Working Families Party

WFP, Conservative Party File Suit To Protect Fusion Voting

The Working Families Party announced Tuesday it had filed a lawsuit meant to protect the practice of fusion voting, pre-empting an election law commission that could end the practice of candidates running on multiple ballot lines in New York.

They are being joined in the legal fight by the Conservative Party, which is also is challenging the commission’s ability to end fusion voting.

“I believe this is no more than a power grab by the Governor and Democratic Party to consolidate their control and punish another political party,” said Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar. “It is against the interests of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who each year choose to vote for cross endorsed candidates on third party lines.”

The lawsuit represents a fight by minor parties like the progressive, labor-backed WFP as well as efforts by the Conservative Party to keep fusion voting legal and allow their parties to continue to survive in their current form.

Plaintiffs of the suit, filed in Niagara County, include local voters and Democratic Assembly lawmakers David Buchwald, Robert Carroll, Harvey Epstein, Walter Mosley, and Phil Steck as well as Democratic Sen. Robert Jackson and Working Families Party board members.

“The fusion voting system is a valuable part of our election system, which gives voters more choice and brings light to more issues,” Mosley said.

“Moreover, it’s a voting right protected by our state constitution. The creation of a commission aimed at rolling back fusion voting rights was a mistake and I don’t believe it will hold up in court. I look forward to a favorable outcome in this case and a fusion voting system that continues to thrive.”

The election law commission was formed as part of a budget deal in March as part of a compromise for creating a system of publicly financed campaigns, which the WFP supports. But the commission is examining several facets of long-standing election law in New York, including fusion voting.

Cross-party endorsement has been in place for a century, giving rise to parties like the WFP and the Conservative Party, which can endorse their own stand-alone candidates or run nominees of the major parties.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been at odds with the WFP for much of his time in office. The party declined to endorse him initially in 2018, backing Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary. Ultimately, the WFP gave Cuomo, and he accepted, their ballot line after the September party primary.

The party, with Cuomo on their ballot line, secured 114,478 votes on its gubernatorial ticket, more than the 50,000 votes needed to maintain its ballot status, out polling the Green Party.

The commission is composed of appointees of the governor and the legislative leaders from both parties. One of the governor’s appointees is Jay Jacobs, the state Democratic Committee chairman.

Both the WFP and the Conservative Party have sought to tug the major parties to the left or right.

Republicans, who have been shutout out of statewide office since 2006, have needed the Conservative Party ballot line to win statewide for the victories of figures like Gov. George Pataki.

The suit filed by the WFP appears aimed at bolstering fusion voting before the commission can act. It’s due to submit a report by December. Unless lawmakers act, the commissions recommendations will become law.

“I believe that the state constitution prohibits ending fusion voting,” said Epstein, a Democrat from Manhattan. “The court must now send a clear message to the commission that it is not within their authority to end fusion voting.”

Jacobs: State Dems ‘Overwhelmingly’ Pass Fusion Voting Ban Resolution

The state Democratic Party today voted in favor of a resolution calling for an end to so-called “fusion” voting, striking the first blow against minor parties in New York that could eventually lead – should the Legislature heed this call – to a significant change in the state’s political landscape.

State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, who was confirmed today to return to that post, said the vote in favor of the ban was “overwhelming,” though, in a strange twist, the party’s progressive caucus, which initially put the resolution forward, voted earlier in the day to table it.

“They started to get a lot of pressure from the (Working Families Party) and certain members looked to table it because they thought it would be a tight vote, and so we should wait until the state committee has electronic weighted voting, which we are preparing to do in September,” Jacobs said.

According to Jacobs, the motion to table in the progressive caucus initially failed, and then subsequently passed by one or two votes. The executive committee, however, decided to move forward with the vote, and that vote eventually took place after everyone who was interested in debating on the matter was allowed to have their say.

Because the party does not yet have an electronic voting system in place, Jacobs said he decided to run the vote as follows: He asked everyone who was in favor of the fusion voting ban to more to one side the the room and hold up their proxies, while those against it were asked to do to the other side of the room and do the same.

There were about 35 or 40 people on the “opposed” side, and some 150 on the “in favor” side, Jacobs said. The proxies on the “in favor” side also vastly outnumbered those on the other side, he recalled.

