Cuomo-Nixon fight could divide NY Dems beyond primary

Cynthia Nixon, the actress and activist challenging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the state's 2018 Democratic primary...

Posted: Apr 7, 2018 5:57 AM
Updated: Apr 7, 2018 5:57 AM

Cynthia Nixon, the actress and activist challenging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the state's 2018 Democratic primary will not commit to winding down her campaign if Cuomo wins the party's nomination in September.

Both Nixon and Cuomo, an incumbent seeking his third term, are vying for the endorsement of the small but influential Working Families Party, a progressive organization that backed Cuomo in 2010 and again, with an unlikely hand from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, four years later.

On Thursday, Nixon demurred when asked if the WFP's potential support, and a place on their ballot line, would encourage her to run as a third party candidate if she failed to oust Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

"I'm not prepared to say," she said in an interview with New York public radio station WXXI.

But Nixon emphasized how critical their support is to Democratic candidates.

"Andrew Cuomo is seeking their nomination and I am seeking it too as any and all Democrats should," she said. "They're a really important force in this country fighting for working people."

Nixon's campaign didn't expand on her comment Friday morning. Speaking to CNN, top aide Rebecca Katz would only say, "Cynthia Nixon is winning the Democratic primary in September."

The Working Families Party, which has publicly accused Cuomo of breaking the promises that sealed their 2014 support, is in a difficult position. Their grassroots are spoiling for a fight with Cuomo. But the party, in order to keep its foothold on the state ballot, would face significant risks if it were cast as enabling a spoiler.

On Friday, WFP national communications director Joe Dinkin would only state the obvious.

"The 232 members of the New York WFP state committee have an important decision to make," he said in a text. That group, made up of union members, community organizers and other activists, will decide on May 19, at the state party convention in Harlem.

Nixon isn't the only one who would be faced with a tough decision if defeated in the late summer primary. Cuomo is already backed by the Independence Party, which also has its own ballot real estate. He secured their support in late December of 2017.

If either candidate were to extend their campaign through the general election after losing the primary, Democrats would risk splitting their vote and opening a path for the Republican nominee to score a major upset. The effects would likely be felt down the ballot, too, as the party pushes to reclaim a hold on the state Senate majority.

Cuomo's office didn't address questions about what the governor would do if Nixon wins the Democratic nomination and referred CNN to comments made earlier this week by the governor.

"I take every candidacy seriously; you make a mistake if you don't," Cuomo said on Wednesday. "Anybody can run and I've very proud of what I've accomplished. I'm proud of my record. I think we have the most progressive record in the country in this state."

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