|56th Governor of New York|
|Assumed office |
January 1, 2011
|Preceded by||David Paterson|
|64th Attorney General of New York|
January 1, 2007 – December 31, 2010
|Preceded by||Eliot Spitzer|
|Succeeded by||Eric Schneiderman|
|11th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development|
January 29, 1997 – January 20, 2001
|Preceded by||Henry Cisneros|
|Succeeded by||Mel Martínez|
|Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Community Planning and Development|
May 28, 1993 – January 29, 1997
|Preceded by||Skirma Kondratas|
|Succeeded by||Saul N. Ramirez Jr.|
Andrew Mark Cuomo
December 6, 1957
New York City, New York, U.S.
(m. 1990; div. 2005)
|Domestic partner||Sandra Lee (2005–present)|
|Relatives||Chris Cuomo (brother)|
Margaret I. Cuomo (sister)
|Education||Fordham University (BA)|
Albany Law School (JD)
Andrew Mark Cuomo (//; born December 6, 1957) is an American politician, author, and lawyer serving as the 56th governor of New York since 2011. A member of the Democratic Party, he was elected to the same position his late father, Mario Cuomo, held for three terms.
Born in New York City, Cuomo is a graduate of Fordham University and Albany Law School of Union University, New York. He began his career working as the campaign manager for his father, then as an assistant district attorney in New York City before entering private law practice. He founded Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP USA) and was appointed chair of the New York City Homeless Commission, a position he held from 1990 to 1993.
In 1993, Cuomo joined the Clinton Administration as Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. From 1997 to 2001, he served as the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
In 2006, Cuomo was elected Attorney General of New York. He won the election as Governor of New York in 2010 and has been reelected twice after winning primaries against liberal challengers Zephyr Teachout (2014) and Cynthia Nixon (2018). During his first term, Cuomo oversaw the passage of a same-sex marriage law, gun control legislation, and a property tax cap, and also signed medical marijuana legislation. In his second term, Cuomo successfully pushed for an increase in New York's minimum wage.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Early career
- 3 Secretary of HUD
- 4 2002 New York gubernatorial election
- 5 New York Attorney General
- 6 Potential U.S. Senate appointment
- 7 Governor of New York
- 7.1 Elections
- 7.2 Tenure
- 7.2.1 Criminal justice
- 7.2.2 Gun control
- 7.2.3 Hurricane Sandy
- 7.2.4 Hydraulic fracturing
- 7.2.5 New York City Subway
- 7.2.6 Public college and university tuition
- 7.2.7 Public employees
- 7.2.8 Same-sex marriage
- 7.2.9 START-UP NY
- 7.2.10 Taxes
- 7.2.11 Corporate incentives
- 7.2.12 Women's issues and abortion
- 7.2.13 Voting rights
- 7.2.14 Public Housing
- 7.3 Appointee donations controversy
- 7.4 Remarks about conservatives
- 8 Personal life
- 9 Published works
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Early life and education
Cuomo was born in the Queens borough of New York City, the elder son born to lawyer and later governor of New York, Mario Cuomo and Matilda (née Raffa). His parents were both of Italian descent; his paternal grandparents were from Nocera Inferiore and Tramonti in southern Italy, while his maternal grandparents were both from Sicily (his grandfather from Messina). His younger brother, Chris Cuomo, is a CNN journalist.
He graduated from St. Gerard Majella's School in 1971 and Archbishop Molloy High School in 1975. He received a B.A. from Fordham University in 1979, and a J.D. from Albany Law School in 1982.
During his father's 1982 campaign for Governor, Cuomo was campaign manager, and then joined the Governor's staff as one of his father's policy advisors and sometime-Albany roommate, earning $1 a year.
