Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/kathy-hochul 2018-07-16T14:42:02+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com New York Democrats’ Season of Choosing 2018-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7798:new-york-democrats-season-of-choosing Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/corey-johnson-jessica-ramos-robert-jackson-cityhall.jpg" alt="corey johnson jessica ramos robert jackson cityhall" width="600" height="475" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson endorses IDC challengers (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>As progressives aggressively attempt to wrest control of the Democratic Party from the hands of those they call centrists and establishment politicians, elected Democrats across New York find themselves in an unenviable position. Abiding by their self-professed progressive values to support insurgent Democratic primary challengers could mean bucking the state party establishment and its leader, Governor Andrew Cuomo, while, on the other hand, toeing the party line risks opening them up to accusations of hypocrisy and betrayal -- and perhaps even a future primary challenge -- levelled by an enraged and engaged base.</p> <p>A battle that played out during the 2016 presidential primary between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton has only intensified since Donald Trump’s victory. The 2018 election cycle is offering many opportunities across the country for Democrats, elected officials and otherwise, to decide between what is essentially two wings of the party. The Democrats’ season of choosing is easier for some than others, but many prominent party figures find themselves in uncomfortable situations. At stake is nothing short of political careers, the fate of activist organizations, the policy agenda and future of the Democratic Party, the outcomes of current and prospective elections, and their aftermaths in terms of government policies that affect millions.</p> <p>At the center in New York is Cuomo, his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, and the state Senate’s erstwhile Independent Democratic Conference, eight senators who chose power over party for as many as seven years by empowering Republican control of the legislative chamber, what has been the GOP’s only stronghold in state government. In April, the renegades returned to the fold with assurances from Cuomo, who long tolerated and allegedly enabled their infidelity, that their seats were secure, at least from other Democrats. Under the accord brokered by the governor just after a new state budget was passed, the state Democratic Party machinery, fellow state-level electeds, and prominent labor unions would support these former IDC members -- who were time and again blamed for obstructing the passage of progressive legislation -- and would refuse to aid their challengers.</p> <p>Though Cuomo and the former IDC members have professed support for progressive priorities -- voting, elections and campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, women’s reproductive rights, stronger rent regulations, immigrant protections, to name a few -- they have failed to pass legislation along those lines, blaming staunch opposition by Senate Republicans. Their progressive challengers instead say they have been the obstacles to progressive bills by empowering Republicans.</p> <p>Cuomo, at the top of the Democratic ticket, faces an aggressive challenge from actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in the primary. Nixon’s candidacy, from the left of Cuomo, parallels Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid four years ago, except it comes in a more heightened atmosphere of displeasure on the left following Trump’s election, amid disappointment with Cuomo’s relatively centrist record, and with increased awareness of the IDC. Nixon also has other advantages Teachout lacked, like name recognition and fundraising prowess, though Cuomo has worked over the past four years to make amends with some of his past critics, such as those in certain labor unions.</p> <p>A similar fight is being replicated in the race for lieutenant governor, between incumbent Democrat Hochul and her progressive challenger, Jumaane Williams, a City Council member from Brooklyn. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>All eight former IDC members face primary challenges ahead of the September 13 vote. Five of those districts fall squarely in New York City while another is split between the Bronx and Westchester, with two others upstate.</p> <p>In District 13, in Queens, Jessica Ramos is taking on Sen. Jose Peralta; in Brooklyn’s District 20, Zellnor Myrie is challenging Sen. Jesse Hamilton; on Manhattan’s west side, Robert Jackson is going up against Sen. Marisol Alcantara; in District 23, which spans Staten Island’s north shore and parts of Brooklyn, Jasmine Robinson is confronting Sen. Diane Savino; in District 11 in Queens, Sen. Tony Avella will again face former city Comptroller John Liu, who earned 47 percent in a losing 2014 bid to unseat Avella; and in District 34 that covers Westchester and the Bronx, Alessandra Biaggi is attempting to unseat the leader of the what was the IDC, Sen. Jeff Klein, who now serves as the deputy leader in the unified Senate Democratic Conference.</p> <p>Outside the city, in District 38 that spreads across Rockland and Westchester, Sen. David Carlucci faces a challenge from Julie Goldberg; and in District 53 covering Madison County and parts of Onondaga and Oneida, Sen. David Valesky faces Rachel May in the primary.</p> <p>For Cuomo and the state party, maintaining what Democratic seats they have in the Senate is paramount as they seek to flip the chamber by picking up more. Republicans have recently held control of the 63-seat chamber by a one-seat margin thanks to their own ranks and a single rogue conservative Senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who won his most recent reelection on the Democratic, Republican, and Conservative Party lines -- Felder is also facing a Democratic primary this year, from Blake Morris.</p> <p>But while they also want to see Republican seats flipped in November, many progressive activists insist that the party needs to elect better, “bluer Democrats” than Cuomo, Hochul, and the former IDC members. Nixon has explained that it is her motivation to run for governor, saying that in the age of Trump not any Democrat will do. Cuomo and his supporters argue that not only has the governor been a progressive powerhouse, but that Democratic energy of all kinds would be better spent working in concert to flip red seats to blue.</p> <p>That argument has largely fallen on deaf ears among those displeased with Cuomo, Klein, and other Democratic incumbents.</p> <p>The shiny veneer of the Senate Democrat reunification deal and its accompanying pact of nonaggression has seemed to be wearing off as challengers to the IDC senators pick up endorsements from top Democratic incumbents and, in one candidate’s case, from an influential labor union that helped broker the merger of the Senate Democrats. Meanwhile, Nixon and Williams have picked up far more support from elected officials and organizations than Teachout and her lieutenant governor running mate, Tim Wu, achieved in 2014.</p> <p>Democrats across the spectrum are taking sides, and others will be expected to do so over the next few months, in decisions that could be determinative for those they endorse, for their own political trajectories, and for the larger map of New York’s Democratic world currently dominated by one set of elected and appointed officials, consultants, labor leaders, and the networks of power they control.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Hopefuls</strong><br />On June 28, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced his endorsement of Biaggi, Jackson, Ramos, and Myrie, providing them a boost at a time when progressives were already feeling emboldened by the congressional primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earlier that week.</p> <p>A declared democratic socialist with a deeply progressive campaign platform, Ocasio-Cortez defeated Democratic giant Rep. Joe Crowley, a ten-term incumbent and the powerful boss of the Queens Democratic Party who was among the chief drivers of the Senate Democratic reunification and a possible next speaker of the House of Representatives. The stunning upset shook the foundations of the Democratic Party and undercut the conventional wisdom of the primacy of incumbents and machine politics, and its ramifications will likely be dissected for years. In New York, it’s immediate effects were quickly felt. Johnson, who had endorsed Crowley in the race, insisted the result did not affect his decision to endorse the four IDC challengers, which he said was in the works for months, but that did not stop observers from drawing a connection.</p> <p>“Whether it’s in Washington, D.C., or in Albany, the status quo isn’t working and that is why I’m here today in supporting four amazing candidates,” Johnson said at the steps of City Hall. “They are Democrats, they are progressive Democrats, they will caucus with the Democrats and they will support all the issues that Democrats support.” On Saturday, Johnson said on Twitter that he was ready to fully support Liu. At a Tuesday event in support of Biaggi, Johnson <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/1016874584489021440" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said</a>, “It feels really good to be able to tell the truth and for too long, people were not telling the truth about the IDC and the damage that they’ve done to the state of New York. And that damage was all in their own self-interest, putting their own self-interest above the entire state of New York.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement following Johnson’s endorsement, Barbara Brancaccio, a spokesperson for Klein, said, “Frankly we are surprised that our opponent would accept the endorsement of such a radioactive figure coming on the heels of his endorsement of Joe Crowley. We are sure that Johnson will do for this challenger, exactly what he did for Joe Crowley."</p> <p>At the same time, Johnson has also endorsed Governor Cuomo for reelection over Nixon, who continues to criticize the governor for supporting the IDC and whose platform largely resembles those of the IDC opponents. She shares stark similarities with Ocasio-Cortez and others seeking to upend incumbent Democrats who insurgents believe are too close to big-money interests and not in touch with their constituents who most need them. Nixon has begun to align herself more closely with those IDC challengers, cross-endorsing with Ramos earlier this week, for example.</p> <p>The same day as Johnson’s endorsement of the IDC challengers, 32BJ SEIU, the prominent building workers union, endorsed Biaggi, though their president Hector Figueroa had months ago been among those who proposed the Democratic reunification deal and the union is among several that have endorsed Cuomo and had also backed Crowley. “Jeff Klein and the IDC have empowered obstructionist Republicans set on blocking key reforms for too long,” Figueroa said <a href="http://www.seiu32bj.org/press-releases/32bj-seiu-endorses-biaggi/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in a statement</a> announcing the endorsement. “Never again.”</p> <p>And just one day prior, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer also endorsed Biaggi, a few months after he had already announced his support for Ramos and Jackson. The endorsements by Stringer, well before the Ocasio-Cortez win and its initial fallout, have won him much praise from liberal activists.</p> <p>Since his union came out for Biaggi, Figueroa has also addressed the Democratic split in New York, <a href="https://twitter.com/figue32bj/status/1016043465493372930" target="_blank" rel="noopener">writing on Twitter</a>, “Dems upset about IDC folks being primaried ‘for it may lead to the GOP winning a majority of NY Senate’ do not blame the ‘left’. The ones to be blamed are IDC incumbents themselves &amp; those STILL defending them. IDC betrayed voters creating a big political mess. Time to clean up.”</p> <p>Along with the number and strength of the progressive primary challengers to established incumbents and Ocasio-Cortez’s win, these endorsements, headlining still others, are the clearest cracks in the Democratic foundation that Cuomo and other state leaders have tried to set.</p> <p>“I think it’s fascinating because we do see a lack of cohesion as to whether or not people are going to support the IDC members or their challengers,” said Dr. Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University. “And I think this debate is sort of reflective of a larger debate that’s going on in the Democratic Party, for the soul of the Democratic party…‘Are we centrist, conservative-leaning Democrats or are we progressive?’”</p> <p>To some, these moves may smack of political opportunism, particularly in the case of Johnson, who is supporting progressives on the one hand while propping up establishment centrists like Crowley and Cuomo on the other. But in the New York political landscape, Greer said these endorsements are equally driven by philosophical considerations as they are by pragmatic ones. “These are politicians…I think that they can genuinely care about an issue and I think that they can also be calculating and strategic about it,” she said.</p> <p>For some, there is also a difference between backing a less experienced candidate for state Senate based on ideological reasons as opposed to the chief executive of the state.</p> <p>Both Johnson and Stringer are widely expected to run for mayor in 2021, the next city election cycle, when Mayor Bill de Blasio will be term-limited out of office, and tapping the progressive energy that Ocasio-Cortez rode to power, and that is now propelling Nixon, Williams, the IDC challengers, and others, would likewise boost their own political fortunes.</p> <p>“I think in the Democratic primary, the progressive energy in the city, that’s what you want to tap into if you’re running for mayor,” said Eric Koch, managing principal at Precision Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm, and former director of communications for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “So it makes sense to endorse the folks running against the IDC people because in terms of the activists and the people who are organizing against the IDC versus who is a Democratic primary voter in a mayoral election, there’s a pretty big overlap there.”</p> <p>It’s important to note that the IDC incumbents themselves have powerful backers, including unions like 1199 SEIU, many of which are in Cuomo’s corner as well.</p> <p>While Stringer and Johnson have decided to buck Cuomo and those involved in the unity deal, other likely 2021 mayoral candidates have not. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is a Cuomo ally and closely aligned with the Bronx Democratic Party apparatus, led by its chair, Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, and its former chair, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who signed onto the unity deal.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has been critical of Cuomo over the course of years, but has not made endorsements yet. His approach is complicated given his alliance with Senator Hamilton, formerly of the IDC. Adams did invite Nixon early in her campaign to tour a Brooklyn NYCHA complex and the two went to Albany Houses together. The Brooklyn borough president has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">voiced strong criticism of Cuomo</a>, but has not embraced Nixon beyond the NYCHA visit, nor has he weighed in on Williams’ challenge to Hochul or the IDC races.</p> <p>“They’re looking at these challengers and their districts, I’m sure, to sort of see what kind of coalition they would need to put together,” Greer said. “When they run for mayor, Andrew Cuomo may or may not still be in office...but a great campaign marketing slogan is, ‘We fight Albany. We fight Albany to make sure that New York City gets the money and resources we need.’”</p> <p>“Sure they care, but it’s also a very strategic move,” Greer said, “to make sure that they’re distancing themselves from the status quo to say that, ‘When tough decisions needed to be made, I didn’t just go along to get along.’”</p> <p><strong>Statewide Case</strong><br />Public Advocate Letitia James, who is running in the Democratic primary for attorney general (and had been a likely 2021 mayoral candidate), is charting a course similar to Diaz, Jr., but with a much higher profile given her bid for statewide office. James quickly jumped at the opportunity when Eric Schneiderman resigned the post after facing allegations of physical and emotional abuse by several intimate partners. Seen as an early frontrunner, with the blessing of the state Democratic Party and the governor, James rejected the possible endorsement of the progressive Working Families Party that had helped launch her political career as a City Council member.</p> <p>The WFP has been closely aligned with the IDC challengers, as well as Nixon and Williams, supporting their insurgent bids for office, while James has in the past supported at least one member of the IDC, Senator Alcantara, though she has come to criticize the IDC and called for reunification well before her attorney general bid.</p> <p>“I would essentially argue, if I were in these progressive groups that used to support Tish very openly, well what now gives you progressive bonafides?,” said Greer. “So her messaging has to be very clear for her supporters. Because they have progressive choices.”</p> <p>“Two days after Schneiderman resigned, it was essentially reported that Tish would be heir apparent and that’s the way much of the press is writing about the race...and I don’t necessarily see that to be the case anymore,” she added.</p> <p>James faces three other primary contenders: former Cuomo aide Leecia Eve, congressional Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, and Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary and lost, but managed to get a significant share of the vote, at 34 percent. Teachout, like Nixon, has been severely critical of the IDC and <a href="https://makenytrueblue.org/grassroots-coalition-formed-to-endorse-idc-challengers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsed</a> five IDC challengers as part of the TrueBlueNY coalition months before the attorney general position became available and she decided to run. When Schneiderman resigned, Teachout was at the time Nixon’s campaign treasurer, a position she has since vacated to run for attorney general.</p> <p>Among the four Democratic attorney general candidates, Teachout is undoubtedly furthest to the left. At the WFP nominating convention, delegates chose Nixon and Williams, and opted to install a placeholder for attorney general until, they hope, either James or Teachout emerges from the Democratic primary victorious and is offered the additional ballot line for the general election. James has expressed her love for the WFP despite initially shunning its endorsement and has said she believes everyone will coalesce again in the near future.</p> <p>While James has aligned herself with Cuomo and his unity deal, Teachout, who endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in May, is staunchly behind IDC challengers and has recently campaigned alongside Williams.</p> <p>Koch doesn’t believe her endorsements will give her a significant edge, however. “I do think that there might be some benefit in endorsing some of the folks against the IDC because that’s where the progressive energy is,” he said, “but at the end of the day, people who are voting for attorney general aren’t basing their votes on just the issue of the IDC, they’re coming at it from a much more holistic spectrum.”</p> <p>The experts who spoke with Gotham Gazette noted the significance of the ‘Ocasio effect.’ Both Teachout and Nixon had endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in the run up to the congressional primary and seized on her victory to emphasize that progressive challengers can defeat machine-backed incumbents. “There’s very much a movement that’s energizing the left and politicians who ignore it or who fall too far behind are really doing so at their own peril,” said a Democratic consultant who wished to remain unnamed so he could speak freely.</p> <p>“There’s certainly a lot of parallels between Cuomo and Crowley, you know, representing the old guard, like white-working class Democrats,” said the Democratic consultant. “But that being said, I wouldn’t read too much into the Ocasio win as portending a loss for Cuomo because Cuomo’s still extraordinarily popular among African-Americans, particularly African-American women, and Cynthia Nixon hasn’t to this point been able to show the ability to break into that base of support, which is really what you’re seeing here. It’s a combination of minority voters and very young, progressive voters.”</p> <p>For their part, top Nixon campaign aides cite Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in expressing their belief that public opinion polls can no longer be trusted to capture the progressive energy that has largely emerged since the 2016 election of Donald Trump.</p> <p>Koch said activist pressure against the IDC and its supporters has been building but “at the state level, people are gonna hedge their bets a little bit more because, one way or another, they’re gonna have to work with some of these folks.”</p> <p>Greer seemed more bullish about how far the momentum behind Ocasio-Cortez would carry into state elections. She conceded that Democrats across New York are not as progressive as they are in New York City, but that the win gave a much-needed confidence boost to IDC challengers as well as Nixon and Teachout, not to mention obvious opportunities to add volunteers and donors. “It’ll be fascinating to see if, all of a sudden, Cynthia and Zephyr can ride the coattails of Alexandria,” she said, a notion that, before the congressional primary, “would’ve sounded like crazy talk.”</p> <p>“But the reality here is...Alexandria’s getting national attention for the message that Cynthia and Zephyr have been championing,” she said.</p> <p><strong>Other Democrats Choose</strong><br />Virtually every elected Democrat in New York is expected to pick sides: Cuomo or Nixon; Hochul or Williams; James or Teachout or Eve or Maloney; Klein or Biaggi; and so on.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the most powerful Democratic officials in the state by virtue of his position, has so far stayed on the sidelines, regularly declining to comment on the 2018 New York elections, but promising to weigh in at some point. Given that Nixon was a fervent supporter during his winning 2013 campaign for mayor and again supported him for reelection in 2017, and his ongoing feud with Cuomo, de Blasio’s decision in the gubernatorial race is especially interesting. In 2014, before their feud had really escalated, de Blasio backed Cuomo for reelection, even helping broker him the Working Families Party nomination. He has indicated it did not work out as planned.</p> <p>Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, not facing a primary challenge himself, has backed Cuomo and Hochul, but says he’s likely staying out of the attorney general primary, even though the state party is behind James.</p> <p>While many Democratic officials have already or are expected to back Cuomo, there are local electeds who, beholden neither to the governor nor their respective Democratic machines, have chosen to break from the pack. New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca was the first of his colleagues to endorse Nixon’s bid for governor, and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Antonio Reynoso later followed suit. Williams, running for lieutenant governor, is also an apparent Nixon backer, but the two have not formally linked up as a ticket, so to speak (the two positions are elected separately in party primaries, but together in the general election).</p> <p>Reynoso and Menchaca, and Council Members Brad Lander, Adrienne Adams, and I. Daneek Miller have also backed Williams for lieutenant governor. Williams has also announced the backing of state Senator Kevin Parker, and across the state he has picked up endorsements from legislators in Albany and Syracuse, while Nixon was recently endorsed by more than a dozen Hudson Valley elected officials.</p> <p>Nixon’s most prominent recent endorsement came from the former City Council Speaker, Mark-Viverito, a progressive in the same vein who drew parallels between Nixon and Ocasio-Cortez. “These two boldly progressive women share the same values and priorities,” Mark-Viverito <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-why-i-back-cynthia-nixon-20180629-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wrote in the New York Daily News</a>. Nixon also cross-endorsed with Ocasio-Cortez the day before the congressional primary, and in the last week, has done so with Ramos, who is seeking to unseat Senator Peralta, formerly of the IDC, and Julia Salazar, a democratic socialist challenging Democratic state Senator Martin Dilan in northern Brooklyn.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Senator Hamilton's challenger, Myrie, announced four new endorsements from Assembly Members Walter Mosley, Diana Richardson, Jo Anne Simon and Robert Carroll, who represent Central Brooklyn. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Democratic Unity?</strong><br />“It goes back to the basic tenet: a house divided against itself can’t stand,” said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Democratic leader, in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7745-andrea-stewart-cousins-on-democratic-unity-and-the-value-of-primaries" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent appearance on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> hosted by Gotham Gazette and City Limits. The senator was addressing the Senate unity deal and whether Klein would be loyal to it. “How are we gonna do this?...I’m not gonna be sitting there having people somehow undermine the efforts that we have to be a team. That’s always been the case.”</p> <p>Sen. Michael Gianaris, the chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-idc-gianaris-breakaway-democrats-peralta-20180708-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has ruled out endorsing</a> the former IDC members, according to the Daily News -- Gianaris has had a long running feud with Klein, the IDC head -- and has been noncommittal on whether he may support their opponents. “Everyone seems to be on their best behavior on both sides and there seems to be genuine effort to work cooperatively and get to where we’re trying to go, so hopefully that continues,” Gianaris said in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7758:democratic-campaign-chief-even-a-blue-trickle-will-flip-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a separate Max &amp; Murphy interview</a>.</p> <p>Lieutenant Governor Hochul, in her own <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7768-hochul-divided-democratic-party-only-benefits-republicans" target="_blank" rel="noopener">appearance on the podcast</a>, said Democrats attacking each other only serve to polarize voters and that the party would be better off expending that energy against Republicans. “We can all be purists about everything when we have a Democrat in the White House, when we have the House and the Senate, and when we have New York State Legislature,” she said. “Then we can fight each other on the nuances.”</p> <p>Along with the decisions facing them now about who to back in the primaries, one major question for New York Democrats is what happens after September 13, and whether party members can coalesce for the general election. Republicans have completely avoided primaries for all four state-level statewide races of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general, and in virtually every state Senate district held by an incumbent.</p> <p>“I don’t think [the Democratic Party] fractures,” said the Democratic consultant who didn’t want to be named. “I think that’s the evolution of the party. That’s the direction that you’re seeing the party, and it’s largely driven by a local reaction to federal issues. It’s very largely a reaction to Trump on a number of things, on immigration, on labor, on health care, on taxes, on women’s rights.” &nbsp;</p> <p>The frustration with Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, the consultant said, means that Democrats want “a much more aggressive stance and debate” from their own leaders.</p> <p>Koch from Precision Strategies said the party will likely come together in the face of a larger enemy to sweep the major statewide races -- governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller. “The Democratic Party has always been a very big tent party, it’s always run the ideological spectrum from the progressive wing through to a more centrist wing,” he said, “and that’s why the party has been successful…After these primaries are done, Democrats will come together and unite because there are bigger threats and what unites us is definitely stronger than what divides us.”</p> <p>“I think the relationships will by and large repair themselves,” Koch added, “I suspect that after the primary, folks will get together and hash out whatever needs to be hashed out.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This story has been updated to include mention of endorsements received by Zellnor Myrie from four state Assembly members.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/corey-johnson-jessica-ramos-robert-jackson-cityhall.jpg" alt="corey johnson jessica ramos robert jackson cityhall" width="600" height="475" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson endorses IDC challengers (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>As progressives aggressively attempt to wrest control of the Democratic Party from the hands of those they call centrists and establishment politicians, elected Democrats across New York find themselves in an unenviable position. Abiding by their self-professed progressive values to support insurgent Democratic primary challengers could mean bucking the state party establishment and its leader, Governor Andrew Cuomo, while, on the other hand, toeing the party line risks opening them up to accusations of hypocrisy and betrayal -- and perhaps even a future primary challenge -- levelled by an enraged and engaged base.</p> <p>A battle that played out during the 2016 presidential primary between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton has only intensified since Donald Trump’s victory. The 2018 election cycle is offering many opportunities across the country for Democrats, elected officials and otherwise, to decide between what is essentially two wings of the party. The Democrats’ season of choosing is easier for some than others, but many prominent party figures find themselves in uncomfortable situations. At stake is nothing short of political careers, the fate of activist organizations, the policy agenda and future of the Democratic Party, the outcomes of current and prospective elections, and their aftermaths in terms of government policies that affect millions.</p> <p>At the center in New York is Cuomo, his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, and the state Senate’s erstwhile Independent Democratic Conference, eight senators who chose power over party for as many as seven years by empowering Republican control of the legislative chamber, what has been the GOP’s only stronghold in state government. In April, the renegades returned to the fold with assurances from Cuomo, who long tolerated and allegedly enabled their infidelity, that their seats were secure, at least from other Democrats. Under the accord brokered by the governor just after a new state budget was passed, the state Democratic Party machinery, fellow state-level electeds, and prominent labor unions would support these former IDC members -- who were time and again blamed for obstructing the passage of progressive legislation -- and would refuse to aid their challengers.</p> <p>Though Cuomo and the former IDC members have professed support for progressive priorities -- voting, elections and campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, women’s reproductive rights, stronger rent regulations, immigrant protections, to name a few -- they have failed to pass legislation along those lines, blaming staunch opposition by Senate Republicans. Their progressive challengers instead say they have been the obstacles to progressive bills by empowering Republicans.</p> <p>Cuomo, at the top of the Democratic ticket, faces an aggressive challenge from actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in the primary. Nixon’s candidacy, from the left of Cuomo, parallels Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid four years ago, except it comes in a more heightened atmosphere of displeasure on the left following Trump’s election, amid disappointment with Cuomo’s relatively centrist record, and with increased awareness of the IDC. Nixon also has other advantages Teachout lacked, like name recognition and fundraising prowess, though Cuomo has worked over the past four years to make amends with some of his past critics, such as those in certain labor unions.</p> <p>A similar fight is being replicated in the race for lieutenant governor, between incumbent Democrat Hochul and her progressive challenger, Jumaane Williams, a City Council member from Brooklyn. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>All eight former IDC members face primary challenges ahead of the September 13 vote. Five of those districts fall squarely in New York City while another is split between the Bronx and Westchester, with two others upstate.