By Arthur Z. Schwartz
On Thursday, September 13th (make sure not to forget that our state leaders, ever anxious to depress voter turnout, moved this election to a Thursday) we face an incredibly important primary election in NY State. While Trump neophytes are winning Republican primaries, progressive Democrats are winning races all over in States where the polls had them far behind. Georgia, Florida and Arizona all elected underdog candidates from the Democratic Party’s progressive wing to take on Trump Republicans. The same can happen here. Our community, which gave Zephyr Teachout 65% of its vote in 2014 against Andrew Cuomo, can make a difference, maybe enough of one to put a new breed of leaders into power in Albany.
Andrew Cuomo is, in so many ways, the Democratic mirror image of Donald Trump. He hates anyone who challenges him. Actually, unlike Trump, he doesn’t like crowds of people, except at events staged very occasionally by the Building Trades unions. In April, three groups of progressive activists, who mainly organize poor people of color around housing, schools, and environmental justice, decided to support the candidacy of Cynthia Nixon for Governor. These groups, Citizen Action, NY Communities for Change, and Make the Road, all received considerable support from unions. Cuomo told the unions: if you give money to these groups then lose my phone number.” Millions of dollars in funding dried up. And like Trump, Cuomo surrounds himself with “yes men’” who have no problem opening up the avenues of government to people with money. And then, many open their own pockets as well, like Cuomo’s Chief of Staff Joe Percoco.
Yes, Cuomo, with enormous pressure from the Left, pushed through an increase to the minimum wage to $15 per hour. And after he lost upstate to Teachout, he banned fracking. But under his watch the subways have fallen apart, public schools are grossly under-funded, gas pipelines are being built across the state, womens’ right to choose has not been codified, our election system is broken (NY has the 49th lowest turnout in the U.S.), the state lacks serious ethics legislation, housing laws continue to be eviscerated, and truly affordable housing is not funded. No one I know of would smile and be enthusiastic and tell you: “I love Andrew Cuomo!” And no one would tell you that our State stands as a shining beacon against what Trump is doing in Washington.
Cynthia Nixon may be an actress. So are lots of our neighbors. But she is an actress who sends three kids through public school, lives in a not-fancy loft building on Bleecker Street, who has campaigned relentlessly for 10 years for better school funding, who has been a leader in the Screen Actors Guild. And unlike Cuomo she has been enthusiastically embraced by Bernie Sanders’ group, Our Revolution, and by the progressive young candidates fighting to oust Democrats who caucused with Republicans these past 8 years, and by the Queens/Bronx socialist firebrand, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Her running mate, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who won his last election with 99% of the vote, is a former tenants’ rights leader, who has served nine years on the City Council, and who puts his body where his mouth is. Jumaane led the fight against Mayor Bloomberg’s “stop and frisk” policy, and then organized in his Brooklyn district to stop gun violence. He was a founder of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, which fought for better schools, open government and to expand health care. He has promised that if elected he will be an independent corruption fighter in Albany. I have never been so impressed with the scope of one candidate’s grasp of issues, and his ease among fellow New Yorkers.
So, on Thursday September 13, I am voting FOR Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams. I urge my fellow Villagers to do the same.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Village’s Democratic District Leader. He is also election counsel to Cynthia Nixon’s and Jumaane Williams’ campaigns.