New York’s next gover­nor

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - PERSPECTIVE -

New York­ers are pre­sented this year with five can­di­dates for gover­nor who come with as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties, some good ideas and some not so good. For many vot­ers, es­pe­cially those who don’t just make check marks down a party line, the choice is likely to be far from clear.

And so it was for our ed­i­to­rial board, which con­sid­ered not mak­ing an en­dorse­ment this year at all. We de­bated whether to just lay out the pros and cons of the can­di­dates and leave it at that. That’s not some­thing we can re­call ever do­ing be­fore, how­ever, and in the end we con­cluded that if we’re go­ing to urge vot­ers to make a choice, we could do no less.

If you’re ex­pect­ing a full-throated en­dorse­ment, though, you’ve come to the wrong place. That’s not what we ar­rived at in the end; rather, we’ve made a choice based on a range of fac­tors — the can­di­dates, po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity, and the back­drop of poli­cies com­ing out of a pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion that risk real harm for New York, the na­tion and the world.

Yes, who New York­ers choose for gover­nor mat­ters that much, be­cause even with the slow ero­sion of its rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Congress, New York still mat­ters. It’s the fourth-largest state and the fi­nan­cial cen­ter of the world. It’s the birth­place of women’s rights and LGBT rights. It em­bod­ies the Amer­i­can melt­ing pot. With its wealth, its legacy, and its di­ver­sity come a spe­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to stand as a moral voice in Amer­ica.

The gu­ber­na­to­rial field this year in­cludes three mi­nor party can­di­dates whose sin­cer­ity we don’t doubt.

Howie Hawkins, a ship­ping com­pany line worker from Syracuse, is mak­ing his third bid for gover­nor on the Green Party line. He chides Gov. An­drew Cuomo for fail­ing to clean up cor­rup­tion, and fa­vors re­plac­ing the Ex­cel­sior Schol­ar­ship with a true free-tu­ition pro­gram, im­ple­ment­ing a sin­gle-payer health care in the state, and com­mit­ting to a 100 per­cent clean en­ergy plan by 2030.

Larry Sharpe, a busi­ness­man run­ning on the Lib­er­tar­ian line, calls for le­gal­iz­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana, less pros­e­cu­tion and im­pris­on­ment of non­vi­o­lent drug of­fend­ers, and var­i­ous steps to make the state more busi­ness-friendly and boost op­por­tu­ni­ties for women and mi­nori­ties. He would also re­lax gun con­trols and rene­go­ti­ate state pen­sion ar­range­ments.

There is also for­mer Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, run­ning on the Serve Amer­ica Move­ment line, which bills it­self as a bi­par­ti­san party (she’s a Demo­crat; her run­ning mate, Michael Volpe, is the Repub­li­can mayor of Pel­ham). Of par­tic­u­lar note is her bold pro­posal to elim­i­nate the state’s multi-bil­lion dol­lar eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment aid pro­gram and shift the spend­ing to in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing broad­band, as a bet­ter way to at­tract and re­tain busi­ness. As an ex­pe­ri­enced leader who knows both up­state and ur­ban is­sues, she is the most im­pres­sive mi­nor party can­di­date New York has seen in years.

Which brings us to the ma­jor par­ties. Mar­cus Moli­naro, the Dutchess County ex­ec­u­tive, is the most cred­i­ble can­di­date Repub­li­cans have put up in re­cent times. He’s es­pe­cially re­fresh­ing after the tea party bile of Carl Pal­adino and the al­most in­vis­i­ble bid of Rob As­torino.

Mr. Moli­naro puts forth some mod­er­ate, sen­si­ble ideas, in­clud­ing tak­ing over lo­cal costs of Med­i­caid over 10 years to re­lieve prop­erty taxes and save money through ef­fi­cien­cies, and im­pos­ing a 3 per­cent spend­ing cap on state govern­ment. He is clearly op­ti­mistic about find­ing $4 bil­lion worth of “cor­rup­tion sav­ings,” but root­ing out the cost of pay-to-play pol­i­tics is a noble goal. He would ap­point an in­de­pen­dent More­land Com­mis­sion to go after cor­rup­tion. And he talks about things not many Repub­li­can can­di­dates of­ten do, in­clud­ing sales taxes on in­ter­net pur­chases and a “red flag” law that would al­low fam­ily mem­bers to pe­ti­tion for guns to be taken away from rel­a­tives they con­sider dan­ger­ous.

Yet there are el­e­ments of Mr. Moli­naro’s can­di­dacy that give us pause. He sees no ur­gency to pro­tect women’s re­pro­duc­tive rights in state law, even in the face of an in­creas­ingly right-wing Supreme Court, say­ing New York can deal with that if it hap­pens. That’s a risky leap of faith to ask of vot­ers. Most dis­tress­ingly, though he says he’d stand up to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, he doesn’t dis­avow ads from the state Con­ser­va­tive Party, on whose line he is also run­ning, that say a vote for him is like a vote for Mr. Trump. If that is true, New York­ers should want noth­ing to do with him.

Fi­nally, there is Mr. Cuomo. We are con­cerned about the cor­rup­tion at the high­est lev­els of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, and about a con­tin­u­ing fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a ques­tion­able $25 mil­lion state grant to Crys­tal Run, a med­i­cal cor­po­ra­tion whose prin­ci­pals con­trib­uted heav­ily to his cam­paign. His scrap­ping of his More­land Com­mis­sion in ex­change for a weak ethics law was dis­ap­point­ing. So were episodes of re­tal­i­a­tion in his ad­min­is­tra­tion against whistle­blow­ers on sex­ual ha­rass­ment. He bears a big share of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mess in New York City’s mass tran­sit sys­tem. And his al­liance with Se­nate Repub­li­cans, which speeded state bud­get pas­sage, stymied progress on abor­tion and cam­paign fi­nance and ethics re­form.

There is no deny­ing, though, that Mr. Cuomo has done much good for New York. He low­ered taxes. He paid strong at­ten­tion to up­state through the Buf­falo Bil­lion and a sus­tained em­pha­sis on tech­nol­ogy in the Cap­i­tal Re­gion and points west. He’s held the line on state spend­ing. His prop­erty tax cap has mod­er­ated school taxes. He got mar­riage equal­ity and stronger gun con­trol passed. It’s no small achieve­ment that he got the new Tap­pan Zee bridge built.

And, im­por­tantly, he is one of the na­tion’s most force­ful voices in stand­ing up to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hurt­ful, big­oted and dam­ag­ing poli­cies on im­mi­gra­tion, taxes, and the en­vi­ron­ment.

How you cast your pre­cious vote is a per­sonal choice. You may want voice a protest on a third-party pick. You may like Mr. Moli­naro’s prom­ise of change, or pre­fer Mr. Cuomo’s prag­ma­tism.

Mr. Cuomo is far from per­fect. His mas­tery of trans­ac­tional pol­i­tics gets re­sults, but also yields re­gret­table com­pro­mise, es­pe­cially on ethics. We don’t know if the eth­i­cal cloud over him will pass.

Right now, though, we be­lieve he’s the right choice — a skilled politi­cian who gets things done, has his heart in the right place and is a firm op­po­nent of all that is wrong in Wash­ing­ton. Reser­va­tions and all, we en­dorse the gover­nor.

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