Cuomo says he’s not running for President, while his operatives leak names from a VP shortlist

Andrew Cuomo‘s most senior circle of political advisors are torn over whether the third-term Governor should seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination this year, on the floor of the Democratic National Convention later this year — or whether he should wait to run for president in 2024.

As senior party officials and political operatives in Washington continue to plead with Cuomo to replace former Vice President Joe Biden as the party’s nominee, all of his public statements have denied that he is interested in running this election cycle, though his longstanding ambitions on the White House have been widely known for at least the last two-and-a-half decades.

The vast majority of Cuomo’s advisors think that he should position himself as the heir apparent nominee in 2024, when Trump is likely to be ending his second term and both parties will have open primaries.

But an influential and growing faction of those Cuomo trusts most — a group rumored to include his former Executive Secretary Joe Percoco — worry that punting until 2024 would be a redux of Governor Mario Cuomo‘s decision not to run for President in 1992, when George H.W. Bush was fresh off the Gulf War and looked insurmountable.  The elder Cuomo decided to punt until 1996, but those plans were thwarted by Bill Clinton‘s presidential win that year and Cuomo’s own gubernatorial loss to George Pataki in 1994.

Despite Mario Cuomo’s extraordinary rhetorical talents, his uncommonly sharp mind, and his deep-seated ideological drive, he was unable to secure a fourth term as Governor of New York.  He lost to a moderate State Senator from Poughkeepsie who ran an under-the-radar campaign against the death penalty and in support of common sense law-and-order issues at a time when criminality engulfed the State’s major cities.

Percoco worries that ‘political shelf-life’ will prevent a fourth Cuomo term.

Most operatives in Cuomo’s orbit agree that, if he does win, he would need a tactically chosen Vice Presidential nominee in order to whip enough votes on the floor of the convention to secure the nomination.  They postulate that Cuomo’s running mate must be a woman, must be seen as representing the ‘progressive left’, and must be able to mobilize at least one faction of the Democrat Party’s identity politics strategy.

One of Cuomo’s closest operatives, who would undoubtedly and eagerly be involved in any presidential fundraising effort, is aware of the Governor’s shortlist.  He shared only a few of the names on that list with The Chronicle. 

Representative Barbara Lee, Oakland, California

Congresswoman Lee represents California’s 13th district in the San Francisco Bay area.  Lee has served since 1998. She was born in El Paso, TX, and grew up in Southern California before graduating from Mills College and the University of California at Berkeley.  Lee formerly Chaired the Congressional Black Caucus (2009–2011) and the current whip and former co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (2005–2009). She is the Vice-Chair and a founding member of the LGBT Equality Caucus.  Lee has played a major role in the antiwar movement, notable for her vocal criticism of the Iraq War and for being the only member of Congress to vote against the authorization of use of force following the September 11 attacks.

Nominating Lee as the Vice Presidential nominee would likely secure California’s very large delegation at the Democratic National Convention — especially if Biden declines to nominate Senator Kamela Harris as his running mate.

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Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Honolulu, Hawaii

Congresswoman Gabbard was the first female combat veteran to run for President and is the first Hindu American to be elected to Congress, where she represented Hawaii’s 3rd district since 2012. She served to tours of duty; in Iraq from 2004 to 2005; and in Kuwait from 2008 to 2009.  She was a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2013 to 2016, when she resigned to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Gabbard supports a Medicare for All health care plan, co-sponsored the Family Act for paid family and medical leave, and endorsed universal basic income.

Nominating Gabbard as his running mate would likely be a general election strategy to drive up turnout among Hindu Americans, a substantial and growing demographic (especially in suburban swing districts that often determine control of the House of Representatives).  Her nomination is not seen as carrying many delegates at the convention but could be powerful in helping the Democrats retain control of the House — whether or not the ticket ultimately wins the White House.

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State Representative Stacy Abrams, Atlanta, Georgia

Representative Abrams has served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017 and served as minority leader from 2011 to 2017.  In 2018 Abrams was the first African-American female major-party gubernatorial nominee in the United States but lost narrowly to Brian Kemp. In February 2019, she became the first African-American woman to deliver a response to the State of the Union address. In 2002, at age 29, Abrams was appointed Deputy City Attorney for the City of Atlanta. Abrams is a graduate of Spelman College (BA), the University of Texas at Austin (MPA), and Yale University Law School (JD).

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Representative Sharice Davids, Kansas City, Kansas

Representative Davids is the first Native American woman elected to Congress.  She represents Kansas’s 3rd district, and is the first openly gay person to represent Kansas in Congress. Davids is a former professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter, is a Cornell educated attorney, and worked as a tribal administrator on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Nominating a Native American woman to the ticket could put some largely rural and typically Republican-leaning States into play.  For instance, indigenous people comprise 15% of the general population in Alaska, and in some years nearly 20% of the vote in the sparsely populated State.  In other small States like South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Mexico; and other narrowly divided swing states like Arizona, North Carolina, and Minnesota; a bloc-vote mobilization of the constituency could be powerful despite relatively small numbers.

Perhaps equally as powerful is that sovereign tribal governments, in recent years, have emerged as influential regional political players across the country, but as a constituency the community hasn’t been well organized by either of the major parties.

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