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Back to the Future

November 16, 2010

One of the members of our group was cleaning out her basement and found a copy of “The Diaries of Mario Cuomo: The Campaign for Governor.” This is the 1983 book with a picture of Cuomo seated in a Lincoln-esque pose — one hand holding pen to paper and the other drawn to his chin.  She took a few notes as she read the post-election section of the book:

Just after the election in November 1982, Mario learned that he faced a $2 billion budget deficit – this was on a base budget of $25 billion. (Andrew now faces a projected gap of $9 billion in a $136 billion budget.)

In the days immediately following the election, Mario insisted that the makeup of his new administration had “to reflect our entire coalition: Women, blacks, Hispanics, Italians, disabled, business people and unions. It’s important to distinguish my administration from Carey’s, so I can’t have too many holdovers. It’s also important that the transition effort not function as a patronage machine…” (Andrew has vowed to have the “most diverse administration ever.”)

On Nov. 6, Mario met with Mike Del Guidice, a senior Carey aide, and urged him to join the administration as Secretary to the Governor. (Del Guidice, current Chair of the NYRA Board, is now said to be directing Andrew’s transition.)

On Nov. 10, Standard and Poor’s dropped New York’s bond rating, citing the fiscal gap and the inability of state government to address it. (Bond rating agencies recently downgraded California and Illinois debt, but maintained New York’s credit status.)

By Nov. 15, Mario had filled the positions of Secretary to the Governor, Budget Director and Deputy Director. He had also filled the position of criminal justice coordinator and spokesman. (There’s been no official word from Andrew regarding administration appointments. To date, he’s made only announcements regarding his transition teams.)

On Nov. 16, Mario wrote that he “made an all-out effort to take hold of the party machinery…I want Bill Hennessy as State Chairman as a unifying force…” (Andrew installed Charlie King as Executive Director of the Party earlier in the year, but hasn’t shown much interest in the party structure.)

On the day before Thanksgiving, Mario traveled to the Bed-Sty section of New York City to see “Al Vann’s people.”  Mario said the purpose of the trip was to thank them “for their overwhelming support” in the election. (Andrew’s first trip after the election was to visit Ossining Correctional Facility and a state psychiatric facility.)

On Sunday, November 28, Mario wrote that he was close to having his entire Cabinet aboard. The missing piece was communications director. A short while later, he met with Tim Russert, who was then Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Chief of Staff. Russert would agree to come on board as “Counselor” to handle media and advise on strategy. (Andrew is said to serve as his own press advisor.)

Throughout the month of December 1982, Mario was embroiled in a series of meetings with state lawmakers and Governor Carey. This culminated in a special session to address a shortfall in MTA finances. (Governor Paterson wants to convene a special session to address budget matters.)

On Dec. 30, Mario wrote critically of his predecessor: “Carey did a Carey thing today. In his farewell press conference, he managed to insult the legislators by calling them small boys…”  (Andrew has publicly praised Paterson.)

Throughout the book, Mario alternates between a kind of bemused impatience with his son and fawning admiration of him. At one point, Mario laments the fact that Andrew had amassed $165 in parking tickets, which he didn’t pay. As a result, Matilda Cuomo, in whose name Andrew’s car was registered, was reported as a scofflaw in the Albany Times Union.

But later Mario wrote: “Andrew continues to function beautifully. He’s now into his transition role. It’s extraordinary how quick he adapts — how fast he learns. I have always had some of that ability, but not as much as he. He wins everyone’s confidence — usually on first meeting.”



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