Gotham Gazette Fri, 07 Aug 2020 09:57:28 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Nixon Says 'Narrow Path' to Victory Paved with Newly-Registered Progressives Polls ‘Not Capturing’ cn progressives

(photo: @CynthiaNixon)

As she attempts an insurgent challenge against a two-term Democratic governor with broad establishment support and deep campaign coffers, actor and activist Cynthia Nixon believes her path to victory, admittedly a “narrow” one, lies among new voters, the mostly progressive and informed New Yorkers who have registered with the Democratic Party in the last four years. The new pool of voters is massive, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, but the question is how many will come out to vote on September 13, a Thursday, and for Nixon at that.

“If you look at four years ago when Zephyr Teachout ran [in the Democratic primary for governor], she got 34 percent of the vote, despite the fact that a lot of people had never heard of her, a lot of people didn’t even know she was running, she couldn’t get on TV until the last two weeks,” Nixon said at a gubernatorial forum in Sunset Park last week, which her opponent, Governor Andrew Cuomo, declined to attend.

In certain ways, Nixon could’ve been talking about her own swing-for-the-fences run that parallels Teachout’s 2014 challenge to Cuomo. Both candidates ran with no prior government experience and from the governor’s left, pushing him to adopt more progressive positions. (Teachout was Nixon’s campaign treasurer earlier this year until she launched her own campaign for the Democratic nomination for attorney general. They have endorsed each other.)

[Read: At Brooklyn Forum, Nixon Pitches Policy, Criticizes Cuomo and Distances from De Blasio]

“The people who turn out in a Democratic primary in an off-presidential year are the most informed and the most left-leaning voters,” Nixon continued at the forum. “To be informed about Andrew Cuomo, I believe, is to want to change.”

New York is indeed a low turnout state, if not a low registration one, and in local and state elections participation is often anaemic. Only 574,350 Democratic voters cast a ballot in the 2014 primary for governor -- 192,210 for Teachout and 361,380 for Cuomo, and the rest for Randy Credico, a radio host, comedian, and perennial protest candidate -- even though, prior to the primary, there were 5,873,844 registered Democrats statewide (as of April 1, 2014). By the November general election, in fact, there were 34,585 fewer registered Democrats but Cuomo and his running mate, now-Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, would go on to win by more than 2 million votes.

Two years later, the presidential primary election between former former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders shook the Democratic base and also motivated independent voters to turnout -- though many were disappointed when they showed up to the polls and ran up against New York’s closed primary system which only allows a party’s registered voters to cast a ballot or were stymied by New York’s rules around changing party registration a year in advance of a primary.

As of April 1, 2016, barely three weeks before the Democratic presidential primary, there were 5,792,497 registered Democrats across the state, lower than in previous years. By November 1, that number jumped to 6,179,734, an increase of 387,237 Democratic voters in just seven months. By April of this year, the number of registered Democrats has increased again, to 6,201,033, of which 3,401,637 are in New York City alone (NY1’s Zack Fink first crunched some of these numbers).

Between April 2016 and April 2018, 330,478 new Democrats registered in the city. Some portion of them, it is believed, changed party registration from unaffiliated in an attempt to vote in the presidential primary, but did so too late for that election.

It’s on those new Democratic voters -- more than 408,000 of them since the last gubernatorial race -- that Nixon is pinning her hopes of victory. “I think what the polls are really not capturing is that, both inspired by Bernie Sanders and horrified by Donald Trump,” hundreds of thousands of Democrats have registered to vote in New York in the last two years, Nixon said. “And I would argue that the vast majority of those are progressive voters.”

But according to an actual pollster, public polling doesn’t back Nixon’s claim, though the election will likely depend on turnout, which is tough to predict, said Siena College’s Steven Greenberg in a phone interview. In a July 31 Siena College poll, the latest in the governor’s race, Cuomo received 60 percent of the vote from likely Democratic primary voters, compared to Nixon’s 29 percent, with the rest undecided.

“I don’t believe it’s true,” that polls aren’t capturing progressive voters, Greenberg said. He noted that eight out of nine registered Democrats didn’t vote in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary, though he assumed turnout may be higher this year.

“We certainly talk to new voters,” he added, insisting that Siena had polled Democratic voters who had registered as recently as June. The polling methodology also accounts for voting history to determine who will be a likely primary voter, he said. “We think we’re talking to those new voters in an appropriate way.”

Though Nixon believes the progressive groundswell in the wake of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign will continue to show in this year’s election, Greenberg said that notion doesn’t match up with the past. “We have seen historically that a lot of new voters register to vote in the presidential primary but don’t continue to vote after that,” he said.

