Fueling 2020 Rumors, New York Gov. Cuomo Heads to California for Fundraising

by | November 13, 2017

By Nina Agrawal

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, fueling speculation that he might run for president in 2020, will travel to California for fundraisers Tuesday with lawyers, financiers and entertainment industry leaders, according to sources familiar with the events.

The two-term governor, expected to run for a third in 2018, will start with a breakfast at a law firm in San Francisco, which Giants president Larry Baer will attend.

In the evening Cuomo will head to Beverly Hills for a reception with Hollywood executives at the home of Laura and Jeff Shell, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman. The Motion Picture Association of America organized the event.

Among those expected to attend are DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, CBS Chief CEO Leslie Moonves and Disney CEO Bob Iger, according to images of the invitations posted on social media.

Tickets for the two events range in cost from $1,000 to $50,000, according to a Cuomo adviser. Cuomo's office did not respond to requests for comment.

The trip is not the first to California for the Democratic governor, who has previously established ties to the entertainment world. Nor is it necessarily a sign of national aspirations.

But the trip is nonetheless heightening interest as Cuomo _ who until recently rarely traveled out of state and avoided any speculation about presidential ambitions _ appears to be elevating his national profile.

Cuomo has made pointed remarks challenging the policies of the Trump administration, though not usually calling out the president by name, while also venturing farther from New York.

In May, following a wave of anti-Semitic acts, he traveled to Israel to show support for the Jewish community. In September he visited Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assess hurricane damage.

A few days later he spoke in Las Vegas at a meeting of the Transport Workers Union of America, which could provide crucial labor support in potentially crowded Democratic primaries.

Cuomo, like California Gov. Jerry Brown, is the son of a giant in state politics who believed in activist government. His father, Mario Cuomo, served three terms as governor, and died in 2015. Before assuming the post his father held from 1983 to 1994, Cuomo was New York state attorney general and, before that, secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton.

He has had notable progressive achievements as governor _ including legalizing same-sex marriage, instituting a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave, and aggressively regulating gun sales despite strong pro-gun sentiment in upstate New York.

But Cuomo's tenure has also been marred by open feuding with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over taxes on the wealthy, public education, repairs to the city's subway system, and even the fate of a white-tailed deer captured in Harlem.

And some on the left of the political spectrum view Cuomo as a moderate who may have a hard time convincing Democratic primary voters of his liberal credentials.

"The governor has passed some important legislation, but his alliance with the Senate Republicans has fundamentally undermined our ability to make New York a progressive leader in many critical areas," said Bill Lipton, New York state director of the Working Families Party, which has had a tense relationship with Cuomo.

Lipton cited climate change, criminal justice reform, housing and inequity in public education as areas where Cuomo could do more.

State campaign finance records that Cuomo's political fund for 2018 has more than $25 million in the bank as of July.

Under federal campaign finance law, funds raised for a state campaign cannot be transferred to federal campaigns, but unused contributions may be refunded and then re-solicited for use in a federal election.

(Staff writer Meg James in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times