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NY Major Party Alternatives Fight For Survival

Several leading New York elected officials held a Zoom session to launch "Vote WFP"
WAMC Composite Image by Dave Lucas
Several leading New York elected officials including U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, held a Zoom session to launch "Vote WFP" - Pictured with Schumer: Sochie Nnaemaka, director of the New York State WFP.

Several leading New York elected officials held a Zoom session to launch "Vote WFP" in a bid to keep the Working Families Party on the statewide ballot after November’s election.

The Working Families Party says it is fighting for its life. New third-party rules backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, say third parties must deliver whichever is higher: 130,000 votes, or, 2 percent of the total vote, to guarantee a ballot line in the next election. The old threshold was 50,000 votes.

Sochie Nnaemaka is director of the New York State WFP.

"Perhaps now, more than any time in living memory, this election will determine whether we even have the opportunity to build a better world."

On a virtual meeting, WFP members launched an effort to convince voters to select Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in its ballot column, rather than the Democratic Party's column.

"As Maurice Mitchell, our national director said, 'Biden is a door not a destination.' And a Biden presidency is the beginning of our fight for the agenda working people need. And voting WFP is the first step of that fight."

The panel included New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, State Senators Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, and Assemblymembers Diana Richardson and Yuh-Line Niou . Richardson said the change goes back to the Independent Democratic Conference, the breakaway group that caucused with majority Senate Republicans:

"You know, the people deserve to know the truth. The Working Families Party is up against the IDC. The governor is mad about that and at this point has now put in a change and slipped it into the budget."

Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi:

"Just remember the actual facts here. This was enacted by the public financing commission and passed by both houses of the legislature as part of a comprehensive campaign financial role. These never ending conspiracies are just plain sad."

Many in the WFP believe the changes are a direct result of the WFP endorsing Cynthia Nixon for governor in 2018. Richardson says Cuomo favors single-party rule:

"A one-party system for progress, which really would mean no progress at all. Because if you leave it to the Democratic Party, who at times can be shaky. Mind you, let's put it on the record, I'm a registered Democrat. But we see what the Democratic Party has done at different times. We cannot be just a one-party system."

Tiffany Cabán, who narrowly lost the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney to Borough President Melinda Katz, praised WFP.

"We were a grassroots concerting campaign running against the machine. Their support helped turn a race that the establishment completely wrote off into a national conversation on the importance and urgency of transforming the role of district attorneys, and that is what the WFP does, in a nutshell. They help make the impossible possible." WFP was also handed a defeat in Albany County when Matt Toporowski lost his primary bid against Democratic D.A. David Soares.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who runs on the Working Families and Democratic lines, joined the virtual push for voting the WFP line, telegraphing his core belief:

"We have to defeat Donald Trump. There will be, democracy will be gone in America if he is elected. It will be a different country. We have to defeat Donald Trump. He's already begun to take away our democracy, but, unfortunately, he'll go much further if he wins election. We have to end his nightmarish assault on American values and the rule of law. And we can't just defeat him. We need to usher in a new dawn of progressive possibility for the state and nation. So much we have seen. COVID has shown something we've all known: the inequities in our society. In terms of wealth. In terms of bigotry. In terms of so many other things. And we have a unique opportunity at this moment to really change America dramatically."

With 28,000 enrolled members, the Green Party is backing perennial candidate Howie Hawkins for president. Mark Dunlea co-founded the Green Party in New York.

"The Green Party is the party of peace, climate action, grassroots democracy and social and economic justice. It is the only independent progressive third party in New York. Most third parties in New York just run the candidates of the two major parties Democrats in New York want to kill off the independent third-parties. However, we don't get to vote for president. We vote for an Electoral College."

Of about a dozen third parties active in New York state, the Conservative Party traditionally pulls around 200,000 voters.

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