In politics it’s never too early to start planning – the 2022 race for governor

The electronic devices that nearly everyone uses today do many, many things.  They keep us connected.  They are our reference library.  They remind us about what we are doing and are scheduled to do.

As great as that help may be, or maybe as bad, in politics planning for regular practitioners is mentally in high drive even before a word is typed or a meeting scheduled on your favorite word processing and scheduling device.

So it is in New York State.  There will be a race for governor in 2022, but already the wheels are turning.  Party endorsements will occur by next January or early February.  Petitioning will begin just about twelve months from now.

The past twelve months have been a very difficult time for the state.  As of March 1, 47,143 of our fellow New Yorkers have died from the coronavirus in the past year.  The sub-set of that tragic story is that 33 percent of those deaths occurred in the state’s nursing facilities. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been the face of the New York’s response to the virus.  For the longest time he received much praise for his work.  Over the past several weeks, however, the reporting about the Governor’s role in management of pandemic issues has come into question.

The State Legislature last year granted extraordinary powers to the governor to manage COVID related issues through April 30, 2021 as well as the operation of the state’s budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which ends on March 31.  Bi-partisan efforts to rein in the governor’s powers have been gaining steam, but the end or modification of current arrangements will be easier said than done.

The natural offshoot of the COVID-nursing home issues is a jumping off point for the 2022 election for governor.  If the starter’s flag has not already been waved, it is certainly in her hands.

Governor Cuomo may not announce his intentions to run for a fourth term, or not to run, for many months.  That does not mean that some planning is not already ongoing for that race.

Cuomo, as of January 10th, had $16.8 million in his campaign treasury.  Four years ago, at this stage, Cuomo had $21.86 million in the bank.  In his previous four statewide runs for office Cuomo has demonstrated that he can collect substantial donations for the campaigns.

Andrew Cuomo’s father Mario failed in his 1994 attempt to be elected governor a fourth time.  Would that be a motivation for Andrew wanting to go for four next year?

Cuomo’s polling numbers continue to be strong, although they have dropped some as news about investigations into the nursing facility deaths and public interest in the subject picks up.  Daily headlines about legislators, Attorney General Leticia James, the FBI, and the Justice Department probing the activities of the Cuomo administration have a negative effect.

Then there is the growing controversy about alleged sexual harassment charges against the governor. Three former employees of the governor have come forward. The Albany Times Union this past Sunday also reported on the aggressive, bullying style of Cuomo and his major operatives. The investigation of those serious allegations is taking on a life of its own and will appear regularly in the news media over the next several months.

There’s an expression in politics:  when you’re explaining, you’re losing.  Cuomo is now explaining.

The governor’s problems, of course, lead potentially to Republican opportunities.  While the Cuomo election campaigns have all been blowouts, with Republicans struggling to find a candidate and then struggling to get that campaign going, such may not be the case in 2022.

At this point in time, Republicans getting some attention include:

  • Southern Tier Congressman Tom Reed
  • Albany area Congresswoman Elise Stefanik
  • Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin
  • Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, who was the 2018 Republican candidate for governor
  • Businessman Harry Wilson

None of those names are known to most New Yorkers, but then early in 1994, who ever heard of George Pataki, a State Senator from the Hudson Valley?

The members of the House who may be in the running have all been staunch supporters of the former guy who was the country’s 45th president.  Whether any of them might be the former guy’s prime choice for governor is debatable.

Molinaro ran a credible race for governor, but he was badly underfunded and lost by 1.4 million votes.  Wilson’s name has been coming up every four years for statewide office, but he has never taken up the party on their entreaties.

The only one of the five potential candidates who at this time has an active New York State campaign account is Molinaro, who has $14,675 in his treasury.  The members of Congress would need to set up non-federal accounts.

COVID matters, particularly concerning the nursing facility issues, are probably going to be a leading issue in 2022.  Cuomo is certainly not without accomplishments.  Management of COVID care, testing, and vaccinations can work to his benefit in the election.  There will be other issues like budget management, economic development, education, the state’s infrastructure, etc. that could also come to the forefront, but not necessarily to the governor’s advantage.

If by chance Cuomo decides not to run for re-election the Democratic Party may have to scramble to find the right candidate. Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul might want to take a shot at it. In 2018 she won a difficult primary election for lieutenant governor against Jumaane Williams, who was a New York City Councilmember and is now New York City Public Advocate.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has cruised to victory in his four statewide races.  Attorney General James won by 1.6 million votes against a relatively unknown Republican in 2018.  Democratic House members or local officials such as county executives could be a source of potential Democratic candidates for governor.

New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio has suggested he might run for governor, inspired perhaps by his great results in the Iowa presidential caucus last year.

The problem that each alternative candidate would face, other than perhaps DiNapoli or James, is that as long as Andrew Cuomo remains as the expected nominee of the party it would be hard for them to gain any traction or to do very well in raising money.

Andrew Cuomo has dominated New York State politics for the past eleven years and remains the candidate to beat if he runs again in 2022.  He is now facing the most serious problems of his administration, and things have not been going well.

There is speculation that Cuomo, in the face of his problems, might resign the office, making Kathy Hochul the governor.  Such a move would seem to run counter to the way Cuomo operates.

