Labor-backed party hurt by Cuomo's rejection
Posted: Jun 14th, 2010 | Nick Reisman • Gannett Albany bureau
ALBANY — Andrew Cuomo's rejection of the Working Families Party ballot line has called into question the viability of the labor-backed organization's future in electoral politics.
"Some political parties are more like social movements," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic Party strategist. "Their time may just have passed."
Formed in 1998, the Working Families Party was meant to push mainstream Democrats to support left-leaning policy stances favored by unions.
The party normally grants its gubernatorial ballot line to a Democrat in New York, where candidates can run on multiple lines.
But now, as the party faces a federal investigation and lacks a big name to lead its ticket in the gubernatorial election, its spot on the ballot — and its ability to encourage a leftward tilt to Democrats — could be in danger.
A political party's gubernatorial candidate must receive 50,000 votes to automatically appear on the ballot in the following election.
Not meeting the threshold forces the party to petition its way back onto the ballot with 15,000 signatures. The party must also collect 100 signatures each in at least 15 congressional districts.
In a statement, Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor left open the possibility that Cuomo would eventually take the line. Cuomo, the state's attorney general, is the Democrats' nominee for governor.
At its recent nominating convention, the Working Families Party endorsed Legal Aid lawyer Kenneth Schaeffer, a candidate widely seen as a placeholder.
"We're confident that we can get the 50,000 votes we need," said party spokesman Dan Levitan.
The party also maintains a large organizational structure and support from rank-and-file state lawmakers.
This year, however, things are particularly difficult for the Working Families Party. Its for-profit arm, Data and Field Services, is under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office for charging candidates lower-than-usual fees for its services during the 2009 New York City elections.
The party also has ties to the controversial community-organizing group ACORN and unions during a time when labor groups are experiencing declines in both membership and popularity among mainstream voters.
Cuomo's rejection of the party's line comes as he pledges to reduce government spending and waste. His selection of Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy as his running mate — Duffy has had some rocky relations with public-sector unions lately — also signals a move away from the Working Families philosophy.
He has the endorsement of the Independence Party, a third party that has backed both Republicans and Democrats. That party is under investigation for its work for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg during his 2009 re-election campaign.
Getting the needed signatures is no easy task, said Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor.
It takes about six weeks and hundreds of volunteers to collect the signatures — valuable time in an election season.
"We can spend those six weeks campaigning and not spend those six weeks explaining why we should be on the ballot," Hawkins said.
The last time the Green Party's gubernatorial candidate received more than 50,000 votes was in 1998, when Al Lewis — an actor best known for his role on the 1960s sitcom The Munsters — was the candidate.
The Green Party successfully petitioned its way on the ballot in 2002 — Stanley Aronowitz the candidate that year — and in 2006, when author Malachy McCourt ran.
Part of the problem for the WFP is that the party never cultivated itself as one that was independent of Democratic Party politics, Hawkins said.
"They're supposed to push the Democrats to the left," he said. "They never threaten to take their votes anywhere else. With Cuomo rejecting the line this year, the chickens are coming home to roost."
A party without a ballot line is toothless, said Robert Ward, deputy director at the Rockefeller Institute of Public Policy.
"Once you have that automatic ballot line, it's an asset you can use to advance your agenda, if you have one," Ward said. "Without it you're really reduced to the status of an interest group."
Read the rest of the article here
Monday, June 14, 2010
Cuomo & Duffy Reject Working Families Party
While the Green Party has always been a friend to labor, we have never had a "for profit arm" or charged dues to be a member. We are the true alternative to corporate politics.