</p> <p>In District 13, in Queens, Jessica Ramos is taking on Sen. Jose Peralta; in Brooklyn’s District 20, Zellnor Myrie is challenging Sen. Jesse Hamilton; on Manhattan’s west side, Robert Jackson is going up against Sen. Marisol Alcantara; in District 23, which spans Staten Island’s north shore and parts of Brooklyn, Jasmine Robinson is confronting Sen. Diane Savino; in District 11 in Queens, Sen. Tony Avella will again face former city Comptroller John Liu, who earned 47 percent in a losing 2014 bid to unseat Avella; and in District 34 that covers Westchester and the Bronx, Alessandra Biaggi is attempting to unseat the leader of the what was the IDC, Sen. Jeff Klein, who now serves as the deputy leader in the unified Senate Democratic Conference.</p> <p>Outside the city, in District 38 that spreads across Rockland and Westchester, Sen. David Carlucci faces a challenge from Julie Goldberg; and in District 53 covering Madison County and parts of Onondaga and Oneida, Sen. David Valesky faces Rachel May in the primary.</p> <p>For Cuomo and the state party, maintaining what Democratic seats they have in the Senate is paramount as they seek to flip the chamber by picking up more. Republicans have recently held control of the 63-seat chamber by a one-seat margin thanks to their own ranks and a single rogue conservative Senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who won his most recent reelection on the Democratic, Republican, and Conservative Party lines -- Felder is also facing a Democratic primary this year, from Blake Morris.</p> <p>But while they also want to see Republican seats flipped in November, many progressive activists insist that the party needs to elect better, “bluer Democrats” than Cuomo, Hochul, and the former IDC members. Nixon has explained that it is her motivation to run for governor, saying that in the age of Trump not any Democrat will do. Cuomo and his supporters argue that not only has the governor been a progressive powerhouse, but that Democratic energy of all kinds would be better spent working in concert to flip red seats to blue.</p> <p>That argument has largely fallen on deaf ears among those displeased with Cuomo, Klein, and other Democratic incumbents.</p> <p>The shiny veneer of the Senate Democrat reunification deal and its accompanying pact of nonaggression has seemed to be wearing off as challengers to the IDC senators pick up endorsements from top Democratic incumbents and, in one candidate’s case, from an influential labor union that helped broker the merger of the Senate Democrats. Meanwhile, Nixon and Williams have picked up far more support from elected officials and organizations than Teachout and her lieutenant governor running mate, Tim Wu, achieved in 2014.</p> <p>Democrats across the spectrum are taking sides, and others will be expected to do so over the next few months, in decisions that could be determinative for those they endorse, for their own political trajectories, and for the larger map of New York’s Democratic world currently dominated by one set of elected and appointed officials, consultants, labor leaders, and the networks of power they control.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Hopefuls</strong><br />On June 28, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced his endorsement of Biaggi, Jackson, Ramos, and Myrie, providing them a boost at a time when progressives were already feeling emboldened by the congressional primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earlier that week.</p> <p>A declared democratic socialist with a deeply progressive campaign platform, Ocasio-Cortez defeated Democratic giant Rep. Joe Crowley, a ten-term incumbent and the powerful boss of the Queens Democratic Party who was among the chief drivers of the Senate Democratic reunification and a possible next speaker of the House of Representatives. The stunning upset shook the foundations of the Democratic Party and undercut the conventional wisdom of the primacy of incumbents and machine politics, and its ramifications will likely be dissected for years. In New York, it’s immediate effects were quickly felt. Johnson, who had endorsed Crowley in the race, insisted the result did not affect his decision to endorse the four IDC challengers, which he said was in the works for months, but that did not stop observers from drawing a connection.</p> <p>“Whether it’s in Washington, D.C., or in Albany, the status quo isn’t working and that is why I’m here today in supporting four amazing candidates,” Johnson said at the steps of City Hall. “They are Democrats, they are progressive Democrats, they will caucus with the Democrats and they will support all the issues that Democrats support.” On Saturday, Johnson said on Twitter that he was ready to fully support Liu. At a Tuesday event in support of Biaggi, Johnson <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/1016874584489021440" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said</a>, “It feels really good to be able to tell the truth and for too long, people were not telling the truth about the IDC and the damage that they’ve done to the state of New York. And that damage was all in their own self-interest, putting their own self-interest above the entire state of New York.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement following Johnson’s endorsement, Barbara Brancaccio, a spokesperson for Klein, said, “Frankly we are surprised that our opponent would accept the endorsement of such a radioactive figure coming on the heels of his endorsement of Joe Crowley. We are sure that Johnson will do for this challenger, exactly what he did for Joe Crowley."</p> <p>At the same time, Johnson has also endorsed Governor Cuomo for reelection over Nixon, who continues to criticize the governor for supporting the IDC and whose platform largely resembles those of the IDC opponents. She shares stark similarities with Ocasio-Cortez and others seeking to upend incumbent Democrats who insurgents believe are too close to big-money interests and not in touch with their constituents who most need them. Nixon has begun to align herself more closely with those IDC challengers, cross-endorsing with Ramos earlier this week, for example.</p> <p>The same day as Johnson’s endorsement of the IDC challengers, 32BJ SEIU, the prominent building workers union, endorsed Biaggi, though their president Hector Figueroa had months ago been among those who proposed the Democratic reunification deal and the union is among several that have endorsed Cuomo and had also backed Crowley. “Jeff Klein and the IDC have empowered obstructionist Republicans set on blocking key reforms for too long,” Figueroa said <a href="http://www.seiu32bj.org/press-releases/32bj-seiu-endorses-biaggi/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in a statement</a> announcing the endorsement. “Never again.”</p> <p>And just one day prior, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer also endorsed Biaggi, a few months after he had already announced his support for Ramos and Jackson. The endorsements by Stringer, well before the Ocasio-Cortez win and its initial fallout, have won him much praise from liberal activists.</p> <p>Since his union came out for Biaggi, Figueroa has also addressed the Democratic split in New York, <a href="https://twitter.com/figue32bj/status/1016043465493372930" target="_blank" rel="noopener">writing on Twitter</a>, “Dems upset about IDC folks being primaried ‘for it may lead to the GOP winning a majority of NY Senate’ do not blame the ‘left’. The ones to be blamed are IDC incumbents themselves &amp; those STILL defending them. IDC betrayed voters creating a big political mess. Time to clean up.”</p> <p>Along with the number and strength of the progressive primary challengers to established incumbents and Ocasio-Cortez’s win, these endorsements, headlining still others, are the clearest cracks in the Democratic foundation that Cuomo and other state leaders have tried to set.</p> <p>“I think it’s fascinating because we do see a lack of cohesion as to whether or not people are going to support the IDC members or their challengers,” said Dr. Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University. “And I think this debate is sort of reflective of a larger debate that’s going on in the Democratic Party, for the soul of the Democratic party…‘Are we centrist, conservative-leaning Democrats or are we progressive?’”</p> <p>To some, these moves may smack of political opportunism, particularly in the case of Johnson, who is supporting progressives on the one hand while propping up establishment centrists like Crowley and Cuomo on the other. But in the New York political landscape, Greer said these endorsements are equally driven by philosophical considerations as they are by pragmatic ones. “These are politicians…I think that they can genuinely care about an issue and I think that they can also be calculating and strategic about it,” she said.</p> <p>For some, there is also a difference between backing a less experienced candidate for state Senate based on ideological reasons as opposed to the chief executive of the state.</p> <p>Both Johnson and Stringer are widely expected to run for mayor in 2021, the next city election cycle, when Mayor Bill de Blasio will be term-limited out of office, and tapping the progressive energy that Ocasio-Cortez rode to power, and that is now propelling Nixon, Williams, the IDC challengers, and others, would likewise boost their own political fortunes.</p> <p>“I think in the Democratic primary, the progressive energy in the city, that’s what you want to tap into if you’re running for mayor,” said Eric Koch, managing principal at Precision Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm, and former director of communications for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “So it makes sense to endorse the folks running against the IDC people because in terms of the activists and the people who are organizing against the IDC versus who is a Democratic primary voter in a mayoral election, there’s a pretty big overlap there.”</p> <p>It’s important to note that the IDC incumbents themselves have powerful backers, including unions like 1199 SEIU, many of which are in Cuomo’s corner as well.</p> <p>While Stringer and Johnson have decided to buck Cuomo and those involved in the unity deal, other likely 2021 mayoral candidates have not. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is a Cuomo ally and closely aligned with the Bronx Democratic Party apparatus, led by its chair, Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, and its former chair, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who signed onto the unity deal.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has been critical of Cuomo over the course of years, but has not made endorsements yet. His approach is complicated given his alliance with Senator Hamilton, formerly of the IDC. Adams did invite Nixon early in her campaign to tour a Brooklyn NYCHA complex and the two went to Albany Houses together. The Brooklyn borough president has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">voiced strong criticism of Cuomo</a>, but has not embraced Nixon beyond the NYCHA visit, nor has he weighed in on Williams’ challenge to Hochul or the IDC races.</p> <p>“They’re looking at these challengers and their districts, I’m sure, to sort of see what kind of coalition they would need to put together,” Greer said. “When they run for mayor, Andrew Cuomo may or may not still be in office...but a great campaign marketing slogan is, ‘We fight Albany. We fight Albany to make sure that New York City gets the money and resources we need.’”</p> <p>“Sure they care, but it’s also a very strategic move,” Greer said, “to make sure that they’re distancing themselves from the status quo to say that, ‘When tough decisions needed to be made, I didn’t just go along to get along.’”</p> <p><strong>Statewide Case</strong><br />Public Advocate Letitia James, who is running in the Democratic primary for attorney general (and had been a likely 2021 mayoral candidate), is charting a course similar to Diaz, Jr., but with a much higher profile given her bid for statewide office. James quickly jumped at the opportunity when Eric Schneiderman resigned the post after facing allegations of physical and emotional abuse by several intimate partners. Seen as an early frontrunner, with the blessing of the state Democratic Party and the governor, James rejected the possible endorsement of the progressive Working Families Party that had helped launch her political career as a City Council member.</p> <p>The WFP has been closely aligned with the IDC challengers, as well as Nixon and Williams, supporting their insurgent bids for office, while James has in the past supported at least one member of the IDC, Senator Alcantara, though she has come to criticize the IDC and called for reunification well before her attorney general bid.</p> <p>“I would essentially argue, if I were in these progressive groups that used to support Tish very openly, well what now gives you progressive bonafides?,” said Greer. “So her messaging has to be very clear for her supporters. Because they have progressive choices.”</p> <p>“Two days after Schneiderman resigned, it was essentially reported that Tish would be heir apparent and that’s the way much of the press is writing about the race...and I don’t necessarily see that to be the case anymore,” she added.</p> <p>James faces three other primary contenders: former Cuomo aide Leecia Eve, congressional Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, and Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary and lost, but managed to get a significant share of the vote, at 34 percent. Teachout, like Nixon, has been severely critical of the IDC and <a href="https://makenytrueblue.org/grassroots-coalition-formed-to-endorse-idc-challengers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsed</a> five IDC challengers as part of the TrueBlueNY coalition months before the attorney general position became available and she decided to run. When Schneiderman resigned, Teachout was at the time Nixon’s campaign treasurer, a position she has since vacated to run for attorney general.</p> <p>Among the four Democratic attorney general candidates, Teachout is undoubtedly furthest to the left. At the WFP nominating convention, delegates chose Nixon and Williams, and opted to install a placeholder for attorney general until, they hope, either James or Teachout emerges from the Democratic primary victorious and is offered the additional ballot line for the general election. James has expressed her love for the WFP despite initially shunning its endorsement and has said she believes everyone will coalesce again in the near future.</p> <p>While James has aligned herself with Cuomo and his unity deal, Teachout, who endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in May, is staunchly behind IDC challengers and has recently campaigned alongside Williams.</p> <p>Koch doesn’t believe her endorsements will give her a significant edge, however. “I do think that there might be some benefit in endorsing some of the folks against the IDC because that’s where the progressive energy is,” he said, “but at the end of the day, people who are voting for attorney general aren’t basing their votes on just the issue of the IDC, they’re coming at it from a much more holistic spectrum.”</p> <p>The experts who spoke with Gotham Gazette noted the significance of the ‘Ocasio effect.’ Both Teachout and Nixon had endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in the run up to the congressional primary and seized on her victory to emphasize that progressive challengers can defeat machine-backed incumbents. “There’s very much a movement that’s energizing the left and politicians who ignore it or who fall too far behind are really doing so at their own peril,” said a Democratic consultant who wished to remain unnamed so he could speak freely.</p> <p>“There’s certainly a lot of parallels between Cuomo and Crowley, you know, representing the old guard, like white-working class Democrats,” said the Democratic consultant. “But that being said, I wouldn’t read too much into the Ocasio win as portending a loss for Cuomo because Cuomo’s still extraordinarily popular among African-Americans, particularly African-American women, and Cynthia Nixon hasn’t to this point been able to show the ability to break into that base of support, which is really what you’re seeing here. It’s a combination of minority voters and very young, progressive voters.”</p> <p>For their part, top Nixon campaign aides cite Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in expressing their belief that public opinion polls can no longer be trusted to capture the progressive energy that has largely emerged since the 2016 election of Donald Trump.</p> <p>Koch said activist pressure against the IDC and its supporters has been building but “at the state level, people are gonna hedge their bets a little bit more because, one way or another, they’re gonna have to work with some of these folks.”</p> <p>Greer seemed more bullish about how far the momentum behind Ocasio-Cortez would carry into state elections. She conceded that Democrats across New York are not as progressive as they are in New York City, but that the win gave a much-needed confidence boost to IDC challengers as well as Nixon and Teachout, not to mention obvious opportunities to add volunteers and donors. “It’ll be fascinating to see if, all of a sudden, Cynthia and Zephyr can ride the coattails of Alexandria,” she said, a notion that, before the congressional primary, “would’ve sounded like crazy talk.”</p> <p>“But the reality here is...Alexandria’s getting national attention for the message that Cynthia and Zephyr have been championing,” she said.</p> <p><strong>Other Democrats Choose</strong><br />Virtually every elected Democrat in New York is expected to pick sides: Cuomo or Nixon; Hochul or Williams; James or Teachout or Eve or Maloney; Klein or Biaggi; and so on.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the most powerful Democratic officials in the state by virtue of his position, has so far stayed on the sidelines, regularly declining to comment on the 2018 New York elections, but promising to weigh in at some point. Given that Nixon was a fervent supporter during his winning 2013 campaign for mayor and again supported him for reelection in 2017, and his ongoing feud with Cuomo, de Blasio’s decision in the gubernatorial race is especially interesting. In 2014, before their feud had really escalated, de Blasio backed Cuomo for reelection, even helping broker him the Working Families Party nomination. He has indicated it did not work out as planned.</p> <p>Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, not facing a primary challenge himself, has backed Cuomo and Hochul, but says he’s likely staying out of the attorney general primary, even though the state party is behind James.</p> <p>While many Democratic officials have already or are expected to back Cuomo, there are local electeds who, beholden neither to the governor nor their respective Democratic machines, have chosen to break from the pack. New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca was the first of his colleagues to endorse Nixon’s bid for governor, and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Antonio Reynoso later followed suit. Williams, running for lieutenant governor, is also an apparent Nixon backer, but the two have not formally linked up as a ticket, so to speak (the two positions are elected separately in party primaries, but together in the general election).</p> <p>Reynoso and Menchaca, and Council Members Brad Lander, Adrienne Adams, and I. Daneek Miller have also backed Williams for lieutenant governor. Williams has also announced the backing of state Senator Kevin Parker, and across the state he has picked up endorsements from legislators in Albany and Syracuse, while Nixon was recently endorsed by more than a dozen Hudson Valley elected officials.</p> <p>Nixon’s most prominent recent endorsement came from the former City Council Speaker, Mark-Viverito, a progressive in the same vein who drew parallels between Nixon and Ocasio-Cortez. “These two boldly progressive women share the same values and priorities,” Mark-Viverito <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-why-i-back-cynthia-nixon-20180629-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wrote in the New York Daily News</a>. Nixon also cross-endorsed with Ocasio-Cortez the day before the congressional primary, and in the last week, has done so with Ramos, who is seeking to unseat Senator Peralta, formerly of the IDC, and Julia Salazar, a democratic socialist challenging Democratic state Senator Martin Dilan in northern Brooklyn.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Senator Hamilton's challenger, Myrie, announced four new endorsements from Assembly Members Walter Mosley, Diana Richardson, Jo Anne Simon and Robert Carroll, who represent Central Brooklyn. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Democratic Unity?</strong><br />“It goes back to the basic tenet: a house divided against itself can’t stand,” said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Democratic leader, in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7745-andrea-stewart-cousins-on-democratic-unity-and-the-value-of-primaries" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent appearance on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> hosted by Gotham Gazette and City Limits. The senator was addressing the Senate unity deal and whether Klein would be loyal to it. “How are we gonna do this?...I’m not gonna be sitting there having people somehow undermine the efforts that we have to be a team. That’s always been the case.”</p> <p>Sen. Michael Gianaris, the chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-idc-gianaris-breakaway-democrats-peralta-20180708-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has ruled out endorsing</a> the former IDC members, according to the Daily News -- Gianaris has had a long running feud with Klein, the IDC head -- and has been noncommittal on whether he may support their opponents. “Everyone seems to be on their best behavior on both sides and there seems to be genuine effort to work cooperatively and get to where we’re trying to go, so hopefully that continues,” Gianaris said in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7758:democratic-campaign-chief-even-a-blue-trickle-will-flip-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a separate Max &amp; Murphy interview</a>.</p> <p>Lieutenant Governor Hochul, in her own <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7768-hochul-divided-democratic-party-only-benefits-republicans" target="_blank" rel="noopener">appearance on the podcast</a>, said Democrats attacking each other only serve to polarize voters and that the party would be better off expending that energy against Republicans. “We can all be purists about everything when we have a Democrat in the White House, when we have the House and the Senate, and when we have New York State Legislature,” she said. “Then we can fight each other on the nuances.”</p> <p>Along with the decisions facing them now about who to back in the primaries, one major question for New York Democrats is what happens after September 13, and whether party members can coalesce for the general election. Republicans have completely avoided primaries for all four state-level statewide races of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general, and in virtually every state Senate district held by an incumbent.</p> <p>“I don’t think [the Democratic Party] fractures,” said the Democratic consultant who didn’t want to be named. “I think that’s the evolution of the party. That’s the direction that you’re seeing the party, and it’s largely driven by a local reaction to federal issues. It’s very largely a reaction to Trump on a number of things, on immigration, on labor, on health care, on taxes, on women’s rights.” &nbsp;</p> <p>The frustration with Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, the consultant said, means that Democrats want “a much more aggressive stance and debate” from their own leaders.</p> <p>Koch from Precision Strategies said the party will likely come together in the face of a larger enemy to sweep the major statewide races -- governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller. “The Democratic Party has always been a very big tent party, it’s always run the ideological spectrum from the progressive wing through to a more centrist wing,” he said, “and that’s why the party has been successful…After these primaries are done, Democrats will come together and unite because there are bigger threats and what unites us is definitely stronger than what divides us.”</p> <p>“I think the relationships will by and large repair themselves,” Koch added, “I suspect that after the primary, folks will get together and hash out whatever needs to be hashed out.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This story has been updated to include mention of endorsements received by Zellnor Myrie from four state Assembly members.</p>
EMILY’s List Backs Hochul for Reelection as Lieutenant Governor 2018-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7793:emily-s-list-backs-hochul-for-reelection-as-lieutenant-governor Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/35939168850_e1989fde5b_z.jpg" alt="Kathy Hochul" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>One of the country’s most powerful political organizations, EMILY’s List, has endorsed Kathy Hochul for reelection as lieutenant governor of New York.</p> <p>Hochul, a Democrat seeking a second term in the statewide position, is facing a primary challenge from New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, with the vote just over two months away, on September 13.</p> <p>EMILY’s List is a national organization founded in 1985 to “elect pro-choice Democratic women to office” that helps recruit, train, and support female candidates across the country. It is a powerhouse fundraising entity and claims over five million members. The group -- an acronym for Early Money Is Like Yeast, signifying the importance of early fundraising to the growth of electoral campaigns -- calls itself “the nation’s largest resource for women in politics” and boasts that it has “helped elect 116 women to the House, 23 to the Senate, 12 governors, and over 800 to state and local office.” It is a list that already includes Hochul, who became Governor Andrew Cuomo’s running mate in 2014 as he sought a second term and after his first-term lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, declined to seek reelection.</p> <p>“Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul has been a progressive champion New York families can count on,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, in a statement. “Kathy helped lead the way in New York’s fight for a desperately needed minimum wage increase and one of the most generous paid family leave policies in the country. Lieutenant Governor Hochul has tirelessly defended access to affordable health care, supported LGBTQ rights, and criticized Republican efforts to pass massive tax breaks for the wealthiest few. EMILY’s List is proud to endorse Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul’s campaign for re-election.”</p> <p>Hochul <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">speaks proudly</a> of her history fighting for women’s reproductive freedoms and for LGBTQ rights, and highlights her work leading economic development projects for the Cuomo administration.</p> <p>The challenge from <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Williams</a> -- a Brooklyn representative who has the backing of several activist groups that make up The Working Families Party, as well as a handful of his City Council colleagues, among other individuals and groups -- is formidable. While Hochul has the advantages of incumbency and her ties to Cuomo and the larger Democratic establishment, help from EMILY’s List with fundraising, volunteers, and voter turnout could be pivotal. The group says it has raised over $500 million since its inception, including over $90 million during the 2016 election cycle, when it backed Hillary Clinton for president, among many other candidates.</p> <p>Williams has repeatedly <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">faced questions</a> about his stance on abortion, which has evolved in recent years. He has said in the past that he held personal views in opposition to abortion but never acted in his official capacity to challenge reproductive rights. More recently, he has given full-throated support to a woman’s right to choose and made efforts to assuage concerns that he is against reproductive choice.</p> <p>Hochul and her supporters have already <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">repeatedly made reference</a> to Williams’ views on women’s reproductive rights as well as his similarly evolved stance on marriage equality for LGBTQ people. Those lines of attack are likely to intensify as the campaign season heats up, especially if the two candidates engage in debates.</p> <p>For his part, Williams <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has criticized Hochul</a> for being unequivocally supportive of Cuomo (which she has said is her job as lieutenant governor), for being too centrist overall, and for her past opposition to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants (Hochul has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7768-hochul-divided-democratic-party-only-benefits-republicans" target="_blank" rel="noopener">expressed regret</a> about how she handled the issue as Erie County Clerk a decade ago).</p> <p>Hochul told Gotham Gazette that she has tried to understand why Williams and Cynthia Nixon, who is trying to unseat Cuomo in the Democratic primary, are mounting their campaigns, but that, ultimately, she believes the intraparty battles <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7768-hochul-divided-democratic-party-only-benefits-republicans" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only advantage Republicans</a>, in part by fracturing Democrats but also by forcing the diversion of resources from flipping Republican-held seats in the House of Representatives and New York State Senate, both bodies currently led by the GOP.</p> <p>The EMILY’s List endorsement of Hochul comes as the group is <a href="https://www.emilyslist.org/candidates/gallery/house" target="_blank" rel="noopener">working</a> to help flip the House this November, among other races at various levels of government it is hoping to support women in winning. In New York, for example, EMILY’s List is behind Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is seeking to unseat Republican Representative Peter King of Long Island. The organization has also significantly expanded its state and local efforts, Schriock recently explained <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/23/emilys-list-is-pushing-democratic-women-to-flip-statehouses.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">to CNBC</a>, saying that Republican-controlled state legislatures are “devastating women and families.” Other EMILY’s List endorsements in New York races could come ahead of important general election votes for New York House and State Senate seats.</p> <p>“Our vision is a government that reflects the people it serves, and decision makers who genuinely and enthusiastically fight for greater opportunity and better lives for the Americans they represent,” the EMILY’s List <a href="https://www.emilyslist.org/pages/entry/our-mission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">website</a> explains of the organization’s mission. “We will work for larger leadership roles for pro-choice Democratic women in our legislative bodies and executive seats so that our families can benefit from the open-minded, productive contributions that women have consistently made in office.”</p> <p>EMILY’s List has entered somewhat new territory this year given the exponential groundswell of women interested in running for office and those who have made the leap, in many cases with support from EMILY’s List, which can come in forms that don’t include a formal endorsement. The organization has faced several difficult choices about where and when to get involved in Democratic primaries with two or more women running, and in some cases where female candidates are taking on establishment-backed male candidates (as The New York Times <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/us/politics/emilys-list-midterm-elections.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently explored</a>). The organization is closely aligned with the Democratic establishment and is careful in assessing viability of campaigns.</p> <p>It almost never endorses primary challengers to sitting Democrats, making it unlikely to back Nixon in her quest to unseat Cuomo. EMILY’s List has supported another Cuomo opponent, Stephanie Miner, in her past, successful effort to get reelected as mayor of Syracuse. Miner is attempting to make the general election ballot for governor on a newly-created independent line. On the other hand, there is a wide open Democratic primary for Attorney General of New York that includes three women: New York City Public Advocate, the state party’s designee and a former endorsee of EMILY’s List, as well as Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, and former Cuomo and Clinton aide Leecia Eve. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney is also running.</p> <p>If Hochul is successful in defeating Williams in the primary, she will join a ticket with the Democratic nominee for governor to face the joint tickets of other parties on the ballot.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/35939168850_e1989fde5b_z.jpg" alt="Kathy Hochul" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>One of the country’s most powerful political organizations, EMILY’s List, has endorsed Kathy Hochul for reelection as lieutenant governor of New York.