Born in Queens, New York, Cuomo is a graduate of Fordham University and Albany Law School of Union University, New York in New York. He began his career working as the campaign manager for his father, and then he was an assistant district attorney in New York City before entering private law practice. He founded Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP USA) and was appointed chair of the New York City Homeless Commission, a position he held, from 1990 to 1993.
In 1993, Cuomo joined the Clinton Administration, when he was appointed assistant secretary for community planning and development in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. From 1997 to 2001, he was U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
In 2006, Cuomo was elected Attorney General of New York. In May 2010, Cuomo announced he was running for governor in the 2010 election, and he won with 63% of the vote. During his first term, New York legalized same-sex marriage and toughened gun control. In 2014, he was elected to a second term with 54% of the vote.
Cuomo was born in the New York City borough of Queens, the eldest son born to lawyer and later governor of New York, Mario Cuomo and Matilda (née Raffa). His parents were both of Italian descent; his paternal grandparents were from Nocera Inferiore and Tramonti in South Italy, while his maternal grandparents were both from Sicily (his grandfather from Messina). His younger brother is CNN journalist Chris Cuomo.
He graduated from St. Gerard Majella's School in 1971 and Archbishop Molloy High School in 1975. He received a B.A. from Fordham University in 1979, and a J.D. from Albany Law School of Union University, New York in 1982.
During his father's 1982 campaign for governor, Cuomo was campaign manager, and then joined the governor's staff as one of his father's top policy advisors and sometime-Albany roommate, earning $1 a year.
From 1984 to 1985, Cuomo was a New York assistant district attorney, and briefly worked at the law firm of Blutrich, Falcone & Miller. He founded Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP) in 1986 and left his law firm to run HELP full-time in 1988. From 1990 to 1993, during the administration of New York City mayor, David Dinkins, Cuomo was chair of the New York City Homeless Commission, which was charged with developing policies to address the homeless issue in the city and developing more housing options.
Andrew Cuomo was appointed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development as Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development in 1993, a member of President Bill Clinton's administration. After the departure of Secretary Henry Cisneros at the end of Clinton's first term under the cloud of an FBI investigation, Cuomo succeeded him as Secretary of HUD in January 1997 after being unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, in office until 2001 when Clinton's administration ended.
In 2000, Cuomo led HUD efforts to negotiate an agreement with the United States' largest handgun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, that required Smith & Wesson to change the design, distribution and marketing of guns to make them safer and to help keep them out of the hands of children and criminals. Budgets enacted during his term contained initiatives to increase the supply of affordable housing and home ownership, and to create jobs and economic development. These included new rental assistance subsidies, reforms to integrate public housing, higher limits on mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, a crackdown on housing discrimination, expanded programs to help homeless people get housing and jobs, and creation of new Empowerment Zones.
During Cuomo's tenure as HUD Secretary, he called for an increase in home ownership. He also pushed government-sponsored lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy more home loans issued to poor homeowners, in an attempt to end discrimination against minorities. Some believe that this helped lead to the recent subprime mortgage crisis. Edward J. Pinto, former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae, said "they should have known the risks were large. Cuomo was pushing mortgage bankers to make loans and basically saying you have to offer a loan to everybody." But others disagree with the assessment that Cuomo caused the crisis. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said Cuomo "was a contributor in terms of him being a cheerleader, but I don't think we can pin too much blame on him."
According to libertarian author and critic James Bovard, Cuomo was obsessed with changing HUD's image, as Cuomo declared, "The PR is the important thing I do...Eighty percent of the battle is communications." He championed a new program called Community Builders, created without appropriation by Congress, for 800 new HUD employees with state-of-the-art computers to be paid as much as $100,000. In a June 16, 1999, speech, Cuomo declared that one purpose of the program was to fight against HUD's abolition. In August 1999, Community Builders distributed a letter to community groups to fight against proposed tax cuts. One HUD official declared that Community Builders were seen as "Democratic ward heelers who act as a pipeline between Democratic city officials, party leaders, and the administration and the Democratic National Committee." In 1998, Clinton-appointed HUD Inspector General Susan Gaffney testified to a Senate committee that she was the victim of "'escalating' attacks on her office by Cuomo and 'his key aides,' including cooked-up charges of racism, insubordination, malfeasance, and general dirty-dealing." In 1999, Gaffney's office concluded that "most (15 out of 19) Community Builders' goals were activities rather than actual accomplishments." and that Cuomo's initiatives "had a crippling effect on many of HUD's ongoing operations." According to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer the Cuomo administration is hindered by Cuomo's reputation for being "the dirtiest, nastiest political player out there".
