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Liberal upstarts hope to spoil Cuomo’s party

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout and her running

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout and her running mate, Timothy Wu, hold a news conference in Albany on Monday, June 16, 2014. “I know I am an underdog,” Teachout said Monday during a campaign stop in Albany. “But New York loves an underdog.” Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY -- Professors Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu are taking on the daunting task of challenging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state Democratic Party he heads. But Wu may have found a more feasible route.

“I know I am an underdog,” Teachout said Monday in a campaign stop in Albany. “But New York loves an underdog.”

She’s raising money and trying to collect enough signatures on petitions to force her way into the Democratic primary in September.

“I always thought my name was curse, but here it may be a blessing,” she joked. “The difference between a protest candidate ... and underdog is an underdog wants to win.”

Wu would challenge Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s choice of a running mate,  former Rep. Kathy Hochul of the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg.

In a quirk in New York election law, voters choose a lieutenant governor in primaries with the winner of a party’s primary automatically running in the general election with the party’s candidate for governor, said Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor at SUNY New Paltz.

It has happened before. Alfred DelBello won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 1982, but his running mate, New York City Mayor Ed Koch, lost to then-Lt. Gov. Mario Cuomo. DelBello was elected in the general election with Cuomo, but the pair didn’t mesh and DelBello eventually resigned.

If Wu should win the lieutenant governor’s job and Cuomo is re-elected governor, Wu said he would be an outspoken critic of the governor and push a liberal agenda. That includes addressing what he calls income inequality between the rich and poor and to break up monopolistic, politically protected corporations.

“The unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics takes a toll and extracts its price,” Wu said Monday.

There was no immediate comment from the Cuomo-Hochul campaign.

Wu is joining Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor, who is also seeking to petition her way on to the Democratic primary where she hopes to again challenge Cuomo. She narrowly lost the liberal Working Families Party nomination to Cuomo in May, but energized a segment of Democratic liberals.

Teachout and Wu insist they are in the race to win, despite their lack of funding, name recognition and party organization to get out the vote. But they said they will target disaffected liberal voters _ those under 40 years old, those not enrolled in a party, and new immigrants.

“We’re going to be campaigning together, sharing the same message,” Teachout said. She said they will seek to energize liberal Democrats angry with Cuomo through a full-time campaign.

“I think we need a state where regular people can run for office,” said Wu, who has written books on the Internet, is an authority on the media and communications industries, and who was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. “I say, bring it on.”

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