I know exactly what type of morning it was. Gray and overcast, but with the light smell of spring in the air creating an anticipation of warmer months as the remnants of dirty snow melted into the streets. What was supposed to be a normal March day quickly turned tragic as the unthinkable events unfolded within the small Villages of Mohawk and Herkimer. Six people had been shot and the shooter was on the loose.
I grew up in Mohawk, so as the events occurred I could easily visualize all of the locations and people mentioned. I had sat in that barbershop hundreds of times. Including the barber, there were four people there that day, or as it would be said if you were a regular – one in the chair and two waiting. All four were shot, killing two.
Two more were killed in the neighboring Village of Herkimer, less than a mile away.
My thoughts immediately went to my children who live in the Village of Mohawk. Once I confirmed that they were safely in school and at daycare, my thoughts moved to my friend John Seymour, the owner of the barbershop who was shot, but fortunately survived and is recovering. The shooter was eventually cornered in an abandon bar in downtown Herkimer. The bar was formerly owned by a High School friend of mine – I spent more time there than I should admit – but as they described where the suspect might be hiding out, I could close my eyes and clearly see the layout room by room.
My thoughts then traveled to my friends in government in Herkimer County. The entire statewide press corps was about to converge on them. I knew they would be fine, but it was going to be a bit different than dealing with the local media attention they’re use to.
Then came the announcement that Governor Andrew Cuomo was headed to Herkimer County.
At the time, the announcement didn’t appear too uncommon, but as the day unfolded, I couldn’t help but ask myself the question, “Why was Cuomo there?” Since then, I have learned this was the same question that many others were asking…
Cuomo spoke at the press conference for only a little more than three minutes. He thanked law enforcement and the elected officials, echoed what the State Police Superintendent said about the day and mentioned that it was a tragic series of events, giving the age old “never thought it could happen here” line. Keep in mind, that at that time, the shooter was still not in custody and there was a large number of law enforcement agents in a stand-off in the middle of Downtown Herkimer.
One reporter even asked the Governor during the presser, “Why are you here?” His answer was weak at best. He said he was in Albany meeting with Legislators and he wanted to make sure that all the resources of the State were available…. Really???
-So if you were in New York City you wouldn’t have made the trip?
-You don’t have the full confidence in your State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico to handle the situation?
-And if you are in Albany meeting with Legislators, why didn’t you ask the representatives from Herkimer County to join you on the trip?
-Why didn’t you fly out to Webster, NY in December when 4 firefighters were shot or fly to Victor for the 11 hour standoff that occurred 1 day before the Herkimer County Shooting?
So for me, like many others I’ve spoken to, there’s only one reason he made the trip…Cuomo was looking for his “Christie Moment.”
If you’ll remember back a few months when President Obama disembarked Marine One in the wake of devastation from Hurricane Sandy, he is met by Governor Christie with a big hug. Like what happened or not, the scene became a moment of unity and bipartisanship; a moment that voters long for when politicians come together for the greater good and leave the party bickering aside.
And in this case, it launched a political giant. Chris Christie’s popularity would soar.
Until that moment, Cuomo was enjoying his time as the most popular Governor in America. In the months that followed, Cuomo would see his approval rating begin a steady decline, mostly over his ill-advised gun control law. At current count, he has seen a 19 point drop in his overall numbers.
Then comes the morning of the shooting that rocked Herkimer County.
Cuomo had to see this as an opportunity for vindication. To see his new gun law in action and show up in person to look into the camera and give the entire state a good old-fashioned “I told you so.”
But what he would find when he landed was even worse than his ill-advised law that he rammed down the throats of New Yorkers – his law is ineffective. Gun violence happens because of bad or unstable people who should either be in jail or need mental health assistance.
The guns used in the Herkimer County shooting are still legal even under Cuomo’s “strictest gun law in the nation.” Sources on the ground and close to the situation in Herkimer have said that the Governor even delayed the press conference until he had confirmation on the type of weapon used by the shooter and the other types of weapons found at the shooters home. Nothing illegal – by anyone’s standards.
And now, Cuomo finds himself in a situation where it is obvious he has just showed up for a public relations stunt and he can’t even take the podium and proclaim the horrors of gun violence. Herkimer County is a very simple place to figure out. People want jobs, low taxes and their guns. Cuomo has provided them with none of the above. And the last thing he needs to do now is try to grandstand during a moment of unprecedented tragedy for this small close knit community.
And worse for Cuomo, as he flew out of Albany almost as hastily as he passed his so called “SAFE Act” looking for his “Christie Moment” – he landed to find that no one cared.