Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez, who said just two months ago that the national party shouldn’t be “anointing candidates” in primary races, was widely rebuked by progressives for his decision this week to endorse New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose reelection bid is being challenged by longtime activist and actress Cynthia Nixon.
“Regardless of who you support in this race, can we all agree that the DNC shouldn’t pick winners in a contentious primary in a safely Dem state?” tweeted Ezra Levin, co-founder and co-executive director of Indivisible. “Don’t be scared of democracy — let the voters decide.”
Speaking at the New York state Democratic Convention on Thursday, Perez had said: “I’ve not only admired Andrew Cuomo, I have admired the Cuomo family since my youth. I’ve admired what they stood for and what they fought for since I was a kid.”
“We often have debates about what wing of the Democratic Party we belong to,” Perez continued. Calling Cuomo and his running mate, lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul, “charter members of the accomplishment wing of the Democratic Party,” he had declared, “that’s why I’m proud to endorse them.”
Journalist Michael Sainato posed that Perez and the national party “are scared of progressives” like Nixon because “they know if Cuomo and Hochul go down it’ll be a game changer and the rest of the establishment will start facing even greater threats.”
Perez’s move on Thursday strongly contrasts with his refusal to weigh in on the Georgia gubernatorial Democratic primary earlier this week, in which the progressive candidate prevailed. Perez told NBC News that the DNC had been “scrupulously neutral” in Georgia “because we think the voters should decide that.”
DNC Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison, who is known for taking stances left of Perez, had made similar comments about the Georgia race to Democracy Now! on Wednesday. Ellison, who was reportedly not informed of Perez’s decision on Cuomo before the chairman’s public remarks, responded in a statement to Politico that said: “The Democratic Party should not intervene in the primary process. It is our role to be fair to all contestants and let the voters decide.”
Although “Cuomo easily secured the party’s nomination with over 95 percent of convention delegates supporting his bid for reelection,” BuzzFeed News reports that “Nixon still plans to petition her way onto the ballot ahead of the primary in September.”
Nixon has been endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Working Families Party, Our Revolution, and Democracy for America.
“Cuomo represents a wing of the Democratic Party that is out of touch with what voters want right now and that people are veering away from,” New York Working Families Party state director Bill Lipton and New York Communities for Change director Jonathan Westin told BuzzFeed News. “For eight years, he’s claimed that he’s been getting things done and enacting progressive policies but for eight years he’s done nothing that he promised.”
“Perez coming in at this time only further drives a wedge in the Democratic Party,” Westin said to CNN. “What we’re seeing play out, in a microcosm here in New York, is that the party elites are out of touch with where the base of the party is at.”
Cuomo, meanwhile, has secured endorsements from former Vice President Joe Biden as well as former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
In a series of tweets, comedian and writer Gabe Gonzalez said, “Perez has always placed party loyalty over progress,” and concluded, “If the best Cuomo can do is muster Hillary, Biden, and Perez to endorse him, voters should seriously ask themselves whether he’s the candidate to guide NY into the future.”