Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's spokesman states clearly that his boss plans to seek re-election in 2018. But official words, even when plain and plausible, can seldom squash a tasty notion dressed up as a political theory.
So try this one on for size: Cuomo for New York City mayor in 2017.
The second-term governor, once a Queens boy, votes from his Westchester home. He'd only need to reside in any of the five boroughs by the Election Day of that year to qualify, and so could challenge incumbent Bill de Blasio in a Democratic primary. Undoubtedly he could find suitable housing.
Sure, Cuomo can be said to hold a bigger job in Albany. New York State this year enacted a $142 billion budget plan. But the city is no backwater with its $78.5 billion operating budget, army of uniformed forces, and huge management challenges.
Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg became so attached to the job he legally rigged term limits to serve four extra years while setting campaign spending records. On his way out, the ex-mayor's pitchmen tried with straight faces to peddle the idea that Hillary Clinton could succeed him in what once was called "the second-toughest job in America."
No New York pol tops Cuomo at major league fundraising.
Besides, third terms have not been kind to governors. Does Cuomo really want to face the incumbency fatigue of an additional four years in Albany, perhaps lasting until 2022?
Potential battle lines already exist. De Blasio, who's expected to run for a second and final term in 2017, said of Cuomo a few weeks back: "What we've often seen is, if someone disagrees with him openly, some kind of revenge or vendetta follows." He said Cuomo "believes deeply in the transactional model."
By challenging de Blasio in two years, Cuomo could debate all the issues on which he has differed from a distance with his onetime subordinate at the U.S. housing agency -- charter schools, city income taxes, Uber, disease control, housing finance, and how to raise the minimum wage.
Hank Sheinkopf, who's advised Cuomo's campaign, admits "anything is possible in politics," but doesn't see it happening. "Speculation always runs deep" when an incumbent mayor's poll ratings sink, even temporarily, he noted.
Baruch College professor Doug Muzzio is even more emphatic. "The answer is no. I'm having none of it. It's inconceivable," he said Thursday of a Cuomo-de Blasio matchup. "Cuomo has got to finish his second term," ending in 2018, Muzzio said.
Karen Hinton, the mayor's chief spokeswoman, offered no assessment of whether those at City Hall believe a Cuomo challenge could be formidable.
"New Yorkers will answer the question when Election Day arrives," she stated in an email. "The mayor has a strong record of results." Hinton cited gains in jobs, pre-K education, affordable housing, "low crime" and a "high quality of life."
Two years ago, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer tried a last-minute stab at the Democratic nomination for city comptroller. He failed, but was already damaged goods. Maybe the thought of a Cuomo-de Blasio primary faceoff isn't as absurd.