New York State Democrats celebrated what they called a progressive, anti-Washington agenda during the state’s Democratic Convention last Wednesday as the party once again nominated Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul as the party’s candidates.
While state lawmakers and national figures like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden touted Cuomo’s progressive accomplishments, Cuomo’s challenger, actress Cynthia Nixon, and her supporters questioned Cuomo’s progressive bona fides.
During the convention at Hofstra University the party also nominated New York City Public Advocate Letitia James for attorney general, a spot Eric Schneiderman recently resigned from following domestic violence allegations.
The party also nominated Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a Long Island native, for his third term.
Despite the challenge from the left, Cuomo received more than 95 percent of the party members’ votes for his third term.
“I am very gratified that not only did I get the nomination but the overwhelming number, which frankly was more than I expected, and I’ve gone to a lot of conventions,” Cuomo said. “For me, it’s an affirmation of everything we’ve done.”
Speakers noted that under Cuomo’s leadership the state legalized gay marriage, enacted gun control measures, created a statewide paid family-leave program, and implemented a $15-an-hour minimum wage and free public college tuition for some students.
“These are national progressive firsts, and that’s why you see over 95 percent,” Cuomo said. “Because when you’re the first in the nation, unless you’re competing with heaven you’re doing pretty well.”
Nixon, who did not wait for the final tally on Wednesday, told reporters Cuomo is a “two-term, incumbent, dynastic governor.”
She later tweeted that Cuomo is not a “true progressive,” adding that the governor is “in bed with the GOP” and has “routinely worked to empower Republicans in New York.”
Until April, during Cuomo’s tenure the Democrats in the state Senate were split with a group of senators caucusing with the Republicans as part of the Independent Democratic Conference – giving the GOP majority a larger margin.
Now, the Republicans maintain a single-vote majority because of Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder’s decision to continue caucusing with the GOP.
However, at the the convention Democrats voted to remove Felder from the party and support his challenger, Blake Morris.
The District 17 seat isn’t the only seat Democrats are looking to flip.
In District 7 on the North Shore of Long Island, Republican state Sen. Elaine Phillips is facing two Democratic challengers, North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan and Brad Schwartz.
Nassau Democrats have endorsed Kaplan for the ticket.
Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said the county will be ground zero in the fight to take back the Senate majority.
While the Democrats are in the minority in the Senate, the party has still been able to accomplish a progressive agenda, according to Cuomo and other speakers during the convention.
“Our state is a shining example of the progress that’s possible when we have tough, experienced Democratic leaders … standing up to the onslaught of attacks from this president and Republicans in Congress,” Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, said. “And that is exactly what [Cuomo] has done.”
Cuomo said the state’s accomplishments are the antithesis to the “division, fear and cynicism” spreading across Washington.
Fellow New Yorker President Donald Trump was also on Long Island Wednesday, for a round table discussion on the MS-13 gang.
Trump’s rhetoric surrounding MS-13 has often been criticized on the left, most recently when he called members of the group “animals.” Some commentators have suggested that his remarks are also aimed at undocumented immigrants.
As the Republican president spoke, a few miles away Democratic lawmakers reminded their party of its values and celebrated New York as a progressive beacon.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said the country is named the United States of America – not the divided states of America.
Biden asked the Democrats in the room to think back to what made them decide to join the party.
What it comes down to, Biden said, is believing that everyone should be treated fairly.
It’s the shared belief that ordinary people could do extraordinary things, Biden added.
“I kid and say if there were a constitutional convention held again today and the representatives were from congressional parties, and there was a motion saying no one could vote in America unless they have a college degree, my guess is that the Republicans would vote for it,” Biden said. “They don’t have much faith in the regular people.”
The notion that voters have to pick between progressive values and practical needs is a “phony debate,” Biden said.
Nobody has to choose between a party and a soul, Biden said.
As Jacobs put it, “everything you need to know about politics you learned when you learned to drive.”
“If you want to go forward you put it into D,” Jacobs said. “If you want to go backwards, you put it into R.”