Weingarten Hearts Cuomo (By Proxy); Willing to Undercut Teachout via Last-minute Robocall
On September 9, 2014, New York State democrats voted in a primary election that turned out to be an embarrassment for incumbent Andrew Cuomo.
His most viable opponent was a relatively unknown Fordham University professor with no political machine behind her, Zephyr Teachout.
Teachout lost, but not without taking a notable bite out of Cuomo support.
As the Associated Press reports:
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Incumbent governors with national aspirations, a long list of accomplishments and flush bank accounts typically don’t worry about primary challenges, especially one mounted by a little-known professor who moved to the state five years ago.
So it was unusual when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo found himself facing a spirited fight from rebels in his own Democratic party — environmentalists, unhappy public workers, critics of Albany’s insider culture and voters disturbed by Cuomo’s dismissive treatment of his opponent, Fordham University professor Zephyr Teachout.
Cuomo claimed a comfortable 62 percent in Tuesday’s Democratic matchup, but Teachout’s 34 percent — she won half of the state’s 62 counties — stunned observers who had predicted she would win a 20 percent protest vote.
Voter Vivien Traiman said Cuomo’s stance on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or fracking, topped the reasons she voted for Teachout. …
Teachout’s biggest margins came from more rural areas, winning 78 percent of the vote in Columbia County in the Hudson Valley, 71 percent in Schoharie County west of Albany. She also picked up three counties — Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer — that are home to many state workers. Teachout was endorsed by the Public Employees Federation, the second-largest state worker union.
The governor and his supporters have tried to minimize Teachout’s numbers, noting turnout for the election was a low 10 percent. And they specifically chalk up her support to three groups: fracking opponents; state workers unhappy with contracts under the Cuomo administration; and public teachers who oppose the teacher evaluation system. …
Voters interviewed by The Associated Press listed fracking, Cuomo’s dismantling of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission, and his response to his primary challenger as reasons they cast ballots for Teachout. For most of the campaign, Cuomo studiously ignored Teachout, refusing to use her name or debate her and even turning away from her when she approached him at a recent New York City parade.
What threat did Teachout pose to Cuomo?
John Cassidy of The New Yorker captures well Cuomo’s “Teachout blues”:
Who does Governor Andrew Cuomo think he is? Howard Hughes?
On Election Day, when Zephyr Teachout, his largely unknown and unfunded opponent—an opponent he refused even to acknowledge—got more than a third of the vote in the Democratic primary for November’s gubernatorial election, Cuomo was barely seen. After voting in the morning near his home in Westchester, he disappeared. As the results came in, his whereabouts were still unknown. Was he in his midtown office? Was he in Albany? NY1, which was staking out his home in Mount Kisco, said that there was no sign of him there.
For a politician seeking to be reëlected to one of the top political posts in the country, this vanishing act was highly unusual. Teachout accused Cuomo of disrespecting the democratic process. Was he wary of being exposed to questions from an increasingly hostile media? Finally, at about eleven at night, his office issued a statement hailing his victory—and the victory of his running mate, Kathy Hochul, in the primary for the post of lieutenant governor—as “a testament to the progress we have made together over the last four years: restoring economic opportunity, replacing dysfunction with results, putting people before politics and re-establishing New York as a progressive leader for the nation.” The statement went on, “I also want to congratulate Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu”—Teachout’s running mate—“on running a spirited campaign, engaging in the democratic process and having the courage to make their voices heard.”
There, he did it. The governor finally mentioned Teachout’s name. Some progress to discuss the next time he sees his therapist. …
Teachout accused Cuomo of governing as a Republican, acting as a shill for the big banks and other campaign contributors, and being part of a “corrupt old boys’ club” in Albany. Making full use of social media and appearances in more traditional media, she demonstrated that, even in this day and age, a candidate with a real message doesn’t necessarily need the support of the party apparatus, or the financial backing of big donors, to have an impact. …
The Democratic Party establishment survived. But Teachout and Wu both achieved more than seemed possible a couple of months ago. By thoroughly embarrassing Cuomo, New York Democrats didn’t merely deliver a blow to whatever national aspirations he may have. They signalled to other Democrats, Hillary Clinton included, that the political center of gravity has shifted, and that a significant segment of Democratic voters won’t suffer gladly a return to the timid, pro-corporate policies of the Clinton years, which Cuomo represents.
That’s why what happened on Tuesday wasn’t just a New York story: it has national implications. [Emphasis added.]
