Working Families Party

WFP Touts Primary Wins

Lots of people and organizations are claiming victory this morning after seeing the results from yesterday’s (extremely low turnout) primaries, and that includes the Working Families Party, which informed supporters (and reporters) in a late night email that its candidates had won a “clean sweep” of the party’s “priority” contests.

According to the email, the WFP is particularly pleased that its candidates fended off challenges from the “billionaire-funded ‘New Yorkers for Independent Action’ SuperPAC seeking to privatize public schools,” adding:

“Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblymembers Latrice Walker and Pamela Harris in NYC and Assemblymember Phil Ramos on Long Island all won victories despite a massive, million-dollar independent expenditure from the SuperPAC in these races.”

Other incumbent Senate Democrats supported by the WFP who beat back challengers included James Sanders and Toby Ann Stavisky, both of whom represent districts in Queens.

The party also touted wins by its endorsed candidates running for open Assembly seats, including: lawyer and play producer Robert Carroll, who won the Park Slope seat being vacated by retiring Assemblyman Jim Brennan; and community board chair and coffee shop founder Tremaine Wright (NYC), who landed the Bed-Stuy seat currently represented by retiring Assemblywoman Annette Robinson; Anthony Eramo (Long Island), who was victorious in the fight for now-Sen. Toddd Kaminsky’s former seat in the lower house; Monica Wallace (Buffalo), who won the primary for the seat Republican Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak is giving up due to a sexual harassment scandal; and also Jamaal Bailey.

Bailey is a district leader and protégé of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. He won the fight for the Bronx/Westchester Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who departed to join the Cuomo administration earlier this year after losing a bid for Mount Vernon mayor in 2015.

The WFP did not pick a favorite in one of the biggest Senate primary brawls – a four-way race for the seat Sen. Adriano Espaillat is leaving after winning the June primary for retiring Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel’s seat.

Labor was divided in that race, which ended up being carried by Espaillat’s hand-picked successor, Marisol Alcantara, who was also backed by IDC Leader Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, and has indicated (though her spokeswoman, Lis Smith) that she will join the breakaway GOP-allied IDC conference after her all-but-certain general election win in November.

The party is most proud of the significant victory by Yuh-Line Niou, a 33-year-old Taiwan-born Assembly staffer who – as a WFP candidate – lost the April special election for the Lower Manhattan seat that used to belong to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Niou won a six-way primary in a field that included Silver’s special election successor, soon-to-be-former Assemblywoman Alice Cancel, (who finished fourth last night); and Paul Newell, a district leader and tenant advocate who unsuccessfully challenged Silver in a 2008 primary.

WFP State Director Bill Lipton credited Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom the party backed over hometown favorite Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, for energizing the progressive movement – an energy Lipton says continues and carried over into local races.

“Tonight’s results show that energy is only growing,” Lipton said. “WFP candidates swept our priority races tonight, fending off a million-dollar expenditure from billionaires seeking to privatize education and winning key open seat races that will shape the state Assembly for years to come. We congratulate all of tonight’s winners and look forward to working to send them to Albany and to winning a Democratic-Working Families majority in the state Senate in November.”

(Of course, the IDC – about to grow to six members strong – is probably going to have a lot more to say about who controls the chamber come January, but that’s a fight for another day).

The WFP took a gamble in backing Sanders and has lost the support of some of its big union backers (and their cash), whose officials groused that the party has become too ideological and dogmatic, leading to multiple fights with New York’s top Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But Cuomo has been making (another) leftward lean of late, championing key WFP issues like a $15-an-hour minimum wage and Paid Family Leave, leading party leaders to take some credit for their role in pushing the Democrats – not just in New York, but across the nation – to the left.

The WFP has a big political challenge on the horizon as the Democratic elected official who is arguably its closest ally (not to mention Cuomo’s biggest nemesis), NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, is up for re-election next year, and, given his weak poll numbers, is facing potential primary battles from one – if not more – of his fellow Democrats.

WFP Gives National Endorsement To Clinton

The labor-backed Working Families Party on Tuesday issued a national endorsement of Democrat Hillary Clinton after supporting Bernie Sanders’s White House bid earlier this year.

“The change we need next year starts with electing Secretary Clinton, but it doesn’t end there,” said WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor. “We know we won’t always agree, and we’re ready to work hard to press her to deliver on the economic, environmental and racial justice promises she made during the campaign.”

The endorsement comes after the organization held a national membership vote with 68.2 percent voted to endorse Clinton. The New York Working Families Party’s state committee is due to meet separately this month to issue its own nomination for president.