“I wanted a true outcome, and in my conversations with everyone I said, ‘Let’s not play games and waste the body’s time,'” Jacobs said. “Everyone was respectful and considerate, and I think everybody – win or lose – had a good feeling about the process.”

The resolution passed by the party is non-binding. Only the state Legislature can pass a bill that would end the practice of fusion voting, which allows cross endorsements of candidates by parties of which they are not officially members – something allowed in just a handful of states.

Jacobs said there is no bill currently pending to end fusion voting, to his knowledge, but he believes the Senate and Assembly should heed the recommendation of the state Democratic Party.

“They are the governmental arm, and we are the political arm,” he said. “They have to make the law, and the political arm has to give them their impression and their view, and that’s what we did.”

“They should take seriously the recommendation of this body,” Jacobs continued. “They have to understand that the view of this body is there are a lot of reforms and improvements that need to be made regarding the minor parties. It’s a serious problem. And the voices you heard in today’s debate made clear that county chairs with competitive races – not Manhattan, where you can’t find a Republican if you search around for three days – places where there are really competitive races…those committee people were very clear that they would do far better without fusion voting than with it.”

Jacobs said that Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner pointed out during the meeting that last year there were only eight circumstances in which minor party lines gave a victory to a legislative candidates – five Senate seats, and three Assembly seats. In every one of them, according to Zellner (as cited by Jacobs), the Republican candidate won – something the state chairman called an “important and compelling piece of information.”

As we have been reporting, the Working Families Party had been pushing to have today’s vote derailed, and also accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of behind behind it in an effort to retaliate against the WFP for backing his failed primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, in the 2018 Democratic primary.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi earlier today insisted to me that a fusion voting ban is not something the administration has given serious thought to, and emailed the following statement:

“I know they were humiliated in last year’s governor’s race, but that’s no excuse to ‎run around spreading lies and ranting about conspiracies. It’s both sad and a bad look.”

WFP’s 11th Hour Push for Fusion Voting

From the Morning Memo:

As state Democratic Party leaders make their way to Westchester this morning – weather permitting, as the Hudson Valley bore the brunt of the latest winter storm – the Working Families Party is making a last-ditch attempt to head off at the pass a resolution that would support the ban of fusion voting in New York.

The WFP is highlighting the fact that it received support over the weekend for its crusade to keep fusion voting from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who recently announced his second White House bid.

Sanders, who was backed by the New York WFP in his 2016 presidential bid, tweeted yesterday morning:

“We must preserve New York’s fusion voting system because it gives more voice to voters. I support the @WorkingFamilies Party’s efforts to protect this system, which gives voters a stronger voice in elections and in government.”

Another sign of support came from the state’s current progressive darling, Queens/Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who retweeted a tweet initially posted by Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who said a “fusion ban would only divide and weaken our movement.”

In addition, the WFP is circulating a letter signed by 340 elected officials from around the state, appealing to the governor and legislative leaders not to kill fusion voting.

“As Democrats, we especially note the role that the Working Families Party has played over the last two decades,” the letter reads. “Many of us have run and won our seats with their support. Moreover, WFP played an essential role in helping to end Republican-IDC control of the New York Senate in the 2018 election.”

As we reported last week, incoming (or rather, returning) state Party Chairman Jay Jacobs confirmed the party’s progressive caucus is pushing for a vote today on a resolution in favor of doing away with the practice of allowing minor parties to cross-endorse candidates, which are then able to tally all the votes they receive on any ballot line to count in the final results.

Frequently, minor party lines can mean the difference between winning and losing for candidates running in close elections.

New York is one of just a handful of states in the nation that allow fusion voting, and the practice has been challenged at one time or another by a variety of people for years – including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The WFP has made no secret of the fact that it believes Cuomo is behind this latest push to end fusion voting, and is doing so in retaliation for the fact that the party backed a failed primary challenger – actress/activist Cynthia Nixon – against him last September.

But Cuomo administration – and, FWIW, Jacobs himself – insist the governor has nothing to do with this effort.

Ultimately, it is the Legislature and the governor, not the party, that will decide whether fusion voting stays or goes by taking up a bill to address the matter. So far, noting has been formally put on the table at the state Capitol.

