By Jack O’Donnell
The WFP endorsement all but guarantees a formal nomination — which will come at a convention in May — and assures Nixon, the former “Sex and the City” star a spot on the November ballot, even if she fails to dislodge Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.Beyond the election-year politics, this weekend’s dramatic events at a pair of Albany-area hotels showed how the state Democratic Party’s schism is playing out.
Nixon snubbed Democratic party activists who gathered for the annual Democratic Rural Conference beginning on Friday. Cuomo addressed them in private.
She instead pitched the New York Progressive Action Network — an affiliate of Our Revolution, which grew out of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign — and was greeted with praise and cheers on Saturday shortly before 4 p.m. when she arrived in a basement ballroom opposite the hotel pool where the WFP had gathered.
Sensing the WFP nomination was slipping from his grasp, Cuomo announced on Friday evening that he didn’t want it anyway. Major unions that have endorsed the governor pulled out of the WFP, continuing an exodus of Cuomo-allied unions that began in 2014.
A few union representatives spoke up on the governor’s behalf anyway.
But the overwhelming sentiment among those who attended the WFP event was that Cuomo was a false progressive, whose tacit support for the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference has led to what they believe are watered-down achievements. (Earlier this month, Cuomo cheered as the IDC dissolved into the Senate’s mainstream Democratic conference.)
The WFP was founded in 1998 as an alliance of unions and progressive groups hoping to drag the Democratic Party to the left. New York law allows for fusion voting, and Democratic politicians often seek the WFP line as a buttress, and its support has at times tipped the scales in Democratic primaries for local races.
The WFP has a rocky history with Cuomo. In 2010, when the party was reeling from an investigation of its campaign practices, WFP leaders asked Cuomo, then the state’s attorney general, to be its standard bearer in that year’s governor’s race. While his platform didn’t mesh with the party’s, Cuomo agreed and helped the WFP win the 50,000 votes it needed to have an automatic ballot line.
But Cuomo’s fiscally moderate first term alienated some party activists, and in 2014 there was a push to endorse Zephyr Teachout, a law professor who is now serving as Nixon’s campaign treasurer.
Cuomo promised to work for policies like the minimum wage hike and to push for a Democratic Senate. Citizen Action agreed to endorse the governor, but others abstained. One was WFP treasurer Dorothy Siegel, who on Saturday shouted her support for Nixon.