Zack Fink

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Lander to Endorse Nixon

City Councilman Brad Lander will endorse Democratic candidate for Governor Cynthia Nixon. He joins the list of Progressive Caucus members who have already endorsed the candidate over Governor Andrew Cuomo. They include Carlos Menchaca, Antonio Reynoso and Jimmy Van Bramer.

Tonight’s event in Brooklyn features Jumaane Williams, Cynthia Nixon and Brad Lander. It is being sponsored by the Working Families Party, New York Communities for Change and Make the Road. It will also feature Actor Alyssa Milano, and yes, I’m pretty sure it’s *that* Alyssa Milano. Does anyone remember “Teen Steam” from 1988? Check out the graphics here, btw. They were really state of the art.

In a statement, Lander says

 “This is a moment when bolder leadership is smarter leadership. We desperately need a leader who will meet this moment with action and courage– by implementing Andy Byford’s ‘Fast Forward’ plan, calling the State Senate back to Albany to vote to save our kids from traffic crashes, and pioneering bold, progressive legislation like single-payer, universal health care for every New Yorker. I’m proud to endorse progressive champion Cynthia Nixon for Governor of New York State. She will provide the bolder, smarter leadership that this moment demands.”

Nixon has not amassed a lot of institutional support in her campaign, but anytime an elected member embraces her publicly it is worth noting. There  are a handful of elected officials who have said privately they would like to endorse Nixon, but fear repercussions from Cuomo world.

In a statement Nixon says,

 “I am honored to receive the endorsement of Council Member Brad Lander, a leader for progressive values and a true fighter for working New Yorkers. Brad understands the necessity of empowering communities and making government work for the many, not the few. I look forward to working together to fight for bold policy like single payer health care and finally making our state as progressive as its people.”

 

The festivities kick off tonight at The Green Building from 7 – 9pm.

What Does It Mean To Be A Democrat?

These are challenging times for Democrats. With a vacancy on the Supreme Court about to be filled by President Trump, there’s a real likelihood that women’s reproductive rights could be taken away. The possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned has sparked a very robust debate in New York over what it means to call oneself a Democrat. In Albany, state lawmakers have never codified Roe v. Wade into state law. New York’s abortion law actually predates the landmark 1973 case and for years, activists have begged and pleaded with the legislature to pass what’s now known as the Reproductive Health Act ( also known as RHA ). But the legislature has failed to do so.

With the threat of Roe being overturned,  Governor Cuomo went on the road earlier this month, urging State Senate Republicans to return to Albany and pass RHA. The Governor called Republicans in Washington “extreme conservatives” and said these times are “as serious and challenging as any we have faced.”

Well it turns out it isn’t just Republicans who oppose RHA. Assemblyman Marcos Crespo of the Bronx — who also runs the Bronx Democratic party — is also opposed.  The organization strongly backs Cuomo for re-election and Cuomo has been working very closely with Crespo on the issue of relief for the island of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria last year. But when it comes to his votes, Crespo has been against the Governor’s agenda on multiple occasions. Not only did he vote against marriage equality in 2011 ( arguably Cuomo’s signature civil rights accomplishment as Governor ), but he also opposed RHA the last two years. His latest “no” vote on RHA came just a few months ago during the Albany legislative session. Crespo sponsored a bill this session requiring parental consent for the prescription and distribution of emergency contraception, something advocates oppose. And Crespo also voted against Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Agenda in both 2013 and 2014.

Crespo now says he would have voted differently on marriage equality but he declined to comment on his abortion rights voting record. In a statement, Andrea Miller President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health went after Crespo, saying:

“If you believe that a woman should be able to control her body, her life, and her future. you have to support abortion rights and access.  You can’t have one without the other.  While those values are held by the vast majority of New York voters, regardless of party, many of New York’s Republican elected officials align more with the likes of Trump and Pence on these issues than with their own constituents. So Democrats in New York have an added responsibility to support reproductive freedom, especially as they position themselves as the carrying the mantel of progressivism and as the party of women.”

