ALBANY — Andrew Cuomo overwhelmingly won the New York governor’s seat his father held for 12 years, promising to take the state back to days of moral integrity and effective government.
“The people have spoken tonight and they have been loud and clear,” the New York governor-elect said Tuesday night with his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and his mother, Matilda Cuomo, at his side.
“They are angry they are paying for an economic recession they didn’t cause,” he said. “They are frustrated when they look at the dysfunction and degradation in Albany.
“The mandate is to clean up Albany and have elected officials who represent the people of this state, and not the special interests and not the lobbyists.”
Cuomo promised “a government of competence and performance and integrity.”
He galloped past Republican Carl Paladino, the Buffalo developer who hoped to ride a wave of anger and tea party activism. But unlike tea party members in many races nationwide, Paladino was stopped by the power of Cuomo and a Democratic dynasty.
“Last year, with the unexpected and remarkable ascent of the tea party we saw the passion of people spill into the streets,” Paladino said to cheering supporters. “I joined the tea party movement for the same reason I joined the United States Army, because I love my country.”
Paladino saw success in the loss.
“We opened many eyes in New York,” he said. “We’ve got their attention and it’s our duty to keep our pitchforks ready and never surrender … what we have accomplished is to begin laying the foundation for turning New York state around. Tonight is not the end of our crusade, it’s the beginning.”
Cuomo, 52, will take over a state in despair ethically and financially. A deficit of at least $8 billion on a $135 billion budget must be addressed by April 1, with more than $20 billion in deficits from chronic overspending projected in the years after that.
But while Paladino said these desperate times required his 20-percent cut in spending and 10-percent tax cut, Cuomo has said curbing the growth in some of the nation’s highest taxes is the prudent course.
Cuomo said no new taxes or borrowing alone would be a “tremendous feat.” Asked by a reporter if he would cut taxes, rather than control the growth, Cuomo said: “Down the road? If you can stabilize? Would you like to get to a place where you can cut taxes? Absolutely.”
He also has cast doubt on Democratic Gov. David Paterson’s announced plan to layoff nearly 900 workers by the close of business Dec. 31, the last day of the present administration.
So far, the rising rhetoric that harkens back to his father hasn’t been matched by specifics. But in Andrew Cuomo’s campaign, his mantra of “one New York” was important against Paladino’s conservative social views that Cuomo said sought to divide New Yorkers.
“I was a kid, 22, 23 years old,” Andrew Cuomo recalled this week. “But I saw my father and I saw the people in the Legislature, Democrats and Republicans, and I said this is what I want to do with my life. These people are here to make this a better place and the people of honor, and people of integrity, and people of commitment and they are debating real issues, that make a difference to me and my family, and this is what I want to do!”
Andrew Cuomo’s view of the past doesn’t quite match the Mario Cuomo years from the mid-1980s until his loss in 1994 to Republican Gov. George Pataki. High spending, rising taxes, deficits, late budgets, and the most infamous fiscal gimmick of all — having the state sell Attica prison to itself — all happened during Mario Cuomo’s tenure, along with its own string of corruption scandals.
But for now, Cuomo’s election is expected to put a dent in the view of the vast majority of New Yorkers who think the state is headed in the wrong direction.
“Electing new governors usually gives New Yorkers a sense of optimism,” said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll. “Whether Cuomo will bring a sense of optimism to New Yorkers and then be able to deliver on that optimism are the questions we will need to see how the people of this state answer moving forward.”