Cynthia Nixon, the telegenic, left-leaning “Sex and the City” actress turned activist, faces the electoral battle of her life Thursday in her long-shot bid to unseat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
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The 52-year-old mother of three wants to become the first woman and first openly gay governor of America’s fourth most populous state, which leans Democrat but has upstate areas that voted for Donald Trump.
But first she faces off against Cuomo, 60, in the state’s Democratic primary on Thursday. Turnout is usually notoriously low but polling stations open at 6:00 am (1000 GMT) and close at 9:00pm.
Nixon has campaigned hard to the left, hoping to ride the crest of other upset victories by political first-timers in Democratic Party primaries in congressional seats in places like New York and Boston.
“This is not a moment to sit on the sidelines. This is a moment to stand up and fight back,” she told an election eve rally.
“It is hard to go up against the Cuomo machine and it takes an enormous amount of bravery, but we are tired of the status Cuomo,” she added. “We know we can do better.”
Yet she heads into Thursday’s vote trailing Cuomo in every single demographic group, the governor leading 63-22 percent, up from 60-29 percent in late July, according to the latest poll from Siena College.
Cuomo, the son of a governor who married a daughter of Robert F Kennedy and had three children before they divorced, has traded hard on his own progressive record and outspent his competitor.
He also won a last-minute endorsement from rap star Nicki Minaj, who told her 20 million Twitter followers that New Yorkers should vote for the governor. “Spread the word. See you at the polls,” she wrote.
– Bagel meltdown –
Nixon has hit Cuomo hard on the crumbling subway, going after his more centrist credentials and for taking donations from Trump in the past, as well as his bevvy of corporate donors.
She champions economic equality, slams systemic racism, and backs single-payer healthcare, legalized marijuana and public education.
Likely to work in Cuomo’s favor is that New York allows only registered Democrats to vote in the primary.
Nixon dived into the race last March, but in the final home-stretch, the fight has been dirty. A Democratic Party mailer implied she was anti-Semitic, sparking a furious backlash but Cuomo pleaded innocent.
Nixon leapt on what she denounced as a smear campaign, pointing out that she was bringing up two of her children Jewish and attended synagogue.
Then she sailed into controversy and free column inches of her own — for a bagel order that incensed almost everyone — the incongruous lox, cream cheese, tomatoes and capers on a cinnamon and raisin bun.
Should she pull off the impossible it will be a humiliating blow to a governor said to harbor presidential ambitions, and who served as a cabinet secretary under Bill Clinton at the tender age of 39.
But winning state-wide is tough, especially for a first-timer up against the well-oiled and seriously well-funded machinery of a two-time governor running for his third term.
“Whether people love him or not, they know who he is,” said Michael Miller, professor of political science at Barnard College.
“To break through, that requires a lot of money and organization,” he told AFP. “A lot of people would be surprised if she did pull it off.”
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The political press always tends to focus mostly on the marquee race for the White House but that's especially true this cycle, as Donald Trump runs for a second term. He demands attention and his antics enrage his opponents and delight his supporters in equal measure.
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Trump is catnip for reporters and their editors, but the dearth of coverage of downballot races didn't begin with his election. As the news media in general faces structural changes—with print circulation declining and much of their work moving into digital spaces that are more difficult to monetize--publishers have cut back on reporters assigned to the state and local government beat. Nevertheless, Trump has arguably worsened the trend by getting so much airtime— one estimate suggested that over the past four years, Trump has taken up, on average, 15 percent of the entire daily news cycle on the three leading cable networks, nearly three times what Obama did.