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Cuomo allies launch 'Women's Equality' ballot line; critics dub it cynical ploy

Democrats said Thursday they will create a new ballot line to support Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other candidates, dubbed the “Women’s Equality Party.”

Cuomo’s liberal and conservative rivals immediately denounced it as a cynical ploy and questioned the incumbent’s record on women’s issues.

Cuomo allies would have to gather at least 15,000 petition signatures by mid-August to create a “Women’s Equality Party” line on the statewide ballot. New York is one of three states that actively allow candidates to appear multiple times on a ballot, with different party endorsements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The move by Democrats comes nine days after Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino announced he’s launching an alternate ballot line called “Stop Common Core,” to tap into voters upset about the controversial academic standards. 

The name stems from a 10-point package of legislation the governor the “Women’s Equality Act.” Nine of the proposals were widely supported by Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature. The 10th covered codifying abortion rights secured under Roe v. Wade into New York State law.

Republicans in the politically split Senate said they would back nine of the 10 bills but Assembly Democrats said the proposal was all or nothing. Some Democrats, who supported votes on individual bills in the package, said their colleagues wanted to use the standoff in the upcoming elections rather than resolve it.

Cuomo’s running mate, former Buffalo-area Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, cited the controversy in announcing the push for the ballot line.

“After decades of tremendous progress, the march toward women’s equality has stalled,” Hochul said. “Even in New York, the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement, we’ve felt the impact of the assault of women’s equality when just this year, the New York State Senate refused to act on the Women’s Equality Agenda.”

Zephyr Teachout, a liberal critic of Cuomo who intends to challenge him in a Democrat primary, said called it a cynical attempt to “buy” votes.

“We don't need a new 'party' for women's equality. We need a new governor with traditional Democratic values. Governor Cuomo thinks he can buy women's votes by cynically creating a new party to advertise values he hasn't fought for in office,” Teachout said. “A real Democrat would have already passed the Women's Equality Act and would be fighting for paid family leave.”

Republicans said the ballot moniker clashed with Democrats’ support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) after he approved a secret settlement of sexual harassment claims against former lawmaker Vito Lopez. Astorino said Cuomo supported Silver -- the governor actually said the choice of speaker was up to legislators -- and failed to deliver on the nine widely supported parts of the women’s legislative agenda.

"Every time the words 'Women's Equality Party' are spoken, New Yorkers should think 'Andrew Cuomo and Sheldon Silver.'” Astorino said. “Because that's what this party line is really about."

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