The WFP’s endorsement comes as Clinton has sought to line up liberals after his primary campaign against Sanders, a Vermont senator, as well as Republicans opposed to the nomination of Donald Trump.

Clinton’s courting of Republicans has caused for some unease on the left, concerned that as president she will track back to the center and govern as a moderate Democrat.

But the WFP insisted in a statement it will stick to its progressive stance, noting it continues to support candidates who “share Bernie Sanders’ vision” such as congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout who is running for the 19th district in the Hudson Valley.

Teachout had sought the WFP’s nomination for governor in 2014 against Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo, but was ultimately denied.

After Mixed Primary, WFP Fundraises

The Working Families Party didn’t get all it wanted in Tuesday’s primary results.

Its endorsed candidate for president, Bernie Sanders, was crushed in the vote total by Hillary Clinton.

Yuh-Line Niou, the WFP candidate in the race to replace Sheldon Silver in the state Assembly, lost to Alice Cancel, who was supported by the disgraced former speaker’s allies in lower Manhattan.

But the labor-backed WFP does see bright spots: Democrat Todd Kaminsky won the Senate seat on Long Island vacated by ex-Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

And, as the party’s state director Bill Lipton writes in a fundraising email, the debate over increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 is now at the forefront of the national political dicussion.

“The enthusiasm that New Yorkers of so many backgrounds showed for Bernie over the past two weeks as he barnstormed through the state was more than just a sight to behold,” Lipton wrote. “It was also a validation of the progressive issues that are driving Bernie’s campaign and which have come to define this entire primary race — issues of economic, racial, and social justice.”

Lipton in the email says there’s momentum there for success when it comes to these issues and is urging help to sponsor a candidate training session later this year.

“The energy is there. Now we just need the resources and training to turn that energy into victory,” the WFP wrote in the fundraising note. “This June, we’re organizing a 3-day training in Albany for progressive candidates, staff, and activists who want to bring this revolution home to New York in 2016.”

As The Daily News reported this week, key labor unions have cut off support from the WFP, such as 1199 SEIU, which backed Republican Chris McGrath in the 9th Senate district. But the WFP retains an active base of liberal supporters as well as labor unions like the Communications Workers of America, currently engaged in a labor protest with Verizon.

WFP Endorses Falk In SD-40

The Working Families Party has endorsed Democrat Andrew Falk in the Hudson Valley’s 40th Senate district.

“We are proud to endorse Andrew Falk for State Senate. As a forward-thinking leader, Andrew has the courage to challenge the status quo and fight for the interests of everyday working people,” said Pat Welsh, the Westchester-Putnam WFP chair. “Since his first run for office in 2012, Andrew has consistently and tirelessly stood up for working families – fighting to raise the minimum wage, for pay equity for women, and to protect our environment. Andrew has never backed down when it comes to fighting for what he believes in.”

Falk faces fellow Democrat Debbie Carter Costello for the party’s nomination in the district, which is currently represented by Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy.

The 40th Senate district has been one Democrats have eyed for the last several cycles, but has proven to be a difficult nut crack. Democrats saw a potential opening in 2014, when incumbent Republican Sen. Greg Ball declined to run for re-election, but Murphy won the seat against two-time candidate Justin Wagner.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Working Families Party. Not only do they represent a progressive and labor oriented constituency that I agree with, the ballot line is also a vital component to winning the 40th Senate District,” Falk said. “Middle and working class families are the backbone of the Hudson Valley and today they face tremendous challenges. Only by working together can we make progress on creating jobs, giving our children every opportunity for success, and providing the Hudson Valley a real voice for ethical and honest government in Albany.”

WFP Troubled By Graham Decision

The Working Families Party in a statement said it was troubled by the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to not charge police officers in the death of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed black teenager.

“We are deeply disappointed in the decision by federal prosecutors not to pursue charges in the killing of Ramarley Graham,” said WFP State Director Bill Lipton. “Despite changes in stop-and-frisk policy in New York City, the system is obviously broken when an unarmed Black teenager can be shot to death in his own bathroom and no one is held to account by any part of our criminal justice system. Any officers who were involved in the killing of Ramarley Graham should no longer be employed by the New York City Police Department.”

The Grahama decision comes amid heightened concerns over the policing in the United State, the interactions between police and minorities and whether local elected district attorneys are able to pursue indictments against police officers in such incidents.

A jury earlier this year convicted New York City Police Officer Peter Liang in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, a conviction that was condemned by some members of the city’s Asian community.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking to give Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the permanent power of special prosecutor to pursue cases in which civilians die in interactions with the police.

