On The Defensive
From the morning memo:
The Working Families Party has been taking a bit of a beating in the press since cutting its endorsement deal last weekend with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Questions have been raised – including by yours truly – about whether the WFP chose pragmatism over ideology by backing Cuomo over a protest candidate, Fordham Law School Prof. Zephyr Teachout, and how the party can hold the governor to his pledge to flip the state Senate into Democratic hands in hopes of passing progressive agenda items like local power over minimum wage and public campaign financing.
A considerable amount of time has been spent by the WFP and its allies – namely NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, via his top aides – in spinning the agreement as a smart move, even as the party’s own national director, Dan Cantor, admitted on national TV that it was a gamble.
WFP officials are also working to sell this deal to their own staffers and state committee members – some 41 percent of whom voted for Teachout over Cuomo at Saturday’s convention.
In a confidential memo obtained by Capital Tonight, WFP communications director Khan Shoieb makes the case for why the party “won” by extracting an “explicit” commitment from Cuomo to lead an “unprecedented coalition” to elect a “Democrat-Working Families majority” in the Senate and pass five key pieces of legislation.
The June 2 memo maintains that criticism of this deal is “wildly off the mark” because it fails to recognize both the “political significance” of the new coalition, and the fact that the WFP was “mere minutes away” from endorsing Teachout over Cuomo because the governor would not publicly commit “to the exact word” to the party’s terms.
As the WSJ has reported, WFP leaders were not satisfied with the wording Cuomo used in his pre-recorded video statement to the convention, and refused to move forward until the governor appeased them by using “agreed-upon language” during a backstage conference call.
“Absent the phone call, the Working Families Party may very well have emerged from the convention with Zephyr Teachout as its candidate,” the memo insists.
As for the lack of an “enforcement mechanism,” the memo quotes NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s convention night claim that the “reach and power” of the newly formed coalition will itself serve to ensure Cuomo toes the line, adding:
“It’s irrelevant whether the press does or doesn’t trust Governor Cuomo to follow through – everyone’s credibility is at stake, and everyone will push each other to ensure that a Democrat-Working Families majority in the state Senate is a reality.”
In short, the party is insisting that a Teachout-for-governor campaign – which, for the record, the professor is still suggesting might occur, albeit not on the WFP line – would perhaps have sent a message and further empowered the progressive movement, but would not have advanced the cause of a Democratic takeover in the Senate.
And without that takeover, the argument goes, passage of progressive legislation would not be possible.
Unmentioned is the fact that Cuomo, whose victory over Republican Rob Astorino in November is even more likely without a WFP candidate in the race, would probably seek some sort of retaliation against the WFP – assuming, that is, that the party managed to get 50,000 votes for Teachout on its ballot line in the November general election and maintained its official status.
Only time will tell how engaged Cuomo will be in the upcoming rematch for control of the Senate.
The Republicans might be able to buy themselves some breathing room if they passed something like the DREAM Act or a statewide public campaign finance system before departing Albany on June 19. But since Cuomo’s public pronouncement of support for the Democrats, GOP Leader Dean Skelos is in no mood to do any deals.
There is, however, already evidence of organized labor’s newfound commitment to helping the Democratic cause in the Senate.
After years of either supporting the Senate GOP outright or hedging its bets by giving to both sides, the powerful healthcare workers union, SEIU 1199, has decided not to give the Republicans any cash in this election cycle or endorse its candidates in competitive races.
“(W)e are definitely on board with a Democrat-coordinated effort to take back the Senate,” 1199’s political director Kevin Finnegan told Capital NY.
However, when it comes to the IDC, whose members need to be either defeated in September primaries or convinced to return in some fashion to the regular Democratic fold, the outlook is a bit more complicated.
According to Finnegan, 1199 hasn’t yet decided whether to support primary challengers against IDC members, and will be considering each of those races on a case-by-case basis.
So far, only two IDC members – Leader Jeff Klein and Sen. Tony Avella – have announced primary opponents (former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell and former NYC Comptroller John Liu, respectively).
While labor is lining up behind Liu, the unions that have endorsed Klein – including RWDSU, HTC, the Teamsters, the Mason Tenders and UFT – have yet to abandon him.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on June 4, 2014 at 8:46 am, and is filed under Working Families Party. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|