ALBANY — If Gov. Cuomo does run for President in 2020, he might seek to use the first few months of the legislative session beginning in January as his springboard.
With the Democrats set to control both houses of the Legislature for the first time in a decade, a host of progressive legislation that has been bottled up for years by Republicans is set to move forward come January. They include strengthening the state’s abortion rights laws, additional gun control measures, and voting and other electoral reforms.
Cuomo has had an uneasy relationship with many on the the left wing of the Democratic Party even after successful efforts during his first two terms to legalize gay marriage, strengthen the state’s gun control laws, raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour, and create a statewide paid family leave program.
““If Cuomo is going to run for President in 2020, he’s going to want to use the first three months of the legislative session to win over progressives,” said one prominent Democratic insider. “If he does big voter reforms and campaign finance reform, that’s potent.”
Even progressive activists who initially fought against Cuomo’s reelection to a third term as governor this year acknowledge quick passage of liberal initiatives could boost him nationally.
“It’s ironic,” said one. “He spent years emboldening the Republicans in the (state) Senate who blocked many of the issues that could now help him moving forward if the Democrats pass them next year.”
Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York and co-chairwoman of the Working Families Party, which initially backed actress Cynthia Nixon for governor until she was trounced by Cuomo in the Democratic primary, said activists will be watching to see if Cuomo “challenges corporate power in Albany.”
“That means passing his proposal for small donor public financing for campaigns as an alternative to big money, and making corporations and the very rich pay their fair share in taxes,” she said.
The recent deal to bring Amazon to New York City could hurt Cuomo, Scharff added.
“The energized grassroots base will be critical to winning in 2020, and giving $3 billion in tax breaks to Amazon isn’t going to mobilize the masses,” she said.
Cuomo continues to insist he will not run for President.
“I’m focused on the governorship,” he said during a recent radio interview. “I’m a one-thing-at-a-time kind of guy. I love what I’m doing. I have a full agenda. I’m going to stay focused on where I am and what I am.”
But he also made clear he believes the best chance for Democrats to take back the White House is to pick someone who is a doer like him.
“It’s going to be a very important call for the Democratic party. Who they pick and why is a very important conversation,” Cuomo said. “I don’t believe in rhetorical, theoretical leadership.”
A Cuomo administration official reiterated that the governor has said he will serve a full term unless “God strikes me dead.”
“It’s silly that people think the governor has to take any actions to prove progressive credentials,” the official added. “We heard the pundits for the past year, then the people spoke and the governor won an overwhelming primary victory affirming his historic progressive record of accomplishments.”
State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Suffolk County) dismissed talk he might join the Democrats when they take over the majority in January.
“I registered Republican the day I turned 18,” Boyle said.
Boyle said he’s not worried about no longer being a majority member who can chair a committee, more easily get bills passed, and bring home more money for local projects.
He added: “I spent 16 years as a Republican assemblyman, I know what it’s like to be in the minority. I think you can get things accomplished as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”
Gov. Cuomo last week met with more than two dozen union leaders to thank them for their help with his re-election and to talk about moving forward in 2019, sources say.
The dinner is said to have taken place at Fresco by Scotto restaurant on E. 52nd Street on Monday night.
Cuomo, according to one labor source, thanked the group for their efforts, but added that “it’s not good enough to win, we need to get things accomplished by working together.”
“It was one of the best of those meetings he’s done,” the union source said. “He was focused, clear eyed. He was thoughtful. He talked concretely about the different priorities.”
Another labor source said it was also an opportunity for union leaders to thank Cuomo for his efforts in recent years.
“The governor has forged a genuinely deep relationship with labor leaders and I think he wants people to remain on the same page with him,” the source said.