Working Families Party
Nov 7th - 12:51 pm
Much has been made of the ascendancy of the Working Families Party in New York city since this Tuesday’s elections. Between Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Tish James, the labor-backed third party will certainly not be lacking for allies at City Hall in Lower Manhattan.
But the party is also touting is success outside the city in some more low-key races, many of which (with the exception of local media) flew under the radar.
In an email to supporters sent out yesterday afternoon, WFP State Director Bill Lipton reiterated that the party has been playing a “long game” with its “Progressive Pipeline” program by nuturing candidates at the local level in hopes of seeing them either 1) start a trend that results in more like-minded candidates running for – and winning – elected office, or 2) rising to a higher post with more clout.
Lipton singled out several races around the state in which the WFP played a role, including;
- The city of Plattsburgh, where two WFP-backed candidates – Rachelle Armstrong, a NYSUT member and teacher of 23 years; and Mike Kelly – won seats on the Council.
- The city of Syracuse, where, as Lipton wrote: “After eking out a victory against Howie Hawkins with only a few dozen votes two years ago, Khalid Bey won re-election in the Syracuse Common Council’s 4th District loud and clear, with nearly 500 votes. The difference this time? WFP, which, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard, ‘coordinated an intensive get-out-the-vote effort on his behalf during the past few weeks’ to help Bey get over the top.”
- The Town of Hamburg. The WFP’s Erie County Legislature candidate Mike Schraft came up just short against an incumbent Independent that caucuses with the Republicans. But another WFP favorite, Mike Quinn, an Army veteran, won a Town Board seat.
- Long Island. The WFP failed in its bid to unseat Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano (it backed Democrat Tom Suozzi), but saw another candidate, Anthony Eramo, a registered WFP member, win a seat on the Long Beach City Council.
- The Town of Rosendale. Lipton, who grew up upstate, wrote: “Jen Metzger, who lost to a Republican the last time around, handily won her race for Council by hundreds of votes yesterday, showing what a difference the WFP can make. We look forward to seeing Metzger thriving as a smart, progressive legislator and an embodiment of the model that WFP hopes to replicate all over the state.”
- Orange County. “Shannon Wong won the most visible election for Orange County legislature this year, and her successful experience as an advocate for women’s rights give her the potential to become one of the most effective legislators in the county. She attracts a broad base of progressive support and we think she has great potential going forward,” Lipton wrote.
- Yonkers and Ulster and Dutchess Counties. “Gerard Lyons lost a tough rematch for Ulster County Legislature by only a few dozen votes, and Rocky Richard is down in her race, not fully tallied, for Westchester County Legislature. Francena Amparo is down by a handful of votes with absentee ballots yet to be counted.”
Nov 4th - 12:52 pm
Sen. Diane Savino, a member of the breakaway Senate conference blamed by any number of her fellow Democrats – including Gov. Andrew Cuomo – for the death of “progressive” legislation in the chamber this past legislative session, is urging New Yorkers to vote on the uber-liberal Working Families Party line tomorrow.
“As an early supporter of the Working Families Party and a member of the New York State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, I have always believed that voters should have choice,” Savino said in a statement released by her campaign committee this afternoon.
“For over 15 years the WFP has been the progressive voice for working class and middle class New Yorkers, it was founded to fight for good jobs, affordable housing and quality schools. I am urging people to vote for Democrats Bill deBlasio, Tish James and Scott Stringer on the Working Families Party line. So make your vote stand something, remember to vote for the Democrats on row D, VOTE WFP!”
Despite the fact that she has thrown in her lot with the Independent Democratic Conference that enabled the Senate Republicans to remain in power (a move that has a personal component, given the fact that she is dating IDC Leader Jeff Klein), Savino has a long history with the labor movement – one that predates her election to the Senate in 2004.
Savino began her career in public service as a caseworker for NYC’s Child Welfare Administration. She was an active member of her local labor union, DC 37, and eventually became its the vice president for political action and legislative affairs.
The WFP is poised to win big tomorrow with NYC mayoral frontrunner de Blasio, whom the labor-backed party has supported throughout his career. (De Blasio has a long history with organized labor, and is the cousin of John Wilhelm, the former president of Unite Here).
