Governor Andrew Cuomo has been noted for his brash brand of political aggression and secrecy, but according to a former head honcho in Republican circles, that realpolitik has just crossed the boundary into the betrayal of his own party to Republican bigwigs for his own self-interest.
According to former state Republican Party Director Michael Lawler, who managed Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s failed campaign for the governor’s seat, the effort to unseat Cuomo was thwarted in part by a backroom deal between the governor and Republican Majority Leader Sen. Dean Skelos. Lawler argued that in exchange for Skelos’ support and clout, Cuomo agreed to sacrifice several Democratic senators to hotly-contested races in Long Island.
“Dean Skelos clearly was working against Rob’s campaign,” stated Lawler in an interview with the NY Post. “He and the governor cut a deal.”
Lawler, a Rockland native who is also the vice chair of the Rockland County GOP, argued the deal came to light after the election, when a representative of Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano told him that Mangano’s endorsement of Cuomo came as an order from part higher-ups and alluded to the possibility of Skelos’ influence.
In the months prior, Mangano-a strong ally of Long Island Senator Skelos-had initially attempted to dispell rumors that his lackluster support of local Democrats was a de facto endorsement for Cuomo, but made an abrupt about-face when he publicly announced his support for the incumbent Democrat. Lawler concluded that in exchange for Democratic support from Skelos’ camp, Cuomo had agreed not to throw significant support behind Democrats in Long Island.
Representatives of both Cuomo and Skelos insisted no such back deal occurred. Skelos’ spokeswoman Kelly Cummings stated Mangano’s decision was completely independent of the Republican leaders’ direction.
Cuomo’s spokesperson also denied that a deal took place, though Cuomo’s silence in Long Island seemed deafening during the campaign. Even before Lawler came forward, Democrats and Republicans both speculated the meager support given by Cuomo toward Democratic candidates signaled some private arrangement with Republicans.
Regardless, Cuomo appeared to make out well on any alleged deal. Though he did help galvanize Republican support in upstate and contested regions, Astorino himself failed to nab his prize, losing his race against Cuomo by 13.4 points. With lackluster polling numbers months before an election in a heavily Democratic state, it is unlikely the relatively recent deal was what definitively killed Astorino’s campaign.
At the same time, any sacrifice Cuomo might have made paid off for the Republicans he supposedly brokered a deal with. Republicans managed to seize control of the State Senate from Democrats, winning three new seats while losing only one. Though Cuomo will likely find governance that much more difficult without his allies’ control of the Senate, the close collaboration between him and Skelos which Lawler suggested had occurred might mitigate some of the effects of party opposition.
In Long Island-the center of the controversy-Republicans made particularly strong gains. Without Cuomo’s strong support, Republicans captured senate seats from three Democrats in the region.