The WFP is still challenging Democrats in eight legislative races

New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams questions NYCHA chair Shola Olatoye.
New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams questions NYCHA chair Shola Olatoye.
John McCarten for the New York City Council
New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams will be on the November ballot as the WFP candidate for Simcha Felder's state Senate seat, but he will not campaign for the position.

The WFP is still challenging Democrats in eight legislative races

But with most candidates not campaigning, it’s more of a technicality.
October 11, 2018

The Working Families Party “has never played a spoiler role. It’s not in our DNA,” state director Bill Lipton said in April. That fear of “spoiling” an election and getting a Republican elected was one of the main motives behind the progressive party removing Cynthia Nixon from the gubernatorial ballot last week and backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election. But the WFP is tempting fate in eight other elections in New York City, with candidates on the Working Families Party ballot line challenging Democrats on Nov. 6.

In nearly all of the cases, the candidates on the WFP line aren’t actually mounting a campaign, and have endorsed their Democratic opponents. That’s the case with Rep. Joe Crowley (still on the WFP line) versus Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (the Democratic nominee) for a Queens congressional seat, Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (WFP) versus Catalina Cruz (D) for Espinal’s Queens Assembly seat, Amanda Septimo (WFP) versus Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo (D) in the Bronx and Ethan Lustig-Elgrably (WFP) versus Mathylde Frontus (D) for a Brooklyn Assembly seat. Pat Kane (WFP) will also be on the ballot against Charles Fall (D) for a Staten Island Assembly seat and appears to have stopped campaigning, even if she has not endorsed Fall. But in a partially overlapping state Senate district covering Staten Island and Brooklyn, Jasmine Robinson (WFP) has vowed to keep campaigning against state Sen. Diane Savino (D).

New York candidates running on only the Working Families Party line have beat Democrats twice before – Letitia James won a Brooklyn City Council seat in 2003 and Diana Richardson was elected to a Brooklyn Assembly seat in 2015.

Such an upset is highly unlikely this year. Though Robinson has the nominal support of the Working Families Party – “Jasi is on the line and we continue to support her,” Lipton told City & State – Savino is heavily favored after winning the Democratic primary by more than 40 percentage points.

Savino is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference and was, along with Hudson Valley state Sen. David Carlucci, the only former members of the eight-person conference to win their Democratic primaries. Carlucci’s primary opponent, Julie Goldberg, never earned the Working Families Party ballot line and won’t be on the ballot for the general election.

The WFP’s two highest-profile “challengers” are Cynthia Nixon (WFP) versus Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D) and Jumaane Williams (WFP) versus Brooklyn state Sen. Simcha Felder (D, R, C, I). Neither Nixon nor Williams will campaign, and both candidates just accepted the lines in those races as a maneuver to get off the WFP’s ballot line for governor and lieutenant governor line, respectively.

Candidates can only get off the ballot in New York by moving out of state, dying or accepting nomination for another office. Since the third option is the most preferable, minor parties like the WFP often nominate candidates they want off the line for different offices they wouldn’t be expected to win and wouldn’t play “spoiler.” That’s the explanation for the WFP’s three candidates for open state Supreme Court seats in Brooklyn and six candidates for open state Supreme Court seats in the Bronx. Lipton said that none of the candidates were campaigning for the judgeships, and they had previously been nominated for other positions as “placeholders.” For one example, Bob Cohen was initially given the WFP’s endorsement for the 19th Congressional district. Once Antonio Delgado won the competitive, seven-way primary, Cohen was nominated for a Bronx judgeship that he likely will not win, and Delgado was given the WFP’s line for the general election.

Jeff Coltin
is a staff reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.
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