Cynthia Nixon

Cuomo’s Self-Created WFP Problem

If I were a betting woman, and let it be known that I am generally fairly risk averse, I would right now be putting money on the likelihood that the Working Families Party’s state committee members endorse upstart Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon over incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo when they gather in Albany tomorrow.

The governor will no doubt respond by going on the warpath.

He has already given us a preview of his retaliation plan, which would start out with creation of yet another third party designed to weaken the WFP – this time, with a labor focus, as first reported by CapTon’s own Nick Reisman.

Recall that in the last election cycle, Cuomo created the Women’s Equality Party – or WEP – a move widely seen in part as an effort to confuse voters – after all, E comes right before F in the alphabet – and get back at the WFP for daring to even consider backing a candidate other than Cuomo…more on this in a moment.

Also, Team Cuomo and its allies are pre-emptively accusing the WFP of dividing the labor movement in a manner that will only benefit Republicans in the fall elections.

Ironically, that is just what the WFP has been accusing Cuomo of all these years – enabling, if not quietly encouraging, the split among the state Senate Democrats, even when he promised to remedy the situation, (more on that in a moment, too), helping the GOP maintain control of the chamber and bottling up all manner of progressive policy proposals.

Behind closed doors, Cuomo will probably go quite a bit further, perhaps even threatening the WFP with extinction – most likely via financial starvation.

He could perhaps try to scuttle fusion voting in New York, though that would hurt other minor parties, like the Cuomo-loyal Independence Party, and also is something he has tried before but never followed through on. Or, he might pressure the unions that are still with the WFP – most notably CWA and SEIU 32BJ – to abandon ship, following the lead of a number of others, like HTC and SEIU 1199, who did just that a few years ago at the governor’s urging.

The reality is, however, that no matter how angry Cuomo might be with the WFP for turning its back on him this time around, he really has no one but himself to blame. We would not be at this juncture, with this configuration of WFP committee members, had it not been for string of what now clearly were ill-advised actions by the governor himself.

The governor got what he wanted out of the WFP in 2014, thanks to a significant lift by his frenemy, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime ally of the party and organized labor in general.

And then he didn’t bother to even pretend to try to fulfill the main promise that he made to WFP members in exchange for their begrudging willingness to back him and jettison Teachout, whom the wooed into the race to begin with, declining to force the warring state Senate Democrats to reunify. (More on this in a moment).

To “thank” the party for upholding its end of the endorsement bargain, Cuomo punished it, convincing that handful of big unions to end their relationship with the WFP, withdrawing financial support in the process.

And in so doing, because he was so focused on getting revenge in the short term and not on the long game, Cuomo unwittingly empowered the individuals and organizations that remained in the WFP, giving a far greater voice – and voting power – to its activist wing.

Those activist WFP members moved to fill committee seats left vacant when the unions departed. And they have not been satisfied by the governor’s slow yet steady move to the left since the 2014 election, including his recent forging of a peace deal among the Senate Democrats – which seemed to come together pretty darn quickly once Nixon arrived on the scene – saying it’s too little, too late.

In fact, the WFP is continuing to back the candidates who are challenging the IDC members in the September primaries despite the peace deal, and it’s a safe bet that if the party leadership tried to rescind that support now, they would have a rank-and-file revolt on their hands.

It’s possible the WFP could endorse Nixon but not give her its ballot line, putting a placeholder candidate there instead – just in case there’s a post-primary peace deal between the governor and the party that requires her to go away quietly before the November general, though, as Nick reported yesterday, there are ways of getting her name off the ballot if necessary, too.

It’s hard to see how the WFP true believers would be satisfied by any half measures the party seeks in order to preserve some semblance of a relationship with the governor, though.

It will also be interesting to see how UFT members react to the pro-Cuomo comments by their president, Mike Mulgrew, a longtime ally of the governor, though the two sometimes disagree publicly on education policy.

Given the pending decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Janus case, no union leader can really afford to alienate his or her members at this point in time. There are plenty of teachers who are big backers of AQE, which, of course, is the foundation of Nixon’s early support, though she has been branching out with other progressive groups of late.

NOTE: A reader points out that the Legislature and Cuomo already moved to undercut the Janus ruling, should it be decided against the unions’ favor. There will likely be a legal battle over that effort if the Supreme Court does indeed go in that director.

Cuomo Nets Another Union Nod (Updated)

From the Morning Memo:

A number of organized labor groups have lined up to provide early endorsements to Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he seeks a third term this fall and faces a new primary challenge from actress Cynthia Nixon, with the latest nod coming from the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1500, New York’s largest supermarket workers union.

The union’s president, Anthony Speelman, is poised to formally announce this endorsement today, explaining that the governor has earned his members’ support by demonstrating a “track record of achieving meaningful progressive victories.”

“It is easy to talk a progressive talk, but Andrew Cuomo walks the walk,” Speelman said in a press release, an early version of which was obtained by SoP.

“Thanks to the leadership of Andrew Cuomo, low-wage workers saw their paychecks increase, companies who steal from workers face the toughest penalties in history, and marriage equality is a reality in New York. New York is a better place because he governs it, and he has clearly earned another term.”

Speelman specifically pointed to the governor’s work strengthening the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which he said Local 1500 led efforts to pass in 2010. In 2014, the Cuomo administration, working with Local 1500 and other stakeholders, strengthened the law by establishing important provisions to hold violators accountable.

