- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

Andrew Cuomo's decision on Tuesday to withdraw from the New York Democratic Party gubernatorial primary just a week before the election marks a fascinating new development in American electoral politics. It almost is unheard of for a major political figure to withdraw from an election so close to voting day, unless driven out by scandal. And, while polls indicated that Mr. Cuomo was likely to face a sound defeat, he was not faced with any scandalous charges. The novel nature of his decision would appear to be his reluctance to antagonize black voters by running a hard final week of campaigning against his black opponent, even though most campaigns these days usually end in a blitz of negative advertisements and harsh charges.
As a well-established liberal, married to a Kennedy and President Clinton's second secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, nothing in Mr. Cuomo's history could be seen as unsympathetic to black concerns. Nor did the campaign revolve around racially divisive substantive issues. Quite simply, Mr. Cuomo feared offending black New York voters merely by the act of running a hard, clean campaign against a black man. Undoubtedly, the memory of Democrat Mark Green's failed campaign for mayor of New York was fresh in mind. The received wisdom is that Mr. Green lost to Republican Mike Bloomberg because he defeated Fernando Ferrer a Hispanic with strong black and Hispanic support in the Democratic primary and failed to sufficiently supplicate to Al Sharpton. Thus, black and Hispanic voters failed to support the winning Democratic candidate Mr. Green at the usual levels. It also is broadly assumed that Mr. Green has a less than splendid electoral future in Democratic Party elections.
We are thus left with the astounding conclusion that at least in New York politics (but perhaps elsewhere), otherwise credible liberal white candidates for office may now believe they risk permanently alienating the black demographic vote by even running a vigorous campaign against a black man or woman. While it always is dangerous to apply nationally the lessons learned from quirky New York politics, it would appear that a new factor has been added to liberal, white campaign calculations regarding multi-ethnic electorates.


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