Like the Democratic National Convention nearly two years ago, today’s state Democratic Convention will feature a speech by Hillary Clinton and ideological tension between an establishment candidate and a more progressive challenger. The expected coronation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the designated Democratic candidate as he seeks re-election will be complicated by the appearance of his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon. Here is a rundown of the five things to watch at today’s convention.
Cuomo vs. Nixon
If the state Democratic Party’s recent press release criticizing the Working Families Party and Nixon, the party’s nominee for governor, is any indication, then Cuomo will probably receive the state Democratic Party’s designation at the convention. This does not mean that Nixon can’t get on the primary ballot, as she can obtain 15,000 signatures to get on the Democratic line. Cuomo is also set to be endorsed by Clinton, who is still among the most admired Democrats in the state.
However, if Nixon somehow gets over 25 percent of the convention vote, she will automatically be on the ballot without needing to collect signatures.
The backdrop to the primary race between Nixon and Cuomo is the increasing division within the Democratic Party between the establishment and progressive insurgents. Even if Nixon doesn’t get the requisite votes at the convention to be automatically placed on the ballot, she could still have an impact on the convention. If she is ostracized by political and party officials, that could show that the state’s party apparatus is fully behind Cuomo. However, if there is a vocal faction supporting Nixon, or even her campaign platform, it could foretell a more challenging primary for the governor.
Hochul vs. Williams
Kathy Hochul, Cuomo’s running mate as lieutenant governor, is also facing a primary challenge from New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams. Hochul is likely to be the party’s designated nominee. However, her last primary opponent, Columbia law professor Tim Wu, had significant support, as he garnered 40 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary in 2014. Williams is more of a known entity than Wu, especially in New York City. If Williams is able to get on the ballot line without collecting signatures, it may spell trouble for Hochul’s campaign.
The attorney general candidate
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James is expected to be the designated Democratic candidate, but a recent entrance by former Clinton and Cuomo aide Leecia Eve throws a wrench into the mix. Cuomo could decline to back James, or either candidate, leaving it up to the party committee. Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who ran against Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial primary, is also seeking the Democratic line, but her candidacy is unlikely to make much of an impact at the convention.
Clinton’s address at the convention won’t simply be notable because of her endorsement of Cuomo. It could also be a blueprint for how – and if – the former presidential nominee becomes involved in other 2018 races. Clinton is popular in New York, so her stamp of approval could give Cuomo’s candidacy a boost, especially among women. If her keynote address sounds more like a stump speech, it could indicate that Clinton is getting back in the political game, and may have a presence in 2018 races across the country.
The Trump effect
Cuomo has, in part, staked his governorship on being a vocal leader of the resistance to President Donald Trump on the national level. He has rhetorically attacked the Trump administration’s policies – including the new tax law, net neutrality repeal and the opening of offshore drilling – and he has introduced bills and executive orders to blunt their impact in New York. Two of Trump’s greatest foes – Clinton and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – will be in attendance at the convention. Expect Trump to be mentioned, by name or indirectly, often throughout the day. This is even more likely because Trump will be only a few miles away on the day of the convention, at an event in Bethpage.