And perhaps most daunting for Nixon, Greenberg pointed out, was the fact that voters who identified as liberals in Siena’s July poll overwhelmingly chose Cuomo, who beat Nixon 57-35 in that category (Nixon’s campaign has said that far left voters now identify as “progressive,” which was not an option in the poll, not liberal). Even among younger voters, below the age of 35, Cuomo won by double digits. “Andrew Cuomo has a problem with liberal and progressive leadership,” Greenberg said. “He doesn’t have a problem with rank and file liberals and progressives. They like him and they support him.”

The Cuomo campaign did not provide comment for this article.

“Nixon can make an argument, and it’s a legitimate argument, that Cuomo’s been dragged kicking and screaming to take liberal positions,” he continued. “But the voters don’t know that.”

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Nixon Says 'Narrow Path' to Victory Paved with Newly-Registered Progressives Polls ‘Not Capturing’ Tue, 28 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000
What New York Voters Care About Ahead of State Elections govcuomo rochester

(photo via the Governor's office)

The latest statewide poll from Quinnipiac University shows New York voters’ preferences in the races for governor, attorney general, and others. But it also divulges the issues that New Yorkers say are most important to them in the run-up to the September primary and November general elections.

One question asked what issue voters prioritize most in their vote for governor, with a short list of issues provided to those being polled, as opposed to it being an open-ended question. With 23 percent of those polled, the economy was the number one choice of New York voters, followed by government corruption and health care at 19 percent each, taxes and education at 15 percent, abortion at 4 percent, “don’t know” at 3 percent, and “something else” at 2 percent. Issues like the environment, transportation, affordable housing, and criminal justice were not provided as options, though all are prominent in the public discourse and the gubernatorial campaign.

Among Democrats, health care stood as the most highly prioritized issue of the choices, at 26 percent, with education and the economy at 21 percent each. For Republicans, taxes and the economy co-led at 24 percent; for independent voters, the economy led at 26 percent and government corruption was at 22 percent. Younger respondents were more likely to prioritize the economy than older voters, who were more likely to prioritize health care or government corruption. The poll was taken as federal corruption convictions continued to roll in among former top state lawmakers and former top aides to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Though transit was not provided as an option in this most recent poll, a February Quinnipiac poll found that just 29 percent of respondents approved of Cuomo’s handling of the MTA, which runs the subways and buses and is largely controlled by the governor, versus 49 percent who disapproved and 22 percent who were unsure. Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent, has made the MTA a major focus of her campaign, accusing the governor of negligence and mismanagement.

The percentage of respondents to the July poll who believe government corruption is a very serious or somewhat serious problem is largely unchanged from February, despite the convictions of four high profile government officials, including two with close ties to Cuomo: Joe Percoco, Alain Kaloyeros, Sheldon Silver, and Dean Skelos. In February, 83 percent of respondents said government corruption was a very serious or somewhat serious problem in New York, while in July 85 percent said the same. Among people ages 18-34, there was a drop: 54 percent said government corruption was a very serious problem in February while only 36 percent said so in July. It’s unclear what could account for this.

In February, 47 percent of respondents told Quinnipiac that all current elected office holders in New York State need to be voted out if political corruption is to be addressed, versus 38 percent who said the current crop are capable of addressing the problem. Forty-nine percent called Governor Cuomo “part of the problem.”

The issues of this year’s race diverge somewhat from the issues that defined the 2014 election cycle. A major issue in 2014 that had largely been out of the discussion this year is fracking, with a July 2014 Siena poll showing sharply divided opinion on the process. Cuomo signed an executive order banning fracking in New York State in December 2014, after winning reelection. This year, environmental activists and some candidates are calling for the banning of all fracking-related infrastructure, often meaning piping that moves fracked gas into or through New York from elsewhere, while Republican nominee Marc Molinaro is saying he would undo Cuomo’s order and allow a pilot fracking program in the Southern Tier of New York.

Government corruption, on the other hand, is similarly in focus this year as it was in 2014. That year, Cuomo disbanded the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, after its investigators reportedly began to probe prominent Cuomo donors and practices by legislators, and a package of ethics reforms were included in the enacted state budget as part of a deal to shutter the commission prematurely. Some, including former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, accused Cuomo of having disbanded the commission after it began looking into him and his administration’s dealings.

