Democrats

Andrew Cuomo

Democrat Andrew Cuomo is the Governor of New York. Previously, he served as New York State Attorney General. He was also the Housing and Urban Development Secretary in the second term of the Clinton administration, succeeding Henry Cisneros in 1997.

Cuomo was born in 1957 to an Italian-American family living in Queens, and has been involved in state politics ever since he was top aide to his father Mario Cuomo during his 1982 campaign for New York governor. He holds a bachelor degree from Fordham University and a law degree from Albany Law School. Andrew is the older brother of ABC News reporter Chris Cuomo.

After 13 years of marriage with Kerry Kennedy, the couple separated in 2003 and divorced in 2005. They have 3 children: Cara, Michaela, and Mariah. As of 2011, Cuomo is still single. He identifies as Roman Catholic.

Cuomo’s early political career focused on affordable housing and law enforcement. After a year as assistant district attorney in New York City, Cuomo founded Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP), and also served as chair of the New York City Homeless Commission. He was first appointed to HUD as Assistant Secretary in 1993, and remained with HUD until the end of the Clinton administration.

In 2002, Cuomo ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York, finishing a dismal second in the Democratic primary. He passed on a 2006 gubernatorial bid when Eliot Spitzer entered the race. Instead, Cuomo chose to run for New York State Attorney General, winning by a margin of over 20% of the overall vote and taking New York City in a landslide. The Comeback Kid was back.

As Attorney General, Cuomo’s office investigated and admonished the Spitzer administration during Troopergate, which Joseph Mondello called a disturbing and unprecedented abuse of gubernatorial power. A later Senate investigation confirmed Cuomo’s finding that “a lot of misjudgments were made, but there was no criminality.” However, Cuomo never interviewed Spitzer, and the issue died after Spitzer was forced to resign in 2008 for unrelated reasons.

During his time as Attorney General, Cuomo also spearheaded an investigation into the lending policy at American universities, which had previously been steering students towards preferred lenders who charged higher interest rates. He also successfully applied pressure on Verizon, Time Warner, and Sprint to shut down most of their hosted Usenet groups, which had previously been used to circulate child pornography.

At President Obama’s personal request, Cuomo became the Democratic candidate in the 2010 New York gubernatorial election after then-Governor David Paterson stepped aside. Cuomo’s Republican opponent was Carl Paladino, who was strongly supported by the Tea Party movement. Cuomo won, nearly doubling Paladino’s final vote count.

Cuomo’s first budget slashed state spending, making him the first Governor in over a decade to address New York’s growing budget deficit directly. At the same time, he also avoided any large tax increases. The “liberal’s liberal” has abandoned many of his old leftist advisors in favor of a decidedly conservative fiscal policy. Many see this move as an implicit announcement of his 2016 candidacy for President of the United States.

Cuomo’s strong stand against crime and corruption is among his greatest assets in a future presidential bid. However, he opposes the death penalty, which could cost him some votes.

Although Cuomo successfully defeated a candidate with strong Tea Party support, his popularity is still regional. He could overcome this limitation by following up on his early budgetary moves with more fiscally conservative policies. His opposition to large property tax increases and income tax surtax increases won’t hurt either. Other possible steps would be to eliminate the “forever contracts” under New York’s Triborough Amendment and to convert state employee pension plans into standard 401(k) retirement plans.

Cuomo’s heaviest liability may be his HUD legacy, especially his advocacy for increased home ownership by low-income earners. Cuomo encouraged lenders to provide loans to as many people as possible, in an effort to end discrimination against minorities. He also pushed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy more mortgages issued to poor homeowners. However, Cuomo did not ask the lenders to obliterate financial requirements for home ownership altogether, and he had nothing whatsoever to do with the repackaging of toxic mortgage assets into new and unstable financial products.

Under other circumstances, this would have been a gift to the GOP. However, Cuomo’s current fiscal policies will probably erase any political baggage from his HUD past.

Andrew Cuomo is not making a presidential bid in 2012. If he does become the first New York Governor in years to eliminate the budget deficit, he will be well-placed to become an instant presidential frontrunner in 2016.

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