But the budget talks are just getting underway, and the WFP is worried something will be quietly slipped into the final deal at the last minute. Hence, this full court press effort.

State Dems To Vote On – And Pass? – Fusion Voting Ban

The state Democratic Party on Monday will take up a proposal, pushed by its progressive caucus, to support a ban on fusion voting – something a number of elected officials and key party leaders, including returning state Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, are pushing.

In a telephone interview this afternoon, Jacobs confirmed that the ban on fusion voting will indeed be on the table when committee members gather in Westchester next week to conduct a variety of business, including electing him to return to his position as state party chair, for which he was recently nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Jacobs has made no secret of his dislike for fusion voting, which exists in a very small number of states, reiterating during our conversation that he believes it has made electing Democrats on Long Island more difficult. He particularly singled out the state Independence Party, with which he has been warring for years, citing its tendency in the past to cross-endorse Republicans (at least when it comes to state legislative and congressional races).

I pointed out that the Democrats seemed to manage just fine in the last election cycle when it came to getting their candidates into office, with six newcomers ousting long-entrenched GOP incumbents. In those cases, the Working Families Party, long an ally of the Democrats when it comes to cross-endorsements, (again, at the legislative and congressional levels), provided support.

“That’s the one piece, of course, that’s always been the fly in the ointment (in the debate over fusion voting),” Jacobs said of the WFP and how it would be negatively impacted if fusion voting were to end in New York. “We’ll have to take a look at that.”

There’s also the question of whether an end to fusion voting would be a boon to the Green Party, which has long held a no-cross-endorsement policy. Faced with the possibility of voting for a mainline Democratic candidate or a Green candidate, disgruntled liberals, of whom there seem to be more and more these days, might choose the latter, increasing the chances of the Greens playing a spoiler role in close electoral contests.

“There are always consequences that are unintended that you have to consider, there’s no question about it,” Jacobs acknowledged. “The decision comes down to whether or not you’re worse off now than you will be later. It’s never a zero sum game. You have to look at what the costs are and what the benefits are. That’s the analysis many are going to be doing.”

I asked Jacobs if the fusion voting ban vote is being pushed by the governor, who has been extremely at odds with the WFP since the party backed his unsuccessful primary challenger, actress/activist Cynthia Nixon, last September.

He insisted that is not, in fact, the case, and ending fusion voting is something that county chairs have been discussing for some time, though if this proposal makes it to the floor for a vote and isn’t tabled, it will be the first time it is voted on by committee members.

“Listen, I’m not going to discuss what I talk to the governor about or what I don’t at any point,” Jacobs said. “I’m not here on this matter taking direction from the governor; I will tell you that.”

“There will be times I’m sure he’ll weigh in and ask me to help him with this or that. But this is one time the issue has been brought to the forefront by the progressives, and county chairs have long talked about it. We as a party have to determine what our position is. My guess is if we vote on a ban for fusion voting, that will upset some people and make other people happy.”

Jacobs, who is also chair of the Nassau County Democratic Party – a position he intends to keep along with his state post – said he will formally make his position known on this issue on Monday. He would not predict an outcome to the vote, should the measure actually move forward, and said he’ll be taking the temperature of county chairs as they gather in Westchester.

He did make clear, however, that he personally is interested in seeing this measure move forward and not be tabled. There are a few other, more procedural, resolutions that will also be put forward for consideration, including moving the party to an electronic voting system – an investment that would likely cost several thousand dollars, but would also be considerably faster than the current voice vote system.

Nixon Emails For WFP

Cynthia Nixon in an email to supporters on Thursday urged them to back candidates for Congress running on the Working Families Party ballot line across the country as well as the state Senate in New York.

In the email, Nixon specifically points to four candidates for the House — Randy “Ironstache” Bryce in Wisconsin, Dana Balter in New York, Jess King in Pennsylvania, Jahana Hayes in Connecticut — who the WFP has endorsed.

“If we all come together, on November 6th, we can elect a wave of progressive candidates like these, end Republican control of Congress, and finally send a progressive majority to the state Senate in New York that could achieve real policy victories from codifying Roe v. Wade, to single payer health care, full funding for our schools, criminal justice reform and more,” the email states. “But these candidates can’t rely on huge corporate donors to fund their campaigns. They’re going to need grassroots supporters like you to power them to victory.”

