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NY Gov. Cuomo Considers Working Families Party Endorsement

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he hasn’t decided yet whether to accept the nomination of the Working Families Party in the race for governor. Working Families previously backed actor Cynthia Nixon, after a bitter split in the progressive-leaning minor party.

When the Working Families Party chose Nixon for governor over Cuomo last spring, the argument was heated. Its executive director, Bill Lipton, said Cuomo, in his first two terms in office, did not live up to expectations that the governor would back progressive ideas and policies.

“For eight years he broke his promises and kept the Republicans in power in the state senate,” said Lipton at a party nominating meeting in Albany on April 14. “Blocking critical legislation for affordable housing, women’s equality and criminal justice reform.”  

The decision to abandon Cuomo for Nixon caused some union members to leave the party.

After Nixon lost the September Democratic primary to Cuomo, she said she did not want to remain on the Working Families ballot line. Lipton says after meeting on October 3, the remaining party members decided it was best that they put aside their differences and endorse Cuomo, after all, and work to get more Democrats elected to the state senate and to Congress.  

“A majority of people felt like now is the time to focus on the threat posed by Trump Republicans, who are out there attacking working families every day,” Lipton said. “There’s a dire threat.”

The party rejected a request from the Green Party to endorse its candidate for governor, Howie Hawkins. Afterward, Hawkins condemned the party, saying it “is nothing more than a political club firmly entrenched within the corporate-dominated Democratic Party.”

“Look at results, not the rhetoric,” Hawkins said. “They’ve now endorsed Cuomo three times. A quintessential corporate Democrat.”

Lipton disagrees. He says the party will still be an “independent voice” and is not taking back it's prior criticism of Cuomo.

“We stand by our critique of the governor that we put out during the race, we’re not changing our minds about that,” Lipton said. “We just think we have far greater differences with the Trump Republicans and that’s our priority now.”

Lipton says the party can claim some victories in the primary, including the ousting of six former breakaway Democratic state senators who sided with the Republicans in the senate. And he says Nixon drove Cuomo to take progressive positions on items like legalizing recreational marijuana.

Cuomo says he thinks Working Families Party members subscribed to a “theory” that voters wanted new, more progressive candidates. That occurred in a federal primary in June, where challenger Alexandria Occasio-Cortez scored an upset win over party stalwart Congressman Joe Crowley. In September, Cuomo received two-thirds of the vote in the Democratic primary.

“They’re facing reality,” Cuomo said. “Which differs from their theory.”

The governor says he also believes the top priority in November is getting more Democrats elected. He says he’s trying to see the “greater goal.”

“The greater goal now is to elect Democrats to the Congress, to the state senate, to stop the madman in Washington,” Cuomo said, referring to President Trump. “To have a state senate that can reverse the bad policies coming out of Washington by passing state laws.”  

But does Cuomo need to be on the Working Families Party line to do that? The governor says he hasn’t yet made up his mind.

The party says the deadline for a decision is 5 p.m. Friday, October 5. 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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