National News

Nixon Asks if Cuomo Is a ‘Real Democrat’ at Campaign Debut

Posted March 20, 2018 3:08 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — Actress Cynthia Nixon wasted no time in confronting Gov. Andrew Cuomo in sharp and personal terms on Tuesday, questioning his standing as a “real Democrat,” accusing him of being beholden to corporate donors and linking him and his “cronies” to Albany corruption.

It was boiling hot rhetoric far more common in the late stages of a campaign than in the first public appearance by a candidate best known for her role on “Sex and the City.”

Nixon’s speech, delivered before a small, mostly African-American crowd in Brooklyn outlined the themes of her insurgent bid to knock off Cuomo, a two-term incumbent, in the Democratic primary: tackling the “very segregated” school system, fixing the subways and addressing the “crushing inequality” in the state.

Appropriating an attack line from her friend Mayor Bill de Blasio and the former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, she spoke of a New York divided between the haves and have-nots.

“New York state itself is the single most unequal state in the country,” she said.

“This is not something that just happens by mistake. It comes from a choice. It comes from a choice to slash taxes for corporations and the super rich and slash services on everybody else,” she said from a podium. “And it’s a choice we’re used to being made by Republicans like Donald Trump. But for the past eight years it is a choice that’s been made by our governor, Andrew Cuomo.”

Nixon touched briefly on her own biography — born in New York City, attended public schools, the mother of public school attendees — as her wife, Christine Marinoni, looked on from the side of the room.

Only 4 in 10 voters know anything about Nixon, according to a Siena College poll released this week. That same survey showed Cuomo leading her among registered Democrats by nearly 40 percentage points, including among every subgroup including women, liberals and minorities.

In a sign of the political climb ahead, no prominent elected official attended her event on Tuesday.

But on her first full day as a candidate, Nixon seemed more than happy to put the focus on Cuomo.

She mocked him for his handling of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subways. Nixon barely made her own launch in time because of train delays.

“Cuomo’s MTA,” she said to laughs. “Three trains pulled out of service. We had to get off three trains.”

She was just getting warmed up.

She hammered Cuomo for raising only 0.1 percent of his campaign funds from small donors. “If you are a regular person in New York, the chance that Andrew Cuomo is going to care about your concerns is exactly that: 0.1 percent,” she said.

She linked him to the Koch brothers, two conservative billionaires who have become liberal boogeymen in recent years. “The Koch brothers donated $87,000 to Andrew Cuomo when he first ran in 2010 because they know a good investment when they see one,” she said.

And she sought to link him to the recent corruption conviction of a former top aide, Joseph Percoco. “There is a reason that people close to Andrew Cuomo keep winding up under indictment for corruption,” she said. (Cuomo was not accused of any wrongdoing in the Percoco trial and has called his former aide’s behavior a “total aberration.”)

Cuomo was in Albany on Tuesday with no public schedule. The state budget is due April 1, typically one of the busiest stretches of the year for the governor.

One of the crucial early questions surrounding Nixon’s candidacy is whether Democratic voters have any interest in elevating a celebrity while Donald Trump is serving as president.

Nixon answered a couple of questions from reporters after her speech, including about her qualifications, as her aides tried to drag her from the scrum of cameras and recorders.

“It’s time for an outsider. I’m not an Albany insider,” she said in a line familiar to most every campaign run by a nonpolitician. “But I think it is time not just in New York state but all over this country to hear from the voices of real people who understand that our government in New York, and in many places across this country, including federally, is in the clutches of millionaires, billionaires and corporations.”