New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have had a falling out in recent years, and the political feud that has ensued between the two Democrats and former friends has reached a historic level.
The ongoing fight between the two men has become "so nasty, petty and prolonged that even in the cutthroat politics of New York, few can remember ever seeing anything quite like it," according to the New York Times. De Blasio and Cuomo famously represent progressive and pragmatic wings of the Democratic Party, respectively, but that is just one factor that has contributed to their mutual disdain.
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"All rules of political decorum are out the window with these two," communications strategist Andrew Kirtzman said. "The Cuomo people genuinely feel that de Blasio is incompetent and the de Blasio people genuinely feel that Cuomo is pernicious."
The relationship between them has worsened since Cynthia Nixon, an actress and friend of de Blasio, announced her plans to run as a Democrat and challenge Cuomo in the race for governor. Cuomo thinks she received support to run from de Blasio’s "hidden hand."
"Cuomo has seethed about what he believes is Mr. de Blasio’s hidden hand in her run, and has signaled to allies that he intends to punish the mayor for it, even against the counsel of his advisers," the Times reported.
Cuomo in June took to criticizing de Blasio in the press with thinly veiled anonymous comments in which he has mocked the mayor as "Mr. Progressive." De Blasio fired back with his own insult.
"If someone disagrees with him openly, some kind of revenge or vendetta follows," de Blasio said.
Cuomo took issue with de Blasio describing the relationship between the two men of Italian descent as a "vendetta," since that word carries mafia connotations. But in a quote to multiple news outlets about Nixon’s candidacy, a Cuomo insider used the same word to attack de Blasio.
"This distraction is clearly an outgrowth of the mayor’s vendetta against the governor," the insider said.
The two camps point to different inciting incidents to explain how the former friends saw their relationship deteriorate into its current state. According to someone close to de Blasio, Cuomo’s lack of support for the mayor when New York City policemen turned their back on him in 2014 showed that Cuomo could not be trusted to be a friend or even a responsible leader.
Cuomo considers De Blasio’s insistence on an infeasible tax hike to be the cause of their rift. In that 2014 episode, de Blasio publicly demanded tax increases be approved by the state government despite Cuomo previously informing him that it would be impossible given Republicans’ control of the State Senate. Cuomo felt disrespected when de Blasio rallied union workers for the tax increase on millionaires, which never passed, although the state provided the funding for prekindergarten that de Blasio was asking for.
Now, the two leaders regularly snipe at one another through pointed statements to the press and behind-the-scenes squabbling.
"I believe in action. I believe in results. I believe in making a difference in people’s lives," Cuomo said this year when asked about de Blasio. "I don’t believe it’s about giving speeches about values."
The governor has exerted his authority over the city with increasing particularity, which has rankled de Blasio and heightened tensions between state and city authorities. That involves using budget measures to control aspects of how the city runs, putting state police in the city to ensure Cuomo’s involvement in the event of a terror attack, and slapping state monitors on city facilities.
All this shows Cuomo is "obsessed with hurting New York City" and de Blasio, according to the mayor’s office.
"The mayor can’t place a monitor on the governor’s decrepit state prisons, or his failing upstate jobs programs, or on the water supply in Hoosick Falls," de Blasio’s press secretary Eric Phillips said. "New York’s governance structure makes this an uneven fight that would only get worse if you give in to a governor this obsessed with hurting New York City and a fellow Democrat."
Other public officials have complained their conflict hurts New Yorkers, which is an opinion most Quinnipiac poll respondents agreed with.
"I don’t think it’s helpful for the city," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D.) said. "At the same time, you deal with the cards that you’re dealt."
"I would just say that it’s a little overwhelming," Johnson added. "I didn’t expect to be drawn into this."