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ALBANY -- The New York State chapter of the National Organization for Women has endorsed Zephyr Teachout, the Democratic primary challenger to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a surprise move against a governor who has strongly courted the women's vote.
"Zephyr Teachout is a dynamic woman with an inspiring, compelling vision that will shake up Albany and the old boys club that runs this state for the benefit of the few," said Zenaida Mendez, president of the state NOW chapter. A news conference is planned for Tuesday.
Last week, the state's second largest public worker union, the Public Employees Federation, also endorsed Teachout.
Just last year, the state chapter of NOW had applauded Cuomo "for stating boldly and loudly that his commitment to women's equality is on the forefront of his agenda." Throughout his career, Cuomo has enjoyed support from the influential organization.
Monday, the state chapter of NOW said it will use its 40,000 members, mailings and telephone banks against Cuomo.
Cuomo declined to comment.
How much the NOW endorsement will matter is uncertain.
With two weeks until the primary, polls show nine of 10 New Yorkers don't know enough about Teachout to have an opinion about her. Cuomo has denied engaging her in any debates, which could have raised her name recognition and campaign money.
"Can the endorsement have an impact? Absolutely," said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College Research Institute poll. "That said, Teachout remains largely unknown to most voters, even to most Democratic primary voters."
A Siena poll of voters in August showed that while about half of men had a favorable view of Cuomo, two-thirds of women voters liked him. The August poll by Quinnipiac University found that in every category -- including the handling of the economy, ethics and leadership -- women posted higher marks for Cuomo than men.
This month, the state Democratic committee created a "Women's Equality" party to provide an extra line on the November ballot. That's expected to energize the Democratic base while providing another way for Republicans and unenrolled voters to choose Cuomo and fellow Democrats. The only woman on the Women's Equality ballot is former Rep. Kathy Hochul, who is running for lieutenant governor.
Teachout, however, said this election will pierce Cuomo's image as an advocate for women. "It's ironic that the governor, a man, decides that women need their own party, and then the slate of candidates is majority male," she said. "You can't make this stuff up."