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Nixon, following first speech, is criticized by Democratic Party official


Candidate for Governor of New York Cynthia Nixon delivered a blistering speech against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who she hopes to challenge in a Democratic primary.

She was immediately criticized by a Cuomo ally, who questioned Nixon’s qualifications in a controversial remark.  

Nixon, in a speech in Brooklyn, portrayed herself as a political outsider, but life-long New Yorker who loves the state. She says the eight years of  Cuomo’s two terms in office is “an exercise in living with disappointment, dysfunction and dishonesty” and she called  Cuomo a “fake corporate Democrat” who she says accepted $87,000 from the conservative Koch brothers.

“We hear all the time about how the big money interests control DC,” Nixon said, “but if Washington is a swamp, Albany is a cesspool.”

Nixon said Cuomo and his “cronies” have not cleaned up Albany but have “cleaned up for themselves.”

“There is a reason that people close to Andrew Cuomo keep winding up under indictment for corruption," Nixon continued.

The governor’s former closest aide, Joe Percoco, was convicted on bribery charges earlier this month and several more former Cuomo associates face trial later this year.

Nixon also blames Cuomo for condoning a splinter group of Democrats in the state Senate, the Independent Democratic Conference, which she says has kept Republicans in power in that chamber throughout Cuomo’s tenure. The GOP has blocked passage of bills, including the Dream Act to help children of undocumented immigrants get college aid, a measure to codify the abortion rights in Roe v. Wade into state law and campaign finance reform.

“Andrew Cuomo gave the Republican Party in New York State the power to block almost all of our big Democratic legislative priorities,” Nixon said.

Nixon also called for more money to fix the New York City subway system. She took public transit to the speech, but was late because she had to transfer trains due to out of service subway routes.

Within moments of announcing her campaign, Nixon, who is married to a woman, had to answer questions about her sexual orientation. The questions came from an associate of Cuomo’s, who was interviewed by the New York Post.

Christine Quinn, former New York City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate, who has been a special advisor to Cuomo and who is vice Chair of the State Democratic Party, called Nixon an “unqualified lesbian.” Quinn herself is gay.

Nixon says it’s not about that.

“My being a lesbian or her being a lesbian, I think, has nothing to do with why I am running for office,” Nixon told reporters.

Quinn, later, in a series of tweets, attempted to clarify her remarks saying, “ Cynthia Nixon’s identity has no bearing on her candidacy and it was not my intention to suggest it did.”

As for accusations that she’s not qualified to run because she has never held public office, Nixon says women from all across the country are seeking political office for the first time this year and she is one of them.

Republican candidate for Governor, state Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco says he welcomes Nixon to the race.

“I think it’s great,” DeFrancisco said. “It shows what I’ve been saying all along.  People from the left, the right and everybody in between thinks that Cuomo has to leave.”

Cuomo was at the Capitol all day, but did not publicly speak. His campaign, by day’s end, did not respond to requests for comment. The state Democratic Party also did not answer requests to respond.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.