The Hopeful Conservative, the Centrist, and the Underdog Progressive

The Banner Breaks Down the 2014 Governor’s Race Ahead of September Primaries

By Clifford Michel

With 244 total races, 2014 will prove to be a decisive year for New York. From the Governor’s race, down to a clamor for vacant state assembly seats, September 9 will show the direction we wish to take New York for the next four years.

Officially, there are eight candidates running for Governor this year, but a poll conducted by Siena College shows that only Governor Andrew Cuomo, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and progressive newcomer Zephyr Teachout are the only candidates truly in contention as of now.

The poll of likely voters concluded that Cuomo leads his GOP opponent by 32 points.

“Cuomo continues to be liked by voters and a majority are still inclined to want to re-elect him,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “Astorino remains unknown to more than half of voters, with only a slightly net positive favorability rating.”

Voters may not know much about Astorino, who is the only republican running, but the candidate offers a stark contrast from Cuomo’s centrist beliefs and can attract those who are either unpleased with Cuomo or hold more conservative voters.

If elected, Astorino has pledged to vitalize New York’s economy by making the state more business friendly. According to Astorino’s campaign, the economic agenda will focus on growing jobs, reforming New York’s tax code, cut state spending, and reduce the cost of doing business in New York.

Astorino has also openly opposed the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and while he hasn’t made public an alternative program, he has said that he will replace Common Core with “better standards” controlled at the local level.

Lastly, Astorino has set up a strict outline of how he would stop corruption in Albany, a front page issue for the state capital for almost a decade. Astorino’s clear and strict plan includes limiting statewide elected officials and legislators to 8 years, limiting the legislative session to four months, establishing an Independent State Commission on Public Ethics, and strengthen transparency for online records.

The GOP candidate also wishes to curb political perks such as stripping taxpayer-funded pensions, prohibiting personal use of campaign money, and replace the states Per-Diem System.

While some of Astorino’s campaign promises wouldn’t yield a major difference in the state’s budget, which was in surplus for the 2014 fiscal year, they may resonate with voters who are experiencing corruption fatigue—especially in light of Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Commission controversy.

The Moreland Commission was established by Cuomo shortly after his election to combat corruption in the state legislature, but recent reports showed that the Governor and his staff interfered with the Commission’s work before Cuomo disbanded it. According to Siena College’s poll likely New York voters are overwhelmingly anti-corruption, but only 32 percent are familiar with the Moreland incident.

The scandal was especially disappointing to voters who chose Cuomo in 2010 due to his campaign promise to “clean up Albany.”

This bodes well for Cuomo, who has raised over $35 million for campaign finances compared to Astorino’s $3.4 million.

In 2014, Cuomo pushed extensively for legislation that would once again win him the votes of democrats, while attempting not to alienate conservative voters. Shortly after Bill De Blasio’s inauguration and Governor’s annual State of the State address, the two political heavyweights began to debate how funding for universal pre-kindergarten should be carried out. De Blasio wanted a permanent tax on wealthy New Yorkers (who made over $500,000) to fund the program, but Governor Cuomo only allotted room for it in the state budget.

Changing his stance on medical marijuana was another change for Cuomo, the Governor finally gave momentum to legislation in early June by agreeing to sign the bill if it had strict enough policies. The state lawmakers were able to pass it at the very end of legislative calendar in June.

Teachout, a Fordham Law professor, offers a substantial challenge for the Governor’s office. The little known candidate, whose campaign was born out of many of the same ideals Cuomo campaigned for in 2010, forced the Governor into agreeing to progressive reforms required to win an endorsement from the Working Families Party, a growing progressive political organization.

Announcing her campaign in June, Teachout burst onto the scene with a populist attitude. Her views are to the left of Cuomo and holds many of the beliefs as liberals such as supporting the eventual legalization of recreational marijuana use, and opposed to fracking and Common Core.

“The short-term win was Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreeing to a suite of progressive reforms in response to my candidacy against him for the Working Families Party nomination for governor this year,” said Teachout in POLITICO Magazine in early June. “On some issues, like freeing municipalities to raise their own minimum wage beyond the dictates of Albany, the governor made a notable switch in position. On others, like passing a DREAM Act that will extend state financial aid for higher education to undocumented students and pushing for public financing of elections, the governor re-committed to positions he previously failed to fight for.”

Addressing the Governor’s failure to live up to many of his original campaign promises has helped Teachout gain attention. While Teachout is a longshot with virtually no chance of winning the primaries, due to lack of engagement of voters at this time, Governor Cuomo has provided the former Howard Dean campaign aid more publicity then she would ever be able to garnish on her own.

After forcing Cuomo into taking up promises set by the Working Families Party, the Governor tried to knock Teachout off the ballot, claiming she was not a New Yorker. After a Brooklyn judge ruled against the protest, Cuomo’s lawyer’s immediately filed another appeal, which was once again shut down.

Garnering tons of media attention from Cuomo’s political bullying, Time Warner Cable’s NY1 publicized a debate between the two democratic candidates. Teachout, needing all the attention she can get has already agreed but Cuomo has been silent on the matter and will most likely ignore the offer.

The traction is most likely postponing the inevitable. Teachout, who has under $1 million in campaign finances, was unknown to 88% of voters according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. The poll didn’t ask the likely votes what they thought Teachout’s chances were against Cuomo because she was so unknown to the general public, the pollster told Capital New York.

Astorino is still set for a November face off with Andrew Cuomo, and will address the Moreland Commission scandal and other Cuomo failures repeatedly. To stay on the ballot, Teachout will need somewhere between 300,000 to 350,000 votes in the primaries.

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