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Court backs Cuomo control of Women's Equality Party

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at a news

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at a news conference at his Manhattan office on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY - An appellate court ruled Thursday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his supporters control the Women's Equality Party he founded a year ago.

The state Appellate Division rejected the arguments used by Republicans and a group of Democrats in separate efforts to control which candidates the party endorses.

The group of Democrats wants to keep the party independent from the governor. Republicans sought to block Democrats from using the party line to draw women voters to Democrats.

More cases in a string of lawsuits across the state on the issue are expected with a possible final decision being made by the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Cuomo and his supporters created the minor party last year as a way to draw votes from Republicans by attracting voters to the cause of women's rights and abortion rights, which Cuomo made a theme of his re-election campaign. The party attracted 50,000 votes last fall, which was needed to secure an automatic ballot line for the next four years to endorse candidates.

The Women's Equality Party could help Democrats in 2016 attract Republican voters and those not enrolled in a party as Democrats seek to win majority control of the State Senate.

The appellate court rejected the argument by challengers to Cuomo's control that he lacked the support of a majority of candidates that attracted the more than 50,000 voters last year. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, have supported continued control of the party by Cuomo and his allies.

The other two candidates on the WEP line -- Democratic Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli -- have stayed out of the fight for control of the minor party.

The appellate panel overruled lower courts by saying the majority of past candidates isn't required to determine who runs the party.

"We are thankful the courts rejected these cynical and illegitimate attempts to hijack the Women's Equality Party and ruled in favor of those who formed it and worked hard to get it ballot status," said Rachel Gold, the party chairwoman recognized by Cuomo.

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