She urged supporters to sign a petition — email address and names the party can use for list-building — ahead of general election voting.

Nixon formally dropped her bid for governor this month and was transferred by the WFP to an Assembly race; she is not actively campaigning and has endorsed the incumbent Democrat, Deborah Glick.

The WFP endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who defeated Nixon in a Democratic primary on Sept. 13.

WFP Member Would Have Supported Collins Removal From NY-27 Ballot

From the Morning Memo:

For six weeks, Republican leaders in NY-27 examined a multitude of ways to remove indicted Rep. Chris Collins from the November ballot.

All the while, local Democrats argued that any effort to replace the embattled incumbent congressman with a less problematic candidate would be a fraudulent undertaking, and promised to challenge the substitution in court.

Erie County GOP Chair Nick Langworthy said he believed the party had legal and viable options.

He accused his opposition of being hypocritical, and said they would not be raising the same red flags if and when, for example, the Working Families Party looked to remove failed Democratic primary gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon from its ballot line.

This became something of a moot point after Collins surprised Langworthy and other local Republican leaders by deciding to remain on the ballot on the advice of his legal team. However Langworthy’s hypothetical is happening now.

The Working Families Party is waiting on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision about whether to accept what was originally Nixon’s designation, and, in a complicated bit of Election Law maneuvering, has bumped the actress-turned-activist down to run in the Assembly district currently occupied by Manhattan Democrat Deborah Glick.

Langworthy on Twitter Wednesday, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, suggested “fraud” a half a dozen times.

WFP Executive Committee member Phil Rumore, however, rejected the comparison between the Nixon and Collins situations. Most notably, the Buffalo Teachers union president pointed out, the erstwhile gubernatorial candidate isn’t facing any federal charges.

However, Rumore says he actually agreed with the idea of Collins being removed from the ballot.

“You don’t want to disenfranchise the voters in that are by having somebody that’s been indicted for a serious crime,” he explained.

Rumore admitted he thinks an alternative Republican would have made the race even more complicated for Democrat Nate McMurray, whom the Buffalo Teachers Federation has endorsed.

WFP Moves To Keep Options Open For Nixon

The Working Families Party filed paperwork Tuesday to begin the process of nominating Cynthia Nixon for a state Assembly seat in Manhattan should she drop out of the race for governor.

The move made this week by the party was described as a procedural one should the WFP endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election and have him run on its ballot line in November. A final and formal decision as to who the party will support for governor in the general election won’t be made until Wednesday.

The WFP filed a substitution to fill a vacancy in the 66th Assembly district in Manhattan. The nomination is not finalized and won’t take effect unless Nixon drops her bid for governor on the WFP ballot line.

The WFP last month had previously nominated its candidate for the Assembly in the district to a judgeship.

The move is designed to essentially keep the options of the WFP state committee open ahead of its meeting and is not a final decision on who it will ultimately have on its general election ballot.

“We are keeping all the options open before the state committee meets to make their decision tomorrow,” said WFP Director Bill Lipton.

Nixon lost a Democratic primary to Cuomo on Sept. 13. She had been the party’s endorsed candidate in April, when the WFP spurned Cuomo for the progressive actress and public education advocate.

Nixon is being nominated for the 66th Assembly district, where Democratic incumbent Deborah Glick is running for re-election. In a statement, Nixon said she is supporting and campaigning for Glick, regardless of where she is on the ballot in November.

“Whatever we decide in the Governor’s race, one thing is clear: in the 66th Assembly District, I’ll be campaigning for and voting for Assemblywoman Deborah Glick,” Nixon said.

Lipton added the party remains supportive of Glick’s re-election bid as well.

“We’ve enthusiastically supported Deborah Glick in the past and we’re proud to be supporting her for re-election again this year,” he said.

A Siena College poll this week found Nixon drawing 10 percent of the vote in a general election match up that includes Cuomo, Republican nominee Marc Molinaro as well as independent candidate Stephanie Miner, the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins and Libertarian candidate Larry Sharpe.

Cuomo has not given an indication as to whether he would accept the WFP’s endorsement, should he receive it.