Savino’s embracing of the WFP is yet another on a quickly growing list of “screw yous” from the IDC (well, mostly Klein) to Cuomo. The governor has had a rocky relationship with the WFP, and actively tried to neuter it (and other minor parties) earlier this year by proposing an end to the Wilson Pakula process, which would have robbed third party leaders of the power to control who gets their endorsement. (Note: I originally wrote that Cuomo proposed doing away with fusion voting, which is the bread-and-butter of minor parties. He did not. But minor party leaders found the idea he did float almost as onerous).
The WFP has weathered its share of challenges over the past several years. Cuomo made the party sweat it out in 2010 while he delayed accepted its endorsement due to a US attorney’s office investigation into the actions of its now defunct for-profit arm, Data and Field Services, in the 2009 NYC elections.
The feds found no wrongdoing, and Cuomo did accepted the WFP line – but not before forcing the party to accept his New New York Agenda in full, including a number of proposals that were not popular in progressive labor circles like the property tax cap and wage freezes for state workers.
Though the WFP is out of the woods with the feds, it remains in the crosshairs of a special prosecutor requested by Staten Island DA Dan Donovan in 2011. That special prosecutor, Roger Adler, told the Daily News he expects to convene a grand jury shortly after Veterans Day as part of his probe into allegations the WFP illegally gave candidates below-cost campaign-related services in 2009.
Oct 24th - 2:22 am
Tom Richards held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce, for a second time, he was out of the race for Rochester Mayor.
“I have said I am not running, I endorse Lovely, I’m done,” Richards said.
Richards lost the Democratic Primary to Rochester City Council President Lovely Warren. About a week later, Richards suspended his campaign and sent his campaign funds back to the Monroe County Democratic Party.
“That was driven, as you probably know by now, by some personal circumstances that impacted what I should be putting my time and effort into right now. And while they have changed somewhat the circumstances that drove me to that conclusion continue to exist today, and that’s the way I intend to behave,” Richards said.
Since Richards’ original announcement, his son lost a lengthy battle with cancer. Richards will still be on the Independence and Working Families Party lines in November, but reiterated Wednesday he wants no part of what’s left of the campaign.
“Believe it or not there are things in the world that are more important than political speculation,” Richards said.
It’s speculation that was reignited this week after a group of Richards supporters started a grassroots campaign to re-elect him on their own. When given a chance to call for an end to the movement, Richards declined.
“I don’t think I’m obligated to go around the city and knock on doors and say, ‘Are you doing anything on this campaign? Because if you are, I want you to cut it out.’ You know, I mean, come on here! I’m being as clear as I can be and I’ve told people where I am and what I’m going to do. I assume they’ll respect that. If they chose not to. If they chose to do something else ‘cause they’d rather do something else, I guess that’s what they’ll do,” Richards said.
Those behind the movement to re-elect Richards are hopeful that if their efforts are successful he will be compelled to stay on as Mayor. Richards did little, Wednesday, to squash those hopes.
“Would I serve? Unfortunately, you want a yes or no answer to that but yes or no is not going to be possible,” Richards said.
Richards cited possible procedural hurdles if he were elected as a reason why he couldn’t give a definitive answer.
“And I know that doesn’t satisfy everybody but you’re going to have to live with it,” Richards added.
Tuesday, fellow Democrat Lovely Warren suggested that Richards should put a stop to the unauthorized efforts to revive his campaign. Following Wednesday’s press conference, Warren seemed satisfied.
“He’s supporting me and he wants to be a grandfather to his grandchildren and basically he’s asking the community to support me as well,” said Warren.
The renewed effort to keep Richards as mayor has been interpreted, by some, as fear over the impending reality of a Warren Administration. Warren took 58 percent of the Democratic vote in the primary, but Richards supporters are quick to point out voter turnout was historically low.
“If the person that you want to see elected is supporting someone else then I think that you can just infer that’s what he would like to see. This is a very unfortunate situation that the mayor has been placed in during his time of grievance. And my heart goes out to him and his family at this point in time because he shouldn’t have to deal with this. He dealt with this in September and you have a group of people putting their own needs above his,” Warren said.
The third person in this race, Green Party Candidate Alex White, is disappointed speculation over whether or not Richards is still a candidate has dominated the final weeks of the election.