</p> <p>Hochul, a Democrat seeking a second term in the statewide position, is facing a primary challenge from New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, with the vote just over two months away, on September 13.</p> <p>EMILY’s List is a national organization founded in 1985 to “elect pro-choice Democratic women to office” that helps recruit, train, and support female candidates across the country. It is a powerhouse fundraising entity and claims over five million members. The group -- an acronym for Early Money Is Like Yeast, signifying the importance of early fundraising to the growth of electoral campaigns -- calls itself “the nation’s largest resource for women in politics” and boasts that it has “helped elect 116 women to the House, 23 to the Senate, 12 governors, and over 800 to state and local office.” It is a list that already includes Hochul, who became Governor Andrew Cuomo’s running mate in 2014 as he sought a second term and after his first-term lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, declined to seek reelection.</p> <p>“Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul has been a progressive champion New York families can count on,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, in a statement. “Kathy helped lead the way in New York’s fight for a desperately needed minimum wage increase and one of the most generous paid family leave policies in the country. Lieutenant Governor Hochul has tirelessly defended access to affordable health care, supported LGBTQ rights, and criticized Republican efforts to pass massive tax breaks for the wealthiest few. EMILY’s List is proud to endorse Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul’s campaign for re-election.”</p> <p>Hochul <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">speaks proudly</a> of her history fighting for women’s reproductive freedoms and for LGBTQ rights, and highlights her work leading economic development projects for the Cuomo administration.</p> <p>The challenge from <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Williams</a> -- a Brooklyn representative who has the backing of several activist groups that make up The Working Families Party, as well as a handful of his City Council colleagues, among other individuals and groups -- is formidable. While Hochul has the advantages of incumbency and her ties to Cuomo and the larger Democratic establishment, help from EMILY’s List with fundraising, volunteers, and voter turnout could be pivotal. The group says it has raised over $500 million since its inception, including over $90 million during the 2016 election cycle, when it backed Hillary Clinton for president, among many other candidates.</p> <p>Williams has repeatedly <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">faced questions</a> about his stance on abortion, which has evolved in recent years. He has said in the past that he held personal views in opposition to abortion but never acted in his official capacity to challenge reproductive rights. More recently, he has given full-throated support to a woman’s right to choose and made efforts to assuage concerns that he is against reproductive choice.</p> <p>Hochul and her supporters have already <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">repeatedly made reference</a> to Williams’ views on women’s reproductive rights as well as his similarly evolved stance on marriage equality for LGBTQ people. Those lines of attack are likely to intensify as the campaign season heats up, especially if the two candidates engage in debates.</p> <p>For his part, Williams <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has criticized Hochul</a> for being unequivocally supportive of Cuomo (which she has said is her job as lieutenant governor), for being too centrist overall, and for her past opposition to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants (Hochul has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7768-hochul-divided-democratic-party-only-benefits-republicans" target="_blank" rel="noopener">expressed regret</a> about how she handled the issue as Erie County Clerk a decade ago).</p> <p>Hochul told Gotham Gazette that she has tried to understand why Williams and Cynthia Nixon, who is trying to unseat Cuomo in the Democratic primary, are mounting their campaigns, but that, ultimately, she believes the intraparty battles <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7768-hochul-divided-democratic-party-only-benefits-republicans" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only advantage Republicans</a>, in part by fracturing Democrats but also by forcing the diversion of resources from flipping Republican-held seats in the House of Representatives and New York State Senate, both bodies currently led by the GOP.</p> <p>The EMILY’s List endorsement of Hochul comes as the group is <a href="https://www.emilyslist.org/candidates/gallery/house" target="_blank" rel="noopener">working</a> to help flip the House this November, among other races at various levels of government it is hoping to support women in winning. In New York, for example, EMILY’s List is behind Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is seeking to unseat Republican Representative Peter King of Long Island. The organization has also significantly expanded its state and local efforts, Schriock recently explained <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/23/emilys-list-is-pushing-democratic-women-to-flip-statehouses.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">to CNBC</a>, saying that Republican-controlled state legislatures are “devastating women and families.” Other EMILY’s List endorsements in New York races could come ahead of important general election votes for New York House and State Senate seats.</p> <p>“Our vision is a government that reflects the people it serves, and decision makers who genuinely and enthusiastically fight for greater opportunity and better lives for the Americans they represent,” the EMILY’s List <a href="https://www.emilyslist.org/pages/entry/our-mission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">website</a> explains of the organization’s mission. “We will work for larger leadership roles for pro-choice Democratic women in our legislative bodies and executive seats so that our families can benefit from the open-minded, productive contributions that women have consistently made in office.”</p> <p>EMILY’s List has entered somewhat new territory this year given the exponential groundswell of women interested in running for office and those who have made the leap, in many cases with support from EMILY’s List, which can come in forms that don’t include a formal endorsement. The organization has faced several difficult choices about where and when to get involved in Democratic primaries with two or more women running, and in some cases where female candidates are taking on establishment-backed male candidates (as The New York Times <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/us/politics/emilys-list-midterm-elections.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently explored</a>). The organization is closely aligned with the Democratic establishment and is careful in assessing viability of campaigns.</p> <p>It almost never endorses primary challengers to sitting Democrats, making it unlikely to back Nixon in her quest to unseat Cuomo. EMILY’s List has supported another Cuomo opponent, Stephanie Miner, in her past, successful effort to get reelected as mayor of Syracuse. Miner is attempting to make the general election ballot for governor on a newly-created independent line. On the other hand, there is a wide open Democratic primary for Attorney General of New York that includes three women: New York City Public Advocate, the state party’s designee and a former endorsee of EMILY’s List, as well as Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, and former Cuomo and Clinton aide Leecia Eve. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney is also running.</p> <p>If Hochul is successful in defeating Williams in the primary, she will join a ticket with the Democratic nominee for governor to face the joint tickets of other parties on the ballot.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Hochul: Divided Democratic Party Only Benefits Republicans 2018-06-25T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7768:hochul-divided-democratic-party-only-benefits-republicans Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cuomo_hochul_bus_stop.jpg" alt="cuomo hochul bus stop" width="600" height="456" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Hochul (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>With the September primaries for New York state elections fast approaching, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, both Democratic incumbents, are being forced to defend their records in challenges from the left. While many other elected officials and labor unions are supporting the incumbents, a wide swath of activists that form part of the party’s base is supporting challengers to Cuomo, Hochul, and a group of state senators who, until recently, made up the rogue Democratic faction known as the Independent Democratic Conference, which aligned itself with Senate Republicans.</p> <p>It is a contentious, and potentially damaging, split within the party that Cuomo, Hochul, and other incumbents are attempting to overcome, keeping them from focusing their full attention on unseating Republicans in the state Senate or House of Representatives, both of which could swing to Democratic control through the fall elections.</p> <p>Actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, who is campaigning to become governor, and City Council Member Jumaane Williams, vying to become lieutenant governor, have both been endorsed by the liberal Working Families Party (WFP) and are currently petitioning the public for a place on the September Democratic primary ballot, claiming the party under Cuomo’s leadership has lost its way, falling into corruption and leaning too far across the aisle.</p> <p>Hochul, a former member of Congress from western New York who was also Cuomo’s 2014 running mate, lamented the challenge, saying the “only beneficiaries” of a divided Democratic party are Republicans.</p> <p>“I approach every challenge with the effort and an attempt to understand where people come from, so I am trying to put myself in their shoes, but I also understand history very well and I know what happens when Democrats attack each other and there’s polarization,” Hochul said on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent episode of the Max &amp; Murphy podcast from Gotham Gazette and City Limits</a>, when asked about the Nixon and Williams campaigns.</p> <p>“What I would love to do is harness all that energy and set it on fire against the Republicans because what I would be doing right now, if I didn’t have a challenge, is what I set out to do, which is to help elect Democrats to Congress,” said Hochul, who Williams has accused of being too moderate and not being an independent voice to check Cuomo.</p> <p>Hochul’s sentiment is opposite to that of Nixon and Williams, who have made no mention of running together but who’ve appeared jointly on community calls run by the WFP (governor and lieutenant governor are voted on separately during party primaries but appear on the ballot as a ticket in the general).</p> <p>Speaking on a May 24 call, Nixon said, “A Democratic primary is good for the party and good for the state.” Both candidates are critical of Cuomo’s lack of action, rhetoric to the contrary, in areas of criminal justice reform; protecting undocumented immigrants; rent regulations, and education funding fairness, among other issues.</p> <p>A cornerstone of Williams’ campaign is his promise to redefine the role of lieutenant governor and act only for the benefit of New Yorkers, even if it means independently of the governor. “I will make certain that our governor and elected officials uphold their promises to you and will hold them accountable for the actions they take,” his website reads, a sentiment he echoed on an earlier WFP call to rally volunteers in early May.</p> <p>Though he doesn’t mention Hochul by name, Williams has drawn a clear comparison to the incumbent, who herself acknowledges that she sees the job as to support the governor and be the “advocate in chief,” as she said on the podcast. Hochul travels the state promoting and explaining Cuomo administration initiatives, while at times also helping craft them. Economic development and women’s issues are key pieces of her portfolio. During the podcast discussion, Hochul applauded Cuomo for his efforts in reinventing the city of Buffalo with an injection of $1 billion, and saying he has done “an exceptional job” in fighting for working-class people across the state.</p> <p>“A primary keeps you on the ropes; you have to focus on it, because I need to be there to finish the job with Governor Cuomo,” Hochul said. “It is what it is, but I wish people would understand this energy is better spent on the other party right now because of the threat of [Republican President] Donald Trump.”</p> <p>“We can all be purists about everything when we have a Democrat in the White House, when we have the House and the Senate, and when we have New York State Legislature,” she continued. “Then we can fight each other on the nuances.”</p> <p>On the Republican side of the aisle, there is no corresponding set of primaries -- the GOP is nominating Marc Molinaro for governor and Julie Killian for lieutenant governor. They now have months to join in the attacks on Cuomo and Hochul, raise money, and stake out their positions, while also watching Democrats in-fight.</p> <p>While Nixon and Williams are calling upon a grassroots movement of volunteers and a network of liberal groups to expand their support base, Hochul and Cuomo are embracing the establishment while reminding voters of their work over the past four, or in Cuomo’s case, eight, years.</p> <p>“You ask anybody on the streets of Buffalo, you go up there today and ask anyone if they can see and feel the difference and the answer will be ‘yes’,” Hochul told the podcast. “There is literally not just a physical change where you can see an area that was abandoned wasteland on our waterfront which is now a place where 2 million people go every summer for concerts…And the businesses that are coming, it’s one of the top destinations for millennials in the country. The success is seen in the jobs, the transformation of neighbourhoods, the physical change but also the psychological change. There’s a pride that never used to be there.”</p> <p>The change can be replicated -- is being replicated, according to Hochul -- in other places in New York. She spoke of Syracuse (now the “international capital for drone technology”) and Rochester (“we’re now bringing technology jobs there”), saying the Buffalo example shows: “If we can bring back the hardest hit area of the state, we can bring back anything.”</p> <p>Yet when pressed on the corruption attached to the “Buffalo Billion” and other Cuomo administration economic development programming, which has seen one completed and one ongoing federal trial this year, with charges against individuals including former top aides and major donors to Cuomo, Hochul downplayed its significance.</p> <p>“There are trials on that right now and it was heartbreaking to see how people abused the trust that was placed in them. It really is,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">she said</a>, apparently referring to former Secretary to the Governor Joseph Percoco, who was convicted earlier this year, and former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, who is currently on trial. “We need accountability and we’re getting accountability. There was a separate entity that had been orchestrating much of the economic development that has changed.”</p> <p>Now, Buffalo’s development projects are consolidated under Empire State Development with former Buffalo business leader Howard Zemsky at the helm (Zemsky also co-chaired the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, part of the network of REDCs that Cuomo and Hochul oversee) and with a new entity, NY CREATES, about to launch under new leadership, while consolidating the assets of two scandal-plagued nonprofits.</p> <p>Of Zemsky, Hochul said she “trusts him enormously” and that he has a “stellar reputation for integrity.”</p> <p>On other touchpoints that appear pivotal in the Hochul-Williams Democratic primary, such as LGBTQ rights and support for immigrant communities, Hochul is adamant she’s been consistent in upholding true “democratic values,” though she did admit to some regrets from her time as Erie County Clerk. She’s been a stalwart supporter of marriage equality, which was legalized in New York under Cuomo in 2011, she said, while also taking an apparent shot at Williams, who has not always been vocally behind marriage rights for same-sex couples (or abortion rights for women).</p> <p>On the other hand, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on the podcast</a> Hochul said she regrets the opposition she expressed in 2007 to providing driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers. At the time, Hochul threatened to turn undocumented immigrants in to law enforcement if they sought licenses, which were a controversial topic at the time and are again a key issue this year.</p> <p>“It was the time, and I said I would uphold the law. There were people who would break the law and I said ‘if this is what the state of New York decides to do, I will uphold that law.’ It became very contentious within our community,” Hochul said, noting work she did on Capitol Hill early in her career helping immigrants should speak to her “commitment” to the issue.</p> <p>“I wish I had not gone that route [in 2007], I really do, because I realize it was hurtful to people and that was never my intent,” Hochul said. “I would never do anything to intentionally hurt anybody.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen to the full conversation: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cuomo_hochul_bus_stop.jpg" alt="cuomo hochul bus stop" width="600" height="456" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Hochul (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>With the September primaries for New York state elections fast approaching, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, both Democratic incumbents, are being forced to defend their records in challenges from the left. While many other elected officials and labor unions are supporting the incumbents, a wide swath of activists that form part of the party’s base is supporting challengers to Cuomo, Hochul, and a group of state senators who, until recently, made up the rogue Democratic faction known as the Independent Democratic Conference, which aligned itself with Senate Republicans.</p> <p>It is a contentious, and potentially damaging, split within the party that Cuomo, Hochul, and other incumbents are attempting to overcome, keeping them from focusing their full attention on unseating Republicans in the state Senate or House of Representatives, both of which could swing to Democratic control through the fall elections.</p> <p>Actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, who is campaigning to become governor, and City Council Member Jumaane Williams, vying to become lieutenant governor, have both been endorsed by the liberal Working Families Party (WFP) and are currently petitioning the public for a place on the September Democratic primary ballot, claiming the party under Cuomo’s leadership has lost its way, falling into corruption and leaning too far across the aisle.</p> <p>Hochul, a former member of Congress from western New York who was also Cuomo’s 2014 running mate, lamented the challenge, saying the “only beneficiaries” of a divided Democratic party are Republicans.</p> <p>“I approach every challenge with the effort and an attempt to understand where people come from, so I am trying to put myself in their shoes, but I also understand history very well and I know what happens when Democrats attack each other and there’s polarization,” Hochul said on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent episode of the Max &amp; Murphy podcast from Gotham Gazette and City Limits</a>, when asked about the Nixon and Williams campaigns.</p> <p>“What I would love to do is harness all that energy and set it on fire against the Republicans because what I would be doing right now, if I didn’t have a challenge, is what I set out to do, which is to help elect Democrats to Congress,” said Hochul, who Williams has accused of being too moderate and not being an independent voice to check Cuomo.</p> <p>Hochul’s sentiment is opposite to that of Nixon and Williams, who have made no mention of running together but who’ve appeared jointly on community calls run by the WFP (governor and lieutenant governor are voted on separately during party primaries but appear on the ballot as a ticket in the general).</p> <p>Speaking on a May 24 call, Nixon said, “A Democratic primary is good for the party and good for the state.” Both candidates are critical of Cuomo’s lack of action, rhetoric to the contrary, in areas of criminal justice reform; protecting undocumented immigrants; rent regulations, and education funding fairness, among other issues.</p> <p>A cornerstone of Williams’ campaign is his promise to redefine the role of lieutenant governor and act only for the benefit of New Yorkers, even if it means independently of the governor. “I will make certain that our governor and elected officials uphold their promises to you and will hold them accountable for the actions they take,” his website reads, a sentiment he echoed on an earlier WFP call to rally volunteers in early May.</p> <p>Though he doesn’t mention Hochul by name, Williams has drawn a clear comparison to the incumbent, who herself acknowledges that she sees the job as to support the governor and be the “advocate in chief,” as she said on the podcast. Hochul travels the state promoting and explaining Cuomo administration initiatives, while at times also helping craft them. Economic development and women’s issues are key pieces of her portfolio. During the podcast discussion, Hochul applauded Cuomo for his efforts in reinventing the city of Buffalo with an injection of $1 billion, and saying he has done “an exceptional job” in fighting for working-class people across the state.</p> <p>“A primary keeps you on the ropes; you have to focus on it, because I need to be there to finish the job with Governor Cuomo,” Hochul said. “It is what it is, but I wish people would understand this energy is better spent on the other party right now because of the threat of [Republican President] Donald Trump.”</p> <p>“We can all be purists about everything when we have a Democrat in the White House, when we have the House and the Senate, and when we have New York State Legislature,” she continued. “Then we can fight each other on the nuances.”</p> <p>On the Republican side of the aisle, there is no corresponding set of primaries -- the GOP is nominating Marc Molinaro for governor and Julie Killian for lieutenant governor. They now have months to join in the attacks on Cuomo and Hochul, raise money, and stake out their positions, while also watching Democrats in-fight.</p> <p>While Nixon and Williams are calling upon a grassroots movement of volunteers and a network of liberal groups to expand their support base, Hochul and Cuomo are embracing the establishment while reminding voters of their work over the past four, or in Cuomo’s case, eight, years.</p> <p>“You ask anybody on the streets of Buffalo, you go up there today and ask anyone if they can see and feel the difference and the answer will be ‘yes’,” Hochul told the podcast. “There is literally not just a physical change where you can see an area that was abandoned wasteland on our waterfront which is now a place where 2 million people go every summer for concerts…And the businesses that are coming, it’s one of the top destinations for millennials in the country. The success is seen in the jobs, the transformation of neighbourhoods, the physical change but also the psychological change. There’s a pride that never used to be there.”</p> <p>The change can be replicated -- is being replicated, according to Hochul -- in other places in New York. She spoke of Syracuse (now the “international capital for drone technology”) and Rochester (“we’re now bringing technology jobs there”), saying the Buffalo example shows: “If we can bring back the hardest hit area of the state, we can bring back anything.”</p> <p>Yet when pressed on the corruption attached to the “Buffalo Billion” and other Cuomo administration economic development programming, which has seen one completed and one ongoing federal trial this year, with charges against individuals including former top aides and major donors to Cuomo, Hochul downplayed its significance.</p> <p>“There are trials on that right now and it was heartbreaking to see how people abused the trust that was placed in them. It really is,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">she said</a>, apparently referring to former Secretary to the Governor Joseph Percoco, who was convicted earlier this year, and former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, who is currently on trial. “We need accountability and we’re getting accountability. There was a separate entity that had been orchestrating much of the economic development that has changed.”</p> <p>Now, Buffalo’s development projects are consolidated under Empire State Development with former Buffalo business leader Howard Zemsky at the helm (Zemsky also co-chaired the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, part of the network of REDCs that Cuomo and Hochul oversee) and with a new entity, NY CREATES, about to launch under new leadership, while consolidating the assets of two scandal-plagued nonprofits.</p> <p>Of Zemsky, Hochul said she “trusts him enormously” and that he has a “stellar reputation for integrity.”</p> <p>On other touchpoints that appear pivotal in the Hochul-Williams Democratic primary, such as LGBTQ rights and support for immigrant communities, Hochul is adamant she’s been consistent in upholding true “democratic values,” though she did admit to some regrets from her time as Erie County Clerk. She’s been a stalwart supporter of marriage equality, which was legalized in New York under Cuomo in 2011, she said, while also taking an apparent shot at Williams, who has not always been vocally behind marriage rights for same-sex couples (or abortion rights for women).</p> <p>On the other hand, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on the podcast</a> Hochul said she regrets the opposition she expressed in 2007 to providing driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers. At the time, Hochul threatened to turn undocumented immigrants in to law enforcement if they sought licenses, which were a controversial topic at the time and are again a key issue this year.</p> <p>“It was the time, and I said I would uphold the law. There were people who would break the law and I said ‘if this is what the state of New York decides to do, I will uphold that law.’ It became very contentious within our community,” Hochul said, noting work she did on Capitol Hill early in her career helping immigrants should speak to her “commitment” to the issue.</p> <p>“I wish I had not gone that route [in 2007], I really do, because I realize it was hurtful to people and that was never my intent,” Hochul said. “I would never do anything to intentionally hurt anybody.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen to the full conversation: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7737-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

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</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7737:max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-kathy-hochul Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 14, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/kathy-hochul-277.jpg" alt="kathy hochul 277" width="137" height="210" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Kathy Hochul is in the fourth year of her first term as lieutenant governor, and, running alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo, seeking another term this fall. She's facing a primary challenge, however, from City Council Member Jumaane Williams. As she runs for reelection (the lieutenant governor and governor run separately in the primary but as a ticket in the general election), Hochul is touting the strength of her record as part of the Cuomo administration. She joined the podcast to discuss her background, the administration's work, especially in economic development, which she has a significant role in, the revitalization of Buffalo, which is in the congressional district she briefly represented in the House of Representatives, and much more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/458464395&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 14, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/kathy-hochul-277.jpg" alt="kathy hochul 277" width="137" height="210" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Kathy Hochul is in the fourth year of her first term as lieutenant governor, and, running alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo, seeking another term this fall. She's facing a primary challenge, however, from City Council Member Jumaane Williams. As she runs for reelection (the lieutenant governor and governor run separately in the primary but as a ticket in the general election), Hochul is touting the strength of her record as part of the Cuomo administration. She joined the podcast to discuss her background, the administration's work, especially in economic development, which she has a significant role in, the revitalization of Buffalo, which is in the congressional district she briefly represented in the House of Representatives, and much more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/458464395&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Democratic Establishment Embraces Cuomo as Pragmatic Progressive 2018-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7691:democratic-establishment-embraces-cuomo-as-pragmatic-progressive Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo_and_ticket_at_convention.jpg" alt="cuomo and ticket at convention" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>James, Cuomo, Hochul, DiNapoli (photo: @andrewcuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo emerged triumphant and emboldened from the State Democratic Party’s nominating convention on Long Island, with the party’s designation in hand and embraced by top national Democrats and elected party representatives from across the state. The governor basked in the support of centrist establishment figures like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden, while they and much of the rest of the convention sought to frame Cuomo as a progressive standard bearer who represents the values of a Democratic Party that continues to move leftward. <br /> <br />Cuomo and others framed the two-term incumbent as a progressive who gets things done, a trailblazer who doesn’t just talk, but has real accomplishments and is actually a unifying figure for the party -- though he is again being challenged from his left in this year’s primary as discontent from the progressive wing has reached a fever pitch. That fever was not particularly evident at the state party convention, however.</p> <p>“We are about to embark on the most consequential campaign in our lifetime,” Cuomo declared in his acceptance speech on Thursday, framing his reelection amid Democratic efforts to retake the state Senate and U.S. House, with several swing districts in New York. “We are at a political crossroads and our decisions and actions are going to define the soul of this state and the soul of this nation.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s coronation comes at a time when progressives are incensed with his centrism and triangulation with Republicans, and are pushing to elect a “true blue” Democrat to the governorship, personified in this case by Cynthia Nixon. But Cuomo’s supporters have warned of the dangers of liberal absolutism, as Democrats seek to retain what control they have over state and federal branches of government while also unseating Republicans in an age of Trumpism. The stakes are high for both parties, and some question whether Democratic infighting does any good while Republicans control the presidency, both houses of Congress, and many state legislatures (New York’s is split, with one house controlled by each party).</p> <p>The Democratic State Committee had already concluded its nominations on Wednesday, leaving party members free to glad-hand and pat each other on the back as they sang the praises of Cuomo and other top party officials. Cuomo won the party designation with 95 percent of the state committee vote, a resounding victory over upstart challenger Nixon, who did appear at the convention as her campaign launched a blistering effort to paint Cuomo as in bed with Republicans. She continued to criticize him as a fake Democrat whose governing style smacks of expediency rather than sincerity.</p> <p>The party also designated as its official nominees incumbents Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for another term each, and selected New York City Public Advocate Letitia James as the designated candidate for attorney general to replace Eric Schneiderman, who recently resigned after facing allegations of physical abuse by four women. Hochul is facing a primary challenge from New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, while James is facing Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout and Leecia Eve, a former Cuomo and Clinton aide, in the primary.