Gov. Cuomo’s campaign, in a startling announcement late Friday, said he would not be seeking the endorsement of the Working Families Party — making it all but certain that Cynthia Nixon, his Democratic rival, would snare the prize.
Cuomo’s unexpected move came after two major unions allied with the governor pulled out, leaving big labor with virtually no presence in the left-wing party.
“Given the announcement today that the remaining unions will no longer be a part of the WFP, we stand in solidarity with them and will not be seeking the endorsement of the third-party line at their convention next month,” said Abby Fashouer, the governor’s campaign spokeswoman.
Cuomo ran with the support of the WFP in his last two elections.
His action Friday showed Nixon has the endorsement virtually locked up.
Earlier in the day, WFP director Bill Lipton charged that Cuomo had acted like a bully and threatened reprisals to unions whose affiliates were lining up with the “Sex and the City” actress.
“In a meeting earlier this week, the governor was threatening people. Several times, he said ‘If unions or anyone give money to any of these groups [that have endorsed Nixon], they can lose my number,’” Lipton said.
Rebecca Katz, Nixon’s campaign manager, said the threat “shows how terrified he [Cuomo] is of Nixon.”
But Stu Applebaum, head of the retail workers’ union and a Cuomo ally, responded by accusing Lipton of lying.
“There’s no truth to what Bill Lipton is saying — this is nothing more than a diversionary tactic. Labor is leaving the party we started because Bill Lipton is using it for his own personal agenda,” Applebaum responded angrily.
Two Cuomo-friendly unions — SEIU Local 32 BJ and Communications Workers of American Local 1 — pulled out of the party, joining other major labor groups that left years earlier.
“Our friends in labor are in a tight spot and we respect their decision,” said Lipton, suggesting pressure from Cuomo led to the defections.
Unions have been major contributors to grass roots organizations such as Citizens Action, Make the Road NY and New York Communities for Changes, which have all endorsed Nixon.
The party itself could back the “Sex and the City” actress at a meeting Saturday in Albany of its state committee, even though the party convention is in May.
Local 32 BJ president Hector Figueroa and CWA Local 1 vice president Dennis Trainor said in a joint statement they were pulling out because the WFP’s leadership had strayed from its original mission.
UFT president Mike Mulgrew said his union left years ago because “it became evident that their focus was on personal, political agendas and a few egos. When asked to behave responsibly, they react like children throwing a tantrum in the classroom.”
Labor leaders are considering creating their own ballot line to back Cuomo if the WFP goes with Nixon.
An NBC-Marist College Poll had Cuomo leading Nixon by 68 to 21 percent among registered Democrats and 60 percent to 32 percent among likely Democratic primary voters.