By Alan S. Chartock | July 17, 2021

History is being written. We just had an election in New York City in which Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams won the Democratic primary as a centrist candidate. Adams will win the general election and enters the governing foray with a lot of advantages. Since, as we political scientists say, “The city is a creature of the state,” we should start out by examining the potential relationship between the governor of the state and the presumptive incoming mayor.

We know that Andrew Cuomo is a take no prisoners kind of guy who tends to see others as competitors. Now, however, things have changed. Cuomo desperately needs the Black vote if he is to win the fourth term he so wants. With a new Black, somewhat conservative mayor coming onto the political scene, some might think that Cuomo will be able to overcome his competitive nature and make a friend in the NYC mayor’s chair. Maybe, maybe not. If, for instance, Cuomo sees a friendship between Adams and outgoing Mayor deBlasio, that might be enough to put the death knell on Cuomo’s ability to get along with the new guy. On the other hand, the question is who needs who more. I suspect right now, Cuomo needs Adams more than vice versa.

Adams, of course, is a cop and Cuomo needs law enforcement people in his corner. Obviously, Adams will be coming to the governor with his hand out. It’s always easy for a mayor to say to people that he can’t give them what they want because of a stingy governor, especially since both houses of the state legislature are in Democratic hands. Adams knows what he is doing. His courting of Al Sharpton to his inner group sends a message to the white political community that they risk all if they give him a hard time. Not only that, Cuomo is tough on guns so the idea of a having a hard on crime, former police captain with him in his forays has got to be seductive to Andrew. But can Cuomo do it? I suspect that this is an even money proposition. Cuomo is what he is, period. If he wins a fourth term, he may well turn out to be the old Andrew. Can he make Adams into friend and can he keep him that way?

Just ask yourself one definitive question: who are Andrew’s close friends?  I have a hard time answering my own question. If he does have close friends, we really don’t know who they are. So now the question is whether Andrew can overcome his own personal character issues and make real friends with incoming mayor Adams. Since we know that Andrew is tough and bright, he certainly has the ability to make a friend out of Adams who can be helpful to him. But can he refrain from scratching the old Andrew itch?

In New York City politics, you have to move up or move out since sooner or later, you will be term limited. You will remember that there was a point at which Michael Bloomberg could have been governor but he didn’t want to touch it. Being mayor was all he wanted. But there are no term limits on being governor so you had better believe that looking way into the future as all good politicians have to do on the way to the White House, Adams will need to get along with Cuomo if he possibly can.

If Andrew should resort to type and battle with Adams, it could spell disaster. On the other hand, Andrew will be governor and have little to lose for four years while Adams is mayor. When Adams needs money for the subways, the tables will turn and he will need Andrew who will not be running for a fifth term.

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]