According to an August 2014 NBC/WSJ/Marist poll, 62 percent of New York voters felt Cuomo should not have intervened in the commission, with 52 percent of respondents claiming that the governor’s office had acted unethically, though only 23 percent of respondents said that the Moreland Commission scandal was a “major factor” in their vote choice in November.

Nixon has promised to open a new Moreland Commission on Public Corruption if she’s elected governor, while Molinaro has outlined a slate of government ethics reforms. Molinaro has made corruption in state government, especially in the Cuomo orbit, a major focus of his campaign so far. Nixon -- whose election against Cuomo is September 13, while Molinaro awaits the winner for the general election, along with other, smaller-party candidates -- has unveiled several policy packages, including on education, criminal justice reform, and housing. Molinaro has pledged more policy agenda items in the coming weeks and months, including a major plan to overhaul the state’s property tax system.

For his part, Cuomo has staked his pitch for a third term on his accomplishments from terms one and two, as well as a wish-list consisting of progressive priorities that have not passed the state Legislature. Cuomo largely boasts of accomplishing marriage equality, a major gun control law, a paid family leave program, and a significant minimum wage hike, as well as some criminal justice reforms and massive state investments into infrastructure. He’s said other items will pass next term if he’s returned to the executive chamber and Democrats can swing the state Senate (they already control the Assembly by a wide margin), such as voting, campaign finance and bail reforms, among others.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

What New York Voters Care About Ahead of State Elections Thu, 26 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Where's The Polling In The Mayoral Race? albanese campaigning eisenbach kid

Sal Albanese, middle, campaigning (photo: @SalAlbaneseNYC)

The second of two Democratic mayoral primary debates is set for Wednesday, but leading public opinion pollsters have yet to study the full Democratic primary field or take stock of the competition between Mayor Bill de Blasio and his lone debate opponent, challenger Sal Albanese. The lack of polling makes it harder to gauge how Albanese and the three other Democratic challengers to de Blasio may fair come September 12, or how de Blasio’s approval rating has changed in the last month.

De Blasio is considered a heavy favorite in both the primary and the general election, during which he is expected to face presumptive Republican nominee Nicole Malliotakis, independent Bo Dietl, and others, including Albanese, who has the Reform Party line.

Albanese, a former City Council member, will again be the only other Democratic candidate on the debate stage on Wednesday, with the three other Democrats -- Robert Gangi, Michael Tolkin, and Richard Bashner -- having failed to qualify or be invited by the debate sponsors. But it’s unclear if Albanese’s relatively low-budget campaign has closed the gap with the mayor’s massively funded one or if recent news cycles have affected the mayor’s numbers.

The latest Quinnipiac poll was released July 31, and saw de Blasio’s job approval rating slip to 50 percent, against a 42 percent disapproval. A May 17 poll had him at 60 - 34 percent. Voters were split 46-46 percent on whether the mayor deserved to be reelected, but in a matchup against Malliotakis, de Blasio won handily with 52 percent of the vote against Malliotakis’ 15 percent. Dietl pulled 11 percent of the vote in the poll. None of the other candidates in the Democratic primary were included, a choice Albanese has been critical of.

Quinnipiac's lead pollster, Mickey Carroll, has been impossible to reach over the course of two weeks. Spokesperson Patrick Smith declined to discuss its polling schedule. “Savvy campaigns, if they expect a poll coming, they create buzz around the release,” Smith told Gotham Gazette. “Generally, the day before a poll is released, we inform the media.”

Smith did say that Quinnipiac would be polling the mayoral race, but would not say if a poll would be released prior to the primary or Wednesday’s debate. “We poll when we wanna poll, when we think we can poll,” he said. Carroll has indicated to reporters that Quinnipiac polls candidates in part based on media attention they received, to which candidates and others can quickly identify a catch-22.

The Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducts the Marist Poll, has not conducted any polls in the mayoral race so far. Nicolette Strano, administrative coordinator of the Marist Poll, indicated that they would not release a poll before the primary. “We will be polling on the mayor’s race, but it won’t be soon,” she said. “Maybe in a month.”

A NY1-Baruch College poll released July 27 included de Blasio, Malliotakis, Dietl and Albanese. De Blasio was the favorite with 43.3 percent and Albanese received 3.9 percent.

A lot has happened since the aforementioned polls. Albanese’s campaign has stepped up its fundraising, and spending, with a slew of digital ads targeting de Blasio’s record. De Blasio’s campaign also recently made a $2 million ad buy, rolled out on Friday with a 30-second television ad focused on the mayor’s universal pre-kindergarten program.

