ALBANY — The head of a leading state business group fears a Democratic primary challenge from the left to Gov. Cuomo in 2018.
Not because she believes Cuomo can lose, but because it could force him to tack even further to the left, which she said could harm the business community.
“He’s got a very progressive population, particularly downstate,” said Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the state Business Council.
“There’s obviously a risk that a challenge from the left is going to force the agenda further to the left and further to anti-business measures,” she said.
“On social issues, (a progressive agenda is) not a concern, but when it comes to taxation and regulation and the ability to hire people and keep them, we worry about that.”
Briccetti particularly fears the pressure from the left, a looming state budget deficit, and potential cuts from the federal government could put tax hikes on the table.
“Our economy is fragile and we’d hate to see taxes and the burden on small businesses in particular go up,” she said.
Cuomo in his second term has tacked decidedly to the left since he faced a surprisingly spirited Democratic primary challenge in 2014 from little-known and underfunded Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout.
While Briccetti wouldn’t say her organization has buyer’s remorse for backing Cuomo in 2014, she acknowledged that “it’s been a challenging couple of years.”
During his second term, Cuomo has successfully pushed legislation to increase the minimum wage in phases to $ 15 an hour and create a statewide paid family leave program — measures many small businesses complained placed a big financial burden on them.
Briccetti admits that had those initiatives passed before the 2014 election, it might have impacted her group’s decision to endorse Cuomo for a second time.
But she also says those actions “were a snapshot in time.”
During his second term, Cuomo has successfully pushed legislation to increase the minimum wage in phases to $ 15 an hour and create a statewide paid family leave program.
Briccetti credits Cuomo and the Legislature for taking pro-business measures like a package to lower workers’ compensation rates and tax reforms that reduced some business taxes.
She also praised Cuomo for “unprecedented” fiscal restraint that avoided the need “to generate additional revenue on the backs of small businesses and employers.”
Still, Briccetti said it’s too soon to say if her group will again back the governor should he run for a third term in 2018, as he has indicated. A lot, she said, will depend on who his challenger is and what happens during the upcoming legislative session.
“Obviously a lot rides on the state budget,” she said.
Team Cuomo downplayed Briccetti’s concerns.
“The governor has spent the last seven years showing how a fiscally responsible and socially progressive state government helps protect the middle class and improve the lives of all New Yorkers, and it would be silly to think there’d be a change to this successful approach,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi.
With less than a year left before the Democratic primary, already names like actress Cynthia Nixon, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, City Councilman Jumaane Williams, and former state Sen. Terry Gipson have surfaced as potential progressive challengers to Cuomo.
Judy Rapfogel, who was the longtime chief of staff for disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is no longer working for the company of President Trump’s son-in-law, sources say.
Rapfogel in April 2016 went to work as a property manager for Kushner Companies, a real estate organization headed by Jared Kushner, a top Trump adviser who is married to the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.
It’s not clear what Rapfogel is now doing, but she is no doubt helped by her annual $ 115,889 state pension.