News & Politics

Andrew Cuomo: Will he rise again?

No one knows what the former governor may be planning as he dips his toe back into the public sphere

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Well over a year has passed since Andrew Cuomo stepped down as governor, yet one big question still plagues New York political observers: What comes next for the man who once had an iron grip on the reins of power in New York?

Largely keeping out of the public eye, Cuomo has nonetheless engaged in some appeals to remaining supporters and attempts to rehabilitate his image. But just like where he currently lays his head, what the political operator has in mind for his future remains, for the most part, unknown. 

The first time that Cuomo really emerged from where he went to ground came at the beginning of the year, as the Democratic primary for governor got underway. He made appearances – his first public ones in months – at Black and Hispanic churches as speculation swirled about whether he would enter the fray. When the deadline to enter the primary passed, the rumor mill suggested that Cuomo was eying an independent run for governor in the general election. But that deadline also went by without a peep from the ex-governor.

It’s always possible those rumors were just a red herring. In February, he dipped into his still substantial war chest to pay for a television ad that purported his exonerations when no prosecutors brought criminal charges against him over allegations of groping and inappropriate touching. He paid for another one in March. “I suspect he will always reemerge every once in a while as he probably misses being in the mix of things,” Democratic consultant L. Joy Williams said. “His war chest allows him to do that.”

But Cuomo may be playing the political long game, something well within the realm of possibility for the infamous micromanager. “Andrew Cuomo came back from the abyss once before and is never going to stop scheming to rise again like a phoenix from the ashes,” said one Democratic insider who has known the former governor for years, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “Raising his profile isn’t a means unto itself, it’s a tactic.” Even without gossip about an imminent run for governor, he spent $60,000 on Facebook ads to promote an article written by a Cato Institute fellow questioning the findings of the damning attorney general’s report into the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo. The amount may seem small, but it bought him significant digital space.

Cuomo has also made a return of sorts in the media. Since leaving office he’s published two op-eds in the Daily News, one just days ago for the anniversary of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. He of course made reference to the support and aid he provided the territory while he was governor. And he once again teased at what his future may hold in a recent interview in the New York Post. “I’m a lawyer who can rep clients in corporations, finance, government relations, real estate people. I can earn money,” Cuomo offered vaguely, according to the Post. “And I’ll express my opinion in the next few weeks.”

The next few weeks could mean the first week in October – or it could mean just after the November elections, when Democrats are expected to be on the defensive during the midterms. “He still has support out there and clearly has a lot to say,” Basil Smikle, Democratic consultant and former executive director of the state Democratic Party, said. “If Democrats don’t have a good November, he may want to position himself as part of the party’s future solution.” That possibility means playing the waiting game as the odds continue to stack up in Democrats’ favor.

Elected office isn’t the only place Cuomo could wind up as he continues playing his cards, doubtlessly keeping multiple avenues open for himself. As he noted, he’s still a lawyer and could go into the private sector offering his consulting expertise or representing clients. “I think he held such a high profile and commanding position in public and political life for so long that he likely feels it would be a waste to fate out of view,” Jake Dilemani, a Democratic consultant with Mercury, said. “He still has a lot of money and an incredible institutional knowledge that he possibly feels he could or should put to use.” That opens the door to a possible career in public affairs, often the route of former politicians, so long as the worth of his knowledge outweighs his potential toxicity. 

For now, all anyone can do is wait for the next public appeal from Cuomo and try to decipher the greater meaning behind it.