused to do. Perhaps had she run against Niagara Congressman Chris Collins, she would have won but she didn’t know that Collins was to be indicted so close to his reelection bid. Instead, she’ll have to sit with Cuomo who is not likely to accept her refusal to do what she was told.

Put another way, this very nice and competent woman will be attending a lot of funerals. No Joe Biden, Barack Obama relationship is this. In any case, this lieutenant governor thing has really turned out to be quite a mess since in New York lieutenant governors run in separate primaries from the governor and he risks losing his preferred choice as a running mate in the Democratic, as well as some minor, parties. That may prove to be the kiss of death when all the ballots are counted.

As far as the attorney general spot goes, the indefatigable Zephyr Teachout seemed to have caught the public imagination. To Governor Cuomo, once an attorney general himself who used that office to his ascent to the governor’s “second floor,” the prospect of a clearly tough-on-Cuomo AG sitting so close by was none too pleasing. His candidate, public advocate Tish James, had problems being too close to Cuomo and in the end had been fighting to uncouple her candidacy from Cuomo’s. She got caught in a bit of a hail storm by turning down the Working Families Party designation, some think because Cuomo was so sore at that group for endorsing Cynthia Nixon. No matter how much James tried to get out from under that dilemma, she only seemed to make it worse. I can tell you that my personal inbox is very crowded with ads from James. In fact, her protestations of independence have only gotten her in deeper. The fact that both Teachout and Williams were endorsed by prestigious newspapers is just one sign that things were going to be tougher than expected for Cuomo.

Cynthia Nixon told me just recently that Ocasio-Cortez lightning could strike her campaign and that she could win. While that did not seem possible, I get were she was coming from since many recent polls have been shown to be seriously flawed.

A factor in all of this is what we call “identity politics.” Zephyr Teachout is not black but Jumaane Williams is, as is Tish James. It was interesting to watch how close their two formally independent campaigns had become which may, in fact, be the key to victory for both of them. Cuomo’s choice of Tish James for attorney general was certainly the right move. He’s a shrewd master at ticket building and ethnic politics.

The major endorsements of Teachout and Williams were no more than the papers covering their bets. Yes, they know that Cuomo has gotten things done but they also know that he was surrounded by cronies who were corrupt. That had to have the guy nervous, so nervous that his campaign put out a letter calling Teachout anti-Semitic. That turned around and bit him in the rear end.

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].