“I’m sorry that there are so many people that are disappointed with Lovely Warren as a candidate, but there is another one. I’m Alex White, I’m running for mayor. We’ve got 56 percent of children living in poverty and we’re talking about a guy who’s talking about not doing something? We need to talk about how to make Rochester better,” White said.
Monroe County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle agreed that, at some level, the Richards’ story has been “overplayed.” Despite the fact he didn’t completely close the door on a return to city hall, Morelle believes Richards has been clear about his intentions all along.
“What we heard very clearly from him today is that I’m not participating in it. I’m not supporting it. I’m endorsing lovely Warren as the next Mayor. I don’t think he could have been clearer about that,” Morelle said.
Richards knows the speculation about his future will continue through Election Day. And, while Wednesday’s press conference may have done little to resolve the issue, there was one thing Richards made clear.
“I’m done with this. I’m not going to have another press conference I’m not going to answer any more questions about this. I’m not going to engage in anymore speculation. I’ve done the best I can. You may, or may not, find that satisfying. Others may not find that satisfying. Others may want to give me advice on it and tell me what to do, but I’m done,” Richards added.
Oct 23rd - 1:28 am
Despite dropping out after losing the Democratic Primary, many are still wondering whether or not Tom Richards is really out of the race for Rochester Mayor.
“The only person who can end this speculation is Tom,” said Rochester City Council President Lovely Warren.
Warren, who defeated the incumbent in the September primary, told YNN’s Sheba Clarke that Richards needs to be clear about his intentions.
“If he doesn’t want this he has to say so,” Warren said.
A week after Warren won the Democratic Nomination with 58 percent of the vote; Richards suspended his campaign to deal with what he called family issues. Soon after that announcement, Richards’ son died after a long battle with cancer.
“We understood why he was going to pay attention to his family needs and his job as Mayor, but we never stopped being disappointed in the fact the campaign seemed to be at an end,” said Richards supporter Pattie McCarthy.
That’s why McCarthy, at the urging of the Independence Party, started a grassroots campaign to re-elect Richards.
“The true vote happens in November. We support the re-election of Mayor Tom Richards,” said Monroe County Independence Party Chair Steve Corryn.
Richards will still appear on the ballot on the Independence and the Working Families Party lines. With only two weeks to go before the general election, McCarthy knows there’s a lot of work to do.
“We know it’s a long shot. These are two lines that people aren’t necessarily accustomed to voting on. We’ll have some signs but we’re going to concentrate on ringing doorbells and doing it the old fashion way,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy hasn’t spoken to Richards. But she was quick point out he hasn’t said he wouldn’t stay on if this grassroots campaign is successful.
“He has not said no he wouldn’t, so we are hopeful that he is keeping an open mind,” said McCarthy.
“I think Tom has been pretty clear that he wasn’t going to campaign and that he supports Lovely as the next Mayor of Rochester,” said Monroe County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Morelle.
When Richards announced he was suspending his campaign Morelle believes he was indeed throwing his support behind Warren. McCarthy thinks that’s open to interpretation.
“He did not endorse her. What he did say is that he would do everything in his power to ease the transition. We think the best transition is no transition,” McCarthy said.
Richards released another statement Monday in response to several media requests:
“I have been concentrating my time on my family and on my job as Mayor. I have not had any conversations with any political leader regarding the mayoral election.”
To Morelle, the statement reaffirmed Richards’ decision to drop out and back Warren. To political analyst Curt Smith, it’s a noncommittal response by design.
“He’s shrewd enough to know he doesn’t need to say a thing,” Smith said.
Warren was elected in a primary that saw a historically low voter turnout. Faced with the reality of a Warren Administration, Smith said there’s a strong sense of buyer’s remorse among Rochester Democrats.
“They’re thinking what have we done? I think there’s a strong fear over someone who has an anti-business background being the Mayor of Rochester,” said Smith.
The head of the Rochester Business Alliance, Sandy Parker, announced Monday she was delaying her retirement. She cited several reasons for doing so including a likely change in leadership at Rochester City Hall.
“I think there’s a lot of great economic development activity downtown and I think that’s important for the community. I hope that continues,” Parker said.
While some believe the move was a sign of anxiety from the business community over the impending change, Morelle said that’s not the case.
“No I didn’t take it that way. I think the RBA Board loved Tom, and understandably so, but I don’t think they’re worried at all about working with Lovely Warren,” said Morelle.
