Lately, there has been plenty of nervous chatter in Democratic circles that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo will seek a political comeback.
Political wags tell me that Cuomo may attempt to resurrect the defunct New York State Liberal Party and nominate himself as its candidate for governor.
For the under-50 folks unfamiliar with the Liberal Party, here’s a little background: Founded in 1944 by leftists who abandoned the Communist-dominated American Labor Party, the Liberal Party provided the margin of victory for many like-minded Democrats and Republicans. Democrats endorsed included Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, and Robert F. Kennedy. Republicans were Jacob Javits, John Lindsay, and Rudy Giuliani.
Ironically, the Liberal Party went out of business in 2002 when its gubernatorial nominee, Andrew Cuomo, failed to receive the 50,000 votes required by law to maintain its ballot line.
Cuomo may have convinced himself that by running on the Liberal Party line he could win in a four-way race because sexual harassment criminal investigations into his behavior have been dropped by five district attorneys due to a lack of evidence.
Theoretically, that outcome is possible if the following were to occur: First, the Working Families Party candidate Jumaane Williams would have to receive at least 5 percent of the vote. Next, support for the Republican-Conservative candidate Lee Zeldin could not exceed his base, which is about 30 percent.
That would leave 65 percent of the remaining electorate for Gov. Kathy Hochul and Cuomo to tussle over.
If Cuomo’s traditional supporters—minorities, center-left Democrats and Independents—were to stick with him, he could get the 33% needed statewide to win.
Then again, such a plan could easily backfire and put Zeldin over the top. Yes, if enough centrists, particularly in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley area, say a pox upon the houses of Hochul and Cuomo and support Zeldin, he could pull off a surprise victory with a 33% plurality.
Frankly, I believe a Cuomo comeback is unlikely.
In my judgment, his coverup of nursing home COVID-related deaths will destroy his chances.
An audit released in March by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Cuomo’s COVID performance explains why Cuomo has much to fear. DiNapoli reported that “the public was misled by the highest level of state government and given a distorted version of reality that suppressed facts when they deserved the truth.”
Cuomo’s Department of Health:
– Understated the number of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19 by at least 4,100 and at times during the pandemic by more than 50 percent.
– Was slow to respond to a federal directive to conduct surveys of nursing homes for infection control problems, surveying just 20 percent of facilities between March 23 and May 30, 2020, compared with over 90 percent for some other states.
– Imposed impediments on the audit, including delaying requested data, limiting auditors’ contract with program staff, not addressing auditors’ questions during meetings and not providing supporting documentation.
The audit also revealed that the Department of Health was delinquent in performing its duties. Instead of being dedicated to promoting public health, it “conformed its presentation to the executive’s narrative”, (i.e., the former governor and members of his staff) “often presenting data in a matter that misled the public.”
Andrew Cuomo’s management of the reporting of COVID-nursing home deaths throughout the crisis “lacked transparency, and was at times, inaccurate, inconsistent, incomplete, and/or not amenable to analysis,” the audit said.
DiNapoli’s report concluded that consistent with Cuomo’s governing style, his DOH was “plagued by a threatening environment, closed ranks and lack[ed] commitment to openness—at the expense of the public’s trust.”
That’s quite an indictment!
If Cuomo jumps into the governor’s race, I am certain his opponents, and the families and friends of the more than 15,000 New Yorkers who died in nursing homes from COVID-19, will brandish the devastating DiNapoli report.
And that would sound the death knell for Cuomo’s restoration hopes.