HEMPSTEAD — A week after the Santa Fe high school shooting, Gov. Cuomo accepted the state Democratic Party’s nomination for governor by promising additional gun laws, including raising the age to purchase firearms in New York to 21.
Cuomo ripped into President Trump and congressional Republicans for refusing to act again and again as the number of mass shootings in America has grown.
“Look how far we have sunk.” Cuomo said. “Why can’t our national leaders be as smart as our high school students? The answer is because they are a wholly owned subsidiary of the (National Rifle Association). They sold their souls and they sold their conscience for political contributions.”
Cuomo touted New York’s passage of his tough anti-gun control law known as the SAFE Act in the aftermath of the 2012 mass Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and promised the state will go further if Congress won’t act.
He said the state will raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, up from 18, which was somewhat of a surprise. In March he downplayed the idea by arguing that doing so nationally would have affected just 13% of the mass shootings over the past 50 years.
Cuomo also again said he will push to increase the waiting period for some gun purchase background checks to 10 days, up from the current three, and also will pass a “red flag” gun law that would make it easier to confiscate guns from people considered a threat to themselves and others.
The gun issue was just one in which Cuomo outlined plans during his 48-minute speech to fight back against what he called Trump and Washington’s attack on New York and the middle class.
The message was interspersed with his argument, in the face of criticism from the left that he is not progressive enough, that the Democratic Party’s liberal talk must be backed up with accomplishments.
Cuomo is facing an aggressive primary challenge by actress/activist Cynthia Nixon, who has accused him of governing more like a Republican. Cuomo got more than 95% of the delegate vote on Wednesday while Nixon, who briefly attended the convention, fell far short of the 25% she needed to secure a guaranteed spot on the September primary ballot.
Instead, she said she will try to petition her way on to the ballot.
Without mentioning Nixon, the primary challenge, or political foe Mayor de Blasio, Cuomo argued that as Democrats, “accomplishments actually matter to our people. This is real life.”
He said the public doesn’t “want pontification from an ivory tower,” but ideas, skill and competence that will help them.
Cuomo got support on the issue from former Vice President Joseph Biden and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, who both preceded the governor during the closing day of the two-day state Democratic convention at Hofstra University.
Perez called Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul “charter members of the accomplishment wing of the Democratic party.”
“Where I come from, you don’t have to choose between your heart and your soul,” he said “It’s a phony debate.”
Nixon’s campaign during the speech hit Cuomo for going after teacher and other public sector unions in his first term, accused him of short-changing needy schools, and said he has taken actions to help the rich.
“The Governor has stumbled badly in his campaign so far, as Cynthia has effectively exposed just how conservative Cuomo really is,” Nixon campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said. “Now he is trying to reset this week by hiding behind endorsements, but all the big names in the world can’t hide the Governor’s Republican record.”
Frequent Cuomo foe and Nixon friend Mayor de Blasio was asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” if he thought Nixon could win.
“Yes. Absolutely yes. Progressives and the change-agents in the party and the people who did not accept the previous status quo have the wind at their back,” he said.
Despite the criticisms, Biden argued that Cuomo “has never backed away from his progressive principle. not one single time.”
Another backdrop of Cuomo’s speech was talk that he is eying a potential presidential run in 2020. Cuomo spent much time on problems with Washington and the Republican agenda and the need for Democrats to learn from the loss to Trump to better reach out to the middle class he says Trump used during the election and is abusing while governing.
He promised to protect immigrants, including pushing for passage of a state DREAM Act that would give access to state tuition programs to the children born in America to undocumented immigrants.
He hit Trump for not delivering on his promise of a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan by saying as governor he put forward a $100 billion rebuilding plan to undertake such projects as the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, the rebuilding of JFK and LaGuardia Airports, and the Moynihan train station across from Penn Station.
Cuomo promised $150 billion more in building projects moving forward.
While he did not mention Nixon, he did take a direct shot at Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, who on Wednesday received the GOP nomination for governor. Without mentioning Molinaro by name, he referred to the Republican as a “Trump mini-me.”
He also called for election of a Democratic House and state Senate that would allow for more progressive legislation to be passed.
“New York is going to rise up because New York is the alternative state to Trump’s America,” Cuomo said. “Let’s show them how we do it. Let’s lead New York forward and set an example for this nation.”
Larry Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said Cuomo appeared to be “talking to a much bigger audience in New York State and beyond, which is emphasized by having Tom Perez and Joe Biden as his warm up act.”