Cynthia Nixon

Nixon Campaign Releases Video, Criticizes Cuomo-Buffalo Billion Ties

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political adversaries are wasting no time on Friday making sure the public is keeping tabs on New York corruption trials.

Cynthia Nixon’s campaign released a video Friday morning starring the four defendants found guilty on all corruption charges in yesterday’s close of the Buffalo Billion trial. The video depicts a close relationship between Cuomo and the convicted men–Joseph Girardi, Steven Aiello, Louis Ciminelli and notably, former SUNY Polytechnic president Alain Kaloyeros.

“Governor Cuomo will say that he had no knowledge of Kaloyeros’ activity, just like he said he knew nothing about the crimes his top aide Joe Percoco was committing in his own office. We’re supposed to believe that Andrew Cuomo, a notorious micromanager, had no idea what his right-hand man was doing right under his nose?”

Kaloyeros was indicted for his hand in unfairly securing economic development contracts for upstate developers favoring those who had donated to Cuomo’s campaign in the past.

Cuomo on Friday defended his administration’s response to the initial indictments of Kaloyeros and the developers, noting the contracting changes his office made to economic development spending in the wake of the charges.

At the same time, Cuomo said he would be open to new oversight measures as long as they would be effective in combating wrongdoing.

The video released by Nixon’s campaign harkens back to the March 2018 trial of ex Cuomo aide Joe Percoco, who was convicted on multiple charges of bribery, then lambasts the Governor’s abrupt dismantling of the Moreland Commission in 2014:

“This left us with just JCOPE, a puppet body controlled by the Governor, with zero credibility to take on corruption,” Cynthia continued. “If the governor truly wants to restore the people’s trust, he’ll allow for a thorough, independent investigation — one he can’t control and can’t shut down.”

U.S. Attorney General Preet Bharara’s investigated the circumstances surrounding the shuttering the Moreland Commission, but the investigation ultimately ended due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Nixon hasn’t been shy about criticizing Cuomo for what she sees is a lapse in ethical practices, and attention on this trail of corruption trials is proving to be an obvious area of discomfort for the Governor.

“We can’t clean up Albany until we clean out the governor’s mansion. Nothing is going to change until we change who’s in charge,” said Cynthia. “When I’m governor, I will convene a new, independent Moreland Commission on day one to investigate and clean up the rampant corruption in Albany.”

Nixon has pledged to “get big money out of politics and close the LLC loophole,” seeking to put distance between her campaign’s fundraising efforts and that of Cuomo.

Though the developers found guilty in the Buffalo Billion case were Cuomo donors, the donations to the governor’s campaign were not at issue during the trial.

Meanwhile, a day after the trial ended, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul issued statements knocking both Nixon for not releasing previous tax returns. Nixon has released one year of returns so far.

“Cynthia Nixon’s failure to release her tax returns proves again that there’s a difference between reading from a script and real life governing,” Hochul said. “She can’t even live up to her anti-choice running mate Jumaane William’s resolution calling for Presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns. Instead, Ms. Nixon and Mr. Williams have followed the reality TV show Trump standard and failed to do even that. Ms. Nixon released only one year of returns after being publicly shamed for weeks.”

Pence Criticizes Nixon’s Criticism Of ICE

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday criticized Cynthia Nixon for calling the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency a “terrorist organization.”

“The truth is opposition to ICE has moved to the center of the Democratic Party,” Pence told a group of ICE employees, while listing the Democratic officials who have called for ICE to be abolished, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“A leading candidate for governor of New York actually even appallingly called this agency a ‘terrorist organization’,” he added.

Pence praised ICE as “an agency that protects the American people in our communities” and added the “spurious attacks on ICE by our political leaders must stop.”

The criticism by Pence was embraced by Nixon, however, as she challenges Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a primary on Sept. 13.

“If @mike_pence is attacking me, we must be doing something right. What’s really “appalling” is how ICE tears children away from their parents,” Nixon wrote on Twitter. “Parents who came to this country, fleeing deadly violence, to provide a brighter future for their families.”