Cuomo first ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002. He was initially the favorite for nomination, and led in fund-raising and polls, but his campaign took serious damage after a gaffe when Cuomo said (in reference to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks) "Pataki stood behind the leader. He held the leader's coat. He was a great assistant to the leader. But he was not a leader. Cream rises to the top, and Rudy Giuliani rose to the top." His remarks were widely derided, and even his father, former governor Mario Cuomo, later admitted it was a blunder.
On the eve of the state convention, Cuomo withdrew from consideration after concluding that he had little chance of support as opposed to the favored party candidate, State Comptroller Carl McCall. McCall went on to lose the general election to George Pataki.
Cuomo declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for New York State Attorney General in 2006, and on May 30, 2006, captured the Democratic Party's endorsement, receiving 65% of the delegates. Though Cuomo won the endorsement, former New York City Public Advocate Mark J. Green, two-time candidate for lieutenant governor Charlie King, also earned places on the Democratic ballot. King dropped out of the race before the primary and endorsed Cuomo.
Cuomo won the primary with a majority of the vote, defeating his nearest opponent by over 20%. Clinching the Democratic party nomination was considered a significant rebound following his unsuccessful and unpopular 2002 gubernatorial campaign and at the nominating convention, June O'Neill, the Democratic chairwoman of St. Lawrence County, called him "New York's own Comeback Kid." He won the general election against the Republican nominee, former Westchester District attorney, Jeanine Pirro on November 7, 2006, winning 58% of the vote.
On July 23, 2007, Cuomo's office admonished the Spitzer administration for ordering the State Police to keep special records of then-Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno's whereabouts when he traveled with police escorts in New York City. At the discretion of top officials of the Spitzer administration, the New York State Police created documents meant to cause political damage to Bruno. Spitzer responded by accepting responsibility and issuing an apology to Bruno.
In 2007, Cuomo was active in a high-profile investigation into lending practices and anti-competitive relationships between student lenders and universities. Specifically, many universities steered student borrowers to a "preferred lender," which resulted in the borrowers' incurring higher interest rates. This led to changes in lending policy at many major American universities. Many universities also rebated millions of dollars in fees back to affected borrowers.
On June 10, 2008, Cuomo announced that three major Internet service providers (Verizon Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Sprint) would "shut down major sources of online child pornography" by no longer hosting many Usenet groups. Time Warner Cable ceased offering Usenet altogether, Sprint ended access to the 18,408 newsgroups in the alt.* hierarchy, and Verizon limited its Usenet offerings to the approximately 3,000 Big 8 newsgroups. The move came after Cuomo's office located 88 different newsgroups to which child pornography had been posted.
Cuomo investigated a corruption scandal, "fraudulent scheme to extract kickbacks", which involved New York investigators, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and attorneys general in dozens of states.
After Hillary Clinton became President Obama's choice for U.S. Secretary of State, then-New York governor David Paterson was charged with appointing a temporary replacement until a special election. Cuomo was seen as a leading contender for this appointment. Caroline Kennedy (also the first cousin of Cuomo's ex-wife) was another leading contender, but withdrew for personal reasons two days before Paterson was set to announce his choice, leaving Cuomo and U.S. Representative Kirsten Gillibrand as the most likely appointees. On January 23, Paterson announced he would appoint Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate.
On September 18, 2009, advisors to President Barack Obama informed Governor David Paterson that the President believed he should withdraw his 2010 gubernatorial candidacy, stepping aside for "popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo." On January 23, 2010, the New York Daily News reported that Cuomo would announce plans for a gubernatorial campaign at the end of March. Later reports indicated Cuomo would announce his gubernatorial campaign coinciding with the state Democratic Convention in late May. On May 22, 2010, Cuomo announced his run for governor in a video posted to his campaign website. Cuomo announced his choice for lieutenant governor on May 26, 2010: Mayor of Rochester, Robert Duffy.
In the November 2, 2010, general election, Cuomo faced Republican Carl Paladino, a Buffalo-based businessman who had been heavily supported by the Tea Party movement. Cuomo won the election for governor by a landslide, winning 62.6% of the vote. Paladino performed strongly in his native Buffalo area, while Cuomo performed well in the Eastern part of the state as well as downstate.