For history buffs, it should be noted that Ellicott Spitzer resigned amid a scandal in mid-March 2008.  Beware the Ides of March! 

In the meantime the political attacks and posturing will continue and escalate.  Buy some popcorn.  The show is just beginning.

For detailed reporting and analysis of local news, check out the latest articles on Investigative Post, including my Money in Politics reports and podcasts.  This week Geoff Kelly and I cover the campaign financials of Congressman Brian Higgins.

Follow me on Twitter @kenkruly

Reapportionment – coming soon to your neighborhood

There are a lot of issues thrown around these days concerning the United States Constitution.  Like during the second impeachment trial of the 45th president, when some Republicans claimed that you cannot impeach a president who is out of office, bi-partisan constitutional scholarship to the contrary.  Or like when a president incites an armed mob to attack the United States Capitol – that’s not a constitutional high crime and misdemeanor according to the 43 senators who voted to acquit “the former guy,” Joe Biden’s nickname for his predecessor.

One constitutional requirement that nearly everyone accepts is that a census of all persons living in the United States must be taken every ten years, something that has been done since 1790.  There have been modifications, from time-to-time, about how the census is conducted.

Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that:

Representatives … shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union…. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

The apportionment of representatives is also used, along with each state’s senators, to determine the number of Electoral College votes the states will have in subsequent presidential elections.

Demographics, local economic and tax climates, population shifts, and a host of other reasons have left New York State once again in a losing situation.  Our 27 member House delegation will go down to 26 when the next Congress convenes in January 2023.  As recently as 1960 the state had 43 House members.

Our loss will be another state’s gain since the number of House members is set at 435.  Florida, Texas and North Carolina will be among the winners.  California, with the largest current delegation (53) might also lose a seat as people leave the state.  Texas has gained the most from shifting populations.  Hmm.  Wonder how that will work going forward.  Come to Texas: bring your own water and generator!

The new reapportionment for 2022 congressional elections will be the first one produced following a United States Supreme Court decision that terminated provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which required certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to get pre-clearance of their district line drawings from the Justice Department.

The first step in the redistricting process is to get the population numbers, broken down by census tracts.  The United States Census Bureau, given some bureaucratic screw-ups during The Former Guy administration, recently announced that they would not be able to provide the required data until September 30.

That presents a problem.  While political leaders and incumbent legislators likely have some general idea about how they might want to redraw the lines, real work cannot begin until the numbers are in.

Procedures on how reapportionment is conducted, technically and politically, will vary from state to state.  Trifecta states (one party control of the governor’s office and both houses of the state legislature) will be the most political in drawing new districts.  New York, of course, is a trifecta state.

The congressional lines that we have had in New York since 2012 were drawn by federal Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, serving as special master, after the politically divided Legislature failed to act.  Republicans controlled the state Senate at that time.  A federal three-judge panel approved the new congressional districts in March 2012, one day before candidates could begin circulating petitions to qualify for the ballot.  

Now, with a Democratic super-majority in both houses, it seems likely the 2012 history will not be repeated.  There is a ten member commission that will recommend the congressional and state legislative districts.  The state Legislature, however, can and will feel free to tweak those lines to serve their purposes.

Currently there are nineteen Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation and eight Republicans.  David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, a publication that does much of their work on congressional election analysis, has suggested that lines could be drawn to set up the opportunity for Democrats to reduce the Republican caucus in the New York delegation by up to five members.

Who knows how that will work out?  Considering that the trifecta states of Texas and Florida, plus North Carolina, where the Republicans in the state legislature are in effective control, have the power to move up to six seats from Democrats to the party of the former guy, it will be tempting for Democrats in New York to reciprocate.

The New York Legislature will also control the redesign of their own districts.  Considering that Democrats were able to flip the Senate under lines drawn by Republicans, they should be able to make their super-majority pretty solid.  Actually it is hard to imagine how many decades it might be before the Republicans, or whatever they call themselves in the future, can reclaim even one house of the Legislature.

Locally there could be some tidying up in places such as the 60th senatorial district, which runs from Tonawanda, then grabs just enough of Buffalo heading to places south, ending in Hamburg.  The Republicans drew that district for Mark Grisanti in 2012.  He lost the next election.  Sean Ryan currently holds the seat.

The 2022 election cycle depends on the redistricting that will be on the table this fall.  Time will be needed to draw the lines, vet them to the extent they are legally required to be vetted, and then get everything ready for the 2022 elections that will kick off with petitioning in February 2022; so more or less four months to get everything done.  That is a tight schedule under the best of circumstances, but not to worry, the New York Legislature is in charge.

New census numbers will also filter down to county legislatures and city councils which will need to do their own redistricting.  Erie County has started the technical process by beginning to set up a commission.

It will not be possible to redraw county legislative districts for this year’s elections; the Buffalo Common Council elections are not until 2023.  It may be that the county legislative and council districts for part of 2022 and into 2023 might have to assign weighted votes to existing districts since it will be possible to determine how many residents each current district has.  It has happened before.

Redistricting is an arcane and highly technical process that will be easy to overlook when so many other pandemic and economic issues are the focus of the public’s attention.  The redistricting work, however, is very important and will have a wide impact for the next ten years.

Follow me on Twitter @kenkruly

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