NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is by no means the first New York governor to be mired in controversy involving sex. Both of his predecessors had sex-related controversies, which helped to bring their political careers to their ends.
Whether or not the same can end up happening to Cuomo is an open question, according to some professional observers of New York politics.
The New York governor’s office has seen three straight administrations be tainted with crises involving sex.
Few can forget Eliot Spitzer admitting in 2008 that he was a client of a high-end prostitution ring, but as Alain Sanders, an emeritus political science professor at St. Peter’s University said, the current governor seems not have that in mind.
“How dumb to you have to be in order to make the kind of statements, and engage in the kind of behavior that Gov. Cuomo is alleged to have engaged in?” Sanders asked, in an interview.
Sanders went on to say that he felt that Cuomo should be a better student of the history of the office, especially since his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, had once held it, and the younger Cuomo had once been the campaign manager for Cuomo the elder.
“As the son of a governor, as a secretary of Housing and Urban Development,” said Sanders, “and as a governor, you would think that he understands, and would be exposed to the danger of scandals.”
Also talking about Andrew Cuomo’s father was Gil Troy, an historian at McGill University, who has written extensively about American politics. He said that New York has had a long history of distinguished governors.
“Someone like Mario Cuomo,” Troy said, “who not only also played at the highest level of American politics, but also was a man of integrity.”
Many New Yorkers, however, may have forgotten that between Eliot Spitzer’s and Andrew Cuomo’s tenures, Gov. David Paterson had held the office.
Paterson had had a long term affair with a woman whom he’d meet at a hotel on West 94th Street on the Upper West Side before he became governor.
Shortly after taking office — to replace a disgraced Spitzer — Paterson openly talked admitted to the affair, which his then-wife also acknowledged.
Troy said that a governor being his best self, even while embroiled in controversy, is what usually helps him most, politically. Even though Andrew Cuomo has not been his best self of late, said Troy and Sanders, it would be premature to count him out yet.
“New York is the land of broken dreams, but it’s also the land of first acts, and second acts, and third acts,” said Troy. “Who knows tomorrow will bring? Who knows what skills will emerge as Andrew Cuomo is under the gun.”
Openness could help Cuomo. But his predecessor, Paterson, was forthcoming about the sex controversy surrounding him. It helped to end his career.
In other words, Paterson’s situation could serve as an example. Whether it’s an example of what to do, or what not do, only time will tell.