In the days since actor and progressive activist Cynthia Nixon indicated she might want to run against Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary for Governor, Cuomo has made a number of public appearances and taken several steps to shore up his political base.
It’s just over two weeks until the state budget is due, but there’s been little talk of that at the Capitol. Instead of meeting with legislative leaders to hash out health care spending and possibly new taxes, Cuomo has focused on issues important to left-leaning Democrats in the state. He might need them as voters in a September primary, if he is to be challenged by a candidate to the left, like Cynthia Nixon.
The governor spoke to a gathering of abortion rights lobbyists in Albany on Tuesday, where he gave an award to Cecile Richards, former President of Planned Parenthood, and daughter of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, and touted his record on women’s issues.
“We’ve enacted the best-paid family leave program in the United States of America,” Cuomo said, to cheers.
Cuomo also spoke at a major conference of Hispanic lawmakers in Albany, where he recounted his work to help storm-damaged Puerto Rico and railed against President Trump’s policies on immigrants.
“But make no mistake. Theirs is anti-immigrant agenda. They can't even be clearer,” Cuomo said on March 10th. “We believe in the exact opposite. We believe America is America because of immigrants. It's immigrants that built this country and made it what it is.”
Cynthia Nixon is a leading spokesperson of a movement to get more money to help children at the poorest schools in the state. She’s worked closely with the Alliance for Quality Education, a group that has condemned the governor for not adhering to a court order, in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity or CFE case, that said the schools need billions of more dollars a year in state aid. Nixon was at the Capitol to rally in 2014.
“We are number five out of fifty states in terms of how that money is spent inequitably and unfairly,” Nixon said.
The governor since the talk of Nixon’s campaign surfaced has made a major push to fight critics of his school funding policies. He instructed his budget director, Robert Mujica, to issue a lengthy statement defending the governor’s policies on school aide, and accusing opponents of spreading “distractions, myths, and legends”. Cuomo also met privately with leaders of charter schools that serve African American students.
AQE’s executive director Billy Easton, says it’s no coincidence that the governor is suddenly attacking opponents of his school aid record.
“This all happening in the middle of the governor having a total freak out moment over just the rumor that Cynthia Nixon, who is a school equity champion, might run against him,” said Easton, who calls Cuomo’s track record on school funding “weak”.
Nixon is gay, and in recent days, reporters have received emails detailing endorsements for Cuomo’s reelection from prominent LGBTQ figures, including Elton John. Hudson Valley Congressman Sean Patrick Mahoney, in a statement, even asked Nixon to reconsider running, saying that he owes his marriage to Governor Cuomo. Cuomo shepherded same-sex marriage into law in New York in 2011.
Cuomo has implied that Nixon is a b-list celebrity, and even made a joke about her that involved Vladimir Putin.
In recent days, though, he said he’s unconcerned about facing a primary challenge.
“ I’m not nervous about whoever runs,” Cuomo said in New York City on March 14th. “That’s called elections and that’s fine.”
So far, Nixon has been silent on her future plans. The cable channel New York One reports that Nixon appeared to be shooting a potential campaign ad in New York City over the past few days.