The New York State Democratic Party will vote on a resolution Monday that would pressure its candidates not to run on the ballot lines of minor political parties — a power move that could be the death knell for the Working Families and Independence parties.
The new state party chairman, Jay Jacobs, is pushing the Democrats to end so-called “fusion” voting. Jacobs, also the longtime chairman of the Nassau County Dems, has had rocky relations with the tiny Independence Party on Long Island.
But it wasn’t lost on political observers that Gov. Cuomo, the de facto head of the Democratic Party, has had strained relations with the left-leaning Working Families Party, which endorsed his Democratic rival Cynthia Nixon in last year’s primary.
After he defeated her, the WFP ate crow and replaced Nixon with Cuomo on its ballot line in the general election — but bad blood remains.
Since its creation 20 years ago, the WFP has prodded Democratic candidates and officeholders to back a more leftist, pro-labor agenda — the expansion of government spending and entitlement programs — in exchange for its support.
WFP state director Bill Lipton charged the move to ban fusion voting is being engineered by Cuomo.
“Make no mistake. This is a direct attack by Andrew Cuomo on the Working Families Party, our grassroots supporters, and progressive activists across New York in political retribution for the historic gains we’ve made together over the last year,” Lipton said, particularly referring to victories in the state Senate.
The WFP has charged up its supporters to urge Democrats on the party committee to oppose the measure. Even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for president again and was backed by the WFP during his 2016 run against Hillary Clinton, weighed in on the controversy Sunday.
“We must preserve New York’s fusion voting system because it gives more voice to voters ….a stronger voice in elections and in government,” Sanders tweeted.
Cuomo’s office denied he had anything to do with the move. “This push is coming from the progressive caucus of the Democratic Party, not the governor,” Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi tweeted. “This manic attempt to create a boogeyman is really sad.”
Jacobs said fusion voting is barred in 47 other states. He noted that the resolution is non-binding and the Legislature would have to pass a state law to ban fusion voting.
He said if activists want to be involved in another party, so be it. But they should run their own candidates separate from the Democratic Party — as the Green Party does. If not, they should join the Democratic Party.
The ban on fusion voting would make Democratic Party candidates less beholden to the WFP.
“Right now it’s a bit of the tail wagging the dog. Quite a number of county Democratic leaders support the measure to ban fusion voting,” Jacobs said.
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