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De Blasio Welcomes Cuomo's Progressive Shift

By  Jeff Mays and Ben Fractenberg | January 10, 2017 11:18am 

 Mayor Bill de Blasio has fashioned himself as one of New York's leading progressive politicians, but now de Blasio has competition in the effort to claim the progressive mantle in New York state— his ongoing and bitter rival, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. De Blasio and Gov. Cuomo tour the area affected by the Chelsea bomb explosion in September 2015.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has fashioned himself as one of New York's leading progressive politicians, but now de Blasio has competition in the effort to claim the progressive mantle in New York state— his ongoing and bitter rival, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. De Blasio and Gov. Cuomo tour the area affected by the Chelsea bomb explosion in September 2015.
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Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Mayor Bill de Blasio has positioned himself as one of New York's leading progressive politicians, even wagering, and losing, political capital in a national effort to push Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton further to the left.

But now de Blasio has competition for the progressive mantle in New York State — his rival and fellow Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In his State of the State address Monday, Cuomo laid out a series of proposals, from free college tuition to a childcare tax credit increase, that he says will help the state's middle class and poor residents while maintaining its historically progressive values.

►READ MORE: Middle Class 'Anger' Can Be Fixed With My 'Progressive' Proposals: Cuomo

"New York knows that our progressive principles of acceptance and diversity are not the enemy of our middle class and we know that the middle class success is not the enemy of our progressive beliefs," Cuomo said during his speech at One World Trade Center.

But De Blasio said he doesn't feel challenged.

“What do they say, ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,’" de Blasio said during an unrelated press conference in Chinatown.

"I’m happy when anyone sees the light, so these ideas I started talking about in 2012, 2011, the fact that we weren’t addressing income inequality, that people were hurting, that they felt that the economy had been unfair," the mayor added.

Cuomo was supposed to be the budget-minded centrist Democrat while de Blasio came into office talking about the 'Tale of Two Cities' and calling for a tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-K.

Now, after the election of Donald Trump, who has proposed deporting undocumented immigrants and dismantling Obamacare, Cuomo and de Blasio find themselves more and more politically aligned.

"This is an agenda that is decidedly liberal in a year when Democrats are going to be paying close attention to how their Democratic representatives are behaving," said Evan Thies, co-founder of political consulting firm Pythia Public Affairs.

►READ MORE: New Yorkers Are Scared of You, De Blasio Tells Trump

"After the failure in November the consensus is that the message as a party needs to be closer to the Bernie Sanders progressive economic vision than the Hillary Clinton more centrist agenda," Thies added.

Cuomo's a year away from a potential bid for a third term as governor where he will have to gain the support of more liberal downstate voters. His name has also been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2020.

"Cuomo would like nothing better than to both appeal to the Democratic Party and at the same time steal some thunder from Bill de Blasio. It's a win-win," said Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College.

But the two men have decided to tackle things differently. De Blasio has been vocal about criticizing Trump by name, telling the President-elect that New Yorkers were afraid of his policies and saying one of his cabinet picks had links to white supremacists. Many believe the mayor is setting up his re-election campaign with Trump as his foil.

►READ MORE: Bill de Blasio's Foe In Reelection Bid? Donald Trump

Cuomo, though addressing potential Trump policies, never mentioned the President-elect by name during his address.

The governor's strategy allows him to refute charges that national aspirations are blurring his vision and ability to govern here in New York, said Zaino.

"When Meryl Streep took on Trump at the Golden Globes she never mentioned him by name. Anyone who watched Cuomo knew exactly who he was talking about. Why set yourself up in a way that is unnecessary in politics?" added Zaino.

Not all of Cuomo's proposal can be considered progressive.

There are big spending projects such as the $650 Million Life Science plan that will provide $200 million in tax breaks for new and existing companies and $300 million for capital development for new life sciences companies and lab space.

"We are talking about a lot of money and we have zero idea of where that money is going to come from," said Zaino. "The devil is in the details and we haven't gotten clarity from the governor on this."

Thies said the question comes down to if Cuomo is "proposing these things with a real plan to get them done or is it a situation where even if the legislature doesn't pass them he can blame them."

But de Blasio said there's no question that the Democratic Party needs to pull left and focus on "a strong populist, economic agenda" to reinvigorate the party.

“The more the merrier, from my point of view," he said.