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In Final Weeks Of Campaign, Gov. Cuomo Promoting Memoir

Matt Ryan, New York Now

In the final weeks before elections, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been promoting his memoir, and has announced travel plans to Puerto Rico. One thing he hasn’t been doing is running a typical campaign, and he’s said little about what he’ll do in the next four years.

Cuomo, the popular incumbent who holds a double-digit lead and has over $30 million in the bank, has employed a Rose Garden strategy for much of the political season. He seldom holds campaign events, preferring economic development announcements that often can take on the fervor of campaign rallies. The governor describes what he’s doing in a slightly different way. He says he’s simply letting his job speak for itself.

“I’ve been working, as hard as I can, seven days a week, as governor of the state” Cuomo said recently. “My campaign is basically my performance in office.”

Cuomo has said little about what he’ll do in the next four years, if he’s reelected. Instead he talks about what he’s already done - he’s routinely approved the state budget on time, enacted limits on taxes and spending, and passed same sex marriage and gun control laws. He says expect “more of the same.”

The approach is in sharp contrast to four years ago, when Cuomo printed several book length briefings outlining all of the policies he intended to change. Cuomo did not end up fulfilling all of the goals he listed in the booklets, including a promise to end partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts.  The governor was asked by reporters why he has not so far offered a detailed plan for the future.  He says no one paid attention to his proposals back in 2010.

“Did you read all 10 books?” Cuomo joked. “That’s the problem with 10 books.”

Bruce Gyory, a professor at UAlbany and political consultant who is not working on the governor’s race, says sometimes it’s politically smart to be vague about your plans when you are in incumbent with the resources of Andrew Cuomo, running for reelection.

“It worked for Richard Nixon in ’72. It worked, on a gubernatorial level for his father, Mario Cuomo in 1986,” said Gyory who said it can work if an incumbent has high favorability ratings in the polls, and the money to get a positive message out to voters, as well as a negative one about his opponent. He says it enables the candidate to “stay out of the political morass.”

The lack of detail about the future has allowed Cuomo to keep mum on some key controversial issues. He has avoided saying how a multi-billion dollar projected gap looming in the MTA budget will be filled, and whether a major new bridge construction project over the Hudson on the New York State Thruway will result in higher bridge and Thruway tolls.

He also has not said how the state might use a $4.5 billion windfall from settlements with several banks, and whether the state should go ahead with hydrofracking. He says his health department officials are still conducting a health review of sometimes conflicting studies and wants to decide based on scientific evidence.

“You can get academics in reports saying it’s totally safe, and the next week you get a report that says it’s the most dangerous thing since a nuclear explosion,” said Cuomo. “It’s become a very highly politicized, highly emotional, highly opinionated topic.”

Gyory says the governor does not want to take a risk on making a decision now on the controversial subject, especially when polls show New Yorkers are split.

“I think he’s on safe grounds, if he says let the science determine it,” Gyory said.

Gyory says Cuomo is lucky so far, because the message of his Republican opponent Rob Astorino has not yet moved the public.

“I don’t see this Rose Garden strategy has hurt Cuomo, because I don’t see Astorino’s message having really resonated,” he said.

Gyory says whether or not Cuomo spells out what he’d do in the next four years, politicians in their second terms in office already face a challenge. It’s tough to live up to the achievements made in their first term.  

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