</p> <p>Given how the state committee voted, Nixon, Williams, Teachout, and Eve will all have to collect petition signatures to get on the primary ballot. Nixon and Williams have the backing of the liberal Working Families Party, but may eschew its ballot line for the general election if they are unsuccessful in the Democratic primary. The WFP has said it wants to give its attorney general ballot line to either James or Teachout, depending on who wins the Democratic primary.</p> <p>Though there was much party business and some controversy, the convention went mostly smoothly for Cuomo, who was the unequivocal star.</p> <p>While Cuomo has indeed governed from the center, he was held up as a paragon of pragmatic progressivism at the convention, in line with the image he has sought to craft for himself in recent months, if not years. Before he spoke to the convention, Cuomo was lauded on Wednesday by Clinton and on Thursday by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and by Biden, who has a long-standing friendship with Cuomo, as a leader who has ushered in transformative change and created a model of governance that Democrats across the nation should envy, and emulate.</p> <p>Marriage equality? Cuomo made it happen in New York and helped launch the nation on the path to full realization. Gun control? Cuomo moved quickly after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre to ban the military-type assault weapons that have been used in many school and other mass shootings since. College tuition? Cuomo made it free for many middle-class students. A $15 minimum wage? Cuomo put a program in place. Paid family leave? Again, Cuomo.</p> <p>In a lofty and lengthy address, filled with anecdotal life lessons, Biden waxed eloquent about the values of the Democratic Party, of American cultural exceptionalism, of the middle class American dream, as he inveighed against the Republican Party’s “phony populism” and “fake nationalism” that threaten to undermine them all. He spoke of his deeply personal ties to the Cuomo family, and of his and the governor’s shared interest in muscle cars (both of them own vintage Corvettes, he noted).</p> <p>He proudly touted Cuomo’s record. “Andrew Cuomo has never backed away from his progressive principles, not one single time,” he said to applause.</p> <p>Perez, occasionally peppering his speech with Spanish, said Cuomo and his running mate Hochul were “charter members of the accomplishments wing of the Democratic Party.”</p> <p>“What I’ve grown to love about Andrew Cuomo is he understands that governance isn’t about speechifying,” Perez said. “It’s about making a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “New Yorkers don’t want rhetoric, they want results. That’s what Andrew Cuomo has delivered.”</p> <p>To an audience filled with many union workers, Perez hailed Cuomo’s support of labor unions and the state’s immense success in creating jobs under his tenure. And he drew a contrast between the governor and “this other New Yorker in Washington that’s giving a bad name to New York values,” though he stopped short of saying the name Trump.</p> <p>State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, commended the governor for managing to pass ambitious policies despite Republican control of the state Senate. “When you have a quarterback that’s a winning quarterback on a winning team, there’s no reason to change,” he said in his endorsement of the governor. And Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic minority leader, credited him with reuniting the fractured Senate Democratic conference, setting her up to eventually become the state’s first woman and woman of color to lead a legislative house if the party wins additional Senate seats in the elections this fall. “We can do this and we will make history by finally putting a woman in the room,” she declared.</p> <p>All those Democrats, and the governor himself, put Cuomo on a large pedestal, as a leader who could forge a new path for the Democratic Party and whose administration was an exemplar for other states. The State Democratic Party, as is the case with its national counterpart, is counting on a blue wave that has been building across the nation since Trump’s election. Cuomo has trained his attention, and the state party’s resources, at flipping the state Senate and replacing Congressional Republicans with Democrats.</p> <p>Cuomo welcomed the responsibility, insisting that the nation has its eyes turned to New York. “Our challenge is twofold. First, we must continue to move our state forward as the progressive capital of America because that’s what we are,” he said. “And at the same time, we must overcome the current national extreme conservative movement that is threatening this nation.”</p> <p>Although he claimed he never appreciated his father’s self-proclaimed title of “pragmatic progressive,” Andrew Cuomo made no effort to distance himself from its definition: “We deliver practical progress for people in need,” he said.</p> <p>Taking an expansive look at the Democratic Party, Cuomo said working- and middle-class voters had abandoned the party out of despair in 2016, and that the party must return to its roots. “No more platitudes, no more posturing, no more delay, no more incompetence, no more hypotheticals, no more hyperbole,” he said. “They want action. They want results and they want actions and results now. They don’t want pontification from an ivory tower.”</p> <p>Cuomo's criticism of the Democratic Party and assertion that it had lost the election to Trump struck some as awkward, even insulting, given that Clinton -- the party's 2016 presidential nominee -- had praised and endorsed him the day before.</p> <p>The convention also marked how far Cuomo has shifted in the last two years under the Trump presidency and, significantly, in the last few weeks under a deluge of criticism from a left-leaning progressive wing galvanized by Nixon’s candidacy.</p> <p>For a time after Trump’s election, Cuomo refused to say “Trump” even as he criticized the federal government or “Washington.” In his speech on Thursday, he said the president’s name 18 times. “Today the Albany Republicans all carry the Trump doctrine,” he said. “They all drank the Trump, Ryan, McConnell Kool-Aid and their radical assault is draconian and all-encompassing...They think America was great when women were subordinate and when minorities were disenfranchised, and when the big private market corporations ruled the land and when labor was voiceless. That’s the America they want to take us back to. And we are not going back, ever.”</p> <p>Cuomo did little to tamp down the rumors that he is considering a presidential run ahead of the 2020 election, something that his opponents from the left and the right have criticized him for.</p> <p>Marc Molinaro, the gubernatorial candidate to Cuomo’s right as the Republican nominee, did not escape Cuomo’s scathing critiques either. “The Republicans in this state put on the top of their ticket a Trump mini-me. He's anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-gun safety, anti-immigration, anti-education equity, and pro-Trump's New York tax increase. All he is is a banner carrier for the extreme conservative movement,” Cuomo said, incorrectly characterizing some stances by Molinaro, who has opposed the federal tax reform and has said he did not vote for Trump for president.</p> <p>But Cuomo did name Molinaro or Nixon, whose campaign sent out “fact check” emails as the governor spoke, contrasting his rhetoric with his record as they framed it. Notably, Cuomo pledged in his speech to “start a new movement of education funding equity” to ensure that public schools receive the resources they need to provide a sound education to all students. It’s a cause that Nixon has championed for nearly 20 years, largely placing blame for insufficient education funding on the governor, who has repeatedly shifted the way he talks about education funding.</p> <p>"The Governor's attempt to reset his campaign this week failed," said Nixon campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt in a statement on Thursday. “His highly choreographed convention inflamed old divisions, and provided a series of bizarre, tone-deaf moments. Simply put, the Governor did little to push back on the growing realization among New Yorkers that he has more much in common with his wealthy Republican donors than Democrats.”</p> <p>For Democratic State Committee members, Cuomo had successfully grasped the title of progressive. Several members, enthused about a strong and diverse statewide ticket, seemed almost offended that anyone would challenge their champion.</p> <p>“I think we put together a great ticket, I like the diversity of it,” said Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who holds the dual role of state Assemblymember and Democratic State committee member from Assembly District 141. “I think it’s important that the ticket looks more like the electorate,” she said, in apparent reference to the fact that James is an African-American woman, whom Cuomo has backed for the attorney general position, as well as Hochul’s presence on the ticket.</p> <p>“I do take some exception to people always questioning what has happened when most of the progressive things we’ve done in the state have not been done in the rest of the country,” she added.</p> <p>Andre Waldron, a committee member from Nassau County, said Cuomo’s speech was a “home run” and that the convention was “phenomenal.”</p> <p>“I think this time we’ve come out even more inclusive, having all groups represented,” said Louis Goldstein, who said he has been a state committee member from the Bronx since 1970. “I love the fact that we have a female, who happens to be black, as our candidate for attorney general. I think we’re moving in the correct direction.”</p> <p>As with others, Goldstein expressed reservations about Nixon’s candidacy. “She’s a good actress. I compare her as being our quote-unquote Trump, as far as no government experience, she really does not know how to politically get things done,” he said.</p> <p>Mary Gault, a Dutchess County committee member, said the party has a “wonderful team” on the ticket. “Andrew Cuomo, I believe, he did so much good for this state over his eight years. Kathy Hochul...she’s terrific too. And of course, I’ve got a New York pension, [and] Tom DiNapoli, he watches out for us.”</p> <p>Gault said she didn’t give Nixon consideration, though her own county committee is very progressive. “The way she speaks, perfect! I would vote for her in a minute,” she said, “but she doesn’t have the skill set and she doesn’t tell us how she’s going to do it. She’s not a viable candidate, but her platform is perfect.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo_and_ticket_at_convention.jpg" alt="cuomo and ticket at convention" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>James, Cuomo, Hochul, DiNapoli (photo: @andrewcuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo emerged triumphant and emboldened from the State Democratic Party’s nominating convention on Long Island, with the party’s designation in hand and embraced by top national Democrats and elected party representatives from across the state. The governor basked in the support of centrist establishment figures like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden, while they and much of the rest of the convention sought to frame Cuomo as a progressive standard bearer who represents the values of a Democratic Party that continues to move leftward. <br /> <br />Cuomo and others framed the two-term incumbent as a progressive who gets things done, a trailblazer who doesn’t just talk, but has real accomplishments and is actually a unifying figure for the party -- though he is again being challenged from his left in this year’s primary as discontent from the progressive wing has reached a fever pitch. That fever was not particularly evident at the state party convention, however.</p> <p>“We are about to embark on the most consequential campaign in our lifetime,” Cuomo declared in his acceptance speech on Thursday, framing his reelection amid Democratic efforts to retake the state Senate and U.S. House, with several swing districts in New York. “We are at a political crossroads and our decisions and actions are going to define the soul of this state and the soul of this nation.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s coronation comes at a time when progressives are incensed with his centrism and triangulation with Republicans, and are pushing to elect a “true blue” Democrat to the governorship, personified in this case by Cynthia Nixon. But Cuomo’s supporters have warned of the dangers of liberal absolutism, as Democrats seek to retain what control they have over state and federal branches of government while also unseating Republicans in an age of Trumpism. The stakes are high for both parties, and some question whether Democratic infighting does any good while Republicans control the presidency, both houses of Congress, and many state legislatures (New York’s is split, with one house controlled by each party).</p> <p>The Democratic State Committee had already concluded its nominations on Wednesday, leaving party members free to glad-hand and pat each other on the back as they sang the praises of Cuomo and other top party officials. Cuomo won the party designation with 95 percent of the state committee vote, a resounding victory over upstart challenger Nixon, who did appear at the convention as her campaign launched a blistering effort to paint Cuomo as in bed with Republicans. She continued to criticize him as a fake Democrat whose governing style smacks of expediency rather than sincerity.</p> <p>The party also designated as its official nominees incumbents Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for another term each, and selected New York City Public Advocate Letitia James as the designated candidate for attorney general to replace Eric Schneiderman, who recently resigned after facing allegations of physical abuse by four women. Hochul is facing a primary challenge from New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, while James is facing Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout and Leecia Eve, a former Cuomo and Clinton aide, in the primary.</p> <p>Given how the state committee voted, Nixon, Williams, Teachout, and Eve will all have to collect petition signatures to get on the primary ballot. Nixon and Williams have the backing of the liberal Working Families Party, but may eschew its ballot line for the general election if they are unsuccessful in the Democratic primary. The WFP has said it wants to give its attorney general ballot line to either James or Teachout, depending on who wins the Democratic primary.</p> <p>Though there was much party business and some controversy, the convention went mostly smoothly for Cuomo, who was the unequivocal star.</p> <p>While Cuomo has indeed governed from the center, he was held up as a paragon of pragmatic progressivism at the convention, in line with the image he has sought to craft for himself in recent months, if not years. Before he spoke to the convention, Cuomo was lauded on Wednesday by Clinton and on Thursday by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and by Biden, who has a long-standing friendship with Cuomo, as a leader who has ushered in transformative change and created a model of governance that Democrats across the nation should envy, and emulate.</p> <p>Marriage equality? Cuomo made it happen in New York and helped launch the nation on the path to full realization. Gun control? Cuomo moved quickly after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre to ban the military-type assault weapons that have been used in many school and other mass shootings since. College tuition? Cuomo made it free for many middle-class students. A $15 minimum wage? Cuomo put a program in place. Paid family leave? Again, Cuomo.</p> <p>In a lofty and lengthy address, filled with anecdotal life lessons, Biden waxed eloquent about the values of the Democratic Party, of American cultural exceptionalism, of the middle class American dream, as he inveighed against the Republican Party’s “phony populism” and “fake nationalism” that threaten to undermine them all. He spoke of his deeply personal ties to the Cuomo family, and of his and the governor’s shared interest in muscle cars (both of them own vintage Corvettes, he noted).</p> <p>He proudly touted Cuomo’s record. “Andrew Cuomo has never backed away from his progressive principles, not one single time,” he said to applause.</p> <p>Perez, occasionally peppering his speech with Spanish, said Cuomo and his running mate Hochul were “charter members of the accomplishments wing of the Democratic Party.”</p> <p>“What I’ve grown to love about Andrew Cuomo is he understands that governance isn’t about speechifying,” Perez said. “It’s about making a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “New Yorkers don’t want rhetoric, they want results. That’s what Andrew Cuomo has delivered.”</p> <p>To an audience filled with many union workers, Perez hailed Cuomo’s support of labor unions and the state’s immense success in creating jobs under his tenure. And he drew a contrast between the governor and “this other New Yorker in Washington that’s giving a bad name to New York values,” though he stopped short of saying the name Trump.</p> <p>State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, commended the governor for managing to pass ambitious policies despite Republican control of the state Senate. “When you have a quarterback that’s a winning quarterback on a winning team, there’s no reason to change,” he said in his endorsement of the governor. And Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic minority leader, credited him with reuniting the fractured Senate Democratic conference, setting her up to eventually become the state’s first woman and woman of color to lead a legislative house if the party wins additional Senate seats in the elections this fall. “We can do this and we will make history by finally putting a woman in the room,” she declared.</p> <p>All those Democrats, and the governor himself, put Cuomo on a large pedestal, as a leader who could forge a new path for the Democratic Party and whose administration was an exemplar for other states. The State Democratic Party, as is the case with its national counterpart, is counting on a blue wave that has been building across the nation since Trump’s election. Cuomo has trained his attention, and the state party’s resources, at flipping the state Senate and replacing Congressional Republicans with Democrats.</p> <p>Cuomo welcomed the responsibility, insisting that the nation has its eyes turned to New York. “Our challenge is twofold. First, we must continue to move our state forward as the progressive capital of America because that’s what we are,” he said. “And at the same time, we must overcome the current national extreme conservative movement that is threatening this nation.”</p> <p>Although he claimed he never appreciated his father’s self-proclaimed title of “pragmatic progressive,” Andrew Cuomo made no effort to distance himself from its definition: “We deliver practical progress for people in need,” he said.</p> <p>Taking an expansive look at the Democratic Party, Cuomo said working- and middle-class voters had abandoned the party out of despair in 2016, and that the party must return to its roots. “No more platitudes, no more posturing, no more delay, no more incompetence, no more hypotheticals, no more hyperbole,” he said. “They want action. They want results and they want actions and results now. They don’t want pontification from an ivory tower.”</p> <p>Cuomo's criticism of the Democratic Party and assertion that it had lost the election to Trump struck some as awkward, even insulting, given that Clinton -- the party's 2016 presidential nominee -- had praised and endorsed him the day before.</p> <p>The convention also marked how far Cuomo has shifted in the last two years under the Trump presidency and, significantly, in the last few weeks under a deluge of criticism from a left-leaning progressive wing galvanized by Nixon’s candidacy.</p> <p>For a time after Trump’s election, Cuomo refused to say “Trump” even as he criticized the federal government or “Washington.” In his speech on Thursday, he said the president’s name 18 times. “Today the Albany Republicans all carry the Trump doctrine,” he said. “They all drank the Trump, Ryan, McConnell Kool-Aid and their radical assault is draconian and all-encompassing...They think America was great when women were subordinate and when minorities were disenfranchised, and when the big private market corporations ruled the land and when labor was voiceless. That’s the America they want to take us back to. And we are not going back, ever.”</p> <p>Cuomo did little to tamp down the rumors that he is considering a presidential run ahead of the 2020 election, something that his opponents from the left and the right have criticized him for.</p> <p>Marc Molinaro, the gubernatorial candidate to Cuomo’s right as the Republican nominee, did not escape Cuomo’s scathing critiques either. “The Republicans in this state put on the top of their ticket a Trump mini-me. He's anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-gun safety, anti-immigration, anti-education equity, and pro-Trump's New York tax increase. All he is is a banner carrier for the extreme conservative movement,” Cuomo said, incorrectly characterizing some stances by Molinaro, who has opposed the federal tax reform and has said he did not vote for Trump for president.</p> <p>But Cuomo did name Molinaro or Nixon, whose campaign sent out “fact check” emails as the governor spoke, contrasting his rhetoric with his record as they framed it. Notably, Cuomo pledged in his speech to “start a new movement of education funding equity” to ensure that public schools receive the resources they need to provide a sound education to all students. It’s a cause that Nixon has championed for nearly 20 years, largely placing blame for insufficient education funding on the governor, who has repeatedly shifted the way he talks about education funding.</p> <p>"The Governor's attempt to reset his campaign this week failed," said Nixon campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt in a statement on Thursday. “His highly choreographed convention inflamed old divisions, and provided a series of bizarre, tone-deaf moments. Simply put, the Governor did little to push back on the growing realization among New Yorkers that he has more much in common with his wealthy Republican donors than Democrats.”</p> <p>For Democratic State Committee members, Cuomo had successfully grasped the title of progressive. Several members, enthused about a strong and diverse statewide ticket, seemed almost offended that anyone would challenge their champion.</p> <p>“I think we put together a great ticket, I like the diversity of it,” said Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who holds the dual role of state Assemblymember and Democratic State committee member from Assembly District 141. “I think it’s important that the ticket looks more like the electorate,” she said, in apparent reference to the fact that James is an African-American woman, whom Cuomo has backed for the attorney general position, as well as Hochul’s presence on the ticket.</p> <p>“I do take some exception to people always questioning what has happened when most of the progressive things we’ve done in the state have not been done in the rest of the country,” she added.</p> <p>Andre Waldron, a committee member from Nassau County, said Cuomo’s speech was a “home run” and that the convention was “phenomenal.”</p> <p>“I think this time we’ve come out even more inclusive, having all groups represented,” said Louis Goldstein, who said he has been a state committee member from the Bronx since 1970. “I love the fact that we have a female, who happens to be black, as our candidate for attorney general. I think we’re moving in the correct direction.”</p> <p>As with others, Goldstein expressed reservations about Nixon’s candidacy. “She’s a good actress. I compare her as being our quote-unquote Trump, as far as no government experience, she really does not know how to politically get things done,” he said.</p> <p>Mary Gault, a Dutchess County committee member, said the party has a “wonderful team” on the ticket. “Andrew Cuomo, I believe, he did so much good for this state over his eight years. Kathy Hochul...she’s terrific too. And of course, I’ve got a New York pension, [and] Tom DiNapoli, he watches out for us.”</p> <p>Gault said she didn’t give Nixon consideration, though her own county committee is very progressive. “The way she speaks, perfect! I would vote for her in a minute,” she said, “but she doesn’t have the skill set and she doesn’t tell us how she’s going to do it. She’s not a viable candidate, but her platform is perfect.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Three Themes to Watch at State Democratic Convention 2018-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7683:three-themes-to-watch-at-the-state-democratic-convention Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/28541777526_7bb53e0226_z.jpg" alt="New York convention Cuomo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>New York Democrats at the 2016 DNC (photo: New York Democratic Party)</p> <hr /> <p>This year’s statewide election campaigns are in full swing, with the Democrats and Republicans hosting their nominating conventions this week. While Republicans are set to back a unified slate of candidates to avoid contested primaries, the Democratic Party finds itself in a degree of turmoil with multiple incumbents facing primary challenges from the left and a progressive base increasingly disillusioned with the state party machinery.</p> <p>As the September primary and November general ballots begin to take shape, all eyes are on the State Democratic Committee, which will host its convention at Hofstra University on Long Island on Wednesday and Thursday, kicking off with a keynote speech from former U.S. Senator from New York, Secretary of State, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Democrats from across the state, including more than 300 state committee members, will gather to vote on their preferred nominees and on various proposed resolutions and party rule changes.</p> <p><strong>Nominations for Statewide Positions</strong><br />There’s little doubt that Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is running for a third term, and his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is seeking a second term, will be chosen as the state party’s nominees at the convention. Though both are being challenged from within the party, their nominations seem a foregone conclusion, according to a leaked convention agenda <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2018/05/18/new-york-state-democratic-convention-scripted-agenda-leaked" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first reported by NY1’s Zack Fink</a>.</p> <p>The key question, though, is how much support Cuomo and Hochul will each earn from their party members.</p> <p>Cuomo is being challenged in the primary by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, who won the nomination of the Working Families Party over the weekend and is guaranteed a spot on the general election ballot if she and the party decide to keep her there. As per the Democratic Party’s bylaws, a candidate will have to receive 50 percent of the weighted vote of committee members at the convention to win the primary nomination. Cuomo controls the state party apparatus and has enough support to be guaranteed the nomination. He’s also set to be endorsed by Clinton, who handily won New York in her failed bid for the presidency in 2016.</p> <p>Nixon would have to receive at least 25 percent of the weighted vote to make it onto the Democratic primary ballot, failing which she would have to gather enough petition signatures to qualify. The same goes for New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who is running against Hochul and also has the WFP line. Both Nixon and Williams will be attending the convention. In a statement on Monday, Nixon said, “The Governor and his allies have bullied progressive community groups and rallied the full force of the big money establishment because they know he doesn't have any progressive credentials to stand on. But I won't be scared out of the room. New Yorkers deserve a choice.”</p> <p>Williams, in a phone interview, said, “I’m confident that I’ll be on the ballot in September.”</p> <p>While governor and lieutenant governor candidates compete separately in the party primaries, they become a ticket for the general election.</p> <p>Incumbent Comptroller Tom DiNapoli does not have any challengers and is expected to be nominated again without controversy.</p> <p>On the other end of the spectrum, the recent resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, following allegations of physical abuse by four women, has led to a small scrum of Democrats vying for the open seat.</p> <p>The presumed frontrunner is New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who rejected the WFP’s likely nomination over the weekend to focus on the Democratic convention (and perhaps to side with Cuomo, who had a dramatic falling out with the WFP, and key labor unions who chose Cuomo over the WFP). Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial Democratic primary, is also seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general, though she has not officially declared her candidacy. The WFP chose a placeholder for their ballot line and expressed support for both James and Teachout and is expected to back whoever prevails in the Democratic primary.</p> <p>It’s not clear what kind of support Nixon, Williams, and Teachout will receive at the convention. All are popular with the left wing of the Democratic Party, but may not have sway over that many state committee members.</p> <p>“I feel that it’s going to be a coronation of Andrew Cuomo, you know, pre-orchestrated,” said Jay Bellanca, a state committee member from upstate and co-chair of the New York Progressive Action Network.</p> <p>New York State Democratic Party Executive Director Geoff Berman said in a phone interview that the nominations are not decided until the votes are complete. He refuted any suggestion that the convention was a formality, as some critics have said.</p> <p>“I think we have a very strong progressive set of incumbent statewide officeholders who have accomplished a lot and have a strong record to run on for another term,” Berman said. “We have an open attorney general race at this point and I’ll let the members of the committee speak for themselves with their votes.”</p> <p>“We run an open, fair process,” he insisted.</p> <p>“The state committee is still...very opaque, even to members and still has the feeling of an insiders club,” said Ben Yee, a state committee member.</p> <p>“I’m not 100 percent sure that Cynthia and Jumaane will get the 25 percent required to not petition, but I do feel confident that a contingent of state committee members will vote for them,” Yee added. He said there’s a “good chance” they’ll each get the 25 percent.</p> <p>H. Scottie Coads, a state committee member from Long Island, said she is looking forward to the convention. “We have some really progressive candidates looking to get reelected and I’m supportive of all of them...I’m a team player and I’m staunchly behind my governor,” she said. “It’s an exciting time and I think when you have progressive people running, it’s very important that we put our best foot forward and that’s what we intend to do at the convention. Aside from that, I intend to have a good time.”</p> <p><strong>Resolutions, Rule Changes &amp; A Rogue Democrat</strong><br />At each convention, the state committee votes on various resolutions advanced by members and on potential changes to its bylaws. The agenda revealed by NY1 showed proposals that were both humdrum and controversial, some of which were known beforehand.</p> <p>A prominent rule change introduced by NYPAN’s Bellanca and supported by progressive activists would allow as many as 2.6 million voters unaffiliated with any political party to cast their ballots in the Democratic primary. The change could significantly affect election results though it’s unclear if it can pass the convention since it would require a two-thirds majority of state committee members.</p> <p>Bellanca pointed to the leaked agenda, in which the resolution was already listed under “tabled,” as proof that the results are predetermined. “I’m expecting it to be somewhat ridiculous,” he said, assuming that that resolution and others that would reform the party are “probably” dead.</p> <p>“I think they’re going to try and kill them,” he said.</p> <p>Two resolutions were targeted at rogue state Senator Simcha Felder from Brooklyn. Felder is a registered Democrat who was reelected in 2016 on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative Party lines. He is a conservative who caucuses with Republicans, giving them a one-seat majority in the state Senate and effectively thwarting any legislation forwarded by the more progressive Democratic conference.</p> <p>The convention’s leaked agenda suggests that certain committee members may seek to kick Felder out of the party, or at least to formally support whoever challenges him in the September primary and devote resources to such a challenger, currently Blake Morris. If Felder is defeated, that alone could flip the state Senate to Democratic control, though there are a number of swing districts around the state that will be at play this fall when the entire Legislature is up for election.