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Poll shows Cuomo still popular, but shows weakness on corruption issue

Diana Robinson

A Quinnipiac University poll shows the race for governor is virtually unchanged since the spring, with incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo far ahead of his Republican and Democratic challengers. 

The favorable ratings for Cuomo come after weeks of negative news stories about the governor’s alleged interference in an ethics panel and an ongoing federal investigation.

The Quinnipiac poll is the third in recent weeks that show the governor’s race in New York remains stagnant, with Cuomo ahead of Republican challenger Rob Astorino by nearly 25 percentage points.

Quinnipiac’s Mickey Carroll says Cuomo’s favorability rating is still about 50 percent, and 57 percent think that, overall, he's doing a good job in office.

“You’ve got to ask yourself, is there an election?” Carroll said. “And at this stage of the game, no, there isn’t.”

The poll also asked questions about the governor’s Moreland Act Commission, and the controversy surrounding it, and found some weaknesses there for Cuomo.

In late July, the New York Times released a lengthy story that alleged the governor’s top aides tried to stop Moreland commissioners from issuing subpoenas to Cuomo donors involved in corruption probes.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been investigating the allegations ever since Cuomo closed down the commission mid-investigation, as part of a budget deal in late March.

Bharara publicly rebuked Cuomo and his aides, saying they might have been involved in potential witness tampering after a handful of Moreland commissioners issued statements that differed from previous accounts of alleged meddling by the governor and his aides.

After weeks of negative news coverage, the poll finds more than half of New Yorkers know about the controversy. Carroll says it’s taken a toll.  

“People think that corruption is a major problem in New York,” Carroll said. “And they think that the governor is part of the problem, not part of solution.”

Three-quarters of those surveyed believe the early shutdown of the ethics commission was part of a political deal. More than one-third of voters think Cuomo’s office interfered with the commission’s probes. Carroll says the ongoing probe by the U.S. attorney has the potential to further harm the governor in his political standing.

The poll did not survey the September Democratic primary, where Cuomo faces two opponents, Fordham Law School Professor Zephyr Teachout and comedian and activist Randy Credico. But Carroll says just 15 percent of Democrats have even heard of Teachout.

The primary is expected to draw a fraction of Democratic voters, and Carroll says Teachout could do better than the numbers seem to show.

“She could embarrass him,” Carroll said. “Not beat him, not even get big, huge numbers, but get enough numbers to embarrass him.”

If Cuomo loses votes to a Democratic primary challenger, it makes him look weak on the left and could damage his chances in a 2016 presidential primary.

Despite his low poll numbers, GOP Challenger Astorino continues an active campaign, meeting with voters on Long Island and releasing a jobs program in Binghamton, where he attacked the governor’s record.

“The governor promised radical reform back in his first State of the State address, and he hasn’t delivered,” said Astorino. “What we’ve gotten is phony gimmicks and a marketing campaign that is fraudulent and that is wasting over $200 million in taxpayer money.”

Cuomo has not been actively campaigning this summer. He has not held a public event since returning from a trip to Israel more than a week ago. He has aired numerous television ads. A spokesman for the governor’s campaign called Astorino’s charges spin and says the governor’s strong leadership is working for New York.

Teachout may not be doing well in the polls, but she did score a major win Wednesday when an appeals court rejected an attempt by  Cuomo’s lawyers to have her thrown off the ballot.  

In a statement, Teachout says now that the frivolous lawsuit is over, she’s hopeful that Cuomo will now agree to debate. The governor so far has made no debate commitments.