LOVETT: Third-party leftist candidate hurts Cuom

‘The unrest is just huge against Andrew,’ says Bill Samuels, founder of the progressive activist group EffectiveNY — who ordered the poll.

ALBANY — A wealthy Democratic activist commissioned a poll that shows a third-party leftist candidate could eat into what Gov. Cuomo is hoping will be a commanding victory this year.

The fact the poll was even commissioned is another sign that Cuomo’s biggest troubles in his reelection year could come from the progressive base of his own Democratic party.

“The unrest is just huge against Andrew,” said the man who ordered the poll, Bill Samuels, founder of the progressive activist group EffectiveNY.

The poll, done by California-based David Binder Research of 700 likely voters, shows Cuomo is still popular, with 58% viewing him favorably and 30% unfavorably.

It also found that Cuomo in a three-way race against Republican Rob Astorino and a Working Families Party candidate would still win easily. But the governor’s overall vote tally would be closer to 50% rather than the 60% or higher total those close to him say he wants.

“This poll shows there’s a danger of Cuomo’s national reputation being badly damaged if there is a third-party candidate,” said Samuels, who backed Cuomo in 2010 but has since become a critic.

The poll found that city Public Advocate Letitia James, despite not being well known, would garner up to 13% of the vote on the Working Families line.

The survey also subbed out James and replaced her with Samuels for half the respondents, and Zenaida Mendez, president of the state chapter of the National Organization for Women, in the other sample. Samuels got 10% and Mendez 6% despite also being virtually unknown.

You rev the base up. You have to throw them some red meat.
Siena College poll spokesman Steven Greenberg did not see the poll but called it unlikely a third-party candidate would top 10%.

While there may be debate over the results and whether some questions were designed to drag down Cuomo’s numbers, the bottom line is that the governor has a problem on his left flank.

Cuomo has fought with Mayor de Blasio, a self-proclaimed progressive, over charter schools and the new mayor’s push to hike taxes on the wealthy to pay for expanded prekindergarten programs.

The state teachers union is fighting his property tax freeze plan. Hispanics want him to include the DREAM Act in the upcoming state budget. Some public sector unions have ripped him. And liberal groups oppose his $2 billion tax cut plan, while calling on him to enact a statewide public campaign finance system and allow high-cost cities like New York to set their own higher minimum wages.

The union-backed Working Families Party has discussed the possibility of recruiting its own candidate. The poll indicates the party would be in a position to grab the necessary 50,000 votes to keep its automatic ballot access without Cuomo.

“(The Cuomo campaign) made the political calculation that downstate and urban voters have nowhere to go,” said one disgruntled activist. “But it’s Politics 101: when you’re running for reelection, you rev the base up. You have to throw them some red meat.”

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