He struck a national tone in his speech at One World Trade Center, saying that Americans are doubting the foundations of society—the economic, education, and justice systems.
“They are questioning the essence of everything we believe in.” He cited the Ferguson protests, income inequality, and low quality public education in struggling neighborhoods.
The speech supported his widely acknowledged presidential ambitions, said Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College.
It “suggests he still harbors hopes potentially for running for president or a higher office—if not in 2016 maybe beyond,” said Zaino. “And obviously he’s a major candidate whose name has been bandied about.”
His speech hit on the major problems of 2014, including the Ebola epidemic, climate change, and the death of Eric Garner.
But one topic he did not touch upon was the investigation over his alleged interference with the anti-corruption Moreland Commission he created in 2013 and terminated early last year.
Zaino called the corruption probe a “black mark in his first term,” which had made Cuomo’s campaign for reelection more difficult, especially against the Republican candidate Rob Astorino who was favored by 46 of the upstate counties outside of the city. And it could also impede Cuomo’s chances of a presidential bid.
The tone of the speech was quieter and less jubilant, said Zaino.
New York’s Next Four Years
Cuomo said that in his first term he helped restore the economy. “We created 500,000 private sector jobs. This state today has 7.6 million jobs, more than have ever existed in the history of the state.”
One of his second term goals is to replicate “the successful model” used in Buffalo across all of upstate New York, to alleviate chronic high poverty in the state.
The goals he mentioned included raising the minimum wage, reducing the number of inmates in prisons, winning women’s rights against domestic violence and the glass ceiling—a barrier that bars women from more career achievement.
He also said that the government needed more ethics reform in order to build trust. He kept away from making direct promises, substituting “we” for “I.”
Amidst these issues that would likely rely on taxpayer money, he reminded the audience, composed of many senators and other politicians, that he remained fiscally conservative, “We must maintain our fiscal discipline and continue to provide tax relief for struggling families and growing businesses.”
“He seemed to be reflecting that he’s got a lot of work to do in his second term,” said Zaino.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was sworn in at the inauguration and gave a speech aligning herself with the governor’s vision of being socially progressive but fiscally sound.
“Today we challenge ourselves to do even more,” Hochul said in a speech she gave before Cuomo spoke. A measure of success when we look back four years from now won’t just be how many more jobs are created, Hochul said, but signs of equity across race and income level measured in jobs and education.
The response from the crowd to Cuomo’s speech was favorable.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James said Cuomo’s speech “hit on all the right comments, all the right notes. It was very good.”
Even police union head Pat Lynch offered his reaction in a statement following the inauguration, “It is reassuring to hear the calm, practical, and reasoning voice of Governor Andrew Cuomo.”
“I thought he was terrific,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat. “He didn’t jump into any quick-fix proposal.”
“He called for an examination to make sure our justice system is operating appropriately to guarantee justice for all,” said Silver, adding the system was a major problem to be tackled.
Silver also commented on the differences between Cuomo and his father, who had served three terms as governor, and not present at the ceremony due to health problems. Mario Cuomo died Thursday, six hours after his son was sworn in to a second term.
“Mario was incomparable as an orator, there’s no question about that,” he said, “And this governor [Andrew] will speak but he will also do what has to be done behind the scenes in order to bring about a deal.”
Additional reporting by Catherine Yang.