Cuomo has been deeply critical of ICE’s handling of immigration enforcement in New York, but has stopped short of calling for the agency to be abolished, saying it should be refocused and not used for fulfilling a political agenda.

Nixon Makes Criminal Justice Reform Push As Session Ends

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon on Tuesday reiterated her push for criminal justice reform measures as the legislative session winds down in Albany.

Nixon, who is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo this September, called for the passage of a bill creating a cashless bail system for New York.

She compared the two divergent stories of Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood mogul accused of rape, and Kalief Browder, who committed suicide while awaiting trial at Rikers Island for stealing a backpack.

“One of them is Harvey Weinstein who is a wealthy white man accused of decades of sexual assault and rape. He walks free, because he can afford to pay his one-million-dollar bail,” Nixon said in a video released by her campaign.

“The other Kalief Browder who is a black, 16-year-old kid accused of stealing a backpack. His family can’t afford to pay his $3,000 bail. So he spends the next three years on Rikers Island, where he is beaten and placed in solitary confinement. All without ever being found guilty of a crime.”

She adds: “Thousands of New Yorkers are languishing in jail awaiting trial because of a cash bail system that punishes people for being poor. Tonight, those people will be sleeping in cages and Harvey Weinstein will be sleeping in his own bed.”

The video comes as she plans to rally with advocates in New York City later on Tuesday in recognition of Juneteenth, commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States.

The session is due to end on Wednesday at the Capitol, and it is unlikely a criminal justice reform bill will be agreed to in the next day and a half.

Nixon Releases Ethics Plan

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon on Monday released a package of ethics and campaign finance reforms that would dissolve the oft-criticized lobbying and ethics regulator in the state and replace it with a Moreland Commission.

At the same time, Nixon would empower the state attorney general’s office to tackle public corruption cases through what’s known as a standing referral.

The ethics proposals came as the “Buffalo Billion” trial gets underway in New York City, with several prominent developers, as well as the former president of SUNY Polytechnic, facing bid rigging and corruption charges stemming from economic development projects.

The broad strokes of Nixon’s additional proposals — public financing of public campaigns, closing the so-called LLC loophole in state election law, banning play-to-pay donations to campaigns — have been proposed in various forms over the years by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Nixon is challenging the governor for the Democratic nomination this September as he seeks a third term.

Cuomo has been a prodigious fundraiser during his two terms as governor and has often taken advantage of the state’s existing election laws, which government reform advocates have decried as too lax.

But Cuomo has also pushed the Legislature to take up term limits, as well as public financing of campaigns and the closure of the LLC loophole to little success.

Virtually every year Cuomo has been governor a new ethics package has been approved, forcing new disclosure requirements for lawmakers.

Still, Cuomo’s opponents contend that has not been enough.

“The unchecked influence of big money in state politics is why our state government currently serves to benefit corporations and the rich, leaving the rest of us behind,” Nixon’s campaign said.

Campaign Finance Plan by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Broadway Dems Back Nixon, Williams

The Broadway Democrats, a party club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, voted last night by a wide margin to endorse insurgent gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon against her primary target, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The club members also backed Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams over incumbent LG Kathy Hochul, and former NYC Councilman Robert Jackson, who is challenging Sen. Marisol Alcantara, a member of the now-debunked IDC, in the September primary.

According to a source who took part in the voting, the final outcome was not close.

Nixon received 23 votes to Cuomo’s nine, while six people opted for “no endorsement.” In the LG race, Williams got 25 votes to Hochul’s 12, while 2 people would have preferred to see the club remain neutral in the primary.

The existence of party “clubs” might sound a little alien to people who live upstate, where they are not the norm – though some do exist, mostly in urban centers like Albany and Buffalo. But they are prevalent in New York City, providing an entry point for grassroots politics and also serving as a key organizing force.

Club endorsements are important because members act as volunteer foot soldiers in campaigns, circulating petitions on behalf of chosen candidates and assisting with literature drops, phone banks, and other GOTV efforts.

