With the September primary around the corner, leaders of both NYSUT and the Public Employees Federation have made endorsement decisions, but neither of those endorsements are for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Both Zephyr Teachout and Howie Hawkins hope to capitalize on liberal dissatisfaction with Cuomo, the moderate Democratic incumbent. Teachout, campaigning in a long-shot bid to defeat the governor for the Democratic Party ballot line, released her first online ad of the campaign.
Teachout was endorsed on Thursday the Public Employees Federation, the state's second-largest public workers union of 54,000 members. The union's endorsement of Teachout, a Fordham law professor, was also a rejection of Cuomo, who the union has feuded with over a less generous contract and new pension tier.
In a statement Teachout's campaign manager said, "The Public Employees Federation endorsement is an act of courage and bravery by workers who have a lot at stake. Today they rose above the culture of fear that is pervasive in Albany under Governor Cuomo."
But also challenging Cuomo for liberal hearts and minds in the general election is Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate. He says that if Teachout loses the Democratic primary, those voters will back his candidacy.
"I expect most of them will come to our ticket. I think Cuomo, the people who are voting for him know who Cuomo is and they're against him," Hawkins said.
Hawkins ran in 2010, hitting the 50,000-vote threshold to achieve automatic ballot status for the Green Party this year. Hawkins says this time around, his candidacy is being taken seriously by the press and key labor officials.
"The media thought that we'd come in last. We came in third out of seven. And I think we're getting now a lot more respect from the unions," Hawkins said.
Hawkins also met with the state teachers union's leadership as well as the Public Employees Federation. While he didn't come away with endorsements, he says that's a switch from four years ago.
"The fact that the Green Party is included now with the unions is a change, we're getting the respect now that we didn't get in 2010," he said.
Despite the challenges from Teachout and Hawkins as well as a record for fiscal restraint, Cuomo's popularity among self-described liberal voters remains high. A Siena poll this week found 75 percent of liberals view the governor favorably.