In addition to the parties fielding candidates, New York's electoral fusion laws allow parties to cross-endorse candidates. The Independence Party and Working Families Party cross-endorsed Andrew Cuomo, while the Conservative Party and Taxpayers Party cross-endorsed Carl Paladino. The Independence Party line received 146,648 votes (5.0% of Cuomo's total, and 3.2% of the statewide total) and the Working Families line received 154,853 votes (5.3% and 3.4%), with the Democratic line receiving the remaining 2,610,220 votes (89.6% and 56.5%). The Conservative line received 232,281 votes (15.0% of Paladino's total, and 5.0% of the statewide total) and the Taxpayers line received 25,821 votes (1.5% and 0.6%), with the Republican line receiving the remaining 1,290,082 votes (83.3% and 27.1%).
On March 5, 2014, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced that he would run on the Republican ticket against Cuomo for governor. Law professors Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu mounted an under-financed, but spirited, challenge to the Cuomo–Hochul ticket in the Democratic primary election—capturing 34% of the vote on the gubernatorial line (Wu drew 40.1% as lieutenant governor). On November 4, 2014, Cuomo was re-elected for a second term with 54% of the vote, compared to Astorino's 40.6%.
Despite a low voter turnout, Cuomo won easily, although his victory was smaller than his 2010 victory. Despite Astorino winning most of upstate New York, he was overwhelmed in New York City, like Republicans usually are in New York. Cuomo was sworn in for second term as Governor. His Lt. Governor was replaced by former U.S. Representative Kathy Hochul due to health issues.
Cuomo took the gubernatorial oath of office at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2011, succeeding David Paterson. During his first year as governor, Cuomo worked to pass an on-time budget that cut spending without raising taxes, made a new deal with a large state-employee union, signed ethics reform legislation, passed a property tax cap, worked to enact a same-sex marriage bill with bipartisan support, and restructured New York's tax code. There had been media speculation about a 2016 presidential run.
His approach was described by the press as "muscular". Tom Libous, the Republican State Senate deputy majority leader, said, in 2013, "When I share something he doesn't like, he gets very quiet. He stares at you."
In keeping with a campaign promise, Cuomo signed same-sex marriage legislation on June 24, 2011, following an "intense public and private lobbying campaign", and later called for all states to do the same. Cuomo was lauded for his efforts to pass same-sex marriage legislation. One prominent advocate stated that "for gay Americans, Mr. Cuomo was "the only national politician with hero status." Following the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, Cuomo was criticized for describing the viewpoints of same-sex marriage opponents as being "anti-American." On July 25, 2011, a lawsuit was filed in the New York Supreme Court seeking an injunction against the Marriage Equality Act, alleging corruption and violations of the law in the process of passing the bill. The trial court initially held that the plaintiffs' case could proceed, but the decision was reversed on appeal.
On July 16, 2011, Cuomo finalized a five-year deal with the Public Employees Federation to end pay raises, implement furlough days, and require additional contributions to health insurance accounts. In an interview with The New York Times, Cuomo stated his top goal in 2012 is the reduction of public employee pensions.
Cuomo was praised for his 2011 restructuring of the New York State tax code. He was also criticized for including tax increases for high earners, and for allegedly requesting a unanimous Assembly vote in favor of the proposal and threatening to campaign against Assembly members who voted "no" – a charge he denied. Cuomo also received criticism from voices on the left who felt that the tax reform was insufficient.
In June 2012, the Cuomo administration said it was considering lifting a state ban on the practice of hydraulic fracturing (also known as "fracking") to stimulate the economy in upstate New York. But critics said that fracking in Upstate New York could contaminate the water supply of New York City, New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania. Following a long-awaited study started years earlier, New York State health officials cited "significant public health risks" associated with fracking, and on December 17, 2014, the Cuomo administration announced a ban of hydraulic fracturing in New York State.
After Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, Cuomo allowed New York voters, via a specific provision aimed at accommodating those displaced, to cast provisional ballots for the 2012 election anywhere in New York state. He also appointed a commission to examine the responses of New York utilities to damage caused by the storm.
Controversy ensued when the Cuomo administration used $140 million, including $40 million of federal disaster relief funds, to pay for the broadcast of national TV ads promoting "New New York" slogans outside New York in an attempt to attract new business investment to the state. Many have been critical of the effort, including former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who called the ads "fluff" and "a waste of taxpayer money".
