BY ANDREW SOLENDER
As a liberal who takes voting very seriously, I do not take lightly the decision to vote Republican. I, like most of my fellow liberals, believe the national Republican party has been deeply corrupted by Trump and populist politics as well as white identity politics, and has propped up dangerously ignorant and malicious stances on everything from immigration to climate change. Also like many of my fellow liberals, I believe it is crucial to put country, and state, before party. Republicans have, time and time again, failed to properly check the corrupt, unethical, and illegal behavior of the Trump administration. Therefore, I would not cast a ballot for any congressional Republicans, and certainly not for Donald Trump. But, in maintaining philosophical consistency, I will not vote to reelect Democratic New York governor Andrew Cuomo either. Instead, I will vote for Republican Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County Executive.
New York has spawned legendary political leaders such as Alexander Hamilton, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt. But it has also played host to some of the most corrupt politicians in American history: Boss Tweed, Donald Trump, and, I believe, Andrew Cuomo. Throughout his rocky tenure as Governor, Cuomo has seen a continuous drip of corruption-related news stories in much the same fashion as the Trump administration.
In March, one of Cuomo’s top aides and closest confidants Joseph Percoco was found guilty of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from an energy company. Then in July, Alain E. Kaloyeros, a close ally of Cuomo, was found guilty of corruption after it was revealed that he rigged lucrative government contracts to go to top Cuomo contributors. Those convictions followed the 2015 convictions of former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an ally of Cuomo, and former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Cuomo once referred to himself and the two legislative leaders as the “three amigos.” Even if we’re to believe that Cuomo had no hand in any of the crimes of his subordinates and allies, which is a questionable assumption at best, it is still abundantly clear that he has surrounded himself with unscrupulous individuals. He has also fostered an environment, both within his staff and in Albany, where the crimes of his associates were tolerated, if not facilitated. We simply cannot allow this behavior from our elected officials.
Cuomo is also a shameless player of political games and a ruthless party boss, reminiscent of old Tammany bosses. Sure, he puts on a good song and dance for progressive voters every four years, but in reality, Cuomo’s true ideology is self-service. It has been argued by many political observers that Cuomo supported the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a recently disbanded group of Democratic state senators who caucused with Republicans for the past 7 years, giving them the majority, so that he could sign watered-down legislation to build a centrist profile for a possible presidential run. He has been given enormous financial backing from the powerful real estate lobby, which have, in turn, reaped the benefits of their benefaction. He wasn’t afraid to go low in his primary campaign against actress Cynthia Nixon, which is no surprise. After all, according to the Post, he has been “playing dirty politics for years.”
And now, after 8 years in the Governor’s mansion, what does he have to show for his wheeling and dealing? Despite promises to jumpstart the upstate economy, projects like Start-Up NY, which lost the state millions in tax money while creating a measly amount of jobs, have been utter failures. Meanwhile, while job numbers have risen and unemployment has decreased–keeping with national trends between 2011 and 2018–New York’s economic growth has lagged behind national growth. In fact, in 2011, New York’s unemployment rate was nearly a point lower than the national unemployment rate. Now, it is half a point higher. What economic growth we have seen has been concentrated downstate–80 percent of jobs created in the last 7 years were in New York City. No wonder he’s so unpopular upstate.
But let’s not be so quick to congratulate New York City for its successes under Cuomo. Anybody who lives in the boroughs will attest to the fact that Cuomo’s MTA has presided over perhaps the lowest point for the New York City subway system in recent memory. Who could forget the 2017 summer of hell, when delays, track fires and general pandemonium in the underground were the rule rather than the exception. 2018 was arguably a repeat of that chaos, and future summers will likely prove to be no different. Meanwhile, Cuomo has been on an asinine mission to blame New York City for these problems while trying to force them to fund his lackluster solutions.
Now consider Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro, the Republican candidate for Governor. Though he is way down in the polls and unlikely to win, he is still worth voting for, if for no other reason than to keep a clean moral and philosophical conscience.
To be clear, despite Cuomo’s claims, Molinaro is a moderate Republican and not a Trump-like figure by any stretch of the imagination. He has supported LGBT rights, said he would protect existing abortion rights and has voted against hydraulic fracking when he was a state assemblyman. He has a solid record when it comes to protecting the environment, regulating charter schools and supporting public education, and supporting folks with disabilities such as autism. He has also said he won’t take donations from the NRA and has expressed a desire to combat income inequality, citing his compelling, personal underdog story as the source of his moderate fiscal views. While he insists he is a dedicated conservative, he’s got plenty to offer liberals. He is, in the context of modern politics, a centrist.
He also carries with him a stellar record as Dutchess County executive. After becoming a Tivoli village trustee at just 18, Molinaro quickly climbed the political ladder to become a mayor, assemblyman and, eventually, county executive. “He’s recognized as a good county executive,” political science professor Richard Born told me in an interview. Born’s statement is backed up by Molinaro’s landslide reelection victory in 2015 in which he defeated his Democratic opponent with a whopping 63 percent in a county that actually has a slight Democratic advantage in voter registration.
It’s no surprise he’s so popular even among his Democratic constituents. He has turned Dutchess around financially, taking it from a $40 million deficit to a $20 million surplus while reducing property taxes. He has also introduced a robust plan to combat the opioid epidemic in Dutchess County. He has also, as I mentioned, been a champion for people with disabilities. In 2017, he was one of the few upstate Republicans to call out the disastrous state of Cuomo’s MTA. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Molinaro, unlike Cuomo, is not dogged by countless political and legal scandals. That alone should make the choice abundantly clear.
In order to put state before party, Democrats should cast partisan politics aside and vote for Republican Marc Molinaro for governor.