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Elections

Cuomo runs Zen campaign -- says he's campaigning by not campaigning

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to the New York State Business Council last week.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not running the typical campaign. In fact, it could be called the Zen campaign.

The incumbent governor with a $35 million war chest who is well ahead in the polls, is employing a classic Rose Garden strategy. He seldom holds an overtly political event, and his limited public schedule often includes a carefully stage managed  economic development announcement.

In Buffalo, he announced a solar panel manufacturer was coming to create as many as 3,000 new jobs.
 
“This was, I think, the single most exciting day I’ve had in Buffalo in four years,” Cuomo declared. Cuomo lost the Western New York region in the election four years ago, in 2010.

The governor has also held three public meetings on counteracting terrorism threats in recent days, two with Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“There’s no doubt that these are very serious times,,” Cuomo said at a September 24 announcement of stepped-up police presence on public transit.

Cuomo says he is foregoing traditional campaigning as much as possible, and letting his actions as governor speak for themselves.

“I’ve been working as hard as I can, seven days a week, as governor of the state,” Cuomo said. “And my campaign is basically my performance in office.”

There are some mandatory election-related appearances that the governor can’t avoid. He spoke before the annual meeting of the state’s Business Council, which is considering whether to award the governor a key endorsement. Cuomo touted his creation of tax free zones for some new businesses and his record of bringing stability to government, with four on time budgets for the first time in decades.

“Top priority: continue to keep the government working, and don’t go back to gridlock,” he said. “And this, my friends, is a daily challenge.”

Cuomo has not spelled out specifics of what he’d do in the next four years if he’s re-elected. There are major issues looming like whether the state should begin hydrofracking, and how exactly to finance a multi-billion dollar rebuilding of the Thruway’s Tappan Zee Bridge.   

Meanwhile, the governor’s extensive campaign fund has paid for relentless, negative ads against his Republican opponent Rob Astorino, which were on the air before the GOP challenger had money to introduce himself on TV to voters.

“Rob Astorino: not just wrong, dangerously wrong,” a narrator intones, darkly.

Cuomo uses surrogates to attack Astorino, including former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and his running mate for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul. Hochul derided the GOP candidate, saying he denies that things are better under Cuomo.

“Maybe Rob Astorino ought to go be governor of a magic forest,” Hochul said.

When asked about the baser elements of campaign tactics, Cuomo distances himself. The governor was asked about the appropriateness of an ad produced by allies that criticized his rival  for being a Miami Dolphins football fan.

“My campaign is not going to be about any of this silliness,” the governor said.

Astorino, in contrasts has multiple public appearances per day. He says Cuomo is avoiding a regular campaign because the governor doesn’t want to talk about what the GOP candidate says is a poor record, as well as corruption allegations. The U.S. Attorney is investigating whether Cuomo or his aides interfered with an ethics probe.

“He’s refused to talk to people, he’s not talking to the press, not talking to the public," Astorino said. “He doesn’t want debates because he has to defend this record and it’s indefensible. Four years later, we’re still stuck in last place.”

Cuomo so far has agreed to two debates. One is a televised debate in Buffalo with Astorino as well as the Green and Libertarian Party candidates. The other, a one on one debate with Astorino, will be held in New York City, but will not be televised.