Jerry Kremer

Welcoming a new face in Albany


It’s hard to believe that the Cuomo dynasty has come to an end, but New York now has a new governor, Kathy Hochul. I use “hard to believe” because for nearly 11 years, Andrew Cuomo had such a dominant role in the daily life of all New Yorkers. To the best of my recollection, no governor in my lifetime was in your face as much as Cuomo was.
As I look back over the past 55 years, there have been eight governors occupying the Albany mansion. At least five of them served four or more years. But none of them was as powerful a figure as Cuomo. During the height of last year’s coronavirus crises, New Yorkers — and people around the world — looked forward to his daily briefings on how New York was coping with the pandemic. For that brief period, Cuomo was a 24/7 presence.
If you think back on past governors, whether Nelson Rockefeller or Mario Cuomo, you realize that none of them was as front-and-center as Andrew Cuomo. If it wasn’t an update about Covid-19, the news would carry a story about the almost daily feud between Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. No matter what media you followed, there was a daily story about some Cuomo initiative. It seemed for some time that the only place the governor didn’t inhabit was your bedroom.
But the days of a Cuomo in the news are over, at least for now, and many in the political arena consider this a blessing. Hochul may be surprised to find out how many people are ready to welcome her with open arms. As much as Cuomo accomplished — and he did do a lot — the state was ready for a respite with a new face on the Albany scene.
It’s a historical fact that New York governors and New York City mayors have a hard time getting along. They view the political stage as having only one spotlight, and they will do anything to grab it. Of all the feuds that I recall, none was as nasty as the Cuomo-de Blasio wrestling match. If de Blasio announced that he was lifting some Covid restriction, Cuomo would immediately step in and say not so fast.

In the run-up to her swearing in, Hochul met privately with de Blasio, and they exchanged pleasantries. In addition, she spoke extensively with de Blasio’s likely successor, Eric Adams. Don’t be surprised if, in the coming weeks and months, the new governor takes the extra time to make nice with any politician who had been scorned by Cuomo.
At the top of his hit list were the two leaders of the State Legislature, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins. No one has ever written a love story about a New York governor and an Albany legislative leader, but Cuomo’s relationship with the current legislative leaders was especially hostile. Both would sit down with him and hammer out state budgets, but the level of distrust was always high. Every legislative leader has a pretty strong ego, but none could eclipse Cuomo’s.
In the weeks ahead, Hochul will no doubt go out of her way to establish a close working relationship with both state leaders, and they, in turn, will shower her with compliments and pledges of harmony and good things to come. That is a welcome change of atmosphere, because the new governor has a lot on her plate, and she’ll only have a short window of time to attack a host of issues. At the same time that she’ll be wrestling with new challenges, there will be a handful of politicians plotting to challenge her next year in a primary contest.
For now, though, New Yorkers can look forward to their state government functioning normally, with no sign yet that former Governor Cuomo is planning a return to power.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?