Working Families Party

WFP Vetting AG Candidates

The Working Families Party on Monday announced it would begin a vetting of candidates for attorney general, with plans to make an endorsement at its state convention on Saturday in New York City.

“The WFP believes that New York needs an independent Attorney General who will be unafraid to stand up to the powerful and investigate Donald Trump and Wall Street crime, and will restore public integrity,” the party said.

A long list of candidates is vying for a legislative appointment to replace Democrat Eric Schneiderman, who resign last week amid domestic violence and abuse allegations. The WFP had earlier this month endorsed Schneiderman, but quickly rescinded that endorsement after the allegations surfaced in The New Yorker.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday in a NY1 interview said he would be meeting with potential AG hopefuls as well. State lawmakers will begin a public interview process for the candidates who have submitted resumes for a legislative appointment on Tuesday.

Koppell Dings Klein, Backs His Primary Opponent

Former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell, who unsuccessfully challenged his fellow Bronx Democrat, Sen. Jeff Klein, in a 2014 primary, today is announcing his support for the woman currently trying to unseat Klein this September, Alessandra Biaggi.

In a statement obtained by CapTon, Koppell said Biaggi’s election “will send a powerful message and take us one step closer to the progressive Democratic majority we deserve—one that passes stronger rent laws, the Dream Act, real campaign finance reform, and the Reproductive Health Act to firmly protect a woman’s right to choose in New York.”

“Alessandra Biaggi will help enact the progressive agenda that Senator Klein’s IDC/Republican alliance has unconscionably blocked for the past seven years,” Koppell continued. “And she’ll bring new Democratic energy to a State Senate that needs it.”

The timing of Koppell’s announcement is ironic, given the fact that the Senate Democrats came one step closer to controlling the majority with yesterday’s win in a Westchester special election of Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer over Republican Julie Killian.

All that remains now is convincing Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder to reconsider his decision to remain with the Senate GOP through the end of the session – an effort Gov. Andrew Cuomo apparently has personally undertaken – and the Democrats will once again be in charge in the upper house.

But Koppell is apparently siding with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that feels the reunification of the warring Democratic factions in the Senate, which was engineered by the governor a few weeks ago as he started to significantly feel pressure from his own primary challenger, actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, is too little, too late.

The Working Families Party is backing Biaggi and other Democrats who are challenging IDC members, and has not dropped that support in the wake of the peace deal brokered by the governor. (The party is also backing Nixon, which has led to split among its the labor and activist wings).

In his statement, which will be in wide release later today, Koppell accused Klein of empowering Republicans in New York, helping them raise millions of dollars not only to maintain control of the majority, but to further the “Trump agenda.”

According to Koppell, who is also a former NYC Council member, Klein has “betrayed the Democratic Party and hindered the realization of Democratic policies in New York State and nationally.”

Biaggi, a former counsel for Cuomo who also served as a top aide on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said she is “thrilled” to have Koppell’s support, adding:

“He has championed issues throughout his distinguished career in public service that will be top priorities for me — from consumer protection and tenants’ rights to environmental conservation and government reform.”

One might ask just how significant Koppell’s endorsement is in terms of his ability to move voters. As Klein and his supporters would no doubt point out, Koppell conceded the race back in 2014 as the senator was maintaining a 25-percentage point lead on primary night.

It’s also worth noting that back in 2014, Klein announced his intention to realign his then-breakaway conference, the IDC, with the so-called regular Senate Democrats, but then never followed through. Koppell maintained his primary challenge to the senator anyway, running with the endorsement of the New York Times.

Cuomo’s Self-Created WFP Problem

If I were a betting woman, and let it be known that I am generally fairly risk averse, I would right now be putting money on the likelihood that the Working Families Party’s state committee members endorse upstart Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon over incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo when they gather in Albany tomorrow.

The governor will no doubt respond by going on the warpath.

