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Nixon, in first Buffalo campaign visit, accuses Cuomo of influencing venue change

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Actress, activist and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon met in Buffalo Wednesday with local grassroots and community leaders. The roundtable discussion was not in its originally-scheduled venue. The woman who is challenging Cuomo in the Democratic Primary is suggesting the governor - or at least some of his supporters - played a part in that sudden switch.

Nixon's event took place inside The 9th Ward, located in the basement level of Babeville, on Delaware Avenue. 

"I just want to talk and I want to hear from people in Buffalo, what their experience is and particularly their economic development here," Nixon said. "I have to say their experience is very... it leaves a lot wanting."

She said what she hears from people is that the governor's economic development strategy is a good place to start but it is being done in a "sloppy" way, favors Cuomo's larger political contributors and isn't creating the promised jobs.

Her criticism of Cuomo's economic development plan, the Buffalo Billion, has been echoed by a Republican contender, Marc Molinaro. Nixon suggested having disgust with government corruption is a bipartisan issue. But she renewed her stance as a liberal candidate and believes her presence in the race has shifted the incumbent more leftward in his own politics. 

"I do agree with that and I'm really determined to be New York State's next governor. But if we can pick up some great progressive victories along the way, I say all the better," Nixon said. "It's a time with Donald Trump in the White House, it's not a time of centrism. If you're a Republican, you be a Republican. But I'm a Democrat and I'm going to be a Democrat."

At the same time, she suggests Cuomo has created an environment over the past several years which has allowed some registered Democrats to align with Republicans and, in her words, be rewarded for it. She referred to Republicans maintaining control of the State Senate despite the fact that two Democrats won special elections Tuesday. Brooklyn-based State Senator Simcha Felder, although registered as a Democrat, has remained in caucus with the GOP since shortly after his 2012 election. 

"(Cuomo) has created this climate and it's not surprising we're in the situation that we're in wtih Simcha Felder right now," she said.

The 10 a.m. roundtable discussion was originally scheduled for the Agustin Olivencia Community Center on Swan Street but, around 9:45 a.m., Nixon's campaign announced the change of venue.

When she met with reporters following her closed-door meeting, Nixon accused her primary opponent of influencing that switch.

"We were supposed to be at a particular community center," she said. "It seems like the governor didn't really want us meeting there today, so we got bumped out. Despite the fact we were paying market-rate for the space, the community center didn't feel like they could risk it."

Nixon said a second community center was also approached. While she did not identify that venue, Candice Moppins of the Delevan-Grider Community Center confirmed it was they who were contacted. 

"We were approached," Moppins told WBFO. "We were not told it was a political event. When I asked further information regarding whether it was a political event, we had to decline because of our (501c3) non-profit status."

WBFO reached out to the Olivencia Community Center, which was identified by Nixon's campaign as an earlier scheduled venue but our calls were not returned.

Cuomo campaign spokesperson Abbey Fashouer denied any influence by the campaign on venue changes. She also defended Cuomo's record on Western New York economic development.

“After decades of neglect from Albany, the governor fundamentally transformed the state’s approach to driving growth in Western New York and investing in Buffalo’s economic success," she said in a prepared statement. "The results are both real and tangible – unemployment has rapidly declined, wages are growing, Western New York is home to more than half a million jobs, and more millennials than ever before – a 14 percent increase since 2010 – are calling Buffalo home. We’re proud of the progress achieved and will continue to build on this record of results.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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