The Quest for 'More and Better' Democratic officeholders is facing a watershed moment in the next few weeks.

The meteoric rise of Zephyr Teachout's campaign to be New York's Governor could become a political legend.  From neighborhood meet-ups, to national media outlets, to special interest endorsers, the interest in this genuinely progressive yet relatively unknown candidate seems to be growing in leaps and bounds.

Conversely, an ill wind seems to be blowing against the incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo. Allegations of corruption amid a growing scandal (Andrew Cuomo hires criminal lawyer to represent governor's office as scandal over Moreland anti-corruption commission grows: sources) are anything but welcome news to a candidate right before an election.

The question is, does this modern day Doña Quixote have enough time in the few weeks remaining before the primary to get enough recognition among actual Democratic voters on the street and garner enough votes to have a realistic shot at upsetting the entrenched, center-right (many would argue all but Republican) establishment backed incumbent.

If not her challenge could become just another broken political dream, shattered on the blades of a powerful establishment windmill.

“Potential upset of the century”: Zephyr Teachout’s lesson for Andrew Cuomo

From Salon Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014:

Teachout’s run is as much a challenge to the fatalistic, anti-electoral politics left as to Cuomo. The Fordham Law professor says progressives shouldn’t merely complain about the corporate takeover of the Democratic Party; they should fight for its soul. Since working as Internet communications director for Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential run, she’s been an evangelist to a broad range of insurgencies, from the early Tea Party (very different than it is today) through Occupy Wall Street to North Carolina’s Moral Mondays, on the lookout for new populist energy that can be channeled into a challenge to corporate power – and to the Democratic Party’s Cuomo wing.

Teachout herself comes from the party’s Cuomo wing – as in Mario Cuomo, the governor’s father. A believer in FDR liberalism, she says, she loved Mario Cuomo, but thinks his son is the symbol of a party that lost its way. An electoral politics novice, as a candidate anyway, she famously challenged Cuomo for the Working Families Party nomination in May, a sign that the progressive party, independent from but usually allied with Democrats, was fed up with a governor who was great on social issues like gun control and gay marriage but bad on economic ones.

Still, Teachout and her lieutenant governor running mate Tim Wu, the Columbia law and former Federal Trade Commission official who gave us the term “net neutrality,” remain long shots in the September primary. Although former boss Howard Dean appeared at a fundraiser with Teachout last Tuesday night, he declined to officially endorse her. (The Dean-inspired group Democracy for New York City is still considering the question.) Teachout says she wasn’t disappointed.

This has the potential to be the upset of the century. But it also has the potential to encourage people all around the country to run against corporate Democrats. Even a month out I can tell you we have changed politics in New York, just by opening it up and letting people know you can run. It has empowered people and I hope that we encourage tens of thousands of these kinds of races.

More Windmill tilting below the fold.

Ms. Teachout is receiving surprise endorsements from several significant traditional mainstream organizations (and one not so traditional individual).  Here are the details of some of them:

Environmental Front (anti Fracking):
Sierra Club Endorses Teachout

The Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental group opposed to hydrofracking, endorsed on Monday the Democratic primary campaign of Zephyr Teachout — a development her campaign said was a sign of momentum following the backing of the National Organization of Women.

“The New York Chapter of the Sierra Club enthusiastically endorses Zephyr Teachout for Governor of the State of New York. Ms. Teachout is an articulate, engaging leader who will play a critical role in the resurgence of the Empire State, with a vision to rebuild New York through a robust clean energy economy and reinvigorate our democracy so that it works for everyone — not just the wealthy and well-connected” said Jeff Bohner, Chair of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.

Women's Rights front:
State NOW endorses Zephyr Teachout over Andrew Cuomo
The New York State chapter of the National Organization for Women has endorsed Zephyr Teachout, the Democratic primary challenger to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a surprise move against a governor who has strongly courted the women's vote.

"Zephyr Teachout is a dynamic woman with an inspiring, compelling vision that will shake up Albany and the old boys club that runs this state for the benefit of the few," said Zenaida Mendez, president of the state NOW chapter. A news conference is planned for Tuesday.

This month, the state Democratic committee created a "Women's Equality" party to provide an extra line on the November ballot. That's expected to energize the Democratic base while providing another way for Republicans and unenrolled voters to choose Cuomo and fellow Democrats. The only woman on the Women's Equality ballot is former Rep. Kathy Hochul, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Teachout, however, said this election will pierce Cuomo's image as an advocate for women. "It's ironic that the governor, a man, decides that women need their own party, and then the slate of candidates is majority male," she said. "You can't make this stuff up."