On January 15, 2013, Cuomo signed into law the first state gun control bill to pass after the December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in neighboring Connecticut. The NY SAFE Act was described as the toughest gun control law in the United States. The act came under criticism, and the National Rifle Association called it draconian. The New York State Sheriffs' Association issued a statement supporting tougher penalties for illegal use of firearms, but criticizing several aspects of the legislation, including a magazine limit of seven rounds and a "too broad" definition of assault weapons.
On July 5, 2013, Cuomo signed an amendment to the NY SAFE Act that exempts retired police officers from some of the act's ownership restrictions.
In 2009, a flash flood devastated the village of Gowanda, New York, causing two deaths. In January 2014, Cuomo announced the award of $700,000 in compensation monies for the village from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In January 2014, Cuomo announced the introduction of restrictive measures to make medical marijuana available to 20 designated hospitals for the treatment of cancer and glaucoma. Later in July, New York became the 23rd state to allow the medical use of marijuana, as the Governor signed the Compassionate Care Act, not without drawing the criticism of legalization activists, though.
In July 2014, it was reported that the Moreland Commission, a committee established by Cuomo to root out corruption in politics, was directed away from investigations that could be politically damaging. Cuomo later abruptly and controversially disbanded the Commission.
In July 2016, the Empire State Development Corporation, a state agency, released a report indicating that the state's flagship business tax incentive program, called START-UP NY, had generated 408 jobs since its inception in 2014. Ads promoting the program have cost at least $53 million. The START-UP NY annual report was delayed three months in 2016, leading some lawmakers, such as Assemblyman Schimminger, to call the delays "curious".
In September 2016, a former aide and close friend of Cuomo, Joseph Percoco, was indicted as part of a bribery investigation, Todd Howe, a lobbyist and former Cuomo aide was also indicted, along with several developers who were major donors to Cuomo and other state politicians. Cuomo was not accused of wrongdoing.
On April 18, 2017, Cuomo is expected to sign the New York State 2018 fiscal year budget. It included the Excelsior Scholarship, a provision that families making less than $125,000 in 2019 could have free tuition at all SUNY and CUNY universities, though some education experts including Sara Goldrick-Rab say it won't help the poorest students and that the requirement that recipients live and work in New York after graduating is counter-productive.
In 2014, Politico reported that Cuomo had been actively involved in the formation of the Independent Democratic Conference three years earlier, which gave control of the State Senate to Republicans. He has been accused of failing to bridge the rift between the IDC and the Democratic caucus in the Senate despite being able to.
In a January 17, 2014, interview with Susan Arbetter on WCNY's The Capital Pressroom, Cuomo stated:
[New York Republicans] are searching to define their soul, that's what's going on. Is the Republican party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party?... The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are and they're the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are. If they're moderate Republicans like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate — moderate Republicans have a place in their state. George Pataki was governor of this state as a moderate Republican, but not what you're hearing from them on the far right.
This remark has received a major reaction in the conservative media. Radio host Glenn Beck wrote a letter to the governor regarding the remarks from the interview. Fox News contributor and radio/TV show host, Sean Hannity mentioned emigrating along with all of his assets from the state if the governor does not apologize from the remarks. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said during a radio broadcast that the governor's remarks were "most unfortunate at best. Are there pro-lifers who are extremist? Yes, there are. But I think they are a distinct minority."
The New York State Democratic Committee, which is headed by Cuomo, supported his remarks and reiterated them in a May 2014 statement responding to a speech by Rob Astorino, who was running against him in the 2014 gubernatorial election: "Tea Party Republicans have done enough damage in Washington, today's speech made it abundantly clear that we don't need them here in New York."
Cuomo married Kerry Kennedy, the seventh child of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel Kennedy, on June 9, 1990. They have three daughters: twins, Cara Ethel Kennedy-Cuomo and Mariah Matilda Kennedy-Cuomo (born January 11, 1995), and Michaela Andrea Kennedy-Cuomo (born August 26, 1997). They separated in 2003, and divorced in 2005. In 2011, he began living with Food Network host Sandra Lee. The two reside in Westchester County, New York.
On July 4, 2015, Cuomo presided over the wedding ceremony of his long-time friend Billy Joel to his fourth wife, Alexis Roderick.
Andrew M. Cuomo, All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life, New York: Harper, 2014. ISBN 978-0-06-230008-9.