New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon is escalating her criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for taking donations from President Donald Trump after Cuomo announced Thursday that he would keep the years-old contributions.
“Governor Cuomo cannot serve as a defense against Donald Trump when he’s accepted tens of thousands of dollars from him,” said Nixon campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt.
Nixon, an actress and education activist challenging Cuomo from the left, had previously blasted the governor for taking the money, which Trump donated years before he ran for president. Her attacks aim to undercut Cuomo’s attempts to frame himself as a leading opponent of Trump’s immigration, tax and offshore drilling policies.
Nixon’s campaign has bought Facebook ads soliciting signatures for petitions urging Cuomo to “return all campaign donations from Donald Trump NOW!”
In a fundraising email on Thursday, Nixon also invoked the contributions, asking supporters to “counter Andrew Cuomo’s warchest full of Trump money” with their own donations to her.
“This is nothing more than a cheap distraction from a campaign gasping for air. No governor has fought harder against Donald Trump than Gov. Cuomo,” his campaign spokeswoman Abbey Fashouer told HuffPost.
Cuomo received a total of $64,000 from Trump between 2001 and 2009, a period during which he was an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate and then attorney general of New York.
The governor responded to a question about the contributions on Thursday at an unrelated event in Brooklyn. “I’m going to be deeply critical of him and keep the contributions,” Cuomo said.
Nixon’s broadsides are the latest in a series of attempts to peel away progressive support for the two-term governor, who enjoys a massive fundraising advantage and a sizable lead in the polls.
Cuomo’s campaign donors have been a key point of contention from the start of the primary race with Nixon arguing that he is too beholden to the state’s real estate and financial industry titans. Cuomo recently suggested that he would stop taking donations from the fossil fuel industry, before promptly walking back the idea.
Nixon has raised $1.1 million with $430,000 still on hand, while Cuomo had nearly $30.5 million in his war chest as of January. As of November, nearly 99.9 percent of Cuomo’s contributions were in increments of $200 or more; 99 percent were in increments of $1,000 or more.
Cuomo has repeatedly insisted that donations do not affect his policies or decision-making, not least when it comes to resisting Trump’s agenda. On Thursday afternoon, he touted the success of the Liberty Defense Project, a state-funded legal aid program for immigrants. The program had secured pro bono legal representation for Yeni Maricela Gonzalez Garcia, an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant whose children were separated from her at the border, the governor’s office announced.
Nixon is betting that her criticism will nonetheless find a receptive audience in the restive Democratic primary electorate.
The upset primary victory last week of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old progressive newcomer, over 10-term incumbent congressman and Queens party boss Joseph Crowley (D) suggests that at least some Democrats are focused on the outsized influence of money in politics. Ocasio-Cortez ran heavily on her refusal to take corporate PAC money and slammed Crowley for his coziness with real estate developers and other business interests.
Nixon, who endorsed Ocasio-Cortez the day before the election, has experienced a significant bump in interest in her campaign since the insurgent progressive’s win. Nixon’s campaign said they’re seeing more volunteers, and she raised $25,000 in the 24-hour period after Ocasio-Cortez’s victory.
New York’s gubernatorial primary election is set for Sept. 13.