From 1984 to 1985, Cuomo was a New York assistant district attorney, and briefly worked at the law firm of Blutrich, Falcone & Miller. He founded Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP) in 1986 and left his law firm to run HELP full-time in 1988. From 1990 to 1993, during the administration of New York City mayor, David Dinkins, Cuomo was chair of the New York City Homeless Commission, which was charged with developing policies to address the homeless issue in the city and developing more housing options.[self-published source]
Secretary of HUD
Andrew Cuomo was appointed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development as Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development in 1993, a member of President Bill Clinton's administration. After the departure of Secretary Henry Cisneros at the end of Clinton's first term under the cloud of an FBI investigation, Cuomo was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate to succeed him as Secretary of HUD. Cuomo served as Secretary from January 1997 until the Clinton administration ended in 2001.
In 2000, Cuomo led HUD efforts to negotiate an agreement with the United States' largest handgun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, that required Smith & Wesson to change the design, distribution and marketing of guns to make them safer and to help keep them out of the hands of children and criminals. Budgets enacted during his term contained initiatives to increase the supply of affordable housing and home ownership, and to create jobs and economic development. These included new rental assistance subsidies, reforms to integrate public housing, higher limits on mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, a crackdown on housing discrimination, expanded programs to help homeless people get housing and jobs, and creation of new Empowerment Zones.
During Cuomo's tenure as HUD Secretary, he called for an increase in home ownership. He also pushed government-sponsored lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy more home loans issued to poor homeowners, in an attempt to end discrimination against minorities. Some believe that this helped lead to the recent subprime mortgage crisis. Edward J. Pinto, former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae, said "they should have known the risks were large. Cuomo was pushing mortgage bankers to make loans and basically saying you have to offer a loan to everybody." But others disagree with the assessment that Cuomo caused the crisis. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said Cuomo "was a contributor in terms of him being a cheerleader, but I don't think we can pin too much blame on him."
According to libertarian author and critic James Bovard, Cuomo was obsessed with changing HUD's image, as Cuomo declared, "The PR is the important thing I do ... Eighty percent of the battle is communications." He championed a new program called Community Builders, created without appropriation by Congress, for 800 new HUD employees with computers to be paid as much as $100,000. In a June 16, 1999, speech, Cuomo declared that one purpose of the program was to fight against HUD's abolition. In August 1999, Community Builders distributed a letter to community groups to fight against proposed tax cuts. One HUD official declared that Community Builders were seen as "Democratic ward heelers who act as a pipeline between Democratic city officials, party leaders, and the administration and the Democratic National Committee." In 1998, Clinton-appointed HUD Inspector General Susan Gaffney testified to a Senate committee that she was the victim of "'escalating' attacks on her office by Cuomo and 'his key aides,' including cooked-up charges of racism, insubordination, malfeasance, and general dirty-dealing." In 1999, Gaffney's office concluded that "most (15 out of 19) Community Builders' goals were activities rather than actual accomplishments." and that Cuomo's initiatives "had a crippling effect on many of HUD's ongoing operations."
2002 New York gubernatorial election
Cuomo first ran for the Democratic nomination for Governor of New York in 2002. He was initially the favorite for nomination and led in fund-raising and polls, but his campaign took serious damage after a gaffe when Cuomo said (in reference to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks) "Pataki stood behind the leader. He held the leader's coat. He was a great assistant to the leader. But he was not a leader. Cream rises to the top, and Rudy Giuliani rose to the top." His remarks were widely derided; even his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, later admitted it was a blunder.
On the eve of the state convention, Cuomo withdrew from consideration after concluding that he had little chance of support as opposed to the favored party candidate, State Comptroller Carl McCall. McCall went on to lose the general election to George Pataki.
New York Attorney General
Cuomo declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for New York State Attorney General in 2006, and on May 30, 2006, captured the Democratic Party's endorsement, receiving 65% of the delegates. Though Cuomo won the endorsement, former New York City Public Advocate Mark J. Green, two-time candidate for lieutenant governor Charlie King, also earned places on the Democratic ballot. King dropped out of the race before the primary and endorsed Cuomo.
