Jockeying for the Working Family Party’s endorsement in the 2018 New York gubernatorial primary is intensifying as two progressive groups backed Cynthia Nixon in her bid to unseat Cuomo in the last two days.
Karen Scharff, who chairs Citizen Action, a 30,000-member progressive group, is also a co-chair of the WFP–as is Jonathan Westin, head of New York Communities For Change, which endorsed Nixon on Monday.
Cuomo won the backing of Communications Workers of America Local 1180 on Monday. That group’s parent union also has major influence in the WFP.
Asked whether Citizen Action’s endorsement is a sign of where the WFP is heading, Scharff replied, “Citizen Action will be working hard in lining up all the committee votes.”
Citizen Action also endorsed New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams in his bid for Lieutenant Governor against Kathy Hochul.
“Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams have bold visions and we wanted to get out there to support them quickly,” Scharff told The Alt about the decision to make the endorsement in early April.
Nixon has garnered intense media coverage since launching her campaign on March 20. Cuomo, on the other hand, was mired in budget negotiations and has tried to use surrogates in the state Democratic Party to undermine Nixon.
Those attacks have so far proven ineffective at best and damaging at worst. Former New York City Council President Christine Quinn found herself the subject of major criticism after attacking Nixon as an “unqualified lesbian.” Nixon is now using shirts with the phrase to raise money for her campaign.
In June 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo won the WFP endorsement at a heated convention where New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio brokered a deal that saw the WFP back Cuomo in exchange for Cuomo’s promise to deliver on a NY Dream Act and his full-throated support of a Democrat-controlled Senate.
Many WFP members were ready to coalesce around Zephyr Teachout, but union forces inside the WFP pushed their members toward Cuomo.
Cuomo famously agreed to the set of demands via a pre-taped video and then called the convention to further elaborate on what he would do on progressive policy.
Cuomo quickly slapped back at the WFP after winning their endorsement, creating the Women’s Equality Party and urging voters to vote for him on that line. He reneged on his promise to unify Senate Democrats and pass a Dream Act.
This year, things are in a similar state. Cuomo announced he was backing a Democratic majority in the Senate last week, which included the dissolution of the IDC. But the IDC hasn’t been acting as though it’s dissolved. The supposedly-dissolved group is hosting a fundraiser on April 12–Cuomo and Senate Dems have announced they won’t be attending.
Activists like Scharf simply don’t trust Cuomo or Klein.
“I think it’s good that they announced they are dissolving the IDC and recognizing Andrea Stewart-Cousins as leader of all the Democrats. But given the past, it’s hard to believe it,” Scharff said.