WFP Pledges ‘Robust Debate’ Around Ballot Line

The Working Families Party plans a “robust debate” at a meeting Thursday surrounding the future of its ballot line in the race for governor, but the final decision won’t be made until next Wednesday, state Director Bill Lipton said.

The debate is a necessary one for the liberal ballot line after its endorsed candidate, Cynthia Nixon, lost her Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The WFP endorsed Nixon over Cuomo in April.

“The mission of the Working Families Party is to organize a grassroots political movement to end corporate control over our democracy and build a society that works for all of us — not just the wealthy and well-connected,” Lipton said in the statement this afternoon. “As we speak, the WFP officers, our standard-bearers Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, and — most importantly — more than 200 State Committee members are engaging in a robust debate around the best use of our ballot line to advance the WFP’s core mission.”

It appears that already the musical chairs, however, are underway to remove Nixon from the gubernatorial ticket.

As Zack Fink of NY1 reported this morning, the WFP earlier this week quietly nominated Douglass Seidman for a judgeship. He had been a placeholder candidate for the party in the 66th Assembly district, potentially paving the way to nominate Nixon in his place.

Nixon has not indicated whether she would continue on in the general election as the WFP candidate, but she has not campaigned since the primary on Sept. 13.

Cuomo on Wednesday with reporters also would not give any indication as to whether he would accept the ballot line, either. Cuomo already has several independent ballot lines aside from the Democratic line, including the Women’s Equality Party line and the Independence Party endorsement.

Not having an active candidate for governor could be trouble for the WFP, which needs 50,000 votes in order to retain ballot status in the next election cycle.

Working Families Party, Nixon Slam WEP Endorsement Of Cuomo

The Working Families Party and the gubernatorial campaign of Cynthia Nixon mocked the endorsement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo by the Women’s Equality Party on Friday after the ballot line formed at his urging four years ago announced it would support him once again.

“We’d like to be the first to congratulate Andrew Cuomo on winning the highly-coveted endorsement of the Women’s Equality Party, a party he founded and funded,” said Cynthia for New York Senior Strategist Rebecca Katz. “We can’t help but wonder if Cuomo will run on his so-called Women’s Equality Party line against New York’s first female Democratic nominee Cynthia Nixon in the general election.”

The party was first formed in 2014 as a vehicle in part to boost the 10-point women’s agenda, a package of measures that aimed to bolster women’s rights in the workplace and housing, as well as crack down on domestic violence and human trafficking. The entirety of the package has become law, save for a plank that would codify the Roe v. Wade decision in state law.

The WEP has been an especially sore point for the Working Families Party, which is backing Nixon this year. WFP supporters have pointed out the similarities in the two parties’ initials and have considered it a rival ballot line meant to draw votes away from them in the general election.

“Unlike Cuomo, the Working Families Party has invested in building women’s power,” said WFP Co-Chair Karen Scharff.

“WFP has a long history of recruiting progressive women and helping them win — even when the Democratic Party machine tried to block their path. Tish James, Yuh-line Niou, Diana Richardson, Nily Rozic, Zephyr Teachout, Melissa Mark Viverito and many more, got critical support from the WFP, when the Democratic Party was happy with the establishment candidates.”

In a tweet, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi knocked WFP State Director Bill Lipton for worrying that the WEP would hurt his organization’s vote total and ballot states. Parties must have a 50,000-vote threshold to automatically qualify for ballot states.

“Translation: in it’s diminished state, #BossBill is freakin’ out about his ballot status,” he posted.

WFP To Pick Its AG Candidate On Saturday

The Working Families Party is scheduled to hold its convention on Saturday in Harlem, with plans to pick an attorney general candidate.

But who the candidate will ultimately wind up being remains up in the air as the party could select a placeholder for the post after New York City Public Advocate Tish James confirmed she would not seek the party’s line in her bid for AG.

The endorsement could also go to James’s likely Democratic rival for the party’s nomination, Zepyhr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor who ran for governor in 2014 and a Hudson Valley House seat in 2016.

For now, party officials are not committing to either Teachout’s candidacy or the placeholder who could be swapped out for the eventual winner of the Democratic primary.

Teachout has been an ally of gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and is serving as her campaign treasurer.

Nixon’s bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination against incumbent Andrew Cuomo has been buoyed last month by the WFP’s endorsement.