In a landslide victory on Thursday, Sept. 13, incumbent New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, vying for a third term, defeated challenger, Cynthia Nixon, in the Democratic Primaries by about 30% of the votes. According to the New York Times, Cuomo was victorious with 65.6 percent to Nixon’s 34.4 percent. Cuomo defeated Nixon in each one of the five boroughs.
Cuomo ran on his record of progressive accomplishments. According to his campaign website, Cuomo has championed passing stricter gun legislation, fighting for women’s reproductive rights, legalizing same-sex marriage and fighting for DREAMers. He allocated more money toward education, extending school programs to include Pre-K for three-year-olds and the Excelsior scholarship.
According to the Gubernatorial website, Cuomo also required SUNY and CUNY schools to have food pantries as part of his “No Student Goes Hungry” program. He also supported increasing the minimum wage to $15 and passed legislation for affordable housing and anti-homelessness programs. Cuomo’s campaign website noted endorsements by several high-profile Democrats and institutions, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, N.Y. state senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York Times and Newsday.
Cynthia Nixon, an activist and former actress on the sitcom “Sex in the City,” conducted an aggressive campaign. She charged Governor Cuomo with failing N.Y. by allowing budget cuts to schools in low-income neighborhoods, failing to fix the subways, not doing enough to defend women’s reproductive rights and minimizing public services by lowering taxes on the wealthy. Nixon supported universal healthcare, endorsed the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, promised to make rent in NYC more affordable and to legalize recreational marijuana. Nixon was not endorsed by leftist political leader and socialist Senator Bernie Sanders or Mayor Bill De Blasio, stated the Observer. However, she was endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and various progressive groups.
The New York Times reported that Nixon supporters have noted a tendency to the left on Cuomo’s part. They deduce this to be because of Nixon’s candidacy. As per The New York Times, Nixon’s liberal campaign caused Cuomo to “[move] toward legalizing marijuana, extending voting rights to parolees and brokering a deal to dissolve the Independent Democratic Conference, the group of Democratic state senators who had aligned with Republicans in Albany,” stances Nixon took as part of her campaign policy. According to CNN, this left-leaning shift has been coined the “Cynthia Effect,” which has been compounded with enormous amounts of money spent on campaigning for and supporting Cuomo from the Democratic establishment, who believe him to be the best candidate to lead opposition against President Trump.
For CUNY students, one of the most important issues is the Excelsior scholarship and funding for CUNY schools. Although the Excelsior Scholarship intends to help middle and low income students finance their education, a critic in The New York Times in a 2017 article argues that it is falling short of its expectations by aiding too few students due to restrictions on income, grades and taking off from school. The question remains how these issues, among others, will be impacted by a possible third gubernatorial victory for Cuomo.
“Hopefully, we keep getting money for CUNY schools and SUNY schools so that way we don’t have to fight for funding,” said Aleyah Shah, a senior and political science major. According to political science professor, Alexander Reichl, “Cuomo has an eye on the presidency, so he is likely to continue his focus on high-profile infrastructure projects – like modernizing LaGuardia and JFK airports and the New York City subways – to bolster his image as a pragmatic can-do politician who gets results. Unfortunately, he has not shown a similar enthusiasm for investing in CUNY. So, although he has made it easier for some students to attend CUNY with the Excelsior Scholarship, he has done little to improve the experience for students once they are here. Sadly I don’t see that changing.”
Cuomo now faces off against Republican candidate Marc Molinaro. Nixon was still in the race, but according to the New York Post, the Working Families party that had nominated her has reneged, and now serves as a cross-endorsement for Cuomo. The general elections take place on November 6th.