This is it, folks; years of sparring, speculation and scheming in New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s battle with the left is about to come to a head. Sometime in the next 48 hours, the fiscally conservative governor will learn whether the liberal Working Families Party (WFP) will choose him — or someone else — to run on its ballot line in his reelection this fall.
Here’s what’s at stake. If he gets WFP’s backing, Cuomo will neutralize what potentially could have been a loud and damaging critic from the left, and he’ll secure a much larger margin of victory by avoiding facing another opponent. (Polls show that the addition of a liberal third-party candidate to the race could put Cuomo’s vote total under 40 percent and reduce his margin of victory to the teens). If he doesn’t, there will be branding setbacks, national embarrassment and the possibility of finishing his reelection with a majority of voters choosing someone else. For a pol with national ambitions, these are more than mild irritants.
Zeff writes that if the WFP chooses not to endorse Cuomo, Zephyr Teachout is the leading candidate to get the nod, not Diane Ravitch - but that opposition to the Cuomo endorsement from within the WFP appears to have "softened" since a meeting with the governor and "key party officials" on Tuesday.
Still, Zeff says that there is enough opposition to the Cuomo endorsement remaining that for Sheriff Andy to get a WFP nod, there must be a come to Jesus moment for the governor:
As described in today’s Times, one scenario being considered is one in which the governor would hold a public event “express[ing] his intent to help the Democrats reclaim the [state] Senate” if Republicans fail to pass a public financing bill. But several insiders say that it will take much more than this to sell the party’s rank and file on a governor they see as the biggest enemy to their economic agenda. These sources say that to have a chance to get members to back Cuomo, it may require something along the lines of a big kumbaya-type press conference with all the major players of the state’s institutional left — the governor, Mayor Bill de Blasio (who is playing a real peace-making role behind the scenes), WFP, and major labor unions — coming together to declare several things.
First, the united groups — including unions like 1199 and the Hotel Trades Council, which backed a Republican state senate in recent years — would declare the need for a Democratic state senate. For WFP members to be interested, they’d like to see the governor say he will help fund primary challenges to the Independent Democratic Caucus — a band of breakaway Democrats now caucusing with Republicans — with millions of dollars if they don’t rejoin the party in earnest. Further, they’d want to see him put real money and energy behind an effort to peel off additional seats for Democrats, ensuring a lasting senate majority that has eluded Democrats — and real progressive governance in the state — for decades. Finally, party activists say they want to hear the governor declare his intent to deliver a progressive wish-list including not only public financing of elections, but other items like a minimum wage increase and DREAM Act.
While the party’s members do not trust the governor’s word — because he’s pledged fealty to progressive agenda items in the past, but declined to deliver — the thinking here is that if unions and the mayor are there to enforce this plan, it would assume greater legitimacy.
Earlier today I wondered why Bill de Blasio was promoting Andrew Cuomo so heavily to the Working Families Party.
The answer may be that some concessions have been extracted by de Blasio from Cuomo in return for this support.
But given how little Cuomo's word is worth, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting to get Cuomo to deliver on whatever it is he has promised.
Or Cuomo may just be issuing threats to anybody who doesn't back him:
The governor, famous for his political acuity, could seek to punish the party if it does not endorse him. Private threats have ranged from the implicit — he controls many agenda items of interest to it — to an explicit scenario in which he persuades unions to leave WFP and starve it of needed resources. Pro-Cuomo party allies have urged its members to take the pragmatic course here, and endorse the governor, so as not to make life more complicated for itself, its unions and the governor.
In the end, I think Cuomo will emerge from his tough 48 hours with a WFP endorsement in hand and already be looking for ways to finagle out of whatever promises he made to win that endorsement.
But even so - that Cuomo and his people have been frantically scrambling behind the scenes to win this endorsement, to win the Independence Party endorsement while making it look like they don't want it, and courting political allies like de Blasio and John Liu to back him and tout him for re-election shows you just how weakened he is right now.
Pity that the Moskowitz budget wasn't up for a vote now, because I think the charter entrepreneurs might not have gotten so many goodies at this point in time with Cuomo getting squeezed from all ends.
Alas, the charter school entrepreneurs knew when to push their cause and I suspect that whatever concessions de Blasio and/or the WFP get out of Cuomo for their support this November, they'll be empty concessions that have little impact on pushing forward a progressive economic or education agenda.
I wish they would just say the hell with it and push a third party candidate against Cuomo, try and take double digits in votes and make the post-Election Day story that Cuomo barely won re-election and he now will have to govern in his second term with vote totals well under 50%.