ALBANY – While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed to work with President-elect Donald Trump, he’s also doing something else: trying to be a chief Democratic critic.
Since Trump’s election, the New York governor has expressed hope that Trump will invest in New York’s infrastructure and help its economy.
He’s also been vocal in warning against the Republican president-elect targeting immigrants in New York, and Cuomo has vowed to fight a rise in hate crimes since the fellow New Yorker’s election.
“New York has a special responsibility. We have always been the progressive capital of this country,” Cuomo said a speech Nov. 19 at a Harlem church.
“We have always been the social conscience, and it is time that we act that way.”
Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, have been political foes, but they have also been vying to be Trump’s chief foil in New York.
De Blasio, too, has been forceful against Trump’s proposal to deport immigrants in the country illegally, as well as plans to roll back federal programs established under President Obama.
De Blasio said the city would fight to block any deportation or registration of the city’s Muslim immigrants, oppose efforts to take away federal funding for Planned Parenthood in the city or attempt to expand the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policing policy.
“We will fight anything we see as undermining our values,” de Blasio said in a speech Nov. 21. “And here is my promise to you as your mayor: We will use all the tools at our disposal to stand up for our people.”
For his part, Cuomo said he will form a special police unit to investigate hate crimes in New York, create a public-private fund to provide legal representation to poor immigrants and propose a new law to strengthen rights for students in schools.
“New York still knows what America is supposed to be,” Cuomo said in the Harlem speech. “And we must shout it from the mountaintops. We must provide guidance to this nation.”
De Blasio is seeking a second term next year, and Cuomo said he plans to seek a third term in 2018.
Cuomo has also been speculated as a potential candidate in 2020, a possibility he has downplayed.
Asked in Rochester on Nov. 15 about a potential presidential run, Cuomo said: “I’m planning on being the best governor I can for the people of the state of New York.”
He added he’s only focused on his current job.
“I’m up in two years, and I’m planning to run for re-election in two years. We have a lot of good stuff going on. It won’t all be finished in two years,” he continued.
Cuomo and Trump are both from Queens, and tough talk about Trump from the governor and de Blasio can improve their standings with Democratic voters, said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York City-based Democratic strategist.
“It’s just another competitive battle between the governor and the mayor,” Sheinkopf said. “The mayor needs it to get re-elected, and the governor needs it to be the star of the Democratic Party nationally, which definitely needs somebody to be a star.”
Fighting Trump can also come with risk. As a New Yorker, Trump will have enormous political and policy power to influence the state’s direction.
And criticism of Trump has already drawn jeers from New York Republicans, who claim de Blasio and Cuomo are rushing to be political opportunists.
State GOP chairman Ed Cox said in a statement Cuomo and deBlasio are showing “a naked and unseemly fight to position themselves to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president.”
Republicans have shown resilience in New York, despite being outnumbered by enrolled Democrats by a 2-to-1 margin.
While Trump lost New York to Hillary Clinton on Election Day 58 percent to 37 percent, Trump won 46 counties, and Clinton won just 16. Outside the city, Clinton won by just 760 votes.
Cuomo also didn’t fare well in the same places Trump won during his re-election in 2014.
Outside New York City, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino beat Cuomo by 73,000 votes, although Cuomo’s big win in the city easily carried him to a second term.
Cox called de Blasio and Cuomo “two scorpions in a bottle (that) are each trying to outdo one another with slanderous fear-mongering hyperbole.”
Instead, Cox said they should be looking to work with Trump to improve the state.
Cuomo said he would hope to do just that, saying he talked to Trump after his election Nov. 8.
“Our transportation money, our housing money, our health care money – that all comes from the federal government, and that is a very important resource and relationship for this state," Cuomo said two days after the election in Syracuse.
"So of course, we’ll work together."