ALBANY — The coming summer of hell for commuters could morph into an election year train wreck for Gov. Cuomo in 2018 if things don’t improve, insiders warn.
Cuomo’s popularity — currently at its highest levels in years — largely rests in New York City and the surrounding suburbs. A recent Marist poll showed Cuomo ahead by at least 30 points over his potential Republican challengers.
The last thing he’ll need when seeking a third term next year are angry commuters looking for someone to blame, experts and politicos say.
Commuters are already pointing their fingers at Cuomo for the subway woes — with many taking to Twitter after Tuesday’s A train derailment to vent their anger.
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“.@NYCTSubway crash. derailment. DANGEROUS. FIX THE GODDAMN SUBWAY #CUOMO,” read one of the many angry tweets.
“No elected official wants to ever feel the wrath of a million commuters,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.
“Gov. Cuomo has shown an ability to be in control of the MTA when he wants and to try and distance himself from the MTA when he wants,” Greenberg added. “In his own election year, he may have much greater difficulty in pulling that off.”
The city and suburban voters who fueled his 2014 reelection victory are exactly the ones being impacted by the subway and commuter rail problems.
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While he said he can’t comment on the potential electoral impact of the transit crisis, Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin said that “commuter rail and subway riders are holding Gov. Cuomo directly accountable for the success or failure of our transit system and so far there’s been a lot more failure than success.”
If the situation worsens, it could cost Cuomo big if he faces a serious primary or suppress turnout in the general election in a crucial region for Democrats running statewide, which would hurt him, Dems and Republicans say.
Mayor de Blasio is no fan of Cuomo and has already started publicly calling on Cuomo to fix the transit system. Knowing it could hurt Cuomo’s politically, some say they expect those calls to grow even louder if de Blasio is re-elected in November, as expected.
State GOP spokeswoman Jessica Proud said a Republican running statewide likely needs to win 30% of the vote in New York City. Cuomo’s opponent in 2014, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, got 18%.
The transit problems she said, could play well for a GOP candidate.
“It’s most certainly going to be an issue heading into next year’s elections,” Proud said.
After initially trying to say he doesn’t control the MTA, the issue seems to have hit the governor’s radar the past week.
He rushed through the roundly-applauded appointment of Joseph Lhota as his new MTA chairman.
And he introduced a bill just 24 hours before the legislative session ended that would give him simple majority control of the MTA board. It wasn’t taken up.
Cuomo points out that last year he helped push through the largest MTA capital plan in history, with the state share exceeding $ 8 billion.
He’s already facing calls to dramatically increase funding for the mass transit system next year.
“The MTA crisis is real and it is upon us,” said Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat who has proposed a temporary tax on millionaires in the 12-county MTA region to help raise needed revenue. “New Yorkers are suffering the consequences of years of underfunding and mismanaging of our mass transit system.”
While not specifically mentioning Cuomo by name, Gianaris added that “it would be irresponsible for state leaders to allow this to continue without finding a solution and that is what we should do with the urgency this crisis demands.”
Cuomo last week acknowledged the system needs more money and called on the city to dramatically up its contribution.
“The state may have to pay more; the city definitely has to pay more,” he said.
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