Democratic New York governor Andrew Cuomo has said the so-called insurgent progressive wave in his party is “not even a ripple”, arguing that it’s pragmatists like him who can get things done who are the true progressives.
Cuomo, a two-term Democratic incumbent, on Thursday defeated challenger Cynthia Nixon by a 30-point margin – turning back the latest attempt by a newcomer from the left to unseat a Democrat favored by the establishment.
The governor, viewed as a potential 2020 presidential contender, used a victory lap press conference on Friday to make a forceful case for his own vision of the party.
“I’m not a socialist. I’m not 25 years old … I’m not a newcomer,” he told reporters at his Manhattan office. “But I am a progressive. And I deliver progressive results.”
Cuomo was fighting back against another narrative that has taken hold in the party: that the upset win by New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist who knocked off powerful representative Joe Crowley, set off a domino effect in primaries around the country, including upset wins by progressives running for governor in Georgia and Florida and for a congressional seat in Massachusetts.
“Where was that effect yesterday? Where was it?” Cuomo asked.
Instead, he said the win by Ocasio-Cortez in Queens in June was merely “a fluke”, explained by the timing of the vote which resulted in low turnout.
The statewide primary this week, by contrast, saw a spike in turnout, and Cuomo bragged that he got more primary votes than any governor in history.
“That is a wave,” he said. “On the numbers – not on some Twittersphere dialogue where I tweet you, you tweet me, and between the two of us we think we have a wave. We’re not even a ripple.”
Cuomo won despite a series of missteps in the closing days of the campaign, when he drew criticism for a mailer sent out linking Nixon to antisemitism, which his camp and the state Democratic party were forced to disavow.
And after Cuomo hosted an event alongside Hillary Clinton to mark the opening of a new bridge named for his father, the span was forced to stay closed due to structural dangers.
Cuomo ruled out a presidential run during the primary race, promising to serve a full term as governor unless “God strikes me dead”, but there are already rumblings he could change his mind.
To have a chance, he would have to make the case that a politician like himself – the son of a former governor, known more as an operator and dealmaker than an ideological purist – is the best standard bearer against Donald Trump, an argument that was apparent in his remarks Friday.
He pointed to his track record of raising the minimum wage, creating a paid family leave program, and legalizing gay marriage.
“A progressive Democrat, a Democrat in New York state – these are not ivory tower academics. These are not pontificators. These are not people who live in the abstract or the theoretical. New York Democrats, these are hard working men and women,” he said.
“They opened the envelope and they looked at their check, and they saw that their check went up. That’s how they know a $15 minimum wage meant something to them.”