Cynthia Nixon ‘disappointed’ at Gov. Cuomo’s no-show at Westchester forum

Cynthia Nixon, candidate in the Democratic primary for governor, appeared at a candidate forum in Westchester County. Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn't.

Daniel Bernstein

Cynthia Nixon, candidate in the Democratic primary for governor, appeared at a candidate forum in Westchester County. Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn't.

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Cynthia Nixon, candidate in the Democratic primary for governor, criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not showing up to last night’s candidate forum at Manhattanville College, then used the time to talk about her stand on several issues.

“I am disappointed as you are that Andrew Cuomo has chosen not to show for this debate,” said Nixon.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and challenger Jumaane Williams, a member of the New York City council, both participated in the event sponsored by progressive groups including Indivisible and Progressive Women of Pelham.

New York “is where I have fought for LGBTQ equality, women’s rights and reproductive rights, and most especially, where I have fought for the last 17 years for better funded public schools,” Nixon said. She highlighted her support for a single-payer healthcare system and the legalization of marijuana, criticized the Common Core educational standards and private prisons, and slammed Cuomo for “a lot of lip service to being a champion of (women’s) choice.”

She also attacked the governor for “empowering” the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). The IDC was a group of eight Democrats in the State Senate who voted with the Republicans from 2011 until it disbanded in April, giving the Republicans a majority in the chamber when it was active. State Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who represents Pelham, led the IDC.

Nixon, running her first campaign in state politics, is facing an uphill battle against two-term incumbent Cuomo in the primary Sept. 13. She can use theWorking Families Party line in the general election in November, as she has that party’s endorsement.

A representative from the host organizations spoke about Cuomo’s absence before the event began, saying that, “his staff told us he would be at a labor conference upstate and will not be able to be here. We suggested we include him via Skype, and yesterday his staff declined. In a participatory democracy, we believe one of the first responsibilities of candidates for office is to address the people’s concerns directly when the opportunity arrives.”

An advisor to the Nixon campaign, Rebecca Katz, said after her candidate spoke, “We asked (Cuomo) two and a half months ago for a debate. The primary is seven weeks away, and we still haven’t heard from him.”

Hochul stressed her credentials as the lieutenant governor over the past four years serving as a “partner in government” to Cuomo. She recapped some promises from the 2014 campaign on which she said she and Cuomo delivered: raising the minimum wage, enacting the most generous paid family-leave program in America, work towards eradicating sexual assault on college campuses and free college tuition for families earning less than $125,000.

She said she’s strongly opposed to President Trump. “Complacency died in November of 2016.”

Williams said elected officials need to be activists, noting twice he was arrested while attempting political activism.

Both candidates voiced support for a single-payer healthcare system, voting law reforms including an early voting period in New York and providing driver’s licenses for immigrants.

This prompted Williams to say, “All the things that are being talked about tonight, we had an opportunity to do. The leadership that got us to this point, I don’t think should be rewarded.”

The moderator for the event was Amy Siskind from The Weekly List, a blog that discusses the Donald Trump presidency. She is also the president and co-founder of The New Agenda, a women’s advocacy group. The event was originally set for the Ethical Culture Society in White Plains, but was moved to Reid Castle at Manhattanville College in order to fit a larger crowd.