Four months of Albany scandal and turmoil have yielded new leaders of the state Assembly and Senate — the first time that’s happened during the same legislative session in 50 years. In February, Carl Heastie took over as speaker of the Assembly, and on Monday, John Flanagan became majority leader of the Senate.
So is that good or bad for the only guy who still has the same job, Governor Andrew Cuomo?
On one level, the new configuration could be a boon to Cuomo — because it’s so similar to the old configuration that served Cuomo well in the past. Shelly Silver, a lower Manhattan liberal Democrat, was replaced by Heastie, a Bronx liberal Democrat. Dean Skelos, a moderate Long Island Republican, was replaced by Flanagan, a moderate Long Island Republican.
Neither Heastie nor Flanagan is a pushover. And each now needs to contend with a restive caucus. But they are both more naturally cooperative and less combative than the respective runners-up, Cathy Nolan and John DeFrancisco. “With the Republicans, Cuomo preferred the moderate status quo instead of the tack to the right that De Francisco would have been,” an Albany insider says. “And De Francisco is abrupt and demanding. It would have been confrontational between him and Cuomo.”
But it will be difficult for Cuomo to replicate his first-term success with the new men in the old roles. One reason is that he’s being increasingly called out for moving the pieces around the legislative chess board. Progressives have long accused Cuomo of disingenuously propping up the Senate Republican majority so he can use it as a convenient excuse — a buffer against having both legislative houses controlled by left-of-center Democrats — pointing to maneuvers like his 2012 deal with Skelos on a redistricting plan that gerrymandered districts in favor of the GOP. “As long as Cuomo’s got the Senate Republicans, all these progressive things that he claims he wants — the DREAM Act, public campaign financing — he can say, ‘Oh, it’s too bad they won’t do it,’” one elected official says. “But the curtain is starting to be pulled back a little bit.”
Cuomo denies any meddling. “I have nothing to do with that,” the governor said placidly last week after an event in Union Square, when asked about trying to sway the legislative leadership decisions. “I see my job as working with whoever they send me.”
You can’t blame him for trying to construct a favorable legislative landscape — that’s good politics. The trouble is when Cuomo comes off as disingenuous. On Wednesday, De Francisco was blunt about the governor’s stealthy influence on behalf of Flanagan. “Oh, definitely he made calls, definitely, no doubt about it,” he told Capital Tonight. “He can do whatever he wants — but be honest about it.”
Which points to the larger problem for Cuomo: Trying to keep his distance from the legislature and dominate it at the same time is becoming an untenable straddle. One sign of his predicament was a poll this week clocking Cuomo’s job approval at 37 percent, his lowest rating in five years. The public doesn’t much care about the details of the legislative infighting — but it increasingly identifies state government’s top figure with Albany’s recurring corruption mess.
Maybe with Heastie and Flanagan now in place and Albany settling into a kind of stunned calm, the governor can use his old playbook to deliver a smooth final four weeks of the spring legislative session. But he and everyone else in Albany can’t wait to get out of town for the summer. Cuomo will spend part of that time helping his partner, Sandra Lee, recover from breast-cancer surgery. As personally painful as that will be, it may prove easier than constructing a political recovery.
Most Viewed Stories
Despite tech companies’ promises to be more diligent, false information about Joe Biden isn’t hard to find
False stories about Joe Biden’s health continued to spread on social platforms the day after the first presidential debate, including misleading Facebook ads by the Trump campaign and a viral video on TikTok.
A false story about Biden wearing an earpiece that emerged on Tuesday continued to get traction on Facebook after the debate. The Trump campaign ad, which encourages people to “Check Joe’s Ears,” and asked “Why won’t Sleepy Joe commit to an earpiece inspection,” was viewed between 200 to 250,000 times and marketed primarily to people over 55 in Texas and Florida. The implication of the ad, the content of which originated from a tweet by a New York Post reporter who cited a single anonymous source, is that Biden needed the assistance of an earpiece so someone could pass him information during the debates.
And on the video platform TikTok, four grainy videos alleging that Biden was wearing a wire to “cheat” during the debate racked up more than half a million combined views on Wednesday, according to research by the left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters. One of the videos shows a still of Biden with his hand inside his suit, while another overlays an arrow over Biden’s tie, but neither video shows any visual evidence of Biden wearing an electronic device of any kind.
It’s always nice to elevate the discourse
Ya don’t say
At least the U.S. being embarrassed on the world stage isn’t a new development
Trump is sticking with his plan to energize voters with events that show he doesn’t care about their health
President Trump has scheduled large campaign rallies this weekend in Wisconsin despite recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force that call for increasing social distancing in the state “to the maximal degree possible.”
The task force has further flagged La Crosse and Green Bay, the metropolitan areas where Trump plans to gather thousands of supporters Saturday, as coronavirus “red zones,” the highest level of concern for community spread of the virus, according to a report from the group released Sunday and obtained by The Washington Post.
Wisconsin is listed in the document as the state with the third-highest rate of new cases in the country, with 243 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous week, about 2.6 times greater than the national average. Ahead of Trump’s scheduled rally in Green Bay, the Bellin Health System said Tuesday that its hospital in that city is at 94 percent capacity as covid-19 continues to spike in the community.
“During the intense period of viral surge, large numbers of acutely infected individuals caused exponential growth in infections,” the task force report reads in a section about Wisconsin. “Although young adults are the most affected group currently, spread to other age groups is inevitable.”