Cuomo has “national aspirations,” and Teachout notably tarnished those aspirations by bucking against New York’s Democratic political machine.
A good reason to go into hiding during an election one is sure to win.
And now, for a looming question:
Where were the teachers unions?
For the most part, they, too, were in hiding.
The Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association (PJSTA), a New York teachers union not dominated by the Cuomo-friendly Unity Caucus, endorsed Teachout. However, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) decided to be strategically silent on the issue, supporting no one.
However, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) did contribute to collective union pressure to save Cuomo from a Working Families Party (WFP), third-party candidate once this nagging Democratic primary business was over.
Regarding the primary: At first glance, it might seem like a NYSUT slight to Cuomo to not openly support him.
You see, on the eve of the primary election, that old Unity Caucus support for Cuomo showed itself.
And guess who has decided to lend a Cuomo-supporting hand?
Our very own Unity-Caucus-hailing, AFT President Randi Weingarten.
On September 8, 2014, Weingarten’s voice had been heard on answering machines around New York, asking voters to support Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul.
However, she assures voters that she is not Randi Weingarten, union president– she is Randi Weingarten, Democratic National Committee delegate.
Weingarten was “delegated” the task of shutting out the “wrong” Democrat: one Democrat robocalling in favor of another Democrat but against yet another Democrat.
And yet, the “forget that I’m a national teachers union president” Weingarten tries to sell Hochul based upon what she supposedly has done and will do for schools– a word Weingarten repeats five times in her brief script.
Here is Weingarten’s full script, compliments of Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News:
Hi, this is Randi Weingarten- you may know me as the president of the American Federation of Teachers but I’m calling today as a fellow Democrat and delegate to the Democratic National Committee, to urge you to vote for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary.
I worked closely with Kathy when she was in the Congress. She fought back against extremist Republicans who attacked Medicare, Social Security, affordable healthcare and stood up for public schools, our children, our families and our educators. Her 100 percent pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker pro public school record is exactly what we need in our next Lieutenant Governor.
In Congress, Kathy sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act to require school districts nationwide to implement anti-bullying policies. Kathy has pledged to help invest in our public schools and expand Universal Pre-K to every region of the state so all of our children get a head start on success.
This is Randi Weingarten and I urge you to vote for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor in the Democratic Primary this Tuesday September 9th. Thanks. [Emphasis added.]
Fantastic, right? Weingarten using her national position to support Hochul in a democratic state primary, which amounts to supporting Cuomo by proxy, which allows NYSUT (and UFT) to claim neutrality but also satisfies Weingarten’s allegiance to Cuomo and to a Democratic machine.
Now, despite mentioning “schools” five times and focusing much of the message on educational issues, Weingarten says she is not capitalizing on her current position as a national teachers union president in promoting the Cuomo ticket.
What a load of steaming hot horse crap.
Here is the truth: Teachout is not part of the Democratic machine, and Weingarten and Cuomo (and the machines behind both) are all about the machine.
What Weingarten’s actions amount to is a slap in the face for a Democratic candidate who truly represents people, not political machinations.
Cuomo publicly snubbed Teachout; Weingarten slighted Teachout in the final hour, like a coward, behind her back, and in the name of a position so obscure to the general public that Weingarten must preface it with, “Hey, you know me as a union prez, but don’t think of me that way right now….”
And still, Teachout took a third of the vote from Cuomo.
The idea of Teachout’s injuring Cuomo’s aim for the White House I find deeply satisfying.
The Cuomo camp must have been really worried about Teachout’s effect on the polls for Weingarten to show up with her “no, really, I’m not a union president right now,” below-the-belt “Cuomo call.”
Of course, Weingarten’s actions were bound to raise the ire of honest people– the ones tired of her signature political machinations.
On September 14, 2014, 11:30 a.m. EST, I emailed Weingarten about her actions:
RW, what is up with your New York robocall in support of Cuomo via his running mate Hochul? Silence for Teachout, who without your support took a major bite out of Cuomo support, and now robocalls for Cuomo by proxy?
I sent my email to two of Weingarten’s email addresses, and she has not responded. I have since learned that she has not been responding to the issue on Twitter (only one deflective response dated 09-14), and I know Weingarten lives on Twitter. (See some tweets here.)
She has gone quiet on the issue, but don’t worry, Andrew.
It’s all for you.
Randi Weingarten is still your gal.
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