Cynthia Nixon casts herself as latest
Democratic insurgent in NY governor race
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[September 10, 2018]
By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the final days of
actress Cynthia Nixon's insurgent campaign against incumbent New York
State Governor Andrew Cuomo, she and her supporters have taken to
repeating three names as if an incantation: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,
Andrew Gillum and Ayanna Pressley.
All three were candidates from the party's emboldened left wing who
seemed doomed in opinion polls before pulling off upset victories.
Ocasio-Cortez, a Latina woman, and Pressley, a black woman, both
defeated long-time incumbents of U.S. Congress seats in New York and
Massachusetts; Gillum, a black man, won the open primary in Florida's
Nixon, a first-time candidate without governing experience, is known for
her years starring on HBO's "Sex and the City," set in New York. She is
hoping to repeat the success of other less-heralded names in Thursday's
nominating contest against Cuomo, who is seeking a third term.
"People keep underestimating insurgent candidates, particularly
first-time candidates," said Nixon, who is running antagonistically to
Nixon's opposition mirrors those of others who argue Democrats
nationwide have been far too cautious in embracing progressive
proposals, wary of alienating more moderate voters.
Ocasio-Cortez's victory in June's nominating race over 10-term U.S.
Representative Joe Crowley sent shockwaves through the Democratic Party.
The Republican Party controls both the House of Representatives and the
Senate and the Nov. 6 congressional elections will determine whether
they keep their majorities.
Nominating contests are hard to poll, and while those other races went
against incumbents, lower-profile candidates do not always succeed: Joe
Manchin and Tom Carper, incumbent U.S. Democratic senators in West
Virginia and Delaware, both defeated challengers from the left.
Nixon, 52, has lagged more than 30 points behind Cuomo in opinion polls,
and he has outraised her nearly 50 times over, though far more of
Nixon's support comes from small donors.
She says Cuomo, 60, the son of a former governor, is out of touch with
the party's diverse ranks, and too aligned with conservative Republicans
and moneyed corporations to be running one of the country's most liberal
states. Cuomo is one of 16 Democratic governors nationwide. There are 33
Republicans and one independent.
Cuomo has talked more about U.S. President Donald Trump on the campaign
and his aides have derided Nixon as a talented but unqualified actress.
Cuomo has drawn the ire of some voters, angered that he for years
allowed several Democratic members of the state's senate to caucus with
Republicans to give that party the advantage in the statehouse.
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Cynthia Nixon speaks during the Democratic gubernatorial primary
debate with Cynthia Nixon at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New
York August 29, 2018. J. Conrad Williams Jr./Pool via REUTERS
Cuomo counters that he has a record of passing same-sex marriage and
paid family leave in New York state. The winner on Thursday faces
Republican Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, in November.
Nixon's distrust is shared by supporters such as Zakiyah Ansari, who
stood by Nixon as she canvassed outside her childhood elementary school
on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Friday morning, hyping her up to
"They don't poll people like me," said Ansari, a director at New York's
Alliance for Quality Education, a public school advocacy group where
Nixon has been a spokeswoman for 17 years. "I don't believe they call
us, black and brown folks, poor people."
Both Cuomo and newspaper editorial boards have criticized Nixon's lack
of management experience and cast her proposals, particularly her plan
for state universal health care, as fantastically expensive. Nixon has
been vague on funding beyond saying there are plenty of rich people in
New York to tax.
At the school, Nixon stood on the sidewalk where parents and children
were filing by, her right hand floating out before her, sometimes
ignored by passersby but more often shaken as people recognized her
"'Sex and the City' got me through college!" Brittany James, a
34-year-old teacher, told Nixon. "You've got my vote."
Shabd Simon-Alexander, a 37-year-old political organizer from Brooklyn,
said Nixon had proved her worth as a political activist, and her
platform could turn out new voters.
"All you need is people in the street, knocking on doors, going to
vote," Simon-Alexander said.
Nixon acknowledged her celebrity has drawn more attention than most
first-time candidates, but, she said, "What gets them on board is the
issues that I'm talking about."
Later at a fundraiser in a dark, expensive bar in the Meatpacking
District, a neighborhood used as a backdrop on "Sex and the City," Nixon
said: "We are taking the Democratic Party back," the crowd cheering at
just the mention of three names: Ocasio-Cortez, Gillum, Pressley. "It's
happening," she said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; editing by David Geffen and Grant McCool)
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