"This is not a minor shift, but it comes after a slow burn that started in 2010 ... and finally just exploded in the past week and a half," says Bill Samuels, a New York City Democratic fundraiser and activist. "There was probably no one who liked Andrew better than me.…. He lost most of us permanently. And I mean permanently. I don't have one friend who is a Cuomo supporter."
At its root, much of the animosity lies in some Democrats' suspicion that Cuomo is not really one of them. Richard Brodsky, a former Democratic state senator who is now a senior fellow at the think tank Demos, has dubbed Cuomo's worldview "progractionary"—a mix of "progressive" and "reactionary." On social issues, the governor is a textbook liberal, but on economics, he's embraced tax cuts and is skeptical of labor unions.
"At a time when the national Democratic Party seems to be moving in the direction of [focusing on] income inequality and fair taxation, Governor Cuomo is moving in the opposite direction," Brodsky says.
Against this backdrop, there was bound to be conflict between Cuomo and New York City's new mayor, who struck an emphatically populist tone in his campaign. Days after Bill de Blasio's inauguration, an education-policy battle erupted that typifies the opposing wings of the party the two men represent. De Blasio wanted to fund a universal prekindergarten program with tax increases on the wealthy and to rein in some of the city's charter schools; Cuomo vociferously opposes tax hikes and is a staunch defender of alternative public education.
Tensions came to a head when each politician mustered his own army in Albany on the same late-March day. De Blasio spoke in front of a rally in support of his pre-K plan, while Cuomo spoke to an even larger rally nearby to protest de Blasio's perceived hostility to charter schools. The New York Times later revealed that Cuomo had worked behind the scenes to help orchestrate the counter-rally.
In the end, the budget gave de Blasio his universal pre-K program, though not his tax increase, but gutted the mayor's control over charter schools by giving more power to Albany. A win and a loss for the mayor. Cuomo also snubbed the mayor on a relatively minor tweak to a line in the state budget that would have cleared the way for de Blasio's favored homelessness policy.
Then there's the simmering antipathy between Cuomo and the man who took his old job, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The two men have never been allies, but things have gotten more acrimonious as they fight over the $613 million that Schneiderman extracted from JPMorgan Chase in a mortgage-securities settlement. Schneiderman wanted to use the money to prevent foreclosures, while Cuomo saw the AG's move to direct the cash as a power grab, and insisted the money be put in the state's general fund.