A day before gay marriage legislation goes into effect, New York, one of the bluest states in the country, has finally begun reaching its potential as a liberal state.
A few weeks ago, PolicyMic colleague Mike Stanek wrote an article noting the Democrats to watch for the in 2016 presidential election run-up. But, that was before New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pressed the state senate to work into the night to pass legislation regarding ethics laws, property tax caps, and the first on-time state budget in five years. Most historic, however, was a same-sex marriage bill years in the making and a major platform of his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. In six short months, Cuomo has firmly established himself as a state executive ready to go to bat for the liberal agenda in New York.
His 71% popularity rating aside, Cuomo’s politics bring speculation of a new era of liberalism in the state. Looking at its list of governing officials over the past 15 to 20 years, one would not imagine New York to be one of the bluest states in the nation. Thrice-elected governor George Pataki, as well as two-term New York City mayor and eternal 9/11 hero Rudy Giuliani, stand out as steadfastly conservative voices. And it was not until Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s second term that he switched his party affiliation from Republican to Independent, which began the state’s slow, but steady crawl over to the socially liberal side. Since then, Bloomberg has touted his education and luxurious NYC transit reforms as his administration’s largest accomplishments. It was not until Cuomo’s inauguration as governor in 2011 that Bloomberg began his vehement support of same-sex marriage legislation and a visibly liberal social agenda.
In Cuomo’s first six months, he has dispelled much of the lingering social conservativism, and transformed New York into a progressive state. Many have already called Cuomo to be a potential 2012 vice presidential candidate, President Barack Obama’s 2016 Democratic successor, and a general future leader of Democrats. With the dominance of east-coast political families (Rockefellers, Kennedys, Kerrys, and Clintons), adding the Cuomo family to the political dynasty list does not seem to be too far a stretch. At a time when the national budget and debt ceiling are hot topics, Cuomo can revel in the fact that he provided New York with a spending cut (2%) while closing the $10 billion deficit. Even further, he came through on one of his largest campaign promises: To legalize same-sex marriage and advance the rights of LGBT New Yorkers.
These accomplishments do not go unrewarded. In Cuomo’s recently released campaign fund accounts, the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s largest LGBT organization was his largest donor, with a $60,000 donation in June. However, his $5.5 million fundraising gain since January has been largely due to rich real estate developers and tenants who support his property tax cap legislation. Politically, his reward may surpass campaign donations; Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have both found a liberal friend in Cuomo. Cuomo’s knack for politics and close friendship with the Clintons will undoubtedly help him make a mark on the national political scene in the years to come. His success in the first six months of governorship has been unprecedented in a difficult state to navigate, but his expectations have also greatly increased.
Cuomo’s message thus far has been clear: New York is, and will continue to be, a base for progressivism in politics.
Photo Credit: Patja