Discover more from Political Currents by Ross Barkan
Kathy Hochul Didn't Feel Any Pressure
How hard did the Working Families Party try?
There was a statistic in the New York Times that underscored the failure of the institutional left’s statewide ticket on Tuesday night. Antonio Delgado, the new lieutenant governor and Kathy Hochul’s running mate, spent $5.3 million on his primary, a sum that was notable but not especially enormous. He was a former congressman running statewide and trying to introduce himself to close to a million Democrats in a short amount of time. To compete with Delgado, the Working Families Party spent money on ads for their lieutenant governor candidate, Ana Maria Archila. How much did the left-wing third party spend? $66,000.
You get what you pay for, as my mother says. Hochul, the incumbent governor seeking a full term, and Delgado throttled their rivals on the left and right. Predictably, the conservative Democratic ticket of Tom Suozzi and Diana Reyna finished a distant third, since running to Hochul’s right made little political sense. Suozzi won 13 percent of the vote against Hochul; Reyna took 14 percent against Delgado. Hochul and Delgado won 68 percent and 61 percent of the primary vote respectively.
Jumaane Williams, the Working Families Party candidate for governor, had the worst showing of any left-wing gubernatorial candidate since at least 2014, winning just 19% of the statewide vote. Both Zephyr Teachout, who ran without WFP’s support, and Cynthia Nixon, who was a WFP gubernatorial candidate on a ticket with Williams for lieutenant governor, secured more than 30% of the vote. Each Democrat was running against the polarizing Andrew Cuomo and managed to win a large number of upstate counties even as Cuomo vastly outspent them. In 2014, Teachout beat Cuomo in the Hudson Valley, in parts of western New York, and even Albany County. In 2018, Nixon couldn’t build on this showing but she also defeated Cuomo in Columbia County and several counties outside of Albany.
Hochul defeated Williams in all 62 counties. She obliterated him everywhere—in NYCHA developments, in college towns, on the farms, in suburbia. Ultra-liberal Columbia and Tompkins Counties handed most of their votes to Hochul after choosing Nixon four years ago. Personal challenges kept Williams off the campaign trail, but the Working Families Party could not pick up the slack, raise money, and make the campaign remotely competitive. Late in the campaign, Williams had less than $200,000 in his account, which would have made him a poorly-funded congressional candidate, let alone someone trying to stump across an enormous state. Running for office is incredibly challenging—I’ve done it myself—and I understand how difficult it can be to fundraise, particularly as an insurgent. But the Working Families Party and Williams should have taken a hard, sober look at the race last year and figured out if they had a path to raising at least $5 million, if not more. Hochul, like Cuomo, is a prodigious fundraiser, and has already pulled in more than $30 million. Williams had an ideological lane—at least 30 percent of the electorate, as Nixon and Teachout proved, could support him—and enough charisma to compete, along with a real base in New York City. What he needed was money. Neither the Working Families Party nor his own campaign was serious about getting it. Given the lack of effort, it may have been better to have never run at all.
Archila joined the race too late to impact it, announcing a campaign in March. When Brian Benjamin was indicted, she appeared to be in luck, but Democratic lawmakers bailed Hochul out and allowed her to drop him from the ballot, leading to the ascension of Delgado. The Working Families Party should have had her in the race last year or convinced Williams to drop down and run for lieutenant governor again. They didn’t, and here we are. Archila ran ahead of Williams but came nowhere close to winning. The Working Families Party can shrug this off, as they do most defeats, but it will be worth examining why this ticket could generate such little momentum and why the fundraising was so anemic. For the left to compete and win statewide, money is needed. If an insurgent ticket doesn’t care about fundraising, defeat is guaranteed. The trouble with running and losing is that the victor gets emboldened, especially when the results are so lopsided. Hochul owes nothing to the left. She can point to June 2022 and tell them to stick their demands where they sun doesn’t shine. She isn’t Cuomo—she lacks the sociopathic gene—but she is going to feel very confident as governor come 2023, assuming she swats away Lee Zeldin. She has all the leverage now.