Opinion

TMI: Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Party continues to undermine female candidates

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TMI: Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Party continues to undermine female candidates

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has won the endorsement of the Women’s Equality Party, an entity he created in 2014 in order to defeat a female challenger, just in time to use it again in a bid to defeat a woman.

Cuomo is pulling out all the stops in his primary battle with Cynthia Nixon. He had the Democratic National Committee break their rules about endorsing in primaries. He brought in Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden to sing his praises. He’s set to release a report on legalizing marijuana months early due to Nixon’s prodding. He even “reunited” the Senate Democrats after years of benefiting his fiscal agenda by keeping them fractured.

Now comes perhaps the most-ugly of moves: The dirty political trick that is the Women’s Equality Party is unleashed to benefit its creator.

Originally unveiled during his 2014 campaign just after Cuomo endured an embarrassing endorsement process with the Working Families Party, the WEP has done little but function as Cuomo’s dagger.

On Long Island, the WEP endorsed DuWayne Gregory, a man, in his bid to unseat Rep. Peter King without even interviewing Liuba Grechen Shirley, a candidate who made news and history by requesting an advisory opinion from the Federal Elections Commission on whether campaign funds can be used for childcare.

Grechen Shirley’s push has won the support of dozens of electeds and Hillary Clinton. Gregory, the man endorsed by Cuomo’s WEP, opposes the use of campaign funds for childcare. “Ethics rules exist for serious reasons, and using campaign funds for personal expenses is a very slippery slope. There must be stark, bold lines when it comes to campaign and government funds,” Gregory spokeswoman Daniele de Groot said in a statement to Newsday.

The FEC ruled in Grechen Shirley’s favor earlier this month.

This year, with the bridge to the WFP burned to ash, it is no surprise that Cuomo has resurrected the WEP, but, boy, it seems like a bad time given the political zeitgeist.

“He did put in a questionnaire,” Susan Zimet head of the WEP told Gotham Gazette regarding Cuomo. “He did apply for the line. And the lieutenant governor did apply for the line. They had to fill out questionnaires like everybody else. He started the line, it’s because of him we have the line.”

It’s an interesting endorsement given that Cuomo has been routinely criticized for how he treats women. 

The Cynthia Nixon campaign blasted out a press release in response to the endorsement, mocking Cuomo. “We’d like to be the first to congratulate Andrew Cuomo on winning the highly-coveted endorsement of the Women’s Equality Party, a party he founded and funded,” said Cynthia for New York Senior Strategist Rebecca Katz. “We can’t help but wonder if Cuomo will run on his so-called Women’s Equality Party line against New York’s first female Democratic nominee Cynthia Nixon in the general election.”

Cuomo, when dealing with women in public, appears stuck in the 1950s. At the Democratic Convention on Thursday, he decided the best way to greet his political mentor, one of the most prominent politicians in the world, the winner of the popular vote of the 2016 presidential election, was with a bouquet of flowers.

Female reporters regularly point out that Cuomo fails to call on them during press conferences–preferring to respond to the macho jockeying and shouting of certain male journalists. During a press conference about an investigation into former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s alleged abuse of women, male reporters were called on repeatedly while female reporters were ignored.

At one press conference, Cuomo did make a display of calling on female reports but joking that hte male reporters were “chauvinist pigs” for asking questions. It appeared all very funny to him. 

Cuomo made former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt a part of his administration after he was accused of carrying on a relationship with a legislative intern. Hoyt later faced more sexual harassment charges. Asked by Karen Dewitt about what government could do differently to deal with sexual harassment, Cuomo deflected and told DeWitt that sexual harassment goes on in journalism too. “We will have policies in state government, obviously, that affect state government, but I think you miss the point. When you say it’s state government, you do a disservice to women, with all due respect, even though you’re a woman.”

Cuomo’s comments were clearly shameful and ugly but they are only part of a behavior pattern that has led many to question Cuomo’s understanding of the issues facing women in politics.

Cuomo has personally kept the black female leader of the Senate Democrats out of budget negotiations but welcomed Sen. Jeff Klein, the head of the now supposedly defunct IDC, who was accused of forcibly kissing a staffer this year

Despite that accusation, Klein was still welcome in budget negotiations and was allowed to negotiate new sexual harassment legislation. Cuomo signaled his intent to reunify the Democratic conference but waited until budget negotiations were through–again refusing to invite Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Karen Scharff, head of Citizen Action NY and a co-chair of the Working Families Party, which has been a target of Cuomo’s of late, says his display with Clinton on Thursday was par for the course.

“Yesterday, Andrew Cuomo handed flowers to one of the most powerful political women in America when she endorsed him, a condescending gesture that says it all. He ignores or belittles women reporters, he kept Andrea Stewart Cousins out of the room where decisions are made by three men, he created a women’s party that does what it’s told, and he empowered the Republican Senate to block passage of critical issues important to women’s lives. The WEP endorsement is no surprise since Cuomo created the party as a marketing ploy for himself.”

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