Cuomo, Andrew

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Cuomo, Andrew

Andrew Cuomo, son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, is noted for his work on housing issues. Once the secretary of housing and urban development (HUD), he also attracted attention with his marriage to (and eventual divorce from) a daughter of assassinated New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He mounted a failed bid for governor of New York in 2002, but rebounded to become New York's attorney general in the 2006 election.

He worked his way through Fordham University (B.A. 1979) and Albany Law School (1982). And then his life changed considerably. Fresh out of law school in 1982, Cuomo was tapped by his father to run the latter's first campaign for governor. It was successful and he spent the next two years as special advisor to his dad—at a salary of a dollar a year. Leaving the elder Cuomo safely ensconced in Albany (for three terms), he headed back to New York City in 1984 to practice law. Cuomo began to focus his considerable energies on housing issues in 1984, when he started the Genesis Project, an urban renewal and community development enterprise. He went on to found the Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (H.E.L.P.) in 1986. It was designed to build transitional housing and provide guidance to those in need. These efforts laid the groundwork for much of his career.

In 1988, Cuomo met Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The two were married in 1990—a much-heralded match between two powerful Democratic families. They had three children before the marriage broke up with an equal amount of ballyhoo in 2003. Meanwhile, Cuomo began to attract national attention on his own. After serving as then-mayor David Dinkins' head of New York City's Commission on the Homeless in 1991, he went to Washington D.C. to be assistant secretary of HUD. He moved into the top job there in January of 1997 and began to clean house. Among his controversial changes were internal restructuring, job cuts, and a first-time audit of 29,000 properties. He also got HUD its largest budgets in years. Although effective, however, Cuomo was not always liked.

Andrew Cuomo

Became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Failed in bid for New York governorship
Elected attorney general of New York

Since running his father's campaign in 1982, Cuomo has been variously described as brilliant, vindictive, effective, ambitious, and volatile. His tenure at HUD did little to change these opinions. Neither did his unsuccessful run for New York governor in 2002 (from which he withdrew in the week just before the primary). However one felt about his personal style, though, few doubted his convictions. Jay Nordlinger of the National Review quoted Cuomo's then-wife's comments in this regard. "He has a serious commitment to helping the most vulnerable, the poorest people in our society…. He's their advocate. He speaks for the people … who have no other voice".

Cuomo surprised many with his campaign for the influential position of New York's attorney general in 2006. His complete failure in 2002, coupled with what was perceived as an alienating personality, led many to assume he would fail again. However, superior fundraising and a less abrasive personal style led to an easy victory over Republican Jeanine Pirro. Following in the footsteps of predecessor Eliot Spitzer, Cuomo has pursued a reform-oriented agenda, including a major investigation of the college loan industry, targeting banks and schools that preyed on students.