He has already given us a preview of his retaliation plan, which would start out with creation of yet another third party designed to weaken the WFP – this time, with a labor focus, as first reported by CapTon’s own Nick Reisman.

Recall that in the last election cycle, Cuomo created the Women’s Equality Party – or WEP – a move widely seen in part as an effort to confuse voters – after all, E comes right before F in the alphabet – and get back at the WFP for daring to even consider backing a candidate other than Cuomo…more on this in a moment.

Also, Team Cuomo and its allies are pre-emptively accusing the WFP of dividing the labor movement in a manner that will only benefit Republicans in the fall elections.

Ironically, that is just what the WFP has been accusing Cuomo of all these years – enabling, if not quietly encouraging, the split among the state Senate Democrats, even when he promised to remedy the situation, (more on that in a moment, too), helping the GOP maintain control of the chamber and bottling up all manner of progressive policy proposals.

Behind closed doors, Cuomo will probably go quite a bit further, perhaps even threatening the WFP with extinction – most likely via financial starvation.

He could perhaps try to scuttle fusion voting in New York, though that would hurt other minor parties, like the Cuomo-loyal Independence Party, and also is something he has tried before but never followed through on. Or, he might pressure the unions that are still with the WFP – most notably CWA and SEIU 32BJ – to abandon ship, following the lead of a number of others, like HTC and SEIU 1199, who did just that a few years ago at the governor’s urging.

The reality is, however, that no matter how angry Cuomo might be with the WFP for turning its back on him this time around, he really has no one but himself to blame. We would not be at this juncture, with this configuration of WFP committee members, had it not been for string of what now clearly were ill-advised actions by the governor himself.

The governor got what he wanted out of the WFP in 2014, thanks to a significant lift by his frenemy, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime ally of the party and organized labor in general.

And then he didn’t bother to even pretend to try to fulfill the main promise that he made to WFP members in exchange for their begrudging willingness to back him and jettison Teachout, whom the wooed into the race to begin with, declining to force the warring state Senate Democrats to reunify. (More on this in a moment).

To “thank” the party for upholding its end of the endorsement bargain, Cuomo punished it, convincing that handful of big unions to end their relationship with the WFP, withdrawing financial support in the process.

And in so doing, because he was so focused on getting revenge in the short term and not on the long game, Cuomo unwittingly empowered the individuals and organizations that remained in the WFP, giving a far greater voice – and voting power – to its activist wing.

Those activist WFP members moved to fill committee seats left vacant when the unions departed. And they have not been satisfied by the governor’s slow yet steady move to the left since the 2014 election, including his recent forging of a peace deal among the Senate Democrats – which seemed to come together pretty darn quickly once Nixon arrived on the scene – saying it’s too little, too late.

In fact, the WFP is continuing to back the candidates who are challenging the IDC members in the September primaries despite the peace deal, and it’s a safe bet that if the party leadership tried to rescind that support now, they would have a rank-and-file revolt on their hands.

It’s possible the WFP could endorse Nixon but not give her its ballot line, putting a placeholder candidate there instead – just in case there’s a post-primary peace deal between the governor and the party that requires her to go away quietly before the November general, though, as Nick reported yesterday, there are ways of getting her name off the ballot if necessary, too.

It’s hard to see how the WFP true believers would be satisfied by any half measures the party seeks in order to preserve some semblance of a relationship with the governor, though.

It will also be interesting to see how UFT members react to the pro-Cuomo comments by their president, Mike Mulgrew, a longtime ally of the governor, though the two sometimes disagree publicly on education policy.

Given the pending decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Janus case, no union leader can really afford to alienate his or her members at this point in time. There are plenty of teachers who are big backers of AQE, which, of course, is the foundation of Nixon’s early support, though she has been branching out with other progressive groups of late.

NOTE: A reader points out that the Legislature and Cuomo already moved to undercut the Janus ruling, should it be decided against the unions’ favor. There will likely be a legal battle over that effort if the Supreme Court does indeed go in that director.

