When New York feminist voters go to the polls Nov. 4, they will see candidates running as members of the Women’s Equality Party. It will be awfully tempting for many of them to vote for a party that exists to protect the interests of the female half of the human race. And if it existed for that purpose, I’d have no problem with it. However, it appears that the party exists more to protect the political interests of Gov. Andrew Cuomo than it does to look after women’s needs.
To understand the dirty pool that is being played in the name of women’s rights, you have to understand a little bit about New York State party politics and ballot access. As I have explained before on TheBlot.com, New York has a six-party system. Each of these parties (Democrat, Republican, Independence, Working Families Conservative and Green) automatically get a line on the ballot because in the last gubernatorial election, they won more than 50,000 votes. Everybody else (e.g., Libertarians) have to circulate petitions to be on the ballot. And that’s how the Women’s Equality Party got its spot this year.
Another quirk of New York politics is that a candidate can run on more than one line. This year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will seek re-election as a Democrat, Working Families and Women’s Equality candidate. He’ll get 50,000 on the Democratic line easily, and the question is whether he gets that many as the WFP standard-bearer and the Women’s Equality nominee. If he does, that party will have a line on the ballot for the next four years. What Cuomo is hoping is that the WFP doesn’t get 50,000 while the Women’s Equality Party does.
Why? The Working Families Party was set up in 1998 largely by labor unions and progressive activists. And that’s why Cuomo hates it. Compared to genuine progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cuomo is a right-winger. Don’t take my word for it: Earlier this year, NYStateofPolitics.com reported “Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos joked that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded like a ‘good moderate Republican’ in his economic-development and tax-cut heavy State of the State.” In truth, Vice reports that Cuomo considered immigration and education reform parties to undercut the WFP, but eventually decided on women’s issues.
Cuomo has his eyes on the White House his dad, Mario, didn’t have the guts to try for. If he is to be the nominee (Clinton/Cuomo 2016? And Andy is positioned for 2024), he needs a united New York Democratic base behind him, and the WFP apparatus represents a threat. That’s why he started the Women’s Equality Party and has his daughters and girlfriend joining him an a WEP ad. Once again, don’t take my word for it.
In an interview with the New York Post, Working Families co-founder Bertha Lewis said, “A Women’s Equality Party run by men? Please! The Women’s Equality Party is unnecessary. I don’t like it. It’s cynical.” Karen Scharff, co-chair of Working Families, said on “Capitol Tonight,” a cable news show shown upstate, “Women are actually the vast majority of voters in New York state, and I don’t think we should be pigeonholed in a separate party. Women should be voting on the WFP line.”
Consider this: Kathy Hochul, who is Cuomo’s running mate on the same party lines including Women’s Equality, has donated to Charles Swindoll, a Texas-based evangelical radio preacher with strongly anti-abortion views. Yet the Women’s Equality Agenda supports unfettered access to abortion. Hochul claims she didn’t know Swindoll (swindle?) had those views when she and her husband donated $250 to him. I don’t know about you, but when I dole out $250 for anything, I like to know what it’s for. This doesn’t pass the smell test.
Cuomo, of course, is familiar with killing off parties in New York state. He is personally responsible for the Liberal Party’s loss of its ballot line back in 2002. You see, Cuomo talked the corrupt Liberal Party Chair Roy Harding (he went to jail) into giving Cuomo the Liberal line on the ballot. Cuomo thought that would help him win the Democratic nomination against Carl McCall. It didn’t, and in fact, the Clintons leaned on their former cabinet officer to withdraw in favor of McCall. Cuomo did, but it was too late to get his name off the general election ballot or for the Liberals to choose an alternate candidate. Cuomo got 15,761 and finished seventh, losing even to the Marijuana Reform Party Candidate Thomas Leighton (a friend I have lost touch with) who got 21,977. There is no Liberal Party line these days.
One final thought on why the Women’s Equality Party might just be so much bull — of the 10 candidates on its line, only two are women. Apparently, the Women’s Equality Party doesn’t understand what equal means.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.