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Political Action: Cuomo’s indecision on running for guv may harm Dems

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It seems it will be a while before state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo gives a definite answer as to whether he will run for New York governor or run for re−election as attorney general next year. He has been giving mixed signals as to his intentions in questions from the media.

The impression has been created that for now he intends to run for re−election, but at the same time leaving the door open for a possible challenge against Gov. David Paterson. At a recent Democratic Party State Committee meeting, he said, “Oh, who knows what’s going to happen next year — next year is a long way away.”

It is in terms of the electoral calendar. The deciding election will not be held until November 2010.

But it is not a long way away for a prospective candidate to make up his mind and announce his candidacy. That should be done by January 2010. At the same time, he should be in the process of forming a state campaign organization. Within the next six months, he will have to make a final decision.

Paterson continues to say he is running for re−election next year. This could result in a fight when the Democratic Party State Committee meets in convention next year to designate its official candidates for statewide offices, including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller. If there is a confrontation between Paterson and Cuomo over the governorship, it could lead to a serious split in the state party, especially if the candidate who did not get the official party designation decides to challenge the party nominee in a statewide Democratic primary.

This could have the effect of hurting the Democratic slate statewide, since local candidates would be expected to say which gubernatorial candidate in the primary they support. The question also arises: Will the losing primary candidate and his supporters give support to the primary winner who may be facing Republican and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the fall general election?

Looking back at 1958, there was a serious split in the Democratic Party ranks, which began over the selection of a U.S. Senate candidate that year at the party convention. Two city factions battled with the regular organization, led by New York County Chairman Carmine De Sapio, and the party reformers led by former state Gov. Herbert Lehman and later by former Mayor Robert Wagner.

The regulars supported New York County District Attorney Frank Hogan and the reformers supported former U.S. Air Force Secretary Thomas Finletter for the seat. Hogan won the nomination, but lost the fall election when he was defeated by Republican Kenneth Keating. Hogan did not get strong support from the reform faction.

But that contest led to an intra−party struggle between the regulars and reformers that continued in the city during the 1960s.

Attorney General Cuomo’s his father, Mario Cuomo, served three terms as governor. He was first elected in 1982 after defeating former Mayor Edward Koch in a Democratic, statewide primary. In 1988 and 1992, he was considered a frontrunner Democratic candidate for president.

His continual indecision during that period as to if or when he would run for president earned him the title of the “Hamlet of the Hudson.” It remains to be seen if Andrew Cuomo will exemplify continual indecision about running for governor or if he will take a less turbulent road to political office by running for re−election as attorney general.

In the race for City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s (D−Middle Village) seat, it will feature former Republican Council Minority Leader Thomas Ognibene running against Crowley.

She won the seat in a special election last fall after losing two prior races for the same seat. Ognibene held the seat for 10 years until 2001. He lost a special election in early 2008. At that time, the Republican Party was divided in that part of Queens. This forthcoming election will have a more united party effort supporting the Ognibene candidacy.

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