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Deconstructing Cuomo 

Barring some truly shocking scandal, our governor looks like a shoe-in for re-election. Still, it was interesting to read "Democrats Need to Replace Andrew Cuomo," a recent Harold Meyerson column in the Washington Post.

Meyerson cited New York State Democrats' liberal history: progressive labor laws, massive public works projects, that kind of thing. And, Meyerson wrote: "In recent decades, New Yorkers have increasingly voted for Democratic candidates, and for increasingly liberal Democratic candidates."

So why, Meyerson wondered, would New York Democrats want to re-elect Cuomo? Meyerson listed non-liberal Cuomo actions: lowering taxes on big banks, slapping down New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's attempt to raise the minimum wage and tax the wealthy.

But of course Cuomo also pushed through a gun-control law, a gutsy move that a lot of politicians have run away from. And he played a key role in getting a marriage equality bill passed.

The fact is, Cuomo is a moderate, not a liberal. And while the state has passed some strongly liberal laws and policies – abortion rights, elimination of the death penalty, a state health-insurance exchange, creation of the Adirondack Park – its history isn't purely liberal, either.

Any call for closing prisons is met with a huge outcry. The notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws were pushed by a governor who was considered a liberal Republican. The state has a long history of resisting campaign finance reform. And shamefully, state government has ignored a court order to fund urban school districts equitably.

The Heartland may view us as a liberal enclave, but New Yorkers are a diverse bunch. And not every Democrat is a liberal. Sadly, a liberal candidate for governor wouldn't stand a chance right now – and not solely because Republican and Democratic money squashes the hopes of any minor party.

So Andrew Cuomo will be the Democrats' nominee for governor this year. And barring some truly shocking scandal, he'll win re-election. (And he'll take office and continue his preparations for a campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president, as a tough, pragmatic moderate.)

My main concern about Cuomo isn't his moderate philosophy. It's his ethics. I think he really wanted gun control and marriage equality. Beyond that, too many of his positions and pronouncements seem little more than political posturing.

There's a difference between compromising – moderating your position because otherwise you can't get anything accomplished – and taking a position that simply sounds good, knowing you don't intend to do anything. Cuomo talked a good game about ethics reform, but then shut down the Moreland Commission, which was supposed to investigate corruption in the State Legislature.

And, frankly, I'm really, really worried about Cuomo and corruption. A few journalists speculated that Cuomo killed the Moreland Commission because its investigation was hitting too close to home. I think a bigger red flag is his infatuation with casinos.

Maybe he does believe that casinos will bring an economic-development miracle to this state. But there's too much money involved in that industry – and too much history of corruption.

And as we wait for the Cuomo-inspired casino boom in New York, money is indeed changing hands. Lots and lots of money. Casino money helped convince New Yorkers to approve the casino expansion. Casino money has fueled the campaigns of New York political candidates, including Cuomo's. Now it's paying for lobbyists to help the companies bidding on the four licenses the state will award.

Those lobbyists, the New York Times reported last week, "include many with personal or professional ties" to Cuomo.

The governor insists that the process for selecting the casino operators has plenty of safeguards against influence and corruption, and maybe that'll prove to be the case. Maybe I'm just jaded from all the news about corruption in Albany over the past few years.

But I don't think casinos are economic-development tools for anybody except the casino operators and the people who feed off them.

Am I being too cynical? Maybe. Still: Money. Casinos. New York politics.

I just don't like the smell.

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