The state Democratic and Working Families parties should find a primary challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the president of one of the state’s top public-employees unions said today.
Susan Kent, the president of the Public Employees Federation, said the Democratic governor hasn’t lived up to the ideals of the parties and should be challenged.
“I’m hopeful that the Democratic Party will come up with a primary candidate,” Kent told Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “I think that it’s important, especially in light of this budget, where progressive issues were really not pushed by the governor. I think it’s incumbent on the Democratic Party, the Working Families Party to come up with a primary challenger if they want to be true to the spirit of the parties.”
Kent’s comments are the latest sign of dissatisfaction by liberal groups and unions with Cuomo, who is seeking a second term in November.
Kent said she doesn’t expect the union, which has 55,000 members and is the second largest public-employee union in the state, to endorse Cuomo. She knocked the union’s prior leadership for backing Cuomo in 2010.
She said she doesn’t think “my members would be in any mood to endorse this governor.” She said she would be willing to talk to GOP candidate Rob Astorino.
Unions have been at odds with Cuomo soon after he took office. He threatened layoffs in order to get union contracts that included several years of no raises. He’s battled with the teachers’ union over test scores and evaluations, and he’s closed prisons and mental-health facilities that are all union jobs.
In January, CSEA president Danny Donohue called Cuomo a “moron” and a “monkey” at a rally near the Capitol.
The Working Families Party was founded by union leaders to push progressive ideals and advocate for unions. It endorsed Cuomo in 2010, but hasn’t indicated whether it will again. There has been talk about the party running its own candidate, but it would risk losing its ballot status if it doesn’t get 50,000 votes on the line in November.
Kent said she’s been talking to the AFL-CIO and the Working Families Party about taking on Cuomo.
“If we look at why the Working Families Party was founded, I’d say this should be job one for them right now,” Kent said. Cuomo’s “all about approval ratings. What we need to do is really tell the public what is going on here; what is a smoke screen.”
In an email to supporters today, the Working Families Party said it’s having its convention on May 31 and said, “We’ll have a serious decision to make as we endorse a candidate for governor and other statewide elections.”
The email said, “Last week, Governor Cuomo had a rare chance to narrow the divide between the wealthy, well-connected few and the rest of us. But instead, our leaders in Albany chose inequality over progress. No public financing of elections. No DREAM Act. Yes to tax cuts for Wall Street banks and corporations.”