morelleFrom the Morning Memo:

LG Kathy Hochul said this week that several hundred candidates running in local elections this fall want to appear on the Women’s Equality Party line, which was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his successful re-election bid last year.

According to Hochul and other WEP boosters, the new party, which has ballot access for four years, thanks to Cuomo, will play a key role in next year’s state legislative elections – particularly in the closely-divided state Senate, where Democrats will make yet another effort to win back the majority.

But not all Democrats are feeling quite so bullish about the WEP, which made a number of them fairly uncomfortable when it was created, and even caused some – including Sen. Liz Krueger – to suggest its existence would hurt, not help, the Senate Democrats’ cause in the 2014 elections.

Also, it was not lost on the Working Families Party (AKA the WFP), which wasn’t getting along terribly well with Cuomo last year, that the WEP had an acronym awfully similar to its own. Some political conspiracy theorists believed that was no accident, and, in fact, had been done specifically to confuse voters and keep the WFP’s own tally low.

In the end, however, both the WFP, which endorsed Cuomo (after some tortured machinations), and the WEP saw their gubernatorial contender receive the 50,000-plus votes necessary for them to maintain and/or achieve ballot status.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, head of DACC and former Monroe County Democratic chairman, was reluctant to get on the WEP bandwagon when asked during a CapTon interview last night whether he would be encouraging his chamber’s candidates to run on the new line.

“We have not had any conversations about third party lines at all,” Morelle said. “Obviously, in addition to the Women’s Equality Party, there’s the Working Families Party, there’s the Independence Party. For some people, the Conservative Party is an appropriate party to partner with.

“So, my goal is certainly to support and help candidates running on the Democratic line,” the assemblyman continued. “…and I want to make sure my colleagues who are elected on the Democratic side are successful in their re-elections, and we’re looking forward to picking up seats across the state.”

Asked whether he personally would seek to run on the WEP line, Morelle replied:

“I haven’t actually considered, I’m very selective, I don’t take many other party lines. I’m a Democrat, and I’m comfortable as a Democratic Party candidate, and I hope to be again when I run next year. My focus as the chair of the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee is certainly to raise resources for candidates running on the Democratic Party line.”

The WEP is temporarily being chaired by ex-Cuomo administration commissioner Barbara Fiala, who is currently running in the special election for the Binghamton seat that former Republican Sen. Tom Libous was forced to vacate when he was found guilty of a federal corruption charge.

Technically speaking, a party must be headed by someone who is an enrolled member. But Fiala said she has no intention of changing her registration from the Democratic Party any time soon.

Republicans this summer challenged the WEP in court, saying it had been illegally constituted. But a state Supreme Court judge in Niagara County tossed that suit, saying it’s up to the state Board of Elections – not the judicial branch – to determine whether the party has violated Election Law.