WFP Has A New National Director

The Working Families Party on Monday announced Maurice Mitchell would become its next national director.

Mitchell, a Long Island-born community organizer and strategist, is taking the post from Dan Cantor, who is now chairman of the party’s national committee.

“Maurice has spent twenty years working as a community organizer, electoral operative and social movement strategist. Most recently, he led Blackbird, an anchor organization within the Movement for Black Lives — which has transformed the consciousness of the nation,” Cantor wrote in an email to supporters.

“In that role, Maurice helped to expand the limits of the possible in America. That’s exactly what we hope he’ll do at the WFP. Maurice grew up in Long Beach, on the South Shore of Long Island, NY, the son of Caribbean immigrants. His mother was a nurse and his father an electrician — both union members. He’s been part of the extended WFP family for years, working closely with the New York party on Long Island elections beginning more than a decade ago.”

The change comes as the WFP is seeking to expand its reach in states beyond New York. At home, the party is mulling its gubernatorial endorsement, a choice at the moment that is between incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo and his primary challenger, actress and advocate Cynthia Nixon.

Cantor pointed to the impact of President Donald Trump and the need to organize the left as a result.

“He’s coming aboard at a moment of immense importance,” he said. “I don’t need to tell you the kind of threat the nation faces. We have never more urgently needed a political movement rooted in justice and dignity for all working families, and that champions a true democracy.”

WFP Says Will Continue To Back IDC Challengers

As the Independent Democratic Conference moves toward being abolished, the labor-aligned Working Families Party on Wednesday in a statement said it would continue to back challengers to IDC incumbents.

“The WFP believes primaries can be healthy for the Democratic Party and our democracy writ large,” said WFP State Director Bill Lipton. “We stand by our endorsed candidates who are challenging IDC incumbents and are proud to be supporting them.”

The WFP has long been a thorn in the side of the IDC and vice versa. Under the terms of the unity agreement being reached, the IDC would fold back into the Democratic conference in the Senate as part of a broader bid to have the party take control of the chamber, potentially by the end of the month.

The challengers to IDC lawmakers in a statement said they would not back down on their primary challenges to the incumbents.

But the WFP is treading a cautious line: Backing the agreement to unify while also support the primaries.

“If this holds, the dissolution of the IDC and the acknowledgement of Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins as the sole Senate Democratic Leader are critical steps forward to building a more progressive NY. It’s a development WFP activists, our allies and our endorsed candidates should be very proud of,” Lipton said.

“In late 2012, the WFP was part of an all-out effort that won a 33 seat majority for the Democratic-Working Families coalition. A few months later, the IDC voted to make a Republican, Dean Skelos, the Senate Majority Leader. Since then, we’ve had 6 straight years of IDC-Republican control of the Senate; that’s 6 budgets where thousands were held unjustly in pre-trial confinement, nearly a hundred thousand units of affordable housing were lost, and millions of kids attended underfunded schools. Critical legislation to protect immigrants, fight climate change, advance women’s equality and more was stalled.”

WFP Endorses IDC Challengers

The Working Families Party on Thursday endorsed a trio of women running challenges to members of the Independent Democratic Conference.

The labor-aligned party endorsed Democrats Rachel May against Sen. David Valesky of the Syracuse area, Alessandra Biaggi against Sen. Jeff Klein, the conference leader, and Jessica Ramos against Sen. Jose Peralta of Queens.

The endorsements were linked to the ongoing #MeToo reckoning surrounding sexual harassment and misconduct. Klein, a Bronx lawmaker, has been accused of forcibly kissing a former aide; a charge he denies and has pushed for an investigation into the claim.

Klein has also backed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed changes to the state’s sexual harassment laws, which include more money for investigations and a ban on secret, taxpayer-funded settlements.