On August 23, De Blasio and Albanese faced off in the first primary debate sponsored by the city Campaign Finance Board and partners. The mayor comfortably touted his record over the course of 90 minutes, with a few moments of vulnerability, particularly over the pay-to-play scandals that plagued his administration. Albanese was continuously on the offensive, armed with numerous zingers, but struggled to articulate concrete policy proposals at key points in the debate.

[Read: 5 Key Moments from the First Democratic Mayoral Primary Debate]

While de Blasio was defensive throughout the debate, he did not make any major error, at least in some part helping to cement his status as the favorite. Still, Albanese surely managed to build his profile with voters, given the debate and the media coverage of it. But to what degree Albanese impressed voters remains unknown since the two leading polling institutes did not assess voter sentiment after the debate.

In the 2013 mayoral race, with a crowded field of prominent Democratic candidates, Quinnipiac conducted four polls in August and September before the primary election. One explanation, perhaps, is that the 2013 Campaign Finance Board debate criteria specified polling averages that candidates needed to meet to qualify, unlike this year when polling averages were not included.

Albanese, who is the only other Democrat besides de Blasio to qualify for both debates this year, said he was “mystified and suspicious that there haven’t been polls because I think this race is closer than is being reported.” He said he was dubious of media reports that indicate de Blasio is coasting to reelection, a narrative that benefits de Blasio. “How do we know that? There hasn’t been a poll in six or seven weeks,” he said, particularly exasperated that there wasn’t a poll after the first debate. Albanese has indicated that he thinks he would be into double digits if a poll was conducted.

Another sign Albanese sees that his campaign is catching up: de Blasio’s campaign has not yet released any internal tracking polls. ”When campaigns have internal polls, they leak it to the press. No one is leaking anything, which my antenna tells me this is a close race,” Albanese said.

Albanese’s campaign itself has not conducted any tracking polls, having already spent almost all its campaign funds. “We can’t afford it,” he said.

De Blasio campaign spokesperson Dan Levitan refused to comment on internal research. “I don't know when Marist and Quinnipiac are planning to poll again,” he emailed.

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Where's The Polling In The Mayoral Race? Mon, 04 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The Mayor's Media Blitz de blasio media parade col day

The mayor & the media (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Have you heard Mayor de Blasio's voice lately? He's been trying harder to ensure you have, sharply increasing the frequency with which he makes extended appearances on television and radio, and holding events to interact directly with New Yorkers.

Instead of New Yorkers only hearing and seeing quick clips of the mayor on networks covering his press conferences, de Blasio has pursued greater control over his message, making many more broadcast appearances. The push is indicative of a mayor seeking to correct a public perception problem, lift slumping poll numbers, reconnect with his base, and woo more allies.

In September, for example, the mayor averaged about one TV or radio interview per day. In July and August, the mayor averaged just one TV or radio interview per week. Going back to June, it was about two per week - more frequent than during the typically slower summer months that included a family vacation, but less often than recently.

The uptick began in late August after worrisome public opinion polls and de Blasio criticizing media coverage of his administration. The trend then took hold in September as the mayor seized on Pope Francis' visit to New York and the start of a new school year.

The effort to be on the airwaves more is "clearly part of a concerted effort," says Democratic political strategist Alexis Grenell. "It allows him to connect with the electorate, which is good for him and good for the public. Arguably, he should be doing more."

Not coincidentally, the mayor's media blitz has also coincided with an increase in planned in-person interactions with the public: de Blasio did pre-K canvassing, spoke about his housing plans at a church, and held a parents' night at a school, all in Brooklyn; he hosted his first town hall meeting, also focused on housing, on Wednesday evening in Washington Heights.

"It's about time," said Dr. Christina Greer, a Fordham political science professor. Greer thinks that although a bit late into his term, it was smart for de Blasio to do the initial town hall and that it is key for him to be on the airwaves more. "He needs to control the narrative, and you need to give yourself the opportunities to do so. If you don't leave City Hall, the media can craft the narrative more. If you get on the airwaves, you can deliver the message...if you go to the people, they hear it directly from you," Greer says.

With information provided by the mayor's office and gleaned from press advisories, Gotham Gazette counted 13 appearances by de Blasio on radio and TV over 79 days from June 1 through August 18. In the following 55 days, de Blasio made 36 such appearances, beginning with a 40-minute interview on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show on August 19.

Asked about the sizeable increase in broadcast interviews, Karen Hinton, the mayor's press secretary, emailed Gotham Gazette to say, "Whether it's walking through a neighborhood - something the Mayor often does spontaneously - or taking questions from the public during a radio show or a Town Hall, Mayor de Blasio is always looking for new ways to communicate with New Yorkers so he can learn more about their problems and find solutions."