Smith admits it’s an unlikely outcome, but believes if Richards is drafted by this grassroots movement he’ll be compelled to stick around.
“What’s he going to say I’m elected but I’m not going to serve? If by some happenstance, or a political miracle, he is elected it would be a vote of no confidence for her (Warren) and a vote confidence for him,” Smith added.
McCarthy doesn’t expect Richards to publically address her group’s efforts to get him re-elected. And that’s fine with her.
“I wouldn’t expect him to respond to hypotheticals. There’s no reason why he should. But if we wake up on November 6th and he has the most votes I’m certainly hopeful that he will continue to serve Rochester for a number of years to come,” McCarthy said.
For Lovely Warren, at least, Richards’ perceived silence needs to be broken.
“If he doesn’t want people acting on his behalf he has to say so. It’s been a long campaign and I’m looking forward to the votes coming in on November 5th and being successful,” Warren added.
Alex White is the third candidate for Rochester Mayor, he’ll run on the Green Party line. There is no Republican in the race.
Oct 4th - 1:05 pm
ICYMI, this was today’s Morning Memo:
The labor-backed Working Families Party has fired a warning shot at two Democrats who broke ranks with their party along with seven others to vote with the GOP on a vote that would have ended the government shutdown, accusing them of siding with “Tea Party bullies trying to stop Obamacare.”
On Monday night, after Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Dan Maffei voted “yes” on a measure that would have repealed the Obamacare carve-out for Congress and delayed the individual insurance mandate for a year, the party sent its members an email alert with the subject line: “You thought we weren’t going to find out?”
“Monday night, two New York Congressional Democrats, Dan Maffei and Sean Patrick Maloney, showed solidarity – with John Boehner,” the email signed by WFP State Director Bill Lipton read.
“They sided with Boehner and the Tea Party Republicans in an attempt to delay the Affordable Care Act – blocking millions of uninsured families from getting access to affordable health care and leading to the shut down of the federal government. We voted Reps. Maffei and Maloney into office because we wanted better government, not no government at all. ”
“…Tell Reps. Dan Maffei and Sean Patrick Maloney that we didn’t send them to Washington, DC to vote with the Tea Party to shut down the government.”
The email includes a link to an on-line petition that the WFP plans to send to the two Democrats.
Maloney and Maffei, both of whom are freshmen (although in Maffei’s case, this is his second time around in the House) representing marginal districts, have been on the defensive about this vote. Maloney said in a statement:
“I strongly support the president’s decision to give employers more time to comply with the law, and I believe that we should give families the same flexibility we’re giving to our small businesses…Families and businesses in the Hudson Valley are not getting special subsidies from Obamacare and neither should members of Congress or the White House.”
Maffei, meanwhile, told his hometown paper, The Syracuse Post-Standard:
“Do I think it would have been better to have no strings attached? Yes. But if it’s about keeping the government open, I’m going to support it. I will work with any side to do it. Our leadership on both sides of the aisle needs to make some sort of concession.”
Both Maloney and Maffei are engaged in a delicate dance.
On one hand, their districts are closely divided, and they need to display independence from the liberal House Democratic leadership in order to appeal to the centrist, swing voters who will likely make the difference between winning and losing in the 2014 elections.
On the other hand, both Democrats railed during their successful 2012 elections against “extremist” Republican opponents – former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, in Maffei’s case, who recently announced she won’t be seeking a third rematch next fall; and former Rep. Nan Hayworth in Maloney’s case, who is planning on attempting a comeback.
Maffei and Maloney both ran with WFP support in 2012, and losing the line in 2014 could be problematic – if not fatal.
The WFP does engage in a lot of saber rattling, but there is some precedent for the party abandoning a Democratic member of Congress on the issue of health care reform just to make a point – even if that means losing a seat to the Republicans.
Just as former Reps. Mike Arcuri and Mike McMahon.
Both Democrats voted “no” on health care reform in 2010 – Arcuri was one of only two Democrats nationwide to change their vote from “yes” to “no” on the bill – and both lost the support of the WFP and various powerful labor unions as a result. Both also lost their seats in the 2010 elections, though the primary challenges the WFP initially pledged to support against them never materialized.
