In this March 26, 2018 file photo, New York Democratic...

In this March 26, 2018 file photo, New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon responds to a question during a news conference in Albany. Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

ALBANY — The Working Families Party, the progressive political bloc that attempts to push Democrats to the left, endorsed Cynthia Nixon for governor Saturday instead of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, after a debate that echoed the national Democrat fight in 2016 over Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

In snubbing the incumbent, the party unofficially guaranteed a ballot line in November to Nixon, former star of the TV series “Sex and the City,” a designation that likely will be made at the party’s formal convention in May.

But the outcome could do more than that. It also possibly cements a split in New York’s political left over its view of Cuomo, who is running for a third term. It could threaten the future of the Working Families Party. It could help the eventual Republican candidate for governor.

But those possibilities hinge heavily on who wins the Cuomo-Nixon Democrat primary in September.

For now, backers say that Nixon is part of a progressive wave that rejects establishment Democrats.

“For eight years, we tried to work with Andrew Cuomo to make New York a truly progressive state,” Bill Lipton, WFP director said, after members aired a lengthy list of grievances against the incumbent that included propping up Republican control of the state Senate. “Today, we’re going to do something different.”

A day earlier, after news broke that the minor party was moving to endorse Nixon, two unions severed ties with it and Cuomo announced he wouldn’t seek its nomination. Still, he had allies at the meeting who nominated him and tried to postpone a vote.

In the end, it was a rout for Nixon: She garnered 91.5 percent of the vote.

In her acceptance speech, Nixon, 52, voiced the view of her nearly 200 backers who gathered in the ballroom at the basement of the Albany Hilton: Cuomo’s move to the left on free college tuition, minimum wage and other policies was too little, too late.

He’s a “Democrat only in name,” she said, adding that it’s time for an outsider.

“You are the heart and soul of the progressive New York that we want to create,” Nixon said to those assembled. “The last eight years under Andrew Cuomo have been an exercise in living with disappointment and dysfunction and dishonesty.”

Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Abbey Fashouer downplayed the endorsement and said the governor “stands with the unions who have left the WFP and no longer feel it represents the interests of middle- and working-class New Yorkers.”

She did not address Nixon’s criticisms.

The vote came after a boisterous back and forth that pitted activist groups against unions, who urged their political brethren to be pragmatic and back the governor — whom they begrudgingly backed in 2010 and 2014.

Brian Schneck, president of the Hicksville-based Local 259 of the United Auto Workers, called the endorsement premature and an “error” that could open the door to a Republican winning in a three-way gubernatorial race.

“We need to win and, more importantly, defeat those nasty Republicans sitting in congressional seats,” said Schneck, a Lake Grove resident. “We need to make a smart and a right decision.”

Other Cuomo supporters noted that if Nixon loses the primary but continues on the third-party line, she risks not gathering at least 50,000 votes in November, which would terminate the party’s legal claim to a ballot line. Nixon brushed off such scenarios. “We will win” the Democrat primary, she said.

Saturday’s vote culminated a rough and tumble 48 hours in which Lipton issued a statement saying that Cuomo had threatened unions and other groups that fund the Working Families Party — a characterization disputed by Stewart Appelbaum, head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Nixon said the “governor’s demands for loyalty” were a reflection of the incumbent.

It was clear the scuffle only hardened Nixon’s support. “This is no time to compromise with a centrist, corporate governor who has lied to us again and again,” delegate David Schwartz told his colleagues just before the vote.

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