New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon encouraged the Democratic Party’s progressive wing not to “settle” for a Democratic candidate but to fight for the right candidate, in an echo of a battle being seen in the party’s primary contests across the country.
“If we want real change we don’t just need to elect more Democrats we need better Democrats,” she told the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s candidate training session on Friday in Washington, D.C.
“This is not a time to settle. This is a time to fight.”
Nixon is challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s seeking a third term in Albany.
The “Sex and the City” actress has based her campaign on appealing to the disenfranchised wing of the Democratic Party – those members who felt anger at the party in the wake of the 2016 election after revelations came out that the party helped Hillary Clinton’s campaign secure the nomination during her primary race with Bernie Sanders.
Nixon said young people, women and people of color – those voter blocs to whom she is appealing – “are going to stop showing up for the Democratic Party if the Democratic Party doesn’t start showing up for them.”
She received a warm welcome from the crowd of candidates, who are in Washington for a four-day candidate training conference, which include sessions on everything from fundraising to media training to the logistics of building a campaign.
There are around 450 candidates from 48 states, running from offices on both the state and federal level, were in attendance. Most of them, in a sign of the Democratic enthusiasm, were inspired to run after Donald Trump’s election.
But they’re also the symptom of another problem for Democrats – the division in the party between the liberal and more moderate wings. Primary battles in several contests across the country – particularly in House races -- are soaking up the party’s time and money.
“Everyone here today has something common – the Democratic establishment didn’t want us to run,” Nixon said.
Nixon’s campaign is building its strategy on appealing to party’s left wing to support her over Cuomo.
In doing so, her supporters will face off against the labor unions and other traditional groups that have telecast their support for Cuomo and can utilize massive get-out-the-vote operations.
Nixon made her own appeal to the unions when ABC News asked her if she was concerned about their support for Cuomo.
She said a lot of the inequity in the country was due to “the desertion of the labor unions by both sides of the aisle. We need to support the labor unions and they’re the best chance we have to address inequity in this country.”
New York’s primary is on Thursday, Sept. 13.
Nixon has touted liberal positions in her campaign, most recently the legalization of marijuana, which she called a matter of “racial justice.”
“We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something white people do with impunity,” she said in her remarks -- a line that got a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd.
She added that liberals have to ensure that corporations and “rich white men like John Boehner aren’t going to be the primary ones that benefit” from the legalization.
Boehner on Wednesday joined the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, one of the nation's largest cannabis corporations. He said that "my thinking on cannabis has evolved" and he now supports changing federal marijuana policy.
Nixon’s speech was peppered with lines designed to appeal to the progressive crowd and they garnered loud and sustained applause.
“If Washington is a swamp, then Albany is a cesspool,” she said to cheers.
She issued her final rallying cry with: “If we want change, we have to do what we’ve always done – we have to go out ourselves and we have to seize it.”