Cuomo won the primary with a majority of the vote, defeating his nearest opponent by over 20%. Clinching the Democratic party nomination was considered a significant rebound following his unsuccessful and unpopular 2002 gubernatorial campaign and at the nominating convention, June O'Neill, the Democratic chairwoman of St. Lawrence County, called him "New York's own Comeback Kid." He won the general election against the Republican nominee, former Westchester District attorney Jeanine Pirro on November 7, 2006, winning 58% of the vote.
Police surveillance, 2007
On July 23, 2007, Cuomo's office admonished the Spitzer administration for ordering the State Police to keep special records of then-Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno's whereabouts when he traveled with police escorts in New York City. At the discretion of top officials of the Spitzer administration, the New York State Police created documents meant to cause political damage to Bruno. Spitzer responded by accepting responsibility and issuing an apology to Bruno.
Student loan inquiry, 2007
In 2007, Cuomo was active in a high-profile investigation into lending practices and anti-competitive relationships between student lenders and universities. Specifically, many universities steered student borrowers to a "preferred lender," which resulted in the borrowers' incurring higher interest rates. This led to changes in lending policy at many major American universities. Many universities also rebated millions of dollars in fees back to affected borrowers.
On June 10, 2008, Cuomo announced that three major Internet service providers (Verizon Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Sprint) would "shut down major sources of online child pornography" by no longer hosting many Usenet groups. Time Warner Cable ceased offering Usenet altogether, Sprint ended access to the 18,408 newsgroups in the alt.* hierarchy, and Verizon limited its Usenet offerings to the approximately 3,000 Big 8 newsgroups. The move came after Cuomo's office located 88 different newsgroups to which child pornography had been posted.
2008 Obama remarks
In 2008, Cuomo said of the Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama, who was running against Hillary Clinton, the candidate Cuomo supported: "You can't shuck and jive at a press conference." Cuomo received criticism from some for his use of the phrase. Roland Martin of CNN said that "'shuckin' and jivin'' have long been words used as a negative assessment of African Americans, along the lines of a 'foot-shufflin' Negro.'"
Corruption and fraud investigations, 2009
Cuomo investigated a corruption scandal, "fraudulent scheme to extract kickbacks", which involved New York investigators, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and attorneys general in dozens of states.
Also in 2009, Cuomo launched a suit against the United Homeless Organization, a New York charity. He charged that the majority of the group's income was not used to provide services to the homeless, but was diverted to the founders for unrelated personal expenses. In 2010, Judge Barbara R. Kapnick granted the judgement and forced the group to disband.
Potential U.S. Senate appointment
After Hillary Clinton became President Obama's choice for U.S. Secretary of State, then-New York governor David Paterson was charged with appointing a temporary replacement until a special election. Cuomo was seen as a leading contender for this appointment. Caroline Kennedy (also the first cousin of Cuomo's ex-wife) was another leading contender, but withdrew for personal reasons two days before Paterson was set to announce his choice, leaving Cuomo and U.S. Representative Kirsten Gillibrand as the most likely appointees. On January 23, Paterson announced he would appoint Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate.
Governor of New York
On September 18, 2009, advisors to President Barack Obama informed Governor David Paterson that the President believed he should withdraw his 2010 gubernatorial candidacy, stepping aside for "popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo." On January 23, 2010, the New York Daily News reported that Cuomo would announce plans for a gubernatorial campaign at the end of March. Later reports indicated Cuomo would announce his gubernatorial campaign coinciding with the state Democratic Convention in late May. On May 22, 2010, Cuomo announced his run for governor in a video posted to his campaign website. Cuomo announced his choice for lieutenant governor on May 26, 2010: Mayor of Rochester, Robert Duffy.
In the November 2, 2010, general election, Cuomo faced Republican Carl Paladino, a Buffalo-based businessman who had been heavily supported by the Tea Party movement. Cuomo won the election for governor by a landslide, winning 62.6% of the vote. Paladino performed strongly in his native Buffalo area, while Cuomo performed well in the Eastern part of the state as well as downstate.
|Gubernatorial election in New York, 2010 |
|Working Families||Andrew Cuomo||154,835||3.35%||0.05%|
|Total||Andrew Cuomo||Robert Duffy||2,910,876||63.05%||2.65%|
|Total||Carl Paladino||Greg Edwards||1,547,857||33.53%||6.41%|
|Green||Howie Hawkins||Gloria Mattera||59,906||1.30%||0.41%|
|Libertarian||Warren Redlich||Alden Link||48,359||1.05%||0.74%|
|Rent Is Too Damn High||Jimmy McMillan||None||41,129||0.89%||0.61%|
|Freedom||Charles Barron||Eva M. Doyle||24,571||0.53%|
|Anti-Prohibition||Kristin M. Davis||Tanya Gendelman||20,421||0.44%|
In addition to the parties fielding candidates, New York's electoral fusion laws allow parties to cross-endorse candidates. The Independence Party and Working Families Party cross-endorsed Andrew Cuomo, while the Conservative Party and Taxpayers Party cross-endorsed Carl Paladino. The Independence Party line received 146,648 votes (5.0% of Cuomo's total, and 3.2% of the statewide total) and the Working Families line received 154,853 votes (5.3% and 3.4%), with the Democratic line receiving the remaining 2,610,220 votes (89.6% and 56.5%). The Conservative line received 232,281 votes (15.0% of Paladino's total, and 5.0% of the statewide total) and the Taxpayers line received 25,821 votes (1.5% and 0.6%), with the Republican line receiving the remaining 1,290,082 votes (83.3% and 27.1%).
Cuomo sought reelection in 2014, with former U.S. Representative Kathy Hochul as his new running mate. On March 5, 2014, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced that he would run on the Republican ticket against Cuomo for governor. Law professors Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu challenged the Cuomo–Hochul ticket in the Democratic primary election—capturing 34% of the vote on the gubernatorial line (Wu drew 40.1% as lieutenant governor). On November 4, 2014, Cuomo was re-elected for a second term with 54% of the vote, while Astorino received 40.6% of the vote.
Despite a low voter turnout, Cuomo won by a comfortable margin; however, his margin of victory was smaller than it had been in his 2010 victory. Astorino won most of upstate New York, but was overwhelmed in New York City. Cuomo was sworn in for second term as Governor.
|Gubernatorial election in New York, 2014 |
|Working Families||Andrew Cuomo||126,244||3.22%||0.13%|
|Women's Equality||Andrew Cuomo||53,802||1.41%||N/A|
|Total||Andrew Cuomo||Kathy Hochul||2,069,480||54.19%||8.86%|
|Total||Rob Astorino||Christopher Moss||1,536,879||40.24%||6.71%|
|Green||Howie Hawkins||Brian Jones||184,419||4.86%||3.56%|
|Libertarian||Michael McDermott||Chris Edes||16,967||0.42%||0.63%|
|Sapient||Steven Cohn||Bobby Kalotee||4,963||0.13%||N/A|
Cuomo was challenged in the primary from the left by actress-and-activist Cynthia Nixon. She criticized him as having failed to fix the New York City subway, protect undocumented immigrants, legalize recreational marijuana, or create a Single Payer healthcare system. When debating Nixon, Cuomo countered her argument on the subways by pointing out that the system is owned by New York City, though past administrations agree it is the governor's role. An analysis conducted by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed that New York City pays for 70 percent of subway repair costs.
In the primary, with 93% of precincts reporting, Cuomo gained 65% of the vote to Nixon's 35%.
Cuomo took the gubernatorial oath of office at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2011, succeeding David Paterson. During his first year as governor, Cuomo worked to pass an on-time budget that cut spending without raising taxes, made a new deal with a large state-employee union, signed ethics reform legislation, passed a property tax cap, worked to enact a same-sex marriage bill with bipartisan support, and restructured New York's tax code.
There was media speculation about an possible presidential run, either in 2016 or 2020. Several reports indicated that Cuomo supported the Independent Democratic Conference until its dissolution and defeat in 2018 in part to appear more moderate for an eventual presidential bid.
For his 2018 re-election bid, Cuomo accepted being on top of the ballot line for the Independence Party, a list that featured numerous Republicans, including ardent Trump supporters. Cuomo's presence on the top of the ballot line may boost the vote shares of the Republicans on the list.
In an August 15, 2018, anti-sex trafficking bill-signing event, Cuomo said: "We're not gonna make America great again. It was never that great. We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged." The assembled audience of Cuomo's supporters booed.
In a February 2019 opinion poll, Cuomo's approval rating dropped to 43 percent, the lowest of his tenure as governor, and a full 50% said they disapproved. The poll showed an eight percent drop from January 2019; it was taken after Cuomo signed several pieces of progressive legislation, including an expansion of abortion in New York and stricter gun laws, suggesting that the legislation may have upset certain voters and contributed to the drop.
In September 2016, a former aide and close friend of Cuomo, Joseph Percoco, was indicted as part of a bribery investigation into the Buffalo Billion. Todd Howe, a lobbyist and former Cuomo aide was also indicted, along with several developers who were major donors to Cuomo and other state politicians. Cuomo was not accused of wrongdoing. In March 2018, a federal jury in Manhattan convicted Percoco on felony charges of solicitation of bribes and honest services fraud for over $315,000 in bribes he took from two people seeking official favors on behalf of an energy company, Competitive Power Ventures Inc. He faces 50 years in prison. Prosecutors framed Percoco as Cuomo's "right-hand man." Following Percoco's conviction, however, Cuomo released a statement where declared that he would respect the jury's verdict and that "there is no tolerance for any violation of the public trust."
In 2014, Politico reported that Cuomo had been actively involved in the formation of the Independent Democratic Conference three years earlier, which gave control of the State Senate to Republicans. He has been accused of failing to bridge the rift between the IDC and the Democratic caucus in the Senate despite being able to.
In July 2014, it was reported that the Moreland Commission, a committee established by Cuomo to root out corruption in politics, was directed away from investigations that could be politically damaging. Cuomo later abruptly and controversially disbanded the Commission. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan launched an inquiry into Cuomo's dealings with the anticorruption panel and concluded that "after a thorough investigation," there was "insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime."
In January 2014, Cuomo announced  the introduction of restrictive measures to make medical marijuana available to 20 designated hospitals for the treatment of cancer and glaucoma. Later in July, New York became the 23rd state  to allow the medical use of marijuana, as the Governor signed the Compassionate Care Act, not without drawing the criticism of legalization activists, though.
In August 2017, the Cuomo administration awarded more than $7 million - financed with money from large bank settlements - in grants to New York colleges to offer courses to New York prisoners. In January 2018, Cuomo proposed reforms that would "reduce delays during trials, ban asset seizures in cases where there has been no conviction and make it easier for former convicts to get a job after leaving prison." He also called for an end to cash bail for minor crimes.
Under Cuomo's tenure, he granted commutations to fewer prisoners than many previous Republican and Democratic New York governors. Cuomo commuted a total of nine sentences. Cuomo pardoned 140 adults who were convicted of nonviolent felonies as 16- and 17-year-olds, but had served their sentences. He pardoned 18 others who had served their sentences for nonviolent felonies but were exposed to deportation due to their criminal record.
On January 15, 2013, Cuomo signed into law the first state gun control bill to pass after the December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in neighboring Connecticut. The NY SAFE Act was described as the toughest gun control law in the United States. The act came under criticism, and the National Rifle Association called it draconian. The New York State Sheriffs' Association issued a statement supporting tougher penalties for illegal use of firearms, but criticizing several aspects of the legislation, including a magazine limit of seven rounds and a "too broad" definition of assault weapons.
On July 5, 2013, Cuomo signed an amendment to the NY SAFE Act that exempts retired police officers from some of the act's ownership restrictions.
After Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, Cuomo allowed New York voters, via a specific provision aimed at accommodating those displaced, to cast provisional ballots for the 2012 election anywhere in New York state. He also appointed a commission to examine the responses of New York utilities to damage caused by the storm.
Controversy ensued when the Cuomo administration used $140 million, including $40 million of federal disaster relief funds, to pay for the broadcast of national TV ads promoting "New New York" slogans outside New York in an attempt to attract new business investment to the state. Many have been critical of the effort, including former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who called the ads "fluff" and "a waste of taxpayer money".
In June 2012, the Cuomo administration said it was considering lifting a state ban on the practice of hydraulic fracturing (also known as "fracking") to stimulate the economy in upstate New York. But critics said that fracking in Upstate New York could contaminate the water supply of New York City, New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania. Following a long-awaited study started years earlier, New York State health officials cited "significant public health risks" associated with fracking, and on December 17, 2014, the Cuomo administration announced a ban of hydraulic fracturing in New York State.
New York City Subway
In June 2017, after a series of subway disasters, Cuomo declared a "state of emergency" for the New York City Subway system. According to The New York Times, a series of New York City mayors and New York governors, including Cuomo, were partly at fault for the worsening quality of the subway system and inflated construction costs. Under the Cuomo administration, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority repeatedly diverted tax revenues earmarked for the subways, paid for services that there was no need for and spent on subway projects that did not boost service or reliability. As a result, the MTA was saddled with debt and could not undertake investments into overhauling outdated and inefficient subway infrastructure. Cuomo also directed the MTA to spend on projects that the heads of the MTA did not consider to be priorities. One reason why the New York City subway system is so expensive is due to exorbitant labor costs; according to several M.T.A. officials who were involved in negotiating labor contracts, Cuomo pressured the MTA to accept labor union contracts that were extremely favorable to workers. The New York Times noted that Cuomo was closely aligned with the union in question and had received $165,000 in campaign contributions from the union.
The New York Times reported, "Cuomo had steered clear of the M.T.A. during his first years in office, but in his second term he took an intense interest. He placed aides within the organization and, in an unusual move, made some report directly to him. He badgered transit leaders about the construction of the Second Avenue subway on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And over the objections of some board members, he canceled several M.T.A. capital projects to make room for his own priorities. According to high-ranking current and former M.T.A. officials, the moves interfered with the authority's plans to address the rising delays."
Public college and university tuition
On April 18, 2017, Cuomo signed the New York State 2018 fiscal year budget. It included the Excelsior Scholarship, a provision that families making less than $125,000 in 2019 could have free tuition at all SUNY and CUNY universities, though some education experts including Sara Goldrick-Rab say it won't help the poorest students and that the requirement that recipients live and work in New York after graduating is counter-productive.
On July 16, 2011, Cuomo finalized a five-year deal with the Public Employees Federation to end pay raises, implement furlough days, and require additional contributions to health insurance accounts. In an interview with The New York Times, Cuomo stated his top goal in 2012 is the reduction of public employee pensions.
In keeping with a campaign promise, Cuomo signed same-sex marriage legislation on June 24, 2011, following an "intense public and private lobbying campaign", and later called for all states to do the same. Cuomo was lauded for his efforts to pass same-sex marriage legislation. One prominent advocate stated that "for gay Americans, Mr. Cuomo was "the only national politician with hero status." Following the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, Cuomo was criticized for describing the viewpoints of same-sex marriage opponents as being "anti-American." On July 25, 2011, a lawsuit was filed in the New York Supreme Court seeking an injunction against the Marriage Equality Act, alleging corruption and violations of the law in the process of passing the bill. The trial court initially held that the plaintiffs' case could proceed, but the decision was reversed on appeal.
In July 2016, the Empire State Development Corporation, a state agency, released a report indicating that the state's flagship business tax incentive program, called START-UP NY, had generated 408 jobs since its inception in 2014. Ads promoting the program have cost at least $53 million. The START-UP NY annual report was delayed three months in 2016, leading some lawmakers, such as Assemblyman Schimminger, to call the delays "curious".
Cuomo was praised for his 2011 restructuring of the New York State tax code. He was also criticized for including tax increases for high earners, and for allegedly requesting a unanimous Assembly vote in favor of the proposal and threatening to campaign against Assembly members who voted "no" – a charge he denied. Cuomo also received criticism from voices on the left who felt that the tax reform was insufficient.
Cuomo has supported providing tax and other incentives to attract business to locate in New York State. He even joked in 2018 that he would be willing to change his name to "Amazon Cuomo" if Amazon located their "Amazon HQ2" in the state. His strong support for New York City's bid to become the home of Amazon's HQ2 faced criticism based on arguments that the costs to the state outweighed the possible benefits. Amazon decided on two "major corporate outposts" in New York City and Arlington, Virginia—instead of a single second headquarters.
Women's issues and abortion
In 2013, Cuomo called for the passage of a Women's Equality Act. The Women's Equality Act included 10 component bills affecting issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking, and pregnancy discrimination. The tenth bill of the Women's Equality Act was the Reproductive Health Act, which would have "enshrine[d] in state law existing federal protections for abortion rights," "shift[ed] the state's abortion law from the criminal code to the health care laws," and "[made] it clearer that licensed health care practitioners as well as physicians could perform abortions." During his 2013 State of the State address, Cuomo said, "Enact a Reproductive Health Act because it is her body, it is her choice. Because it's her body, it's her choice. Because it's her body, it's her choice." The New York State Assembly passed the Women's Equality Act on June 20, 2013. The Republican leadership of the New York State Senate expressed support for the nine non-abortion-related planks of the Women's Equality Act, but objected to the Reproductive Health Act and expressed unwillingness to allow a vote on it.
On the final day of the 2013 legislative session, following the Senate Republican Conference's continued refusal to vote on the full Women's Equality Act, Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), offered the abortion plank of the Act as a hostile amendment to another bill. The amendment was defeated by a narrow margin of 32-31; all 30 Senate Republicans voted against the abortion amendment, as did Democratic Sens. Ruben Diaz and Simcha Felder. The Senate proceeded to pass the nine non-abortion-related planks of the Women's Equality Act as separate bills, and the 2013 legislative session came to an end without any portion of the WEA becoming law.
"[After] the 2014 election season was over, with Cuomo victorious, the governor and his lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul both declared the abortion plank of the act officially dormant, if not dead." In 2015, the non-abortion-related Women's Equality Act bills passed both houses of the State Legislature. In October 2015, Cuomo signed eight of the 10 Women's Equality Act bills into law; the abortion rights bill was not among them.
On January 22, 2019, Cuomo signed the 2019 version of the Reproductive Health Act, which passed days after Democrats took control of the state Senate. Cuomo ordered One World Trade Center and other landmarks to be lit in pink to celebrate the bill's passage. Cuomo's signing and the lighting of the World Trade Center building sparked intense criticism from conservatives.
Calls for Cuomo to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church followed his signing the expanded abortion rights into law. Cuomo responded, "The Catholic Church does not believe in a woman's right to choose. Yes, I understand their religious view, I'm not here to legislate religion." The Cardinal Timothy Dolan also criticized Cuomo over the Reproductive Health Act.
In April 2018, Cuomo announced that he would restore the voting rights of parolees through an executive order. Cuomo said that he would consider restoring the voting rights of all parolees (more than 35,000), and would also enfranchise new parolees throughout his term.
