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Nixon says Cuomo bullying; Cuomo camp says she’s ‘paranoid’

Candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon responds to a

Candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon responds to a question during a news conference Monday, March 26, 2018, in Albany. Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

ALBANY — Democratic challenger for governor Cynthia Nixon said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s allies strong-armed two Buffalo centers to cancel her events at the last minute, but the centers said Thursday that it was the Nixon campaign that played a dirty trick.

The Nixon campaign said it had tried to book both venues to hold economic forums on Wednesday. And Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo from the left in the Democratic primary, said she saw the governor’s hand in the abrupt cancellations.

“Andrew Cuomo’s latest attempt to threaten and intimidate his way to victory made one thing very clear: the governor is clearly scared of our campaign, and desperately wants me to go away,” Nixon, who has called Cuomo a bully, said in a statement Wednesday. “Well, we can’t be bullied out of the race. I’ll meet with voters on street corners if we have to. Because like it or not, Andrew Cuomo, progressive change is coming to New York.”

But the directors of both venues — the Pucho Olivencia Community Center and the Delavan-Grider Center — said the Nixon campaign representatives who had set up the events had neglected to say that the purpose of the gathering was political rather than merely civic. They said Cuomo had not tried to exert influence.

“We didn’t receive pressure from anybody,” said Wilmer Olivencia Jr., board president of the Pucho Olivencia Community Center in Buffalo. “They described it as a community event in reference to jobs and growth . . . never did they mention this was a political event.”

Candace Moppins, executive director at the Delavan-Grider Center, said the person who called to arrange to have the Nixon event there didn’t mention that it was for a political campaign or that it involved Nixon. As a not-for-profit organization, the venue isn’t allowed to host political events, she said.

“No political pressure,” Moppins said. “We are a not-for-profit organization and as part of our charter we cannot hold political events.”

Olivencia said that Citizens Action, a liberal activist group, had made the reservation at Pucho Olivencia without mentioning that Nixon would be part of the event. The problem, he told Newsday, was “basically just about being honest and saying what it is for.”

He said the center receives no state grants or other funding, and that it has been the venue for political events when incumbents hold forums or when challengers clearly state they are holding a political event. The center is organizing relief for storm-ravaged Puerto Rico after Cuomo’s call for assistance to the island.

Olivencia and Moppins both said they had been distracted with daily duties when they took the calls to book their venues, and that may have contributed to any miscommunication.

Cuomo’s campaign called the incident a rookie mistake by Nixon, an activist and actress in her first political campaign.

“First we’ve heard of it, but not the first Nixon to be paranoid!” tweeted Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith.

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