NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo declared his candidacy for governor Saturday, delivering an impassioned call for political reform and pledging to make the notoriously dysfunctional state government more accountable to its citizens.
The announcement by Cuomo to seek the governorship once held by his iconic father, Mario Cuomo, had been widely expected. The Democrat disclosed his candidacy in a video released on his website before appearing before supporters later in the day.
Cuomo made the announcement on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse in lower Manhattan, named for the leader of the city's corrupt 19th century Tammany Hall political machine. Cuomo said he did so because "Albany's antics today could make Boss Tweed blush."
"Enough is enough," Cuomo declared. "It's time the people of the Empire State strike back."
Cuomo promised to cap the state's property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation, and to consolidate local governments and create a more favorable environment for job growth.
With his father standing nearby, the younger Cuomo cast himself as a populist crusader who would lead a "citizen's coalition" to restore integrity to state government.
"New York wasn't always like this. This isn't New York at its best," he said. "I represent the people of the state of New York and we want our government back."
Cuomo's effort to run as an outsider to reform state government will have to overcome some skepticism, given his deep ties to Albany and his membership in one of New York's most storied political families.
"Andrew Cuomo has been a central figure in Albany for thirty years, and bears responsibility for the worst four years in the history of New York government. Why should we give him another four?" former Rep. Rick Lazio, who is running for the GOP nomination to challenge Cuomo, said in a statement.
Yet as polls show outgoing Democratic Gov. David Paterson and the state Legislature to be deeply unpopular with most voters, Cuomo has won praise and a strong national profile as attorney general for prosecuting public corruption and exposing misdeeds by the student loan industry and taking on Wall Street excesses.
Polls show Cuomo crushing Lazio and others competing for the GOP nomination, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino.
Cuomo faces no primary opposition, and averted a planned and potentially messy challenge to Paterson after the governor decided to step down amid evidence he may have intervened in a domestic violence case involving a close aide.
Earlier, President Barack Obama's political operation tried to nudge Paterson aside to clear the way for Cuomo, whom the White House believed would be a far stronger candidate at the top of the ticket in New York. Every state office and both U.S. Senate seats are up for election this year, and several House seats held by Democrats are expected to be at risk.
Paterson endorsed Cuomo's candidacy Saturday.
If elected, Cuomo would almost certainly be viewed as a potential presidential contender in the future. Mario Cuomo also considered and ultimately rejected several entreaties to run during his years in office.
In his early days in the public eye, Andrew Cuomo was the ruthless 20-something "Prince of Darkness" campaign commando from his father's three runs for governor. He went on to run a nonprofit organization to combat homelessness, and his work won the notice of President Bill Clinton, who named him an assistant secretary and later secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In that role, critics have accused him of pushing questionable mortgages that some say contributed to the recent subprime mortgage crisis.
Cuomo made a disastrous run for governor in 2002, sparking racial tension by challenging a well respected black Democrat, Carl McCall, for the nomination and offending many by suggesting that during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, then-Gov. George Pataki had done little more than hold New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's coat. Cuomo dropped out of the race a week before the primary.
Cuomo is divorced from Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. They have three daughters. He has been dating Sandra Lee, a Food Network TV host, for five years.
Gormley reported from Albany.