Cuomo Wins Third Term in New York, Matching His Father
Posted November 6, 2018 9:31 p.m. EST
NEW YORK — Andrew M. Cuomo was resoundingly elected to a third term as governor of New York on Tuesday, riding Democratic enthusiasm in a deep blue state to beat back his Republican challenger and capture a victory for the party’s old guard.
In defeating Marcus J. Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, Cuomo, 60, mirrored his success in the September primary, in which he defeated Cynthia Nixon, the actress and education advocate. The race was called by The Associated Press shortly after polls had closed at 9 p.m.
The general election campaign was far less fraught than the primary for Cuomo, who lampooned Molinaro, 43, as a “Trump mini-me” and described him as part of an “extreme conservative” movement that posed dire fiscal and social threats to New York.
In winning a third term, Cuomo matched the feat of his father, Mario M. Cuomo, who served three terms from 1983 through 1994. The governor also burnished an electoral résumé that could be used to further his ample political ambition: Like his father, Cuomo has been mentioned as a possible presidential contender, though he has denied such ambitions. Still, the convincing win on Tuesday will most likely continue to fuel such speculation.
Victory did not come cheaply. Cuomo spent more than $32.5 million since January to secure his third term, vastly more than all his opponents combined. He used the money to promote a record that has included legalizing same-sex marriage, increasing the minimum wage and establishing a paid family leave program.
Those successes were more than enough to overcome two major corruption trials tied to his administration this year, as well as a crescendo of complaints about New York City’s deteriorating subways, which he oversees through his appointees on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The Albany that Cuomo will return to will be different from the one he has led for nearly eight years. With the victories of a clutch of young, progressive Democrats to the state Legislature, the agenda in Albany may soon include a number of left-leaning initiatives, such as single-payer health care and the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Republicans, meanwhile, continued an inglorious streak, having not won a statewide race since Gov. George E. Pataki was elected to a third term in 2002.
The odds in New York are almost always against Republicans, as Democrats have more than a 2-1 advantage in voter registration. Molinaro seemingly had tried to woo some moderates by running a campaign that largely avoided social issues, though his past votes as a state assemblyman against same-sex marriage had been a potent source of attack for the Cuomo camp.
Molinaro, who was elected mayor of Tivoli, New York, at 19, had also been unable to completely shed the association with President Donald Trump, who is very unpopular in his home state; although he did not vote for Trump in 2016, he said he could embrace some of his policies if they were helpful to New York.
Molinaro was also outgunned financially by Cuomo, an avid and successful fundraiser who entered the closing days of the campaign with $6.7 million on hand, while Molinaro had only about $311,000, a pittance considering the costs of ads in New York City. (Cuomo had spent more than $20 million to handily defeat Nixon in the primary.)
Cuomo maximized the power of incumbency, rolling out a steady series of events and official announcements, as well as being a regular presence on news programs in the wake of last month’s bomb attempts on public figures and media outlets. The governor made effective use of the state’s labor unions, which lent their support and resources to help quash Nixon and Molinaro.
And Cuomo gave little oxygen to Molinaro, accepting only one invitation to debate, resulting in a single fractious hourlong encounter between the two major-party candidates. (Three minor-party candidates had also challenged Cuomo: Stephanie Miner, the former mayor of Syracuse; Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate; and Larry Sharpe, a libertarian.)
Cuomo has said little about what he specifically wants to do during a third term, though major infrastructure projects have been a passion of his, including a new Hudson River crossing that he named for his father.
Molinaro and other Republicans had hoped that Cuomo would be vulnerable despite his obvious advantages. In particular, they hoped that the convictions of a close friend and former top aide, Joseph Percoco, and Cuomo’s economic guru, Alain E. Kaloyeros, on federal corruption charges earlier this year would give pause to voters far too accustomed to scandals in Albany.
Cuomo’s name was repeatedly mentioned during both trials, though the governor was never accused of any wrongdoing, and had gone so far as to suggest that the lack of any charges was a positive sign of his own ethical behavior.
A combative and unapologetic political tactician, Cuomo — a centrist by nature — has tacked left during Trump’s time in the White House, repeatedly attacking the president’s efforts on immigration and other issues, including his tax plan, which the governor has called an “economic missile” aimed at New York. After years of working closely with Republicans in Albany, the governor also brokered a treaty between two warring factions of Democrats in the state Senate.