Promising to overhaul state government and revive the economy, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Saturday officially announced his candidacy for governor.
Cuomo, a Democrat and son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, sought to portray himself as a change agent. He railed against his fellow leaders in Albany, saying he would be accountable to residents, not political party bosses.
In a 21-minute video on his campaign website and later at a Manhattan event, Cuomo acknowledged New York's serious financial and governmental problems. But he maintained better days are ahead if residents embrace his recipe for change.
He outlined an ambitious platform, "The New NY Agenda," that includes caps on property taxes and state spending, freezes of state taxes and the wages of state workers, incentives for businesses to hire the unemployed, and consolidation of state agencies.
"My campaign is this simple: I represent the people of the State of New York and we want our government back," said Cuomo, 52, of Manhattan.
However, the three men seeking the Republican nomination for governor each criticized Cuomo's platform, saying it was filled with platitudes rather than specifics. They noted Cuomo has spent considerable time in Albany, first as a top aide in his father's administration in the 1980s and later as the state's top prosecutor. The younger Cuomo is part of the political hierarchy that he now lambastes, they said.
"Andrew Cuomo . . . bears responsibility for the worst four years in the history of New York government," said Rick Lazio, who once represented Suffolk County in Congress. "Why should we give him another four?"
Cuomo did not take reporters' questions after a 15-minute speech between New York City Hall and the Tweed Courthouse. He was expected to respond to his Republican rivals Sunday.
Pointing to the courthouse, a symbol of government corruption in the 19th century, Cuomo said state government had become "disreputable and discredited. . . . Sometimes, the corruption in Albany could even make Boss Tweed blush." William Tweed, who led the Tammany Hall political machine, was infamous for graft on public building projects such as the courthouse.
Still, Cuomo insisted state government could be turned around and with it the state's struggling economy.
In his video message, Cuomo likened New York's comeback to his career. He pointed to his own political resurrection after dropping out of the 2002 race for the Democratic nomination for governor and the breakdown of his marriage to Kerry Kennedy.
"Well, it wasn't easy, but I worked hard . . . ," he said. "And with the compassion and empathy of New Yorkers, you gave me a second chance . . . We will make New York the Empire State once again. We won't fail."
Such a message will resonate with voters who are looking for leaders who can achieve change, said pollster Lee M. Miringoff of Marist College. In the Marist poll and others, Cuomo's job approval rating hovers above 60 percent and he trounces the three seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
The other two Republican gubernatorial candidates aren't deterred by Cuomo's poll numbers.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who left the Democratic Party to seek the GOP gubernatorial nod, said he had championed some of the governmental reforms Cuomo rolled out saturday. "I was the first candidate to talk about wage freezes, caps on spending and local property taxes, and redistricting reforms," Levy said.
Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, through a spokesman, called Cuomo the "ultimate political insider" who "habitually ducks the issues."
Highlights of Andrew Cuomo’s career
1982: Becomes campaign manager for father, Mario Cuomo, in the elder Cuomo’s run for governor; graduates from Albany Law School
1986: Establishes HELP, Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged, an organization that seeks to help find transitional housing for the homeless
Clinton’s presidential transition team
2002: Seeks Democratic nomination for governor against New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall; drops out of the race before the convention amid widespread criticism
2006: Beats several candidates, including former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green, to become state attorney general