As a result of this vote, the names of Nixon and Williams will be on the petitions circulated by the Broadway Democrats when petitioning begins next month. According to my source, it could also potentially assist Nixon is hitting the all important 25 percent mark to get on the ballot in the weighed state committee vote at the state convention.

The convention votes are weighted and the 69th Assembly District, which is where the Broadway Democrats are located, is the most Democrat-dominated in the state, and also generally has the highest turnout, which means its support matters when the weighted vote is calculated.

This is not the first club to back Nixon over Cuomo. A source says that the Three Parks Independent Democrats, which is in the 67th Assembly District, also voted this week to support the governor’s primary rival.

The Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats threw its support to Nixon last month.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has been endorsed by The Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club, the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club and the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats.

As mentioned earlier, these clubs, while small, can be a potent force when it comes to working on a candidate’s behalf. Also, people who join these organizations tend to be true believers – the sort who turn out to vote on primary day – and the more of them that are backing Nixon over Cuomo, the more concerned the governor might be.

Then again, the Upper West Side is know as a bastion of liberalism, so I guess it’s not really a surprise that some of these clubs are going to for the left-of-center option, following the lead of the Working Families Party, Citizen Action and others. We’re also talking about a neighborhood that knows Nixon well, as she used to call it home.

I believe Nixon and her wife have since decamped downtown.

Nixon Makes First Campaign Trip To Buffalo

More than a month after announcing her candidacy for governor, Democrat Cynthia Nixon made her first campaign trip to Buffalo. The actress-turned-politician did not directly answer why she waited so long to visit New York’s second-biggest city.

“I am really glad to be in Buffalo and I will be back again and again and again,” Nixon said. “We have started to go around the state to other places. This is my first trip as a candidate to Buffalo but it’s certainly not my first trip to Buffalo when I’ve been fighting for better schools.”

Nixon did acknowledge some of her opponents are calling her a New York City candidate who does not care or know much about Upstate cities. While she argued it is a false narrative, she also pointed out her platforms, particularly when it comes to poverty, are as relevant to Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse as they are to NYC.

“The things that I want to do as governor are things that everybody in every part of the state wants, also regardless of their political party,” she said.

Nixon spoke to community activists and grassroots leaders about economic development policies at the 9th Ward, a small bar near downtown. Nixon said she was thankful for the opportunity but the venue was her third choice.

The campaign originally scheduled the roundtable, which was closed to the media, at the Pucho Olivencia Community Center.

“We were supposed to be at a particular community center and it seems like the governor really didn’t want us meeting there today so we got bumped out,” she said. “Despite the fact that we were paying market rate for the space, the community center didn’t feel like they could risk it. So we moved to another community center and we got kicked out of that one too.”

Governor Cuomo’s campaign called the accusation “not even remotely true” and suggested, perhaps, Nixon doesn’t have the community support she believes she does.

“First we’ve heard of it, but not the first Nixon to be paranoid!” Lis Smith, a member of the campaign’s rapid response team, tweeted.

We reached out to the Olivencia Center about why Nixon was not allowed to host her event there, but have not yet received a response.

Meanwhile, the candidate did have an open media availability after the roundtable where she answered question for about 13 minutes on a variety of topics:

  • On Simcha Felder’s decision to continuing to conference with state Senate Republicans this session: “The situation that Governor Cuomo has created for the last seven-and-a-half years, making it really very comfortable and very cozy and being rewarded, actually, for Democrats going over and voting with Republicans, he has created this climate,” she said.
  • On Governor Cuomo’s proposal to ban plastic bags in New York state: “I’m really excited about that. I think that’s great,” she said sarcastically. “I think that’s a really heartfelt decision on his part when last year in New York City, we had fought for four years to put a fee on it and he came in proactively and killed it.”
  • On the suggestion her presence in the primary is moving the governor’s policies to the left: “It’s not a time of centrism. If you’re a Republican, you be a Republican but I’m a Democrat and I’m going to be a Democrat and that’s one thing that I am encouraged to see our governor start to inch leftward. He’s still got a long way to go.”

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.