Cuomo’s Allies Reach Out To WFP
From the morning memo:
Allies of Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke extensively to about 100 members of the labor-backed Working Families Party in a conference call last night, insisting to them that the Democratic incumbent supports a liberal platform in the upcoming campaign and would support ending Republican control of the state Senate.
But at the same time, the Cuomo emissaries told the WFP members the party would have to grant the governor its ballot line or risk being shut out of having an impact on the agenda, according to a source familiar with the conference call.
The call signals a growing effort by Cuomo and his allies to repair a frayed relationship with labor organizations and liberal advocacy groups that remain skeptical of assurances he can deliver on key issues such as the public financing of political campaigns.
Making the case for Cuomo to the WFP was 1199 SEIU political director Kevin Finnegan and Assemblyman Keith Wright, acting in his capacity as chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Both Wright and Finnegan told the WFP committee that endorsing the governor and granting him the ballot line would allow them to build a liberal platform with Cuomo this year.
Finnegan warned that the WFP “loses leverage” if it backs a candidate for governor other than Cuomo.
Nevertheless, Finnegan in the call downplayed expectations Cuomo would be able to achieve any sort of broad public financing system this legislative session, saying that whatever is agreed to likely won’t be “good enough.”
But the concern for the WFP, in part, is that an early endorsement of Cuomo would have the exact opposition effect: The governor gets the line, backs a progressive platform and then moves on to other issues in 2015.
The party is continuing to hold out hope for public financing to be accomplished by the end of the legislative session, due to conclude in June.
The concern for the WFP hasn’t necessarily been Cuomo saying he supports statewide public financing, but his intent to deliver on those issues, and the call to some suggested the governor was still willing to work with Republicans in the Senate until the conclusion of the session.
The state budget included a public financing system, but only for the state comptroller’s race, much to the bitter disappointment of liberals and good-government groups.
Cuomo at a meeting of the Democratic Rural Conference on Friday reiterated his support for a trio of issues friendly to the liberal base of the party: The DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, a package of bills aimed at women’s equality issues and statewide public financing.
Cuomo’s favorable ratings among liberals, black voters and New York City residents remains high, according to a Siena College poll.
But the same survey should Cuomo dropping 15 percentage points against Rob Astorino, the GOP candidate for governor and an unnamed liberal candidate on the WFP line.
In offering an olive branch to the WFP, both Finnegan and Wright urged party members to bring their issues and concerns to either the governor or his top aide, Secretary Larry Schwartz.
Still, they rattled off Cuomo’s first-term accomplishments as a reason to support him this year, including: Allowing labor to have a seat at the table for the Medicaid Redesign Team efforts, the push to end the state’s involvement in the federal Secure Communities program which some advocates view as anti-immigrant, criminal justice reforms such as the effort to raising the age for juvenile offender status and the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Wright in particular singled out last year’s agreement to increase the minimum wage (ironic, for some, given that liberal advocates are increasingly displeased with that compromise), as well as the tenant protection unit.
Cuomo’s allies also gave the governor credit for the statewide adoption of universal pre-Kindergarten
Wright, whose former co-chair and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner resigned earlier this month after publicly clashing the governor, said it is an “absolute joy” working with Cuomo.
Sweetening the pot for the WFP, Finnegan told members that Cuomo is “sick and tired” of working with Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos.
Dangling a carrot as it where in front of them, Finnegan said Cuomo has increasingly lost leverage with the Senate Republican conference following the passage of same-sex marriage and, later, the SAFE Act.
Cuomo, he said, would support a coordinated effort to wrest control of the state Senate from the majority coalition in favor of the mainline Senate Democrats.
Some liberals may be skeptical of this, given that they feel Cuomo as the head of the party should be automatically be working to flip the Senate to a clear Democratic takeover.
For now, the WFP continues to leave who will be on its ballot an open question.
“We have an ongoing robust process with a lot of deliberation, and we think it will continue right up to and at our May 31st convention in Albany,” said Khan Shoieb, Communications Director for the state WFP in a statement.
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