Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is considering a possible challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary for the 2018 governor’s race. Miner says if she does run for governor, it won’t be a conventional campaign.
Miner, who sat down for an interview with public radio and TV, has just over three months remaining in her job as mayor and she says she’s focused on finishing up there. She’s prevented by term limits form running for mayor again. But she recently took time out to take a trip to Israel, a move seen in New York as a preface to any kind of run for higher office. And the 47-year-old Syracuse native and graduate of the University at Buffalo law school, says she’s considering what political steps to take next.
Miner says she hasn’t decided yet, but if she does enter the 2018 race in a Democratic primary against Andrew Cuomo, she says she would not run as a conventional candidate.
“If I were to decide to run for governor, I would be a huge underdog,” said Miner. “I’m not going to run a race in order to match (campaign) contributions. So I think you have to do it based on ideas.”
Cuomo has a massive $25 million campaign war chest, designed to scare off potential challengers, and has said he intends to seek a third term. But the recent Presidential election demonstrated that money does not always translate into success, President Trump raised and spent far less money than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In 2014, Zephyr Teachout, an unknown law professor with no money challenged Cuomo from the left in a Democratic primary, and made significant inroads in his base upstate.
Miner began her career in politics in the early 1990’s as the regional representative for the late Governor Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father. She said when she drove with Mario Cuomo during his visits to Central New York, it was like having “Socrates in the back seat”, as the former governor peppered her with questions.
“I learned a lot,” Miner said. “I admired him.”
She was the Democratic Party co-chair under Governor Andrew Cuomo when he became governor in 2011, but they quickly had a falling out. Miner opposed the governor’s plan to bail out financially struggling cities by permitting them to borrow against their own public pension systems. Cuomo called the maneuver “pension smoothing”. Miner called it an “accounting gimmick”, and wrote an op ed in New York Times. She quietly left her position as co leader of the state Democratic Party a few months later. She says Cuomo hasn’t done enough to help upstate cities, and that the governor’s relentless economic development announcements aren’t helping enough people.
“It’s benefiting people who are developers, and I think it’s benefiting people who know how to work the system in order to get access,” she said. “But it’s not getting to families who have children who are living in the cities.”
Since the 2014 elections, Cuomo has made an effort to appeal to progressives and the left of the Democratic Party. He championed a phase in to a $15 minimum wage, something he did not initially support, and enacted paid family leave. He’s borrowed ideas from Democratic Presidential challenger and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, including a program to offer free college tuition to some middle class students. And most recently, Cuomo said he might back a single payer health care plan for the nation.
On Monday, Cuomo railed against corporate CEO’s when he spoke to union workers, who are on strike against the Charter Communications Company, which provides cable service to much of New York under the name Spectrum.
“Corporate management, they don't give a damn!” the governor shouted, as union members cheered.
The governor said the company is not living up to promises to improve customer service and build out broadband.
“If they don't get their act together and fulfill that agreement, they're going to be out of the State of New York,” Cuomo said.
The head of the state’s Republican Party, Ed Cox, says he thinks Cuomo still has a number of weaknesses, and says Miner should go ahead and challenge Cuomo.
“Bring it on,” said Cox, who said even the fact that there’s talk of a primary challenge to Cuomo shows that the governor is “vulnerable”.
The chair of Governor Cuomo’s reelection campaign, Bill Mulrow, said in a statement,, that the “Governor doesn't talk about progressive issues, he actually gets them done”, and cited Cuomo’s record, including gun control and the banning of hydro fracking in New York. Mulrow says the campaign “looks forward to building on that record in the 3rd term”.
If Miner decides not to challenge Cuomo, she has another option. She could run for Congress for the swing seat now held by Republican John Katko. Miner says she has not ruled that out.