</p> <p>The committee is also expected to take up a resolution to financially support Democrats running for state Senate seats and calling for loyalty pledges from former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference -- who used to caucus with Republicans and support their hold on the chamber. Cuomo, who tolerated and allegedly encouraged the IDC’s existence for seven years, recently brought the breakaway conference back into the fold and is taking stronger steps to regain Democratic control of the Senate after lackluster efforts to achieve that in the past, leading to criticism from many Democrats, especially more liberal members of the party.</p> <p>Another party resolution would call for the closure of the much-derided LLC loophole in the state’s campaign finance law, which allows untold amounts of money to flow to state electoral candidates from hidden donors. Cuomo has repeatedly called on the Legislature to close that gap in the law, even as he has been its biggest beneficiary and declined to voluntarily turn off the spigot.</p> <p>“The nominations will be pretty straightforward,” Yee said. “It won’t cause too much division...If they try to table the resolutions and refuse to allow debate on opening the primaries or ejecting Felder from the party, it’ll cause displeasure and hurt the trust between the progressives and the party.”</p> <p>There are other proposals which have yet to be fleshed out but could make for heated debate, including changes to the process of selecting candidates for special elections; changes to how delegates to the Democratic National Convention are chosen; changes to how the state party’s chair and executive committee are chosen; requiring statewide candidates to submit 10 years of tax returns; and an “outside independent investigator for sexual harassment allegations,” among others.</p> <p>Yee, who serves as secretary for the Manhattan branch of the state party, said that if a resolution calling for more budget transparency from the state committee to its own members fails to pass, it’ll cause consternation among the progressives who are already incensed by what they see as the party’s misuse of funds. Case in point: the party’s massive outlay for a media campaign that seemed to support the governor rather than promote the party’s positions. Yee said the issue was prominent in the last few months but has been subsumed by larger political developments.</p> <p><strong>Party Unity or Party Fealty?</strong><br />It’s hard to tell whether the Democrats will emerge from the convention as a unified force or as a fractured party. For many progressives, the nominations seem predetermined and the convention a farcical show of party democracy.</p> <p>“It’s very finely tuned and finely orchestrated, but I think there’s going to be a lot more contention than we’ve ever seen before at this convention,” Bellanca said. Cuomo’s strongarm tactics have alienated members like Bellanca, who see the governor’s influence extending through the state party and directed at his opponents.</p> <p>Council Member Williams put the onus on the party leaders, noting that the party hasn’t learned its lesson from the 2016 election, when the DNC chose to support Clinton’s candidacy over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who energized the left, whom Williams endorsed. “It seems whenever they talk about party unity, they always talk to the people on the left and never take ownership of party unity themselves,” he said. “So it’s about time the people who are in leadership, the people who are in power, also do some things that are unifying. They don’t seem to do that very often and a good chance to do that is at this convention.”</p> <p>A number of progressive groups including NYPAN, Our Revolution, and Indivisible NY intend on holding a Tuesday presentation at the Marriott Hotel, where convention delegates will be holed up, on the DNC’s Unity Reform Commission report -- issued in the wake of the 2016 presidential election -- to try to convince committee members to support their proposals.</p> <p>Nixon also indicated on Monday that she had invited state committee members to a conference call to discuss her candidacy as she hopes to earn support at the convention.</p> <p>The state party’s Berman brushed aside any concerns about the future of the party and whether this election cycle will expose a deep rift between the various ideological factions within it. “The values and issues that unite us as a party far outweigh any disagreements folks may have,” he said, “and I’m very confident that coming out of the convention and going into the elections in the fall, we will be a strong unified party supporting a strong progressive ticket.”</p> <p>Coads, the Long Island committee member, hoped and prayed for unity, holding up New York as an example to other states. “I’m positive about it and if we don’t, we’ll find a way to unify as we go forward,” she said.</p> <p>Bellanca disagrees. “I think the war’s still going to be going on between the progressive, reform wing and the establishment that wants first class seats on the Titanic,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/28541777526_7bb53e0226_z.jpg" alt="New York convention Cuomo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>New York Democrats at the 2016 DNC (photo: New York Democratic Party)</p> <hr /> <p>This year’s statewide election campaigns are in full swing, with the Democrats and Republicans hosting their nominating conventions this week. While Republicans are set to back a unified slate of candidates to avoid contested primaries, the Democratic Party finds itself in a degree of turmoil with multiple incumbents facing primary challenges from the left and a progressive base increasingly disillusioned with the state party machinery.</p> <p>As the September primary and November general ballots begin to take shape, all eyes are on the State Democratic Committee, which will host its convention at Hofstra University on Long Island on Wednesday and Thursday, kicking off with a keynote speech from former U.S. Senator from New York, Secretary of State, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Democrats from across the state, including more than 300 state committee members, will gather to vote on their preferred nominees and on various proposed resolutions and party rule changes.</p> <p><strong>Nominations for Statewide Positions</strong><br />There’s little doubt that Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is running for a third term, and his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is seeking a second term, will be chosen as the state party’s nominees at the convention. Though both are being challenged from within the party, their nominations seem a foregone conclusion, according to a leaked convention agenda <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2018/05/18/new-york-state-democratic-convention-scripted-agenda-leaked" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first reported by NY1’s Zack Fink</a>.</p> <p>The key question, though, is how much support Cuomo and Hochul will each earn from their party members.</p> <p>Cuomo is being challenged in the primary by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, who won the nomination of the Working Families Party over the weekend and is guaranteed a spot on the general election ballot if she and the party decide to keep her there. As per the Democratic Party’s bylaws, a candidate will have to receive 50 percent of the weighted vote of committee members at the convention to win the primary nomination. Cuomo controls the state party apparatus and has enough support to be guaranteed the nomination. He’s also set to be endorsed by Clinton, who handily won New York in her failed bid for the presidency in 2016.</p> <p>Nixon would have to receive at least 25 percent of the weighted vote to make it onto the Democratic primary ballot, failing which she would have to gather enough petition signatures to qualify. The same goes for New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who is running against Hochul and also has the WFP line. Both Nixon and Williams will be attending the convention. In a statement on Monday, Nixon said, “The Governor and his allies have bullied progressive community groups and rallied the full force of the big money establishment because they know he doesn't have any progressive credentials to stand on. But I won't be scared out of the room. New Yorkers deserve a choice.”</p> <p>Williams, in a phone interview, said, “I’m confident that I’ll be on the ballot in September.”</p> <p>While governor and lieutenant governor candidates compete separately in the party primaries, they become a ticket for the general election.</p> <p>Incumbent Comptroller Tom DiNapoli does not have any challengers and is expected to be nominated again without controversy.</p> <p>On the other end of the spectrum, the recent resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, following allegations of physical abuse by four women, has led to a small scrum of Democrats vying for the open seat.</p> <p>The presumed frontrunner is New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who rejected the WFP’s likely nomination over the weekend to focus on the Democratic convention (and perhaps to side with Cuomo, who had a dramatic falling out with the WFP, and key labor unions who chose Cuomo over the WFP). Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial Democratic primary, is also seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general, though she has not officially declared her candidacy. The WFP chose a placeholder for their ballot line and expressed support for both James and Teachout and is expected to back whoever prevails in the Democratic primary.</p> <p>It’s not clear what kind of support Nixon, Williams, and Teachout will receive at the convention. All are popular with the left wing of the Democratic Party, but may not have sway over that many state committee members.</p> <p>“I feel that it’s going to be a coronation of Andrew Cuomo, you know, pre-orchestrated,” said Jay Bellanca, a state committee member from upstate and co-chair of the New York Progressive Action Network.</p> <p>New York State Democratic Party Executive Director Geoff Berman said in a phone interview that the nominations are not decided until the votes are complete. He refuted any suggestion that the convention was a formality, as some critics have said.</p> <p>“I think we have a very strong progressive set of incumbent statewide officeholders who have accomplished a lot and have a strong record to run on for another term,” Berman said. “We have an open attorney general race at this point and I’ll let the members of the committee speak for themselves with their votes.”</p> <p>“We run an open, fair process,” he insisted.</p> <p>“The state committee is still...very opaque, even to members and still has the feeling of an insiders club,” said Ben Yee, a state committee member.</p> <p>“I’m not 100 percent sure that Cynthia and Jumaane will get the 25 percent required to not petition, but I do feel confident that a contingent of state committee members will vote for them,” Yee added. He said there’s a “good chance” they’ll each get the 25 percent.</p> <p>H. Scottie Coads, a state committee member from Long Island, said she is looking forward to the convention. “We have some really progressive candidates looking to get reelected and I’m supportive of all of them...I’m a team player and I’m staunchly behind my governor,” she said. “It’s an exciting time and I think when you have progressive people running, it’s very important that we put our best foot forward and that’s what we intend to do at the convention. Aside from that, I intend to have a good time.”</p> <p><strong>Resolutions, Rule Changes &amp; A Rogue Democrat</strong><br />At each convention, the state committee votes on various resolutions advanced by members and on potential changes to its bylaws. The agenda revealed by NY1 showed proposals that were both humdrum and controversial, some of which were known beforehand.</p> <p>A prominent rule change introduced by NYPAN’s Bellanca and supported by progressive activists would allow as many as 2.6 million voters unaffiliated with any political party to cast their ballots in the Democratic primary. The change could significantly affect election results though it’s unclear if it can pass the convention since it would require a two-thirds majority of state committee members.</p> <p>Bellanca pointed to the leaked agenda, in which the resolution was already listed under “tabled,” as proof that the results are predetermined. “I’m expecting it to be somewhat ridiculous,” he said, assuming that that resolution and others that would reform the party are “probably” dead.</p> <p>“I think they’re going to try and kill them,” he said.</p> <p>Two resolutions were targeted at rogue state Senator Simcha Felder from Brooklyn. Felder is a registered Democrat who was reelected in 2016 on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative Party lines. He is a conservative who caucuses with Republicans, giving them a one-seat majority in the state Senate and effectively thwarting any legislation forwarded by the more progressive Democratic conference.</p> <p>The convention’s leaked agenda suggests that certain committee members may seek to kick Felder out of the party, or at least to formally support whoever challenges him in the September primary and devote resources to such a challenger, currently Blake Morris. If Felder is defeated, that alone could flip the state Senate to Democratic control, though there are a number of swing districts around the state that will be at play this fall when the entire Legislature is up for election.</p> <p>The committee is also expected to take up a resolution to financially support Democrats running for state Senate seats and calling for loyalty pledges from former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference -- who used to caucus with Republicans and support their hold on the chamber. Cuomo, who tolerated and allegedly encouraged the IDC’s existence for seven years, recently brought the breakaway conference back into the fold and is taking stronger steps to regain Democratic control of the Senate after lackluster efforts to achieve that in the past, leading to criticism from many Democrats, especially more liberal members of the party.</p> <p>Another party resolution would call for the closure of the much-derided LLC loophole in the state’s campaign finance law, which allows untold amounts of money to flow to state electoral candidates from hidden donors. Cuomo has repeatedly called on the Legislature to close that gap in the law, even as he has been its biggest beneficiary and declined to voluntarily turn off the spigot.</p> <p>“The nominations will be pretty straightforward,” Yee said. “It won’t cause too much division...If they try to table the resolutions and refuse to allow debate on opening the primaries or ejecting Felder from the party, it’ll cause displeasure and hurt the trust between the progressives and the party.”</p> <p>There are other proposals which have yet to be fleshed out but could make for heated debate, including changes to the process of selecting candidates for special elections; changes to how delegates to the Democratic National Convention are chosen; changes to how the state party’s chair and executive committee are chosen; requiring statewide candidates to submit 10 years of tax returns; and an “outside independent investigator for sexual harassment allegations,” among others.</p> <p>Yee, who serves as secretary for the Manhattan branch of the state party, said that if a resolution calling for more budget transparency from the state committee to its own members fails to pass, it’ll cause consternation among the progressives who are already incensed by what they see as the party’s misuse of funds. Case in point: the party’s massive outlay for a media campaign that seemed to support the governor rather than promote the party’s positions. Yee said the issue was prominent in the last few months but has been subsumed by larger political developments.</p> <p><strong>Party Unity or Party Fealty?</strong><br />It’s hard to tell whether the Democrats will emerge from the convention as a unified force or as a fractured party. For many progressives, the nominations seem predetermined and the convention a farcical show of party democracy.</p> <p>“It’s very finely tuned and finely orchestrated, but I think there’s going to be a lot more contention than we’ve ever seen before at this convention,” Bellanca said. Cuomo’s strongarm tactics have alienated members like Bellanca, who see the governor’s influence extending through the state party and directed at his opponents.</p> <p>Council Member Williams put the onus on the party leaders, noting that the party hasn’t learned its lesson from the 2016 election, when the DNC chose to support Clinton’s candidacy over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who energized the left, whom Williams endorsed. “It seems whenever they talk about party unity, they always talk to the people on the left and never take ownership of party unity themselves,” he said. “So it’s about time the people who are in leadership, the people who are in power, also do some things that are unifying. They don’t seem to do that very often and a good chance to do that is at this convention.”</p> <p>A number of progressive groups including NYPAN, Our Revolution, and Indivisible NY intend on holding a Tuesday presentation at the Marriott Hotel, where convention delegates will be holed up, on the DNC’s Unity Reform Commission report -- issued in the wake of the 2016 presidential election -- to try to convince committee members to support their proposals.</p> <p>Nixon also indicated on Monday that she had invited state committee members to a conference call to discuss her candidacy as she hopes to earn support at the convention.</p> <p>The state party’s Berman brushed aside any concerns about the future of the party and whether this election cycle will expose a deep rift between the various ideological factions within it. “The values and issues that unite us as a party far outweigh any disagreements folks may have,” he said, “and I’m very confident that coming out of the convention and going into the elections in the fall, we will be a strong unified party supporting a strong progressive ticket.”</p> <p>Coads, the Long Island committee member, hoped and prayed for unity, holding up New York as an example to other states. “I’m positive about it and if we don’t, we’ll find a way to unify as we go forward,” she said.</p> <p>Bellanca disagrees. “I think the war’s still going to be going on between the progressive, reform wing and the establishment that wants first class seats on the Titanic,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Cuomo-Launched Women’s Equality Party Will Soon Make Statewide Nominations 2018-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7684:cuomo-launched-women-s-equality-party-will-soon-make-statewide-nominations Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/10633651_10152529562108401_6744560505111285067_o.jpg" alt="Cuomo Hochul campaign" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Cuomo, Hochul &amp; the WEP bus (photo: Andrew Cuomo/Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>As he sought a second term in 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo created the Women’s Equality Party amid a primary challenge from his left by Zephyr Teachout and as he sought to undermine the Working Families Party, which had begrudgingly endorsed him after he begrudgingly made a set of policy and political promises.</p> <p>Cuomo said it was time for a political party dedicated to women and traveled around on a bus highlighted with pink streaks to underscore his point. The governor was running with Kathy Hochul as his potential lieutenant governor, after his first-term lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, decided not to seek a second term, and was calling for the passage of a ten-point Women’s Equality Agenda that included measures toward pay equity, abortion protections, and more.</p> <p>In order for the WEP to earn a guaranteed ballot line in subsequent years through the next gubernatorial election, Cuomo and Hochul, its endorsed candidates at the top of the ticket, had to earn at least 50,000 votes on the line in 2014. They received 53,802, a fraction of their roughly 2 million total, mostly earned on the Democratic Party line.</p> <p>Therefore, this year -- amid the #MeToo movement and heightened attention on women running for elected office -- the skeletal WEP has a ballot line to offer the candidates of its choosing. It is one of just eight such parties that come into this state election year with a guaranteed ballot line, and it <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7682-party-nominations-for-statewide-elections-come-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">appears it will be the last of the eight to announce its nominees for the statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general</a>. (The WEP is already supporting incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for reelection this fall, as well as a slate of congressional candidates.)</p> <p>As of April 1, there were 4,675 New Yorkers registered to vote as members of the Women’s Equality Party, according to the state Board of Elections, including its current chair, Susan Zimet.</p> <p>In the wake of the surprise resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman amid accusations that he physically abused at least four women, Zimet recently put out a call for prospective attorney general candidates interested in the Women’s Equality Party nomination to submit answers to a questionnaire that the party requires for consideration.</p> <p>Statewide candidates have been scrambling to earn and accumulate ballot lines, as every vote and every method of appealing to voters count. For example, presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, currently the Dutchess county executive, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7682-party-nominations-for-statewide-elections-come-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">is set to appear</a> on the GOP, Conservative, and Reform Party ballot lines.</p> <p>Cuomo already appears to have locked up nominations from the Democratic and Independence parties, though he is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Cynthia Nixon, and appears on track to again earn the nomination of the party he launched four years ago, the WEP, which has mostly been quiet over the past several years and boasts a website with several prominent pages <a href="http://womensequalityparty.org/about/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last updated in 2015</a>.</p> <p>“Never before has our line been more important than it is right now, with the #MeToo movement and the #TimesUp movement,” said Zimet, who took the reigns of the party earlier this year, in an interview with Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Zimet, whose day job is executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York, indicated with great enthusiasm for the process that the WEP is still receiving questionnaires form candidates, including those running for state legislative seats in the Assembly and Senate, all of which are up for election this year, and that state committee members would be meeting soon to make nomination decisions.</p> <p>The questionnaire, which includes 20 “yes” or “no” questions and an opportunity for candidates to expand more in additional writing, says at the top that “The WEP is not just the beginning of a new political party; it is a powerful movement to bring women’s issues front and center to ensure that the voices of women are heard and counted where they matter most – at the ballot box.”</p> <p>The questions -- currently the same given to candidates for other offices as well -- include several related to women’s reproductive rights, and others on leveling the economic playing field for women, gun control, immigration, protecting child sex abuse victims, and more. Several of the questions show clear alignment with Cuomo’s record, like passage of sexual harassment prevention measures and tighter gun regulations, and policies he supports that have not been passed, like the Child Victims Act.</p> <p>While Cuomo has several policy achievements that appear aligned with the WEP agenda, he has also been criticized for not including the lone female legislative conference leader, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, in negotiations of new sexual harassment prevention legislation and other policy matters, for not doing enough to root out harassers in state government, for being paternalistic and mysoginistic, and for <a href="https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2017/12/13/andrew-cuomo-says-question-is-disservice-to-women/108581982/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a particularly rude response</a> to a female journalist who asked him about what he was doing to combat sexual harassment in state government.</p> <p>By sometime in July, Zimet said, the Board of Elections requires that the WEP “designate and authorize” candidates, provide a “Wilson Pakula” to candidates not registered with the WEP in order for them to run on the line, and have candidates accept the nominations.</p> <p>Without getting ahead of her party’s process, Zimet indicated Cuomo has a strong shot at getting the nomination. She repeatedly noted that minor parties must be careful about their choices, in part so that they keep their automatic ballot lines in the future. She referenced the Working Families Party’s difficult decision in backing Cuomo four years ago amid concerns.</p> <p>“He did put in a questionnaire,” Zimet said of Cuomo. “He did apply for the line. And the lieutenant governor did apply for the line. They had to fill out questionnaires like everybody else. He started the line, it’s because of him we have the line. Any governor candidate has influence on every line...especially third party lines, because we have to get 50,000 votes on the governor’s line.”</p> <p>Zimet <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/03/13/womens-equality-party-under-new-management-still-likes-cuomo-311509" target="_blank" rel="noopener">indicated to Politico New York</a> earlier this year that Cuomo would likely be the choice for the WEP.</p> <p>She indicated that Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli had also submitted a questionnaire and is likely to again receive the party’s backing. DiNapoli <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7682-party-nominations-for-statewide-elections-come-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">will likely have the most ballot lines of any statewide candidate</a> -- he’s set to appear on the Democratic, Working Families, Reform, Independence, and Women’s Equality lines.</p> <p>Zimet repeatedly stressed that she and her follow state committee members, of which there are about 13, would be discussing candidates and deciding nominations, that nothing is preordained and that the members follow the party bylaws. Zimet said that the party has about as many open state committee seats as those filled, but noted that she is “at the beginning of really building the party, and trying to get more people to change their registration, work with us on the issues, and promote the issues we believe in.”</p> <p>As for attorney general, Zimet said that she was as shocked by the Schneiderman revelations as anyone, and had to shift plans quickly after expecting that the WEP would again back him for reelection. “I can’t see why we wouldn’t have under normal circumstances; Schneiderman was at the forefront of our issues, we fully expected to support him,” she said, with some residual disbelief in her voice. “Reading it was devastating. It’s always harder when of your heroes fall. You feel betrayed in a way.”</p> <p>“I really believe in the issues that we stand for,” Zimet said. “It’s really scary to think going forward we could be endorsing people who have skeletons in their closets.”</p> <p>Zimet said during the Thursday interview that Gotham Gazette was the only one to request the attorney general questionnaire, which is the same as the WEP questionnaire for other offices (and embedded below). “I somewhat suspect, I could be wrong, the reason people might not be sending in questionnaires right now could be waiting to see what comes out of the Democratic convention,” she said of the nominating convention set for this Wednesday and Thursday on Long Island.<br />New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for attorney general and hopes to win the official nomination of the state party at this week’s convention on Long Island. Zephyr Teachout is also seeking enough votes to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot, and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/21/nyregion/leecia-eve-attorney-general-ny-schneiderman.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&amp;smid=nytcore-ipad-share" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times reported on Monday</a> that Leecia Eve, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo, is also entering the race. Candidates who don’t earn the convention votes for a ballot spot can collect petition signatures to earn such a spot. The primary is September 13.</p> <p>Of James seeking the WEP nomination, Zimet said, “I certainly hope she will.”</p> <p>“I like Tish,” Zimet said. “I hope she does a questionnaire. It’s not an endorsement.”</p> <p>James’ campaign spokesperson did not provide an answer to several inquiries as to whether James would seek the WEP nomination. James has thus far eschewed the backing of the Working Families Party, the party that helped her first win elected office, amid WFP’s internal strife and dramatic falling out with Cuomo as it opted to endorse Nixon for governor and Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor, and lost several labor union members who sided with Cuomo. James has repeatedly said she is solely focused on earning the Democratic Party nomination, but she has said over the last two days that she is confident there will be some reconciliation with the WFP.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Nixon’s campaign did not return multiple inquiries as to whether she will fill out a Women’s Equality Party questionnaire. A spokesperson for Williams’ campaign said, "Jumaane has a strong public record of pushing for women’s rights, which is why we're proud to be endorsed by the WFP— the primary political party that truly stands for New York’s women,” and did not directly answer the question of whether Williams would fill out a questionnaire and seek the WEP nomination for lieutenant governor.</p> <p>Multiple requests on the subject to Molinaro’s campaign were also not answered. On Sunday, he announced Julie Killian as his lieutenant governor running mate.</p> <p>Teachout told Gotham Gazette that she had not reached out to the WEP for a questionnaire.</p> <p>Zimet said she may talk to one or two WEP committee members to possibly tweak the questions for attorney general candidates.</p> <p>Of the party’s general stance, she said: “Here’s the questionnaire, we want to see where you stand on our issues.”</p> <p>In the announcement requesting any new attorney general candidate applications, the WEP said it is “committed to fight against any attempts to roll back the progress that women have made in this Country and for true equality for all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>The party will continue to “fight back against the sexism and harassment women face on a daily basis” it said, and “will endorse an Attorney General that will fight for our values for equal rights and equal protection under the law for women and children in New York and beyond.”</p> <p>Of the party’s nearly 54,000 votes last time around, Zimet called the showing “pretty impressive, for a line with no history.”</p> <p>“That just goes to show that people who drawn to women’s equality,” she continued. “People found an alternative, it was refreshing to see that.”</p> <p> </p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been changed based on new information from Susan Zimet.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/10633651_10152529562108401_6744560505111285067_o.jpg" alt="Cuomo Hochul campaign" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Cuomo, Hochul &amp; the WEP bus (photo: Andrew Cuomo/Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>As he sought a second term in 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo created the Women’s Equality Party amid a primary challenge from his left by Zephyr Teachout and as he sought to undermine the Working Families Party, which had begrudgingly endorsed him after he begrudgingly made a set of policy and political promises.</p> <p>Cuomo said it was time for a political party dedicated to women and traveled around on a bus highlighted with pink streaks to underscore his point. The governor was running with Kathy Hochul as his potential lieutenant governor, after his first-term lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, decided not to seek a second term, and was calling for the passage of a ten-point Women’s Equality Agenda that included measures toward pay equity, abortion protections, and more.</p> <p>In order for the WEP to earn a guaranteed ballot line in subsequent years through the next gubernatorial election, Cuomo and Hochul, its endorsed candidates at the top of the ticket, had to earn at least 50,000 votes on the line in 2014. They received 53,802, a fraction of their roughly 2 million total, mostly earned on the Democratic Party line.</p> <p>Therefore, this year -- amid the #MeToo movement and heightened attention on women running for elected office -- the skeletal WEP has a ballot line to offer the candidates of its choosing. It is one of just eight such parties that come into this state election year with a guaranteed ballot line, and it <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7682-party-nominations-for-statewide-elections-come-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">appears it will be the last of the eight to announce its nominees for the statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general</a>. (The WEP is already supporting incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for reelection this fall, as well as a slate of congressional candidates.)