Primary-election endorsements

This primary election season is all about the big races — governor, attorney general and lieutenant governor. Yet there are some so-to-speak “smaller” contests, too, that are noteworthy.

In the governor’s race, first-time candidate Cynthia Nixon has definitely had an impact — the so-called “Cynthia Effect” — on Governor Andrew Cuomo. She has pushed him to the left on issues like marijuana legalization and, notably, prodded Cuomo to scuttle the legislative roadblock that was the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate. Critics dismiss some of Nixon’s campaign planks — like “universal rent control” — as simply pie in the sky. Yet, supporters, like veteran tenants leader Michael McKee, say just get her into office first — and she’ll learn fast — the key being, that’s she willing to effect change.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who legalized gay marriage in New York State, at the Pride March in New York City in the summer of 2014. Photo by Milo Hess

That said, from approving gay marriage to banning fracking in New York State to increasing the minimum wage, Cuomo has gotten some very big things done. He has the experience of having handled a massive state budget, protected New York State’s environment, been aggressive on infrastructure projects and safeguarded the city and state against terrorism. Admirably, in brokering a deal to save Barry Diller’s Pier 55 project a.k.a. “Diller Island,” on the Village / Chelsea waterfront, Cuomo pledged, if re-elected to a third term, to complete Hudson River Park; putting his money where his mouth is, he committed $50 million in this year’s budget toward finishing the waterfront park. While the city and state had basically slashed their funding for the park in recent years, Cuomo has reversed that trend in a major way.

While polls and pundits are saying it will be Cuomo in a landslide, Nixon is expected to do very well among Downtown Manhattan’s strongly progressive votership. We laud her on her spirited run, and for pushing Cuomo to stake out more progressive stances than he probably would have on his own. Both candidates bring a lot to the table.

Cynthia Nixon and Andy Cohen emceed an event at F.I.T. on W. 27th St. last December celebrating Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum’s 25 years of leading Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Manhattan’s L.G.B.T.Q. synagogue. The evening’s special guest of honor was Hillary Clinton. Nixon and Cohen are both C.B.S.T. members. Photo by Tequila Minsky

That said, though, like many others, we were disappointed by the recent mailer sent by the Democratic State Committee to ultra-Orthodox Jews, charging that Nixon was not a friend of Israel and is a supporter of the BDS, or Boycott, Divest, Sanctions, movement against the Jewish state. She did support one boycott action in the past, but she is raising her two oldest children Jewish and is a member of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Manhattan’s gay synagogue. This maneuver is reminiscent of the “Vote for Cuomo, Not for Homo” fliers that were put out against Ed Koch when he ran against Cuomo’s father, Mario, for governor. Cuomo is being asked to disavow the mailers, but is saying he knew nothing, had no responsibility for it — which, in fact, is his standard line lately for a lot of things, it seems, when they don’t reflect well on him. If something turns out well, he takes credit.

In the end, in this race, we’ll actually go “captain’s choice,” and leave it up to Downtown voters to decide for whom they’ll cast their ballot. We know there’s a lot of support for Nixon — who lives in the Soho / Little Italy area, no less. But Cuomo’s victories and positive acts should not be discounted.

Zephyr Teachout. Photo by The Villager

Regarding state attorney general, of the four candidates running on the Democratic line, Zephyr Teachout stands apart. Not just because of her impressive smarts and passion, but also, importantly, because of her independence. A Fordham law professor, she gave Cuomo a run for his money four years ago. Public Advocate Tish James, while a veteran of city politics and usually right on the issues, has very close ties to the state’s Democratic establishment. Sean Patrick Maloney has been doing a good job in Congress, and, honestly, might as well stay there. Leecia Eve is another impressive candidate, but lacks name recognition. They all vow they’d go after Trump, though this would not be their main job in office.

Kathy Hochul speaking at a forum by local Democratic political clubs for statewide candidates a few months ago. Photo by Tequila Minsky

In the lieutenant general race, Jumaane Williams, like Nixon, is running an insurgent campaign, and doing so to the left of the incumbent. Williams is bright and charismatic, and we like his idea of being a foil to — and a “check” on — the governor. His candidacy is inspirational, in that he has overcome the challenges of Tourette’s syndrome. He has championed the idea of New York as a sanctuary city — and even got arrested for it while blocking an ambulance trying to whisk away Ravi Ragbir, the Judson Church-based leading immigrant-rights activist. But the incumbent, Kathy Hochul, is no slouch, politically speaking, either. Her whole career, she has faced the tough task of holding liberal positions on many issues, yet running in Upstate districts against conservatives. Like the Cuomo-Nixon contest, this is another intriguing race. We give the edge in this one to Hochul.

Jumaane Williams getting arrested down at Federal Plaza in protest of Ravi Ragbir’s detention earlier this year.  Photo by Tequila Minsky

Meanwhile, for Assembly, Harvey Epstein is running for re-election after having won a special election in April by 90 percent. This one is not a tough call: Epstein has literally hit the ground running — he’s out there constantly rallying for tenants’ rights, for disabled access to the L train stations during the expected shutdown. He’s basically been doing exactly what he should be doing. He’s facing Juan Pagan, an East Villager who has run for office several times in the past, and Akshay

Harvey Epstein has been active on local issues that matter.

Arun Vaishampayan, a Los Angeles native who currently lives in the E. 20s and is an A.M.L. (anti-money-laundering) investigator. We haven’t really seen Vaishampayan in the community, so don’t know much about him. On the other hand, we’re well familiar with Epstein from his time chairing and being a member of Community Board 3, working as an attorney and organizer at the Urban Justice Center and being a tenants representative on the Rent Guidelines Board. Again, this one is an easy call: Epstein for re-election in the 74th Assembly District.

Chris Marte ran for Democratic State Committee a couple of years ago but was beaten in a fairly close three-way race by Lee Berman. Berman has since given up the position.

Another no-brainer is the Democratic primary race for State Democratic Committee in the 65 Assembly District, where Chris Marte is facing Joseph Garba. Again, we know Marte. So do Downtown’s voters. He’s been very active, present and on the right side of numerous local issues, from fighting to save the Elizabeth St. Garden and Rivington House — the latter which he grew up right across from — to tenants’ rights, improving coastal resiliency and battling overdevelopment in Two Bridges. And he nearly upset incumbent Councilmember Margaret Chin in last year’s Council primary based on his positions on those issues and others. Since then, he has worked for The Arena, a group that focuses on electing “the next generation of civic leaders,” focusing on key battleground races. Garba, on the other hand, again, we don’t really know him, other than that he is an Albany insider who is Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s secretary for intergovernmental affairs, and held a similar position under Mayor Mike Bloomberg. In addition to his activism, we like Marte’s independence: He doesn’t owe Carl Heastie or anyone else, as far as we can tell, anything, and would, thus, be free to help the state party stake out its platforms on important issues.

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