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Gov. Cuomo makes pact for Working Families endorsement

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has won the support of the liberal Working Families Party in his re-election bid.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, April 17, 2014, in New York, N.Y.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, April 17, 2014, in New York, N.Y.

Progressives extracted a series of promises from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a late-night deal that secured left wing support for his re-election bid. 

It did not come easy. 

The support of the liberal Working Families Party (WFP) for the Democratic governor was announced Saturday night, following a contentious party convention in which Cuomo squared off against progressive activist Zephyr Teachout, a former staffer on the 2004 Howard Dean presidential campaign. Teachout's bid for the Working Families Party nomination was backed by liberals who have become increasingly disenchanted with Cuomo's centrist, establishmentarian governing style.

In order to mollify Teachout's backers, Cuomo agreed to a series of left-leaning policy proposals in a deal brokered by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. At Sunday's convention, the governor promised to back a $10.10 state minimum wage. He also promised to renew the fight for a state DREAM Act and campaign finance reform. Crucially, the deal included an agreement to go after the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of five Democratic state senators who currently caucus with the Republicans.

Teachout told msnbc she had not been a party to the negotiations, and did not consider the final agreement with Gov. Cuomo to be satisfactory.

"It was too little, too late and it's difficult to enforce those political promises," she said. "I plan to be part of that enforcement and expect him to follow through, but my own view is he had plenty of opportunities beforehand to actually pass public funding of elections."

WFP executive director Dan Cantor acknowledged liberal misgivings about Gov. Cuomo on Sunday's Up with Steve Kornacki, but expressed optimism about the deal which led to Cuomo's renomination.

"It's no secret that we've had big disagreements with Gov. Cuomo ... around his economic program, around taxes and spending especially -- that's the heart of what government does -- and so this became kind of a petri dish," he said. "Could he make enough pledges that could be verified, that would allow us to endorse him," Cantor said.

Teachout is now considering running against Cuomo in the Democratic primary, and said she would reach a decision regarding whether to enter the race later this week.

Within hours of Cuomo's victory at the Working Families Party convention, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins was already working to capture the votes of disaffected liberals. By inking a deal with Cuomo, said Hawkins, WFP "turned their back on their grassroots supporters and did the bidding of those who pay their bills."

"The WFP is a tool of the Democrats and their corporate sponsors to confuse voters into supporting the agenda of the 1%," he said. "They literally have sold their souls to the devil. And the reality is that they have delivered only a few minor reforms during their 16 years of existence while doing their best to undercut the development of a true independent progressive movement in New York."

Other progressive groups were a little more sanguine regarding the Working Families Party nomination. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), which had endorsed Teachout, framed the nomination as a defeat for Cuomo.

"Governor Cuomo is a Corporate Democrat. He was forced to cave due to the backbone of the Working Families Party, which demanded a Democratic governor stand for policies that benefit working people," said PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor. "The economic populist wing of American politics is on the rise -- and this is a new high-water mark for the power of the Working Families Party in New York."