A top leader of the New York State Senate, John DeFrancisco, is putting himself forward to run for governor against Andrew Cuomo. If he succeeds in winning the Republican nomination he will have a very tough row to hoe. After all, Cuomo has over $30 million dollars in his campaign coffers.
You won’t be able to turn your TV on without seeing an Andrew commercial. Not only that, most people have no idea who DeFrancisco is. He believes that lightning struck when George Pataki beat the legendary Mario Cuomo and he thinks it may happen again. He points out that nobody knew who Pataki was. On the other hand, it was Mario’s fourth try. He had overstayed his welcome and it was a Republican wave year.
The overwhelming number of potential voters in New York state hate Donald Trump’s guts. I can tell you after a fairly recent in-depth interview that DeFrancisco is not running away from Trump. If he wants to get elected, he might take a page out of the book written by the Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker, a Democratic Republican if there ever was on. Baker has been running away from Donald Trump as fast as his legs will allow him to.
But DeFrancisco, who sounds like a nice man, is doing the same-old, same-old Republican stuff. For example, when I asked him how he would turn around the really bad $4.5 billion budget deficit in New York, he pointed to Medicaid and education as two areas where he says New York spends extraordinary amounts of money. When I asked him about all those people who are being taken care of in nursing homes with the assistance of Medicaid he said he would have to look at whether they had enough resources to be paying for themselves. An awful lot of families couldn’t possibly afford the cost of a nursing home.
On education, he duplicated his remarks on how much was being spent in New York compared to other states and suggested that we were far too lenient on bad teachers who ought to be discharged instead of being put in “rubber rooms.” Andrew Cuomo said much of the same stuff early in is career and it did not endear him to the teacher unions or to their leaders. Cuomo has since been forced to surrender to the teachers. The leaders seem ready to accept his apologies but the rank and file members, not so much. I talk to these folks all the time and I can tell you that DeFrancisco doubling down on the anti-teacher rhetoric will give them no place to go but into Andrew’s waiting arms.
On the subject of legislative ethics, DeFrancisco also has a long way to go. Putting it mildly, New York voters consider politicians in general as denizens of the deepest and thickest cesspool. When I asked the number-two senator in New York what he thought about making the rules tougher, he made it very clear that he thought the rules were tough enough and that when they were properly enforced the results were justified. He pointed to the federal prosecutions of former Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos as examples of the system working well. Of course, the key word here is “federal prosecutions.” He should know, and probably does, that the state can do a lot better in throwing out and controlling the bums.
Of course, DeFrancisco will have to beat at least one other Republican to get the nomination in a primary — former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra — unless the Republicans say a very forceful “nothing doing” to a primary. In any case, in two-to-one Democratic voter New York, this is reminiscent of the Man of La Mancha and the windmills.