Andrew Cuomo gets Working Families Party nomination

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 14, 2014 in Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 14, 2014 in Tarrytown, New York. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

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ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo barely secured the important endorsement of the liberal Working Families Party late Saturday night by all but waging war on the Senate Republican conference, but not until he got an earful of criticism from liberal Democrats.

Cuomo won with 58.6 percent of the vote. His challenger, little-known novice politician and Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, received 41.3 percent.

In exchange for the nomination, Cuomo was forced to target his close allies in the Senate Republican conference, despite his own campaign ads that praising bipartisan cooperation. He also told the Independent Democratic Conference they had to return to the Democrats now relegated to the nearly powerless minority.

Cuomo, with a critical endorsement by liberal New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, promised to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, strengthen late-term abortion law, provide college financial aid to immigrants brought here illegally as children, among other progressive goals.

"That is a fight that we must wage," Cuomo said in a video and later in a telephone call to the convention held in an Albany suburb. "If we are unified . . . we can take control of our government."

"The world opens up in Albany when the Senate Republicans are gone," de Blasio said. "I believe his assurance that he supports this progressive agenda and we will move forward with it. I believe he is fully committed to taking back the Senate and fighting for every seat."

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Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said Cuomo's decision to accept the Working Families Party deal is a "grave concern" and that the governor was "held hostage" by the party and its "leftist agenda."

"That radical Working Families Party agenda was the same one pushed by Senate Democrats the last time they were in the majority, when they raised taxes by $14 billion, overspent their budget, left a massive $10 billion deficit and nearly bankrupted the state," Skelos said.

"We are happy he's ready, willing and clearly able to help elect a Democratic Senate," said state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester), who leads the minority Democratic conference.

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But Cuomo nearly lost the important endorsement to Teachout, who roused the divided crowd with a new liberal vision for New York, then urged unity even if they choose Cuomo. She said, however, she may still challenge Cuomo in a primary for the Working Party Families line or Democratic line.

"I believe we have to aim for so much more," she told her many supporters as they chanted and marched. "We're seeing the worst inequality in 100 years right now . . . We find ourselves fighting for scraps.

"I want to launch a different argument of what kind of New York do we want to live in, not what kind of New York will we settle to live in," Teachout said. "I want to redistribute real power in our economy."

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

Some Cuomo opponents are angry about his tax cuts for big businesses and banks -- incentives meant in part to help attract and retain jobs.

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"We gave him four years, and then we said, 'Never Again!' " Bertha Lewis, a Working Families Party founder, shouted in her nomination of Teachout. "We come here once again to try to find our soul."

Under the framework of a deal struck Friday night, Cuomo would lead liberal Democrats to pass a permanent, robust system of using public money to help fund campaigns to limit the power of big donors, help flip the Senate to a Democratic majority, pass a Dream Act to provide college aid to immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, pass a women's agenda with stronger protection for late-term abortion and other measures.

Cuomo would also seek to raise the minimum wage again, and allow for a higher minimum wage in New York City and other high-cost regions.

"We're booing him, yet some of us are going to vote for a deal, a deal that is hard won, hard fought, an excellent deal," said party member Susan Webber of the Albany area. "But there is just one problem with this deal. He lies! He will figure out a way to squirm out of it. I'm sorry, I don't trust him!"

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