Cuomo’s team insists that the Governor doesn’t have to agree with Crespo on everything to work closely with him on Puerto Rico — Much like Cuomo worked closely with Long Island Republican Congressman Peter King after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. King helped secure a multi-billion dollar bailout for the New York area following the devastating storm. Lis Smith a spokesperson for Cuomo 2018 says of Cuomo’s collaboration with Crespo”

“Governor Cuomo is a national leader on reproductive health rights. He will not play politics when it comes to the crisis in Puerto Rico.”

While Democrats are trying to unite to take on the Trump administration, some within the progressive wing of the party argue that issues like LGBT rights and women’s reproductive rights are fundamental to defining what the party stands for. To call oneself a Democrat means to strongly support both of these issues. Asked about this Thursday, Cynthia Nixon, who is running against Cuomo in this year’s Democratic primary for Governor said:

“I think that believing in women’s reproductive rights and fighting for them actively and pro-actively is a litmus test. And our fight for equality is a civil rights fight, and that we as Democrats and progressives must honor and support each other’s civil rights struggles”.

Nixon is running with Jumaane Williams who is challenging Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor. Williams has previously made statements perceived as anti-abortion and against marriage equality. But Nixon said this week that she has spoken to Williams about his personal beliefs and she believes those beliefs have evolved and he is now “an ally.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie preceded Crespo as Bronx Democratic Chair. Through a spokesperson, Heastie says that he allows all of his members to “vote their conscience,” and he is comfortable with Crespo being Chair of the party.

Departure Lounge

It seems like ages ago, but if you remember, the state Budget negotiations this past March had some high drama the final week.

Under unusual pressure to meet the April 1 deadline early due to upcoming religious holidays, the budget process hit an eleventh-hour snag. It started in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on that Monday night when state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan accused Cuomo of “not negotiating in good faith.” Cuomo apparently lost it. Began screaming and yelling. Pounding the table. The budget had officially come apart. All tables were cancelled.

But if we understand the Albany process at all, we know that breakups are inevitable. And it makes putting Humpty Dumpty back together again all that much sweeter. By the end of the week, things were moving again. Staten Island Sen. Andrew Lanza was doing a lot of the negotiating for the Senate Republicans.

But soon there was a new holdup. See if you can take a wild guess…Hint: his name rhymes with “Kimka Relder.” Yes! Sen. Simcha Felder, the Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, wanted something. Felder represents the magic 32nd vote, giving Republicans their working majority. So much like EF Hutton, when Felder talks, people listen.

In this particular case, Felder wanted changes to state Education Department standards for Yeshivas. It had absolutely nothing to do with the budget. But it was a very important issue to the Jewish community in Borough Park, which Felder represents. In fact, for the last 20 years, the Orthodox and Hasidic communities have been the fastest growing ethnic group in New York City. Very often, they vote in a bloc, meaning they are a force to be reckoned with for any politician seeking statewide or citywide office.

Enter David Lobl. You may not have heard the guy, but if you’ve been anywhere near Cuomo the last six years, you’ve definitely seen him. Lobl has been a fixture in the Cuomo administration since 2012, but last month was his last day on the job as he leaves to take a new position with uber-lobbyist Suri Kasirer. Lobl handled much of Cuomo’s outreach to the Jewish community, and on Thursday, March 30th while at a Cubs-Marlins game in Miami with his family, Lobl received a call from the governor.

The pitch was simple: Cuomo needed Lobl’s help moving Felder, who was holding up the entire budget from being put to bed. Lobl took cover behind the stands of Marlins Park, and while trying to drown out the din of cheering fans, he and the governor devised a strategy.

Once they hashed it out, Lobl went back to his in-laws’ house in Boca Raton, where he was staying. At about 11:30 that night, He gets a call from the Grand Rebbe in Kiryas Joel. The Rebbe wanted a conference call with the governor, and Cuomo quickly agreed. David explained to Cuomo that initially, he and the Rebbe would speak in Yiddish, much like at that Bronx dinner in Godfather where Virgil Solazzo informs the Police Captain that he and Michael Corleone were about to speak in Italian (“Have the veal. It’s the best in the City”).

