Tentative deal in place for Working Families Party to endorse Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during the New York State Democratic Convention at the Huntington Hilton in Melville Thursday, May 22, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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ALBANY -- The liberal Working Families Party that has been mired in internal conflict over the soul of the party may have found a way to place Andrew M. Cuomo on its ticket after weeks of negotiations.

Party officials said they struck the "framework" of an agreement to give the endorsement to Cuomo despite some strong criticism by a faction of the influential party over the governor's record on liberal issues, according to an official close to the negotiations.

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The deal confirmed late Friday would have to be accepted by the minor party's voters in its scheduled session Saturday, and that wasn't certain.

Under the proposed settlement, Cuomo would agree to seek to reunite Democrats in the Senate and create a Democratic majority, which would control legislation. The Senate is now ruled by a coalition of Republicans and five dissident Democrats in the Independent Democratic Conference.

Republicans led by Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) have blocked some progressive proposals, including a measure to further protects late-term abortions.

In other provisions, Cuomo would lead a concerted effort to pass a Dream Act to provide college aid to illegal immigrants brought to this country as children, a women's rights agenda including the abortion protection, a permanent and robust system of using public funds to help finance political campaigns to reduce the power of big donors, a higher minimum wage and more school aid for public schools, according to the official. The official spoke to Newsday on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks mediated by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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There was no immediate comment from Cuomo's campaign.

Four years ago, the minor party enthusiastically endorsed Cuomo. But a faction of the party is upset over some of Cuomo's fiscal policies, such as tax breaks for corporations, a cut in school aid, and for coming up short in some liberal goals, including working to flip the Senate to a Democratic majority.

That rift erupted Friday as Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout announced her candidacy for governor, with a sharp rebuke of Cuomo.

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"I'm seeking the WFP nomination because New Yorkers deserve an economy and democracy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected," she said in a statement. "The system is rigged for the rich and powerful, and as part of that broken system, Andrew Cuomo isn't going to fix it. People's voices aren'tt being heard."

Teachout wouldn't be running to win the governor's office, but to send a message to Cuomo and other Democrats in Albany about the power of the liberal voice.

For Cuomo, losing the Working Families Party endorsement probably wouldn't impact his chances in November. The minor party provided him about 150,000 votes four years ago out of his 2.9 million total votes and a nearly 1.4 million victory margin. But the liberal party support could help him in any 2016 run from the Democratic nomination for president, should he decide to run.

The Cuomo campaign declined to comment.

"In the end, most of what we are seeing in the media will mean very little to the typical voter who is not closely aligned with one party or a political insider or junkie," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. "To the typical suburban or swing voter, their decision is not going to come down to what minor party a candidate might have in addition to the major party line."

Opponents of breaking with Cuomo over political issues fear the Working Families Party will lose its influence with Cuomo to fight for social concerns, including better wages and food for the working poor. In addition, labor unions that fund the Working Families Party have already endorsed Cuomo, raising the question of how the minor party could exist without the union backing.

"I'm ashamed I ever helped found the WFP," said Mike McGuire of the Mason Tenders union and a member of the party's executive board. "The WFP leadership is now nothing more than a bunch of Park Slope limousine liberals, either literally or figuratively," McGuire said on his Facebook page.

ired in internal conflict Friday over whether to deny Andrew M. Cuomo a place on its ticket.

The minor party is scheduled to nominate its gubernatorial candidate at its convention Saturday. After weeks of closed-door negotiations with the Cuomo campaign, there was still no agreement late Friday.

Four years ago, the minor party enthusiastically endorsed Cuomo. But a faction of the party is upset over some of Cuomo's fiscal policies, such as tax breaks for corporations, a cut in school aid, and for coming up short in some liberal goals, including working to flip the Senate to a Democratic majority.

That rift erupted Friday as Fordham University law Professor Zephyr Teachout announced her candidacy for governor, with a sharp rebuke of Cuomo.

"I'm seeking the WFP nomination because New Yorkers deserve an economy and democracy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected," she said in a statement. "The system is rigged for the rich and powerful, and as part of that broken system, Andrew Cuomo isn't going to fix it. People's voices aren't being heard."

Teachout wouldn't be running to win the governor's office, but to send a message to Cuomo and other Democrats in Albany about the power of the liberal voice.

For Cuomo, losing the Working Families Party endorsement probably wouldn't impact his chances in November. The minor party provided him about 150,000 votes four years ago out of his more than 2 million total votes. But the liberal party support could help him in any 2016 run from the Democratic nomination for president, should he decide to run.

The Cuomo campaign declined to comment.

"In the end, most of what we are seeing in the media will mean very little to the typical voter who is not closely aligned with one party or a political insider or junkie," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. "To the typical suburban or swing voter, their decision is not going to come down to what minor party a candidate might have in addition to the major party line."

Opponents of breaking with Cuomo over political issues fear the Working Families Party will lose its influence with Cuomo to fight for social concerns, including better wages and food for the working poor. In addition, labor unions that fund the Working Families Party have already endorsed Cuomo, raising the question of how the minor party could exist without the union backing.

"I'm ashamed I ever helped found the WFP," said Mike McGuire of the Mason Tenders union and a member of the party's executive board. "The WFP leadership is now nothing more than a bunch of Park Slope limousine liberals, either literally or figuratively," McGuire said on his Facebook page.

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