Joe Prococo was sitting at his usual table at the back of Jack’s on State Street in Albany, and, he wasn’t in a good mood. “The f______ Common Core, Andrew’s going to get blasted, King screwed this up.”
Prococo is Cuomo’s alter ego, the “go-to” guy for everything and anything in the Cuomo administration. Low profile to the public, every legislator and Democratic apparatchik in the state knows it’s a non-starter if Prococo is not on board. From the speaking order on the podium to coordinating campaigns for Democrats around the state the pugnacious Prococo is “hands on.”
The Cuomo campaign for a second term runs on two levels – win with a majority north of 60% – a landslide – and that “unspoken” question that drives the campaign. “What happens if Hillary doesn’t run?”
Elizabeth Warren lurks on the left, probably too far to the left and no one takes Biden seriously, except Biden. Are there any governors, or senators who can step into Hillary’s shoes? Where would the Hillary voters go?
Cuomo has carefully crafted a political persona,
Liberal on social issues:
marriage equality is the law in New York State – careful on marijuana – medical marijuana – pushing, unsuccessfully so far, for the Women’s Equity Agenda ( “Safeguarding Reproductive Health, Ending Pregnancy Discrimination, Fighting Human Trafficking, Supporting Domestic Violence Victims, Providing Fair Access to Housing, Stopping Employment Discrimination, Expanding Access to Justice, Ending Sexual Harassment, Securing Equal Pay”) and ethics reform (“Require disclosure of clients doing business with the state that are represented by legislators before the state and disclosure of how much they get paid, require the creation of an independent body to provide oversight and enforcement of ethics rules because, as we have seen in the past, self-policing does not work, require lobbyists to disclose any business relationship with legislators in excess of $1,000, strip pensions from those public officials convicted of a felony related to the abuse of their official duties”).
Conservative on economic issues:
the 2% property tax cap, the refusal to allow de Blasio to raise taxes to fund universal pre-k, low tax economic empowerment zones upstate and moving towards increasing casino gambling as a revenue source.
Cuomo has positioned himself as a Democrat socially left of center and economically right of center – appealing to the Hillary voters as well as the disaffected democrats on the right.
Jumping on the Race to the Top band wagon seemed like the right political stance – being out in front of the crowd on the Common Core another “smart” political move – until it all began to crumble.
Simmering anger among parents turned to a bubbling cauldron that grew and grew, in spite of calls to slow the race to fully implement the Common Core the Commissioner and the Regents (with a few naysayers) plunged ahead. The anger was on the verge of a revolution and the governor supported a complex 39-page plan to slow the implementation and. hopefully, mollify parents.
The Commissioner is about to release the next set of Common Core test scores and it’s altogether likely the scores will be flat or only slightly better than last year – last year 2/3 of kids in grades 3-8 failed the tests – received scores of “below proficient.”
The supporters of the Common core argue to stay the course – three or four or five years down the road scores will begin to increase – national tests (NAEP) and international tests (PISA) will justify the current angst.
For Cuomo and Prococo and the 223 members of the legislature the only dates are the 2014 September party primaries, the November elections and the race to the 2016 presidential.
Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo’s opponent in the primary and Rob Astorino, his Republican challenger are both enthusiastic opponents of the Common Core.
Astorino: “Cuomo’s Common Core has been a disaster for parents, teachers and children alike. Rob Astorino will end Cuomo’s Common Core and replace it with better standards, teaching and testing, all set and controlled at the local level.”
Teachout: Teachout says as governor she “would immediately halt Common Core and lead a delegation of parents and teachers to Washington to argue that we can and should develop our own standards, not use high-stakes testing to judge teachers.”
The 30,000 or parents who opted out of the Common Core tests blame all the incumbents and Teachout and/or Astorino are alternatives. Teachers are angry and any chances of an endorsement are gone- they may vote for Teachout in the primary and sit on their hands in November.
Prococo is pissed – none of this had to happen.
Jerry Brown, the Governor of California stared down the feds and delayed the Common Core tests for a year, at least a year, Commissioner King said, “Not possible.” Brown was right!
Will the parent angst wane? Can the Commissioner and the Regents spin the release of the scores to assuage the anger of parents and teachers” Or,
Does someone take the blame?
Does a “head have to roll”?
Cuomo could waffle – the Siena poll has him ahead by 37% and parent anger may have nowhere to go – sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. On the other hand the national sentiment on the Common Core is rapidly turning negative, both from the left and the right. Defending the Common Core may lose Cuomo supporters from both ends of the political spectrum. Remember that second question: What if Hillary decides not to run? You want to have your policy “ducks in a row” if the moment comes – not have to change course. Maybe it is time to unshackle New York State from its firm commitment to the Core?
The unparalleled influx of Gulf War veterans overtaxed the ability of an already overtaxed Veterans Administration. The Republicans sharped their blades and stabbed away, and, a head had to roll. Eric Shinseki, the head of the VA took the fall. When the smell of blood is in the political waters it’s better to feed someone to the sharks.
If Cuomo scuttles the Common Core the rush will begin, a signal to candidates that there is no political upside to defending a sinking ship.
I bet Prococo loves Frank Underwood! Politics is no place for the faint of heart, it can be cruel, the stakes are high, maybe House of Cards should be required viewing in Government 101 classes?