Even frequent de Blasio critics see progress. Republican political strategist Jessica Proud told Gotham Gazette that she sees a different, and welcome, approach by the mayor and that she suspects Hinton has been a key force behind it. Proud, who helped run the campaign of de Blasio's general election opponent, Joe Lhota, said the mayor still has a long way to go, but it is positive for all involved if he is on the airwaves more and doing town halls.

"I see a little bit of progress, yes, but he will need a more aggressive pace if he wants to dispel that rap on him," Proud said of the impression that the mayor has been in his own progressive bubble. She said that the mayor and his team have been too siloed, and even as they branch out, they must continue to do more appearances in places like Staten Island, and that the mayor should appear on a broader diversity of radio and TV programs.

"Going on The Brian Lehrer Show, that's right in line with his base and his audience," Proud said, referring to the popular political talk show that appears to be de Blasio's favorite on-air venue. "The media and the public would relish the chance to have more in-depth conversations with him" on a wide variety of topics, she said.

Evan Siegfried, also a Republican strategist, says that more on-air hits are a good thing for any politician, but that de Blasio needs more accomplishments to boast, which comes down to his policies.

Polls show that the mayor must improve voters' perception of him and the direction of the city under his leadership. It's not clear whether New Yorkers are worried about de Blasio's openness to ideas that don't fit his typical focus on inequality and progressivism as he defines it. Proud argued, though, that "there are a lot of city opinion leaders, civic leaders that do matter - their perception of you has a ripple effect."

Grenell, Greer, and Proud all agree that more public exposure is smart for de Blasio in particular because he's actually good at delivering his message. "Some people aren't their own best messengers and need other people to articulate their vision," Greer says, "but [de Blasio] is not that person, he's actually the best person to explain his ideas, he's very good at it."

Grenell thinks similarly: "When you listen to the mayor on the radio, he excels, it is only good for him."

In short, being on the airwaves more, holding more public events to interact with New Yorkers is both good government and good politics.

Still, within de Blasio's media hits lies an ongoing problem for the mayor: his presence on the national stage and the perception that he is not as focused on city governance as he should be.

A handful of the mayor's recent TV appearances have been on national programs, like ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, but that has been a trend for the mayor. The real increase in de Blasio's media presence has been on local radio, with more appearances on WNYC as well as 1010 Wins, Hot 97, and AM 970 The Answer.

While he has mostly feuded with The New York Post, de Blasio has been critical of the media in general, though less so since August, when he expressed concerns with press focus on topics he finds less appropriate than policy points of his agenda.

One way to get around displeasing newspaper coverage is to do fewer press conferences and make more interview appearances over the airwaves. Even if somewhat filtered by the radio or TV host, live appearances offer direct channels to those who tune in.

"I'm baffled by why he and his handlers haven't done this more," Dr. Greer said, "because when he talks to the voters, he resonates. When he talks about New York City he makes you feel like no one wants to fight for New York City more than him."

Greer asserts that de Blasio's favorability will rise "if he does a sustained effort at TV and radio." Similar to Proud, Siegfried said "de Blasio should also be willing to sit down with adversarial media outlets for interviews. It would demonstrate he is not afraid to talk to people that might not laud him with praise."

Greer also said de Blasio should appear on a wide variety of outlets, though she didn't necessarily say they should be "adversarial."

"Hearing him on a station that's not say, NPR, it gives him access to people are who are not necessarily paying attention to the political scene throughout," Greer said, citing what she called a strong appearance on Hot 97.

It's a novel approach aimed at correcting course as de Blasio nears the halfway point of his term: more broadcast interviews, town hall-style events, and even attempting to mend fences with his predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

While the mayor is not shying away from his progressive brand of politics and battle with inequality, he and his team are perhaps recognizing a need to change the narrative and do some things differently in order to capture more good will and public approval.

To date, October hasn't shown the pace of radio and TV appearances de Blasio struck last month, when he was not only tying his agenda to the Pope's visit and promoting his pre-kindergarten program, but also addressing the NYPD's mishandling of former tennis star James Blake and sparring with Governor Cuomo over MTA funding.

When de Blasio returns from a weekend trip to Israel, he'll give indication of whether he intends to resume the more frequent pace of media appearances some say is essential to his potential success.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

The Mayor's Media Blitz Fri, 16 Oct 2015 02:35:56 +0000