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At an incredibly intense gathering on Saturday night, New York's Working Families Party voted to endorse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for re-election, handing him their ballot line by a 59-41 margin over law professor Zephyr Teachout. While most of the delegates rapturously embraced Teachout and lustily booed Cuomo (who only appeared at the convention by video and speaker phone), many of the WFP's constituent unions preferred to stick with the incumbent, who offered a number of concessions to win the party over.
Chief among them was Cuomo's promise to help return the state Senate to Democratic control, even though he's long preferred the GOP remain in charge. According to multiple reports, Cuomo will supposedly help create a $10 million fund for winning back the Senate, though of course, there are no enforcement mechanisms to ensure the governor actually follows through on this.
And the same is true for the various legislative priorities Cuomo also pledged to support, which include increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 and indexing it for inflation; passing the state-level DREAM Act to provide tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants; enacting the Women's Equality Act, which enhances protections for reproductive freedoms and helps ensure pay equity; and campaign finance reform, with public financing of elections.
Seeing as Cuomo has now publicly targeted Senate leadership—insisting as well that the renegade Democrats of the IDC return to the fold or face consequences—there's virtually no chance that any of this legislation can pass this year. So this is all a giant bet on 2015, and the only things holding this deal together are the reputations of Cuomo and the leaders of the big unions who wanted to back him. But in 2010, Cuomo also claimed he wanted a Democratic majority in the Senate, and he's already acting squirrely on the minimum wage.
So the Working Families Party has decided to trust a guy who's proven himself inherently untrustworthy, but even so, that choice may have been better than the alternatives. If Cuomo actually lives up to his word, progressives will score some major victories and New York politics will change dramatically, and perhaps permanently. But right now, that's the biggest "if" in American politics.
He also said his support for Senate candidates would be based on who supported his agenda, not down the line support for Democratic candidates.
“This is about electing people who support an agenda. I also will oppose Democrats who will oppose the things we try to pass,” he said. “I've been trying to support something called the Women's Equality Act that protects a woman's right to choose in New York. There are Democrats who don't support that. It's not as easy as all Democrats are good, all Republicans are bad, or vice versa. You have to also look at the issues and where people stand on the issues and that's what voters should be doing.”