</p> <p>As of April 1, there were 4,675 New Yorkers registered to vote as members of the Women’s Equality Party, according to the state Board of Elections, including its current chair, Susan Zimet.</p> <p>In the wake of the surprise resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman amid accusations that he physically abused at least four women, Zimet recently put out a call for prospective attorney general candidates interested in the Women’s Equality Party nomination to submit answers to a questionnaire that the party requires for consideration.</p> <p>Statewide candidates have been scrambling to earn and accumulate ballot lines, as every vote and every method of appealing to voters count. For example, presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, currently the Dutchess county executive, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7682-party-nominations-for-statewide-elections-come-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">is set to appear</a> on the GOP, Conservative, and Reform Party ballot lines.</p> <p>Cuomo already appears to have locked up nominations from the Democratic and Independence parties, though he is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Cynthia Nixon, and appears on track to again earn the nomination of the party he launched four years ago, the WEP, which has mostly been quiet over the past several years and boasts a website with several prominent pages <a href="http://womensequalityparty.org/about/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last updated in 2015</a>.</p> <p>“Never before has our line been more important than it is right now, with the #MeToo movement and the #TimesUp movement,” said Zimet, who took the reigns of the party earlier this year, in an interview with Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Zimet, whose day job is executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York, indicated with great enthusiasm for the process that the WEP is still receiving questionnaires form candidates, including those running for state legislative seats in the Assembly and Senate, all of which are up for election this year, and that state committee members would be meeting soon to make nomination decisions.</p> <p>The questionnaire, which includes 20 “yes” or “no” questions and an opportunity for candidates to expand more in additional writing, says at the top that “The WEP is not just the beginning of a new political party; it is a powerful movement to bring women’s issues front and center to ensure that the voices of women are heard and counted where they matter most – at the ballot box.”</p> <p>The questions -- currently the same given to candidates for other offices as well -- include several related to women’s reproductive rights, and others on leveling the economic playing field for women, gun control, immigration, protecting child sex abuse victims, and more. Several of the questions show clear alignment with Cuomo’s record, like passage of sexual harassment prevention measures and tighter gun regulations, and policies he supports that have not been passed, like the Child Victims Act.</p> <p>While Cuomo has several policy achievements that appear aligned with the WEP agenda, he has also been criticized for not including the lone female legislative conference leader, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, in negotiations of new sexual harassment prevention legislation and other policy matters, for not doing enough to root out harassers in state government, for being paternalistic and mysoginistic, and for <a href="https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2017/12/13/andrew-cuomo-says-question-is-disservice-to-women/108581982/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a particularly rude response</a> to a female journalist who asked him about what he was doing to combat sexual harassment in state government.</p> <p>By sometime in July, Zimet said, the Board of Elections requires that the WEP “designate and authorize” candidates, provide a “Wilson Pakula” to candidates not registered with the WEP in order for them to run on the line, and have candidates accept the nominations.</p> <p>Without getting ahead of her party’s process, Zimet indicated Cuomo has a strong shot at getting the nomination. She repeatedly noted that minor parties must be careful about their choices, in part so that they keep their automatic ballot lines in the future. She referenced the Working Families Party’s difficult decision in backing Cuomo four years ago amid concerns.</p> <p>“He did put in a questionnaire,” Zimet said of Cuomo. “He did apply for the line. And the lieutenant governor did apply for the line. They had to fill out questionnaires like everybody else. He started the line, it’s because of him we have the line. Any governor candidate has influence on every line...especially third party lines, because we have to get 50,000 votes on the governor’s line.”</p> <p>Zimet <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/03/13/womens-equality-party-under-new-management-still-likes-cuomo-311509" target="_blank" rel="noopener">indicated to Politico New York</a> earlier this year that Cuomo would likely be the choice for the WEP.</p> <p>She indicated that Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli had also submitted a questionnaire and is likely to again receive the party’s backing. DiNapoli <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7682-party-nominations-for-statewide-elections-come-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">will likely have the most ballot lines of any statewide candidate</a> -- he’s set to appear on the Democratic, Working Families, Reform, Independence, and Women’s Equality lines.</p> <p>Zimet repeatedly stressed that she and her follow state committee members, of which there are about 13, would be discussing candidates and deciding nominations, that nothing is preordained and that the members follow the party bylaws. Zimet said that the party has about as many open state committee seats as those filled, but noted that she is “at the beginning of really building the party, and trying to get more people to change their registration, work with us on the issues, and promote the issues we believe in.”</p> <p>As for attorney general, Zimet said that she was as shocked by the Schneiderman revelations as anyone, and had to shift plans quickly after expecting that the WEP would again back him for reelection. “I can’t see why we wouldn’t have under normal circumstances; Schneiderman was at the forefront of our issues, we fully expected to support him,” she said, with some residual disbelief in her voice. “Reading it was devastating. It’s always harder when of your heroes fall. You feel betrayed in a way.”</p> <p>“I really believe in the issues that we stand for,” Zimet said. “It’s really scary to think going forward we could be endorsing people who have skeletons in their closets.”</p> <p>Zimet said during the Thursday interview that Gotham Gazette was the only one to request the attorney general questionnaire, which is the same as the WEP questionnaire for other offices (and embedded below). “I somewhat suspect, I could be wrong, the reason people might not be sending in questionnaires right now could be waiting to see what comes out of the Democratic convention,” she said of the nominating convention set for this Wednesday and Thursday on Long Island.<br />New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for attorney general and hopes to win the official nomination of the state party at this week’s convention on Long Island. Zephyr Teachout is also seeking enough votes to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot, and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/21/nyregion/leecia-eve-attorney-general-ny-schneiderman.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&amp;smid=nytcore-ipad-share" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times reported on Monday</a> that Leecia Eve, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo, is also entering the race. Candidates who don’t earn the convention votes for a ballot spot can collect petition signatures to earn such a spot. The primary is September 13.</p> <p>Of James seeking the WEP nomination, Zimet said, “I certainly hope she will.”</p> <p>“I like Tish,” Zimet said. “I hope she does a questionnaire. It’s not an endorsement.”</p> <p>James’ campaign spokesperson did not provide an answer to several inquiries as to whether James would seek the WEP nomination. James has thus far eschewed the backing of the Working Families Party, the party that helped her first win elected office, amid WFP’s internal strife and dramatic falling out with Cuomo as it opted to endorse Nixon for governor and Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor, and lost several labor union members who sided with Cuomo. James has repeatedly said she is solely focused on earning the Democratic Party nomination, but she has said over the last two days that she is confident there will be some reconciliation with the WFP.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Nixon’s campaign did not return multiple inquiries as to whether she will fill out a Women’s Equality Party questionnaire. A spokesperson for Williams’ campaign said, "Jumaane has a strong public record of pushing for women’s rights, which is why we're proud to be endorsed by the WFP— the primary political party that truly stands for New York’s women,” and did not directly answer the question of whether Williams would fill out a questionnaire and seek the WEP nomination for lieutenant governor.</p> <p>Multiple requests on the subject to Molinaro’s campaign were also not answered. On Sunday, he announced Julie Killian as his lieutenant governor running mate.</p> <p>Teachout told Gotham Gazette that she had not reached out to the WEP for a questionnaire.</p> <p>Zimet said she may talk to one or two WEP committee members to possibly tweak the questions for attorney general candidates.</p> <p>Of the party’s general stance, she said: “Here’s the questionnaire, we want to see where you stand on our issues.”</p> <p>In the announcement requesting any new attorney general candidate applications, the WEP said it is “committed to fight against any attempts to roll back the progress that women have made in this Country and for true equality for all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>The party will continue to “fight back against the sexism and harassment women face on a daily basis” it said, and “will endorse an Attorney General that will fight for our values for equal rights and equal protection under the law for women and children in New York and beyond.”</p> <p>Of the party’s nearly 54,000 votes last time around, Zimet called the showing “pretty impressive, for a line with no history.”</p> <p>“That just goes to show that people who drawn to women’s equality,” she continued. “People found an alternative, it was refreshing to see that.”</p> <p> </p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been changed based on new information from Susan Zimet.</p>
Party Nominations for Statewide Elections Come Into Focus 2018-05-20T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7682:party-nominations-for-statewide-elections-come-into-focus Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/nixon_wfp_make_the_road_action.jpg" alt="Cynthia Nixon WFP nomination" width="600" height="304" /></p> <p>Cynthia Nixon at the WFP convention (photo: Make The Road Action)</p> <hr /> <p>It’s political party convention season as this state and federal election year heats up in New York, with federal primaries on June 26, state primaries September 13, and the general election November 6.</p> <p>Over the weekend, the Working Families Party and Green Party held their nominating conventions on Saturday and the Reform Party held its on Sunday. This week the Democratic and Republican state parties will hold their conventions, nominating candidates for the four statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general. It is also an election year for one of the state’s two United State Senate seats, the one currently held by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Democrats currently hold all five of these positions.</p> <p>Along with those formally backed by the political parties, in some cases other candidates may qualify for the primary ballot if they can earn enough votes from state committee members at the conventions. Candidates also have the opportunity to claim a primary ballot spot by collecting the requisite petition signatures across the state.</p> <p>Given the weekend conventions, along with other announcements from parties and campaigns, the statewide tickets of the major and minor parties are coming into view.</p> <p><strong>The WFP</strong><br />As expected, on Saturday the Working Families Party nominated Cynthia Nixon for governor, Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor, and incumbent Tom DiNapoli for comptroller.</p> <p>The party’s state committee members decided to install a placeholder for attorney general and give its backing to both Letitia James and Zephyr Teachout, with the intention to give its ballot line to whichever of the two emerges from the Democratic primary. James had said she wasn’t seeking the WFP nomination, and her campaign declined to comment on the WFP decision on Saturday. But, James seemed to take a softer stance during remarks on Sunday, according to tweets from the New York Progressive Action Network, where she made an appearance.</p> <p>"I am still a member of the WFP,” James said according to one tweet. “We are joined at the hip. I am proud to be their standard bearer and to be the face of the WFP going forward." Another tweet said that James indicated she would eventually appear on the WFP line, but the language was not completely clear. A Sunday afternoon inquiry to James’ campaign was not returned.</p> <p>The WFP convention was a raucous affair in Harlem on Saturday, with hundreds of party members and supporters gathered to enthusiastically back its slate and rally as it faces an existential crisis given its nasty split with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is known for attempting to wipe his adversaries off the political map.<br /> <br />In her acceptance speech, Nixon went right after the incumbent governor, who the WFP backed in his 2010 and 2014 runs and she is hoping to defeat in the Democratic primary. (If she does not win that primary, the WFP may seek to replace her on the general election ballot so as to not play spoiler and allow Republican Marc Molinaro to win.)<br /> <br />But Nixon, WFP supporters, and many liberal Democrats are hopeful about the primary and pulling no punches when it comes to attacking Cuomo, who they say has governed as a centrist.<br /> <br />Listing off a progressive agenda of policy plans including tougher rent regulations, a more accessible ballot box, and legalized marijuana, Nixon pledged an inclusive New York for “all of us,” that pursues racial, social, and economic justice.<br /> <br />“WFP founders Jon Kest and Bertha Lewis were the first ones to ask me eight years ago to consider running for Governor,” Nixon said from the stage on Saturday. “Now, after eight years of Cuomo, and Trump in the White House, I couldn’t say ‘no.’”</p> <p>In accepting his nomination, City Council Member Williams reiterated his promise to break the recent mold of lieutenant governors, and not be a rubber stamp or cheerleader for the governor.</p> <p>“I am running to be the voice of the people in state government, and I could not be more proud to have the Working Families Party by my side,” Williams said, during remarks that had the crowd more energized than any other portion of the program that Gotham Gazette saw. “As the people’s Lieutenant Governor, I will be an independent advocate for all New Yorkers. I will make certain that our Governor and elected officials uphold their promises, and will hold them accountable for the actions they take.”<br /> <br /><strong>The Green Party</strong><br />The Green Party has put its statewide slate forward, with Howie Hawkins again topping the ticket as the gubernatorial candidate. Jia Lee will be the Green Party nominee for lieutenant governor.</p> <p>After laying out a progressive policy agenda and framework for social, economic, and environmental justice, Hawkins said at Saturday’s convention, “The way this is going to play out in the fall is there’ll be the progressive Greens, the centrist Democrats, and the conservative Republicans. And the argument, the narrative against us is we’re going to spoil it and elect the Republicans, and we have to say ‘no, we’re the progressive alternative, the Democrats won’t solve our problems, don’t waste your vote, vote for what you want, make your vote count, make the system come to what you want -- and that’s how we leverage power and we make a difference.”</p> <p>Mark Dunlea will be the Green candidate for comptroller and Michael Sussman will be the Green candidate for attorney general.<br /> <br /><strong>The Reform Party</strong><br />On Sunday, presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro announced that Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council member, would be his lieutenant governor running mate. Killian recently lost a special election for a Westchester state Senate seat to Democrat Shelley Mayer. The pair is expected to form the top of the official ticket of the Republican and Conservative parties. Soon after the announcement, the Reform Party leadership voted to back Molinaro for governor and Killian for lieutenant governor.</p> <p>"Many thanks to Reform Party for its endorsement of Julie and me today,” Molinaro said in a statement. “Because no matter your political persuasion, if you are a New Yorker who desires reform, you know that the largest roadblock standing in the way is Andrew Cuomo. This state desperately needs change. Defeating Andrew Cuomo and breaking his iron grip over this corrupt state government is the only thing that will break down the floodgates and make change possible."</p> <p>The Reform Party is also backing former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for attorney general, though Bharara has given no public indication he will accept the nomination or run for AG at all. The party also designated Chris Garvey, Nancy Regula, and Michael Diederich to run for attorney general, so there will be a Reform Party primary for AG. And, for comptroller the party is backing DiNapoli, who is likely to have the most ballot lines of any statewide candidate in November.</p> <p><strong>Democrats and Republicans</strong><br />This week will see the Democratic and Republican state party conventions, both occurring on Wednesday and Thursday, with the Democrats on Long Island and the Republicans in Manhattan. Molinaro and Killian are expected to formally earn and accept their nominations on Wednesday, while on Thursday Cuomo is expected to win and accept his party’s nomination for a third time, while Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to accept the party’s nomination for her position for a second time.</p> <p>It appears likely that Democratic state committee members will back Public Advocate James for attorney general, though one or more other candidates could earn the 25% of the vote needed to be automatically placed on the primary ballot. Teachout and Leecia Eve have indicated they will go to the convention to seek such backing. Cuomo endorsed James for attorney general on Tuesday, just before the convention.</p> <p>Along with the question of whether Teachout and/or Eve can earn the 25% to make the primary ballot for AG is whether Nixon and Williams go to the convention and win the 25% each to appear on Democratic primary ballots as well. If candidates do not qualify at the nominating convention, they can petition to get on the ballot by collecting signatures across the state. Randy Credico, a comedian and activist who also ran for governor in 2014 and New York City mayor in 2013, may also be mounting an effort to make the Democratic primary ballot.</p> <p>On Monday morning, Nixon announced her intention for the convention. "I am attending the convention because New York Democrats deserve to have at least one actual Democratic candidate for governor at their state convention," she said in a statement. "As Governor Cuomo has said himself, he's run this state in a way that would make any Republican proud. The Governor and his allies have bullied progressive community groups and rallied the full force of the big money establishment because they know he doesn't have any progressive credentials to stand on. But I won't be scared out of the room. New Yorkers deserve a choice."</p> <p>The Nixon campaign also indicated that Nixon has invited state committee members to a conference call to discuss her candidacy, though the details of the call were not provided.</p> <p>It’s not completely clear yet who will be the Republican nominee for attorney general, given that former AG Eric Schneiderman’s resignation changed the thinking for many potential candidates of various party affiliations, as well as party leaders. John Cahill, a former top aide to Governor George Pataki and the 2014 GOP nominee for AG was considering another bid but bowed out. Manny Alicandro and Keith Wofford have announced their candidacies.</p> <p>Jonathan Trichter is likely to be the GOP nominee for comptroller.</p> <p>State Democratic Party Executive Director Geoff Berman issued a statement on Saturday that took aim at the WFP and the GOP.</p> <p>“It is convention week in New York, and I am proud to be part of the Democratic Party as we head into our convention,” Berman wrote. “The state of the WFP today stands in stark contrast with the state of the Democratic Party. The union-founded party has no working families left after every union has left their ranks.”</p> <p>Berman went on to criticize WFP political director Bill Lipton for orchestrating the party’s attorney general nominations and Williams for “an anti-choice and anti-marriage equality record.” Williams has made many attempts, including during his WFP acceptance speech, to clarify his current stances in support of abortion access and marriage equality, but he has in the past expressed personal opinions against both.</p> <p>Berman called Molinaro a “Trump mini-me,” though Molinaro has said he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. Molinaro does appear to be mostly aligned with Trump and congressional Republicans on policy, however. “Molinaro is anti choice, anti gun safety, anti LGBTQ, and part of Trump's property and income tax increase plan that ended State and Local deductibility,” Berman wrote, though Molinaro has expressed an ‘evolution’ on marriage equality and inclusiveness toward LGBT New Yorkers, and the Trump-led tax overhaul did not end such deductibility, it reduced it to $10,000 annually.</p> <p>It is evident that Berman, Cuomo, and other Democrats will attempt to tie Molinaro, Killian, and other Republicans to Trump, who is deeply unpopular overall in New York, though he retains some pockets of significant support in his home state. Molinaro and others will have to rally the Republican base while also appealing to moderates, including many party-unaffiliated voters, in order to win statewide, especially in a year in which Democrats are energized and in good position to swing multiple House and state Senate seats.</p> <p>One of the most important decisions of the weekend was Molinaro choosing Killian as a running mate. It’s not immediately clear that she will be of significant help as the Dutchess county executive attempts to become the first Republican governor since George Pataki. Killian has only held elected office as a Rye City Council member and was a deputy mayor, and she has lost her last two races.</p> <p>Republican sources indicated that the Molinaro campaign decided it was important to choose a woman for the ticket. Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, who was a co-chair of the lieutenant governor candidate search committee for Molinaro, took herself out of the running after Molinaro was apparently strongly considering her, and may have made a better choice. With both Molinaro and Killian lukewarm toward Trump and from downstate, the ticket may not be best suited toward rallying the base or appealing to voters upstate or in western New York.</p> <p>"Julie Killian is a champion for people who have no voice, who are left behind, who are in crisis and she will never back down from the challenges that are facing our state. I'm proud to have Julie as my partner in this campaign to restore New Yorker's belief in the future of our state," Molinaro said in a statement.</p> <p>"Marc and I share a vision of New York, that is more affordable, accountable and accessible for all families and I am honored to join his team as a true partner, " said Killian.</p> <p>A press release from the Molinaro campaign called Killian “a strong campaigner to the key suburban battlegrounds” and noted that in her recent state Senate race she “significantly outperformed President Trump in Westchester in 2016.</p> <p>“Julie Killian stood out among many great picks to serve as @marcmolinaro’s running mate,” Dinolfo tweeted on Sunday. “As a former city councilwoman, she knows what it takes to run a government while protecting taxpayers. She will make a great LG!”</p> <p><strong>Other Parties</strong><br />The three other parties that have guaranteed ballot lines this year include the Independence Party -- which appears to be nominating Cuomo, Hochul, and DiNapoli -- and the Women’s Equality Party, which has not made its nominations yet, but will do so soon. The WEP is likely to back Cuomo, Hochul, and DiNapoli again this year -- the party was launched by Cuomo in 2014 as he attempted to undermine both his female Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, and the WFP. It’s not clear if either party will make an attorney general choice, though the WEP did issue a call to interested candidates in the wake of Schneiderman's resignation.</p> <p>The Conservative Party appears set to cross-endorse the Republican ticket for statewide seats.</p> <p>The Libertarian Party, meanwhile, typically petitions to get a candidate on the ballot and has this year nominated Larry Sharpe for governor. Sharpe and the Libertarian Party are hoping to crack the 50,000-vote threshold to earn an automatic ballot line over the next four years. The party came close in 2010 with a different candidate, and Sharpe, who has been actively fundraising and campaigning, is seen as the strongest candidate the party has backed in several cycles.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this story has been updated as events change and to include Larry Sharpe's Libertarian candidacy.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/nixon_wfp_make_the_road_action.jpg" alt="Cynthia Nixon WFP nomination" width="600" height="304" /></p> <p>Cynthia Nixon at the WFP convention (photo: Make The Road Action)</p> <hr /> <p>It’s political party convention season as this state and federal election year heats up in New York, with federal primaries on June 26, state primaries September 13, and the general election November 6.</p> <p>Over the weekend, the Working Families Party and Green Party held their nominating conventions on Saturday and the Reform Party held its on Sunday. This week the Democratic and Republican state parties will hold their conventions, nominating candidates for the four statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general. It is also an election year for one of the state’s two United State Senate seats, the one currently held by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Democrats currently hold all five of these positions.</p> <p>Along with those formally backed by the political parties, in some cases other candidates may qualify for the primary ballot if they can earn enough votes from state committee members at the conventions. Candidates also have the opportunity to claim a primary ballot spot by collecting the requisite petition signatures across the state.</p> <p>Given the weekend conventions, along with other announcements from parties and campaigns, the statewide tickets of the major and minor parties are coming into view.</p> <p><strong>The WFP</strong><br />As expected, on Saturday the Working Families Party nominated Cynthia Nixon for governor, Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor, and incumbent Tom DiNapoli for comptroller.</p> <p>The party’s state committee members decided to install a placeholder for attorney general and give its backing to both Letitia James and Zephyr Teachout, with the intention to give its ballot line to whichever of the two emerges from the Democratic primary. James had said she wasn’t seeking the WFP nomination, and her campaign declined to comment on the WFP decision on Saturday. But, James seemed to take a softer stance during remarks on Sunday, according to tweets from the New York Progressive Action Network, where she made an appearance.</p> <p>"I am still a member of the WFP,” James said according to one tweet. “We are joined at the hip. I am proud to be their standard bearer and to be the face of the WFP going forward." Another tweet said that James indicated she would eventually appear on the WFP line, but the language was not completely clear. A Sunday afternoon inquiry to James’ campaign was not returned.</p> <p>The WFP convention was a raucous affair in Harlem on Saturday, with hundreds of party members and supporters gathered to enthusiastically back its slate and rally as it faces an existential crisis given its nasty split with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is known for attempting to wipe his adversaries off the political map.<br /> <br />In her acceptance speech, Nixon went right after the incumbent governor, who the WFP backed in his 2010 and 2014 runs and she is hoping to defeat in the Democratic primary. (If she does not win that primary, the WFP may seek to replace her on the general election ballot so as to not play spoiler and allow Republican Marc Molinaro to win.)<br /> <br />But Nixon, WFP supporters, and many liberal Democrats are hopeful about the primary and pulling no punches when it comes to attacking Cuomo, who they say has governed as a centrist.<br /> <br />Listing off a progressive agenda of policy plans including tougher rent regulations, a more accessible ballot box, and legalized marijuana, Nixon pledged an inclusive New York for “all of us,” that pursues racial, social, and economic justice.<br /> <br />“WFP founders Jon Kest and Bertha Lewis were the first ones to ask me eight years ago to consider running for Governor,” Nixon said from the stage on Saturday. “Now, after eight years of Cuomo, and Trump in the White House, I couldn’t say ‘no.’”</p> <p>In accepting his nomination, City Council Member Williams reiterated his promise to break the recent mold of lieutenant governors, and not be a rubber stamp or cheerleader for the governor.</p> <p>“I am running to be the voice of the people in state government, and I could not be more proud to have the Working Families Party by my side,” Williams said, during remarks that had the crowd more energized than any other portion of the program that Gotham Gazette saw. “As the people’s Lieutenant Governor, I will be an independent advocate for all New Yorkers. I will make certain that our Governor and elected officials uphold their promises, and will hold them accountable for the actions they take.”<br /> <br /><strong>The Green Party</strong><br />The Green Party has put its statewide slate forward, with Howie Hawkins again topping the ticket as the gubernatorial candidate. Jia Lee will be the Green Party nominee for lieutenant governor.</p> <p>After laying out a progressive policy agenda and framework for social, economic, and environmental justice, Hawkins said at Saturday’s convention, “The way this is going to play out in the fall is there’ll be the progressive Greens, the centrist Democrats, and the conservative Republicans. And the argument, the narrative against us is we’re going to spoil it and elect the Republicans, and we have to say ‘no, we’re the progressive alternative, the Democrats won’t solve our problems, don’t waste your vote, vote for what you want, make your vote count, make the system come to what you want -- and that’s how we leverage power and we make a difference.”</p> <p>Mark Dunlea will be the Green candidate for comptroller and Michael Sussman will be the Green candidate for attorney general.<br /> <br /><strong>The Reform Party</strong><br />On Sunday, presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro announced that Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council member, would be his lieutenant governor running mate. Killian recently lost a special election for a Westchester state Senate seat to Democrat Shelley Mayer. The pair is expected to form the top of the official ticket of the Republican and Conservative parties. Soon after the announcement, the Reform Party leadership voted to back Molinaro for governor and Killian for lieutenant governor.</p> <p>"Many thanks to Reform Party for its endorsement of Julie and me today,” Molinaro said in a statement. “Because no matter your political persuasion, if you are a New Yorker who desires reform, you know that the largest roadblock standing in the way is Andrew Cuomo. This state desperately needs change. Defeating Andrew Cuomo and breaking his iron grip over this corrupt state government is the only thing that will break down the floodgates and make change possible."