They, like many other marginal Democrats, fell victim to the Tea Party wave that year, and while you could argue that having the WFP line might not have made a difference in the final outcome, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt.
So far, the WFP has held off issuing any ultimatums the way it did back in 2010, and we’ll just have to wait and see how far the disappointment with these two on the part of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party goes.
Sep 12th - 12:55 pm
Posted by Liz Benjamin in [...]
The pro-Bill de Blasio drumbeat continues, with the labor-backed Working Families Party announcing its full support of the public advocate’s candidacy – yet another development that will make it increasingly difficult for Bill Thompson to remain in the runoff, should the tallying of paper ballots push de Blasio below the magic 40 percent mark.
The WFP, which stayed out of the Democratic mayoral primary, joined representatives of some 50 “progressive” organizations in Brooklyn earlier today to rally in support of de Blasio, and also send a message to Thompson that the labor community – while divided over the past year or so – is now uniting behind the Democratic frontrunner.
“There are two reasons we are supporting Bill de Blasio. He tells the truth, and he’s a fighter for the middle class, working class and poor,” said WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor in a press release. “That’s an awfully good combination, and we’re excited to get behind his campaign.”
Also standing with de Blasio are a number of individuals and groups that had backed the erstwhile frontrunner, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, including several I mentioned in an earlier post, as well as 32BJ SEIU. On hand, too, was Rep. Jerry Nadler, an influential Upper West Side liberal who was an outspoken supporter of Thompson’s when he ran against Bloomberg in 2009.
“Bill has proven time and again that he has the vision and values to bring true progressive change to our city,” said Nadler.
“From taxing the wealthy to fund universal pre-K and after-school programs to ending unnecessary subsidies to big corporations and investing in our CUNY system, Bill will be an ally for working families in City Hall. I’m proud to endorse his campaign for mayor, and look forward to working with him in the weeks and months ahead.”
The WFP sent out a press release yesterday touting its successes in the NYC races other than the mayoral contest, which included 12 NYC Council candidates, including Carlos Menchaca, who defeated incumbent Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez and is poised to become the Council’s first Mexican-American member, and Antonio Reynoso, who defeated former Assemblyman Vito Lopez and the remnants of his Brooklyn political machine.
The WFP was also active in several races outside the five boroughs, including the Albany mayor’s race, where City Treasurer Kathy Sheehan is poised to become the city’s first female leader after defeating her primary opponent, former Councilman Corey Ellis; and Nassau County, where Tom Suozzi is one step closer to his effort to take back his old county executive post from Republican Ed Mangano after beating Adam Haber on Tuesday.
Apr 25th - 1:48 pm
Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo included a call to do away with the Wilson-Pakula law in his second Smith-Stevenson corruption scandal reform proposal, we have heard outraged reactions from all but one of the state’s top minor party leaders.
State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long was first out of the box with an accusation that Cuomo was looking for an “easy way out” in response to the most recent corruption wave to rock the Capitol.
He also promised “an awful lot of people are going to get hurt in the process” if legislative leaders go along with the governor’s idea of scrapping third party officials’ power to hand-pick who runs on their ballot lines – a pledge that no doubt sent shivers up the spines of not a few Senate Republicans.
Next up: The Working Families Party, which deemed Cuomo’s call for a primary free-for-all on minor party lines “a recipe for chaos,” and insisted that campaign finance reform – not ending Wilson-Pakula – is the best remedy for ending public corruption.
Green Party leaders split somewhat from their minor party colleagues, saying they would like to see an end to so-called fusion voting (which, by the way, the governor has so far NOT proposed), insisting that third parties should end their habit of cross-endorsing major party candidates in order to maintain their autonomy and remain ideologically pure.
But they didn’t love the idea of losing control over who gets to run on their ballot line, which they – through gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins – worked so hard to secure in the 2010 campaign.
That leaves state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay as the odd man out. As far as I can tell, MacKay hasn’t uttered a single word about Cuomo’s reform proposal – and he hasn’t returned my calls seeking comment, either.
The New York City Independence Party, which has long been at war with its statewide counterpart, issued a lengthy reform proposal of its own earlier this week.
“The current political scandals expose structural weaknesses in the system that need to be addressed, but not in ways that entrench the powerful and preclude a more nonpartisan process,” the party’s release declared.
