• Thu. Jun 23rd, 2022

The disturbing recent history

ByDebra J. Aguilar

May 8, 2022

There’s a whiff of the amateur hour hanging over the Hochul administration these days that must be purged soon or New York’s first female governor heads down an uncertain road to the November election. She stumbles.

Even with the unusual circumstances that brought Kathy Hochul to the state’s highest office, the upcoming primary and general elections looked like an easy lift for the Democratic incumbent. But the recent political chaos has raised doubts.

Those tasked with controlling Brian Benjamin as lieutenant governor in August have failed miserably. Public confidence in the Hochul has been shaken. It is simply incomprehensible that a federal corruption investigation that recently landed Benjamin five felony counts could have been missed.

“He misled us,” was the gist of Hochul’s camp defense. Wait. You mean a career politician in New York trying to curry favor with a dream job doesn’t always tell the whole truth? Imagine that. Hochul was hit hard in the polls by the Benjamin fiasco, and should have been.

The misuse of state aircraft to campaign politically at state expense is nothing new. It has become a cliché in New York after several administrations have fallen into the same trap. What caught my attention, however, was that it took newspaper articles to point this out before the current administration admitted and paid, a repeat of the past. Apparently no one in state government is learning from the past. Even old.

Days after taking over from Andrew M. Cuomo, who resigned under pressure as the Legislature debated impeachment, Hochul made a big deal of bringing impeccable ethical behavior and transparency to Planet Albany. She was apparently better with transparency, except when budgeting and fundraising. But that doesn’t mean much. Cuomo was terrible with transparency, for everything. But weak ethics remain a problem for Hochul, to say the least, whether in perception or in reality. In politics, perception and reality are the left and right arms of the same body.

Fundraising, for example, has raised eyebrows for those sensitive to potential pay-to-play errors. One of the main rivals here, Tom Suozzi, makes a big deal out of it, and he’s right. Times Union reporter Chris Bragg has done a stellar job on a series of articles listing where active campaign fundraising is associated with offering access, assistance and maybe even more. from the administration. Given the leeway granted by US Supreme Court decisions in recent years, it is difficult to prove that payment to gamble is a crime. But the issue is not illegality, it’s ethics. Fundraising is a dubious business.

The Hochul campaign brought in $22 million from donors in December, shattering even the prolific Cuomo’s past performance. So what do donors get for all that money? We just don’t know. When we are sure the governor is doing it right, it doesn’t matter. When our confidence falters, it does so a lot and we imagine the worst. We come to this point.

And then there is the monumental mess over mandatory vote redistribution currently playing out with national consequences.

In the most important national election years, New York isn’t much of a player because we’re a deep blue state as you might expect. This mid-year election is an exception. So far, however, it appears Republicans have outpaced Democrats, outpaced lawyers, and generally outflanked hoped-for Democrat gains and outweighed hoped-for Democrat gains in the House. representatives at risk. Our courts have dismissed the lines created by the Democrats for the 22 seats in the New York House as unconstitutional gerrymandering. New rows for the Congress and State Senate districts, and probably also for the Assembly districts (although this is not yet decided), will be created by a special master who is not likely to be as charitable to the democrats as they were to themselves.

It’s all 11-hour stuff, the result of a designed-to-fail independent recut process endorsed by Cuomo eight years ago. Hochul largely inherited this smoldering dumpster, but as the titular leader of the state’s Democratic Party, she now co-owns it. It is a malevolent octopus with many tentacles.

We could have two primaries, one already scheduled for June and the other in August to accommodate the new constituency lines to come. Or a primary in August, which would also include statewide and local races, depending on court rulings. Hochul is strongly in favor of keeping the June primary because reopening the petition process for an August primary could allow Cuomo to join the fray for governor, which polls suggest could be an issue Hochul is dealing with. don’t need at the moment. Or, Cuomo could decide to run as an independent in the general election if he sees Hochul continue to stumble. This is the scenario Republicans have been hoping for, because a three-way race gives them a much better chance of winning the governorship than they currently have.

The addition of Rep. Antonio Delgado to replace Benjamin on the ballot completes the perfect storm for Democrats. A good man. But a loss for the Democratic side of the House, as Republicans have happily pointed out.

Not a good stretch for Kathy Hochul.

flebrun@timesunion.com
518-454-5453