WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
It's official: Andrew Cuomo is running for governor, he announced today. Now Cuomo can emerge from the endless political holding pattern he has been in ever since Gov. David Paterson took himself out of the race. If his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, was Hamlet on the Hudson, Andrew Cuomo has been a bit like Caesar loitering near the Rubicon with his legions just milling about.
Now that Cuomo has announced he will run for governor, he will have an obligation to clearly communicate how he will do that at a time when the state is in its worst fiscal condition since the Depression.
Cuomo, 52, was born in Hollis, Queens on December 6, 1957. He graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx in 1979, and from Albany Law School in 1982.
His father served as governor for three terms and was cast as a potential Presidential contender. Andrew, one of five Cuomo kids, figured out how the world worked as his father’s special assistant and campaign manager. For Andrew, being put in such a "must get results" capacity taught him how to play political hardball.
Cuomo, just like former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, had a stint as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan in the mid 1980s and than went into private practice.
In 1986, he founded the Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged, a non-profit that provides transitional housing for the homeless. His work with the organization made him a natural to head the New York City Commission on the Homeless.
Early in the Clinton administration, he was named Assistant HUD Secretary for Community Planning. In 1996, when HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros was forced to step down over disclosure of payments to a girlfriend, Cuomo was elevated to the top HUD spot by President Bill Clinton.
His tenure leading HUD was not without controversy, and the reviews of his performance were mixed. He did improve enforcement. But political opponents are already trying to blame Cuomo's tenure at HUD for thousands of unqualified applicants being pushed into taking out mortgages for homes they could not really afford.
And Cuomo has gotten critical press for his relationship with Andrew Farkas, a real estate mogul whose family founded the Alexander's department store chain. Farkas was sued by HUD while Cuomo was at the agency for allegedly paying kickbacks to building owners. Those charges were settled civilly and Farkas's company made no admission of wrong doing.
But years later, Cuomo went to work for a Farkas company and Farkas has been a key Cuomo campaign donor.
This is not Cuomo's first attempt at the state's top elected office. In 2002, he challenged State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, the Democratic favorite and eventual nominee. A week before the primary, Cuomo withdrew from the race and what looked to be certain defeat.
Cuomo's political fortunes rebounded, though, and on Nov. 7, 2006, the resilient Cuomo was elected as New York State’s 64th Attorney General, with about 58 percent of the vote.
As attorney general, Cuomo succeeded Spitzer, who had made quite a reputation from himself as the so-called Sheriff of Wall Street. Cuomo hit the ground running with the zeal of a populist avenger. No target was too big to take on: excessive Wall Street compensation, bond rating agencies, banks, and fraudulent mortgage brokers, you name it.
Among the most publicized cases was his office’s nationwide investigation into the student loan industry in 2007. It uncovered widespread illegal practices and conflicts of interest in the industry, and led to the creation of a code of conduct for lenders, later passed into law as SLATE (Student Lending, Accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act.).
Cuomo is one of five children of Mario Cuomo and his wife Matilda. His brother Chris is an ABC News correspondent. His sister Maria is married to Kenneth Cole, the designer.
In 1990, Cuomo married the late Robert Kennedy's daughter, Kerry Kennedy. They were divorced in 2003. He has three teenage daughers, including a set of twins. He now lives in Westchester with Sandra Lee, a Food Network star.