New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo declaredhis candidacy for governor Saturday, delivering an impassioned callfor political reform and pledging to make the notoriouslydysfunctional state government more accountable to its citizens.
The announcement by Cuomo to seek the governorship once held byhis iconic father, Mario Cuomo, had been widely expected. TheDemocrat disclosed his candidacy in a video released on his websitebefore appearing before supporters later in the day.
Cuomo made the announcement on the steps of the Tweed Courthousein lower Manhattan, named for the leader of the city's corrupt 19thcentury Tammany Hall political machine. Cuomo said he did sobecause "Albany's antics today could make Boss Tweed blush."
"Enough is enough," Cuomo declared. "It's time the people ofthe Empire State strike back."
Cuomo promised to cap the state's property taxes, which areamong the highest in the nation, and to consolidate localgovernments and create a more favorable environment for job growth.
With his father standing nearby, the younger Cuomo cast himselfas a populist crusader who would lead a "citizen's coalition" torestore integrity to state government.
"New York wasn't always like this. This isn't New York at itsbest," he said. "I represent the people of the state of New Yorkand we want our government back."
Cuomo's effort to run as an outsider to reform state governmentwill have to overcome some skepticism, given his deep ties toAlbany and his membership in one of New York's most storiedpolitical families.
"Andrew Cuomo has been a central figure in Albany for thirtyyears, and bears responsibility for the worst four years in thehistory of New York government. Why should we give him anotherfour?" former Rep. Rick Lazio, who is running for the GOPnomination to challenge Cuomo, said in a statement.
Yet as polls show outgoing Democratic Gov. David Paterson andthe state Legislature to be deeply unpopular with most voters,Cuomo has won praise and a strong national profile as attorneygeneral for prosecuting public corruption and exposing misdeeds bythe student loan industry and taking on Wall Street excesses.
Polls show Cuomo crushing Lazio and others competing for the GOPnomination, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy andBuffalo businessman Carl Paladino.
Cuomo faces no primary opposition, and averted a planned andpotentially messy challenge to Paterson after the governor decidedto step down amid evidence he may have intervened in a domesticviolence case involving a close aide.
Earlier, President Barack Obama's political operation tried tonudge Paterson aside to clear the way for Cuomo, whom the WhiteHouse believed would be a far stronger candidate at the top of theticket in New York. Every state office and both U.S. Senate seatsare up for election this year, and several House seats held byDemocrats are expected to be at risk.
Paterson endorsed Cuomo's candidacy Saturday.
If elected, Cuomo would almost certainly be viewed as apotential presidential contender in the future. Mario Cuomo alsoconsidered and ultimately rejected several entreaties to run duringhis years in office.
In his early days in the public eye, Andrew Cuomo was theruthless 20-something "Prince of Darkness" campaign commando fromhis father's three runs for governor. He went on to run a nonprofitorganization to combat homelessness, and his work won the notice ofPresident Bill Clinton, who named him an assistant secretary andlater secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment. In that role, critics have accused him of pushingquestionable mortgages that some say contributed to the recentsubprime mortgage crisis.
Cuomo made a disastrous run for governor in 2002, sparkingracial tension by challenging a well respected black Democrat, CarlMcCall, for the nomination and offending many by suggesting thatduring the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, then-Gov. George Patakihad done little more than hold New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's coat.Cuomo dropped out of the race a week before the primary.
Cuomo is divorced from Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F.Kennedy. They have three daughters. He has been dating Sandra Lee,a Food Network TV host, for five years.
Gormley reported from Albany.
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