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(NEW YORK) — “Good evening, unqualified lesbians!”
That was how “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon opened her launch party for her campaign for governor of New York, quickly embracing an oddly phrased comment from erstwhile mayoral candidate Christine Quinn — who decried Nixon’s lack of experience in an interview with The New York Post Tuesday — and turning it into the night’s biggest applause line.
“She was technically right,” Nixon told a packed and enthusiastic crowd at New York’s historic Stonewall Inn. “I don’t have my certificate from the Department of Lesbian Affairs. But in my defense, there is a lot of paperwork involved.”
Nixon is looking to convert star power and years of advocacy into an unlikely primary challenge to New York’s reigning Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo is loathed by progressives in Empire State and beyond — and by New Yorkers who have suffered a declining subway system. Sure enough, Nixon thanked the crowd not only for braving the region’s fourth recent nor’easter to come out but also for braving the MTA.
Cuomo, in fact, was Nixon’s main foil for the night. That “orange man in the White House” was invoked twice — including for what she called discriminatory policies pursued with “brutality” — but never named. Cuomo, meanwhile, racked up a dozen direct mentions.
She pushed the Democratic Party to lean further leftward in a state that votes blue nationally but is hobbled by less-than-blue politics in Albany.
“We need to elect not just more Democrats, but better Democrats,” Nixon said, another big line as Democrats nationally battle for the direction of the party.
Better Democrats mean, to Nixon, fighting for increased school funding (a reference that earned not one clap), advancing LGBTQ rights and improved income inequality. Nixon’s campaign has been quick to stress those themes, announcing her run Tuesday in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and launching tonight at the Stonewall Inn, a literal landmark in the struggle for LGBT rights.
Not mentioned at all was Nixon’s thin political resumé, which presents an immediate challenge to her attempt to pick off a former Housing and Urban Development secretary and two-term governor with one of the most familiar names in the state.
Nixon’s answer to that: small donors, of which she claims Cuomo, rumored to harbor presidential ambitions, has none. He may boast a multimillion-dollar war chest, she said, “but we have the people power.”
It was unclear Wednesday night whether that would be enough. But whether or not Nixon can take down Cuomo’s brand of centrism, she found at least one boisterous crowd ready for her to try.
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