As is often the case with reelections for incumbent officials, you may not be paying much attention to the Democratic primary this Tuesday, Sept 9 in which a relative unknown, Zephyr Teachout is challenging Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic Party’s nomination for NYS Governor. Here are the:
The Top 10 Reasons you should vote for Zephyr Teachout
1) Why should I care? you might ask…After all, we’ve got a Democrat in Albany watching out for the interests of the people of NYS, right?
Wrong. Like his famous dad, Andrew talked the talk (and had my enthusiastic support four years ago) but unlike Mario, quickly aligned himself and his gubernatorial policies with the 0.1 percenters on Wall St., and occupied his time giving billions in tax cuts to the uber wealthy in that time-honored un-Democratic with a capital D trickle-down approach to economic prosperity. He single-handedly squashed Mayor De Blasio’s plan for taxing very wealthy city residents to provide support for programs like pre-K education for all – instead he railroaded an alternative pre-K program on the backs of ordinary taxpayers.
2) Well at least we’ve got a Democratic governor who is a strong supporter of progressive educational policies for our kids, right?
Wrong. Cuomo openly fought De Blasio over charter schools which the mayor felt were a threat to a healthy and viable public school system and in brokering the “deal” over universal pre-K, the Governor strong armed the adoption of some of the most pro-charter school policies in the nation (e.g., free space within public schools for these private and less regulated enterprises that employ non-unionized and uncertified teachers, and can cherry pick their students, leaving those with special needs or challenges to fend for themselves in under- funded, overcrowded public schools).
3) And what’s more, Cuomo and the State Commissioner of Education, John King, have put NYS in the forefront for implementation of the Common Core curriculum. Anyone who knows my wife has heard about the evils of this sinister, cookie cutter approach to teaching which is driven by corporate profits rather than proven educational principles. Masquerading behind the motherhood and apple pie goals of “improved standards” and “accountability” (who wouldn’t support these?) its focus on testing and one size fits all learning is having a devastating impact on many of our students and is destroying morale of our hardest working and most dedicated teaching professionals.
4) OK, but Cuomo has pledged to clean up state government…didn’t he set up that special commission to root out corruption wherever it existed? How can you argue with that?
That’s the biggest joke of all – after appointing the Moreland Commission and publicly pledging to support their findings no matter where they led, his staff monitored their every move. As soon as there were questions directed toward fat cat Cuomo supporters, Cuomo ordered them to “shut it down” and then discharged the commission. The NYT expose on this scandal is well worth reading:
5) And in a last-minute effort to squash Teachout’s challenge, Cuomo directed the New York State Democratic Committee to finance a literature blitz. In the last three days, we received a half-dozen color glossy ads extolling Cuomo’s virtues. Only problem is, Cuomo is not the party’s official candidate (yet) and the NYSDC cannot legally provide funding for one candidate over another. Teachout’s campaign responded by filing an injunction to cease and desist, but of course damage from this last-minute dirty trick cannot be undone.
6) Cuomo made his reputation on being fair, open and transparent…
Cuomo’s campaign has been anything but. He made several feeble legal challenges to his opponent’s residency which were thrown out of court. And he has refused to debate Teachout claiming that debates can be “a disservice to democracy.” Really?
7) As a liberal Democrat, Cuomo is financed by donations from constituents…
Actually, Cuomo’s campaign receives less than 1% of its campaign funds from donations of $250 or less, so it perpetuates the worst aspects of our political financing system – it’s not hard to follow the money and understand Cuomo’s economic policies of cutting corporate taxes and eliminating taxes on banks
Teachout is a bright and articulate constitutional and property law professor at Fordham University and a progressive political organizer. She was a principal in Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, an active participant in the Occupy movement, and a leader in the fight against the death penalty. She is best known for efforts to limit the influence of big money in politics and is a leading expert on government corruption.
9) So, what would Teachout do differently than Andrew Cuomo?
