Column by Ted Potrikus
Poor Kathy Hochul must feel like she’s smack-dab in the middle of the television commercial with that guy Mayhem; there she is, crawling from the wreckage amid a heap of smoldering cars and destroyed streetscape. Walking through the disaster, a little bruised, scarred, bandaged, and battered himself, is a guy in a suit, smirking and warning that maybe she should have thought twice before taking that deal that seemed too good to pass up.
Portraying Mayhem in our little scene here is our former governor, Mr. Cuomo, dusting himself off from the wreckage that brought his term to a premature end in 2021. He has to be taking stock of the situation: Governor Hochul’s well-financed campaign is in a heap of trouble after her lieutenant, Brian Benjamin, resigned last week following his arrest on a stack of federal corruption charges. She’s under fire for picking a second-in-command whose record on campaign ethics wasn’t all that great to begin with, but she chose and stood by him until the end got too bitter.
Her primary opponents immediately chastised her perceived lack of judgment — after all, people might not know who the LG is, but since two of our last three governors (Hochul and Paterson) assumed the chief executive role after their bosses had to resign, it’s an important post. Chances are her primary opponent, Tom Suozzi, thought it a great chance to gain some traction — but then word arose that he and a few dozen other members of Congress might be in a little ethics mess of their own owing to a potential failure to report stock trades. Whoops.
Meanwhile, the Democrats’ disarray went full-tilt kablooie when they realized that it was too late to kick Mr. Benjamin off the primary ballot; the state’s Byzantine election laws say that once a person accepts the party nomination for the post, they’re on the ballot unless they die or move out of state. I suspect party operatives are looking for a way to convince Mr. Benjamin to relocate (interestingly, the feds have limited his travel to New York City and to “northern Georgia,” I believe it said) before the May 4 ballot-prep cutoff.
Lo and behold, the state Legislature may entertain a bill newly drafted in the wake of Mr. Benjamin’s hasty retreat that, colloquially, would say this: “Oh, and a person can voluntarily step off a ballot after accepting a nomination provided that person is in trouble with the law.” With Democrats controlling the Senate, Assembly, and governor’s office, not too far out of the realm of convenient possibility so the party can take a run at fixing this mess before a May 4 cutoff date from the Board of Elections.
That means, too, that the Governor would have to choose a Benjamin replacement lickety-split (and we know where that got her the last time around) who could make it onto the ballot in time.
Oh, and look over here! Is that Democratic committee chairman Jay Jacobs huddling with colleagues to create a third party — at press time, they were kicking around “The Fair Deal Party” as its name — to maybe provide a soft landing for candidates who might be otherwise ballot-challenged? Or maybe want to run as a quasi-independent? And are those people whispering that Working Families Party lieutenant governor candidate Ana Maria Archila might get enough votes in the June primary to be Governor Hochul’s accidental running mate — even if Ms. Archila might be the last person Kathy Hochul would want on a November ticket? And isn’t that putative Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin getting notice from people surprised that his running mate, retired New York City Police deputy inspector and precinct commander Alison Esposito, is openly gay? You bet it is.
Look straight into the screen, too, to read Mr. Cuomo’s April 18 opinion piece in the New York Daily News. “There is no vision, planning, performance or accountability,” he writes about the ‘Albany culture.’ “The only act of national significance in the budget was the Bills stadium deal that a national expert called ‘one of the worst deals for taxpayers I’ve ever seen’ and ‘a return to the bad old days.’”
“It’s no secret that the Albany establishment wanted me out of office,” he writes. “From their point of view, I was an obstacle. In truth, I would’ve never signed this budget. I’m proud to have been considered a disruptive force to politics as usual.”
Just like that Mayhem guy in the commercial. Disruptive as usual.