On a cold, rainy Thursday in New York, 12 days before Election Day, hundreds of voters gathered at the Grand Hyatt for a campaign rally for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is up for re-election, and Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul. But they weren't just there for Cuomo -- many were there to see the special guest, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The event was billed as a "women's equality rally", and supporters carried signs with slogans like "women's equality" and "equal pay for equal work" while a stereo blasted girl-power pop tunes like Katy Perry’s “Roar” and Beyoncé’s hit song “Who Run the World (Girls)”.
Clinton took the stage to thunderous applause and cheers of “2016! 2016!” and told the audience “It is so great to be back in New York!”
Clinton effusively endorsed Cuomo for re-election in her remarks, saying “I cannot think of a more important, better cause to be gathered this morning than to stand up for women’s equality, and to send Governor Cuomo back for his second term.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that the governor is the right leader at the right time to lead New York forward,” Clinton said.
Clinton also referenced her new granddaughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, saying “There’s something about a new life in your family that really does focus you on the future, doesn’t it?” and later told a story about speaking about the issue of paid family leave with a nurse at the hospital where Charlotte was born.
Clinton then turned the focus of her speech to the women's equality agenda, which has become a key part of Cuomo and Hochul's campaign platform.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, we have not achieved equality,” Clinton said to the ballroom packed with women. “We have made a lot of progress, don’t get me wrong, I’m standing here as a prime example of that and I’m grateful for it, but we have not yet seen the kind of progress on all of the issues that will ripple from this ballroom out to every woman and girl in New York and beyond.”
"The equality agenda, the plan that Andrew and Kathy are running around the state promoting ... their plan would guarantee equal pay for equal work. Think about it, we still have to make the case for equal pay for equal in work, in 2014! Their plan would crack down on sexual harassment and domestic violence and their plan would protect a woman's right to make her own reproductive healthcare decisions." Clinton said.
“With him at the helm, I’m convinced New York will move ever upward, bigger, bolder, and better than ever," Clinton closed.
Later, when Cuomo took the stage following Clinton, the governor thanked Clinton for her support and hinted at her possible future presidential run: “I hope she does something really, really, really big.” Applause for that line was thunderous, but rally attendees seemed more interested in Clinton than in Cuomo -- many people began to exit the room as the governor's remarks began.
Cuomo defended his record and reaffirming his support for the women's equality agenda he and Hochul have been pushing. He also remarked that "New York is the capital of social progress for the nation. The other states look to New York for the precedent, they look to New York to see what the cutting edge in policy is."
In New York, candidates can run on multiple ballot lines, so Cuomo and Hochul are running both on the Democratic ticket and also on the Women’s Equality Party ballot line. Cuomo and Hochul have been aggressively courting women voters, launching the Women’s Equality Party ballot line after a failed attempt to pass a Women’s Equality Act in the state legislature.
The latest polls show Cuomo holding a wide lead over his Republican opponent Rob Astorino. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Cuomo getting 51% of the vote and Astorino getting 31% of the vote.
Clinton, meanwhile, has been travelling the nation campaigning for many Democratic candidates, including Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania and Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. She recently said that she may make a decision about a 2016 presidential run after this year's midterms.