Freshman State Senator Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) did not attend Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s invitation-only rally celebrating the passage of an additional $500 million public investment in the region’s economic revival last Tuesday.
Jacobs’ absence has political operatives speculating whether or not the Governor has shifted his political posture. Will he continue to back — some say even architect — the GOP-controlled governing coalition in the State Senate?
For years, Cuomo has labored to maintain an Upstate base of support with more centrist, fiscally moderate policies that earned him record high approval ratings during his first term in office. At the crux of that majority was the 60th district senate seat — held for two terms by Republican Mark Grisanti, with whom Cuomo shared a close political alliance.
That has operatives wondering whether the Governor intentionally did not invite Senator Jacobs. The attendance of Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo), Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), and Assemblyman Angelo Morinello (R-Niagara Falls) was prominently and repeatedly featured throughout the Governor’s presentation.
If Cuomo is backing away from the State Senate’s Republican caucus, it is likely motivated by his well publicized presidential ambitions. Following the unexpectedly strong candidacy of Bernie Sanders, major shortcomings in the establishment coalition were exposed plainly. Cuomo is thought to be recalculating his reading of the political landscape for 2020, and wants to improve his relationship with the left wing of the party.
A Democrat-controlled State Senate will allow Cuomo to quickly pass a left leaning political agenda just prior to announcing his candidacy for President. He has already taken decidedly more liberal positions on immigration, a powerful issue downstate that is more politically complicated upstate. The state will soon be funding attorneys to represent those undergoing the immigration enforcement process.
It is unclear whether Cuomo will be perceived as carrying the proverbial torch of leadership in a state that will always be more to the left than the handful of swing states that Cuomo must win to win the presidency: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Some operatives think the Governor would be better advised to continue supporting a bipartisan governing coalition in the Senate chamber — especially at a time of hyper partisanship when voters are increasingly desperate for a leader capable of governing.
The presidency will be won or lost in the Rust Belt.