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The Contender: Andrew Cuomo, a Biography

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Andrew Cuomo is the protagonist of an ongoing political saga that reads like a novel. In many ways, his rise, fall, and rise again is an iconic story: a young American politician of vaunting ambition, aiming for nothing less than the presidency. Building on his father's political success, a first run for governor in 2002 led to a stinging defeat, and a painful, public divo Andrew Cuomo is the protagonist of an ongoing political saga that reads like a novel. In many ways, his rise, fall, and rise again is an iconic story: a young American politician of vaunting ambition, aiming for nothing less than the presidency. Building on his father's political success, a first run for governor in 2002 led to a stinging defeat, and a painful, public divorce from Kerry Kennedy, scion of another political dynasty, Cuomo had to come back from seeming political death and reinvent himself. He did so, brilliantly, by becoming New York's attorney general, and compiling a record that focused on public corruption. In winning the governorship in 2010, he promised to clean up America's most corrupt legislature. He is blunt and combative, the antithesis of the glad-handing, blow-dried senator or governor who tries to please one and all. He's also proven he can make his legislature work, alternately charming and arm-twisting his colleagues with a talent for political strategy reminiscent of President Lyndon Johnson. Political pundits tend to agree that for Cuomo, a run for the White House is not a question of whether, but when.


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Andrew Cuomo is the protagonist of an ongoing political saga that reads like a novel. In many ways, his rise, fall, and rise again is an iconic story: a young American politician of vaunting ambition, aiming for nothing less than the presidency. Building on his father's political success, a first run for governor in 2002 led to a stinging defeat, and a painful, public divo Andrew Cuomo is the protagonist of an ongoing political saga that reads like a novel. In many ways, his rise, fall, and rise again is an iconic story: a young American politician of vaunting ambition, aiming for nothing less than the presidency. Building on his father's political success, a first run for governor in 2002 led to a stinging defeat, and a painful, public divorce from Kerry Kennedy, scion of another political dynasty, Cuomo had to come back from seeming political death and reinvent himself. He did so, brilliantly, by becoming New York's attorney general, and compiling a record that focused on public corruption. In winning the governorship in 2010, he promised to clean up America's most corrupt legislature. He is blunt and combative, the antithesis of the glad-handing, blow-dried senator or governor who tries to please one and all. He's also proven he can make his legislature work, alternately charming and arm-twisting his colleagues with a talent for political strategy reminiscent of President Lyndon Johnson. Political pundits tend to agree that for Cuomo, a run for the White House is not a question of whether, but when.

30 review for The Contender: Andrew Cuomo, a Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alex Clemens

    Solid, detail-filled, and unsparing You get the sense that Shnayerson admires and reviles his subject matter, all at once. This is a hell of a political biography.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary Ellis

    I listened to the audio version of this book, an unauthorized biography of NY State's current governor, Andrew Cuomo. As a life- long New Yorker and former NYS employee under both Cuomo governors, I felt like I already knew as much as I wanted about the Cuomos and would merely scan this book. However, I found myself listening to every word as I went on my long walks and drives, and a few times I actually went back and replayed sections, not quite believing what I was hearing. Shnayerson says that I listened to the audio version of this book, an unauthorized biography of NY State's current governor, Andrew Cuomo. As a life- long New Yorker and former NYS employee under both Cuomo governors, I felt like I already knew as much as I wanted about the Cuomos and would merely scan this book. However, I found myself listening to every word as I went on my long walks and drives, and a few times I actually went back and replayed sections, not quite believing what I was hearing. Shnayerson says that he was invited by Cuomo to help write Cuomo's official biography once the Governor found out Shnayerson was writing this biography. This one action was simply Cuomo's attempt to control the product and therefore the message. With Mario Cuomo, we New Yorkers remember what he stood for because he had well developed and articulated principles such as his anti-death penalty position. We don't really remember what he accomplished as a governor. With Andy Cuomo, we know him for what he has accomplished, such as his on-time budgets, but not for what he stands for, unless of course, we are counting his single focus on doing whatever he needs to do to advance himself. The author starts in the beginning with the Cuomos and their complicated relationship with each other. He weaves the stories showing the contrasts between father and son, Andy's rise and fall and rise again in politics, the Kennedy wife and doomed marriage, and ever so many details of Andy's manipulations and power plays to promote himself regardless of the effects on others. The book ends right after Mario dies, in January 2015, in Andy's second term as governor with his eye on the presidency ... Andy's story is far from over. However, perhaps his career is headed toward another fall, one of his own creation, the Moreland Commission. I would like to add one suggestion to the discussion about why Cuomo lost so many upstate counties in the last election or at least the primary. At least in the Albany- Capital District area, the State workforce, retirees, and teachers came out in force to vote ABC (anyone but Cuomo). Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in politics and NYS politics in particular.