Union front (PEF, New York State's 2cd largest Union):
Teachout lands PEF nod, NYSUT stays on the sidelines
Following the move by the state’s powerful teacher’s union to not make an endorsement in the governor’s race, the Public Employees Federation – the state’s second largest employee union – has gone a step further and thrown its support behind Cuomo’s primary opponent Zephyr Teachout.

“PEF is a very democratic union and today is a testament of that,” said PEF President Susan M.Kent. “This union has taken a bold step to endorse Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu for the office of Governor and Lt. Gov. of New York state. They are the leadership this state needs, that public workers need, and the citizens of the state of New York that we serve.”

Progressive front (Progressive Change Campaign Committee, PCCC):
With Big Endorsement In Hand, Zephyr Teachout Sees Opening In New York Governor's Race
Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout started out as a longshot candidate but has received a host of progressive support amid accusations that Cuomo abused his office by interfering with the panel. On Tuesday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee formally endorsed her, and Teachout thinks the political wind is at her back.

Teachout is fighting an uphill electoral battle. Ninety-one percent of the Democrats in New York don't know who she is, according to a recent poll. Cuomo is also polling well against the Republican nominee, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. HuffPost Pollster, which averages publicly available polling, currently has Cuomo holding just over 60 percent of the electorate in a head-to-head match-up with Astorino.

...Democrats may be looking for a progressive alternative to Cuomo. Although he has won Democratic accolades for his aggressive support for gay marriage, he has also opposed raising taxes on the wealthy, and his budgets have dramatically cut back on teachers and state health care workers.

Anti Corruption front (Lawrence Lessig, founder MayDay PAC):
Teachout Campaign Gets a Boost From Anti-corruption Activist
Scholar and activist Lawrence Lessig co-founded the Mayday Political Action Committee to help fund the campaigns of Congressional candidates who show a commitment to fighting corruption.

But this week, Lessig, a Harvard professor, took the unusual step of getting involved in New York State politics. A longtime friend of Zephyr Teachout, the Democrat running against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the September 9 primary,  Lessig on Wednesday called on his prominent list of Mayday supporters to contribute to Teachout’s campaign.

“Democrats and Republicans both have got to recognize the fundamental corruption of our political system and the way in which it completely alienates ordinary Americans from participating,” Lessig told WNYC on Friday.

Teachout’s camp said Lessig’s support generated quick cash. Within 24 hours, it saw more than $70,000 roll in for a total of $473,516 in campaign cash on Friday.

The New Yorker details the Anti Corruption aspects of this Quixotic primary joust between an unlikely challenger and an entrenched political windmill.
Cuomo is up for reëlection in November, but first he has to win a Democratic primary, on September 9th, against an improbable challenger: Zephyr Teachout, a constitutional-law professor at Fordham University. The week before the Times published its report, nearly ninety per cent of New York voters either didn’t know her name or had no opinion about her. Teachout has never held an elected office; she has little experience and less support. She’s not so much campaigning for office as campaigning for reform. Shortly before the primary, her first book will be released. It’s called “Corruption in America.”

Zephyr Teachout’s argument in “Corruption in America” follows an argument that Lessig made in his book “Republic, Lost” (2011). Lessig countered the Court’s cramped understanding of corruption with a sprawling one, defining corruption as “the economy of influence.” By that, he meant the overpowering—by outspending—of the will of the many by the will of the few, a corruption he describes as “the banal evil of second-rate minds who can’t make it in the private sector and who therefore turn to the massive wealth directed by our government as the means to securing wealth for themselves.” Teachout believes that Lessig’s definition of corruption is the framers’ definition of corruption. If Lessig’s gambit is to outspend the spenders, Teachout’s is to out-original the originalists...

Zephyr Teachout would like to debate Andrew Cuomo. She thinks that there ought to be three debates: one on education, one on immigration, and one on fracking. “But,” she admits, “all three would end up in a debate about corruption.” No debates are scheduled.

Only time (and the voters of New York) will tell if Ms. Teachout indeed teaches the powerful incumbent Andrew Cuomo a lesson in humility, and the rest of us the means of an upset - running aggressively supporting real progressive issues.

Whatever the outcome, it will be a positive teaching moment for political reform.  The national attention this quixotic campaign has already generated can only help in the quest to rid We The People's political institutions of corruption, and the arrogance  and contempt towards Main Street that corrupt established politicians (and Parties) have developed.

Call me naïve but my bet is on Rocinante in this particular horse race.

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