“The WFP is putting its organizing muscle behind these three progressive women reformers — Alessandra, Rachel, and Jessica — who are ready to support Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Day 1,” said WFP Director Bill Lipton. “We will raise thousands of grassroots donations and work with activist groups across New York to make sure our message reaches every voter in these districts.”

The endorsements also come as mainline Democrats in the state Senate are avoiding support for IDC challengers as an uneasy truce remains in effect stemming for a unity deal agreed to last year that would be triggered if Democrats win a pair of special elections scheduled for April 24.

In a statement, IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove blasted the WFP.

“Since its creation in 1998 the Working Families Party has become a travesty whose objective is to destroy the Democratic Party for its sole political interests. What used to be a champion of Working Families has become a corrupt political enterprise,” she said. “The Independent Democratic Conference is happy to put its record of accomplishments — a $15 minimum wage, a $10 million dollar immigrant legal defense fund and the strongest paid family leave program in the nation — against the do nothing Working Families Party.”

Senate GOP Focuses On Governing, WFP Stokes Trump Resistance

Senate Republicans in a statement Tuesday signaled they were above the petty dispute between Democrats in the chamber while the Working Families Party took a jab at the Independent Democratic Conference.

The GOP conference sought to pump the brakes a bit, even if they don’t control the car in this instance, amid the push for Democrats to unite in the Senate.

“There’s a time for politics and a time for governing, and it’s unfortunate that some in Albany can’t ever separate the two,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif.

“Based on our record of delivering for taxpayers and their families, we fully expect to grow our Majority next year. In the meantime, we are hopeful that everyone involved will continue to work together to move this state forward because it is the best interest of the people of New York.”

The Working Families Party, meanwhile, sought to hit the accelerator, indicating in a statement of their own that they wanted an expedited process toward Democratic unity in the Senate. A plan floated by the state Democratic Committee and backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would not come to fruition until May.

The WFP, a labor-aligned group that has been at odds with Cuomo, want the reconciliation to take place at the start of the year. That would be difficult, potentially, given a special election to fill two Senate seats would not be called until those seats are actually empty come January.

“The attacks from Trump and his Republican allies have been nothing short of a catastrophe for our nation,” said State Director Bill Lipton. “Despite that, Jeff Klein and his IDC colleagues continue to put their personal power and perks ahead of the interests of New York’s working families.

We reiterate our demand that all Democrats come together in a unified resistance to Trump and his allies by the beginning of the 2018 legislative session. If not, the WFP remains committed to running progressive Working Families Democrats against any and all Trump Democrats.”

WFP Emails, Linking IDC To Liberty Act

The Working Families Party in an email sent Tuesday night links the internecine dispute over control of the state Senate to the passage of the Liberty Act, a measure that would designate New York as a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants.

“Republicans hold a minority of seats in the State Senate,” the petition email signed by State Director Bill Lipton states. “The only reason they control it is because of support from nine Senators who were elected as Democrats but caucus with Republicans. With Trump threatening to deport millions, we need to put them on notice right now.”

The measure is opposed by Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who said the measure, which limits state and local police coordination with federal immigration enforcement, is potentially unconstitutional and illegal.

“It would keep us all safer by drawing a bright line between state and local law enforcement and out-of-control federal immigration enforcement,” Lipton wrote. “The GOP-IDC coalition in State Senate won’t allow the bill to come up for a vote. But they’re starting to feel the heat.”

The measure was narrowly approved in the Democratic-led Assembly on Monday, with votes against the bill by upstate and suburban Democrats. Even if the sanctuary state bill came for a vote in the Senate, it would likely be a similarly tough sell for Democratic lawmakers in moderate, suburban districts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, too, has not embraced the bill, saying on Wednesday his office is reviewing it.

The Republican conference has a governing majority of 32 members when including Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder, who is not a member of the IDC. At the same time, the IDC has pointed to a range of liberal policy victories in the Senate, including minimum wage increases and the creation of a paid-family leave program.