  3. 4 out of 5

    jude

    This book was published only 5 years ago, but it may as well have been 50 years ago for how different the world—and the world’s attitude toward Andrew Cuomo and toward politics in general—now seems. It’s painful to read Shnayerson’s predictions for a Cuomo 2016 run, the back-and-forth about Hillary Clinton’s potential run, the speculation that the 2016 Republican candidate would be Chris Christie. The questions about whether Cuomo’s character and political style would be disqualifying for a pres This book was published only 5 years ago, but it may as well have been 50 years ago for how different the world—and the world’s attitude toward Andrew Cuomo and toward politics in general—now seems. It’s painful to read Shnayerson’s predictions for a Cuomo 2016 run, the back-and-forth about Hillary Clinton’s potential run, the speculation that the 2016 Republican candidate would be Chris Christie. The questions about whether Cuomo’s character and political style would be disqualifying for a president—it all just hurts too much. (Also, a single brief mention of Elizabeth Warren as a thorn in Andrew’s side who hasn’t paid her dues. I have nothing to say about it, I just noted it.) Just on a personal level, I was surprised how often Cuomo’s behavior was attributed to his being a cold, unfeeling political mastermind rather than just, I don’t know, a weird guy whose dad was kind of a jerk who has spent his lifetime being told that people don’t like him, don’t think he’s that smart (but also think he’s smarter than everyone else and that’s a bad thing too), and don’t want to work with him. I would slip out the back door of events without talking to anybody too! I would hate hanging out with the world’s most annoying family of American royalty too. There’s plenty of actually bad stuff in here, too: some of which comes as a shock and some of which does not. I would call this book essential reading if you’re someone who’s at all interested in politics, or who has been recently charmed by Andrew 4.0, Coronavirus Czar/Just A Grumpy Old Man Fighting for What’s Right. But ultimately, 4 instead of 5 stars because it’s just too mean sometimes. As our First Lady tells us, #BeBest (🤢).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This was at least as much fun as I was expecting. I was hate-reading b/c I despise Cuomo II and this book makes him out to be as nasty as I'd imagined. Shnayerson isn't much of a stylist, and he is leaning WAY too much on his Man Who Would Be King meme. I think he started the book fully expecting Cuomo to declare for the 2016 presidential race, which hasn't and most likely won't happen--Shnayerson rides this theme to death. It's totalizing: when Cuomo isn't campaigning, he's craftily making a di This was at least as much fun as I was expecting. I was hate-reading b/c I despise Cuomo II and this book makes him out to be as nasty as I'd imagined. Shnayerson isn't much of a stylist, and he is leaning WAY too much on his Man Who Would Be King meme. I think he started the book fully expecting Cuomo to declare for the 2016 presidential race, which hasn't and most likely won't happen--Shnayerson rides this theme to death. It's totalizing: when Cuomo isn't campaigning, he's craftily making a display of NOT campaigning, etc. Cuomo seems somewhat recognizably human in the first half but by the end seems like Iago on the Hudson. Shnayerson clearly got a lot of help with this book from Andrew's disaffected ex-inlaws, who also must have told the author to lay off the kids: he doesn't even identify which twin played soccer at Deerfield, but we learn an awful lot about what a downer Andrew was at family parties and how much he hated going to Hyannisport. The author pretty much makes it sound like Kerry took up with Colley b/c it was the only way she could get Andrew to divorce her. I'm not buying, though I'm sure he was no fun as a husband. As someone who's concerned with education issues, I would have liked a LOT more about his meddling with APPR, testing, education, charters, etc., but the author is much more interested in questionable real estate deals and the way Cuomo wields power. Which is fine--I was interested too, especially in reading that Cuomo actually preferred a Republican majority. Anyway: a fine juicy read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barb McCarthy

    Well worth reading, especially if you do not like Cuomo II. This book gives a thorough background to his rise to power and how every decision in his life has been calculated in planning for his future. The man doesn't care who he uses or destroys on his way up, as long as his goal of getting to the White House is fulfilled. In another life, he would have been a mob boss. Absolutely ruthless and without scruples! The only thing I look forward to reading about him in the future is how he went down Well worth reading, especially if you do not like Cuomo II. This book gives a thorough background to his rise to power and how every decision in his life has been calculated in planning for his future. The man doesn't care who he uses or destroys on his way up, as long as his goal of getting to the White House is fulfilled. In another life, he would have been a mob boss. Absolutely ruthless and without scruples! The only thing I look forward to reading about him in the future is how he went down in a flaming fireball. I get great pleasure in seeing the declining polls every time they are published.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lucinda