In the winter of 2018, Cuomo responded to a class-action lawsuit brought against the New York City Housing Authority by attorney Jim Walden on behalf of a group of public housing tenants. The suit was the first of its kind and called upon NYCHA to immediately address decrepit and unhealthy conditions in public housing units across New York City. At the invitation of Walden, Cuomo toured a public housing project in March. By early April, Cuomo appointed an independent monitor to oversee NYCHA on an emergency basis. The move broadened the ever-widening rift between NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Cuomo.
Appointee donations controversy
On his first day in office, Cuomo renewed an executive order signed by Eliott Spitzer which prohibited Governors of New York from receiving donations from gubernatorial appointees. A February 2018 investigation by The New York Times, however, revealed that the Cuomo administration had quietly reinterpreted the order, and that Cuomo had collected $890,000 from 24 of his appointees, as well as $1.3 million from the spouses, children and businesses of appointees. Some donations were made to Cuomo just days after the donor was appointed.
In March 2018, The New York Times reported that Cuomo had rewritten the disclaimer language on his campaign website for the executive order barring donations from appointees. The website added two caveats whereby some gubernatorial appointees are allowed to donate to the Governor, which The Times said could potentially lead to more donations from appointees to the Governor. The Cuomo campaign returned $2,500 donation from one appointee who was in violation of the new disclaimer, but still retains the approximately $890,000 raised from other appointees.
Remarks about conservatives
In a January 17, 2014, interview with Susan Arbetter on WCNY's The Capital Pressroom, Cuomo stated:
[New York Republicans] are searching to define their soul, that's what's going on. Is the Republican party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party? ... The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are and they're the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are. If they're moderate Republicans like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate — moderate Republicans have a place in their state. George Pataki was governor of this state as a moderate Republican, but not what you're hearing from them on the far right.
This remark received a major reaction in the conservative media. Radio host Glenn Beck wrote a letter to the governor regarding the remarks from the interview. Fox News contributor and radio/TV show host Sean Hannity mentioned moving with all of his assets out of the state if the governor did not apologize for his remarks. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said during a radio broadcast that the governor's remarks were "most unfortunate at best. Are there pro-lifers who are extremist? Yes, there are. But I think they are a distinct minority."
The New York State Democratic Committee, which is headed by Cuomo, supported his remarks and reiterated them in a May 2014 statement responding to a speech by Rob Astorino, who was running against him in the 2014 gubernatorial election: "Tea Party Republicans have done enough damage in Washington, today's speech made it abundantly clear that we don't need them here in New York."
Cuomo married Kerry Kennedy, the seventh child of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel Kennedy, on June 9, 1990. They have three daughters: twins, Cara Ethel Kennedy-Cuomo and Mariah Matilda Kennedy-Cuomo (born January 11, 1995), and Michaela Andrea Kennedy-Cuomo (born August 26, 1997). They separated in 2003, and divorced in 2005. In 2011, he began living with Food Network host Sandra Lee. The two reside in Westchester County, New York.
Cuomo is a Roman Catholic. According to the New York Times, Cuomo's positions in favor of abortion and same-sex marriage (and his cohabitation with Lee without marrying her) contrary to church teachings have "become a lightning rod in a decades-old culture war between conservative Catholics and those, like Mr. Cuomo, who disagree with the church’s positions on various issues, including abortion and divorce." After Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act in January 2019 removing many restrictions on abortion and expanding availability of late-term abortion, and celebrated it by ordering One World Trade Center and other landmarks to be lit in pink, some Catholic leaders called for his excommunication. Cuomo shrugged off the criticism, saying, "I have my own Catholic beliefs, how I live my life. ... That is my business as a Catholic. I don't govern as a Catholic. I don't legislate as a Catholic." He also said, "To the Catholic Church, I am sorry about the situation. I’m not sorry about my position. I’m sorry they have taken the position they’ve taken."
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- Gov. Cuomo shrugs off bishops’ calls for his excommunication (AP)
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