Still, the feud between the two sides in the Senate is expected to be an underlying battle through the session, set off by the addition of three new members to the conference over the last several months.

“The Independent Democratic Conference, made up of Democrats, conferences only with Democrats,” said IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove. “The Working Families Party is an actual breakaway movement, having left the Democratic Party in the ’90s. We encourage the rogue Working Families Party to return to the Democratic Party and stop attacking other Democrats for political points.”

Mike McGuire, a former treasurer with the WFP, blasted the labor-backed party in a statement.

“The Working Families Party no longer has anything to do with working families and has forgotten their goals of bettering the lives of the working- and middle-class,” he said. “By forming a majority coalition, the bold leadership of the IDC–who throughout their existence have carried most of the legislation important to workers–protects the values and visions of the working- and middle-class and ensures that important policy advances in the Senate. I applaud their decision and look forward to working with them this upcoming legislative session.”

WFP Supports Striking Momentive Workers

With just a few hours to go before President-elect Donald Trump take office, New York’s Working Families Party is using what it anticipates will be “wholesale attacks on working people” by the incoming administration and its allies to highlight the plight of several hundred striking workers at Momentive Performance Materials, a chemical plant in Waterford.

“Many workers at the company have seen their wages slashed and their jobs outsourced,” Bill Lipton, WFP state director, wrote in an email to supporters this afternoon. “Now management wants to slash healthcare for current workers and completely eliminate healthcare and life insurance for retirees – many of whom are dealing with illnesses related to their exposure to deadly chemicals at the plant.”

“Now more than ever, we need to stand strong against all attacks on workers, whether they come from Trump or his hedge fund billionaire friends.”

Lipton’s email includes a link to an online petition that expresses solidarity with the Momentive employees.

The unionized workers, who are members of CWA, walked off the job last November after contract talks with the company failed. Momentive is owned by Apollo Global Management, a New York City-based hedge fund that acquired General Electric’s advanced materials division, which includes the Waterford operation, for $3.8 billion in 2006.

According to a TU report, the actual ownership of Momentive is fairly complicated – a corporate web that includes six billionaires on the Forbes magazine list of the nation’s 400 richest people, including Stephen Schwarzman, founder and CEO of the Blackstone Group, who was tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as his chief job creation adviser.

Interestingly, though we have heard a lot from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on how he plans to stand up to any Trump policies he deems harmful to New York (and also work with the new president when possible, particularly when it comes to infrastructure), he hasn’t yet said anything – to my knowledge – on this particular strike. The governor has taken actions to help end worker-employer disputes of this sort before, though usually when they are of a higher profile nature, politically speaking.

WFP Urges IDC To Block ‘Trump Agenda’

The Working Families Party on Monday expressed disappointment over the decision by the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference to side with the Senate GOP in a governing coalition while also urging the lawmakers to help bloc the “Trump agenda” in Albany.

“Many IDC members are hard-working legislators who claim to share progressive values,” said WFP state director Bill Lipton. “But they will be utterly discredited in their districts if they prop up a Republican majority that is unwilling to block Trump and instead will seek to further his agenda in New York.”

It’s not clear whether the Senate GOP would be able to instill any of the “Trump agenda” at the state Capitol given the narrow divide in the chamber and the likelihood Majority Leader John Flanagan will need to keep the IDC close should a vacancy arise.

The WFP had been among a range of liberal groups and organizations seeking to push the IDC and Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder to align with the mainline Democrats in the Senate and apply pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the same time to broker a compromise.

But IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Flanagan are extending their coalition in the Senate as the new legislative term begins this week.

“This is not a time for politicians to pat themselves on the back for making deals with Trump and his allies for a few concessions,” Lipton said. “Not when Trump and the Republicans are ready to roll back our rights and set fire to the constitution. This is the time for all leaders of conscience to unite around a progressive alternative to Trump’s dangerous and divisive agenda.”