Professor, alum to challenge Cuomo’s re-election bid

It’s gearing up to be a battle of the Rams.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, FCRH ’79, will have to defeat a Fordham professor and then a fellow alum if he wants a second term in office — though it shouldn’t be too difficult for the incumbent, according to political insiders and early poll results.

Zephyr Teachout, a charismatic law professor at Fordham, has announced (in an exclusive interview with BuzzFeed) that she will challenge Cuomo for the Democratic nomination.

“My vision for New York is different from the governor’s,” Teachout wrote recently in an article for POLITICO, titled, “Why New York Isn’t Blue Enough.” “I believe we can live in a state where wages are rising, small businesses are thriving and our schools are the best in the country.”

She added, “Whether in this election cycle or not, politicians like Governor Cuomo need to see a groundswell of support for a bold, progressive, populist new politics.”

Despite a strong effort, Teachout lost the endorsement of the Working Families Party to Cuomo late last month after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was elected for his progressive policy ideas last November, encouraged the group to back the incumbent. Experts say the group’s endorsement paves a smoother path for Cuomo’s re-election.

Still, Teachout is confident in her campaign. “I think I can beat Andrew Cuomo,” she told BuzzFeed. She tapped Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia, to run as her lieutenant governor. Cuomo has selected ex-Congresswoman Kathy Hochul to be his running mate.

Teachout did not respond to a request for comment. A university spokeswoman confirmed she is still on Fordham’s payroll, but declined “to speculate” on how the campagin may impact her duties at Fordham. 

Assuming Cuomo — a widely popular Democrat in a widely Democratic New York — defeats Teachout for the nomination, he will face Republican challenger Rob Astorino, FCRH ’89, in November.

Astorino was elected Westchester County executive in 2009, and he is currently in the middle of serving his second term. While a student at Fordham, Astorino studied communications and served on the Mount Pleasant Board of Education, fulfilling a passion for politics he says was sparked in high school.

After Fordham, he became fluent in Spanish while studying at the Enforex School of International Studies in Barcelona, Spain and helped launch ESPN Radio in New York City.

Astorino has said he plans to make taxes and government spending a large part of his campaign to unseat Cuomo. He selected Christopher Moss, the sheriff of  Chemung County, to be his running mate. 

“We don’t want to be telling our children and grandchildren about what New York once was, and I’m sure you don’t either,” Astorino said during the Republican state convention last month. “But that’s what’s going to happen if we don’t act now in an urgent and serious way.”

Astorino faces an uphill battle against Cuomo, a popular and well-funded incumbent. A poll released by Quinnipiac University on May 21 found Cuomo leading Astorino, 57 – 28 percent among likely voters. In fact, a New York Republican has not won statewide office since 2002.

Still, Astorino points to his unlikely, yet successful, bid for Westchester County executive in 2009 and says the odds were stacked against him then too.

Stay tuned here for more as the Rams battle it out for control of New York.