    This is a book for those who love politics--but also for those who never read books on politics. It's a riveting, page-turning portrait of a second-generation American family, including insights into the characters of both Mario and Andrew. Shnayerson's writing is rich and engrossing on the page--his storytelling reeled me in. What's best, I ended the book feeling educated in an area I hadn't been previously. This is a book for those who love politics--but also for those who never read books on politics. It's a riveting, page-turning portrait of a second-generation American family, including insights into the characters of both Mario and Andrew. Shnayerson's writing is rich and engrossing on the page--his storytelling reeled me in. What's best, I ended the book feeling educated in an area I hadn't been previously.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Unless you have a super deep interest in Cuomo, I'd suggest starting with his tenure at HUD. Shnayerson is very good at context and analysis--I understood a lot more about situations I read in the newspaper, even though Shnayerson used less words. I also understood more how different politicians fit in the New York ecosystem. I think the author does a good job of being even-handed--he portrays Cuomo's effectiveness, political acumen, and sheer ability to get difficult stuff done, as well as his Unless you have a super deep interest in Cuomo, I'd suggest starting with his tenure at HUD. Shnayerson is very good at context and analysis--I understood a lot more about situations I read in the newspaper, even though Shnayerson used less words. I also understood more how different politicians fit in the New York ecosystem. I think the author does a good job of being even-handed--he portrays Cuomo's effectiveness, political acumen, and sheer ability to get difficult stuff done, as well as his pettyness, stubborness, secretiveness, and his comfort in taking quids without giving quos. Shnayerson tries to play armchair psychologist a little bit, but it doesn't overwhelm the book. The book is propelled forward by Cuomo's actions. Overall, this book is a useful and mostly brisk (except at the beginning) read

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fred Klein

    This is an enlightening book about the politician whose name is often mentioned as a presidential contender. That's what brought me to this book, which seems well-sourced and well-researched. I should probably read a more pro-Cuomo book (like Cuomo's own) to hear the other side, but what this book makes clear is that Cuomo comes with a lot of baggage. He comes off as the quintessential politician, not much of an intellectual (like his father), but ruthless, dare I say corrupt. The negatives are t This is an enlightening book about the politician whose name is often mentioned as a presidential contender. That's what brought me to this book, which seems well-sourced and well-researched. I should probably read a more pro-Cuomo book (like Cuomo's own) to hear the other side, but what this book makes clear is that Cuomo comes with a lot of baggage. He comes off as the quintessential politician, not much of an intellectual (like his father), but ruthless, dare I say corrupt. The negatives are too much. I cannot support this man as a candidate in a future Democratic primary after reading this, and I hope he is never the Democrats' candidate in the general election.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pippin

    I read this out of pure curiosity and it was okay, but my main problems with this book is the fact the ending is really rushed and that certain moments feel really skimmed over for no reason, while other moments are given more time than they really need.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book was interesting. I really liked Andrew Cuomo before this, but the bloom has definitely fallen off the rose for me. I’m glad I read the digital version, because there were a lot of words I had to look up.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    I found this book to be very interesting. I listened to Cuomo everyday that he gave his briefings. It is the story of how New Yorkers under the leadership of governor Cuomo flattened the curve and limited the number of deaths from Covid. I hope we don’t repeat this all over again!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peggy E. Little

    Nd A very detailed view of the personal and political history of Gov Cuomo. As l write this (Apr 2020) he's really impressing the country with his daily briefings. Where is the next volume of his history going? Andrew 3.0. Nd A very detailed view of the personal and political history of Gov Cuomo. As l write this (Apr 2020) he's really impressing the country with his daily briefings. Where is the next volume of his history going? Andrew 3.0.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Familar gloss of my governor's life and career. Honestly, I was hoping for a deeper look at this complex man. Familar gloss of my governor's life and career. Honestly, I was hoping for a deeper look at this complex man.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Carol Macarthur

    Quite a politician. Rugged.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bernie Maurer

    Was curious...been watching Andrew Cuomo daily during the COVID-19 pandemic as he broadcasts his daily updates.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    4.4

  17. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    Interesting book about a complicated political figure.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marc

  19. 4 out of 5

    Annette Dickerson

  20. 4 out of 5

    KaraMahoney310gmail.Com

  21. 4 out of 5

    Doni Remba

  22. 4 out of 5

    Selin Barlas

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

  24. 5 out of 5

    Curtis

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ramsey

  26. 4 out of 5

    John Bell

  27. 4 out of 5

    Peggy

  28. 4 out of 5

    susan kelly

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Fischer

  30. 5 out of 5

    carol dalessio

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