The NYC Indys renewed their long-time proposal for nonpartisan elections – an idea Mayor Bloomberg has tried unsuccessfully to push in the Big Apple, spending $7 million of his own money in the process. They expressed sympathy for the WFP and Conservative Party’s argument against doing away with Wilson-Pakula, but also said they would support rescinding it for major party primaries, reasoning:
“A minor party candidate could not overwhelm a major party, while the reverse would be the likely outcome if minor parties lost their right to issue Wilson-Pakulas.”
Also on the NYC Indy Party reform to-do list: Initiative and referendum, term limits for legislators, letting voters change their enrollment after a one-month waiting period, nonpartisan administration of the Board of Elections, nonpartisan redistricting and campaign finance reform.
And yet, nothing from MacKay.
Apr 18th - 4:23 pm
An email to supporters of the Working Families Party is pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo not to back a repeal of the little-known Wilson-Pakula law that could have major consequences for the party’s leadership.
The email comes as party leaders from across the state and the political spectrum question or outright oppose ending the law, which allows members of one political party a waiver to run on another ballot line.
The call for repeal comes after Sen. Malcolm Smith allegedly sought to bribe his way onto the GOP ballot line for New York City mayor through the Wilson-Pakula waiver.
Cuomo does not support an end to the fusion ballot system of allowing a candidate to run on multiple ballot lines, but the Wilson-Pakula repeal would greatly reduce the clout of the state’s minor parties that can influence the platforms and policies of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Earlier Republican Onondaga County Chariman Tom Dadey released a statement opposing the move to repeal the law as well.
But the WFP’s email, signed by Executive Director Dan Cantor, says the repeal could also have a negative impact on Democrats and the GOP.
It’s not just about minor parties. Gov. Cuomo’s proposal would let Republicans run in Democratic primaries and vice versa. Well-funded candidates could run in every primary at once. It’s a recipe for chaos. Wall Street and Walmart would surely benefit, but democracy would not,” Cantor writes. “Even worse, it’s a distraction. Every state that allows fusion voting protects the rights of parties to choose their own candidates. That’s not the source of corruption. We have a chance—and it won’t be here long—to bring about real campaign finance reform that includes public financing. That’s the best answer to our pay-to-play culture.”
As Cantor alludes to, tied together with this is the push for public financing of political campaigns. The WFP is part of the Fair Elections coalition that’s backing a public financing system. Cuomo even took the rare step of holding a telephone news conference with the Fair Elections group earlier this year and before the Smith scandal broke.
Now the WFP comes close to questioning Cuomo on the issue of public financing.
“Governor Cuomo has said he supports public financing. If he really does, this is the moment. The votes in the legislature are there if he wants them,” Cantor wrote.
The full email is after the jump. More >
Apr 16th - 7:03 pm
Not surprisingly, the Working Families Party is opposed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to end Wilson-Pakula, which allows party leaders to grant waivers for ballot access to non-party candidates.
In a statement released this evening following Cuomo’s news conference unveiling his latest ethics overhaul proposals, WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor said repealing the obscure law a “distraction.”
“What we need is more democracy, not less. The Governor’s proposal to limit minor parties is a distraction from the real problem in our political system, which is the influence of big money, and that’s something only public financing of elections can fix.”
While it’s natural for the minor parties to oppose an end to Wilson-Pakula, the effort to repeal the obscure law is going to be a political fraught one. It also has the added benefit of the strange bedfellows moment of the liberal WFP and Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long actually agreeing on something.
There’s some recent history here, though, that adds some subtext to the brewing fight. And it also shows why repealing Wilson-Pakula is going to be easier said than done.
Candidate Cuomo initially hesitated to accept the WFP line in 2010 as the party’s for-profit arm Data and Field Services was under federal investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office later ended its investigation without any charges.
Cuomo, who was running on a platform of scaling back spending in state government and pension reform, still balked at accepting the WFP line until he was assured they would back his proposals. The party needed Cuomo in order to secure 50,000 votes in order to obtain ballot access for the next gubernatorial election.
In the end, Cuomo took the line two months before Election Day.
Complicating reform efforts further is the Working Families Party undertaking a new campaign for a system of public matching for political campaigns. The party is in the Fair Elections coalition that has been running ads in favor of the public financing program.
Cuomo himself even participated in one of the Fair Elections conference calls with advocates and reporters listening in.