NY-19: WFP Endorses Teachout

Democratic congressional hopeful Zephyr Teachout on Thursday was endorsed by the Working Families Party in her bid to win a Hudson Valley House seat.

The labor-backed WFP in 2014 declined to give Teachout its ballot line in her insurgent campaign for governor against Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo last year.

But the endorsement of Teachout for the 19th congressional district is not a surprise for the WFP, which has been enthusiastic in its support of her campaign, which launched last month.

We’re thrilled to announce WFP’s endorsement of Zephyr Teachout for Congress,” said WFP state Director Bill Lipton. “Zephyr is fearless, independent-minded, and will stand up for working families against the big money donors and wealthy insiders who have rigged the economy in their favor. She’s a great fit for her district, and WFP activists in the 19th are ready to support her grassroots, people-powered campaign.”

Teachout, a Fordham Law school professor, is vying for the Democratic nomination alongside Will Yandik and John Kehoe.

A half dozen Republicans, including former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso and businessman Andrew Heaney, are competing for the GOP nomination.

“I’m so excited to have the support of the Working Families Party and the hundreds of WFP activists in the 19th District in our campaign,” Teachout said. “I’m running for Congress to stand up for the working families in our district who have been shut out of our political system — nurses, state workers, teachers, parents, family farmers, and small businesses alike. That’s what the WFP is fighting for too. It’s time for New York and a Congress that works for all of us.”

Incumbent Republican Chris Gibson is retiring at the end of the year as he launches a potential statewide campaign for governor.

WFP Sides With de Blasio in Budget Battle

The Working Families Party is siding with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in his looming budget battle with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, dinging the governor for undercutting progressive policy proposals with “drastic” cuts to Medicaid, CUNY and more that will leave the city with a close to $1 billion shortfall by the fiscal year 2017.

The WFP, which has long been a booster and supporter of de Blasio and hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with the governor, politically speaking, issued a statement from its state director, Bill Lipton, who was careful to praise Cuomo for focusing on “crucial issues” like a statewide $15-an-hour minimum wage, paid family leave, universal pre-K and supportive housing, noting that the party has been organizing on these fronts for some time.

But Lipton also said there is “more to do,” like restoring “progressivity” to the state’s tax code, closing the carried interest tax loophole, and investing in a new “social contract” on public education that ensures full funding for schools – including universal pre-K (an early de Blasio priority) – and restoration to the public university system to pre-recession levels.

The labor-backed party also would like to see Cuomo do more on criminal justice reform and to address climate change, though Lipton allowed he has made “significant strides” on those issues.

When it comes to New York City and the cuts the governor proposed, Lipton deemed this a “core leadership test” on which the governor “fell short.”

“He had a chance to take the high road and unite New Yorkers across our great state,” Lipton continued. “Instead, he chose to single out New York City for drastic cuts to CUNY, Medicaid and more that could impact hundreds of thousands of hard working families. It’s hard to understand why he would diminish a speech with such important progressive milestones.”

Earlier today, de Blasio vowed to fight the cuts Cuomo proposed “by any means necessary,” saying he would seek support from both houses of the state Legislature in that quest.

Of course, he might have some trouble in the GOP-controlled state Senate, where majority lawmakers aren’t particularly fond of the mayor, thanks to his support in 2014 of the Democrats’ failed attempt to re-take control of the chamber. And there has been bad blood between de Blasio and his fellow Democrats in the Assembly, too, though the mayor has been trying to repair that relationship of late.

Cuomo, meanwhile, rejected the claims that his budget proposal hurts New York City, saying it’s “absurd” to expect that increases in funding to fight homelessness and and expand infrastructure wouldn’t require spending offsets elsewhere.

End of Year Appeals

Also from today’s memo:

‘Tis the season to seek contributions.

A volley of last-minute appeals has hit our collective CapTon in-box as 2015 is drawing to a close.

One, which arrived yesterday afternoon, was sent by the Working Families Party on behalf of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom the labor-backed party recently endorsed over New York’s hometown candidate, former Sen. Hillary Clinton.

In the appeal, the WFP’s deputy national director Jon Green asks supporters to contribute so the party can send its “talented” field staff to work on Sanders’ behalf in early voting states like New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina by Jan. 4 – an effort that will cost about $30,000 for the month.

“Running strategic and efficient ground game operations re how we’ve always won campaigns,” Green wrote. “That’s why the Working Families Party endorsement is so important. This is our chance to show up for Bernie in the best way we know how.”

Also in our in-box was an email from US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, though New York’s junior senator wasn’t seeking contributions to boost her own bottom line, but rather seeking to fuel her quest to elect more women to serve in D.C.

