Primaries signal a progressive wave in NY

Stephon Johnson | 9/20/2018, 10:38 a.m.
Let New York City Gov. Andrew Cuomo tell it and the rumored progressive wave is just a ripple. But outside ...

Let New York City Gov. Andrew Cuomo tell it and the rumored progressive wave is just a ripple. But outside of his victory, the rumors are true.

Last week, Cuomo defeated Cynthia Nixon in the gubernatorial primary with 66 percent of 1.5 million votes. Despite only winning 34 percent of the vote, Nixon made waves challenging the incumbent on issues of criminal justice, the MTA and education. At her primary night party, Nixon told those in attendance that she was proud of her team’s efforts.

“We had to fight just to get on the ballot,” said Nixon. “We had to fight just to get a debate. We started with nothing, and we earned every single vote. The establishment came at us with everything they had. Our allies and endorsers were threatened. My family was slandered. They outspent us more than 10 to one. The other side spent $25 million trying to drown us out. But we wouldn’t back down. We refused to be quiet. We made our voices heard.”

She concluded, “And while the result tonight wasn’t what we had hoped for, I’m not discouraged. I’m inspired. And I hope you are, too.”

In the primaries for lieutenant governor and state attorney general, Kathy Hochul and Letitia James won, respectively. Hochul defeated current New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams 53 percent to 47 percent, with Williams losing by less than 100,000 votes. James defeated a crowded field that included Zephyr Teachout, Sean Patrick Maloney and Leecia Eve with 41 percent of the vote. James would be the first elected woman attorney general (Barbara Underwood took over after Eric Schneiderman’s resignation) and she would be the first African-American woman to hold a statewide office in New York.

“This campaign was really never about me, or any of the candidates who ran,” James told supporters at her victory party. “It was about the people, but most importantly it was about that man in the White House who can’t go a day without threatening our fundamental rights, can’t go a day without threatening the rights of immigrants, can’t go a day without dividing us.”

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento congratulated Cuomo, Hochul and James for their victories citing the “strong message” that voters sent.

“They recognize the importance and value of having a powerful team in New York State that will stand with organized labor and protect workers’ rights,” said Cilento in a statement. “We look forward to getting our members back out to the polls in November to re-elect Andrew Cuomo as governor, Kathy Hochul as lt. governor and Tish James to be our next attorney general of this great state and congratulate them on their primary victories.”

32BJ President Hector Figueroa cited his members’ work in leading Cuomo, Hochul and James to victory.

“Our members supported Gov. Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Hochul and Letitia James for attorney general because they recognize the work that they have done on behalf of the state’s working families, beginning with the governor’s support of a $15 minimum wage for all and a historic $19 minimum wage for airport workers, as well as paid sick leave and other policies that are making a meaningful difference in the lives of most people in our state,” said Figueroa in a statement. “We know they have the experience and the know-how to continue pushing for progressive solutions to issues that matter to most New Yorkers, and we look forward to working with them on many issues when they win in November.”

But while Cuomo could be assured that things were fine at the top, the Senate primaries saw the dismantling of the Independent Democratic Conference that aligned itself with Republicans in the Senate.

Former New York City Council Member Robert Jackson defeated New York State Sen. Marisol Alcantara; former Hillary Clinton Campaign Operations Director Alessandra Biaggi beat incumbent Jeff Klein; Jessica Ramos, a community organizer, defeated Jose Peralta; and Zellnor Myrie beat New York State Sen. Jesse Hamilton.

Out of all of the IDC losses, Klein’s could be considered the biggest. Biaggi’s victory in District 34 in the Bronx and Westchester ousted the architect of the IDC, which denied progressives their agenda in Albany this decade. Klein was also accused of sexual misconduct earlier this year.

“If this doesn’t prove that political currency is people over money, I do not know what does,” Biaggi said at her victory party last Thursday. “We have now cut the head of the IDC snake.”

Biaggi’s platform includes advocating for single-payer health care, ending cash bail and decriminalizing sex work. Klein spent $2 million trying to keep Biaggi at bay, but it was all for naught.

“Alessandra Biaggi’s victory is, first and foremost, a win for working families in Westchester and the Bronx,” said Figueroa. “This victory proves that principled, committed, real Democrats can beat disloyal incumbents, matching up people power against money. When unions like 32BJ engage, inform and educate our union members about the importance of elections, and the impact that policy has in our lives, our democracy grows stronger and we all win.”

In other elections, John Liu defeated Tony Avella, Julia Salazar ousted Martin Dilan, Andrea Stewart-Cousins roundly defeated Virginia Perez, Rodneyse Bichotte beat Victor Jordan and Charles Barron won his primary over Jaytee Spurgeon.