I'm going to break my own self-imposed rule of never endorsing a political candidate by urging my New York readers who are registered Democrats to go to the polls today to vote for anti-corruption candidate Zephyr Teachout, and her running mate, net neutrality advocate Tim Wu.
Teachout is challenging Andrew Cuomo, a Democratic governor so corrupt that even the New York Times refused to endorse him in the primary. It also refused to endorse Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and one-time manager of Howard Dean's campaign, but only on grounds of her alleged political inexperience. Unlike other outliers of recent history (I'm thinking Jill Stein of the Greens) she's actually gotten some pretty good coverage by the mainstream media. Then again, she is still operating within the safe confines of the established party.
As the fate of that other "invincible" corrupt pol, Eric Cantor, revealed earlier this year, anything is possible when even the few voters who ever bother with primaries actually show up and express their disgruntlement with the status quo. And if only 350,000 New Yorkers express disgruntlement today, Andrew Cuomo could well be out on his ass.
Cuomo, after months of refusing to debate Teachout let alone even acknowledge her existence (with the exception of sending a bunch of young Goldwaterish creeps out to her rallies to heckle her and sue her on grounds of residency; he lost both the original suit and the appeal), now looks to be in state of muted panic. He actually got Hillary Clinton to make robo-calls for him. He's openly strong-arming, with the help of his multimillion-dollar war chest, people he has the power to make very, very uncomfortable if he squeaks into other term.
That includes progressive darling Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has openly endorsed Cuomo for re-election. De Blasio, in turn, had allegedly dog-whistled a warning to members of this own apparatus to steer clear of a direct challenge to the Cuomo machine.
There's this from the New York Post: (a Rupert Murdoch rag, but apparently they despise Cuomo enough to try to make Teachout the lesser-evil winner. She, like many conservatives including Cantor's successful challenger, is running on an anti-corruption plank.)
The largely successful pressure has been especially intense to stop endorsements for Wu, who is given a real chance of defeating conservative-turned-“progressive” former upstate Rep. Kathy Hochul, Cuomo’s running mate for lieutenant governor, insiders said.
“Cuomo and de Blasio were pulling out all stops, making it clear that anyone who even considers endorsing Teachout or Wu will pay a big political price,” said a prominent Democratic activist.
“Cuomo especially is obsessed with Wu because he clearly thinks Wu has a chance to win, which would be a disaster for him,” the activist continued.
City Council members were told that pet projects would be endangered if they back either Teachout or Wu, said a source close to the council. “You wouldn’t believe how much we were intimidated and muscled,’’ said one.
Council members and state legislators were also warned that state-funded projects would be at risk if they publicly backed Teachout or Wu, several sources said.
Delivering some of the messages was Joe Percoco, Cuomo’s longtime aide and political enforcer, the sources said.Zephyr Teachout herself has confirmed that some erstwhile supporters are backing out due to political pressure from the Cuomo machine. At this point, even the U.S. attorney who has Cuomo under criminal investigation for alleged witness-tampering and obstruction of justice has been mum on his probe in the weeks leading up to today's primary vote.
But stay tuned. Never say never. Even if Cuomo gets re-elected with Tim Wu as lieutenant governor, the Guv could be doing a perp walk before his second term is out. There's that little precedent of Eliot Spitzer being replaced by David Paterson on grounds of Spitzer's addiction to hookers.
A Teachout victory in New York would actually be huge. It could well turn the national campaign theme of 2016 into "It's the Corruption, Stupid."
*Update, 9/10: Teachout got over a third of the vote (NYT has good wrap-up here) and won handily in my particular county (Ulster). Pretty good for a law professor with no money going up, literally, against Wall Street. This vote tally represents a slow but sure public repudiation of neoliberalism and the worst income disparity in history. It should also give impetus to more "leftist" challengers to Queen Hillary (including but definitely not limited to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who to get my support, would still need to repudiate Forever War and the surveillance state.) Anti-war and anti-corruption could be a winning ticket. The trick, of course, will be to get any alternative candidates the same kind of coverage that Teachout enjoyed in the Times and elsewhere. It is probably too late this cycle, since the entire Congress is filled with corrupted politicians. But the disgust is out there. Change is coming.