</p> <p>The Reform Party is also backing former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for attorney general, though Bharara has given no public indication he will accept the nomination or run for AG at all. The party also designated Chris Garvey, Nancy Regula, and Michael Diederich to run for attorney general, so there will be a Reform Party primary for AG. And, for comptroller the party is backing DiNapoli, who is likely to have the most ballot lines of any statewide candidate in November.</p> <p><strong>Democrats and Republicans</strong><br />This week will see the Democratic and Republican state party conventions, both occurring on Wednesday and Thursday, with the Democrats on Long Island and the Republicans in Manhattan. Molinaro and Killian are expected to formally earn and accept their nominations on Wednesday, while on Thursday Cuomo is expected to win and accept his party’s nomination for a third time, while Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to accept the party’s nomination for her position for a second time.</p> <p>It appears likely that Democratic state committee members will back Public Advocate James for attorney general, though one or more other candidates could earn the 25% of the vote needed to be automatically placed on the primary ballot. Teachout and Leecia Eve have indicated they will go to the convention to seek such backing. Cuomo endorsed James for attorney general on Tuesday, just before the convention.</p> <p>Along with the question of whether Teachout and/or Eve can earn the 25% to make the primary ballot for AG is whether Nixon and Williams go to the convention and win the 25% each to appear on Democratic primary ballots as well. If candidates do not qualify at the nominating convention, they can petition to get on the ballot by collecting signatures across the state. Randy Credico, a comedian and activist who also ran for governor in 2014 and New York City mayor in 2013, may also be mounting an effort to make the Democratic primary ballot.</p> <p>On Monday morning, Nixon announced her intention for the convention. "I am attending the convention because New York Democrats deserve to have at least one actual Democratic candidate for governor at their state convention," she said in a statement. "As Governor Cuomo has said himself, he's run this state in a way that would make any Republican proud. The Governor and his allies have bullied progressive community groups and rallied the full force of the big money establishment because they know he doesn't have any progressive credentials to stand on. But I won't be scared out of the room. New Yorkers deserve a choice."</p> <p>The Nixon campaign also indicated that Nixon has invited state committee members to a conference call to discuss her candidacy, though the details of the call were not provided.</p> <p>It’s not completely clear yet who will be the Republican nominee for attorney general, given that former AG Eric Schneiderman’s resignation changed the thinking for many potential candidates of various party affiliations, as well as party leaders. John Cahill, a former top aide to Governor George Pataki and the 2014 GOP nominee for AG was considering another bid but bowed out. Manny Alicandro and Keith Wofford have announced their candidacies.</p> <p>Jonathan Trichter is likely to be the GOP nominee for comptroller.</p> <p>State Democratic Party Executive Director Geoff Berman issued a statement on Saturday that took aim at the WFP and the GOP.</p> <p>“It is convention week in New York, and I am proud to be part of the Democratic Party as we head into our convention,” Berman wrote. “The state of the WFP today stands in stark contrast with the state of the Democratic Party. The union-founded party has no working families left after every union has left their ranks.”</p> <p>Berman went on to criticize WFP political director Bill Lipton for orchestrating the party’s attorney general nominations and Williams for “an anti-choice and anti-marriage equality record.” Williams has made many attempts, including during his WFP acceptance speech, to clarify his current stances in support of abortion access and marriage equality, but he has in the past expressed personal opinions against both.</p> <p>Berman called Molinaro a “Trump mini-me,” though Molinaro has said he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. Molinaro does appear to be mostly aligned with Trump and congressional Republicans on policy, however. “Molinaro is anti choice, anti gun safety, anti LGBTQ, and part of Trump's property and income tax increase plan that ended State and Local deductibility,” Berman wrote, though Molinaro has expressed an ‘evolution’ on marriage equality and inclusiveness toward LGBT New Yorkers, and the Trump-led tax overhaul did not end such deductibility, it reduced it to $10,000 annually.</p> <p>It is evident that Berman, Cuomo, and other Democrats will attempt to tie Molinaro, Killian, and other Republicans to Trump, who is deeply unpopular overall in New York, though he retains some pockets of significant support in his home state. Molinaro and others will have to rally the Republican base while also appealing to moderates, including many party-unaffiliated voters, in order to win statewide, especially in a year in which Democrats are energized and in good position to swing multiple House and state Senate seats.</p> <p>One of the most important decisions of the weekend was Molinaro choosing Killian as a running mate. It’s not immediately clear that she will be of significant help as the Dutchess county executive attempts to become the first Republican governor since George Pataki. Killian has only held elected office as a Rye City Council member and was a deputy mayor, and she has lost her last two races.</p> <p>Republican sources indicated that the Molinaro campaign decided it was important to choose a woman for the ticket. Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, who was a co-chair of the lieutenant governor candidate search committee for Molinaro, took herself out of the running after Molinaro was apparently strongly considering her, and may have made a better choice. With both Molinaro and Killian lukewarm toward Trump and from downstate, the ticket may not be best suited toward rallying the base or appealing to voters upstate or in western New York.</p> <p>"Julie Killian is a champion for people who have no voice, who are left behind, who are in crisis and she will never back down from the challenges that are facing our state. I'm proud to have Julie as my partner in this campaign to restore New Yorker's belief in the future of our state," Molinaro said in a statement.</p> <p>"Marc and I share a vision of New York, that is more affordable, accountable and accessible for all families and I am honored to join his team as a true partner, " said Killian.</p> <p>A press release from the Molinaro campaign called Killian “a strong campaigner to the key suburban battlegrounds” and noted that in her recent state Senate race she “significantly outperformed President Trump in Westchester in 2016.</p> <p>“Julie Killian stood out among many great picks to serve as @marcmolinaro’s running mate,” Dinolfo tweeted on Sunday. “As a former city councilwoman, she knows what it takes to run a government while protecting taxpayers. She will make a great LG!”</p> <p><strong>Other Parties</strong><br />The three other parties that have guaranteed ballot lines this year include the Independence Party -- which appears to be nominating Cuomo, Hochul, and DiNapoli -- and the Women’s Equality Party, which has not made its nominations yet, but will do so soon. The WEP is likely to back Cuomo, Hochul, and DiNapoli again this year -- the party was launched by Cuomo in 2014 as he attempted to undermine both his female Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, and the WFP. It’s not clear if either party will make an attorney general choice, though the WEP did issue a call to interested candidates in the wake of Schneiderman's resignation.</p> <p>The Conservative Party appears set to cross-endorse the Republican ticket for statewide seats.</p> <p>The Libertarian Party, meanwhile, typically petitions to get a candidate on the ballot and has this year nominated Larry Sharpe for governor. Sharpe and the Libertarian Party are hoping to crack the 50,000-vote threshold to earn an automatic ballot line over the next four years. The party came close in 2010 with a different candidate, and Sharpe, who has been actively fundraising and campaigning, is seen as the strongest candidate the party has backed in several cycles.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this story has been updated as events change and to include Larry Sharpe's Libertarian candidacy.</p>
The Women In ‘The Room’ 2018-03-05T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-05T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7518:the-women-in-the-room Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/25090679785_60aee29d23_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Stewart-Cousins" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Stewart-Cousins (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>What would New York State’s budget look like if women were in charge? That is this year’s $168-billion question.</p> <p>For decades, the final details and compromises in New York’s annual budget have been decided by the so-called “three men in the room,” or the leaders of the two legislative houses and the governor, but with workplace sexual harassment at the forefront this year, it seems that at least one woman will be included in parts of the closed-door talks.</p> <p>The “three men” -- in recent years four men: Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Senator Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie -- is a term <a href="https://governmentreform.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/three-men-in-a-room-and-albany-where-did-the-phrase-come-from/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first attributed</a> to Albany’s budget process in a 1988 Newsday article and later popularized by former state lawmaker Seymour Lachman, who wrote a book called “Three Men in a Room.” The phrase has become synonymous with Albany’s culture of secrecy and backroom dealings, but it also implicates the gender imbalance that has long plagued the center of power in New York.</p> <p>Now, amid a national reckoning around sexual misconduct, an effort is being made to elevate female voices <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7286-amid-larger-moment-will-albany-face-another-sexual-misconduct-reckoning" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in state government</a> as the executive and legislative branches scramble to come up with an acceptable policy response. In addition to workplace protections, Cuomo’s extensive <a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy19/exec/fy19artVIIs/WAArticleVII.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">women’s rights agenda</a> includes codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections, legislation combating revenge porn, and a mandate that free feminine hygiene products to be provided in public school restrooms.</p> <p>Facing <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/readers/2015/03/16/let-stewart-cousins-join-budget-talks/24842609/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pressure</a> from advocates, editorial boards, and others to include female representation during final negotiations of a new budget -- which is expected to include a statewide anti-harassment policy for government officials -- Cuomo recently announced that the only female legislative conference leader, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, will for the first time play a role in deciding the legislation that goes into the final budget documents.</p> <p>“Leader Stewart-Cousins will be included in negotiations on the ‎sexual-harassment bill, as well as a wide range of other issues being dealt with in this year’s budget,” a Cuomo spokesperson <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-female-legislator-will-join-all-male-group-developing-sex-harassment-policy-1518744022" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the Wall Street Journal</a>.</p> <p>Notably, the negotiations will occur as Klein is being investigated for allegedly forcing a kiss with an aide in 2015.</p> <p>While it is not clear what that range of other issues will cover, Stewart-Cousins -- who has long demanded inclusion in budget talks, to no avail -- said at a press conference on the Child Victims Act (CVA), that she will use the opportunity to fight for other bills put forward by her conference that have long stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>“When I’m in the room, you can be sure that I will be advocating for this, and other things that our conference is carrying and pushing forward,” Stewart-Cousins said of CVA, adding that by representing the 21-member conference (in the 63-seat chamber), she brings with her “the voices of half of New York.”</p> <p>The Child’s Victims Act, which has been in limbo for 10 years, lifts New York’s statute of limitations to match that of other states, making it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to bring charges against their abusers. Other big ticket items on the table this year -- many of them carried by members of the Democratic conference -- include gun control, early voting, a state tax overhaul, and criminal justice reforms.</p> <p>How Stewart-Cousins’ presence in “the room,” typically the governor’s office on the second floor of the state Capitol, shapes the final budget bills, or whether more women-centered legislation and other bills carried by her conference will rise to the top, remains to be seen. While her involvement in leaders’ meetings is a notable start, as one of five powerbrokers in “the room,” there will still be a lopsided ratio considering New York’s female-heavy electorate, according to Dina Refki, executive director of the Center for Women in Government &amp; Civil Society at Albany University.</p> <p>“Research tells us that when women are outnumbered, their voices tend to be silenced,” said Refki. “Of course, Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a strong legislator, and it’s a good thing to have, but if we are looking at research, we tend to believe that women need to be represented in sufficient numbers to have a meaningful impact on the process.”</p> <p>Government reformers note that the power in the room is already tilted in favor of the executive, due to the 2004 Silver v. Pataki Court of Appeals decision, which bars the Legislature from making changes to any part of an appropriations bill, short of rejecting the entire bill. The main leverage the legislative leaders have during talks is the ability to delay the budget, which is bound to draw criticism of Albany’s dysfunction from the public and editorial boards, according to former Assemblymember-turned-professor Richard Brodsky.</p> <p>“You cannot govern a state in perpetuity based upon a tyrannical executive power -- and that’s what we have. If you want to reform government, adjust the balance of power,” said Brodsky.</p> <p>Tyrannical power or not, having the governor’s ear during those final hours is valuable and if political science studies are any indicator, Stewart-Cousins’ involvement may help tip the scales in favor of better legislative outcomes for women. There is a large body of data indicating that female representation in government leads to the passage of more legislation on issues of concern to women -- whether protections for women’s health, workplace equity, or paid family leave, for example -- but only when there is a “critical mass” of female representation. Political scientists disagree on the exact tipping point, pegging it at 15, 20, 25, or 30 percent.</p> <p>While the final decision-makers in Albany have historically all been male, there are often women in the room in a supportive or advisory capacity, and numerous female lawmakers who lead legislative committees are heavily involved in budgetary proceedings. At every stage there is an opportunity to women influence the content and the shape of the budget, according to Refki.</p> <p>“Women are not monolithic. They don’t all think the same, or act in the same way, but by virtue of their socialization as women, they tend to see women-centered issues as priorities,” she said. “The presence of women at each juncture in the process at least brings a voice that could influence what takes shape at the end.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38739897775_c2486d2a69_z_1.jpg" alt="Melissa DeRosa Cuomo aide" width="300" height="200" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Melissa DeRosa, now Cuomo’s top aide as secretary to the governor, has long been involved in budget conversations, including in her previous role as Cuomo’s chief of staff. DeRosa and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul both chair Cuomo’s newly-created Council on Women and Girls, which helped develop his women’s agenda this year, a spokesperson from Cuomo’s office said.</p> <p>Hochul, while not directly involved in budget negotiations, aids the process by promoting key pieces of the governor's budget agenda around the state. When interviewed about Hochul’s reelection campaign last month, her chief of staff told Gotham Gazette that she is “focused on ensuring an on-time budget.”</p> <p>Cuomo has brought a number of women into his inner circle in the past year, including re-hiring former federal prosecutor Linda Lacewell, now as his chief of staff, and Cathy Calhoun as his director of state operations. Lacewell replaced DeRosa (pictured), who was promoted to Cuomo’s top advisory position last year, becoming the first woman to hold the position.</p> <p>Legislative leaders also have top female aides. Often accompanying Heastie during budget dealings are Louann Ciccone, secretary of program and counsel, and Kathleen O’Keefe, his legislative counsel. To help create policy responses to sexual harassment issues, Heastie has composed a work group of 15 lawmakers, 10 of them female.</p> <p>“Sexual harassment must be confronted head-on,” said Heastie in a statement. “I look forward to the recommendations of this workgroup so that we can develop a statewide legislative solution to this very serious problem.”</p> <p>Klein, whose Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republicans, also has a female chief of staff, Dana Carotenuto Rico, who typically joins him in “the room.” Other times, IDC members who have expertise in a particular subject are called in, an IDC spokesperson said. For example, in 2017, Senator Diane Savino and Senator Jesse Hamilton were invited into the governor’s chamber to discuss details of legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility.</p> <p>Additionally, women play a role at many turns in budgetary proceedings leading up to the final negotiations. The Legislature’s joint budget hearings, which take place in February, are now headed by female lawmakers, and when one-house agendas are released, female staffers from legislative and executive offices participate in subsequent meetings on various budgetary categories called “tables.”</p> <p>Two women now hold the Legislature’s most powerful committee chair posts: Senate Finance Chair Kathy Young, an upstate Republican, and Assembly Ways and Means Chair Helene Weinstein, a Brooklyn Democrat. The two women, along with IDC’s Senator Savino, of Staten Island, is vice chair of the Senate finance committee, must attend all of legislative budget hearings, which sometimes run late into the night. These hearings help inform one-house budget proposals, conference discussions, and larger budget negotiations, according to those with knowledge of the budget process.</p> <p>Scott Reif, a spokesperson for Flanagan, said that Young is extensively involved in negotiations on the state budget and that other female staff members advise the leader on key issues related to the budget, like sexual harassment, criminal justice, and education. Reif did not indicate that any of the women are in the negotiating room when the final budget bills are decided.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/25090679785_60aee29d23_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Stewart-Cousins" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Stewart-Cousins (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>What would New York State’s budget look like if women were in charge? That is this year’s $168-billion question.</p> <p>For decades, the final details and compromises in New York’s annual budget have been decided by the so-called “three men in the room,” or the leaders of the two legislative houses and the governor, but with workplace sexual harassment at the forefront this year, it seems that at least one woman will be included in parts of the closed-door talks.</p> <p>The “three men” -- in recent years four men: Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Senator Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie -- is a term <a href="https://governmentreform.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/three-men-in-a-room-and-albany-where-did-the-phrase-come-from/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first attributed</a> to Albany’s budget process in a 1988 Newsday article and later popularized by former state lawmaker Seymour Lachman, who wrote a book called “Three Men in a Room.” The phrase has become synonymous with Albany’s culture of secrecy and backroom dealings, but it also implicates the gender imbalance that has long plagued the center of power in New York.</p> <p>Now, amid a national reckoning around sexual misconduct, an effort is being made to elevate female voices <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7286-amid-larger-moment-will-albany-face-another-sexual-misconduct-reckoning" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in state government</a> as the executive and legislative branches scramble to come up with an acceptable policy response. In addition to workplace protections, Cuomo’s extensive <a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy19/exec/fy19artVIIs/WAArticleVII.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">women’s rights agenda</a> includes codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections, legislation combating revenge porn, and a mandate that free feminine hygiene products to be provided in public school restrooms.</p> <p>Facing <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/readers/2015/03/16/let-stewart-cousins-join-budget-talks/24842609/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pressure</a> from advocates, editorial boards, and others to include female representation during final negotiations of a new budget -- which is expected to include a statewide anti-harassment policy for government officials -- Cuomo recently announced that the only female legislative conference leader, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, will for the first time play a role in deciding the legislation that goes into the final budget documents.</p> <p>“Leader Stewart-Cousins will be included in negotiations on the ‎sexual-harassment bill, as well as a wide range of other issues being dealt with in this year’s budget,” a Cuomo spokesperson <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-female-legislator-will-join-all-male-group-developing-sex-harassment-policy-1518744022" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the Wall Street Journal</a>.</p> <p>Notably, the negotiations will occur as Klein is being investigated for allegedly forcing a kiss with an aide in 2015.</p> <p>While it is not clear what that range of other issues will cover, Stewart-Cousins -- who has long demanded inclusion in budget talks, to no avail -- said at a press conference on the Child Victims Act (CVA), that she will use the opportunity to fight for other bills put forward by her conference that have long stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>“When I’m in the room, you can be sure that I will be advocating for this, and other things that our conference is carrying and pushing forward,” Stewart-Cousins said of CVA, adding that by representing the 21-member conference (in the 63-seat chamber), she brings with her “the voices of half of New York.”</p> <p>The Child’s Victims Act, which has been in limbo for 10 years, lifts New York’s statute of limitations to match that of other states, making it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to bring charges against their abusers. Other big ticket items on the table this year -- many of them carried by members of the Democratic conference -- include gun control, early voting, a state tax overhaul, and criminal justice reforms.</p> <p>How Stewart-Cousins’ presence in “the room,” typically the governor’s office on the second floor of the state Capitol, shapes the final budget bills, or whether more women-centered legislation and other bills carried by her conference will rise to the top, remains to be seen. While her involvement in leaders’ meetings is a notable start, as one of five powerbrokers in “the room,” there will still be a lopsided ratio considering New York’s female-heavy electorate, according to Dina Refki, executive director of the Center for Women in Government &amp; Civil Society at Albany University.</p> <p>“Research tells us that when women are outnumbered, their voices tend to be silenced,” said Refki. “Of course, Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a strong legislator, and it’s a good thing to have, but if we are looking at research, we tend to believe that women need to be represented in sufficient numbers to have a meaningful impact on the process.”</p> <p>Government reformers note that the power in the room is already tilted in favor of the executive, due to the 2004 Silver v. Pataki Court of Appeals decision, which bars the Legislature from making changes to any part of an appropriations bill, short of rejecting the entire bill. The main leverage the legislative leaders have during talks is the ability to delay the budget, which is bound to draw criticism of Albany’s dysfunction from the public and editorial boards, according to former Assemblymember-turned-professor Richard Brodsky.</p> <p>“You cannot govern a state in perpetuity based upon a tyrannical executive power -- and that’s what we have. If you want to reform government, adjust the balance of power,” said Brodsky.</p> <p>Tyrannical power or not, having the governor’s ear during those final hours is valuable and if political science studies are any indicator, Stewart-Cousins’ involvement may help tip the scales in favor of better legislative outcomes for women. There is a large body of data indicating that female representation in government leads to the passage of more legislation on issues of concern to women -- whether protections for women’s health, workplace equity, or paid family leave, for example -- but only when there is a “critical mass” of female representation. Political scientists disagree on the exact tipping point, pegging it at 15, 20, 25, or 30 percent.</p> <p>While the final decision-makers in Albany have historically all been male, there are often women in the room in a supportive or advisory capacity, and numerous female lawmakers who lead legislative committees are heavily involved in budgetary proceedings. At every stage there is an opportunity to women influence the content and the shape of the budget, according to Refki.</p> <p>“Women are not monolithic. They don’t all think the same, or act in the same way, but by virtue of their socialization as women, they tend to see women-centered issues as priorities,” she said. “The presence of women at each juncture in the process at least brings a voice that could influence what takes shape at the end.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38739897775_c2486d2a69_z_1.jpg" alt="Melissa DeRosa Cuomo aide" width="300" height="200" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Melissa DeRosa, now Cuomo’s top aide as secretary to the governor, has long been involved in budget conversations, including in her previous role as Cuomo’s chief of staff. DeRosa and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul both chair Cuomo’s newly-created Council on Women and Girls, which helped develop his women’s agenda this year, a spokesperson from Cuomo’s office said.</p> <p>Hochul, while not directly involved in budget negotiations, aids the process by promoting key pieces of the governor's budget agenda around the state. When interviewed about Hochul’s reelection campaign last month, her chief of staff told Gotham Gazette that she is “focused on ensuring an on-time budget.”</p> <p>Cuomo has brought a number of women into his inner circle in the past year, including re-hiring former federal prosecutor Linda Lacewell, now as his chief of staff, and Cathy Calhoun as his director of state operations. Lacewell replaced DeRosa (pictured), who was promoted to Cuomo’s top advisory position last year, becoming the first woman to hold the position.</p> <p>Legislative leaders also have top female aides. Often accompanying Heastie during budget dealings are Louann Ciccone, secretary of program and counsel, and Kathleen O’Keefe, his legislative counsel. To help create policy responses to sexual harassment issues, Heastie has composed a work group of 15 lawmakers, 10 of them female.</p> <p>“Sexual harassment must be confronted head-on,” said Heastie in a statement. “I look forward to the recommendations of this workgroup so that we can develop a statewide legislative solution to this very serious problem.”</p> <p>Klein, whose Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republicans, also has a female chief of staff, Dana Carotenuto Rico, who typically joins him in “the room.” Other times, IDC members who have expertise in a particular subject are called in, an IDC spokesperson said. For example, in 2017, Senator Diane Savino and Senator Jesse Hamilton were invited into the governor’s chamber to discuss details of legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility.</p> <p>Additionally, women play a role at many turns in budgetary proceedings leading up to the final negotiations. The Legislature’s joint budget hearings, which take place in February, are now headed by female lawmakers, and when one-house agendas are released, female staffers from legislative and executive offices participate in subsequent meetings on various budgetary categories called “tables.”</p> <p>Two women now hold the Legislature’s most powerful committee chair posts: Senate Finance Chair Kathy Young, an upstate Republican, and Assembly Ways and Means Chair Helene Weinstein, a Brooklyn Democrat. The two women, along with IDC’s Senator Savino, of Staten Island, is vice chair of the Senate finance committee, must attend all of legislative budget hearings, which sometimes run late into the night. These hearings help inform one-house budget proposals, conference discussions, and larger budget negotiations, according to those with knowledge of the budget process.</p> <p>Scott Reif, a spokesperson for Flanagan, said that Young is extensively involved in negotiations on the state budget and that other female staff members advise the leader on key issues related to the budget, like sexual harassment, criminal justice, and education. Reif did not indicate that any of the women are in the negotiating room when the final budget bills are decided.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