- Unlike Cuomo, Teachout’s approach to improving the economy of NYS is not to provide handouts to rich corporations and hope that some of those huge profits trickle down to its citizens. Instead, she will work to reduce the unprecedented and staggering inequality of wealth and opportunity by restoring taxes on corporations and individuals who make more than $500,000 per year, provide incentives for small businesses (not multinational corporations), and raise the minimum wage.
- Unlike Cuomo who says he favors infrastructure investment but then gives away precious state funds in the form of corporate taxes needed to get it done, Teachout understands the pressing need for new infrastructure to spur job growth in the near-term and help ensure NY’s long-term future. She favors improved internet and communications services by limiting market consolidation and encouraging competition. Her running mate, Tim Wu, a noteworthy attorney in his own right, is a founder of the network neutrality movement and leader in the fight for free and open networks.
- Unlike Cuomo who is beholden to corporate sponsors, she is serious about campaign finance reform and is pledging to enact public financing of elections, limit big donor contributions, and eliminate corporate loopholes (Cuomo received more than $6 million since taking office through these loopholes alone). Her platform calls for reinstatement of the Moreland Commission and allowing it unfettered access to do its job.
- Unlike Cuomo who has thrown public schools under the bus, Teachout will fight the privatization of public education and restore budget cuts to public schools. She supports reduction in class size and reinstating art, music, and sports programs that enrich our children’s educational experience. She will fight to level the playing field so the huge gap in educational spending between wealthy and poor districts is minimized (NYS has the nation’s sixth largest discrepancy in educational funding). She will end high-stakes testing and put the brakes on implementation of the flawed Common Core initiative. Teachout will reinstate support for NY’s Early Intervention Program for kids with special needs, which was slashed under Cuomo’s leadership.
- Unlike Cuomo, Teachout understands the severity of threats to our environment and taking a page out of the successful efforts of Governor Jerry Brown in California, has an aggressive platform on promoting clean sustainable energy reducing greenhouse gas emissions in NYS. She has taken an unambiguous position to ban fracking, not just because of the potential environmental risks it entails, but because it diminishes the need to sever ties to a fossil fuel economy.
- Unlike Cuomo, Teachout has a 21st century policy on marijuana – she is in favor of full legalization for recreational use to take the sale out of the hands of dealers and thus realize a large, legitimate revenue stream to fund infrastructure and schools. The benefits of decriminalization will extend to freeing up a huge, unnecessary and expensive burden on our criminal justice system.
- Unlike Cuomo who has only given the issue lip service, Teachout is committed to passing the NY Dream Act into law (it was narrowly defeated by two votes) as a step in recognizing the rights and contributions of immigrants in our state.
10) Alright, all this stuff sounds good, but everyone knows Cuomo is a shoe-in. Why should I waste my time showing up to vote on Tuesday?
Mid-term elections are notorious for low-voter turnout, especially for primaries involving an incumbent. That means that the overwhelming majority of NY Dems have tuned this primary out. For example, a friend organizing support for our progressive Democratic congressman, Tim Bishop called us today – when my wife reminded him to vote in Tuesday’s primary, his response was “what primary?” So we have an ideal opportunity.
Teachout’s campaign is estimating a total voter turnout in the range of 700,000 state wide. If that’s correct and she can muster just over 350,000 votes she will have pulled off the hugest of political upsets and put us in a position to affect real progressive change in NYS government. Please take a few moments to review her positions on her web site: TeachoutWu.com and I suspect you too, will be convinced.
Then tell all of your friends, neighbors, and family – her campaign really has Cuomo nervous – and rightfully so. It is going viral and gaining grass-roots support as well as endorsements from the NYS Public Employees Federation (second largest union), the NYS chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Sierra Club, the Progressive Change Campaign, and The Nation magazine. The NY Times endorsed her running mate Tim Wu and did not endorse Cuomo (which speaks volumes), but wimped out on an endorsement for Teachout. Time is running short, but it’s not too late.
Finally, please make sure you vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Sept. 9!
For more info on Cuomo’s policies and campaign: