WFP Gives Seal of Approval to Both Tish James and Zephyr Teachout for Attorney General

For Immediate Release
May 19, 2018

Working Families Party Gives Seal of Approval to Both Tish James and Zephyr Teachout for Attorney General

Of two candidates with deep WFP roots, WFP’s Lipton says: “There are two incredible progressive women in the race and New Yorkers would be lucky to have either as Attorney General”

Faced with more “divide and conquer” tactics from Cuomo, WFP state committee flips the script and refuses to be divided

Harlem, NY — With two progressive women leaders who got their start in running for office with the Working Families Party both running for Attorney General, the WFP has made a unexpected choice: to sing the praises of both.

At the WFP’s State Convention in Harlem today, the Working Families Party voiced support for both New York City Public Advocate Tish James and law professor Zephyr Teachout. The state committee voted overwhelming to award both candidates the party’s endorsement and the authorization to run on the WFP ballot line in November.

“There are two incredible progressive women in this race, and New Yorkers would be lucky to have either as our next Attorney General,” said New York Working Families Party Director Bill Lipton. “These are two WFP heroes.”

The party also voted to install a temporary placeholder on the WFP ballot line, who is expected to vacate the line in order to allow WFP to award the party’s coveted ballot line before Election Day. The placeholder selected by party activists was Kenny Schaeffer, a long-time WFP State Committee member and Legal Aid attorney in New York City.

“The bench of progressive leaders we’ve supported over the last two decades has shifted the center of gravity in New York’s Democratic Party so dramatically that today, the two leading candidates for Attorney General are both WFP progressive champions,” said WFP’s Bill Lipton.

“Cuomo and his machine have only ever helped to elect one man — Andrew Cuomo,” added Lipton.

Both Attorney General candidates have long histories with the Working Families Party. In 2003, Tish James was elected to the New York City Council on the WFP ballot line, the first minor-party win of a City Council seat in a generation. Since then, Tish James has been among the party’s closest allies and is frequent presence at WFP rallies and events. WFP also supported Tish’s re-election campaigns and her election to the Public Advocate’s office in 2013.

Zephyr Teachout was the recruited by WFP activists to challenge Governor Cuomo in the 2014 election. The party ultimately endorsed Cuomo for re-election after Zephyr’s candidacy for the WFP endorsement forced Cuomo to adopt a number of the party’s progressive positions and also pledge to help elect a Democratic Majority to the Senate. WFP and Zephyr Teachout have been close collaborators and allies on major issues like education funding and campaigning against the IDC. The party was among Zephyr’s first supporters in her 2016 Congressional race.

Over the last week, the media reported that Governor Andrew Cuomo demanded that Tish James not seek the Working Families Party endorsement as a condition for his support at the Democratic convention.

WFP members in attendance sharply disagreed with Tish James’ decision, and rebuked Cuomo’s behavior as “bullying,” however, support for her candidacy remained strong.

“Tish James will always be part of the WFP family. And when a family member makes a bad decision, you stick with them,” said WFP state committee member Pat Welsh.

Zephyr Teachout addressed the convention, citing her experience as a constitutional scholar and time representing people on death row. “The AG of New York may be the single most important jobs in the country in the existential battle for our democracy in America, against bigotry, racism, lawlessness, corruption in the Trump administration, but also on Wall Street, in real estate, and in corporate monopolies. The next AG needs to be the leader on consumer protection and antitrust.” Teachout said, making a pitch for her vision of the Attorney General’s office. “We can and must go for the extraordinary in New York.”

Former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke on Tish James’ behalf, arguing that WFP members should stick with Tish James. “Tish James is the best and the most qualified candidate for Attorney General. We couldn’t ask for a stronger ally. This party has helped so many women and people of color break the ceilings that have been imposed on them, and today. Tish James and the WFP have been inseparable since 2001 — that’s 17 years — fighting together for equality and justice,” Mark-Viverito said. “You know if she wins, she’ll be the same Tish James.”

In response to Cuomo’s reported effort to tear Tish James away from the party in which she got her start, New York WFP Co-Chair Karen Scharff, who led the meeting, said, “Cuomo would love nothing more than to see WFP’s activist base tear itself apart. We refuse to let that happen. There are two great candidates for Attorney General — but there’s only one progressive candidate for Governor. We’re united and fighting hard to elect Cynthia Nixon.”

Working Families Party’s Gubernatorial nominee Cynthia Nixon and Lt. Gov. nominee Jumaane Williams were among the notable leaders scheduled to address the convention later in the afternoon.

The Working Families Party is a grassroots progressive political party that fights to make New York work for the many, not just the few. WFP recruits, trains and elects the the next generation of progressive leaders to office — and then works with those leaders to win meaningful policy changes that make a difference in the lives of working families.

Earlier this year, the Working Families Party endorsed progressive challenger Cynthia Nixon for Governor of New York.

In recent years, the Working Families Party has grown rapidly around the nation. In 2017, WFP endorsed 1,036 state and local candidates in 23 states and won in nearly 2/3rds of those races, including helping to elect progressive champions like Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin. This year, WFP is supporting notable progressives leaders including WFP member Randy Bryce, whose strong candidacy for Wisconsin’s first congressional district has led to Paul Ryan’s resignation and Stacey Abrams, who, if elected in Georgia, would be the nation’s first Black woman Governor.