Though the campaign was planned in advance of the latest corruption scandals, Fair Elections has pointed to the arrests of Sen. Malcolm Smith and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson as examples for why publicly financed campaigns is necessary.
Cuomo today reiterated his support for overhauling campaign finance laws and a public matching program, though he would not say specifically if he would veto a reform bill without the matching program.
It remains to be seen, however, if repealing Wilson-Pakula will be intertwined with public matching or if those measures are running on parallel tracks.
Either way, the reaction to the corruption scandals took a major turn today. A political fight over an obscure electoral provision could have major consequences down the road.
Jan 18th - 1:00 pm
In today’s Morning Memo, I wrote that a come-from-behind win by Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk today would be a boon for campaign finance advocates, who turned her candidacy into a vehicle for their cause.
As you’ll recall, two Super PACs pushing to reduce the power of money in politics by establishing a public campaign finance system (ironically) spent big money on her behalf – $500,000 to be exact.
The Working Families Party and Citizen Action of New York pre-emptively released a memo yesterday to a handful of reporters – including yours truly – to make the case that a win by Tkaczyk would provide a “major boost” to their quest for publicly financed, or “fair”, elections.
In the memo, WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor and Citizen Action Executive Director Karen Scharff wrote:
“(Tkaczyk’s) campaign proved that New Yorkers are tired of the corrupting influence of big money on politics, where major campaign contributions grease the wheels to special access and preferred legislative outcomes for a select few.”
“Voters indicated their overwhelming support for a small donor matching fund system that would limit the influence of CEO campaign contributors and allow every voice to be heard.”
Cantor and Scharff went on to note that two other Democrats who support public campaign financing – Sen. Ted O’Brien, of Rochester; and Sen. Terry Gipson, of Rhinebeck – won their respective races in November.
That was a particularly big deal for Gipson, since his GOP opponent, former Sen. Steve Saland, was endorsed by Cuomo (thanks to his “yes” vote on same-sex marriage).
“Republicans went into November with every advantage, including freshly-drawn partisan districts including a new seat, and a huge fundraising lead,” Scharff and Cantor argued.
“…But to the surprise of most observers, Democrats won multiple unexpected victories, in part, due to their support for public financing of elections. Statewide, Democrats won 55% of the vote in state Senate races.”
“This momentum is boosted by a growing, diverse state and nation-wide coalition of organizations, led by the Working Families Party and Citizen Action of New York, with labor, environmental, faith and civil rights groups around the nation, to pass public financing of elections in New York.”
“If Tkaczyk comes out in front too, that is an undeniable referendum in support of public financing of elections that should resonate across the state.”
Cuomo has been calling for campaign finance reform since his 2010 gubernatorial run, and reiterated that call in his recent State of the State address. He also again announced his support for a publicly financed system, though he has yet to submit any legislation on the subject.
Cantor and Scharff believe a win by Tkaczyk “will show a clear mandate and a viable path to victory” in the Senate for campaign finance reform. They also pointed to yesterday’s Siena poll, which found voters’ support for a public campaign finance system now stands at 59-36.
The lefty duo’s final argument: Now that Cuomo has succeeded in leading the nation on gun control, he could do so again on this issue, being the first to act in a significant way to counter the power of big money in politics since the US Supreme Court’s January 2010 Citizens United decision.
We’ve already seen that the governor is interested in being first and making New York a leader on national issues. We’ll see if that desire translates on this issue – especially since it could very well be a bridge too far with the Senate Republicans.
Since I sent the above memo, Jonathan Soros, who founded Friends of Democracy – one of the two PACs that spent big money on Tkaczyk’s behalf to push campaign finance reform- released the following statement:
“Congratulations to Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk on a well-deserved win. With unwavering commitment to the people of the 46th district and the issues that matter most, Senator Tkaczyk proved that being on the right side of reform is not only good policy, it’s good politics.”
“Her victory shows that voters will support candidates who champion real campaign finance reform, including citizen funded elections. Her win today is an unmistakable mandate to work to change the broken campaign finance laws that have shut out the voices of regular New Yorkers.”
“I look forward to working with Senator Tkaczyk and like-minded elected officials – including Governor Cuomo – to achieve real reform so New Yorkers can continue to rebuild their trust in government.”