This is not a big surprise.

UFCW Local 1500 has long been a Cuomo ally, dating back all the way back in 2010 when he first ran for governor.

UPDATED with correction: RWDSU, not Local 1500, was in fact the first union to announce its support of then-AG Cuomo’s gubernatorial run in 2010, making its endorsement even before he had formally entered the race, and also before then-Gov. David Paterson announced he wouldn’t be seeking a full term.

The union has been a stalwart of support for the governor even as his relationship with other unions – particularly those in the public sector – has been rocky, due to his intermittent battles with teachers and state workers.

Another longstanding Cuomo labor ally, SEIU, the health care workers union, has also provided the governor with an early endorsement this year. So did another longtime Cuomo backer, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which actually was the first to announce its endorsement in the governor’s race this year.

Another early nod for the governor came from the National Organization for Women-New York.

The governor is seeking to quickly shore up support among his left-leaning Democratic base – a group with which he has not always seen eye-to-eye – particularly since Nixon, also a public education activist, announced she would challenge him in a primary in September.

When Zephyr Teachout, then a little-known Fordham Law School professor, challenged Cuomo in a primary four years ago, one of the state’s largest public workers unions, PEF, endorsed her, while NYSUT decided to sit out the governor’s race entirely, declining to pick a favorite.

Also sitting on the sidelines that year was the AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization of New York labor.

Cuomo and PEF announced a three-year labor deal back in 2016, and he struck a five-year deal with the largest state worker union, CSEA, in 2017.

CSEA President Danny Donohue, who in the past has not been shy about sharing some choice words about Cuomo, has left the door open to possibly endorsing the governor as he seeks a third term.

Since Nixon entered the race, there has been considerable speculation about what the labor-backed Working Families Party will do. The WFP initially wooed Teachout, but ended up backing Cuomo in 2014. The party needs to receive at lest 50,000 votes on its line in the race for governor in order to maintain ballot status for the next four years.

UFCW Local 1500 also will be announcing its endorsement of LG Kathy Hochul, who is facing a primary challenge from Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, who enjoys support from groups that were active in backing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential primary bid against Hillary Clinton.

In explaining the union’s support for Hochul, Speelman recalled that she was “instrumental in saving Medicare from (House Speaker) Paul Ryan and the Congressional Republicans. He also noted that as Cuomo’s No. 2., she has tackled “critical issues” like the opioid crisis, economic development and and sexual assaults on college campuses.

There has been some speculation that Cuomo might seek to replace Hochul with another candidate who would have ticket-balancing appeal in light of recent developments in the race.

Names that have so far been floated include Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who has said she isn’t terribly interested in the job, and hasn’t been approached by Team Cuomo; and former NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who found herself in hot water last week after calling Nixon an “unqualified lesbian” – a statement she later walked back.

Cuomo has said publicly that Hochul will again be his running mate this fall.

Molinaro Raises Off Nixon Announcement

From the Morning Memo:

To say New York Republicans are happy about education activist and actress Cynthia Nixon’s decision to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary is something of an understatement.

Out-gunned when it comes to fundraising and out-numbered in enrollment by about five to three across the state, Republicans know they face an uphill battle in their quest to oust Cuomo in November, and they’re more than willing to accept any and all assistance in softening up their target ahead of the general election.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFranciso, so far the only formally announced candidate seeking the GOP nod against Cuomo, deemed Nixon’s run “great,” adding:

“(I)t shows what I have been saying all along, that whether you are from the left or the right or the middle, people are tired of Governor Cuomo. It’s not just all sides of the political spectrum, but the manner of doing business that he has.”

And state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, who has endured quite a bit of verbal sniping over the years from Cuomo and his fellow Democrats over the fact that he is the son-in-law of the late former President Richard Nixon, turned the tables and had a little fun welcoming Cynthia Nixon to the fray.

Duchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who initially said back in January that he would not run statewide this year, but has since been drafted into the race by GOP leaders and is expected to announce his campaign in early April, took things a step further a sought to turn Nixon’s candidacy to his advantage.

In a fundraising email with the subject line “New York is Going Hollywood!”, Molinaro said Nixon’s entry into the race for governor is “great news for our campaign,” because Cuomo “will be forced to take on a high profile challenge from a celebrity-activist who is guaranteed the spotlight from the state and national media.”

“Nixon’s challenge will finally force the national media to report on the culture of corruption and sheer incompetence which pervades the Cuomo administration,” Molinaro continued.

“Whether it is Cuomo pay to play, bribery, billion dollar upstate boondoggles or the failure to run the trains on time – the jig is up for the Governor. A race that we knew would be competitive, is now a race that we can and will win.”

Molinaro concluded his appeal with a final “P.S.,” which read:

“The winner of the Cuomo-Nixon race is going to have to survive a bruising primary and that’s good news. The bad news for New Yorkers is that Andrew Cuomo, who was already running to the left to position himself for a 2020 run for President, will undoubtedly now break into a sprint. We can’t allow the battle for the soul of New York’s elite, leave the rest of us in the middle even further behind. Please donate today!”

As of the last campaign financial filing with the state Board of Elections in January, Cuomo was sitting on just over $30 million worth of political cash.