Who Is Andrew Cuomo?
Andrew Cuomo is the 56th governor of New York, serving since 2011. Prior to his role as governor, Cuomo served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (1997-2001) under President Bill Clinton. In 2007 he became New York State's attorney general, working alongside former Governor Eliot Spitzer. Cuomo is the son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and the older brother of news anchor Chris Cuomo. Since taking over the New York governorship, he has become known for focusing on LGBT rights, including marriage equality; women's rights; and economic stimulus in New York State.
Andrew Mark Cuomo was born in New York City on December 6, 1957, to mother Matilda Raffa Cuomo and father Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York and the son of Italian immigrants. After graduating from Archbishop Molloy High School in 1975, Andrew Cuomo enrolled at Fordham University, graduating with his bachelor's degree in 1979. He went on to attend Albany Law School, where he received his Juris Doctorate degree in 1982.
Cuomo served as his father's campaign manager during the race to become the 52nd governor of New York. After the elder Cuomo was elected to the first of three terms, in 1982, Andrew managed his father's Transition Committee and then became a top adviser.
Cuomo began serving as assistant district attorney of Manhattan in 1984, before becoming a partner in the law firm Blutrich, Falcone & Miller. Transitioning back to public service, in 1986 he founded the state's Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP). According to Cuomo's website, HELP has since become "one of the nation's largest builders and operators of transitional and low income housing."
In 1993, Cuomo became an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under President Bill Clinton. He took over as HUD secretary in 1997, and served in the role until 2001.
Cuomo made his first run for the New York governorship in 2002 but withdrew from the race after making a controversial comment about then-Governor George Pataki's lack of leadership following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It was perceived as a major gaffe for the Democratic hopeful, and Cuomo dropped out of the public eye for a few years to work in real estate.
Cuomo returned to the spotlight by running for the position of New York attorney general in 2006. Promising to crack down on corrupt state government officials and enforce environmental laws, he easily defeated his Republican opponent, Jeanine Pirro.
Working alongside New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Cuomo earned praise for fulfilling his campaign pledge to address corruption, notably filing a civil lawsuit against New York Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. for stealing $14 million from his nonprofit health clinic. Additionally, his investigations prompted reforms within the state pension system and national student loan organizations.
New York Governor
Following Spitzer's resignation in the wake of a prostitution scandal, and the struggles of his successor, David Paterson, Cuomo launched a second bid for the state's governorship in 2010. This time he emerged victorious, handily defeating his Republican opponent, Carl Paladino, to become the 56th governor of New York.
As New York's top executive, Cuomo became known for focusing on LGBT rights, women's rights and economic improvements. He made a point of submitting a balanced budget every year on schedule, and lowered corporate and manufacturing taxes to spur job growth. In July 2011, just two years after state lawmakers had rejected a marriage-equality law, the governor signed a bill that made New York the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage. Taking a stance on another controversial issue, he legalized medical marijuana in New York in September 2014.
In other areas, Cuomo had less success. He established what was supposed to be an independent commission to investigate state government corruption in July 2013, but the commission was hampered by infighting and pressure from the governor's office, before being abruptly shut down the following March. Additionally, Cuomo was accused of not doing enough to support fellow Democrats throughout the state.
Regardless, Cuomo easily won reelection in 2014. He defeated his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, by earning approximately 54 percent of the vote.
Second and Third Terms
Not long after winning reelection, Cuomo took a bold step on a controversial environmental issue: He officially approved the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's call for a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is used to obtain natural gas and oil, making New York became the second state to ban the practice.
Turning toward infrastructure, the governor in 2013 announced the beginning of formal construction of a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River north of New York City. The renamed Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge opened one side for west/northbound traffic in August 2017, with the other direction becoming operational the following year.
Additionally, the governor unveiled a $4 billion renovation plan for LaGuardia Airport in Queens, holding a groundbreaking ceremony in June 2016. That year Cuomo also enacted legislation to speed up foreclosure of neglected "zombie properties," and published a Consumer Bill of Rights designed to protect homeowners facing foreclosure.
Up for reelection in 2018, Cuomo found himself competing against former Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary. The incumbent caused a stir during an August speech when, noting President Donald Trump's mantra to "make America great again," he said that the country was "never that great." Cuomo added: "We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged. We will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping of women, 51 percent of our population, is gone, and every woman's full potential is realized and unleashed and every woman is making her full contribution."
Although Trump and his political allies ran with the controversial aspect of his comments, Cuomo defeated Nixon in the primary and again cruised to victory in the general election, topping Republican Marc Molinaro with nearly 60 percent of the vote in November.
Cuomo waded back into controversial waters with the passage of the Reproductive Health Act in January 2019. Responding to critics who accused him of lifting virtually all restrictions on abortion, he clarified his position in a February op-ed in The New York Times, emphasizing that the law permitted third-trimester abortions only when the woman's life or health were at risk.
Cuomo surfaced in the national spotlight following the confirmation of the first coronavirus patient in New York on March 1, 2020. Although he pushed New York lawmakers into quickly approving $40 million in emergency funding to contain the virus, the number of confirmed patients exploded in the following weeks, turning New York into the center of the pandemic with more than 25,000 cases by March 24.
The governor publicly feuded with President Trump as he sought to acquire more resources for his state, including a request for 30,000 ventilators for hospitals. His request for assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers was heeded, with the corps quickly transforming the massive Jacob K. Javits Center on Manhattan's west side into a makeshift hospital by the end of March.
In mid-April, Cuomo issued an order that required New Yorkers to wear face masks in public places where social distancing was not possible.
Cuomo dated famous television chef Sandra Lee from 2005 to 2019. Cuomo also has three daughters from his previous marriage to Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of the late New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
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