WFP Leans Away From Cuomo
More than 100 state committee members of the Working Families Party participated in a hastily organized conference call last night to discuss the possibility of not endorsing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid this fall.
The call comes on the heels of a private meeting Monday between Cuomo and representatives of influential top labor unions affiliated with the WFP, including 32BJ, HTC, SEIU 1199 and CWA.
But unlike in New York City, where endorsement decisions are made during a weighted party vote that gives more power to influential unions, the WFP’s process in statewide races is far more small-d democratic and rank-and-file driven.
And the rank-and-file is decidedly unhappy with the direction in which Cuomo has been going since he took office in 2011 after winning the 2010 election with WFP support.
“The governor doesn’t have an idea of what kind of problem he’s got on the WFP state committee,” said David Schwartz, a state committee member form Westchester who participated in last night’s call.
“There’s a very high level of frustration over the inaction on public financing, tax cuts that gut our schools, policies that take money away from working families. No one seems to trust him on fracking.”
“It’s a long way to May 31 when we have our convention, but I go away from tonight’s call sensing that unless Governor Cuomo is able to deliver something – and I mean something real – for progressives, I’d be very surprised if the state committee would vote to put him on the line.”
A lot has changed between now and 2010, when WFP leaders felt they had little choice but to agree to Cuomo’s conditions for his acceptance of their endorsement.
The labor-backed party is experiencing a resurgence, thanks to the long-shot win of its long-time ally, Bill de Blasio, in the New York City mayor’s race last year.
And so-called “progressive” issues – particularly the widening rift between the country’s haves and have-nots – is increasingly a topic of discussion among top Democrats, from President Obama on down.
But Cuomo has deliberately staked out territory as a centrist, pushing fairly conservative fiscal policies that the left feels benefits the rich at the expense of middle class and low-income New Yorkers.
He has offset this approach with victories on social issues like same-sex marriage and gun control, but that doesn’t appear to be enough to appease the liberal wing of his party.
Absent a complete turnaround by Cuomo on tax policy, which doesn’t seem at all likely as budget negotiations come down to the wire, inclusion in the final deal of a “robust” campaign finance reform package – with “real” public financing – would be a “game changer” for the governor in the WFP’s eyes, Schwartz said.
But the likelihood of that kind of deal appears to be fading. Cuomo did include public campaign financing in his budget proposal, infusing advocates with hope, but the Senate Republicans remain opposed to the idea, and the governor doesn’t seem willing to go to the mat for it.
Reform advocates aren’t willing to accept half a loaf – a constitutional amendment or a pilot project that includes public financing for just one region or one office (like the state comptroller) – nor are they buying Cuomo’s indication that the lack of movement is all the Senate Republicans’ fault.
The idea of running someone other than Cuomo this fall was first broached in earnest back in February during a meeting of WFP affiliates held outside Albany last month. At the time, WFP national director Dan Cantor’s name was floated as a potential candidate for governor.
Several labor insiders have also suggested actress and education activist Cynthia Nixon – a prominent supporter of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio – might also be a contender. But Nixon shot down the idea during a CapTon interview this week (she was in Albany advocating for more public education funding).
A lot is riding on who the WFP ultimately decides to endorse. The party’s very existence could be at stake if its gubernatorial candidate fails to win 50,000 votes – the threshold necessary for any party to maintain ballot status.
But WFP leaders are confident that they could put up a candidate capable of hitting the 50,000 mark.
A recent poll commissioned by Democratic activist Bill Samuels seems to back that premise up. Samuels, who has been agitating on Cuomo’s left for some time now, may very well run himself.
According to Schwartz, there’s a real hunger among WFP members to stand up to Cuomo – absent any significant policy changes, that is – and back an independent candidate, even though that would be a big departure, and a big risk, for the party.
“What I heard tonight over and over again is that we need to be true to who we are,” Schwartz said.
“We’re going to continue to be a strong voice in New York politics, and we can’t send a message that we’re going to do knee jerk endorsements. We need to stand up on our issues; we’re a party of issues.”
The defection of the WFP could pose a problem for Cuomo, draining votes away from his final tally at a time when he’s hoping to come out of this election with a strong showing he could tout nationally if he decides to run for president. Unhappiness on the left would also not bode well for the governor’s chances in a Democratic presidential primary.
Cuomo is also under pressure from Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, whom the governor pushed from the state Democratic Party chairmanship, not to accept the state Independence Party line this year.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has already heeded Jacobs’ call to reject the Indy line, but Cuomo has remained mum.
It’s possible that Cuomo might try to replace the WFP line by reviving the all but defunct Liberal Party, which lost its ballot line when Cuomo dropped out of the 2002 governor’s race too late to remove his name from the ballot and failed to his the 50,000-vote mark.
Democrat-turned-Republican John Catsimatidis, a big Cuomo donor and fundraiser, ran on the Liberal Party line during his failed NYC mayoral bid last year. He has pledged to bankroll the party’s petition gathering effort on Cuomo’s behalf
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on March 26, 2014 at 8:22 am, and is filed under 2014. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|