A 2020 presidential run was always going to be rough for the New York governor, but his re-election bid in 2018 won’t be a cakewalk either, as the New Republic has previously reported. The pending election has only exacerbated Cuomo’s rifts with progressives, many of which are of his own making. Just last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that rank-and-file members of the Working Families Party, New York’s progressive third-party alternative, want to back a primary challenger to Cuomo. The actress Cynthia Nixon is eyeing a run, as is the Democratic mayor of Syracuse. And on Wednesday, The New York Times reported on growing tensions within the state’s Democratic Party.
The main point of contention is between the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight breakaway state senators led by Jeff Klein, and the rest of the Democratic state senators, led by Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Despite the fact that Democrats hold a mathematical majority, the Republicans control the Senate because the IDC caucuses with them. If Democrats were united, Stewart-Cousins would be the first black woman in history to lead a legislative chamber in the state of New York.
And Stewart-Cousins does not seem happy with Andrew Cuomo. The Times reported that last month, in a strategy session in Cuomo’s office that had Democratic reunification on the agenda, this incredible exchange took place:
When the discussion turned to how to best win elections, Mr. Cuomo suggested to the assembled lawmakers—many of them from New York City—that the leader of eight breakaway Democrats, Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, had a better understanding of the suburbs than they had.
That was all Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the African-American leader of the group who represents the suburbs of Westchester County, needed to hear.
“You look at me, Mr. Governor, but you don’t see me. You see my black skin and a woman, but you don’t realize I am a suburban legislator,” Ms. Stewart-Cousins said, according to the accounts of five people who were in the room. “Jeff Klein doesn’t represent the suburbs,” she said. “I do.”
Mr. Cuomo reacted in stunned silence.
Despite these tensions, the Times reported that when asked by Cuomo if they were willing to unify with the IDC, Stewart-Cousins and senate Democrats replied with what state Senator Brad Holyman described as a “resounding yes.” But Cuomo said that Klein, the IDC leader, remains resistant.
As previously reported by the New Republic, many believe that Cuomo helped create the IDC for his own benefit, a claim that he has denied. “If they don’t want to marry, I have no power or role in forcing the marriage,” Cuomo has said of New York Democrats. But if Cuomo wants to cruise to re-election in 2018, he may find that a shotgun marriage is in his interest.