Irony of the Women's Equality Party

Last month, lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul was the star attraction at an event trumpeted with the headline “Women Leaders Announce Women’s Equality Party.” Rallying support, Hochul said the party would “bring together the strength and power of our state’s women leaders to promote the Women’s Equality Agenda.”

Naturally, the party is supporting Andrew Cuomo for governor.

The event was accompanied by a press release that included 27 female elected officials, a smattering of celebrities, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), the National Organization for Women in New York City (NOW) and a host of other organizations.

In addition to a rundown of the party’s worthy platform, a small blurb cites federal efforts to repeal reproductive rights, ongoing sexual assault in the military and, most important, a glaring lack of female leadership in government.

All good reasons for women to be active in an election year; possibly reasons to vote for Zephyr Teachout, the only woman in the race and Cuomo’s opponent in the Democratic Primary?

The irony is that many of the women and organizations listed on the release endorsed Christine Quinn for mayor in 2013, touting the historic nature of her candidacy and the need to elect more women into office. Indeed, Quinn herself is listed as a supporter. Yet repeated calls and emails to party boosters were not returned, and the Cuomo campaign declined to make Ms. Hochul available for an interview.

Why the silence about such a proud announcement?

Because off-the-record conversations have confirmed the obvious: This isn’t a real party but an effort organized by the governor to marginalize Teachout and highlight his Republican opponent’s anti-abortion position. It isn’t an announcement driven by “women leaders.” The women listed on the release were not involved in the decision-making process. The campaign informed most of them about the “party” just before it was announced, at which point their participation was requested. Since no one wants to be on the wrong side of the current (and likely next) governor of New York, many signed on despite their misgivings.

With only a few weeks before the primary, 86 percent of New Yorkers don’t know, or have no opinion about Ms. Teachout, according to a July 16 Siena College poll.

Yet somehow, with $32.5 million in the bank and victory all but guaranteed, Cuomo feels the need not just to defeat Teachout but to deny her the right to even run. In a failed attempt to get her knocked off the ballot, his lawyers issued broad subpoenas requesting personal records to prove that Teachout doesn’t meet the five-year residency requirement. The Teachout campaign successfully narrowed the scope of the subpoena, which would have included, among other things, her health records.

“Is it any wonder that more women don’t run for office?” she mused on a phone call between campaign stops.

Ultimately, the judge ruled in her favor.

Four years ago Cuomo was willing to debate Jimmy McMillan, the comical candidate of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. This election cycle he hasn’t lifted a finger to contest comedian Randy Credico’s candidacy. But rather than face a challenge from Ms. Teachout, he hides behind his lawyers, who vow to appeal the judge’s ruling. Meanwhile, Kathy Hochul is dispatched to Swift boat her.

There’s just something really unseemly about a supposedly secure incumbent attempting to steamroll the only woman in the race while dozens of women rally to his cause.

Yet the governor’s self-defeating fixation on Ms. Teachout has earned her accolades and a disproportionate amount of media coverage, as she stands firm in the belief that “it should not be an act of bravery to run in the Democratic primary when you disagree with the policies of your opponent.”

It shouldn’t be, but it is.