The call went off without a hitch. Although Lobl had to drive to a nearby 7-11 in Boca at 1 a.m. to take it, so as not to wake up his entire house. But the deal was struck. Bill language was agreed to, and they seemed to have the makings of a final agreement that would pull the budget back together once and for all. Elated, Lobl called Cuomo back for a wrap-up at which point Cuomo said: “David, I don’t speak the language, but I’m pretty sure I heard you and the Rebbe use some Yiddish curse words.”

Lobl was also instrumental in setting up all of Cuomo’s trips to Israel…OK, so there have only been two during his tenure as governor, but there were at least two others that got cancelled at the last minute.

That includes September 2016, when Cuomo was supposed to travel to the Jewish State for the funeral of Shimon Peres. On the day he was supposed to leave, a New Jersey Transit train had a fatal crash as it approached the Hoboken Station. Cuomo raced to New Jersey to appear alongside then New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for updates on the situation. 

Lobl was already on the ground in Israel when he received word that Cuomo would not be coming. Nevertheless, he was seated in the VIP section for the funeral and ushered into the receiving tent immediately thereafter.

At that point David found himself in a small tent with the Israeli Prime Minister and his wife, former President Bill Clinton, Francois Hollande, Mahmoud Abbas and Prince Charles, of all people.

David was eager to say hello to the Royal Prince who surprised him when he asked in his signature upper crust British accent, “Is Governor Cuomo here?” They chatted for a bit, and at the lull in the conversation, Prince Charles cut to the real reason he was so eager to talk. He grabbed Lobl by the arm and whispered: “Hey, when do I put my Kippah on?”

The Cuomo Administration has certainly had its fair share of staff turnover. Some departures more eventful than others. But there is also a core of survivors within the inner circle who have committed for the long haul. And for a culture where the unofficial motto could be: “If you don’t BELONG, please don’t BE LONG,” David Lobl is definitely deserving of recognition for his time on the inside. We wish him well.

 

Cynthia Nixon and Jessica Ramos Set to Cross Endorse

If Governor Cuomo is the candidate of the Democratic establishment, then Cynthia Nixon is fast becoming the insurgent candidate of the left. Following a pattern that took hold just before the Congressional Primary when Nixon and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cross endorsed each other ( a move that is hard to view as anything but very prescient on Nixon’s part ), Nixon is set to do it again, only this time with State Senate candidate Jessica Ramos.
Nixon is expected to travel to Queens tomorrow for the 10:30 announcement. Ramos is taking on ex-IDC-er Jose Peralta who currently represents the 13th Senate District. In a statement Nixon says,
“I am so excited to endorse Jessica, and to receive her support. There has never been a more important time for women to run for office and to make ourselves heard. On Monday, we expect President Trump to nominate a Supreme Court justice who will very likely overturn Roe v. Wade. And,  currently, our state law provides no protection to New Yorkers if Republicans are successful in overturning Roe V. Wade.  For eight years, Cuomo has claimed he’s fought to change that, but at the same time, he’s kept Republicans and IDC members like Senator Peralta in power, knowing they will never support reproductive rights, and blaming them for his failure to lead. It’s time for the Governor and Senator Peralta to stop gaslighting New York’s women. They made the choice to side with the Republicans again and again. and now our reproductive freedom is at risk with Donald Trump in the White House and Roe vs Wade hanging in the balance.”
Peralta was the last Democrat to pull away from the mainline party and join the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference or IDC. He crossed over to the IDC in early 2017 and the backlash was almost immediate as he faced criticism from voters in the district. Until this past April the IDC had a coalition with Senate Republicans for control of the upper chamber. The alliance was in tact for more than five years and had the support of Governor Cuomo who insisted that the IDC-Republican contract remain in place through this year’s 2018 state budget. The IDC dissolved just days after the budget was passed in March and the 8 former IDC members went back to their colleagues and they all became a unified Democratic conference.
For years, few people knew much about the IDC or what role they played in State government, but more recently, in the Trump era, the issue began to break through. And now almost all the former IDC-ers ( all of whom are running for re-election ) are facing robust primary challenges. Sources say Peralta recently held an emergency meeting with campaign staff to figure out how to fight off the threat from Ramos who has been surging. Peralta denies any such meeting took place.
To gain the support of the Working Families Party in 2014 Cuomo pledged to work for a unified and Democratic controlled State Senate, but many progressives believe he reneged on that commitment. And at no point since that pledge have the Democrats been in control of the State Senate. Having learned their lesson, The Working Families Party snubbed Cuomo this election cycle as he seeks a third term, and instead went with Nixon.
In a statement, Ramos says,
“Cynthia Nixon is the progressive leader New York deserves, and I’m proud to support her and receive her endorsement. As a product of our public schools, a passionate advocate for immigrant families, and a champion for reproductive freedom, I know Cynthia will never betray our state’s women, students, and immigrants. For eight years, Andrew Cuomo has failed to deliver. Instead, he enabled, supported, and encouraged Republican leadership in Albany — even after Donald Trump was elected. Enough is enough. We have a bigot in the White House; we need real progressives Albany. I look forward to joining Cynthia in Albany next year and finally codifying Roe v. Wade, providing undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses, and fully funding our public schools.”

Back In A New York Groove

There is no question the political climate has shifted in the Trump era. And nowhere is that more acute than on the left. If we’ve learned anything from the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over entrenched incumbent Joe Crowley it’s that progressive Democrats, the new base of the party, are hungry for change and in no mood to compromise on values.

Leaving nothing to chance, Governor Cuomo is making some moves. Seasoned campaign veteran Maggie Moran is being brought in to manage the 2018 Cuomo Campaign. Cuomo is facing a primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, who is coming at Cuomo from the left. Cuomo has always been very astute when it comes to politics and reading the mood of the electorate. And Maggie’s hiring was actually done long before Crowley lost. She has been on the payroll since June 15th and working out of Cuomo’s midtown campaign office on a full time basis.

The Cuomo team isn’t always big on titles, so technically speaking Moran will be a full time consultant, but make no mistake about it she is in charge. To make the move possible Maggie created a new company called “Blue Strat” to handle partisan activities including the Cuomo Campaign. She is on leave from her full time gig of running Kivvit, the company she founded with former Cuomo communications strategist Rich Bamberger.

Moran is no stranger to Cuomo, she worked full time on the campaign in 2010 where she did paid media and strategy for about 6 to 8 weeks down the stretch. Last year Maggie and Kivvit ran the union funded push to kill the constitutional convention. That highly successful campaign convinced voters that opening up the state constitution by referendum ( which is on the ballot every 20 years ) is not only unnecessary, but potentially very risky. Unions have fought hard through collective bargaining to achieve the benefits and rights they have obtained and when you put a sacred document like the constitutional on there operating block some of those rights can be tinkered with or rolled back.

( To be clear I’m not sure I actually believe any of that, but my larger point is Maggie is one hell of a salesperson )

In short, Moran is going to give the Cuomo campaign a sharper focus. The team will be more diverse and largely female. Another thing we have learned recently is that this very well may be the year of the woman in politics. They will be leaner with a robust digital effort to target voters and bring the campaign into the modern era. Many veterans have observed that while Cuomo won in 2014, the campaign itself was a bit of a disaster. Can anyone say “Joe Percoco?” I’ll say no more.

Finally the campaign will be focusing on what Cuomo can do as Governor to protect New Yorkers from the policies of Donald Trump. Whether that’s helping the island of Puerto Rico, fighting his immigration policy or standing up for Roe v Wade. Cuomo has been viewed as a moderate for most of his career, but that shifted the last couple of years as his current team began to read the political tea leaves and felt the winds shifting. The job now is to convince voters he is a progressive leader who can actually deliver results. That’s where Maggie comes in. Bill Mulrow will remain as Campaign Chairman ( whatever that means ).

Dems May Kick Felder Out Of Party

Next week the Democrats will meet for their convention on Long Island where members of the State Committee will pick candidates and award them a spot on the ballot. While it’s widely understood that the incumbents will win these votes, it is not a preordained conclusion until there is an actual vote. But you wouldn’t know that from the script that has already been written out by the NY Dems. According to documents obtained by Spectrum News/NY1, Governor Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul WILL be the nominees. Cuomo is being challenged by Cynthia Nixon and has not yet been formally nominated. But not according to this internal document which shows him being announced as the candidate at the convention.

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One should probably point out that Nixon campaign hasn’t really helped themselves by being so secretive about how they plan on handling the convention next week. Are they going, or not? Enquiring Minds wanna know. But Hochul is most definitely facing a contested primary against City Councilman Jumaane Williams. But you wouldn’t know that from this DSC script:

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The State Party is supposed to remain independent of the incumbents, according to the Democratic National Committee. In a statement, Geoff Berman the Executive Director of the State Party says,

This was a template script from four years ago cut and pasted as a starting point for working on this year’s run of show. Obviously the party will honor whoever the delegates vote as their designee.

Although this statement doesn’t ring totally true because the nominee for Attorney General was left blank. Indicating that it was written AFTER Eric Schneiderman’s resignation last week.

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But beyond that, there are often a number resolutions that are considered at the convention as well, and here is one that jumped right out. Check out the 4th one down. It says “Removal of Senator Simcha Felder from the Democratic Party.” Although it appears as though the party has already decided this resolution should be tabled.

document1

Felder is the Brooklyn Democrat who conferences with Senate Republicans. There is also a resolution urging the party to support Felder’s primary opponent. Highlighted below in red.

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Reached for comment Felder says,

I am honored to be the most important thing on the minds of Democratic Party operatives. I am humbled by the fact that most of my constituents, who are Democrats, are more than OK with what I am doing.

Felder then called back about five minutes later and added,

“If the Democratic Party was determined to have the Senate majority all they would have to do is put me up as Attorney General.”

 

 

 

AG Office Takes a Breath

At some point today, Eric Schneiderman will deliver his formal letter of resignation and Barbara Underwood will become Acting Attorney General for the State of New York. So far, there hasn’t been any large, morale-boosting staff meeting in the Attorney General’s office, but Underwood has been quietly meeting with staff members on an individual basis, most of whom she already knows. The 700 lawyers and 1,800 employees will continue working on the same cases they were working on yesterday, and Underwood was deeply steeped in most of those cases.

But it was a tumultuous 24 hours for the State Attorney General’s Office, to say the least. Sources say reporters from the New Yorker Magazine first called members of the AG press shop on Sunday evening. No one inside knew of any of the allegations until they received that call. A quick check with Human Resources revealed that Schneiderman never had an internal complaint against him in the office for harassment or anything else inappropriate. And from the time of that call until the actual resignation things moved very quickly.

Schneiderman huddled with members of his inner circle including ex-wife Jennifer Cunningham who doled out advice. Communications guru Stu Loeser was quickly hired by Schneiderman as a crisis communications consultant. A handful of other valued staffers in the office were brought in and out of the conversations with the AG and his quickly shrinking inner circle. When the article finally popped just before 7pm on Monday night “There wasn’t much disagreement.” People realized this was not exactly something they could spin their way out of. Schneiderman had already issued a statement that while not outright confirming the allegations, certainly did not vociferously deny them.

The staff began gaming out options. How could Schneiderman ever have a press conference about anything again without being tainted? It quickly became evident that it would be impossible for him to continue to do the job. And while Governor Cuomo swiftly coming out and calling for Schneiderman’s resignation certainly didn’t help matters, no one in the office chimed in and said the words, “Eric should stay and fight” either.

Schneiderman was not actually in the office when the article hit the web, but many of the dedicated staffers at the AG’s office were. Because as one insider put it, “we are underpaid and overworked public servants.”

By all accounts, Underwood is a solid and capable manager and could be someone who rights the ship in this time of crisis. It’s unlikely she has career ambitions beyond helping the office get back on its feet and focusing it on its core mission which is standing up for the people of New York State.

 

The Rub of Being Progressive and Taking Corporate Money

While Governor Cuomo is criticizing Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE ) agents for stepped up enforcement  against undocumented immigrants, an immigrant rights group is calling him a hypocrite for keeping campaign contributions from a billionaire who’s company is headquartered in the same Buffalo building as ICE.