In her appeal on behalf of three Democratic female US Senate candidates, Gillibrand name-checked “notorious RGB” – AKA US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – saying that if she were nominated to serve on the country’s highest court today, she would be rejected “immediately” by the GOP-controlled chamber.

“That can’t continue,” Gillibrand wrote. “So we have to jump on every opportunity to take back our Democratic Senate. We NEED a say in as many as four Supreme Court nominations that will impact our country’s course for decades, or risk the future getting away from us.”

Gillibrand asked her supporters to give to California candidate Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth in Illinois and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada.

Also sending out an eleventh-hour appeal that was not on his own behalf was Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who, on Christmas Day (last Friday), provided New Yorkers with a list of food banks around the state, urging them to donate or volunteer their time this holiday season.

“Though we come from different cultures and religions, we are one community of New Yorkers, built of old friends and new ones just arrived,” Cuomo wrote. “Now, in these longest nights of the year, we care for those around us, and give our time and resources to those less fortunate.”

With this email, Cuomo gently reiterated his support for the state’s new immigrants at a time when debate continues to rage over whether to keep the nation’s borders open – particularly to Syrian refugees – in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and California.

He also touched on an issue – feeding the hungry – that is close to the heart of his longtime girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee.

New York WFP: ‘Proud’ To Endorse Sanders

After the national Working Families Party announced it was formally backing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, the founding New York chapter of the labor-backed organization praised the nod.

“Bernie Sanders is right when he says it will take a political revolution to make the real change working families need,” said State Director Bill Lipton. “The Working Families Party is fighting for the same thing across our state and our country, and we are proud to stand with him today.”

Endorsing the liberal Sanders over a mainstream Democrat like Hillary Clinton in many respects was the opposite outcome from the New York governor’s race in 2014, when the state WFP ultimately backed Gov. Andrew Cuomo (who is identified with the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party) over Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout.

Teachout would go on top challenge Cuomo for the Democratic nomination later in the year.

But unlike the WFP’s endorsement in the race for governor, which could have held real consequences for Cuomo’s general election match up against Republican Rob Astorino, the impact of the national endorsement for Sanders over Clinton is more of a symbolic statement of purpose for the party.

In essence, the Sanders endorsement allows the WFP in many respects, especially for New York, can return to its liberal roots without having to compromise.

“Today, working families across New York and the nation are showing their eagerness to stand with a candidate who has brought fighting inequality and injustice to the center of our national conversation,” said Javier H. Valdés, the state party’s secretary and co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “From calling for a $15 minimum wage to demanding an expanded immigration relief effort and reining in the greed of Wall Street, Bernie Sanders is leading a political revolution to win the hearts and minds of progressives across this country.”

WFP Backs Sanders

In its first-ever national endorsement, the labor-backed Working Families Party has snubbed former Sen. Hillary Clinton, whom it has backed when she ran for office in New York, in favor of her 2016 Democratic primary opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“We want to live in a nation that allows all people to live a decent life, no matter what is in their parents’ bank account or who is in their family tree,” said WFP National Director (and WFP NY co-founder) Dan Cantor.

“But the super-rich have used their economic muscle to buy political muscle, and unless you’re one of them, what you think government should do basically doesn’t count. That’s why we’re standing with Bernie Sanders to build the political revolution and make our nation into one where every family can thrive.”

According to the party, which has been polling its members online for weeks now, Sanders won the support of an “overwhelming supermajority” of WFPers – 87.4 percent – compared to 11.5 percent who choose Clinton and 1.1 percent who backed former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The final endorsement decision was dependent on both the membership vote and the votes of the WFP’s national advisory board, which includes representatives from all state organizations.

The WFP says its backing will bring Sanders’ campaign the support of the party’s activist base and skilled operatives, which will no doubt come in handy for the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary – both right around the corner.

Though the party is making much of its decision, it isn’t a big surprise.

The WFP has a history with Clinton, supporting both her first 2000 US Senate run (her first attempt at seeking elected office) and her re-election campaign in 2006, though she faced a primary challenge from the left from labor activist Jonathan Tasini.

But back in February, the WFP formally joined the effort to draft Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into the 2016 race, even though she has said repeatedly that she’s not interested in running for the White House next year.

The WFP is also closely allied in New York with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who initially withheld support of Clinton’s 2016 run even though he managed her 2000 US Senate campaign. De Blasio said that he was waiting to hear more from the former secretary of state and ex-first lady about bridging the economic gap – a signature issue for him.

In October, de Blasio formally announced his support for Clinton during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, though he didn’t make much news in the process.