As Hochul Pushes Cuomo Agenda, Williams Takes on Both in Primary Challenge 2018-02-25T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-25T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7493:as-hochul-pushes-cuomo-agenda-williams-takes-on-both-in-primary-challenge Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39606663142_0acd7187c2_z.jpg" alt="Kathy Hochul" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>“That’s what we do in New York -- that’s what we need in our nation!” declared Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul from a church lectern Sunday, sounding not unlike her boss, Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>Hochul, whose remarks were at times drowned out by applause, was highlighting Cuomo’s progressive accomplishments -- paid family leave, equal pay provisions, and criminal justice reform -- before a congregation of elected officials, aides, and others attending the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators’ annual gathering in Albany. And, as she has done across the state in recent weeks, Hochul outlined signature planks of Cuomo’s 2018 agenda, like bail and speedy trial reforms.</p> <p>At Wilborn Temple First Church, Hochul agily made scriptural references, and like Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7430-10-burning-questions-after-cuomo-s-state-of-the-state-and-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">during his 2018 State of the State address</a>, invoked the heartbreaking story of Kalief Browder, a young man who committed suicide after being held for three years in Rikers Island jails without ever being given a trial date.<br /> <br />“A young man accused of stealing a backpack, and spends three years of his life, languishing in a jail, and finally he couldn’t take it anymore. They crushed his spirit and he took his life,” said Hochul. “If only he had had enough money for the bail, he could have been out there, perhaps on his way to a good job or career or family.”</p> <p>Despite Hochul’s warm reception, a number of black and Latino elected officials attending the conference -- including New York City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Daneek Miller, Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, and State Senator Kevin Parker -- had already declared their intentions to back her Democratic primary challenger, Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, who officially announced his bid for Lieutenant Governor at New York City Hall on Friday, February 16.</p> <p>“He is a man of integrity and he is a man who brings with him the voice of the people. I am so excited and I hope that you are as well,” said Miller, at Williams’ announcement, where Williams also announced support from other elected officials, like Council Member Brad Lander, and several community groups.</p> <p>Like Hochul, Williams also attended “Caucus Weekend” events, participating in two panels, one on criminal justice reform and another on gun violence, before traveling around the state Monday to promote his message.</p> <p>On one stop, Williams sat with a gaggle of SUNY New Paltz students and New Paltz town officials at Cafeteria, a low-key coffee shop with mural-coated walls and mismatched upholstery. Striking a decidedly different tone than Hochul, Williams lead a discussion that ranged from the flaws with the governor’s Excelsior Scholarship to the arbitrariness of how grants are awarded by New York’s Regional Economic Development Councils, a Cuomo creation that Hochul chairs.</p> <p>Aside from presiding over the state Senate and acting as gubernatorial successor, the Lieutenant Governor position is largely undefined by statute, and the 41-year-old Williams said he aspires to be “the people’s” lieutenant governor, using the position as a “megaphone” to pressure the governor to deliver on his promises to progressives.</p> <p>“I hope to use the bully pulpit,” said Williams, adding that he is willing to support and work with the governor on things they are aligned on. “I don’t want to be opposition for its own sake.”</p> <p>Of Cuomo’s 2018 agenda, WillIams said, “A lot of it sounds good, but a lot of it is mirrors. You talk about ‘Raise the Age,’ which is awesome, but you don’t actually have the funding for the city to get it accomplished,” he said, referring to the criminal justice reform measure passed last year and the lack of funding for implementation in the governor’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.</p> <p>"I haven't seen sincere leadership on a whole host of issues,” Williams said <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on a recent episode of the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, discussing the rationale for his campaign and why he is taking on Hochul and Cuomo. “Somebody needs to say 'the emperor has no clothes,'" he explained of his plans for the position and what’s lacking now.</p> <p>A child of Brooklyn public schools, Williams overcame ADHD and Tourette's Syndrome to become a rising star in the City Council. In the city, he has made a name for himself as as both an effective councilman and activist, leading protests and passing legislation on criminal justice reform and becoming a fierce advocate for housing affordability. Now the councilman must flesh out his platform to appeal to voters around the state.</p> <p>“The learning curve is not as steep as I thought I would be,” Williams said in New Paltz of his exploration of upstate concerns. “The reason we did listening tours is to make sure that we were on the right trajectory, and we learned quickly that we are, so now it’s about being fine-tuned, making sure we are covering all of the local issues.”</p> <p>He has noted that upstate farmers, many of whom employ undocumented immigrants, are concerned about the federal immigration crackdown, and that housing issues, similarly, transcend regional divides.</p> <p>While Williams has spoken to three potential Democratic gubernatorial contenders -- actress and advocate Cynthia Nixon, former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, and former state Senator Terry Gipson -- he says he is running independently and would stay independent from the governor, whomever it is. Gibson is the only Democrat currently campaigning against Cuomo for the nomination.</p> <p>New Yorkers vote for lieutenant governor as a standalone position during the party primaries, but for the general, the lieutenant governor nominee shares a ticket with the gubernatorial nominee of the same party. The position does come with more than $600,000 in budget funds, typically spent on causes assigned by the governor -- an allowance that could potentially get cut during the following budget cycle for a lieutenant governor that does not fall in line with the executive’s agenda.</p> <p>Hochul, who has not officially launched her reelection campaign, was Cuomo’s lieutenant governor running mate in 2014, when he was seeking a second term but his first-term running mate, Robert Duffy, decided against running again. Hochul also has a compelling life story, having lived in a trailer home as a child, becoming Erie County’s longtime county clerk, and eventually rising to serve a brief stint in Congress. Despite being a Democrat, Hochul won a 2011 special election for the 26th Congressional District, one of the most Republican districts in the state. Her loss in the general election a year later was chalked up to her vote in favor of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a progressive stance she touted in her remarks Sunday.</p> <p>In 2014, still largely unknown to most of the state, she ran a tight race against Tim Wu, a progressive Columbia Law School professor who made a name for himself coining “net neutrality,” running with Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo’s gubernatorial challenger in the primary. Though Hochul beat Wu, 60 percent to 40 percent, Wu performed better than his running mate on a miniscule budget for a statewide race.</p> <p>But after four years of diligently representing the governor at events across the state, Hochul is going to be tough to unseat, in part given the female-heavy electorate in New York State, according to Bruce Gyory, a political consultant.</p> <p>“Hochul was out there defending Planned Parenthood day and night during the assault. She has a strong profile on Planned Parenthood and on gay rights,” said Gyory, noting that Williams’ previous statements on marriage equality and abortion are likely to haunt him as he tries to scoop up the more progressive Democratic base. "Given how female the electorate is -- you have to wonder if an electorate which is just shy of 60 percent is going to dump their female lieutenant governor."</p> <p>At the New Paltz cafe, Williams tried to preempt the criticisms, which may have hurt him during his two bids for City Council speaker, which he most recently lost to Council Member Corey Johnson, who is openly gay.</p> <p>The son of Grenadian immigrants, Williams has referred to his religious upbringing and spirituality for the confusion about his positions on the hot-button issues.</p> <p>“There are two issues that they are going to try to attack me with that are just plain wrong,” he said. “I'm very proud of my religious and spiritual background, it’s what guides the justice work that I do. But they always confuse my position on marriage equality and [access] to legal abortion.”</p> <p>Previous attempts to demure on the topics, urging people to look at his legislative record which includes votes to protect women’s health access, have backfired, and past comments have proven hard to shake.</p> <p>Now Williams is trying to get ahead of the narrative. "I want to see that Roe vs. Wade is codified. Unlike the governor, I don't just talk about it, I want to see it happen, in case the ‘orange man’ does his thing," he told his New Paltz audience, referring to Cuomo’s failed efforts to push abortion protections through the Republican-controlled state Senate and to President Donald Trump. In his short lieutenant governor campaign thus far, which included a month-long exploratory phase, Williams has repeatedly <a href="https://www.wqxr.org/story/january-25-2018-jumaane-williams/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">faced questions</a> on the two issues, as well as slightly couched <a href="https://www.wqxr.org/story/january-16-2018-melissa-derosa/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">criticism from Melissa DeRosa</a>, Cuomo’s top governmental aide. DeRosa and Hochul have been out front promoting the Cuomo administration's "2018 Women's Agenda for New York," <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-unveils-2018-womens-agenda-new-york-equal-rights-equal-opportunity" target="_blank" rel="noopener">released in January</a>.</p> <p>Williams has recently demonstrated his commitment to women’s health by introducing legislation barring employment discrimination based on reproductive decisions. Other issues he hopes to bring attention to through his candidacy, and potential platform, are education funding, transportation, and gun control.</p> <p>Hochul, too, will have to answer for previous positions she has taken on immigration and gun control, which again, due to recent tragedies, has become the focus of media attention. As county clerk, she opposed the issuing of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and in Congress voted in favor of National Rifle Association-backed legislation.</p> <p>Jeff Lewis, Hochul’s chief of staff, said the lieutenant governor’s views have evolved on both issues, noting that the climate surrounding the debate has changed considerably in recent years. He pointed out that fellow Upstate Democrats, like former Senator Hillary Clinton and current Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, at one time took similarly conservative stances.</p> <p>Hochul did support the New York SAFE Act, gun control legislation championed and signed by Cuomo, and according to Lewis, regrets voting for the 2011 National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act, federal legislation that would allow people with concealed carry permits to carry their guns into other states that don’t allow concealed weapons. “Her exposure to gun violence was very different than when she became a statewide elected official,” said Lewis, noting the increase in large-scale massacres in the United States in recent years.</p> <p>While she was speaking in her elected, not campaign, capacity, Hochul touched on the shootings during her remarks in Albany on Sunday.</p> <p>“In today’s day we still bury children in high school because nobody else has the courage to do what we have done here in the state of New York and that is to ban those weapons of lethal destruction,” she said. “Please God let our leaders in Washington here those cries.”</p> <p>Williams, a leading figure in New York City on gun violence prevention, says he gives the governor’s administration credit for passage of the SAFE Act, which may have contributed to an 18 percent decline in shootings in the state, but said it doesn’t go far enough.</p> <p>“Resting on the laurels of the SAFE Act in the face of a full-on assault, is not a good idea. Every time it’s brought up, you deserve some credit, but what have you done since then?” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Williams said on the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast</a>. “I always want to make sure we parse out, when it comes to gun violence, supply and demand...I don’t think what is coming out of the governor’s mansion goes nearly as far on the demand side across the state."</p> <p>To reduce “demand” for guns, Williams, who co-chairs the Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, has taken a holistic approach to gun violence prevention, utilizing government, law enforcement, and community leaders on the ground. He has even looked national with his launch of the National Network to Combat Gun Violence, local elected officials from around the country dedicated to ending gun violence in their communities.</p> <p>Williams says that if elected, he will model the role after that of New York City’s public advocate, which also acts as the mayor’s successor and fill-in, but is expected to hold the mayor accountable. Historically, lieutenant governors have acted as compliant surrogates for the governor, championing the executive’s agenda, and focusing their energies on causes selected by the governor.</p> <p>However, there have been cases where the second-in-command crafted his or her own messaging or operated counter to the administration in other ways.</p> <p>Mary Anne Krupsak, who was lieutenant governor under Governor Hugh Carey, was frustrated that she was not given enough to do in her role. When Carey ran for his second term in 1978, she withdrew from the ticket, ran for governor herself against Carey, and lost.</p> <p>In 1982, New York City Mayor Ed Koch lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Mario Cuomo, but Koch’s running mate, Alfred DelBello, won the lieutenant governor seat, resulting in an awkward match that lasted just one term.</p> <p>Betsy McCaughey Ross, a conservative policy wonk and New York Post columnist who went on to work for President Donald Trump, flouted expectations with her outspokenness during her short tenure as lieutenant governor to former Republican Governor George Pataki, between 1995 and 1998. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1997/04/18/nyregion/pataki-removing-mccaughey-ross-from-1998-ticket.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Pataki announced</a> he would not select her as his running mate the following year with a stern rebuke.</p> <p>''Unfortunately, you have demonstrated through your decisions that you do not share my vision for the state,'' he wrote. Recounting his record on various issues, Pataki added, ''Your unwillingness and, in fact, outright refusal to work as part of our united team to build on these historic achievements has been disappointing.''</p> <p>Lewis, Hochul’s chief of staff, continues to dismiss Williams' run as a "political stunt." While he acknowledges that Hochul is running, Lewis said she is currently focused her elected duties, such as delivering an on-time state budget.</p> <p>When asked if Hochul has ever spoken or acted independently of Cuomo, Lewis said, "I don't think she's had to take any actions thus far, because the governor's been on the right side of every issue."</p> <p>If Williams is able to win the nomination he would likely do so on the strength of a New York City voting base and despite whatever funds Cuomo is willing to spend from his $30-plus million war chest to help popularize Hochul, not to mention whatever amount Hochul can raise and spend on her own. It’s unclear how much Williams will be able to raise for his lieutenant governor campaign. The Council member did pick up another endorsement this week, from People for Bernie, a grassroots group of Bernie Sanders supporters. Williams endorsed Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, while Cuomo and Hochul were strong backers of Hillary Clinton. The Brooklyn Council member <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Max &amp; Murphy</a> that he is actively pursuing the backing of the liberal Working Families Party, which will hold its nominating convention this spring and has a contentious relationship with Cuomo after a dramatic 2014 endorsement that did not pan out as the party hoped or Cuomo promised.</p> <p>Williams said at his kickoff press conference that if he and Cuomo were a joint ticket for the general election, he would campaign with and for the governor, stating that he cannot see any Republican being a better option than Cuomo, even if he has reservations about Cuomo’s politics.</p> <p>According to SUNY New Paltz professor Gerald Benjamin, the governor’s lieutenant should ideally be treated as an appointed position and their ideological compatibility is necessary for government to function.</p> <p>“The gentleman is an ambitious person who wants to increase his visibility,” Benjamin said of Williams. “Ambition is the engine of politics, so it’s not a bad thing, but for politics to work effectively, the governor and lieutenant governor have to be aligned.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to Jumaane Williams on the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast</a>]</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39606663142_0acd7187c2_z.jpg" alt="Kathy Hochul" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>“That’s what we do in New York -- that’s what we need in our nation!” declared Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul from a church lectern Sunday, sounding not unlike her boss, Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>Hochul, whose remarks were at times drowned out by applause, was highlighting Cuomo’s progressive accomplishments -- paid family leave, equal pay provisions, and criminal justice reform -- before a congregation of elected officials, aides, and others attending the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators’ annual gathering in Albany. And, as she has done across the state in recent weeks, Hochul outlined signature planks of Cuomo’s 2018 agenda, like bail and speedy trial reforms.</p> <p>At Wilborn Temple First Church, Hochul agily made scriptural references, and like Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7430-10-burning-questions-after-cuomo-s-state-of-the-state-and-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">during his 2018 State of the State address</a>, invoked the heartbreaking story of Kalief Browder, a young man who committed suicide after being held for three years in Rikers Island jails without ever being given a trial date.<br /> <br />“A young man accused of stealing a backpack, and spends three years of his life, languishing in a jail, and finally he couldn’t take it anymore. They crushed his spirit and he took his life,” said Hochul. “If only he had had enough money for the bail, he could have been out there, perhaps on his way to a good job or career or family.”</p> <p>Despite Hochul’s warm reception, a number of black and Latino elected officials attending the conference -- including New York City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Daneek Miller, Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, and State Senator Kevin Parker -- had already declared their intentions to back her Democratic primary challenger, Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, who officially announced his bid for Lieutenant Governor at New York City Hall on Friday, February 16.</p> <p>“He is a man of integrity and he is a man who brings with him the voice of the people. I am so excited and I hope that you are as well,” said Miller, at Williams’ announcement, where Williams also announced support from other elected officials, like Council Member Brad Lander, and several community groups.</p> <p>Like Hochul, Williams also attended “Caucus Weekend” events, participating in two panels, one on criminal justice reform and another on gun violence, before traveling around the state Monday to promote his message.</p> <p>On one stop, Williams sat with a gaggle of SUNY New Paltz students and New Paltz town officials at Cafeteria, a low-key coffee shop with mural-coated walls and mismatched upholstery. Striking a decidedly different tone than Hochul, Williams lead a discussion that ranged from the flaws with the governor’s Excelsior Scholarship to the arbitrariness of how grants are awarded by New York’s Regional Economic Development Councils, a Cuomo creation that Hochul chairs.</p> <p>Aside from presiding over the state Senate and acting as gubernatorial successor, the Lieutenant Governor position is largely undefined by statute, and the 41-year-old Williams said he aspires to be “the people’s” lieutenant governor, using the position as a “megaphone” to pressure the governor to deliver on his promises to progressives.</p> <p>“I hope to use the bully pulpit,” said Williams, adding that he is willing to support and work with the governor on things they are aligned on. “I don’t want to be opposition for its own sake.”</p> <p>Of Cuomo’s 2018 agenda, WillIams said, “A lot of it sounds good, but a lot of it is mirrors. You talk about ‘Raise the Age,’ which is awesome, but you don’t actually have the funding for the city to get it accomplished,” he said, referring to the criminal justice reform measure passed last year and the lack of funding for implementation in the governor’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.</p> <p>"I haven't seen sincere leadership on a whole host of issues,” Williams said <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on a recent episode of the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, discussing the rationale for his campaign and why he is taking on Hochul and Cuomo. “Somebody needs to say 'the emperor has no clothes,'" he explained of his plans for the position and what’s lacking now.</p> <p>A child of Brooklyn public schools, Williams overcame ADHD and Tourette's Syndrome to become a rising star in the City Council. In the city, he has made a name for himself as as both an effective councilman and activist, leading protests and passing legislation on criminal justice reform and becoming a fierce advocate for housing affordability. Now the councilman must flesh out his platform to appeal to voters around the state.</p> <p>“The learning curve is not as steep as I thought I would be,” Williams said in New Paltz of his exploration of upstate concerns. “The reason we did listening tours is to make sure that we were on the right trajectory, and we learned quickly that we are, so now it’s about being fine-tuned, making sure we are covering all of the local issues.”</p> <p>He has noted that upstate farmers, many of whom employ undocumented immigrants, are concerned about the federal immigration crackdown, and that housing issues, similarly, transcend regional divides.</p> <p>While Williams has spoken to three potential Democratic gubernatorial contenders -- actress and advocate Cynthia Nixon, former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, and former state Senator Terry Gipson -- he says he is running independently and would stay independent from the governor, whomever it is. Gibson is the only Democrat currently campaigning against Cuomo for the nomination.</p> <p>New Yorkers vote for lieutenant governor as a standalone position during the party primaries, but for the general, the lieutenant governor nominee shares a ticket with the gubernatorial nominee of the same party. The position does come with more than $600,000 in budget funds, typically spent on causes assigned by the governor -- an allowance that could potentially get cut during the following budget cycle for a lieutenant governor that does not fall in line with the executive’s agenda.</p> <p>Hochul, who has not officially launched her reelection campaign, was Cuomo’s lieutenant governor running mate in 2014, when he was seeking a second term but his first-term running mate, Robert Duffy, decided against running again. Hochul also has a compelling life story, having lived in a trailer home as a child, becoming Erie County’s longtime county clerk, and eventually rising to serve a brief stint in Congress. Despite being a Democrat, Hochul won a 2011 special election for the 26th Congressional District, one of the most Republican districts in the state. Her loss in the general election a year later was chalked up to her vote in favor of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a progressive stance she touted in her remarks Sunday.</p> <p>In 2014, still largely unknown to most of the state, she ran a tight race against Tim Wu, a progressive Columbia Law School professor who made a name for himself coining “net neutrality,” running with Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo’s gubernatorial challenger in the primary. Though Hochul beat Wu, 60 percent to 40 percent, Wu performed better than his running mate on a miniscule budget for a statewide race.</p> <p>But after four years of diligently representing the governor at events across the state, Hochul is going to be tough to unseat, in part given the female-heavy electorate in New York State, according to Bruce Gyory, a political consultant.</p> <p>“Hochul was out there defending Planned Parenthood day and night during the assault. She has a strong profile on Planned Parenthood and on gay rights,” said Gyory, noting that Williams’ previous statements on marriage equality and abortion are likely to haunt him as he tries to scoop up the more progressive Democratic base. "Given how female the electorate is -- you have to wonder if an electorate which is just shy of 60 percent is going to dump their female lieutenant governor."</p> <p>At the New Paltz cafe, Williams tried to preempt the criticisms, which may have hurt him during his two bids for City Council speaker, which he most recently lost to Council Member Corey Johnson, who is openly gay.</p> <p>The son of Grenadian immigrants, Williams has referred to his religious upbringing and spirituality for the confusion about his positions on the hot-button issues.</p> <p>“There are two issues that they are going to try to attack me with that are just plain wrong,” he said. “I'm very proud of my religious and spiritual background, it’s what guides the justice work that I do. But they always confuse my position on marriage equality and [access] to legal abortion.”</p> <p>Previous attempts to demure on the topics, urging people to look at his legislative record which includes votes to protect women’s health access, have backfired, and past comments have proven hard to shake.</p> <p>Now Williams is trying to get ahead of the narrative. "I want to see that Roe vs. Wade is codified. Unlike the governor, I don't just talk about it, I want to see it happen, in case the ‘orange man’ does his thing," he told his New Paltz audience, referring to Cuomo’s failed efforts to push abortion protections through the Republican-controlled state Senate and to President Donald Trump. In his short lieutenant governor campaign thus far, which included a month-long exploratory phase, Williams has repeatedly <a href="https://www.wqxr.org/story/january-25-2018-jumaane-williams/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">faced questions</a> on the two issues, as well as slightly couched <a href="https://www.wqxr.org/story/january-16-2018-melissa-derosa/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">criticism from Melissa DeRosa</a>, Cuomo’s top governmental aide. DeRosa and Hochul have been out front promoting the Cuomo administration's "2018 Women's Agenda for New York," <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-unveils-2018-womens-agenda-new-york-equal-rights-equal-opportunity" target="_blank" rel="noopener">released in January</a>.</p> <p>Williams has recently demonstrated his commitment to women’s health by introducing legislation barring employment discrimination based on reproductive decisions. Other issues he hopes to bring attention to through his candidacy, and potential platform, are education funding, transportation, and gun control.</p> <p>Hochul, too, will have to answer for previous positions she has taken on immigration and gun control, which again, due to recent tragedies, has become the focus of media attention. As county clerk, she opposed the issuing of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and in Congress voted in favor of National Rifle Association-backed legislation.</p> <p>Jeff Lewis, Hochul’s chief of staff, said the lieutenant governor’s views have evolved on both issues, noting that the climate surrounding the debate has changed considerably in recent years. He pointed out that fellow Upstate Democrats, like former Senator Hillary Clinton and current Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, at one time took similarly conservative stances.</p> <p>Hochul did support the New York SAFE Act, gun control legislation championed and signed by Cuomo, and according to Lewis, regrets voting for the 2011 National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act, federal legislation that would allow people with concealed carry permits to carry their guns into other states that don’t allow concealed weapons. “Her exposure to gun violence was very different than when she became a statewide elected official,” said Lewis, noting the increase in large-scale massacres in the United States in recent years.</p> <p>While she was speaking in her elected, not campaign, capacity, Hochul touched on the shootings during her remarks in Albany on Sunday.</p> <p>“In today’s day we still bury children in high school because nobody else has the courage to do what we have done here in the state of New York and that is to ban those weapons of lethal destruction,” she said. “Please God let our leaders in Washington here those cries.”</p> <p>Williams, a leading figure in New York City on gun violence prevention, says he gives the governor’s administration credit for passage of the SAFE Act, which may have contributed to an 18 percent decline in shootings in the state, but said it doesn’t go far enough.</p> <p>“Resting on the laurels of the SAFE Act in the face of a full-on assault, is not a good idea. Every time it’s brought up, you deserve some credit, but what have you done since then?” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Williams said on the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast</a>. “I always want to make sure we parse out, when it comes to gun violence, supply and demand...I don’t think what is coming out of the governor’s mansion goes nearly as far on the demand side across the state."</p> <p>To reduce “demand” for guns, Williams, who co-chairs the Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, has taken a holistic approach to gun violence prevention, utilizing government, law enforcement, and community leaders on the ground. He has even looked national with his launch of the National Network to Combat Gun Violence, local elected officials from around the country dedicated to ending gun violence in their communities.</p> <p>Williams says that if elected, he will model the role after that of New York City’s public advocate, which also acts as the mayor’s successor and fill-in, but is expected to hold the mayor accountable. Historically, lieutenant governors have acted as compliant surrogates for the governor, championing the executive’s agenda, and focusing their energies on causes selected by the governor.</p> <p>However, there have been cases where the second-in-command crafted his or her own messaging or operated counter to the administration in other ways.</p> <p>Mary Anne Krupsak, who was lieutenant governor under Governor Hugh Carey, was frustrated that she was not given enough to do in her role. When Carey ran for his second term in 1978, she withdrew from the ticket, ran for governor herself against Carey, and lost.</p> <p>In 1982, New York City Mayor Ed Koch lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Mario Cuomo, but Koch’s running mate, Alfred DelBello, won the lieutenant governor seat, resulting in an awkward match that lasted just one term.</p> <p>Betsy McCaughey Ross, a conservative policy wonk and New York Post columnist who went on to work for President Donald Trump, flouted expectations with her outspokenness during her short tenure as lieutenant governor to former Republican Governor George Pataki, between 1995 and 1998. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1997/04/18/nyregion/pataki-removing-mccaughey-ross-from-1998-ticket.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Pataki announced</a> he would not select her as his running mate the following year with a stern rebuke.</p> <p>''Unfortunately, you have demonstrated through your decisions that you do not share my vision for the state,'' he wrote. Recounting his record on various issues, Pataki added, ''Your unwillingness and, in fact, outright refusal to work as part of our united team to build on these historic achievements has been disappointing.''</p> <p>Lewis, Hochul’s chief of staff, continues to dismiss Williams' run as a "political stunt." While he acknowledges that Hochul is running, Lewis said she is currently focused her elected duties, such as delivering an on-time state budget.</p> <p>When asked if Hochul has ever spoken or acted independently of Cuomo, Lewis said, "I don't think she's had to take any actions thus far, because the governor's been on the right side of every issue."</p> <p>If Williams is able to win the nomination he would likely do so on the strength of a New York City voting base and despite whatever funds Cuomo is willing to spend from his $30-plus million war chest to help popularize Hochul, not to mention whatever amount Hochul can raise and spend on her own. It’s unclear how much Williams will be able to raise for his lieutenant governor campaign. The Council member did pick up another endorsement this week, from People for Bernie, a grassroots group of Bernie Sanders supporters. Williams endorsed Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, while Cuomo and Hochul were strong backers of Hillary Clinton. The Brooklyn Council member <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Max &amp; Murphy</a> that he is actively pursuing the backing of the liberal Working Families Party, which will hold its nominating convention this spring and has a contentious relationship with Cuomo after a dramatic 2014 endorsement that did not pan out as the party hoped or Cuomo promised.</p> <p>Williams said at his kickoff press conference that if he and Cuomo were a joint ticket for the general election, he would campaign with and for the governor, stating that he cannot see any Republican being a better option than Cuomo, even if he has reservations about Cuomo’s politics.</p> <p>According to SUNY New Paltz professor Gerald Benjamin, the governor’s lieutenant should ideally be treated as an appointed position and their ideological compatibility is necessary for government to function.</p> <p>“The gentleman is an ambitious person who wants to increase his visibility,” Benjamin said of Williams. “Ambition is the engine of politics, so it’s not a bad thing, but for politics to work effectively, the governor and lieutenant governor have to be aligned.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7490-max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to Jumaane Williams on the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast</a>]</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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