In response to recent immigration raids Cuomo took a tough stance on Wednesday. At his East Side office, the Governor called the raids, “reckless and unconstitutional,” something that “violates everything we believe in New York and are an assault on our democracy.”

The Governor continued.

“I demand ICE immediately cease and desist this pattern of conduct, and if they fail to do so, I will pursue all available legal recourse and commit to doing everything in my power to protect the rights and safety of New Yorkers.”
Cuomo added that ICE agents were feeding off of President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. This prompted a sharp rebuke from ICE’s Director who accused Cuomo of “grandstanding.

But if Cuomo wanted to really play hardball he could ask that Jeremy Jacobs, a billionaire and major Cuomo donor, no longer rent space alongside ICE agents in the publicly subsidized building on the corner of Delaware and Chippewa in Buffalo.

The building is headquarters for concessions conglomerate Delaware North, which the Jacobs family owns. The building is not owned by Delaware North, but by Uniland. However, the building is called “The Delaware North Building,” and critics say the company has effective control over what happens there, including who can lease space. Development of the site was done in partnership between Uniland and Delaware North. Jacobs, much of his extended family, and a number of Limited Liability Companies or LLC’s have given Cuomo nearly $125,000 in campaign contributions since he first ran for Governor in 2010. So, presumably Cuomo has a relationship with at least some of them.

Moreover, the Jacobs family appear to be non-partisan in their support for political candidates. They have donated more than a $150,000 to President Donald J. Trump. Including with a major fundraiser they threw for him at the same Delaware North building last year. ( And yes, that is very same Trump who Cuomo believes is authorizing and ginning up these egregious immigration raids )

But the connections do not end there. Former U.S. Attorney William Hochul recently became General Counsel for Delaware North. Hochul is the husband of Cuomo’s Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

In a statement Janet Farfan, member of Make the Road Action says,

“Andrew Cuomo can’t have it both ways: you can’t claim to be a champion for immigrants while accepting big contributions from billionaires who are happy for their company’s global headquarters to include ICE offices.”

Critics say if the raids ICE is conducting are in fact, “illegal” as the Governor said, then it would stand to reason that he should use any means at his disposal to deny ICE a staging area from which to conduct illegal activity. Even if that means returning campaign contributions from a big donor who supports Trump and the illegal activities of ICE.

In a statement, Cuomo 2018 Spokesperson Abbey Fashouer says,

“No governor in the nation has been as aggressive against ICE and their illegal anti-immigrant tactics. It’s ridiculous to say that we should know where ice rents space.”

Supporters of the Governor say the last contributions made by the Jacobs family and their associates to the Cuomo campaign came no later than 2014, around the time Delaware North and ICE signed leases to occupy the same building. Also, there was a different culture from ICE back then when it was under the authority of the Obama Administration.

**update**

In a statement, Glen White, a spokesperson for Delaware North says,

Delaware North supports many organizations that assist immigrants and refugees, including the International Institute of Buffalo, International Rescue Committee and Catholic Charities of Buffalo. In addition, Delaware North trains and employs hundreds of international workers on H2-B and other visa programs at the national parks where we operate.”

 

Nixon Finance Team Takes Shape

It’s the bane of most candidates existence: fundraising. Massive amounts of time spent cold calling potential donors and asking for money. It’s particularly tough for candidates with a progressive ethos like Democrat Cynthia Nixon who has vowed to take no corporate money while relying on smaller donations to at least project the image of a campaign based entirely on grassroots support.

But fundraising is a must. Particularly if Nixon is going to compete with Andrew Cuomo’s formidable $30 million campaign war chest. Moreover, Cuomo is actually an exception to the above rule. He enjoys fundraising and holding splashy events with fat cat contributors. But if the donor community and the establishment of old New York Democratic money is on Cuomo’s side in this campaign, it could suck up a lot of the oxygen, which is why Nixon’s team is so critical.

The Nixon campaign will announce shortly that they have hired Monica Barnes as their Finance Director. Since 2013 Barnes has served as Major Gifts Officer, and Fundraising Consultant to Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Certainly a base of supporters who Nixon will be eager to tap into if she is going to stay competitive. Money isn’t everything, of course. But it certainly helps get one’s message out. Especially in the expensive ad buy world of New York City.

In a statement, Rebecca Katz a spokesperson for Nixon says,

We are excited to bring on Monica Barnes, an extremely talented fundraiser with decades of experience, most recently with Planned parenthood. There’s no better person to help our campaign reach out to all new donors – particularly women – who have been energized by this unique moment in American History.

Nixon has also hired Elana Leopold as a consultant to the campaign who is helping out with fundraising. Leopold served as Finance Director for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2017 campaign. And sources say she has been reaching out to Cuomo donors via email to help raise funds for Nixon, some of whom have let her know they are siding with the Governor in this race.

One Democratic insider quipped,

Hiring de Blasio’s entire theater troop only feeds the fact that she’s his puppet. I get it: The longer this entire production runs, the less focus they’ll be on City Hall’s many failures.

De Blasio is a lot of things, but he is not particularly well known for his fundraising prowess. Cuomo has indicated he believes the Mayor helped prompt Nixon to run in the first place. Certainly before Nixon actually announced, and in the very early stages of the campaign some viewed her challenge as at least partially an extension of the de blasio-Cuomo feud. But at some point, the campaign becomes all about the candidate. Much like after being elected to term two, de Blasio now owns the problems at NYCHA, and after two full terms Cuomo kinda owns the subways. It’s just what happens. You want this job, buck stops with you.

In addition to building a fundraising operation, Nixon has been stitching together a coalition of liberal advocacy groups that have spent years challenging Cuomo with sit-ins, demonstrations and press conferences denouncing the Governor’s policies. In a Democratic primary this year you couldn’t really have a better narrative which pits the outsiders against the more entrenched interests for the soul of the Democratic Party. It’s a microcosm of what is happening nationally, and all eyes are gonna be on New York this year.

IDC Agrees to Dissolve

Last Thursday before the budget was finalized, Governor Andrew Cuomo began reaching out to labor leaders. He invited them to a 3p meeting on Tuesday April 3rd at the Capital Grille on 42nd Street, not far from Cuomo’s East side office. At that meeting were the State’s key labor leaders or their surrogates, along with IDC Leader Jeff Klein, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Congressman Joe Crowley. Some say Klein knew what was about to happen others say he did not. Stewart-Cousins definitely did not.

Cuomo had the floor. He told attendees that like his father, he learned early on that you can’t “retrade.” It’s fine to look ahead to the special elections on April 24th, but that is not good enough. The two Democratic factions must come together immediately, even if that means Klein sitting in the minority, something he has been loathe to do. Cuomo announced that Klein must “end the IDC altogether.” Stewart-Cousins will be sole leader of a reunited Democratic party and Klein will serve as a Deputy. Senator Michael Gianaris will remain in his leadership post.

As one Democratic insider put it, “we can now leave this ugly chapter behind us and work together as one party.”

Yesterday’s meeting lasted two hours. It was described as very clandestine with many of the participants unaware of who else would be invited. When everyone arrived, it was a little bit like one of those murder mystery themed dinner parties.

The meeting ended with Klein and Stewart-Cousins shaking hands, but was contingent upon a conference call this morning between Stewart-Cousins and her members. Sources say the mainline Democrats have agreed to accept the terms of the renewed reunification deal. Originally, it was not supposed to happen until after the special election April 24th. But the primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon against Governor Cuomo prompted him to take immediate action. There is still a long way to go before Democrats can oust Republicans from control of the State Senate and form a majority. Democrats must win both seats in the special election, then Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder must agree to come back into the fold, which is highly questionable. Even then, the rules of the Senate may prevent a simple change of leadership.

But all of that seems besides the point. Cuomo sensed the shift in the political winds. And realized he had to inoculate himself against this particular line of attack from Nixon, which is that the Governor blessed this arrangement of a divided party while also empowering Republicans. The question now is will that be enough for Cuomo among the activist base of the party?

Finally the Klein factor is interesting here. If he had agreed to go back late last year, he probably would have secured himself a co-leader position with Stewart-Cousins. That deal is no longer on the table. Without Cuomo’s support, he has nowhere else to go. Might as well negotiate the terms of your surrender before your options get even worse.